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NAR Communications Committee Finds Realtor.org Difficult to Use

again

11 Questions for NAR

Last week, I posed 11 questions to the National Association of Realtors after asking seven Realtors to see if they could answer the same 11 questions (none of which could answer them all by using the NAR website Realtor.org). I noted then that my motive was to “give the NAR an opportunity to show off how transparent they are (or are not or could be or will not be), to help Realtors to become more involved by being more educated and lastly for consumers (I consider myself in this category) to understand the industry and better connect with and trust real estate professionals (the long term challenge).”

Responses ranged from “damn the man” to “get involved and you’d know the answers” to “you’re stupid” (my summation, not actual quotes). I got stuck on the “get involved” mantra because asking questions and helping people understand committee life is the first step in actually getting involved- you don’t buy a house or car without research, why would you volunteer on a NAR committee without doing the same?

Realtor.org is difficult to use

What some misunderstood about my article is that I was calling into a question how a website is set up, not how an organization functions. The site is outdated and disorganized and I see room for improvement (as do the many Realtors I spoke with before publishing the 11 questions).

NAR Committee deems Realtor.org difficult to use

I’m not alone in my thinking. At the 2009 NAR Mid-year meeting on May 15th in Washington, D.C., the Communications Committee had a breakout group discussion of Realtor Magazine and its online edition. The minutes to the meeting show that the committee agrees with me… the final line of the minutes reads:

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“Love the idea of using the site as a reference site – we know you have the information. Make it easy for us to find.

Thank you, committeechargedwithrealtordotorg for retroactively proving my point.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Todd Carpenter

    June 4, 2009 at 10:15 am

    How would you make it better Lani?

  2. Lani Rosales

    June 4, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Hi Todd! 🙂 That’s a fair question- if I were NAR I would take the millions upon millions of dollars pumped into the Realtor Magazine and online edition every year through member dues, pay-for-reports, print ads and conference sponsors and I would hire people outside of the real estate space who handle content management for a living to restructure the site. I suspect staff is already devoted to the website and if that’s the case, I would restructure the staff to include specialists on content management.

    My job is simply to point out ways to improve the industry, one of which I believe is getting involved at NAR and with so many people (even *committee members*) unable to answer basic questions using the Realtor.org site, NAR has to understand that either their site could use some sprucing up or their membership is stupid- take your pick. 🙂

  3. Todd Carpenter

    June 4, 2009 at 10:39 am

    “NAR has to understand that either their site could use some sprucing up”

    As we noted multiple times in your last post. We are aware of this and placing considerable assets (people, technology, and time) towards restructuring realtor.org.

    But you didn’t really answer my question.

    How would you make it better?

    We want to hear from you and your readers. We realize it’s hard to find stuff. How would you like us to structure the site?

    Should it look like Google.com? Like Creigslist? Like AA.com? How would you make it better?

  4. Robert Bryan Boova

    June 4, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Great stuff Lani

    I think it’s awesome that you and Todd had this dialog in such a public fashion.

    Hopefully setting a precedent going forward.

    Keep up the good work.

  5. Steve Krzysiak

    June 4, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Todd,
    Some quick observations, I have to go, but…

    1)Why are the links on left titled: ‘Diversified Real Estate Firms’ and ‘Association Executives’ so important? They must be since they are so prominent in the navigation. Even after clicking both I am not sure what they are for.

    2)Does the site have a heat map? Where are people clicking? Move those to the previously mentioned spots in the nav bar.

    3)It seems like google powers the search, solid choice, but if I search to find a copy of the code of ethics I get this:
    https://google.realtor.org/search?q=nar+code+of+ethics&ie=&site=&output=xml_no_dtd&client=REALTOR_org&lr=&proxystylesheet=REALTOR_org&oe=ISO-8859-1
    Not what I came for.

    4)What is the purpose of realtor.org? I am not sure yet, and I am a realtor, not just a condescending tech guy. Replace NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® with whatever it is the site is for. Resources for Realtors? Consumers?

    5)If they don’t exist already, while hiring some CMS specialists, get some Usability specialists. The site feels like something I would have built in high school. Sorry to be blunt, but it’s true.

    These are just some things I noticed. I don’t use the site much because I have yet to see the purpose of the site, other than CRT blogs.

    As to your question about what the site should feel/look like to Lani, seemingly referring to the layout, whether minimalistic(google) or expansive(CL), the heat map should help with that. Find out what is being used, eliminate the rest.

    I saw your tweet about the people involved with this being pinged, for those people: get it together.

  6. Matt Stigliano

    June 4, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    After listening to the call at RE: RnD (on which this issue was one of the topics), I have a few thoughts:

    1. I commented that someone really needs to think about the topics/categories of the site. A strong backend structure will give a strong front end user interface. When I built the band’s site I took weeks when we redesigned it and thought both of the content we had currently and the content we wished to provide in the future and built a site structure around that. Back end site structure not only makes it easier for multiple groups and people to update the site, but it also makes for a common sense approach to the user interface. By grouping related topics, all the information is found a lot easier. It is done to a point, I just think the main categories (and sub-categories) need to be more obvious as to what they cover.

    2. Aesthetics don’t matter a ton to me. Sure, I’d like the site to look all clean and modern, but I can live without that. I think it will draw more attention though.

    3. Tagging. In the call, tagging was discussed and I think this could be a great way to develop inter-relational links on topics. Things like RPAC (under Government Affairs) relate to issues in Committees, so the relationship could be developed through the use of some sort of tagging and cross referencing.

    4. Membership numbers being what they are, I do think NAR needs to think of the lowest common denominator in their layout. The easier to find information, the better. With the sheer volume of information that NAR is trying to get out there, that isn’t easy.

    5. As much as I hate to suggest we make more sites to work on, I think splitting the members vs. non-members content would be great. Realtor.org can serve a purpose for the consumer (and news media, etc.), so why not build that as a consumer info site and get a new domain that serves the members only segment. No one wants to run multiple sites I’m sure, but by concentrating the efforts on different sites, you can build different teams that specialize in each area. Members, Consumers, Association Business, etc.

    6. Stop producing stuff that comes out like the “May 5, 2009: Foreclosure Prevention and Response Program” podcast. I don’t mean to be harsh and I know not everyone can be a great interview, but this is bad on so many levels. If we want to encourage people to be “real” we need to showcase how “real” our leadership is. On top of that, why do we go through all the flashy titles…give me the info and let’s move on. If the association is going to use video to get the message out I don’t think this is the way to do it. I’m embarrassed watching this.

    7. I know this is semi-off topic, but when NAR uses Twitter, don’t post 10 things in a row. Give people the information in a slower drip fashion and I think more people will read it. When I get a whole scrolling line of NAR news, it just comes across as too much as once. Sometimes less is more.

    I’m sure I’ll come up with more, but that’s it for now.

  7. Steve Krzysiak

    June 4, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    @Matt I agree with you on the twitter issue. Drip the topics, use an existing service or there is a PHP script that I like to use.

    @Todd I forgot to mention one thing, this video may be of interest to those in charge of realtor.org
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo3uxqwTxk0

  8. Todd Carpenter

    June 4, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Great input Matt. NAR has a team that’s building a separate consumer website as we speak. I love the idea of tags. However, we have 8500 pages of content to go back and tag. Should we tag it? Should we tag part of it?

    Steve,

    Association Executives are the power users of realtor.org. They are on the site all the time, taking content and re-purposing that content to their local memberships.

    See, this is one of our more giant hurdles. Different people need different stuff. We’re serving membership directly and indirectly.

    When I click on your search for “nar code of ethics”, my first result is for COE training, the second result is a page that lets you download current and past versions of the COE. Are you seeing something different?

    Also, we have already hired a usability specialist tasked with helping in the redisign of the site.

  9. Todd Carpenter

    June 4, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Also, I can change to the @realtors Twitter account, but I disagree that spreading out the tweets is the best action. There’s rarely more than 4 in a day and they tweet via an RSS feed when the content is published onto realtor.org.

    @realtors really isn’t an interactive twitter account. We assume people who follow it want the latest news from realtor.org. My thinking is that they want all the news when it’s published. Why would we want them to wait hours to find out about the latest Pending Homes Sales report when the information is there right then and there?

  10. Steve Krzysiak

    June 4, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    @todd
    I thought I saw only training links, could have made a mistake, but I remember three training links.

    If the site is for those power users, then let’s make one for realtors. We can call it associationexecutives.org :p

    In regards to twitter(completely off topic), spreading out tweets isn’t just to avoid flooding someone’s timeline, it makes the tweet more likely to be noticed by people who check twitter intermittently. For example, I will never check twitter at 4PM and scroll down all of my tweets posted since 9AM, rather maybe the past hour or two. And I only have <500 followers. Imagine those with thousands. Anyway, spreading them out to one every three hours makes it more likely that people like me will at least glance one NAR tweet. I may click on that link if I like it, or I may click on NAR’s profile since I was interested in other news releases. It makes sense, from a social marketing perspective. That is why twitter schedulers exist. Not for lazy twitterers(they are easy to spot with their pseudo-posts) but for those with something interesting to share who want to do it effectively.
    I’ll admit, our company does dump our listing feed to twitter when new listings hit twice a day. This is changing soon, due to the reasons mentioned.
    Also, regarding your point of NAR pushing news out as soon as it’s available, I could care less. @realtors news=old news. Like the tweet today for this article dated the 2nd: https://www.realtor.org/press_room/news_releases/2009/06/phs_up

  11. Cheryl Allin

    June 4, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    NAR Communications Committee Finds Realtor.org Difficult to Use https://bit.ly/yyoZ0 #feedly

  12. Todd Carpenter

    June 4, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Steve,

    Ummmm, how do you know? Please don’t take that the wrong way. But is there some sort of study that says 3-4 autogenerated news tweets get clicked on more often because someone spreads them out over the entire day as opposed to all 3-4 at once?

    Here’s the other side of the coin.

    Sure, people often only read what’s been recently tweeted, BUT, when they have two or three or four tweets from @realtors to pick from, isn’t more likely that one of those stories would appeal to them instead of hiding those other tweets until some time when they aren’t reading?

    Also, the tweet you’re referring to was tweeted yesterday when the story came out, not today.

    If we pumped out 10 or 20 tweets at one time, I could understand why that would be annoying. But we usually push out two or three. It looks like you (stevekrzysiak) aren’t actually following @realtors, so you might not of been aware of this.

  13. Jeff Israel

    June 4, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Check out: “NAR Communications Committee Finds Realtor.org Difficult to Use” (https://twitthis.com/nk9yt6)

  14. Steve Krzysiak

    June 4, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    @Todd
    No study I know of, but it seems to be the growing consensus. It also seems to be the route many twitterati are taking. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. This debate should end with that. And no, my argument is not ‘everyone else is doing it, so it has to be right’ but rather ‘the right people are doing it.’

    I see your point on the other side of the coin, but I don’t know anyone who likes to get their time line inundated that way, regardless if it is only 4 tweets. This may be one of the most common reasons people unfollow others on twitter. Well, that or self promotion. Like I said, I think if people really care about NAR news, they’ll click on the profile when they see one tweet.

    I did make a mistake on that link, regardless, the one above it is from today about news yesterday I think. Point being, NAR news is not breaking news, at least not via twitter. And I just checked the link I mentioned about the search for ‘nar code of ethics’, yes, the code of ethics is there, just under the fold. I see why I missed it now.

    I know it’s only four tweets or so, and I wasn’t complaining, I was agreeing that spreading is more efficient tweeting. I don’t need to follow @realtors to see when and how the tweets come(https://www.twitter.com/realtors). And I don’t follow @realtors because I have no reason to, realtor.org has an RSS feed.

    When(not if) a conclusive study comes out proving that I am right about tweet frequencies, I cordially invite you to the south loop for lunch so we can discuss how right I was :p

  15. Todd Carpenter

    June 4, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    “I don’t know anyone who likes to get their time line inundated that way, regardless if it is only 4 tweets. This may be one of the most common reasons people unfollow others on twitter”

    My personal Twitter account has 2800 followers. @realtors has 3145. @realtors (an RSS driven robot) has more followers than me, earned in far less time. In fact, @realtors had far less followers than me when I com aboard just a couple moths ago.

    I came into this position at NAR with many of the same conceptions as you did, and have found that were misconceptions.

    I wouldn’t change the way I run my personal account, but remain unconvinced in changing @realtors. It’s been a fun experiment, watching it grow while on cruise control.

  16. Steve Krzysiak

    June 4, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    @Todd
    I see what you mean about cruise control, @chicagorealty is pretty much automated except it has not surpassed me in followers because I am sweeter than a bot :p It has however amassed quite a few followers, mainly due to the keywords. I think more could have been done if it were an engaging account and if the tweets were spread better. Point being, not hard to find followers on twitter, numbers mean nothing.

    Furthermore, @realtors follower count(as well as yours) means absolutely nothing. The only reason @realtors is 3K because it is the official twitter account of NAR. What are you getting at with these numbers? I lost you here. Are you saying that people are obviously following, therefore there’s nothing wrong? Well, how many unfollowed @realtors? How many more followers could there be?

    All I claim is that the follower count could be higher with a spreaded/scheduled tweet approach. it would be higher for various reasons, and not an occasional eye sore in peoples time lines. I can care less what you guys do, like you said, I don’t follow that account. just my two cents.

    Oh, in regards to misconceptions, what misconceptions? this was about the efficiency of twitter dumping rss feeds, no? I haven’t voiced anything about how NAR does things(my shrink advises against these kinds of outbursts), and have only discussed that site whose domain we shall not mention and the twitter thing.

  17. Todd Carpenter

    June 4, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Steve,

    You’re telling me the number of people following doesn’t matter, but that if we did it differently that more people will follow. I’m having a hard time following you here. :p

    When I came to NAR and looked at how @realtors was being operated, I thought it was all wrong. For the same reasons you have stated.

    Yet people don’t unfollow. They do continue to follow at increasingly high rates, and they do it to an audience size that most RE influencers would agree is very large considering the medium. We’ve gained 1000+ followers in just a couple months.

    I bet within six months, more people will subscribe to @realtors than follow by RSS. Until someone can site evidence that it’s a better communications strategy to spread out tweets, I think @realtors followers deserve to get the information they are subscribing to as soon as we can make it available.

  18. Matt Stigliano

    June 4, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Todd – A couple of things…

    I was the one that used the “10 tweets in a row” example. I take the blame for that. It was just a number that I wrote in order to complete the sentence. I agree it’s not 10 in a row.

    I do agree with Steve and although there is no study, I know that’s how I work. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for me.

    @realtors having so many followers, I’m not sure if that means much to me. Ashton has ten bazillion people following him…do you really think every one of them pays attention to anything he says? People join to be “joiners” a lot of times in life. We Realtors® are notorious for seeking out the words “realtor” or “real estate” when online. Perhaps the account should take advantage of BudURL in order to measure the power the account really wields in terms of clicks from the Twitter account.

    However, we have 8500 pages of content to go back and tag. Should we tag it? Should we tag part of it?

    Todd, I wish I had the answer to this. Obviously it would come at a cost and take a long time. I think the goal could be to get the basics started, then start going back to the archives. Still not an easy or cheap task, but at least it could be put together and at least started (with the present material) as the past material slowly catches up.

  19. Tom Hernandez

    June 4, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    I found this blog today and it struck a cord in me. https://tinyurl.com/os44gw
    What are your thoughts?

  20. Brad Nix

    June 4, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    I use R.org as an agent, broker, and association exec. My first thoughts are to reorganize the site into channels by user type. Each channel can have sub-channels and tags would be perfect for cross pollination of content between channels. 3 to 5 main options on the home page should be chosen based on historical heat maps. All other info should be easily accessible via a google type search. As Matt said, simple is better – especially when communicating to masses. There is a ton of great info on R.org, it just seems like it’s all thrown at you on one page. Turn down the noise.

    As for the 8500 pages of content, I say go back 18 months and tag from there forward. If it’s over 18 months old, it’s probably irrelevant or antiquated anyway.

    As for @realtors on Twitter, I’d rather see the account post a daily or multiple daily tech tips to REALTORS – like how to subscribe to an RSS feed of the same updates this bot has been spewing. (maybe this particular tip should be done at least daily for a while)

    Changing the way membership consumes NAR data and improving the access to information are ambitious goals – but I’m confident @tcar can do anything. round of beers says he makes things better sooner than later.

  21. Benn Rosales

    June 5, 2009 at 10:36 am

    I’ll chime in and second Brad’s comment on channels, tags, and rid of the foofoo.

    But a step further on the 18mos. A wiki scenario is what I imagine that membership doesn’t edit, but instead, mark as useful or not useful, or possibly make additions that are submitted for review.

    Sticky content for each subject or ‘suggested’ terms to better help a member narrow down their search, and then the ability to mark it as incomplete or complete / helpful not helpful to give it better ranking in suggested terms.

    Although I’m not an Apple fanatic, I do enjoy the natural flow of knowledge base in support- and maybe that’s the answer- a support base for members. The flow and layout of apple.com/support also rocks a lot of information and does it really well- I think the key here would be to exactly know exactly what realtor.org is for. If it’s action committees then that is a product. If it’s legislative then that’s a product etc…

  22. Joe Loomer

    June 5, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    I would create a “Wall of Shame” or whatever you want to call it. Cite cases of agents losing their license (or worse) – state-by-state or however someone smarter than me wants to do it. You could probably make it very funny. Include names of known scammers and predatory lenders under indictment in each state. The Craiglist rental scam being one recent example.

    Also – we used to get “Mishap Reports” in the Navy – the dude that used to write them was absolutely hilarious when speaking about how some poor shipwreck tried to open a painted-shut window in a locker room wearing only a towel – you can take it from there. We could have a humorous “Realtors in Real Life” section – I suggest hiring Gwen Banta.

    Oh, and add a button on the home page that says “To hear a duck quack, click here” Make AFLAC pay for it….

  23. Lani Rosales

    June 5, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Realtor.org, I think you see some great feedback here.

    Benn, Matt, Steve- there are some great ways you’ve noted here as to how the data can flow better, it will be interesting to see how NAR proceeds. They’ve talked about changing the site, this conversation isn’t new because they’re already on it but it IS worth encouraging strategic changes they might not have considered.

    Joe, I don’t think a Wall of Shame would be appropriate but scam indictment alerts could be helpful. Do you think that having a humorous section to Realtor.org makes it a better functioning site? I don’t, I think it’s better served as an informative tool than a watercooler. I like that you’re thinking of the site holistically though, it’s an interesting perspective.

  24. Mark Eibner

    June 5, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    we’re at it again NAR Communications Committee Finds Realtor.org Difficult to Use: Got somethin.. https://tinyurl.com/os44gw

  25. sheilabragg

    June 5, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    NAR Communications Committee Finds Realtor.org Difficult to Use: Got something to say? Let us hear it in comment.. https://tinyurl.com/os44gw

  26. Todd Carpenter

    June 5, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Steve, it looks like you are coming to RE BarCamp Chicago. The realtor.org team is interested in meeting with some of the attendees to get feedback on the work they are doing for the redesign of realtor.org.

    Would this be a topic of interest for you at RE BarCamp?

    We are trying to decide if a breakout session like this is something RE BarCamp attendees might be interested in, or if it will make them feel like RE BarCamp is turning into RE NarCamp. That’s the last thing we want to do.

  27. Real Estate Feeds

    June 5, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    NAR Communications Committee Finds Realtor.org Difficult to Use: Got something to say? Let us hear it in comment.. https://tinyurl.com/os44gw

  28. Matt Stigliano

    June 6, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Todd – I’ve never been to a REBarCamp, so I can’t comment on the functionality of one, but perhaps through the day you could invite members who you see as being “involved” to a special meetup at a given time, then collect them and do your thing. Perhaps this would avoid the feeling that it was an RENARCamp. I know you said “breakout session” but I was thinking more of after the REBarCamp was over, that way you’re not taking them away from what they came for, but also giving them the opportunity to participate in this sort of focus group.

  29. Missy Caulk

    June 6, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Todd, I am coming and I would be interested in a session like this. 🙂

  30. Todd Carpenter

    June 8, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Matt, once RE BarCamp is over, we all head to happy hour. So I’m thinking that would be the worst time possible. :p

    I think we are going to reserve an auxiliary conference room in the building as to not take space away from the RE BarCamp event.

  31. Matt Stigliano

    June 8, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Todd – I find that happy hour can be the best place to talk – you’ll get honesty with a beer in hand. Just don’t take the meeting too far into happy hour. Then it gets ugly. I’d hate to see the new site after it was redesigned by a bunch of Realtors® at happy hour. Haha.

    I think your idea of reserving something sort of outside the REBarCamp experience might work best. I just think it’s good to allow for input, but not take away from what people spent money to come do – learn. I do applaud the efforts to get the “public” involved. Now I really wish I would be there.

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