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The Power of Relationships & Influencers- Social Endorsement- Part I

When We Gauge Value

Almost every day, a person or product lands in front of me and you and we’re left with a choice to look into, or look away. Almost instantly a first impression is made and you make a determination as to the value of the relationship potential.

As real estate professionals, more often than not, we’ll work with a client that we may not like personally- you know almost instantly this is not a person you’ll be golfing with, but you’ll work with the client anyway because it’s “just business.” However, the client may or may not feel the same way about you, much like how I feel when I’m approached with a new product to either look at or not look at. I make a determination as to whether I’d use the product at first glance, and more often than not what I’m really looking for is a reason to look more deeply– at heart, I’m a consumer just like anyone else.

There are many reasons I may find to like a product and sometimes it has more to do with the concept of the product and where it may go into the future which is why I have problems with more products released to the real estate industry prior to a year ago than I have a problem with products coming out today. It seems to me that older products have had the pulse and ignored it for the most part, otherwise, a new release in the past year would demonstrate some desire to grow and adapt to the changing landscape that is the practice of real estate.

Agents Are Hungry

Agents around the country are seeing more and more products released into the public and are wondering whether they should drop products and services they’ve used and trusted for years. Everyone knows that the agent would prefer not to change if they mustn’t, unless a product disintermediates another product or service that negatively impacts their bottom line. The problem is that there are just so many things touted as the latest and greatest (see mashable or techcrunch) that professionals not only have so many new things started, that their plates are full of things yet to even look at.

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The truth is that even though the tremors of meaningful change have been happening for the better part of 3 years, the bulk of the profession is just now realizing that little things are different all around them. They’re subtle, but they’re there. The questions consumers ask, the attitudes of both buyers and sellers, hell, even the market values an agent has staked their living on have changed- it’s all overwhelming- we know where the consumer is supposed to go for answers, but where do agents go? The answer is easy, they’re coming to places like Agent Genius, Facebook, Activerain, BiggerPockets, and mixing with others that have their attention focused on that change, and they’re getting those answers through the power of social endorsements.

Influence Versus The Used Car Salesman

You see, social endorsements do not require a check to be written; the product or service simply has given someone a reason to have a second look (the viral nature of the concept, great copy, it spoke to one person’s needs exposing many other valuable uses). Many times, the second look gives you insight into the possibilities of the product and the people that are creating them, thus a relationship with the product and its creator is born.

In this space, to interact with those who actually do as opposed to armchair is collaborative and interactive– a powerful connection to its success is born and money isn’t and never was the point; social endorsements are a natural part of any relationship. What is being endorsed is more than a box on the shelf, it’s an invitation to influence success.

The decision is up to the adopter whether interaction is ultimately for them. Their adoption isn’t up to the influencer, the influencer merely shared a perspective and made previously unseen connections.

Learn Before You Preach

A lot is being made right now about what motivates relationships, and it demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the ideals behind what makes up the social endorsement- it is the relationship that encourages the recommendation to a friend, and it always has been.

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So many tout the notion that social media has been around for years and true enough, the online applications have been around, however, the fundamental difference is that in most cases, I know your name, and maybe even what football team your son plays for because I’ve read your blogs or your timeline, or you’ve shared with me- you’re no longer hiding behind the veil of anonymity online, thus making the power of the relationship possible, and real life connections to be made much the way they are in offline professional networking. Personal and professional, online and offline have now merged- the concept, now reality is huge and the ramifications are endless.

Hollywood Liberals

Because the person making a recommendation is known (liked or unliked) they’ve developed some social capital to spend. Suggesting great reading, informational videos, or even a product or service they found interesting can obviously carry some muster with those that know and respect you. The problem many have is that they misunderstand the phenomenon and quantify it as popularity- it simply isn’t that, but you can have both. This is ultimately why an endorsement from an entertainer will only have an impact on a few versus everyone, even though the entertainer is popular.

Popularity gives you a voice, but social capital makes your message matter– social capital is granted, not purchased, nor demanded. Often times, it is because you have bridged a relationship on less important matters whether it be over a funny video, or ridiculous pictures, and enjoyed conversations that led to larger commonalities leads to a relationship built on trust. Much the same thing is happening between agents and consumers every day- when seen participating in social spaces with little motive to make a sale, consumers can lower walls to also find those commonalities with an agent that lead to transactions built on the trust often forged in long-term relationships.

Profiles, Math & Social Media

This is why friend collecting and wasting valuable time looking at social media through a sales person’s marketing eyes can be equated to attempting to learn calculus without ever bothering to learn the fundamentals of basic addition and multiplication for the n00b. Setting up a profile simply isn’t enough to be in social media- social media is a lifestyle culture, a society with rules and infrastructure but self-policing and many simply do not understand this society as much as they desperately want to sell, exploit or make money from it. Whether it be because at heart they are without the ability to grasp the concept of the relationship, or are simply antisocial personalities that do not trust enough to even try in fear or utter rejection- the angry (emotionally insecure) kid on the playground. Simply put, there are several reasons many fail and begin to scoff at the idea of social media, and simply hate because they’re simply incapable of participating.

Antisocial + Wind = A Lot of Hot Air

Social capital cannot be quantified, in fact, it’s viral both positively and negatively in nature, and when people invest long periods of time pontificating in the red (meaning they’ve surpassed a negative balance in the figurative bank that holds their social capital), completely oblivious to this reality, chances are they’ve only managed to galvanize a sustained distrust of their motives and because they’ve done it for so long, they are unable to pinpoint what went wrong and when, leaving them alienated and grasping at straws. We often make light of the saying that we all attract like minds, and on the surface, this may seem simple. However, it becomes complexed when like minds are simultaneously spending pontificators’ capital by spreading and exponentially magnifying the pontificators’ message, often inflicting collateral damage to those around the antisocial.

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Self-policing media universes have collided and now include all venues of personal ideals, concepts, principles and platforms that include blogging (both macro and micro) and communities. This phenomenon repels those that are untrusted automatically, leaving the antisocial screaming at the doors much to the antisocial’s dismay that their reputation now precedes them into both the offline and online realities- the fact is that no one asks the antisocial’s opinion, or ever will. Fear of retribution and or retaliation by polarized consensus is not something the crowd will want to be a part of or embrace, and in fact, the antisocial will have exactly the opposite outcome than was intended by all that they do.

The action of endorsement can be as simple as recommending a book, recommending another agent on a transaction, product or service, presenting an unknown writer to your blog, or introducing a friend to a friend. It makes absolute sense to understand that social capital matters and how you came to be an influencer. Influencers are people who are out front of the pulse in this new era and they want not only better products and services, but also better relationships. Influencers look to shape the road ahead with what’s being learned on the ground in real time, by understanding and using the value of their social capital carefully on products, ideals, practices, and principles that they’ve been drawn to look more deeply into, now share with those seeking the same ideals, practices, and principles, and build upon them.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.



  1. Chris Shouse

    December 31, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Brillant article and very well said. Happy New Year

  2. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    December 31, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Wow Benn, now you’ve done it! 🙂
    In my opinion, the anti-socials try too hard and make it obvious that their intent is not pure. What I don’t get is in this social media space we are in, where it’s so easy to ask questions to clear uncertainties, why is it that people make assumptions?

    I also get that the “traditionalists” have a hard time with social capital and its implications – too bad for them. For you my friend, CHEERS!!

    I will raise a glass for you and Lani tonight!

  3. BawldGuy

    December 31, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Benn — How often are we asked to explain/define ‘social media’? Or, a specific medium like twitter? To someone with no real context it’s proven, at least for me, a daunting task at times. Finally though, I’ve come upon, accidently, a way to get it done.

    You make so many good points here.

    I tell folks much of social media is akin to workin’ in a ginormous office with thousands of people. Some you know, some you don’t but will. But since you see them all the time, you do your best to honor the Golden Rule.

    The overall ‘spirit’ you project cannot be veiled over the long haul. Either you are a helper, a giver, an empathizer, or you’re not. And if you’ve been perceived as ‘not’….

    One of your best efforts, Benn.

  4. Lisa Sanderson

    December 31, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Um, don’t know what happened there with that previous comment but I was simply trying to stand & applause your brilliance. Thanks for being you, Benn (and Miss Lani, of course :), and for creating this space for us to contemplate issues big & small. You’re awesome.

  5. jfsellsius

    December 31, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Yes, what the Bawld Guy said.
    Happy New Year to a giver and a helper.

  6. g. dewald

    December 31, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Great post Benn. I’m on vacation but I can’t help dipping into this.

    Small quibbles: while you may look at new concepts/products and be looking for the reason of why to continue (a positive disposition towards the new that well-serves any marketer) most people are the inverse: looking for a reason to not continue. This ties into the whole information overload vs inadequate filters conversation. Excellent work there.

    Also I disagree that social capital cannot be quantified. There is certainly a lot of work to do there, but it’s already starting. Currently it is a backwards-looking analytics practice (measuring results of past activity vs predicting future performance). That will change and it would be worthwhile to watch that space with the same optimism you give to reviewing new products–looking for the utility instead of applying the filter.

    While creating profiles and not actually participating in social media seems odd to those of us who are actively present on social networks, it’s a perfectly valid marketing tactic. In fact, I tend to advise clients who are unsure about whether to begin social media to just go ahead and make profiles. At the very least they can serve as small beacons and/or claim branded space to avoid getting punked. This type of activity is more appropriately filed into an SEO campaign in most cases. But more importantly, it helps to answer the “how/why should I start” question and provide a foundation to begin actively using social media–Don’t scoff at the profile marketers because some of them may just be newbies learning and listening.

    Your popularity vs social capital is excellent. I’d be mapping popularity into a Reach KPI (how many people hear your message) and I’d be mapping your social capital (how many people act on your message) into an Engagement KPI (and yeah, I am measuring this stuff–however rudimentary). The difference between these two KPIs and their trendline are what we can use to figure out “is this working?” I would probably, ultimately, use the word “relevance” instead of “social capital.” But it’s probably semantics.

    Great work on the magnification of negative thinking (and the long lasting residue of that negative thinking).

    I’m getting way long here. I’ll should do a response blog piece of my own…. Anyway: great post with a lot to chew on.

  7. steve garfield

    December 31, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Nice post.

    “Learn Before You Preach”

    Get to know me.

    “Seek first to understand, then to be inderstood.” Steven Covey

  8. teresa boardman

    December 31, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Benn this is a hard one to comment on. You put out several ideas in this post and just about each one could be made into a post all it’s own. It is fascinating how people use social media. There are plenty of examples of “Antisocial + Wind = A Lot of Hot Air” 🙂

  9. Joshua Dorkin @ BiggerPockets

    December 31, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Great article, Benn! I’m with Teresa . . . its tough commenting, but you’re dead on. I want to thank Lani for pointing it out, and I want thank you, Benn for sharing our site with everyone.


  10. Benn Rosales

    December 31, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    hi G,

    “Also I disagree that social capital cannot be quantified.”

    I could have built on this point a tad more, but the average user needs to understand that you can measure “function of capital” but not the capital itself. For example, you can measure the traffic via budurl served on twitter for a specific recommendation, but that persons capital is left uncounted. In other words, we can measure what we spend it on.

    Your comments are never long, I’ll always read every word.

    The other point that you made about looking for a reason to look twice versus a reason not to look for the consumer may and may not be true.

    I think that a searching consumer for information either finds or does not find the content they’re seeking, however, if the consumer finds the value, how the consumer now views the site (and you) becomes more broad- search for commonality.

    I can’t wait to read what you have upcoming…

    @Steve awesome, great to see you around Ag

    @Tboard no doubt, but it’s a framework. The next post will break down these groups.

    @joshua pockets rocks and I’m happy to tell the truth.

    @Joe you’re the model, man…

    @Lisa I think it is you that should be applauded, your support and participation is why we do what we do.

    @Bawldguy and to think a year ago you were in the pool of those seeking knowledge, and today you pay it forward- welcome to that list of givers.

    @Ines “screaming at the door” “left in dismay” they just don’t get it, nor do they care, because that would open them up for rejection.

    @Chris and a blessed New Years to you too!

  11. Paul |

    December 31, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Wow, that was pretty deep!

    This fits well with what I consider to be the first Optimal Persuasion “rule”, that persuasion is really self-persuasion. The persuader is merely helping the other person to convince themselves.

    And it’s similar with Influence. If we want to be influential, give people reasons to want to be influenced by us, i.e. create great products and services that others LOVE recommending.

    Paul Hancox

  12. Missy Caulk

    December 31, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    As I was reading and then rereading parts I kept thinking about how you can grade posts like 5th grad level, high school level, college level.

    We don’t see too many well thought out, reasonable, intellectual posts out in the blogosphere but this one is.

    True leaders are not afraid to take risks, admit mistakes. The world is crying out for leaders to lead the tribes, and go bravely where none has gone before.

    It is not a given every man or woman will be a leader because leadership is earned by respect from those in social media say so.

    Happy New Year to you and Lani, good things are in store for you in 2009!

  13. Teri L

    January 1, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Influencers are people who are out front of the pulse in this new era and they want not only better products and services, but also better relationships. Influencers look to shape the road ahead with what’s being learned on the ground in real time, by understanding and using the value of their social capital carefully on products, ideals, practices, and principles that they’ve been drawn to look more deeply into, now share with those seeking the same ideals, practices, and principles, and build upon them.

    Very well said, Benn.
    There has never been a better time to connect with people and share our thoughts and ideas. The chance to learn and grow and push for best in our profession(s) is unparalleled and should be embraced for what it can offer all of us!

    All the best in 2009!

  14. Jim Gatos

    January 2, 2009 at 6:09 am

    Brilliant article and long overdue.. Lots of strong points raised here…

  15. Paula Henry

    January 2, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Benn – Excellent! I just finished reading Tribes, so this post is timely.

    Influencers and leaders earn (not demand) the respect they have been give by quantifiably demonstrating their trustworthiness and ablity to be a leader.

    Looking forward to part 2.

    Best to you in 2009!

  16. Mike Henderson

    January 4, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Wow. Very impressed with this article. As much as I liked the article I was real impressed with the comments of people as well. I found this site through a link from Bigger Pockets.

  17. Doug Jumper

    January 9, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Very informative article! I don’t think you could better capture the ‘antisocial’ perspective. There’s nothing more annoying than someone promoting themselves or a product while never providing other content.

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