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Tom Ferry – Embracing Social Media in the Real Estate Business Landscape

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Could a 1.0 coach go 2.0 and who would be first?

Of course the real estate social media space  is full of coaches and trainers- social media by its root definition is collaborative– people working with others to help them grow and engage.

The growth we’ve had in social media for real estate has been slow and steady, first in blogging, evolving into more immediate social tools such as Twitter, Facebook and others. Slow and steady has allowed us as a collaboration to groom the space, set the expectations, and communicate the etiquette allowing us to tailor an opportunity for any  real estate agent new to the space to engage- we never thought it possible that 1.0 would ever work well within the confines of this architecture.

Enter Tom Ferry

Tom_Ferry-204

Have you seen this guy around Twitter?  I didn’t realize who it was at first.  I knew his name, but didn’t put the face with the name, until I saw his website that led me to the upcoming Success Summit with a Gary Vaynerchuk interview.  What I expected (the worst), versus what I got was a pretty striking difference- here was a one dot oh guy conversing with Gary and actually agreeing with him which I didn’t expect; people with Tom Ferry’s background are usually resistant and argumentative to the changing climate.

Tom and I talked about his conversations with Gary and I asked him what Gary said that changed his outlook and it was that engaging in the social media space requires 10-14 hours each day– essentially saying you’ll get out what you put in.  So that’s what Tom is doing and why you’ve seen him actually in the trenches rather than preaching from a podium.

40k agents each month and still making time to Twitter

What makes Tom’s entry to social media so notable is that he brings a much needed higher level of endorsement to the space. As a coach, trainer, teacher and mentor, with over 20 years experience in business coaching, he’s trained over 250,000 professionals.  His typical client base exceeds over $1 million in annual real estate commissions, including CEOs, brokers, agents, and professionals outside of the real estate space- his demographic is extraordinary and his voice is well respected- and he actually believes that social media is more than just the latest trend that some have called it.  He’s practicing it.  I’ve watched him share, learn, comment on blogs, promote others, and engage pretty much on our same level- more than just a systematic box of thank you cards.

Given that Tom works with over 40,000 agents a month, I predict he’ll have a pretty incredible impact on the next generation of participant in the real estate social media space.

We’ll be watching this unique evolution and are especially interested to see how an audience not accustomed to Social Media receives Tom and Gary on the subject- until then, listen, watch, and decide for yourself…

Tom Ferry on Twitter | Listen to Tom Ferry and Gary Vaynerchuk

Agent Genius is not an affiliate of Gary Vaynerchuk, or Coach Tom Ferry

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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42 Comments

42 Comments

  1. Michelle DeRepentigny

    July 13, 2009 at 11:32 am

    It was great to look at Tom’s stream and realize he is talking with others, whereas one of my other 1.0 hero’s, @TerriMurphy, has posted infrequently and is talking at – not to, her twitter followers.

  2. tomferry

    July 13, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Hey Michelle,

    Thanks for checking out my twitter stream and for your comment here. The real estate business is all about engaging people, asking the questions and LISTENING to the feedback! I look forward to being in the conversation.

    TF

  3. Mary Jett

    July 13, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Thank you so much for speading the social media networking. It brings results!

  4. Michael Benninger

    July 13, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    This is great.

  5. Bryan Myers

    July 13, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Tom expouses a powerful combination for self employed professionals- be the expert, connect with people, be genuine. I see him demonstrating this every time he speaks in person. I find myself wishing that friends and family were in the seats next to me.

    Tom I think you could serve a much bigger clientele than just Real Estate and Mortgage Professionals. I have a weekly meeting with members of my community in various self-employed trades for life coaching and quite often pass on to them skills and ideas that I’ve learned from you. It’s great having you around on facebook, twitter, etc on a daily basis. Thanks for everything!

    -Bryan

  6. CHADI BAZZI

    July 13, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    ITS 2009 … TIMES HAVE CHANGED AND IF YOU ARE NOT GETTING IN THE GAME OF SOCIAL MEDIA YOU ARE BEING LEFT BEHIND.

    WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT WORKING WITH TOM IS THAT HE KEEPS ME ONE STEP AHEAD OF THE WORLD BY BEING THE ONE TO FIND OUT THE LATEST TRENDS THAT ARE WORKING, HE IMMERSES HIMSELF IN IT FIRST TO TEST IT AND IF IT WORKS HE TELLS US ABOUT IT SO WE CAN GET THE BETTER RESULTS WE ALL STRIVE FOR.

    THANK YOU TOM.

    CHADI BAZZI

  7. Shane

    July 13, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    It is all about how these new mediums are introduced. Twitter, Facebook the rest are meant to build a meaningful network of people for your self. Not just try to gather as many followers as possible. I hear a number of RE professionals mentioning the Ashton Kutcher type contests on Twitter,etc. These of course are the ones who insist these mediums are not a viable source for connections/relationships.
    As long as these gentlemen educate others on how to properly use the new mediums available, I think it will be a good thing.

  8. Marc

    July 13, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    It’s cool that Tom has joined Twitter. But so has millions of other people including some of the most powerful corporate brands and CEO’s in the world.

    Tom’s foray into this space is admirable but let’s get a grip. The real inspiration or endorsement for real estate agents is not Tom but rather the thousands of agents who discovered this well before Tom did, signed up and began using Twitter to build a following and ultimately clients.

    But now that Tom has joined Twitter, welcome to the community. I’m sure we are all looking forward to what will hopefully be a steady stream of valuable, meaningful, insightful content that breaks the barriers of slick PR and gets down to real human conversation and sharing.

  9. Mark Johnson

    July 13, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Integrating your “message” at every point of public contact is not new – successful marketers have always followed the “consumer.” As social networking sites gain significant traction with consumers it’s an important factor to consider in the overall marketing mix. The marketing mix is critical – social media being one aspect of that mix – and from my view, the result is not about getting our target market to choose us over the competition, it is about getting our prospects to see us as the “best qualified” for their situation. At the end of the day, successful marketing is understanding the needs and wants of our customers and prospects and bringing those solutions to them in a compelling manner – Tom and Gary – like a good coach should – are challenging their customers to deliver the message where the consumers our spending time.

  10. Matt Stigliano

    July 13, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    I’ve had a few run ins with Tom on Twitter and have enjoyed our brief conversations. I knew he was a coach, but not much more than that. Interesting to see him embrace it as I have heard more than one coach, broker, agent say it was all a waste of time. Should be interesting to see what he develops from this and if his coaching takes on a new direction/meaning.

  11. Benn Rosales

    July 13, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    It’s all well and good for anyone to join the sm space CEO or just regular Joe, what I’m most interested in is who is here to grow the audience/space/voice/depth, and how they’re going about it, and who that demo is. Everyone seems to have a twitter acct, or a facebook page, what you do with it is a whole other story and what I’m watching.

  12. Bruce Harvey

    July 13, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    @coachtomferry

    Thanks Tom for being the 1st real estate coaching company to challenge agents to recognize the value of this new technology. Can’t wait to see you and hear Gary Vaynerchuk at the upsoming Success Summit ’09. This is going to be a great event for the real estate industry!!
    Coach Bruce Harvey

  13. Marc

    July 13, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    The first coaching company? Where have you been. There are dozens of coaches that have been on Twitter.

  14. Lani Rosales

    July 13, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    @1000wattmarc that’s a fair argument but there aren’t many *well* known old school Tom Ferry / Brian Buffini types that are doing more than spam. Encouraging mainstream coaches to use social media tools properly is a positive, not a negative.

  15. Benn Rosales

    July 13, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    skimming and reading what you want into an article typically leads to misunderstand the meaning and is displayed brightly by their comment.

    To the seven new faces in this thread so far, welcome to Ag, we hope you’ll stick around and continue the conversation.

  16. Josh Galvan

    July 13, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    I love how Tom is one of the few coaches that literally practices everything he preaches and advises on. This is just another perfect example of that!

  17. tomferry

    July 13, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Hey Marc,

    I agree with your points above. I enjoyed the 15 seconds of fame and then just got back to work, creating, coaching and contributing.

    I got some great advice from @JimMarks recently… He said “have a promise for your SM activities”. Mine is my vision, to continually inspire a million people to live and work by design… To do that I just continue to deeply care about each and every person I’m talking to.

    Strategy Matters and Passion Rules!
    TF

  18. Marc

    July 13, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Hey Lani, Benn, Tom, agents of the world

    First, I’m happy Tom has joined Twitter. And I buy the fact that Tom’s presence will serve as a beacon for others who never heard of Twitter or whose opinion of it is no different than mine was circa 6 months ago.

    But I guess the Tom “brings a much needed higher level of endorsement to the space,” confused me considering how world wide Twitter is. Had Tom or other coaches got started on this several years ago perhaps that designation would make sense. But the fact is, these respected coaches are years late to a party which makes me ponder something you felt but take it one step further.

    Why are real estate most prominent coaches still wearing a 1.0 moniker in 2009?
    Why are they just now getting started with social media?
    How effective can a coach be in today’s real estate industry if they have yet to use, endorse or understand it on a deeper level.
    Does the mere action of joining a Web 2.0 merit such hoopla?
    Can a 1.0 coach be qualified enough to coach other agents on it given the myriad of sites, ethics, responsibilities and challenges there are too it?

    These are not meant to be insults, but rather, questions that Tom might have great answers for that would do much to support the endorsement the article purports.

    Let’s face it, Buffini is on Twitter but considering he doesn’t follow anyone and his posts read like a shish-kabob of sales pitches and spin, I am guessing he really isn’t even posting to his own account. So I’m feeling as if the community could benefit from a deeper dive into the mind of Tom Ferry given the 2.0 world he is now embracing.

    Honestly, I would have liked to have gotten that insight from Tom and I believe other agents and readers would too rather than quick pitch, the bow and the reciting of Tom’s greatest accomplishments which are all powerful and highly regarded.

    What I would like to know is:

    Tom,

    What made you hold out on signing up and getting started on Twitter?
    Had you known about it all along and disregarded it, or did you recently become aware of it?
    Tell us about the spark that lit you up to finally join and up and start tweeting?
    Who are your favorite Twits to follow and why?
    Given that you have been on Twitter for such a short time how do you account for having over 4,000 followers? What’s been your strategy in building such a large base.
    Tell us a little bit about the Tom Ferry brand, the personal brand, and how you are revealing the human side of you through Twitter?
    Can you describe for us one cool connection you made through Twitter that would serve as an inspiration for others?
    Where do you see Twitter a year from now?
    I understand you want to inspire millions of people to work by design. And that you care deeply for others. We all do. But what are you really about?

    If I am being a nuisance, so be it. But as a reader, I’d like to get past the hyperbole here and the rah rah and get down to some meaningful dialogue from someone who AG has bestowed a sense of grandeur around. After all, isn’t this what Web 2.0 is all about?

  19. Diane Kohler

    July 13, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    Tom Ferry continually brings to his clients, as well as the entire real estate industry, the most current and cutting edge training and tools to not only growth businesses and practices, but to teach real estate professionals how to best serve their clients. The Summit ’09 is an event that must be attended by anyone serious about their real estate practice!

  20. tomferry

    July 13, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Hey Marc and AG World—

    Thanks for the questions Marc and in response to your questions, here we go …

    Why are real estate most prominent coaches still wearing a 1.0 moniker in 2009? My answer/guess: There’s the fear of change or they’re resistant to change, although I can’t speak for them … just about me and why I am doing what I am doing. It reminds of a story in “What Would Google Do” when Jeff was blogging about Dell and their initial responses to that.

    Why are they just now getting started with social media? My answer: I was in it last year and know that this is where a lot of the eyeballs and conversations have gone. If I want to connect with business professionals, I have to go where the eyeballs are. These are just more tools and resources I can use to make meaningful connections with people out there.

    How effective can a coach be in today’s real estate industry if they have yet to use, endorse or understand it on a deeper level. My answer: They will struggle to connect and engage with today’s consumer.

    Does the mere action of joining a Web 2.0 merit such hoopla? My answer- No, but I certainly dig the opportunity to express myself and “be heard” here in this forum.

    Can a 1.0 coach be qualified enough to coach other agents on it given the myriad of sites, ethics, responsibilities and challenges there are too it? My answer: Yes.

    What made you hold out on signing up and getting started on Twitter? My response: Last year after hearing Gary speak. That’s why I have him coming to my event next month. He’s incredibly motivating to listen and learn from! Whenever we talked, I get fired up!!

    Had you known about it all along and disregarded it, or did you recently become aware of it? I really got present to it in the 4th Quarter of last year and wanted to study it before I jumped right. And P.S. I am still learning and asking questions … but loving making connections with people! Thx to all who offer me great ideas and suggestions!

    Tell us about the spark that lit you up to finally join and up and start tweeting?My answer: Having the ability to have the conversation with other people. It, along with other social media tools, are great tools to allow me to communicate and listen to allow me to do what I love.

    Who are your favorite Twits to follow and why? My answer: I like hearing from clients like @DebbieBremner and @MarkGundlach – so I can check in- see their wins/ideas. @JasonCrouch- someone who I respect and like to read on Active Rain, @Linsey- a former coach at my company and great agent, @jimmarks- a social media and tech man who I really respect and learn from and a local OC guy, Sherry Chris- great to see what’s on the minds of company leaders; @SharonDWilson, a broker from FL that I spoke to a few months ago in Atlanta; @PaulTTran a local wealth advisor who is always one to make me laugh, @TammyBurnell a coach of ours and a busy mom; and Marc .. you, because you’re helping many of the CEOs that I know!

    Given that you have been on Twitter for such a short time how do you account for having over 4,000 followers? What’s been your strategy in building such a large base. My answer: I have the unfair advantage of speaking to large audiences, who 20% or less or on Twitter or other sites like Facebook. I simply tell them this is a direct way to connect to me. My Twitter/Facebook info is now on all of our marketing we use. And finally, I just started to get involved in conversations I was interested in!

    Tell us a little bit about the Tom Ferry brand, the personal brand, and how you are revealing the human side of you through Twitter? My answer: That’s funny because a close friend who has seen me speak told me, “You get paid to do this?” … because who you see on stage or who you read on Facebook or Twitter is what you get. Same TF on or off stage.

    Can you describe for us one cool connection you made through Twitter that would serve as an inspiration for others? I just reconnected with an old friend who was in my wedding, and we lost track of one another. Now we’ve reconnected. Very cool! Nothing about sales or business, just reconnecting with a buddy.

    Where do you see Twitter a year from now? My answer: I hope it does not become one long sales pitch and people keep having meaningful conversations and getting exposed to new ideas/concepts that make them think! Less shouting and more engagement.

    I understand you want to inspire millions of people to work by design. And that you care deeply for others. We all do. But what are you really about? My answer: Marc, that is who I am and what I am really about. We should connect and chat!

    After all, isn’t this what Web 2.0 is all about? My answer: Darn straight and 100% agree Marc. I appreciate the questions you asked. Hopefully this helped continue the dialogue.Thank you for the questions and opportunity. Will you be at Inman?? Love to catch up with you there!

    TF

  21. Marc

    July 13, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    My friends, I could not ask for anything more. Thank you Tom for being gracious enough to take the time and open up. I know I can be a pain in the neck sometimes but I just needed to get past the advertisement about you and get to the real TF because I believe that the stuff that we all need to endorse – the human side of our brands.

    Peace out.

  22. Jeffrey Douglass

    July 13, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Great questions Marc, and I am not surprised that Tom answered them all. While Tom is a bit late to the table, knowing him for as long as I do and attending many of his seminars and summits, I know he is in with both feet.

    I am hoping that he can teach REALTORS that the times are changing and those that wish to work in the 2.0 age need to focus on the Client, not themselves or the old “top producer” attitudes or the gatekeepers on information.

    Welcome aboard Tom and thanks Benn for once again a thought provoking post!

  23. Marc

    July 13, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Cool.
    Being late the table is fine. No beef with that considering how late I tend to be.
    My point was, let’s get past typical “god is great” stuff which doesn’t fly on web 2.0 and get down to what does which is getting to heart of who a person is and why they are great.

    This is often the case with agents for example who create slogans on their site that make them sound amazing but behind the slogans there’s not substance on the site to back it up.

    Tom’s got substance. But listing his accomplishments actually serves to distance him from the audience. Asking hard question and mixing it up with him in print where he gets to be himself is what connects to the audience.

    This was cool and I respect the folks here for allowing me to take some liberties and allow the real Tom Ferry – the man behind the brand – to keep it real.

    Thanks, Benn, Lani and Tom

  24. Russell Shaw

    July 14, 2009 at 3:01 am

    I have never met Tom personally but have publicly endorsed him on several occasions. Twice in the past two years, when Wells Fargo was bringing Tom to Phoenix as the main speaker I have gone out of my way to get people to attend by sending over 30,000 emails to my list, telling them about the seminar. I never heard anything but positive feedback from anyone who went.

  25. Sal Antsipenka

    July 14, 2009 at 3:04 am

    Twitter is a powerhouse of social media and a new hope for real estate marketers, but real estate video is a search engine optimization powerhouse in addition to successful social marketing. It’s a source of excellent backlinks proliferation with major search engines which blends famously with social media.

  26. Yvonne Arnold

    July 14, 2009 at 4:06 am

    I enjoyed the thread.

    Since I’ve known Tom for 15 years I wouldn’t have expected anything but the most professional & honest responses to Marcs questions.
    It was a great lesson for me, being new to this medium of commication, that it really is no different than what true Real Estate Professionals with skills do everyday….Handling the Objection.

    My concern about our profession has not changed even with the knowledge of social media that Tom is bringing to our industry, that is, the level of basic real estate business skills that is still missing from many agents repertoire.

    Facebook, Twitter, LinkIn, etc.. might make you the connection, but the ever-more educated consumer wants the Professional, not the person who thought getting into real estate would make them an easy buck!

    Tom Ferry Your Coach (the company) is working that end too.

    Marc your right about the “man behind the brand”, I believe that consumers want to see “behind the brand” of every person/company. Tom’s doing that with one of the most self centered, self absorbed industries in the country. Kudos!

    Thanks Tom and Marc it felt good (albeit, a little scary) making my first social media public comment on your feed.

    Y

  27. Missy Caulk

    July 17, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Wow, great post. Great comments and nice to meet you Tom!

  28. tomferry

    July 17, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Just wanted to reach out and say thx for reading the post and the comments. Cool to read and get connected.

  29. Mary Scott

    July 24, 2009 at 1:36 am

    Well, I think I learned form this conversation the difference between 1.0 and 2.0, by inference? My guess is that 1.0 would be something like a website or online business card, that doesn’t promote much social interaction, but that 2.0 would be Twitter, Facebook, online Q & A’s that are interactive. Is that approaching the correct definition?
    Realtor, “follower” of Tom Ferry

  30. Tom Ferry

    July 28, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Hi Mary,

    You got it! It’s about engaging people in real (authentic) conversation… and most importantly engaging the participant where they are (twitter, FB etc). Sorry for the late response.

    See you soon,

    TF

  31. renee kische

    August 17, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Tom: Thank you for taking the time to write this article and give insight into your coach and other real estate agents needs reguarding social media networking.

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Social Media

There’s a subreddit that is literally moving the stock market

(SOCIAL MEDIA) “You can’t change the world on Reddit all day.” Hm. Wanna bet? Some people do bet on whether a stock will rise or fall on Reddit.

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Stock market

I don’t gamble. RIP to Mister Kenny Rogers, but this whole folding, holding, walking, running business is bad for my heart.

So playing the stock market is out for me, but apparently, you don’t even need an accountant to place your bets? The good, if foul mouthed, people of r/WSB aren’t just proving that, their playing and paying outside the traditional trading room is actually moving markets!

The subreddit, full name r/wallstreetbets, is 900,000 users strong, and boasts members that have been involved for years. They show off their stock market wins, losses, jokes, and opinions with varying levels of insight on all contributions.

Ordinarily, this’d just be an interesting collection of folks talking stock, but some of their threads have been shown to have an effect on share prices!

Users don’t just share what and how they’ve traded, they also gamble on what stock prices will do, without actually purchasing or selling any. Options contracts allow users to cast lots for less cash, while retaining the power to show actual purchases as hotter or colder and literally moving the temperature dial on them by word of mouth (and possibly pure conjecture) alone.

So I could hop in, put a marginal amount of money down, and say ‘Stock in Pressure Valve Company X is going to go up since more people are buying bidets in the wake of the Corona-based toilet paper hoarders, and they’re a key component’, then pepper in some off-color jokes about personal hygiene and everyone’s moms to blend in, and potentially wait to collect!

Neat.

After all, not only are surges of humans looking at these bets, web algorithms and cookie crawlers are staring too. It’s chatrooms of the dotcom boom all over again, except more chaotic, more gif-laden, and more monitored by outside forces.

It’d be sinister if the vibe of the sub wasn’t ‘Take literally nothing seriously’. Try discussing ‘chicken tendies’ in a boardroom sometime and see what I mean…although the tide on that might be shifting as well.

The one forbidden thing here is actually using the forum for insider trading. Directly profiting from the rumors gets users exiled, and gets users interacting with them booted too.

Serious business actually DOES occur, who would have thought? I wouldn’t have. Which is why I don’t gamble.

It’s easy to write Reddit off as just an online echo chamber slash cesspool, but when it comes down to it, the American Psychos of the world are on the same internet as the basement-dwellers, and the gap in financial literacy between the two ends of the spectrum is pulling a reverse Pangea.

We need to start recognizing that.

I’m still staying away from 4Chan though.

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Social Media

Facebook messenger gets a major facelift for speed

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook messenger has been around a loooooong time and has started to suffer from build bloat. So the new project lightspeed has redesigned it.

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facebook messenger

If you’ve ever spent time in an old-school, family-built home, then you have an idea of what the inner workings of the Facebook Messenger app look like. It began with just a few rooms, but as the needs of the family grew, they kept adding on rooms wherever they fit until the layout no longer made sense and the home became a bloated maze.

Facebook Messenger has been suffering growing pains ever since it branched off into its own app in 2011. As the app became more popular developers worked to make it more engaging by adding new features like stickers, GIFS, and video calls.

At some point, they realized that the app had gotten away from them. The Facebook Messenger currently on your device has move 1.7 million lines of code. An app that big is slow and takes up a ton of valuable space on users devices, so the team knew it was time for a change. The project became internally as Project LightSpeed.

Facebook Messenger is a valuable app for connecting with friends, family, and business connections across the globe. You don’t even need to be Facebook friends with someone to message them making it an invaluable tool for long-distance teams or new business connections. In recent years, the app has begun to slow down making it vulnerable to competitors like WhatsApp.

The development team’s goal for the new app was to make it small, fast, and simple. In order to achieve this Facebook’s team of engineers has reduced the core code by 84%, taking the original 1.7 million lines of code down to 360,000. The new app will be about a quarter of the size of the current app.

A smaller app will load quicker and be more responsive, even if you’re using an older device or you’re in an area with lower connectivity. Current tests put the new app as being twice as fast as the current version, while keeping all the features that users have come to expect. Don’t worry, you will still be able to send your friends stickers, pictures, and obnoxious amounts of GIFs.

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Social Media

Facebook wants to hear from you. Literally. For innocent reasons

(SOCIAL MEDIA) As if Facebook didn’t already own everything that is you, they are asking to hear you say a specific phrase for their new voice services.

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facebook portal

Good news, Facebook is now offering to pay you to let strangers listen to you! Well, kind of.

Users connect to Viewpoints – a different app under the Facebook umbrella – which allows them to participate in market research. In this case, participants repeat the phrase “Hey Portal, call,” followed by the name of a Facebook friend, and submit the recording. The whole ordeal is about five minutes, tops.

By finishing this and other tasks, participants can expect to make a grand total of…$5. It’s not much, but at least that’s a fancy cup of coffee for work you can do while waiting for the ads to finish on your TV show.

So, why is Facebook shelling out $5 for people to make voice recordings? Surprisingly, it’s because AI is not nearly as smart as we sometimes assume – especially when it comes to voice commands. There’s a whole host of things that go into how we communicate, like posture, tone and even slang, which can make understanding vocal commands a much bigger ordeal.

In order to make improvements to the system, it often requires teams of humans putting in the leg-work. This means studying the disconnect between humans and machines, as well as creating solutions. Unfortunately, this human touch is also the excuse companies like Amazon use to justify listening in on your conversations. (Sure, users can ‘opt out’ but come on. That’s not exactly something Amazon advertises.)

As more people grow aware of the potential breach of privacy that tech like Alexa or Portal can bring, however, it’s put pressure on companies to scale back. Which is where Facebook’s new paid survey comes in. Unlike an anonymous employee listening in on a random Portal conversation, this way participants opt in, rather than out, of having their information shared.

The academic in me is slightly skeptical. There’s only so far a paid study like this can get, especially when it comes to the nuances of voice command. The conspiracy theorist in me is also skeptical, mostly because although Facebook promises they won’t sell your information or publicly share it, there’s still plenty of nefarious things to be done. That said, at the end of the day, at least Facebook isn’t just swiping information off your Portal…and you even get some pocket change in exchange.

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