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Which blogging format should a real estate agent choose?

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WordPress & Blogger & TypePad, oh my!

So, you have decided to embark into the addictive world of blogging and have been researching the options for where to host your blog site.

After asking about and doing some Google searches you distill your list of options down to (most probably):

Blogger, WordPress, ActiveRain, TypePad and Posterous

Which is the best format for REALTORS?

Well, that depends on your goals and level of technical acumen. I will cover my point of view of the pros and cons for each, but I really hope to use this post as fuel for informative comments that a new blogger can take as sage advice and questions that experienced bloggers can answer.

Blogger:
The service that brought blogging to the everyman. This service (now serviced by Google) was revolutionary for early adopters in 1999 who wanted a quick and easy service to start their blog.

  • Pros: FREE, super to easy to use at any experience level
  • Cons: Not great for branding, limited templates, widgets can be hard to use, support may be difficult

WordPress:
The most popular blog format today, WordPress is open source CMS blogging software.

  • Pros: FREE, lots of template options, widgets and applications are added daily, flexiblity in hosting options (you can start at www.wordpress.com and convert to a self hosted domain with www.wordpress.org later)
  • Cons: longer learning curve

ActiveRain:
A free social network and marketing platform for real estate professionals. This network helps agents to create business relationships both within the industry and with the consumer.

  • Pros: FREE, super easy to learn to use with WSIWYG editing, great feedback from peers
  • Cons: barely customizable, not easily imported to other blog options, limited interaction with general public

TypePad:
Based on Moveable Type, but intended to be minimal in technology experience needed.

  • Pros: Easy to use interface, built in photo album, ability to add scripts, highly customizable if you have the skills.
  • Cons: NOT free: starts at $8.95 per month, few integrated widgets

Posterous:
Boasts integrated and automatic posting to other social media tools such as Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook, a built-in Google Analytics package, and custom themes.

  • Pros: FREE, great for photo blogging or mobile blogging, very easy to use, can push content to a large number of sites including WordPress.
  • Cons: No disqus commenting, limited themes.

There are so many other venues out there that I haven’t covered because I wanted to focus on the ones I hear most discussed, but I am looking forward to hearing your opinion of the options I reviewed as well as others.

photo by Mike Licht on Flickr

Lesley offers 21 years experience in real estate, public speaking and training. Lesley has a degree in communications and was the recipient of an international award for coordinating media in real estate. In the course of her career Lesley has presented at international real estate conferences and state REALTOR associations, hosted a real estate television program, written articles for trade magazines and created marketing and PR plans for many individuals, companies and non-profits.

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Duke Long

    June 18, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    POSTEROUS
    Drag, drop, e-mail and forget it. You are a blogger!!!

  2. Tavia Ritter

    June 18, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    This article was PERFECT timing as I am currently in the process of learning about all of these. The only thing I have to add from my research is that Active Rain DOES allow exposure to the public IF you pay a fee. So, while the ‘members only’ is FREE, the exposure that gets you the powerful SEO-Cred & consumer interaction will cost you. But…it’s a GREAT place to get started, if only for the peer interaction!

    • LesleyLambert

      June 21, 2010 at 11:07 am

      I agree that Active Rain is great for peer to peer advice and interaction. Without an outside blog (paid) I don’t think it works well for reaching clientele.

      • Tavia Ritter

        June 21, 2010 at 11:12 am

        Honestly, I think if they are just starting out in writting a blog to communicate with clients, then they may be doing it for the wrong reason.
        Will they eventually find an audience (or will the audience find you) sure they will. But the more immediate purpose for a begining blogger would be the search engine optimization that a blog can lend in terms of long-tail searches, key word searches that point back to your blog that will ultimatly land the potential consumer on your website as well. (and hopefully, once there, they register and become a client).

  3. Jonathan Benya

    June 18, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Posterous is by far easiest, but really, for a great looking site, there’s no better option than wordpress, IMHO

  4. Lani Rosales

    June 18, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    For SEO and licensing purposes, I don’t believe in someone else (like Posterous) owning your content, but that’s just my one cent 😉

    That said, I have a Posterous for my humor blog because it’s simple and it’s for fun. All of our businesses run on WordPress.org with URLs we host and own. Think rent vs. own.

  5. An Bui, DocuSign Social Media

    June 18, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Lani brings up a good point. However, if the goal of your blog is to drive traffic to your sites, provide context as to who you are / services you provide and you need links…

    Posterous is do-follow. For right now. Posterous is great for a supplemental blog – content you create for link juice to your real blog or site.

    That’s why I love posterous. To riff off Lani – think vacation home vs. primary residence.

  6. Tassia Bezdeka

    June 18, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Generally I recommend our agents head to Blogger just for the ease of use (which has changed since the release of our new agent websites, with built in blog platforms).

    Also, there’s nothing wrong with outsourcing WordPress design, as that’s really where the learning curve hits heavy. As far as the actual blogging goes, it’s a fairly streamlined system.

  7. Fred Romano

    June 18, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    This is really a “no brainer” answer – WordPress is hands down the best blogging software on the planet. I can’t image using anything else, and to be quite frank, I wouldn’t be in business without it!

    Although I am a geek and not the “typical” Realtor, it’s still easy enough for most to get a great design with minimal learning. Of course if you have someone customize your site (like mine) then it will make a huge difference. I do all my own designing because I am anal and like to control every detail 🙂

  8. Sean Dawes

    June 18, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    Hands down wordpress has the best capability for a blog platform. Self hosted of course not .com version

    @seandawes

  9. Mike Mueller

    June 19, 2010 at 12:41 am

    Blogger: I was actually a Blogger Blogger before it was Blogger (Pyra Labs) it certainly has it’s limitations. Years ago (pre WP) it was my fav.

    WordPress: Hands down winner all the way! Learning curve? If you can write an email you can use WP. I also like to point out that WP is like the iphone in that if some new wiz bang product comes out they’ll make a widget for WP before anything else. I’d also make a distinction between WP.com and WP.org

    ActiveRain: Not free if you want a public post. (I’m assuming the Agent is grandfathered in) That said – pretty easy to use and somewhat limited as to the widgets you can add.

    TypePad: Had potential but I don’t think there are enough developers and widget makers making things for it anymore? Is it the Treo of blogging platforms? Maybe…

    Posterous: Love it for it’s simplicity and ease of use, marvel at it’s conversion technology (you can upload most anything in any format and it somehow figures it out) – but that’s about all.

    Tumblr: Wait! You left off Tumblr! Never mind…

    : )

  10. Brian Wilson

    June 20, 2010 at 7:42 am

    I think Tumblr is the best. WordPress seemed like I was alway upgrading or adding or deconflicting plugins with themes, etc. It was too much work that took away from just writing.

  11. green titled homes for 55+

    June 21, 2010 at 2:32 am

    Great going I was about to start my blog….So you have solved my problem by explaining the pros and cons of all the blogging format….You have really made my work easy…

    Thanks a lot…

  12. Miami Condo Shop

    June 21, 2010 at 6:49 am

    For newbies, Posterous is the best option. For business purposes, I believe WordPress is the finest platform in the planet and the new version (3.0) was recently released. Most of the bugs (more than 1,000) have been fixed and it is now more streamlined for blogging purposes.

  13. Susie Blackmon

    June 21, 2010 at 11:03 am

    WordPress is my favorite. I love Posterous and use it as a lifestream, although recently I’ve been using it maybe too much for posting things to my Horsealicious blog, while I am transitioning from NC to FL, as my time and focus have been someone limited. I have a Tumblr account too but can’t figure out how to best utillize it, so, it languishes.

  14. Anita Koppens

    June 21, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I vote for all of them speaking from an SEO perspective. Whichever option becomes your most beloved (which is hopefully a WordPress.org blog), use the others to develop and support the domain authority of your primary blogsite.

  15. LesleyLambert

    June 21, 2010 at 11:10 am

    I love Posterous for easy posts, especially photo blogging. I didn’t leave off Tumblr…I probably should have mentioned in the body of the post that I was limiting this post to the most obvious and discussed choices. There are, of course, a ton of others available that I didn’t touch on. It seems that the majority is for WordPress.

    Looking forward to hearing from more of you on this!

  16. Jonathan Washburn

    June 21, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Lesley,

    Great comprehensive and fair review of all the platforms. At ActiveRain we started accepted our members testimonials about how ActiveRain works for their business about a year ago and so far we have received just about 2,500. I don’t think there is any other blogging platform that competes with that!

    You can see the list here: activerain.com/action/testimonials

    We also created a new area of the site this month where members can show themselves holding commission checks from deals they got from blogging on ActiveRain: activerain.com/success

  17. Pamela Scott

    June 22, 2010 at 5:51 am

    Well, I’m just starting to blog. And its blogger. I see not many people here fancy blogger. But I love it instantly. Anyhow, let time and need shape my future decision toward blogging platform.

    Cheers,
    Pam

  18. PioneerTraining

    September 21, 2012 at 6:04 am

    The post talks about the five reasons why real estate agents are needed. Most useful
    https://www.pioneertraining.org/res-course-providercea-approved-real-estate-course

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Deepfakes can destroy any reputation, company, or country

(MEDIA) Deepfakes have been around for a few years now, but they’re being crafted for nefarious purposes beyond the original porn and humor uses.

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Deepfakes — a technology originally used by Reddit perverts who wanted to superimpose their favorite actresses’ faces onto the bodies of porn stars – have come a long way since the original Reddit group was banned.

Deepfakes use artificial intelligence (AI) to create bogus videos by analyzing facial expressions to replace one person’s face and/or voice with another’s.

Using computer technology to synthesize videos isn’t exactly new.

Remember in Forrest Gump, how Tom Hanks kept popping up in the background of footage of important historical events, and got a laugh from President Kennedy? It wasn’t created using AI, but the end result is the same. In other cases, such technology has been used to complete a film when an actor dies during production.

The difference between these examples and that latest deepfake technology is a question of ease and access.

Historically, these altered videos have required a lot of money, patience, and skill. But as computer intelligence has advanced, so too has deepfake technology.

Now the computer does the work instead of the human, making it relatively fast and easy to create a deepfake video. In fact, Stanford created a technology using a standard PC and web cam, as I reported in 2016.

Nowadays, your average Joe can access open source deepfake apps for free. All you need is some images or video of your victim.

While the technology has mostly been used for fun – such as superimposing Nicolas Cage into classic films – deepfakes could and have been used for nefarious purposes.

There is growing concern that deepfakes could be used for political disruption, for example, to smear a politician’s reputation or influence elections.

Legislators in the House and Senate have requested that intelligence agencies report on the issue. The Department of Defense has already commissioned researchers to teach computers to detect deepfakes.

One promising technology developed at the University of Albany analyzes blinking to detect deep fakes, as subjects in the faked videos usually do not blink as often as real humans do. Ironically, in order to teach computers how to detect them, researchers must first create many deepfake videos. It seems that deepfake creators and detectors are locked in a sort of technological arms race.

The falsified videos have the potential to exacerbate the information wars, either by producing false videos, or by calling into question real ones. People are already all too eager to believe conspiracy theories and fake news as it is, and the insurgence of these faked videos could be created to back up these bogus theories.

Others worry that the existence of deepfake videos could cast doubt on actual, factual videos. Thomas Rid, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University says that deepfakes could lead to “deep denials” – in other words, “the ability to dispute previously uncontested evidence.”

While there have not yet been any publicly documented cases of attempts to influence politics with deepfake videos, people have already been harmed by the faked videos.

Women have been specifically targeted. Celebrities and civilians alike have reported that their likeness has been used to create fake sex videos.

Deepfakes prove that just because you can achieve an impressive technological feat doesn’t always mean you should.

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Can you legally monitor your employees’ online activities? Kinda

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Are they ways you are monitoring your employees online even legal? Did you know there are illegal methods? Yep.

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Edward Snowden’s infamous info leak in 2013 brought to light the scope of surveillance measures, raising questions about legality of monitoring tactics. However, the breach also opened up broader discussion on best practices for protecting sensitive data.

No company wants to end up with a data breach situation on their hands, but businesses need to be careful when implementing monitoring systems to prevent data loss.

Monitoring your employee’s activity online can be a crucial part of safeguarding proprietary data. However, many legal risks are present when implementing data loss prevention (DLP) methods.

DLP tools like keystroke logging, natural language processing, and network traffic monitoring are all subject to federal and state privacy laws. Before putting any DLP solutions in place, companies need to assess privacy impact and legal risks.

First, identify your monitoring needs. Different laws apply to tracking data in transit versus data at rest. Data in transit is any data moving through a network, like sending an email. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) requires consent for tracking any data in transit.

Data at rest is anything relatively immobile, like information stored in a database or archives. Collecting data at rest can fall under the Stored Communications Act (SCA), which typically prohibits unauthorized access or disclosure of electronic communications.

While the SCA does not usually prevent employers from accessing their own systems, monitoring things like Gmail accounts could get messy without proper authorization.

Who you’re tracking matters as well regarding consent and prior notification. If you’re just monitoring your own employees, you may run into disclosure issues. Some states, like Delaware and Connecticut, prohibit employee monitoring without prior notice.

The ECPA also generally prohibits tracking electronic communication, but exceptions are granted for legitimate business purposes so long as consent is obtained.

Monitoring third party communications can get tricky with wiretapping laws. In California and Illinois, all parties must be notified of any tracking. This can involve disclosures on email signatures from outbound employee emails, or a broad notification on the company’s site.

Implied consent comes from third parties continuing communication even with disclaimers present.

If you’re wanting to install DLP software on personal devices used for work, like a company cellphone, you could face a series of fines for not gaining authorization. Incorrect implementation may fall under spyware and computer crime laws.

With any DLP tools and data monitoring, notification and consent are crucial. When planning monitoring, first assess what your privacy needs are, then identify potential risks of implementing any tracking programs.

Define who, where, and why DLP software will apply, and make sure every employee understands the need for tracking. Include consent in employee onboarding, and keep employees updated with changes to your monitoring tactics.

Protecting your company’s data is important, but make sure you’re not unintentionally bending privacy laws with your data loss prevention methods. Regularly check up on your approaches to make sure everything is in compliance with monitoring laws.

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How to spot if your SEO, PPC, social media marketing service provider is a con-artist

(BUSINESS) When hiring a professional, did you know there are actual questions you can ask to spot a con-artist? Too often, we trust our guts and go with the gregarious person, but too much is on the line to keep doing that with your business.

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In this day and age the cult of positive thinking and “the law of attraction” are still very much alive and well in the business services industry. Here are a few simple questions that you can ask prospective business service providers to help you gauge if they are the real deal or just caught up in the fad of “say yes to everything,” or “outsource everything” being populated online by countless “thought leaders” and cult gurus.

Lots of people will ask, “What’s the harm of people trying to make something of themselves?”

Well, I’m here to tell you there is a huge harm in taking risks with a client’s money and manipulating people into trusting their “expertise” when they have none.

Business owners: Due diligence is more important than ever these days.

There are whole communities of people helping to prop each-other up as experts in fields they know nothing about while outsourcing their tasks with little or no oversight into the actual work being done on your behalf.

It is nearly impossible for you to tell if this is even going on. Don’t worry. I am here to help you avoid a con-artist.

How? By showing you how to weed out the bad actors by asking really simple questions.

This set of questions is perfect for people who need to distinguish if the expert they are talking is really just an expert in bullshit with a likeable personality.

Why do these questions work? Because people who are into this kind of stuff are rarely hesitant to talk about it when you ask them direct questions. They believe that what they are doing is a good thing and so they are more open to sharing this information with you because they think by you by asking that you are also into similar things.

It is a fun little trick I picked up while learning to do consumer polling and political surveying.

The Questions:

  • Who influences you professionally?
  • Do you follow any “thought leaders” “gurus” or coaches? If so, who?
  • What “school” of thought do you ascribe to in your profession, and where do you learn what you know?
  • Are there any industry standards you do not agree with?
  • How do you apply the services you offer to your own company?
  • Can you please tell me the background of your support staff and can I see their CV’s?
  • Do you outsource or white label any of the work your company does?
  • May we audit your process before buying your services?
  • May we discuss your proposed strategies with others in your industry to ensure quality?
  • Would you be open to speaking with an independent consultant that is knowledgeable about your industry about your proposals?
  • Can you show me examples of your past successful jobs?
  • Do you have any industry accepted certifications and how many hours of study do you do in a year to keep your knowledge up-to-date and current?
  • How many clients have you had in the past?
  • How many clients do you have currently?
  • How many clients are you able to handle at one time?
  • How many other clients do you have that are in the same industry as my company?
  • How long is your onboarding process before we start getting down to actually making changes to help solve the issues my company is facing?
  • Can you explain to me the steps you will take to identify my company’s needs?
  • Have you ever taken a course in NLP or any other similar course of study?
  • Have you ever been a part of a Multi-Level Marketing company?
  • Fun. Right? Well, we aren’t done.

    It is not just enough to ask these questions… you have to pay attention to the answers, as well as the WAY they are answering questions.

    And you also have to RESEARCH the company after you get your answers to make sure they ring true.

    You cannot keep accepting people at face value, not when the risk is to your business, employees, and clients. There is little to no risk for a person who is being dishonest about their capabilities and skill sets. They will walk away with your money, ready to go find another target for a chance meeting that seems amazingly perfect.

    Do not leave your business decisions to chance encounters at networking events. Research before saying yes.

    No matter how likeable or appealing the person you are speaking with is.

    How do you research? Easy. THE INTERNET. Look at the website of the company you are considering working with.

    • Does it look professional? (do not use your website as a standard for professional unless you have had it done by a professional)
    • Can you see a list of their past clients?
    • Do they effectively tell their story as a company or are they just selling?
    • What do their social media profiles look like? Do they have many followers? Are they updated regularly?
    • Do they have any positive reviews on social sites? (Yelp, Facebook, Linkedin, etc)

    You can also do some simple things like running SEO Website Checkers on their websites. There are tons of these online for free and they will give you a pretty good indicator of if they are using best practices on their websites – you can even do this research on their clients’ websites.

    Also, if you know anything about SpyFu, you can run their website through that to see how they are doing their own online marketing (the same can be said for their clients if they are selling this service).

    Facebook also has a cool section that shows you ads that a Page is running. You can find this info connected to their business Page as well as the Pages they manage for their clients as well. None of these things automatically disqualify a potential service provider, but their answers the question of “why” things are the way there are might be very illuminating to you as a business owner.

    This may seem like a lot of work, and it can be if you do not do these things regularly and have them down to a system, but the cost of not doing these things is way too high. A con-artist is born every day, thanks to the internet.

    You have a right as a business owner considering services from a vendor to ask these questions.

    They also have the responsibility as a service provider to answer these questions in a professional manner. Sometimes the way in which they answer the questions is far more important than the actual answer.

    If all of this seems too overwhelming for you to handle, that is okay.

    • You can ask one of your staff in your company to take on this role and responsibility.
    • You can hire someone to come in and help you with these decisions (and you can ask them all the same questions as above before taking their services).
    • You can reach out to other business owners in your network to see if they have recommendations for someone who could help you with things.
    • Heck, you can even call up companies that look like they are doing as well as you want to be doing online and ask them who they are using for their services. Try successful companies in other industries as your competitor won’t likely be interested in sharing their secrets with you…

    What is important is that you are asking questions, researching, and ultimately making sure that you are doing as much as possible to ensure making the best decision for your company.

    Final thoughts:

    “But, Jay, what’s wrong with taking a risk on an up-and-comer?”

    The answer to that is NOTHING. There is nothing wrong with taking a chance on someone. Someone being green doesn’t make them a con-artist.

    The issue I am raising is in the honest portrayal of businesses and their capabilities. It is about honesty.

    I am a huge fan of working with people who are new and passionate about an industry. But I only work with people who are honest with me about who they are, what they can do, and how their processes work.

    I have worked with tons of people who are still learning on the job. It can be quite educational for a business owner as well.

    Just make sure they are being honest about everything up front. You are no obligated to give anyone a chance when it comes to your businesses success, and it’s not right that someone might manipulate you into doing so.

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