I think I’ve recovered enough now to actually post about it! 🙂
Despite our best efforts to be prepared, the day started off a bit rough with a nearby mudslide taking out power in our building in the morning (meaning no hot coffee and no projector) and a 9-car pileup on a nearby freeway slowed me down tremendously. AHHH
So, to say it started rough would be an understatement… But once it started, things seem to get on a roll quickly.
I started with an overview of consumers expectations in a web2.0 world to set expectations for the day… Jim followed up with presentation on optimal features and design for a real estate website. Then it turned back to me for a presentation on social networking… lunch… then another presentation by me on creating value through blogging about communities. And we returned for the day’s finally with Jim giving a engaging presentation on measuring and tracking marketing results to ensure a positive ROI.
All around, it was a wonderful day! And, maybe they were just being nice, but the attendees who talked with me said only good things about the education.
Because I promised attendees I would give them a list of all the sites I mentioned in my presentations (so that they wouldn’t have to ask me to spell out each URL), here is the list for everyone’s benefit.
Consumer Expectations in a Web2.0 World:
- Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak, Trulia, Rain City Guide, RealCentralVA, Amazon, Netflix, del.icio.us, Firefox, Zillow API, MySpace, LinkedIn, Altos Research, Property Shark, Market Snapshot, Homethinking, Redfin, Realtor.com, Zillow, Google PageRank
Engaging in Social Networking to Earn Clients
Using Blogs to Build Communities
- WordPress.com, Top Producer Blogs, Yahoo Mail, moving to seattle post, Real Estate Tomato, RealCentralVA, 4realz.net, Notorious Rob, Grow-a-Brain, Northern Virginia RE Guide, Altos Research blog, NELA Live, REagent in CT, St Paul Minnesota, FOREM, Blog Calabasas
I wasn’t tracking the sites that Jim mentioned, but there were not nearly as many of them in his presentations…
And thanks again to all the bloggers who have helped spread the word about the event, the sponsors who helped us keep the price low and all the attendees who made the day possible!
I received some incredible feedback from all three groups, which is going to lead me to make some changes to the upcoming events (I’ll announce those early next week!). Great stuff all around. Thanks again to everyone!
Not only am I speaking tomorrow at a Coldwell Banker educational event, but I just got back from a fun speaking engagement at Pepperdine University where I was on a panel with some people from ActiVision and MySpace talking about online marketing to a group of marketing and technology graduate students.
There were some great questions from the students in attendance, but the one theme that was most prevalent was questions about the value of an MBA to an “internet” company. I wish I could have been more encouraging for the Pepperdine students, but while an MBA will open a few doors that might be hard to open otherwise, blogging can also do that!
Because Move’s headquarters is so close to Pepperdine, the company has more than a few Pepperdine MBA Alumni on staff… and my experience was that the quality of the students were completely hit-or-miss. Some of them were smart-as-all-hell and willing to get their hands dirty in tech details while others were always looking to solve the “big” questions and didn’t seem to know how to filter though all the marketing fluff to get to useful information.
One MBA alumni in particular sticks out in my memory for a presentation he gave on the “state of the industry” that was so full of stats, charts, and data points comparing the online real estate industry to other industries like the automotive and travel industry that it took all of two minutes to realize he hadn’t developed a filter that let him know what trend information was actually relevant…. Other MBA alumni were much more successful by focusing on doing whatever it took to get measurable tasks accomplished.
This wasn’t the first time that I’ve talked with Pepperdine students (speaking at local schools like Pepperdine and CLU was a great recruiting method for my team at Move!), and I’ve honestly enjoyed and learned from each experience. The optimism that radiates from a crowd of MBA students is somewhat infectious and has me remembering to think think big about all the opportunities available in our niche of online real estate… 😉
(some names left anonymous to protect the innocent)
- There’s a hell of a lot of VC money floating around this industry. I was surprised at how many people there were with lots of VC funding. Joel seemed to notice the same thing: “a whole new crop of real estate search sites that are going to be hitting the market”
- Reporter from the REALTOR Magazine was in the audience of our presentation. (thanks to Ines for pointing out the story: NAR is opening their eyes to blogging.)
- Zillow dropped their beta tag.
- Zillow’s big press release (picked up by many others) was a case of “make-news”. I’d be worried for their business if they weren’t making the improvements they announced (adding more listings, improving the quality of Zestimates, dropping beta, etc.). Joel doesn’t write much about of the improvements, while Greg quotes it extensively and seems to gush about their RETS announcement, which even the Zillow team pulls back from in the comments.
- Trulia was profitable for at least one month last year expects to be profitable at some point this year.
- According to comScore, Trulia had more traffic than Zillow in December! (Congrats Mike on the awesome prediction)
- comScrore and Hitwise are measuring traffic on two different internets. (Hitwise shows Trulia with 1.45% of category traffic and Zillow with 2.28%).
- Also interesting from the Hitwise report is that Move.com moved from #2 to #5, while RE/Max moved from #2 to #5. That’s big enough news where I would have expected to see a Press Release. Realtor.com at #1 and Move.com at #2 is huge for Move, Inc., even if it is only for December. (Oddly, I’m getting all the Hitwise numbers for December from an Inman Blog article on my feedreader. The actually article was removed from their site for some reason, so maybe the numbers are butchered!)
- Vast.com acquired Adaptive Real Estate Services (ARES). (That answers one question, although it does not give me any confidence that Vast.com has thought out their listing content acquisition strategy)
- Lots of neighborhood projects coming out. Here’s my (unsolicited) advice to anyone looking to build a successful social network in this space. If you really want consumer adoption, you’ve got to have a clear answer to this question: “What’s the consumer benefit?” So, so, so many of the “social networks” I saw this week were focused around real estate professionals. ActiveRain was an anomaly. Be able to explain your consumer proposition clearly, or don’t expect success.
- With that said, VillageMaker from RealProSystems will likely be a success… in that agents will the product, not in the sense that consumers will use it. This is the ultimate social network with the real estate professional at the center of the transaction in that a real estate agents must invite consumers to this platform. Sounds great, except it won’t work for all but a few agents.
- I am now the owner of “all the marbles”.
- Google staff really don’t like it when you take pictures inside their offices. (Jay noticed this too!)
- Saul Kline is still the same great guy even after becoming CEO of Point2. (Frances has photos). His stated approach for moving Point2 forward is sound, although I’ll let him explain that approach when he’s ready.
- Lots of start-ups are twisting and turning to think how they an make their products more REALTOR friendly in the hopes of catching some Second Century funding! Mark Lesswing is a popular man at these conferences.
- I was surprised how many tech start ups get funding with only the roughest plans to get listings. Teresa gets that this is a mistake!
- Trulia launched their Publisher Platform. Robbie loves this! I can’t tell what Joel thinks… and Greg pans the service. I don’t follow Greg’s logic that it weakens overall traffic to Trulia… Mainly because nobody in the online real estate space has enough market penetration to think there are a finite number of users for their services. Trulia needs more listings. If this helps convince more brokers that they need to send their feeds to Trulia, then it is a good move. (Joel has an example of what the branded service looks like on FOREM)
- I really liked one startup and can’t wait until they launch in a little bit because I want to see how they market themselves. The product is an (solid) incremental improvement on search, but I don’t think it is enough of an improvement to go viral on its own.
- The beer for bloggers event is a great way to start off a conference. (photos on the Zillowblog and Sellsius).
- Teresa has some great photos from the week, including this action shot of me. Dito for Jeff.
- The WellcomeMat boys are quite the fun crowd. I really want to see them succeed because the technology is top-notch. Next step for them is figuring out a way so that their users don’t have to do their own marketing. If uploaded listing videos were getting hundreds (or even dozens), I think they’d be well on-their-way to being a a must-have product for most agents.
- I’m more bullish after RE Connect on Altos Research.
- Drew found a way to work at RE Connect. I’m not sure how he pulled it off.
- Professor Nouriel Roubini didn’t show up to RE Connect with the idea of making a lot of friends. He was consistently vocal in his belief that the downside to this market is going to be HUGE. He made Noah look like a moderate! (Here’s the video!)
- While I didn’t plan to go to many of the sessions, I surprised myself by going to only one session (see previous comment).
- I LOVE NYC.
- While I enjoy writing the occasional update, I’m simply not a good twitterer. On the other hand, Daniel is the twitter man.
- Apparently, there is a $15B dollar opportunity in the online real estate space since I heard multiple people throw that number around.
- Rumor has it that Cyberhomes is going to spend a LOT of money on advertising this year in order to reach out to consumers. This is a change from my take on their original approach in that they were going to focus on reaching out to agents by offering them a “white-label Zillow”. I like Marty Frame a lot, but I don’t think ads will do the trick. I hope they have one-more thing up their sleeve.
- Kris Berg is always lovely. Offline or online, she is one of my favorite people in the RE.net.
- Jay Thompson is another one that I found to be just as great in person. Networking with people like him is the reason to travel to NYC.
- The business mind of Damen Pace doesn’t stop moving.
- Rudy has some mad video editing skills.
- Daniel is the video man! It’s obvious he loves this stuff.
- As one would expect, Lockhart is quickly growing his team at Curbed and it was a lot of fun to meet them at the NYT party. From what I saw, Lockhart tried to dampen expansion rumors. He would only talk about Chicago at this point.
- BofA bought Countrywide. Lots of commentary on Jillayne’s post on RCG and Brian Brady’s post on Bloodhound.
- Redfin’s PR about returning $10M to consumers didn’t do much for me. I’ll be more interested to find out when they start making business model changes in order to get profitable.
- People have begun calling Rain City Guide “Ardell’s Blog” behind my back! LOL!
- Inman will soon be launching a new website with new features and a new design.
- Up Yours! Video TV war! Intothebox.tv rips on BrokerIPtv.com (around second 40). Not to take sides, but I was interviewed by the BrokeIPtv team at RE connect, and will be interested to see what comes out of that. On the other side, Rachel of Intothebox is oddly interesting… In watching, I just keep waiting for something to fall or break.
- I could never repeat linkation too many times. I keep repeating myself and people continue to act like it is new information. Please tell me if and when I need to stop with the linkation bit. 🙂
- ActiveRain introduced a few new people from their team. Rumor was that they have some funding that they will announce soon.
- Brendan King and other ex-Point2 folks were passing out business cards with the company name VendAsta. My guess is that the name is only temporary.
- Greg Tracy has branched out the BlueRoof brand to start doing consulting and website building for other real estate professionals. He “gets it”, so I can only imagine further success ahead.
- I really do enjoy just about everyone in the RE.net and real estate tech communities. 2008 is going to be fun!
Phew! Now I think I’m caught up so that I can get back to regular updates!
…”company blogs” over at FBS Blog. And his latest post on blogging as marketing
shows that he knows how to strike the right balance of staying on topic without sounding like he’s giving a sales pitch. Without his blog, I wouldn’t know the first thing about FlexMLS. But based on Michael’s blogging, I’d consider FlexMLS to be on the forefront of companies that are building MLS backend systems. I consider that to be great branding…
Got an interesting question in my email this morning:
“I’m sure people reach out to you everyday about blogging and “how to” develop something as unique as Rain City Guide. I did want to pick your brain a little bit in this regard… As bloggers, new an established, we write in a marketplace that is saturated with content everywhere. Some hit the arena and break from the mold in a moments notice. Others sort of plateau and find difficulty breaking out above the mold.
“I was hoping you might share some insights with respect to strategies that I might incorporate to share my story (my blog) with others. What you and Todd Carpenter have done between your Q & A segments on Lenderama & 4Realz.net is unique…
“Thank you in advance for your thoughts!”
(I’m removed his name)
There really are no magic bullets in terms of driving interest (and/or traffic) to your blog. You’ve hit upon the problem that if a unique angle works well for one person/team, it probably won’t work as well for someone else. Good online marketing is an extension of who you are (your brand) and requires you to be true to your ideas and actions.
I played around on your blog a bit and the fact that you’re watching what others are doing puts you ahead of the pack already. Besides reading other bloggers, however, make sure you are linking to others and that you are commenting on their ideas. Good blogging doesn’t have to be confrontational, but it also can’t thrive in a vacuum.
I realize all of this probably sounds too generic to be useful… but in many ways, finding your voice is the challenge. Once you know your voice, getting others to believe in your voice is the easy part.
…I found it interesting that many news stories compared Frontdoor.com to Zillow, and not one compared them to Realtor.com. Has Zillow really captured that much of the mindshare of journalists?
I was talking with Jeff about this concept yesterday at lunch and I couldn’t agree more with Bill Leider in this Bloodhound post: What is a brand?
on building up your personal brand by emulating Jay Leno… I’d add that there is a necessary step of believing you are remarkable. At some point, Jay just took a leap of faith to believe he was the Jay Leno we know of today. Around my house, it is known as the Elvis Effect.