I read a quote yesterday from Facebook’…

I read a quote yesterday from Facebook’s COO that’s stuck with me because it’s so darn relevant to real estate marketing, but totally unintentionally.

According to the story, Sheryl Sandberg (FB’s COO) drew a funnel and described how Google does a great job delivering customers at the “point of sale” but that point-of-sale ad spend represents only 10% of total ad spend. The idea being Facebook sees the big win being helping business the ability to target people before they’ve actually made a decision to buy or sell. It’s much more of a relationship and branding play.

To make the connection to real estate, I gotta take us back to the same Agent Business Cycle diagram I’m been harping on lately… and comparing the business that is generated by agents from their sphere to the business generated by reaching consumers directly.

Google does a ridiculously great job generating business at the point of sale and that’s where money is being spent today just as most online real estate marketing money targets reaching ad spends that reach consumers directly. However, in real estate, the majority of business is *not* generated by reaching consumers directly. It never has been and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon. The majority of business is generated by agents who know how to work their sphere… and for that business case (i.e. the case for increasing one’s reach or sphere), I don’t think there’s ever been a better technology or tool than Facebook.

As Sheryl demonstrates, the folks at Facebook not only “get” this, but they’re building the tools that will help not only help you reach this sphere, but also the ad platform so they can make millions (billions!) in the process!

REALTORS: You can use promoted posts to showcase your listings!

But don’t!

Greg Vincent asked the seemingly obvious questions as to whether agents should use Facebook Ads to send consumers to their post about a listing or a page on their website featuring the listing.

The answer is neither.

I’ve been buying Facebook Ads on-and-off for quite a while and have seen no evidence to suggest buying ads on Facebook makes any sense at all. Facebook is super-quick to take down non-performing ads (i.e. ads that people aren’t clicking on), and I just can’t image that the typical listing has any lasting value for consumers. If, and only if, Facebook someday figures out who is likely to move to a geographic area AND lets you target those people, I might change my mind.

Looking from a larger perspective, at just about every presentation I’ve been giving over the past few months, I’ve been harping about how Facebook makes so much more sense as a sphere building tool than as a tool to reach your next client.

If you’re curious why I make the distinction between reaching consumers directly and building your sphere, check out the Agent Business Cycle diagram. Based on countless interviews with agents (as well as my own surveys), I feel comfortable saying that the majority of agent business is generated from sphere building activities (whether they be reaching into an agent’s community or connecting with past clients)… and Facebook is the ultimate sphere building tool.

Used “right,” there has never been a social network that will help you to reach new and relevant people (i.e. friends of friends/fans/followers) so easily, but when used “wrong,” Facebook will quickly take just about all your influence within your network.

So what do “right” interactions look like on Facebook? If you’re brand new to the idea, I recommend checking out Networking Engine Optimization, but in summary, you want to be creating content (and promoting content) that will get people to interact with your business page. More than any other factor, it seems pretty clear that Facebook determines the relevance of something by looking at the interactions of their friends (whether it be comments, likes, new fans, wall posts, etc.).

Create a page with no interactions and expect to have a relative “black hole” in Facebook in the same way that a website without any inbound links is essentially a black hole to Google.

With Promoted Posts, Facebook is Targeting Google’s Adwords

After writing my last post on why I think the ability to promote posts on Facebook is going to be huge, I realized I didn’t capture the “why” very well…  We already know that Facebook recently passed google.com in terms of raw traffic, and yet the industry around turning that traffic into real business is still in the infant stages…   So, here’s my attempt to summarize where things currently stand between Facebook and Google:

Here’s how to think about this table:

  • Google is best used to target search traffic, while Facebook is best used to target friends of existing fans.
  • Google’s algorithms are optimized to figure out what you’re going to like (or click on) based on what other web searches are clicking on… and the industry around that is called SEO. Facebook’s algorithms are optimized to figure out what you’re going to like (or click on) based on what your friends are click on (I’m calling this NEO).
  • You can use Google’s Adwords to buy targeted search traffic, which is relevant because you can surmise someone’s interest (or intent) based on the keywords they entered into Google’s search box.   You can use Facebook’s Ads to buy targeted traffic, which you can make relevant by buying terms that are related to your business page.
  • With Google, the most effective strategy for increasing the relevance of your website is to generate backlinks from other relevant and quality sites. With Facebook, the most effective strategy for increasing the relevance of your business page is to generate quality engagement from your existing fan base
  • With Google, you can increase your relevance by sending paid traffic to more relevant pages on your site (i.e. not your homepage) that are likely to convert at higher rates.  With Facebook, you can now send relevant people (i.e. friends of fans) to posts that are likely to convert at higher rates and having higher levels of engagement.

In web traffic, it’s all about relevance and Promoted Posts are Facebook’s way of letting your pay to improve the relevance of any given status update by sending more (and hopefully relevant) traffic to the update!

Facebook Promotion: It’s all about the status updates!

Facebook is rolling out all kinds of changes to Fan pages today… but it wouldn’t surprise me if the MOST interesting change flies under the radar for just a bit.   What is the most interesting change?  The one I’m seeing is that you can now buy an ad for an individual status update!

Here’s the screenshot I get when I click on the “promote” button:

For those of us following changes to Fan Pages, this really shouldn’t be a surprise (I actually mentioned this change when talking about the future of Facebook at a recent Leading RE conference in Vegas)… But here’s why it’s interesting.

When thinking about how to approach Facebook marketing, it’s all about Status Updates!   I got some polite ribbing from the Roost guys at the same conference when I mentioned that agents should just roll their eyes at SEO and/or Tab “solutions” when on Facebook, but I’ll stick by my guns on this one.   Don’t bother with any Facebook unless you’re planning on doing the hard work of generating status updates that will get people to interact.   Anything else on Facebook is just work avoidance.

Why are status updates so important? This has to everything to do with Facebook’s recommendation engine, or as I like to call it, NEO.   Again, I’m gonna stick by my guns on this one as as well and say that going forward networking engine optimization, or optimizing content for the social networking algorithms, is going to become a huge industry similar to SEO today.  So, if you want to get an idea of why these “promoted posts” are such a big deal, it has everything to do with the ability to get more activity on your status updates… even if you have to pay for it!

UPDATE

I went ahead and bought an ad to point to a FB status update and was thrilled to see that by default, FB point ads at the “friends of fans.”

In my early exploration of NEO, I was calling the concept FOF Marketing because the social networks do such a great job helping people reach the “friend of friends, friends of fans and/or friends of followers”, so thought it was a bit catchy… However, I don’t think FOF tells the story behind the concept as well as NEO.

NEO, or the Study of How to Optimize Content for Social Networks

This past weekend while giving a presentation in Chicago, I was talking to the following slide:

… about the importance of understanding how Facebook’s algorithms work when creating your Facebook marketing strategy when someone from the audience asked, “is this similar to understanding how SEO helps explain how Google ranks websites?”

And it hit me like a ton of bricks… EXACTLY! I’ve been working towards this idea for the past year few years, but had never articulated it that clearly.

So after a bit of refinement, I think it’s time for us (internet marketers) to add a new word to our vocabulary: NEO or Networking Engine Optimization.

In a nutshell, the idea of NEO is that by studying how social networks determine relevance, we can better understand how to optimize our marketing strategies.

Having spoken about using social media for business to many different professional audiences, I feel extremely confident in saying that very few people have any understanding of the algorithms that Facebook users to determine it’s “top news” or “suggested” friends/pages… some people, Dale Chumbley comes to mind, intuitively understand how to use these algorithms, but I’m not sure even he has put a ton of thought into why…

Assuming the feedback on this idea keeps me going, I’m hoping to explore a couple different areas of NEO… but the most interesting will definitely have to do with understanding how the “hard” algorithms interact with the “soft” people (friends, followers, fans, etc.) that really determine success.

In other words, whether talking about Facebook’s “top news” or Twitter’s “trending” topics, there’s no way to get any traction without having others interact with your content. My take is that there’s been a ton of thought into understanding the importance of engaging others in your social network (Jeff Turner’s done a particularly impressive job of this with exploring YEO), but engaging with others is only a piece of a successful internet marketing strategy and just about everyone who’s actively marketing with social media would benefit from a better understanding of the algorithms that determine the relevance of their content/presence.

Anyway, this is obviously an idea that I’m still in the early stages of exploring… and I would love to hear your thoughts. But especially based on the recent news that Facebook passed Google in terms of total traffic, isn’t it time to seriously explore how the social networks are determining the relevance of our content?

Add a Find-a-Member Tab to Your Facebook Page

Recently Gary Krysler asked if I could help add a “find a member” tab to the WCR Facebook Page. It was quite easy to do, and after seeing requests within the comment stream (as well as tweets) for something similar, I thought I’d give step-by-step instructions on how to do it for your organization. It’s really pretty easy and even someone with no coding experience whatsoever should be able to handle it.

Step 1: Create the graphic.

Staff from the WCR created this graphic, so they made my life super easy

Step 2: Upload the graphic to an online server.

If you have a blog, then the easiest way is to use the image upload feature of your blog to store the image online.

Step 3: Note the URL of the image.

In the case of the “find a member” image I uploaded above, the URL is: http://4realz.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/FindaMember.jpeg

Step 4: Note the URL of the landing page.

For the WCRs, the “find a member” landing page is: http://www.wcr.org/FindAMember/tabid/58/Default.aspx. Note your own landing page.

Step 5: Add the Static FBML application to your Facebook Page.

The static FBML plugin makes is super easy to add a new tab with text (and images) to your page. To add the app to your page, follow the above link and follow the simple instructions to add it to your page.

Step 6: Insert the appropriate code into the Static FBML application.

There’s no need to actually write any code here… It’s all cut-and-paste.

The process is pretty straight-forward. Navigate to your Facebook Page and click the “edit page” option. Then click the edit option for the FBML page. At this point you should see a screen that looks like a blank version of the image to the right.

Now just copy and paste the following code EXCEPT replace WCR’s image URL and landing page URL with the URLs you noted in steps 3 and 4.


<table width="450" align="center">
<tbody>
<tr>
<td>
<a href="http://www.wcr.org/FindAMember/tabid/58/Default.aspx"><img src="http://4realz.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/FindaMember.jpeg" alt="find-a-member" align="center" /></a>
</td>
</tr>
</tbody>
</table>

Remember to add a title (probably “find a member”), click “save” and you should have a new tab for your Facebook fan page!

Questions?

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to hit the “reply” button in the header of this post and ask a question.

“How likely is this person to send me business?”

Lately, I’ve been putting a huge focus on thinking through how we (as professionals) can use social networking tools to build and strengthen our relationships... and in particular, our relationships with people who are key to growing our business (i.e. our “sphere” or “referral network”).

And this has led me to my new favorite tool, Gist.  (much thanks to Gahlord Dewald for the intro!)

The main idea behind Gist is pretty similar to other social media aggregators like MyBlogLog, FriendFeed , Seesmic and Google Buzz in that you add all of your other social media accounts (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc) and then use one tool to see all your updates.

However, there’s one HUGE improvement they’ve made.  Rather than forcing you to view updates based on a timeline (i.e. most recent updates first), they allow you to view updates in a “people” mode where you can view all the updates from that person (whether they are on Facebook, Twitter, their blog, foursquare, etc.) based on the importance that you’ve selected. (Facebook has tried to do this with their “top news” feature, but it’s crude at best and doesn’t do a great job finding updates that are important to me).

After a few days of using Gist, I can tell you that there’s no turning back to this style of update consumption.    If I’ve got 5 minutes, then I can quickly navigate all the people that are super-important to me, whereas if I have a bit more time, then I can dive deeper into reading updates from people that are less important.   And because I’m not missing out on updates from super-important people any more, I’m finding I’m MUCH more active on places like Twitter and Facebook because I spend less time sorting through the noise.

However, there is a HUGE problem with the tool.  There are so many options and ways to configure things that it could definitely be off-putting because it can take a few hours of configuring before the system is humming.   Nonetheless, it’s totally worth taking the time, so let me walk you through the steps to setting up a configuration that’s working really well for me.

1) Import contacts (connect) from four main tools:  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Email. For Facebook, Twitter and Gmail (my email), this only needs to be done once and then will get updated automatically afterwards.

2) Configure your dashboard view to get updates.  My configuration is listed below, but the important parts are:

  • show all news, blogs, twitter and facebook updates
  • show people and companies
  • show importance level 1 and above
  • show all tags
  • Sort by “importance”

In other words, just show EVERYTHING and then sort the results by importance.

3) Start prioritizing people within your sphere.  All you need to do is go through your people and start ranking them on a scale of 1 to 100. Initially, I’ve been adjusting EVERYONE’s priority, even if only just a bit to make sure I put some thought into how important this person is to me.  To make this as easy as possible, I’ve been basing my ranking of each person based on one simple question:  How likely is this person to send me business some day?

Here’s a screenshot of my page where I’ve ranked Scotty Brown a 100 (out of 100!).

Using the criteria “how likely is this person to send me business some day?” might sound a bit cold and calculated, but I’ve found it works quite well.  The people close to me (family and good friends) are almost always referring business my way, so they show up highest.   Other people have been ridiculously great to my consulting practice in terms of referring business my ways, so of course I want to see and respond to their updates whenever appropriate.

4) Use Gist instead of Facebook, twitter.com, seesmic, tweetdeck or whatever else you use to check status updates of your contacts.   If you configure things just as I have, you’ll find that there are a ton of updates coming into the system all the time… almost definitely too many to check on a regular basis.  However, there’s no need to read all the updates.  Start at the top (i.e. the most important people) and wind your way down as you have time.

To move from one person to the next (and this is critical!), all you have to do is click on the check mark to the right of the “importance” bar (this is the “mark all as read” option).  For example, while I’m reading Linsey Planeta’s updates, if I click on the check mark, the tool will bring up Scotty Brown’s updates because he is the next most important person with an unread update.

And, of course, if I want to respond to any of these updates, there’s always a link that takes me to the appropriate place to respond.

Another useful feature is the “remove” button to the right of the check mark.   This will remove this person’s updates from showing up on your dashboard.   If you find a person or company that you never want to see updates from, simply hit the remove button.  In order to make the tool as useful as possible, I’ve adjusted just about all of my contacts by either revising their “importance” or “removing” them.

5) The hardest part of using gist is configuring the importance for all your contacts and this is only hard because it takes a decent amount of time.  However, if you ignore tags and all the bells and whistles besides “importance”, it doesn’t have to take all that long before you can start using the dashboard and getting some decent value from the tool.  At least a few times you’ll almost definitely want to give yourself an hour or two in order to filter through updates from everyone on your list. Gist tries to auto-prioritize folks for you, but tons of folks from Facebook and Twitter who might be super important to you will likely be have the default importance levels of “50,” “25” or “1”.

The beautiful part of the tool is that once it’s configured, you end up with so much more control over which updates you see.

Here are just some of the most obvious benefits to this style of consuming updates:

  • Better focus: rather than letting the “noisiest” people (i.e. the folks who tweet the most) take up the most mindshare, you can rank those people low on importance and only see their updates on a day when you’re bored and get to the people who rank at lower levels of importance. By the same token, if there are a few folks rarely update, but whose updates you never want to miss, you can make sure to rank them high in importance and you’ll get to see everything they say.
  • Remove noise. If a friend is having a super-busy day on social media, you can quickly scan their updates and hit “mark all as read” rather than have them clog up your twitter and/or Facebook stream all day
  • Network integration. For the people I care about, it shouldn’t matter where they are active (Facebook, Twitter or their blog), I just want a tool to connect with them where appropriate, so I’m loving that Gist mixes and matches updates based on the person, not the network.

Finally, Gist is still in “beta” and there are a few bugs (and they mention they will likely start charging some day).  However, even if they start charging some outrageous amount, or go under for lack of funding, I can tell you that this approach of  filtering people based on the importance you place on them is here to stay.  It’s just too darn useful!

Screw consumers… Let’s use internet tools to do what REALTORS do best!

I gave a presentation last week in Portland where I asked the audience of about 300 REALTORS two questions:

  1. Do you drive most of your business from referrals… friends, family, past clients, other agents, etc.?
  2. Do you drive most of your business by reaching out directly to consumers… ads, online home search, etc.?

A little over half the audience raised their hand to the first question, while under 10% raised their hand to the second, which didn’t really surprise me because I asked a similar (but more convoluted) question in an online poll about a month ago and got similar results (i.e. 58% said referrals).

I think it’s extremely safe to say that in terms of generating business, most real estate agents (and most professionals for that matter), are better at reaching into their network of friends (and friends of friends) to drive business than reaching consumers directly.  And yet, almost all online tools, commentary and critiques of social media within real estate focus on the inability to of the tools to directly reach consumers.  (One of the more eloquent critiques was written by Marc Davison).

Let’s break down the skills and tools that an agent needs to successfully run online campaign that directly targets consumers:

  1. Project management. Hire someone with web design, marketing and coding skills (or sometimes a team of people with these skills) and make sure the site actually gets built!
  2. Writing. Either need to write content, or at least advising and managing the person creating the content.
  3. Online promotion. Either need to optimize your landing pages and drive lots of inbound links to your site (so that you can get free traffic from the search engines) or buy traffic through online ads
  4. Conversion optimization. Optimize your site to get consumers to register (probably through a IDX/home search tool, which also has to be integrated into your site)
  5. Prospecting. Prospect the database of users (assuming your IDX allows for this) and ask them for your business. Otherwise, wait for the consumers to contact you (probably when they “request a showing”).

None of these skills are particularly hard, and I’ve seen agents with almost zero internet experience pick them up and start generating business in less than half a year. However, I’ve seen way more agents get frustrated at the lack of results afte they “master” only one or two of these skills…

For example, I’ve seen agents spend two years just trying to get a good site built (project management #fail)… or they get a beautiful site built for them, but never add any content (writing #fail)… or they write well, but don’t know how to get anyone to link to their content (promotion #fail)… or they get people to their site, but don’t give users a logical way to register (conversion #fail)… or they get people in their database, but aren’t setting appointments (prospecting #fail).  In other words, none of the skills are all that hard, but they aren’t necessarily intuitive to everyone either.

Now, let’s compare that to the skills and tools used for a referral campaign that’s the bread and butter for most agents:

  1. Networking. Make a connection with friends, family, past clients, other professionals, etc. (could be through events, organizations, or outreach via postcards, etc.)
  2. Sales. Ask them for your business (or more likely, if they know of any business they can send your way)

If it’s not obvious, the skills that drive the bulk of real estate business today (i.e. referral business), are vastly different than the skills needed to convert consumers into clients on the internet… so no wonder most agents get frustrated when their initial internet activities don’t effectively reach online consumers.    It’s a completely different set of skills.

    Instead, if you’re an agent that does most of your business from referrals, you should be thinking “how can I use internet tools to reach and build my referral network?”

    And the answer to that question is definitely something I’m going to continue exploring in the near future.   My opinion is that the tools currently marketed to real estate agents do really crappy job of building up a sphere because they almost inevitably focus on helping REALTORS reach consumers directly.  When I searched for a referral networking tool last month to feature in this article: Getting Serious about Lead Management, I couldn’t find one that I liked well enough to mention.

    However, I’m going to write a post in the next day or so on a new favorite tool of mine: Gist.   It’s the best sphere building tool I’ve used, because of the way it let’s me filter through people within my network based on criteria that I set… a feature simply not available on tools like Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, Seesmic, TweetDeck, etc.

    I’m going to be presenting the general idea mentioned in this post at lots of conferences in the next few months (Chicago, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Toronto, etc.) and more than your agreement, I would really love to hear your critiques…

    Where are the holes in my argument?   Am I screwed up thinking agents should forget focusing on reaching consumers directly and instead focus on building up their referral networking?

    I spent the evening playing with this si…

    I spent the evening playing with this site… and I’m finally at a spot where I feel like I can take a break. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for the night. 🙂

    The inspiration for changing things up was pretty simple. I really wanted to play with the power of the P2 theme in terms of real-time updates. In order to really take advantage of the way this theme treats comments, I’m positive I’ll also need to start blogging a bit more, which is a darn good incentive…

    I also had some specific functionality I wanted with my P2 install… I wanted a WP plugin that 1) authenticates using either Twitter or FB & 2) allows sending of comments to either Twitter or FB.

    My main problem is that the few plugins that could do such a thing (like IntenseDebate) came with their own set of baggage or simply didn’t work within the P2 theme (which I’m extremely fond of playing with!)

    The end result was that I installed two plugins that appear to play “well enough” together. The first was Twit Connect and the second was Sociable’s Facebook Connect Plugin.

    This way, users *can* use either service to “login” before leaving a comment (as well as no service at all!). And while I never could get the “send to twitter” option from Twit Connect working, you’all will be able to send your comments to Facebook should you choose to.

    Anyway, there’s lots more I could talk about… including why I’m so fond of the P2 theme… but I’m going to leave this post somewhat simple… and leave my P2 thoughts until I’ve played around a bit more. If you have any thoughts on the changes (or just want to see how the comments update on-screen in real-time), feel free to leave a comment!

    Capturing the Hallway Conversations at NAR

    Last Friday one of my companies, Spinnio, ran a live video chat with David Arquette at his Propr Clothing store that was hosted by Shira Lazar. It was so much fun with the two of them (and the many guests that walked into the store during the event) that it’s inspired me to do something similar at NAR this year.

    Spinnio at NARMy hope is to create a place to capture some of the most interesting banter of a conference… i.e. the hallway conversations…and then invite you’all to take part. So, I recruited a partner in crime with the plan being that we’re going to stream live video conversations to Spinnio.com throughout the weekend (starting at RE BarCamp San Diego).

    And if you want to take part in our conversations, I’ve set it up so you can ask questions and leave comments directly on the Spinnio page using either Facebook or Twitter. In other words, we’re not only going to do mobile video, but we’re bringing in the two most popular social networks so you can take part from anywhere in the world.

    The only catch with this operation, is that I have no idea when we’re actually going to turn the cameras on… (although I expect it to be often). So if you want to be notified, make sure to follow Spinnio on twitter, where we’ll do our best to give some head’s up! (Won’t hurt to also make sure you’re following @tyr and @ribeezie since I’m sure we’ll be letting people know through those accounts as well)

    And finally, if you know someone who should get some time on Spinnio (maybe you!), let me know. As I “confirm” guests for specific times, I’ll update this post!

    UPDATE
    Ricardo and I are going to use a shared google calendar in order to track guests and allow you to see who we’ve scheduled and when. Here it is: