I miss blogging.

Instagram: you gotta pay

While the terms of service changes (and reversals) over at Instagram didn’t bother me much (they probably should have bothered me more), the changes did inspire me to have a few conversations around where original content should live.

It seems the WordPress mobile posting and syndication tools have come a long way in the past few years I want to see what it would mean to have my blog be the primary source for my content.

With that in mind, over the next few weeks, my plan is to think “blog first” whenever I feel inspired to share a link or post a photo and see what that looks like when implemented…  For those of you who follow along, hope you enjoy the ride!

What does it mean to be influential online?

No doubt I’ve got all kinds of theories on how to measure online influence, and even went so far as to outline them a bit in this comment, but for now, I just thought I’d just share my excitement that Sarah Needleman of the Wall Street Journal wrote a great article about one of the theories I’ve been working on with the D&B Credibility team and the resulting list of the most influential twitter people in the small business community.
(and if you’re interested in lots of details from an earlier iteration of this concept, check out this post: 50 Most Influential Real Estate People on Twitter)

Update:
Just noticed the WSJ published an interview that the journalist, Sarah Needleman, did for the show “Digits” about the list:

BuzzRE OC Wrap-up!

The BuzzRE  OC event was so awesome…   I met so many great people and the speakers came through with awesome presentations. Thanks again to everyone who took the time to join us!

Some of the highlights were:

  • Jon Lansner: Compared to any time in recent memore, there’s actually some good news to talk about in the real estate market
  • Stacey Harmon: Understanding which social networks to focus on based on your business practice
  • Dale Chumbley: Ways to bridge your real-life community activity with your Facebook community
  • Robert Luna: Importance of focusing on your home search consumers
  • Gahlord Dewald:  Always be testing!
  • Loren Nason: Get on dropbox.  It’s time!
  • Garron Selliken: from @YvonneArnoldCRS:   “@garrons “what is the moment that u set new appt?” Then look at it backwards, how did u get there. Work 2 get in position more often #BuzzRE

And it all couldn’t have happened without Linsey Planeta putting a ridiculous amount of time and passion into the day.  She rocks!

One of the things I most enjoyed about helping to organize BuzzRE was organizing the presentations…  I had every speaker email me their presentation in advance so I could fit them into one solid presentation that didn’t feel like it was jumping around too much.   I’m pretty darn proud of the final product and super-happy to share it with you via slideshare.

What a great day!  It really is awesome to see so many folks get excited about implementing advanced strategies and websites.   If you’re looking for inspiration, check out this page of advanced real estate websites.

And after such an awesome event, it’s now time to turn to organizing another awesome BuzzRE in Portland in early June. Want to get involved? Let us know!

If you have feedback about yesterday’s event, I know all of us would sure would love to hear it!

Most Influential Twitter People In Real Estate

Earlier today I saw Irina Netchaev tweet about how Mike Mueller, Jeff Turner,  Jay Thompson and I were some of her “favs”, so I couldn’t help but be curious what she was referring to… Her link sent me to the type of poll that everyone loves to hate:  A popularity contest where the “community” is able to vote on who are the most important in the real estate industry.

Considering that after at least one day of the poll being live, none of the people have over 16 votes, I think it’s pretty safe to say the results are statistically meaningless and likely to remain that way.

However, it did get me thinking about an update to the 50 most influential real estate people on twitter that caused quite the stir last fall…  After publishing the list, I got to talking with Garron Selliken and Chris Lynch about how M Agents might be able to use such a tool, and so we build a web version of the process and started testing it out with some of the agents.

A couple of agents found some great uses for it including one woman who focuses on Modern Homes in Portland.  She used the tool to quickly identify and begin connecting with people relevant to her niche (i.e. modern homes) by simply identifying a few relevant people interested in the subject and then plugging them into the tool.  And in only a few months of being active on twitter, Marisa has added hundreds of relevant people to her sphere on both a national and local level.

Update to the list!

Now for the real fun… Because it’s so easy, I decided to update the list of most influential real estate people on Twitter.  There’s more discussion on updates to the list below, but without further ado, here’s the update list of the top 100 most influential real estate people on twitter:

Name Twitter Peer Rating
Robert Hahn robhahn 89%
mike simonsen mikesimonsen 88%
Todd Carpenter tcar 88%
Dustin Luther tyr 87%
Jeff Turner respres 87%
Andy Kaufman AndyKaufman 86%
Jay Thompson PhxREguy 86%
Sherry Chris BHGRE_Sherry 86%
Marc Davison 1000wattmarc 85%
Nicole Nicolay nik_nik 84%
Reggie Nicolay ReggieRPR 84%
Stefan Swanepoel Swanepoel 84%
Daniel Rothamel RealEstateZebra 83%
Derek Overbey doverbEy 83%
Drew Meyers drewmeyers 83%
Ginger Wilcox gingerw 83%
Kelley Koehler housechick 83%
David Gibbons DavidGibbons 82%
Mike Mueller MikeMueller 82%
Rudy Bachraty trulia 82%
Brad Nix bnix 81%
Teresa Boardman TBoard 81%
Joseph Ferrara jfsellsius 80%
Stacey Harmon staceyharmon 80%
Wendy Forsythe BHGRE_Wendy 80%
Eric Stegemann EricStegemann 79%
Kris Berg KrisBerg 79%
Pat Kitano pkitano 79%
Ines Hegedus-Garcia ines 78%
jeff corbett JeffX 78%
Jim Duncan JimDuncan 78%
Joel Burslem jburslem 78%
billlublin billlublin 77%
Jeff Bernheisel JBern 77%
Heather Elias LoCoHeather 76%
InmanNews InmanNews 76%
Ken Brand kenbrand 76%
Lani Rosales laniar 76%
Ardell DellaLoggia ARDELLd 75%
Brad Coy bradcoy 75%
Dale Chumbley DaleChumbley 75%
Jim Marks jimmarks 75%
Jason Sandquist JasonSandquist 74%
mlbroadcast mlbroadcast 74%
Benn Rosales BennRosales 73%
Brad C. – Dakno dakno 73%
Mariana Wagner mizzle 72%
Judy Moriarty realestatechick 72%
Maureen Francis MaureenFrancis 72%
Joel McDonald joelrunner 71%
Jonathan Washburn JonWashburn 71%
Kim Wood KimWood 71%
BHG Real Estate BHGRealEstate 70%
Chris Brogan chrisbrogan 70%
Missy Caulk missycaulk 70%
Morgan Brown morganb 70%
Paul Chaney pchaney 70%
Ricardo Bueno Ribeezie 70%
Sara Bonert sbonert 70%
BradAndersohn BradAndersohn 69%
Kristal Kraft KrisTalk 69%
Hilary Marsh hilarymarsh 68%
Kevin Tomlinson miamibeach 68%
Roost Roost 68%
Tom Ferry CoachTomFerry 68%
Kevin Boer kevinboer 67%
Sarah Cooper SarahWV 67%
Zappos.com CEO -Tony zappos 67%
Lori Bee BeeRealty 66%
Susie Blackmon SusieBlackmon 66%
Tony Longo tonylongo 66%
Bobby Carroll Dakno rewebcoach 65%
Dan Green mortgagereports 65%
Loren Nason lorennason 65%
Brian Tercero briantercero 64%
Elaine Hanson ElaineHanson 64%
Maya Sabot Paveza mayaREguru 64%
Nick Bastian RailLife 64%
Rhonda Porter mortgageporter 64%
Ted Mackel RealtorTed 64%
Bob Stewart activebob 63%
Jeremy Blanton jb140 63%
Linsey Planeta linsey 63%
Robert Luna RLuna 63%
Gahlord Dewald gahlord 62%
Gary Vaynerchuk garyvee 62%
Hal Lublin hallublin 62%
Jonathan Miller jonathanmiller 62%
Toby E. Boyce TobyBoyce 62%
Spencer Rascoff spencerrascoff 61%
cindy lin 非誠勿擾 cindylinsf 60%
Monika McGillicuddy monikamcg 60%
Todd Waller toddwaller 60%
Calie Waterhouse cwaterhouse 59%
James Shiner JamesShiner 59%
Jason Farris FresYes 59%
LaurieManny LaurieManny 59%
Rich Jacobson KitsapAgent 59%
Robert (Bob) Watson TopBrokerOC 59%
sarahbandy sarahbandy 59%

The way to think about this list is to read it something like this…  Out of the top 100 people in real estate (as determined by the number of people in real estate following them), 89 are following Rob Hahn.    In other words, instead of using a random sampling of people as most polls do, this list is created by the most influential twitter people in the industry!

One of the more interesting things about the list is that when you get down past the top 50 people, non real estate people like Tony from Zappos, Chris Brogen and Gary Vaynerchuk start showing up… It doesn’t surprise me one bit that a decent percent of the influential people in real estate are following these folks, so it makes good sense.

The weeds

In terms of the web process I developed last fall, we made one improvement when we turned it into a web app…  Instead of using the top 50 people, we made that a variable and I tend to use 100 people as the basis for relevance since the results are much more granular.   And if you missed the discussion on the algorithms used to create this list, check out this post for background.

By the way, if you work in an interesting niche and you’d like to see the most influential people in that niche, I’d happily consider running the web app and sending you the results.  Just to show you how super-simple it is, here’s what the interface looks like:

And I wish I could add a link to the URL so you could run it yourself, but it was built to only handle one process at a time, so it could get ugly if multiple people wanted to play at once.

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?

“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!