This week I’m outlining some of the more interesting trends that were presented at the Inman Connect conference recently held in the USA. Arguably, the Americans are one step ahead in embracing mobile technologies and digital business applications. We can expect some, or all of these trends to become more ingrained in every day real estate practice as time progresses. Once again, first mover advantages are there to be had for early adopters!
I’ve added links where appropriate – if you have any favourite apps or tools that I have missed please make comment.
Everyone is reviewing everything. Apparently 50% of business comes from referrals. The most important part of a referral is reputation. This comes back to recommendations and reviews. Review web sites like Yelp where consumers can rate their level of satisfaction and provide details about a service provider’s performance have become well patronised. One only has to look at sites like Trip Advisor, Expedia, Eopinion and Amazon.com to look at how products and services are being reviewed by consumers. Ideally, all roads should lead to great content about you, however negative reviews should always be responded to. [As an aside, the founder of Expedia and Zillow, Rich Barton, has also recently released www.glassdoor.com – a site which provides employees with the opportunity to anonymously review their companies].
Sites like www.reputation.com are become established to help individuals and companies track their online profile and assess their online reputation.
Does your web site display property on mobile platforms? It is predicted that mobile users accessing the web will outnumber static (PC/laptop) users by around 2015/16. Mobile web usage is on a rapid upwards trajectory, and industry participants are recognizing the importance of having a web site that is flexible across multiple platforms that incorporates flexibility in display and provides a variety of multimedia and interactivity. Some industry participants have moved to using HTML5 to update and design their websites; taking advantage of the scalability that HTML5 provides as well as the ability to include multimedia content without relying on plugins or API’s.
Search optimisation and website maximisation: Nicole Nicolay from ‘Agent Evolution’ gave a great presentation on having a web presence and ensuring your branding is consistent and obvious. Her business specializes in creating websites using WordPress (because it is inherently flexibility and is optimized for search engines). Some of Nicole’s tips were:
- Make sure your website platform is responsive? across different platforms
- Ensure your branding is obvious – users should be able to tell ‘what you do’ instantly and what your expertise is.
- Make sure your content is unique – have a template web site but not template content. This should be particularly easy for real estate agents; ensure there is local neighborhood content in your ‘about pages’, update the content regularly, and (if you have time) start blogging.
- Is your home page search tool worth using (ie the search box that a lot of web sites have embedded in their home page). There are plenty of ways to maximise in-built searching facilities – provide some functionality that isn’t available from the major portals (more localised searching, more relevant content).
- Capture user details – ensure there is a facility for browsers of your site to leave their contact details, but you might need to offer something of value as an incentive.
- Make sure you have a call to action.
Content is no longer king. Jim Marks from ‘Agent Alliance’ made the interesting point that content is no longer king, but context is king. Content is everywhere (and its still important), but what is more important is how you take that content and position it from a relevant perspective that adds the most value to your respective market place, clients and prospects. Where does your content come from and how are you delivering it.
Internet marketing. One speaker suggested that 2013 would be the year of social media metrics – measuring the effectiveness of social media and maximizing marketing effectiveness via social media channels. Internet marketing is all about maximizing your sphere of influence; your internet marketing success will be dictated by how you treat the sphere of influence that you’re not connected with, rather than the ones you are connected with. Offline it can be hard to make friends, but online, people expect it! Try to ensure you bring all your contacts on line where your conversations can be more comfortable and up to date. Once your contacts are connected on line, you will notice that your ‘sphere of influence’ ripples outwards as more and more connections are made. The guys from Agent Alliance have a webinar series called ‘wired for success’ that touches on some of these topics.
There was a huge amount of focus on social media 59% of web users trust a brand that has a social media presence (apparently consumers relate this with a level of service and reputation). 2013 will be the year where the high performers go well beyond establishing their social media presence and actually start to create and nurture online relationships. The primary vehicles are still Facebook and Twitter, however there is a lot of momentum behind Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest. Social media has opened the door to keeping in touch with people like never before. More and more industry participants are realizing social media is no longer a passing fad and that 2013 will be the year when we enter the first fully fledged social media age, which is all about online relationships rather than simply posting to Facebook.
Katie Lance (from Inman News) made the comment that we need to stop ‘random acts of social media’ and create an intentional social media strategy. Two of the tips she had were:
- Create Facebook lists – one for client and one for prospects. Engage with those lists once a day; relationships are built up with small interactions over time.
- Take the online offline – send personal notes when you need to make someone feel special. A cool App she mentioned was ‘Ink’ – they will take your emailed note and send it as a template and well-presented snail mail card (it works in Australia… I checked).
Dana Shaut, the social media director from ‘gauranteedrate.com’ suggested the following strategy for announcing an open house via social media:
- Create a Facebook event and share it across your groups, your business page, your personal profile, and in a private message.
- Export the event so you can email it to nonline (not online) friends
- Announce the event on linked in and Twitter
- Then pin the event to Pinterest
- Then upload the pictures to Instagram (try the Picstitch app if you want to make a collage)(add filters to enhance the photos)
- Make sure all communications have links to the property listing and the social media pages.
Some handy tools and apps that are either gaining traction or firmly embedded in best practice process
- Docusign – this document management application seems to be pretty well embedded in most real estate agents process flow. Sign, send and store documents in the cloud all via any internet enabled device.
- Dropbox – document storage in the cloud. Access key files anywhere, anytime.
- Evernote – here’s the explanation from Wikipedia (they explain it better than the Evernote web site does) Evernote is a suite of software and services designed for note taking and archiving. A “note” can be a piece of formatted text, a full webpage or webpage excerpt, a photograph, a voice memo, or a handwritten “ink” note. Notes can also have file attachments. Notes can be sorted into folders, then tagged, annotated, edited, given comments, searched and exported as part of a notebook.
- Dot Loop – the first online software that allows real estate agents, buyers and sellers to complete the transaction process from offer to close, all in one place. I’m not sure if this could work in Australia just yet (due to rules regarding original documents) but looks like the way of the future.
- Boomerang – if you use Gmail, this add-on allows you to schedule email and reminder deliveries
- Join.me – “a ridiculously simple screen sharing tool for meetings on the fly” – kind of like Webex
- Haiku Deck – a handy presentation App (kind of like PowerPoint) that turns your Ipad into a slick presentation tool – have a look at the gallery of examples
- Mosaic – create a hardcopy photobook from your Ipad – some agents are sending their vendors a photobook of their listing photo’s as a memento.
- Ink – send snail mail cards via email – agents are using this handy app for birthday cards, thank you cards, anniversaries etc. Everyone likes to get something in the mail.
- Real Satisfied – survey your recent clients and get testimonials
- Mail Chimp – publishing tool – design email newsletters, share them on social networks, integrate with existing services and track the results.
- Task Rabbit – a social network to help people get things done. Post a task, registered local ‘task rabbits’ make offers (how much they will charge to do the job), pay the rabbit once the task is complete. This isn’t too relevant here in Australia, as there aren’t any Australian task rabbits, but interesting concept none the less.
- Any.do – ‘top do list’ or task manager that synchs across all your devices (mobile phone, tablet, outlook etc)
- Elance – find freelance workers globally (post your job, review proposals, manage and collaborate online, pay for the approved work)
- 30:30 – clutter free task manager app, fully customizable, synchs via the cloud.