Friday Rant: Realtors & Social Media

If you’re reading this right now, you’re probably aware that I have a web-log, or something that cool people refer to as a “blog.”

The entire industry is a-buzz right now with this new thing called “social media.”

WARNING: the following post will be incredibly sarcastic, cynical, somewhat arrogant, and will poke fun at a lot of people…

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Maybe I owe my career to my good buddy Galen, who suggested in 2007 that I start a real estate blog.

On the way to golf in April of 2007, he raved, “There’s no real estate blog in our city!  This is a huge opportunity!”

He told me that there was a whole sub-culture of computer-users who read blogs every single day.  Celebrity-blogs, tech-blogs, sports-blogs, travel-blogs, shopping-blogs….anything-blogs.

Galen boosted my self-esteem by telling me that I’d be a good “blogger.”  He knew that I enjoyed creative writing in my spare time, and he said I’m witty, funny, sarcastic, cynical, and wildly-opinionated – all good qualities if you want people to hang on your every word, every day.

The Toronto Realty Blog was born in 2007, and my life changed.  It really did.

Now in 2010; a new decade and a new era for Realtors, agents are jumping up and down like a kid on a sugar-high as they talk about “the future of real estate and social media.”

Everybody in real estate has an ego, and I am no different.

But I found it incredibly hard to sit through a meeting last week and listen to people who just heard the term “blog” last month essentially regurgitate everything that they heard at the INMAN conference in New York and pass it off as their own thoughts.

I didn’t want to divulge my “secrets” in front of a room-full of my competitors, but since I know most real estate agents can’t find their way to the “in-ter-net,” I have no problem explaining my thoughts on this public forum…

Most Realtors don’t understand how the “in-ter-net” actually works.

Every Realtor in the city has a cookie-cutter website provided by a shall-remain-nameless company, who charges them $40 per month for the same website that every other agent has.

The problem with these websites is that they are static, and have only one actual web-page.  The Internet doesn’t know that these sites exist, and there is nothing for search engines to pickup on.  There are literally trillions of web-pages in existence, so how hard will it be to find your one web-page with zero content other than what this nameless-company provides for you and 8,000 other Toronto agents?

Most Realtors can’t get past the sight of their own FACE on their website to realize that they get zero business from that website.

Have a little humility!  I pride myself on the fact that my name and face don’t appear on my home page.  I like being somewhat “anonymous,” in that a reader only finds out who I am with some poking and prodding around on the site.

These other sites are boring, uninformative, and don’t contain any information whatsoever.  They’re full of “click here for more info” fields that re-direct you to a contact form, and the content on many of these sites hasn’t been updated in years.

And when I watch my colleagues spend time “working” on their websites, I feel bad for the amount of time they are wasting.

Try this…

Open up a new window, and go to Google.

Type in “4K Spadina.”

What do you see?  Third result down…

There is an article I wrote about the building two years ago.  Google loves blogs because they are updated constantly and there is a high amount of traffic.  There are incoming and outgoing links, email-to-a-friend, RSS feeds, and a host of other features that makes a blog perfect for those search engine spiders that crawl around the Internet to see what’s popular.

I have never spent a penny on search engine optimization, but after three years and 527 articles, my blog has been found by Google.

Moving on from blogs

What is LinkedIn?

Does anybody know?

Okay, we know it’s a “networking” site for business-people-types, but what is it actually?

Because despite the fact that we’re all on it, I don’t think anybody knows what it is!  I’ll be honest – I have no clue!  But that doesn’t stop me from accepting “Invites” every week from dozens of people who also have no clue why they are on the site.

But nobody actually knows WHAT it is, or WHY we’re on it!

Is LinkedIn just the Facebook page for business-people?  If I want to know what my good buddy from 2nd year university, Seth Smithfordson, is doing for a living – can I find him on LinkedIn?  And are Seth and I going to have lunch?  Probably….not….

How is this going to help Realtors get business?

You should see these people buzzing around, “Are you on LinkedIn?  What?  You’re not?  What are you waiting for?!?”

What the heck is ActiveRain?  Why are we on it?

How many real estate inquires do you get from being on ActiveRain?  None?  Really?

Why do we want to be your “Fan” on Facebook?

Sidney Crosby deserves a fan page.

Jessica Alba deserves a fan page.

But John Smith from Re/Max does NOT need a Facebook Fan Page.

Why are we his fan?  Is he going to sign autographs for us?  Should I bring my sharpie pen or my silver paint-pen so he can sign an black-and-white, 8 x 10 glossy?

Become a FAN of David Fleming on Facebook

Why?  What for?

What will you get out of this?  Is there anything on my “fan” page that you can’t find on my regular Facebook page?

And better yet, what will I get out of this?

I’m of the mindset that the only people who will become my “fan” are the same 200+ people that are my “friends” on Facebook.  And let’s face it, we only add people to Facebook so we can spy on them and look at their drunken photos and/or bikini shots from their trips to Punta Cana (and he looked really weird in a bikini…)

I’ll say it right now – I’m not starting a “fan page” on Facebook.

But two days ago, I overheard two agents in my office talking: “Have you started your fan page yet?  You have, eh…well good.  I’m working on mine now.  Yeah I’ve made about 25 contacts on LinkedIn during the past few days.”

WHY?@!?!?!

Call me naive, but I think you have to offer people something of value if you want their business.

The old way of  real estate was to go out and get business.  Work open houses, pound the proverbial pavement, make contacts, and look for people who want to transact in real estate.

My way is slightly different.  I offer the entire world my thoughts, opinions, experience, and knowledge on real estate on an open forum, and I do it for FREE.

In turn, some people use my services to transact in real estate.  Others don’t.  And some people hate what I write and email me about it!

I’m creating something and putting it out there.  And I’m trying to create some informative, innovative, and intelligent dialouge among the commenters who post their thoughts and experiences along with mine.

I’m not just starting a Facebook Fan Page and saying, “This is the future of social media in real estate!  People search on the In-ter-net now and that’s how you get business!”

As for Twitter, I still think it’s stupid….but I see its value.

Jon Stewart weighed in the other night and read Jessica Simpson’s tweet: “LOL JUST BROKE ANOTHER HEEL OMG.”

But I do see the value in Twitter as it pertains to real estate.  It’s a quick way to get the word out: “JUST LISTED: 230 KING STREET, 1-BEDROOM FOR $249,000.”

But again, most Realtors think it’s about themselves and not their followers/readers.  Who wants to hear, “PICKING UP MY OAKVILLE CLIENTS.  HOPE I SELL THEM!”

Social media in real estate is about exposure, but it doesn’t just end there.

You have to give people something they want, and in my case, it’s my very distorted view of the world on issues like plastic bag bans, traffic in Toronto, night-life, and I suppose real estate as well…

This rant is born out of frustration, but also because I can’t stand up to the real estate peons and say, “You’re doing it all wrong!”  I can’t because they are my competitors, but I want to because I have an ego, just like anybody else.

These people all have massive egos!  They eat Ego Waffles for breakfast!  And they think they know best!

But for now, I continue to sit with my hands firmly pressed over my mouth while the ego-of-the-day shares his or her thoughts on social media and real estate with a roomful of eager ears.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

20 Comments

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  1. Krupo says:

    “Attention is the new currency.”

    Meh, I still prefer cash.

    😉

  2. Chuck says:

    Hey David,

    You gotta check out Linchpin. It’s his new book. Completely awesome.

    Based on what you’ve done with this blog, you’d also enjoy reading Tribes, because you’ve got a nice little tribe of people following. Including me.

    Attention is the new currency.

  3. David Fleming says:

    @ Chuck

    Seth Godin has always been one of my favorite authors. I’ve read about four of his books but nothing since “All Marketers are Liars” in 2005.

    I always ask Realtors one simple question when it comes to their Facebook, LinkedIn, ActiveRain, Twitter, and websites: “How many sales have you achieved from all this?”

    Godin is correct – we get so caught up in the popularity contest that we forget what our purpose is!

    Realtors want to make sales, not make friends.

    I ask my colleagues, “How many deals did this translate to?”

    The result is always the same: a stutter, a pause, and then an explanation…

  4. Chuck says:

    Hey David, I think this one says it all…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0h0LlCu8Ks

    I show this video to every Realtor and business owner I can find. Seth Godin tell it how it is when it comes to the “social media” game.

    Sadly, most of them don’t get it at all. They’re still counting their number of friends like a popularity contest.

  5. David Fleming says:

    @ S Smalley

    I actually utilize the “daily affirmation” each morning while I try and decide which color socks to wear.

    Where have you gone, Al Franken?

    The episode with Michael Jordan was the best, by far. Aaaah, the 1980’s! Well, at least we have Andy Samberg…

  6. S Smalley says:

    I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!

    Daily Affirmations With David Flemming…

    {Golf clap from the gallery}

  7. Aguduser says:

    … David, your blog is also a place where you can bounce some ideas off us too, ya know?

  8. anony says:

    JG used the exact word I was thinking of: “hook”

    I’m hooked on this blog and even though I have a real estate agent that I’ve bought and sold three houses with, I still read this every day.

    I like the personal approach you use. Every one of your posts starts with “When I was ten years old, bla bla” and I find that’s what humanizes your real estate website.

    Nobody likes to be sold, nobody likes to be conned. All the other websites are just a headshot (since when are real estate agents posing as actors?) and then a bunch of crap that nobody wants to read and nobody finds helpful.

    Your blog is hilarious. Its controversial. Its informative. Your insights to the industry are more in depth than any other agents who are putting themselves out there and while maybe (just maybe!) there are better or more knowlegable real estate agents out there, they certainly can’t be found on the internet and they certainly aren’t putting their thoughts and feelings out there for people to read.

    Keep up the good work, and you have a reader for life here.

    PS I will admit that I did look you up on Facebook since your profile is unlocked!

  9. ARN says:

    What’s the problem here David? Do you want your industry colleagues to hire professional writers to copy your business model? I’m shocked that you would lead a helping hand, even if adanvertantly.

  10. Roger says:

    Haha quite true! When I bought my house, I started searcing on the internet and every single realtor website had the same template. I wanted to search listings but there werent any. I guess thats why we have mls.ca. I wondered if these websites were provided by the toronto real estate board when agents get their license, since every agent has one.

  11. ms says:

    very interesting post – it’s my biggest pet peeve when people think that they can set up a website or a blog and the audience will be built in. search engine optimization doesn’t have to be costly…a quick glance shows that David gets it, but, Mark, maybe, not so much…

  12. Bravo says:

    JG,

    I don’t think David could have said it any better himself.

    *rimshot*

  13. dogbiskit says:

    I look forward to all your posts. Keep up the good work and thanks for the entertainment.

  14. Krupo says:

    One bonus on setting up your blog’s fanpage: built in auto-translation somehow creeped in on fcbk. So I find my site being referenced in foreign language google searches. Weird but cool.

    The only one real bonus I’ve found through lazy experimentation. 🙂

  15. Mark Savel says:

    HA! I think I know exactly who you’re talking about in reference to “hack” and if so, I share your thoughts. Btw its Mark Savel…you may know me from 6 spots below you on the Google search “Toronto Real Estate Blog”, if not…hey!

    LinkedIn’s great from redirecting those awkward/professional friend requests on Facebook that you just don’t feel comfortable granting access to weekend photos 😉

    …you should add me to twitter, I’ve got some great listings to show you…joking!

    Spot on with this post and long overdue! Have a great Friday

  16. Andy says:

    LinkedIn is relatively convenient, actually, in a situation when you’re introduced to “Pierre, the friend of Mike” at a party, and later you can relatively conveniently find out who the guy was if the said Mike and Pierre are connected.

    Plus it’s actually good for recruiters and so on. Probably, a better tool for hired professionals than for business people.

  17. Martin says:

    Good one.
    I completely agree. I’m a finance professional and I refuse to join the Twitter, LinkedIn bandwagon. I think it’s a lame way to build a netwrok of real relationships.
    I make contacts the old fashion way: I pick up the phone and invite people to a face-to-face meeting where I provide value ( hockey, lunch, dinner, coffee, drinks, whatever). My value is usually market intelligence and access to capital.
    I had a Facebook page and I got rid of it one night after my wife gave me crap for having all these women as friends. Frankly, who gives a crap about what this or that loser from highschool thinks about last weekend or the Leafs.
    My two cents.

  18. fidel says:

    linked in is great for getting a job or recruiting for a job but I don’t think many go on there looking for real estate.

    Linkedin does have polls though, which agents can use to stay on top of trends and easily reach an appropriate sample. It’s what you make of it, but simply having a linkedin account won’t get anyone any business

  19. JG says:

    As much as social media is a tool to help out realtors, and other industries out there – i dont think just anyone can write a blog and/or use it to their advantage. I have read other blogs by Toronto realtors and they just dont have the same…appeal?…ability to hook me and want me to read it everyday….one was actually laughable all the way from the design of the page to the actual content…..15mins later, i left it and never returned.
    So as much as people will attempt to use social media to their advantage to increase their business, i beleive only a handful will succeed. Its good to hear its working for you – and as an FYI – i think i’ll be contacting you shortly to discuss some realestate.

  20. earth mother says:

    Happy Friday to you too David! It’s always good to be ahead of the pack! you must never give away your secrets… let the others try to re-invent the wheel… As for social networking, like anything else it can be used to your advantage if you figure out how!

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