If you’re trying to figure out what you should do about your social presence in 2014, and which technologies you should use to build and manage your business, the answers are here. This collection of opinions, rants and advice comes from 45 of the most insightful people I know in real estate — and I know you’ll find it as valuable as I do.
If there’s one thing that’s absolutely clear about 2014, it’s simply this: This is the year of people. You can never outsource yourself. No amount of automation can replace your own insight, connections and real-life relationships.
Lisa Archer • Jeff Bernheisel • Ethan Beute • Sean Carpenter • Todd Carpenter • Jeff Chalmers • Dale Chumbley • Teri Conrad • Brian Copeland • Merri Jo Cowen • Dave Crumby • Leslie Ebersole • Matt Fagioli • Amy Geddes • Matt Gentile • Boubou Guiro • Inna Hardison • Nobu Hata • Jared James • Bondilyn Jolly • Carrie Kendall • Jennifer Kjellgren • Katie Lance • Abby Lee • Bill Lublin • Victor Lund • Michael McClure • Jack Miller • Kelly Mitchell • Laura Monroe • Nicole Nicolay • Chris Nichols • Seth Price • Rebekah Radice • Suzanne Roy • Brandy Saldivar • Zach Schabot • Joe Schutt • Matthew Shadbolt • Glenn Shimkus • Richard Silver • Chris Smith • Jay Thompson • Debra Trappen • Kendyl Young
2014 is all about relationships. Whether with past clients, new prospects or team members; it’s all about who you know, like and trust.
Lisa Archer | @lisaarcher
Live Love Charlotte
I think we’ll see a mass exodus away from social media by those that aren’t seeing a ROT (return on time) or ROI whatever you want to measure it with … which will present an even better opportunity for those that are doing it right (connecting on an individual level vs. trying to build a brand around their “presence” online).
Jeff Bernheisel | @jbern
Director of Digital Marketing and Innovation
Focus and sincerity will continue to be critically important to technology and social in 2014.
It’s very easy to be attracted to new technologies and new social networks; it’s also very easy to spread yourself too thin. Focus on the spots that are most productive and fruitful for you and be comfortable neglecting the networks, channels, or tactics that are middling or worse. There’s no one prescription for everyone and no prescription is static; you have to know what’s working for you.
Noise continues to grow throughout the social networks and the world at large. Advertising, in particular, proliferates. Shy of truly exceptional content or uniquely useful curation, the best way to cut through is with sincerity. Show honest interest. Give direct feedback. Express true gratitude. Care. And mean it. Sadly, this is a differentiating approach. Fortunately, we’re all capable of it.
Ethan Beute | @ethanbeute
Chief Marketing Officer
I predict that there will be a big exodus from social media by many agents who just decide that their time will be better spent elsewhere. I don’t think this will include a huge majority of the “power users” but a large segment of those on Facebook and Twitter will slowly start disappearing. That will be really good news for those agents who are using these platforms wisely to build relationships with clients and not just trying to use them to amplify their business dealings.
Mobile will continue to be critical and those agents who leverage mobile devices (smartphones and/or tablets) to respond quickly to customers and clients will capture more business. I am still surprised at how many agents take more than 24 hours to respond to leads inquiries.
Maintaining and incubating those relationships with people who have found an agent on-line (either through organic search or via listing search thru a outlet like Z,R,T) will start to drastically improve or defeat agents ability to convert and close more deals. Those agents who have a system in place to maintain connection between the initial inquiry and the eventual moment when a purchase or listing is imminent will continue to grow their business.
Finally, the beating of the “start using video” drum will not go away. Agents need to start getting in front of the camera and creating content such as video blog posts or community tours, spotlights of local establishments and community features to create the “neighborhood expert” impression.
Sean Carpenter | @seancarp
Director of Agent Development
Ohio NRT Companies
2014 will be the year that consumers perform real estate searches on mobile devices at least as often as they do on personal computers. In the years ahead, mobile traffic will exceed PC traffic. Agents need to have mobile strategy to make sure their marketing efforts address the mobile apps consumers are using.
Mobile sites seem like an obvious solution, but the lion’s share of mobile consumer traffic will be on the big three real estate portal apps. So listing agents should make share their listings look good on those apps and buyer’s agents should consider leveraging Realtor.com’s Mobile Collaborative Search.
It might even make sense to investigate the mobile advertising options that these portals will offer in 2014.
Todd Carpenter | @tcar
Managing Director of Data Analytics
National Association of Realtors
With every new year, we shoot for some pretty lofty goals. However, are we focusing on quantity or quality? Honestly, and realistically, is it our goal to do more or to do better? Who determines this? Our clients? Our competition? Maybe, but it’s probably best dictated by supply (low inventory) and demand (many new buyers). It just so happens that our present marketplace is a perfect example of this truly fundamental economic model, so I guess now is the time to get back to basics.
After many tumultuous years of transition, speculation and legislation, I believe 2014 will be the year for FOCUS – Fundamentals, Ownership, Collaboration, Unification and Service. It’s in times of uncertainty that history separates winners from losers and the weak from the strong. So, how can you compete?
Fundamentals: There are many agents who can list and sell homes, but the very best ones are also experts at organizing communication, marketing and interaction between their clients and prospects. How? They highly leverage a CRM like Contactually, Top Producer or Tribus. Take your pick and SELL.
Ownership: Let’s consider the present marketplace and its group of buyers – Gen Y’ers. This generation is driven by smarter, younger and more tech-savvy consumers who, using the internet and social media, conduct their own research and due diligence. Are they in need of information? Not at all, but they are in need of a well-respected agent who is accountable, reliable, liked, trusted and, don’t forget, mobile. If you’re looking to build or market your online reputation, check out Happy Grasshopper or Bomb Bomb.
Collaboration: If today’s client can’t get you on the phone, then being a Realtor in today’s marketplace is not for you. Present buyers and sellers want instant access to their transaction, their documents and want to be able to sign a document on their phone at 2:00 am. Time to sign up for DocuSign’s Cartavi.
Unification: Look for our industry to consolidate more than ever – streamlining processes will create a “one-stop” mentality of laser-focused collaboration in our space (i.e. IDX, MLS, Boards). There are a few great marketing/web firms that can help your business including Ha Media Group and Agent Evolution.
Service: The media is famous for igniting a market as well as an industry (employment). Now that many market values have stabilized and begin to gain positive traction in many regions, those unemployed will jump into our industry looking for a quick buck. It’s time to raise your game and better your service. What better way to do that than with appreciation marketing using great tools such as Send Out Cards.
Jeff Chalmers | @clicknfinance
I believe mobile video will play a larger role in real estate in 2014. The technology and tools/apps continue to get better, cheaper and easier which makes adoption much simpler. We can use apps like Animoto to build catchy music styled videos with our still photos and video snippets, iMovie’s awesome trailer builder for quick “on the go” videos or build full scale videos on our smartphones. As President of our local association I’ll be using video to allow myself to get in front of all our local Realtors® on a regular basis. I’ll do a monthly update that we will upload to our YouTube page and have the managing brokers play for their monthly meetings. Whether agents are sharing information to a certain group of people, new homes on the market or creating local content about specific towns and neighborhoods mobile video will continue to rise in popularity.
Dale Chumbley | @dalechumbley
CRS REALTOR® at Real Living – The Real Estate Group
President at Clark County Association of Realtors®
We live in a ever complex world where Big Data, multiple social media platforms and tech tools that were designed to make our lives easier are instead creating more work and sucking more time. In the past few years, as was imminent, businesses and marketers flooded our streams with their messaging in attempt to capture more market share. Try as we might to insist that social is for developing relationships and providing insights and knowledge, the truth is that we must now spend more time filtering and often miss messaging that might actually be relevant to us. Further we have to develop more creative attempts to break through the noise. I predict that IMPACT will become the more focused metric in 2014 as we focus our aim on our most important relationships and offer well curated, contextual and relevant solutions to our audience.
Teri Conrad | @tericonrad
Six (and more) years ago, we were trying to catch up in the technology world. Now, the playing field has been leveled across the real estate field with virtually every agent having a website, understanding web leads, working remotely, being fluent on social media and using smartphones.
2014 is a year to redefine all our “technological value proposition” as agents, a time to hone in on the best return on investments and expand those expertise areas. It’s a time to stop chasing bright shiny things and spending deep time in the tech pieces that make money, serve the client and make life better.
Agents need to focus on the joy and positive things they can bring to the social space and run from any divisive cultural issue. 2014 must be a year of going deeper into social space relationships and honing them to create not only return of money, but return on quality of life.
As far as predictions, I expect agents to chase newer platforms like Vine and SnapChat. I expect Google apps to be adopted further and many proprietary “paid” softwares to be left behind for free options. I expect agents to talk about the benefits of video, yet still continue to ignore it in their personal businesses, when it’s one of my team’s biggest returns of investment.
Brian Copeland | @nashvillebrian
Chief Engagement Officer
Village Real Estate Services, Nashville, TN
Merri Jo Cowen
It’s true that I don’t work directly with buyers and sellers, but I have been working within the MLS for 30 years now and have a few observations about the most successful agents in my membership. If I were selling real estate, I would embrace technology that gives me knowledge. I would use the reports and products available through my MLS to know my market better than anyone else. I would find the CRM system that worked best for me to keep in touch with my clients and my prospects – one that can do a lot of the work for me. Communication and relationships are critical. I would learn to use the mobile options available to me for quick research, knowledge and communication because being able to work effectively in the field with MLS data is essential. I would also put my toes further into social media to see how it might bring me business. Key drivers for success: knowledge, relationships, mobile technology and your professionalism.
Merri Jo Cowen, RCE, e-PRO | @mjcowen
Chief Executive Officer
My Florida Regional MLS
Social Media is not a megaphone. Social media is more like a pair of headphones. Tune in to what people are broadcasting via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and really listen. You’ll be amazed at what you hear.The ultimate goal of technology & social in real estate is not the closing of sales, but the cultivation of relationships with human beings. The treasures of ‘social’ are not in spreading our message – they’re in listening. Employ tools that allow you to listen more, and shout less. Remember, automated communication isn’t the goal. An authentic human to human communication is the goal and the only path to a sustainable business.
Dave Crumby | @davecrumby
2014 will be the year that smart agents and brokerages implement a carefully crafted online presence. Over the past few years many of us have dabbled in social media, committed to and then ditched blogging, and haphazardly solicited reviews on 3rd party sites like Zillow and Trulia. As a result, most of us have a disjointed or even incoherent digital footprint. The consumer who wants information about hiring an agent is left to poke across multiple sites to discover the agents’ values and service proposition.
So how should we respond? How do we serve the consumer who wants independent verification about agents and how they work, and wants to see an “authentic”presence? Should we; like the early days of listing syndication and our group grope in social media, put everything, everywhere?
The analogy with listing syndication is apt because the importance of the 3rd party sites crept up on real estate brokers over the years: a little here, a little there, and suddenly our listings are on 2,000 sites which we can’t control. We need to avoid letting this happen to our digital presence, because while we can always turn on and off where our listings are displayed, our digital footprint lasts forever. We need to own what we say about ourselves and where we say it.
In the past couple of years we have seen a proliferation of products and platforms that encourage us to publish our rankings, reviews and ratings. Sites like Rated Agent from QSC or Real Satisfied are oriented to providing a brokerage with measurable and actionable data about agent performance. After that, some brokerages will choose to publish those ratings and testimonials, or even feed them directly to Facebook and Twitter. Other product types, like Social Bios, are aggregators of an agent’s social presence… a composite of everywhere that an agent appears online, from Twitter to the brokerage website.
I can’t think of anything more important than for an agent or broker to thoughtfully craft a strategy for his personal digital presence. People should take the time to understand who they are to their clients and in their market and then develop a plan for managing the flow of social and client-generated information so that it’s put in the right place at the right time. My bias is to a brokerage-owned platform, but some of the 3rd party sites will have viable options as well.
Leslie Ebersole | @leslieebersole
Baird & Warner
2014 is “The Year of The Borg”: Star Trek fans know what I mean when I talk about “The Borg.” It’s a giant machine that assimilates entire cultures into itself and leaves no trace of the former.
“Resistance is Futile” they would say as they consumed you.
In the real estate world this ‘machine’ is Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, Market Leader and others. These are massive lead generating machines. So large that one agent could never hope to build anything like it. These are the folks that control the majority of the leads and build the systems to manage those contacts.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not pointing fingers at them or saying they’re evil. These are great companies that have built state of the art products for our super-connected generation. I’m simply pointing out that these great big forces are now dominating the space.These huge machines have changed the way leads are created and in many ways changed the way real estate sales will be done.
It’s bad news and good news
The bad news is that the old ways just won’t work anymore. You can grind out some deals without a big lead funnel, but it’s really not the best use of your time. You can build your own lead funnel, but 98% will fail at this – and it still may not be the best use of their time. If you want a high volume of leads then you’ve got to get those leads from the powers-that-be.
The good news is that you can make a really fantastic living this way! In fact, in most cases I think most agents will make more money this way than the old way
Uber Real Estate: If you don’t know, Uber is a car service that uses a smart phone app to connect you to a black car in major cities. It’s more than amazing because of it’s ease of use and powerful effectiveness. I could go on and on about Uber and how I love it so. It’s changed the face of that business forever.
If you talk to the independent drivers who use Uber as a lead source, most of them will tell you that 90% or more of their business now comes from Uber. They will also tell you that its a wonderful service and it feeds them well. In fact, I’ve met more than one driver who started brand new in the business with Uber as their exclusive lead source. These drivers are doing extremely well and they do not have to search for leads. They get 10 to 25 customers per day from Uber and they make a great living
Let’s do it: 2014 is the year that the masses of real estate agents fully embrace this new model. In this new year multitudes of agents will realize that (in their micro-economic world) this may very well be a better way. No more figuring out lead generation and contact management. No more feast or famine roller coaster. These things are now done well for you with systems that cost millions to develop.
Jump in. Get tons of leads. Sell more houses than you’ve ever sold before. You still have to do the work, but the top of your funnel will always be full.
Resistance is futile (but it’s cool. Really).
Matt Fagioli | @mattfagioli
There is nothing quite like the feeling of a shiny, untarnished New Year to give us great hope. A hope so great that we feel brave enough to predict a brighter future. That’s exactly how I feel about 2014 right now, so here are a few ambitious but hopeful predictions for real estate technology this year.
Agents and brokers will continue to enjoy the core purpose of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) – cooperation and compensation. Sure, this might appear obvious but it seems to get lost sometimes in all of the discussions about offering better technology, “pocket listings,” syndication, public websites, etc. The bottom line? Agents want to know they will be paid for a successful cooperating transaction. The MLS accomplishes that beautifully. Prediction: The MLS will not just survive, but thrive in 2014.
Seamless data integration will be a reality and not just a goal for successful real estate data applications. Significant progress was made over the past few years at RESO to develop RETS into a usable standard for real estate data. 2014 will be the year of implementation. Agents and brokers want easy to access and easy to use products that integrate with MLS data in a transparent fashion. All of the tools exist to make that a reality in 2014. Prediction: The best of the best will adopt the RETS data dictionary, have elegant and easy to use integrations and adoption of those products will soar.
Agents and brokers will use the thousands of real estate technology offerings available to build their own customized technology strategy that works for their individual businesses. One size fits all might work in an enterprise environment, but real estate is anything but an enterprise environment. Site licenses at the MLS tend to create unnecessary broker friction, which is completely avoidable. Prediction: Many MLSs will offer richly integrated technology options through an MLS sponsored “store” giving brokers and agents greater choice and flexibility to build a customized solution that fits their business.
Whatever happens in 2014, I hope everyone has a fantastic year!
Amy Geddes | @amyjgeddes
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
There is so much happening with digital marketing, but the one trend that I see is the emergence of Google+ as a major platform for small business and sales professionals. By understanding the benefits of G+ for your business, you are in essence aligning yourself with the most dominant search engine in the world. The sales process today begins online and by leveraging G+ for your business, you greatly enhance your chances of being found online.
Matt Gentile | @mattgentile
Director of Social Media
Century 21 Real Estate LLC
2013 was a tremendous year for technology. Technology is often the easiest path to solutions for our everyday problems. And while we have been in the golden age of social and online media the past few years everything we do online requires work, some of which is overly tedious. Good luck maintaining your Facebook and Twitter profiles. What about marketing your listings? What about creating videos for your listings? These all require effort, money and attention, time you most likely would want to spend on something else. I see things changing this year. You will be able to maintain your online profiles without lifting a finger; an online service will do it for you. You will create outstanding videos of your listings without the hassle, this is my personal promise. I believe 2014 will be the year in which you will leverage technology to work for you, the year of automation.
Boubou Guiro | @onvedeo
CEO and Founder
I remember back a few decades ago when people would sit at one of those nifty cafes on Madison, admiring the dresses of the passerby. If you were really taken by an outfit and had the cojones to approach the person, you’d ask her where she got the dress. It wouldn’t occur to anyone to ask which sewing machine was used in its manufacturing, nor would the answer to the latter be even something you’d be likely to get.
Watching, for years now, the broker and agent community get smitten with one bit of tech or another, and all of them asking just that question, Singer? What about the buttons? And that zipper is fantastic. Running around like yes, that rather cliched group of chickens with their heads cut off, looking for the next great adventure, the next expense, the next hobby.
In 2014, I’m thinking the hobby a lot of self-appointed techie agents will gravitate to all things aerial. They’ll be flying the drones, with a GoPro or some other set up designed to picture oh so perfectly the roof of the house, (and nearby woods or streams or neighbors’ roofs), only most will be nauseatingly shaky, jittery, as if shot by someone who was rather high on a stimulant of some kind. In most of these, we see the nifty aerial flyover, with no story, no intimacy, or anything that would actually be helpful enough for the consumer to consider what it would be like living in that particular home, on that street. What it would be like to wake up every morning and make that first cup of coffee: what would the mornings there smell like, if the windows are open? What would I see out that window in the Summer, Spring, Fall? What would my intimate supper gatherings on the verandah feel like? Would my dog like the oversized tile by the fireplace? Would the kiddo who plays a saxophone find a suitable band or orchestra to be a part of, to fit in?
Instead, we’ll see lots and lots of rooftop videography, at times dizzy and woozy, depending on if the agent spent a few hundred or a few thousand, mostly, but all of it, I predict, sadly, will leave much to be desired as great property videos or neighborhood videos are concerned. The story, the intimacy will still be missing. The stuff that can’t be pitched successfully at listing appointments. But having a Phantom or what have you in one’s arsenal certainly can. It’s a differentiator, of sorts. Birds’ eye view – sounds fabulous, if you are a bird or if the property is an island onto itself, with turquoise waters splashing around its own private beach from every point of access. Mostly, rooftops are just that – boring birds’ nests. And the cameras mounted on drones – the latest and greatest bit of tech for the ever searching for magic pills licensee. The Singer that will make their dress a Givenchy. The paintbrush that’ll have their stuff in MOMA. The blank million dollar check.
Inna Hardison | @innahamedia
Team Hardison (teamhardison.com)
2014’ll be the year that real estate marketing and technology shifts from the stagnant buyer-centric “I have the best real estate search online!” messaging to a more relevant seller-centric “Can you sell your home now?” tone. A savvy agent, team, broker or entity will leverage a mobile and social interactive site attached to housing data, driven by on/offline marketing, seamlessly, in a big way; effectively and consistently answering the one question every real estate pro gets asked: How’s the market?
Nobu Hata | @nobuhata
National Association of REALTORS Director of Digital Engagement
My hope for agents in regards to technology heading into 2014 is that they would finally understand that technology does not take place of you. Technology is only here to free us up to do the things that we should have been doing all along. It doesn’t make you something that you are not and, while it can be incredibly useful in making you more efficient, it can also have the opposite effect if you are using it for the wrong reasons.
I’m reminded of the old saying that it is not about the resources that a man possesses, but rather the amount of resourcefulness that he can draw upon to get him or her where they want to go. The pyramids were built without the help of modern machinery and a business can be built today if you have a solid plan and the focus needed to carry it through.
My advice to agents is to pick and master a few technologies that get them closer to their goals and stop buying into the shiny object syndrome that too many today are suffering from. Any technology that prevents you from having any real engagement with your end buyer in some way or another takes you further away from your goal of selling houses.
Play with the latest and greatest gadgets on your own time but during business hours commit to creating conversations and making contacts that get you closer to your one and only true objective which is to see people at the closing table.
Jared James | @jaredjamestoday
Jared James Enterprises
There are a slew of helpful new apps and technologies emerging as leaders in 2014 but one thing I am most excited about is the concept of “balance”. I love that people are embracing the use of technology more so then ever in real estate (i.e. ditching the desktop and moving to on-the-go tablets) but in the past we’ve also seen an attempt to rely too heavily on social media and technology and we forget how important personal contact and connection is. I constantly tell eMerge clients that technology is not a replacement for relationship management, it’s an enhancement or expansion of it!
My prediction for 2014 is that real estate professionals will use online channels such as Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr and Google+ to effectively build upon their offline relationships, offering a personal user experience filled with helpful content and resources. They’ll pay attention to ‘big data’, gaining understanding of what resonates with their audience and offering more of what matters. They’ll incorporate video and imagery to support the growing interest in visual media, all the while creating a balance between their online and offline relationships.
When it comes to professional reputation, nothing beats stepping out in your community, shaking hands and actively supporting causes. I think we’ll see more and more people understanding that concept and approaching modern technology with more focus, intelligence and … balance!
Bondilyn Jolly | @bondilyn
Can you go back to basics in a high tech world? Consumers are inundated with mass social media opportunities to find that dream home, click here, go there, like this; it has lost much of its appeal. If real estate is truly local, the consumer must be able to establish a relationship with a potential agent. Media is still critical but the approach must change. Agents will need to build trust by showing who they are, and being authentic. Less is more, will speak volumes for agents as they redirect their approach by speaking to a smaller community or niche market.
Carrie Kendall, RCE | @carriejkendall
Indiana Regional MLS
I believe that more and more technologies are going to work together to streamline the real estate transaction process. From CRMs to transaction management to client collaboration, I think we are going to see more open systems that are compatible with one another. This way the agent or brokerage can choose what works best for them. In 2013 we saw the beginnings of companies doing this and I believe that by the end of 2014, we will see much more refinement of these products working together seamlessly. Additionally, I think that we will see more innovation of products/technology from outside our industry and acquisitions of some of these from companies from within the industry.
This, coupled with the recovery, makes me very happy to be in real estate right now!
Jennifer Kjellgren | @intownexpert
Team Leader at Intown Expert
Jennifer Kjellgren & Associates
Instagram is going to be the new go-to platform for many agents in 2014. With all the noise happening on Facebook and the constant changes with Facebook’s algorithm, more and more agents are looking for additional networks to build their brand and connect with their friends and clients. Instagram is certainly not “small” by any stretch of the imagination (150 million users,) but it is a smaller, more intimate platform. Best of all – it’s simple. No ads (yet), no lists, no pages – just a simple feed of photos and videos.
Photos and video are one of the best ways to connect with others, and in real estate – photos and video are everything. Raj Qsar, Jennifer Kjellgren and Christophe Choo are just three agents I love following on Instagram because they share a mix of their lifestyle, the beautiful communities they live in, their homes, their kids, their pets, and more. Instagram is a platform that helps agents build their brand beyond a logo – it helps them tell the story of who they are and untimately this helps to build their business. And as a bonus – it is super simple to use – a prerequisite for any real estate marketing!
Katie Lance | @katielance
Katie Lance Consulting
In my view, a real estate professional in 2014 should be using technology and social to grow and strengthen relationships. These can be relationships not only with past and potential clients, but also with other real estate professionals in the community or around the world. It’s a huge factor in cultivating referral business. The challenging part is developing a solid strategy and creating content that makes the various channels generate the desired results. Smart marketing can lead to greater success, a higher level of service and a much better work-life balance. It’s my prediction that those who successfully do this will lead the industry.
Abby Lee | @abbylee15
Vice President, Brand Marketing
2014 will be the year of Video and Mobile – oh wait, that was 2011, 2012, & 2013 also. But those trends will continue to grow and agents will need to be aware of them, making sure that they have some form of video presence and either mobile sites, mobile apps, or responsive web presences. With property search being dominated by portals, franchises and large firms and our online interactions becoming an “attention economy” agents will need to concentrate on building a strong digital identity, and paying attention to their digital footprint (their identity, their social channels, and the sum of all their online actions).
As the online conversations continue about IDX, VOWS, MLSs, portals, and syndication mature, and vendors’ actions force new conversations about ratings, reviews, and surveys, we will need to be specific in understanding the differences in these things, keep conversation about them focused on the industry and not just their individual businesses. Agents will need to separate the wheat from the chaff in the technology offerings thrown at them by vendors, associations, trainers, and their own companies to avoid having technology impede rather than improve their businesses.
Bill Lublin | @billlublin
CEO and founder, Social Media Marketing Institute
CEO, Century 21 Advantage Gold
From my perspective as a consultant to large MLSs, franchise brands, and large brokers, I believe that changes to the ways agents use technology and social will be impacted more by those pillars of our industry than any grass roots movement by agents at large. Agents do not have enough in their technology budgets to invest in technology, so that leaves it up to the MLS, franchise brand, or the large broker to do it. Enterprise solutions do more and cost less. What costs a large broker or MLS $1 per agent per month often costs an individual agent $29 to $49 per agent per month. That financial efficiency combined with training and support creates mass adoption and movement in real estate. My only hope is that agents are changing, growing, and exploring all they are capable of becoming.
Agents will recognize that richer, more abundant success comes from overcoming weakness with technology rather than ignoring it. They will go to classes and attend webinars to sharpen their skills.
Agents will discover that Social Media is not about marketing. Social Media is about communicating.
Agents will use tools like REALTORS® Property Resource or Market Trends Premium to share better market information about their proprietary combination of MLS and Public Record data. The consumer will recognize that the REALTOR® has more accurate and timely information than they are getting from the Media.
Agents will learn that portal marketing is overpriced and not generating enough return. Following the Franchise Brand or Broker portal marketing plan is better for the agent, and the consumer.
Agents will learn that unless they are doing more than 5 transactions per month, custom technology applications do not provide an ROI – they will be more likely to embrace solutions from the MLS, Franchise Brand or Large Broker.
Victor Lund | @victorlund
The most important thing agents can do in terms of technology and social media is simply making the decision to be a “digital agent.” The big, overarching trends are so obvious at this point: people love technology and social media, and they use these things as integral, everyday aspects of their lives. Agents need to decide: do they want to LEVERAGE these big, obvious trends, or do they want to be DISADVANTAGED by them? So, what does it mean to be a digital agent? It means you make a commitment to stay current, to follow trends, to seek advice when necessary to figure out what to use in your businesses and what to ignore. It also means that you give people what they want in terms of service; and, in most cases, that means acting as a digital agent. I realize this will sound simple and basic, and it is. But it’s important …
Michael McClure | @professionalone
Chief Operating Officer
In 2014, agents should be looking for software tools that give them more visibility into their networks and prospect databases. Our industry has for the most part conquered the “lead” problem, and now we should focus on the “conversion” and “conversation” problems.
Your tools should help you mine social media activities, web analytics, and consumer data to find out who to contact, when, and why. I’m seeing new tools providing tremendous competitive advantage by leveraging an agent’s database, their social media accounts, website tracking, and third party data sources. Bottom line, this makes an agent efficient and able to make more money by talking to the right people at the right time.
Jack Miller | @jackmiller
Chief Executive Officer
Kelly A. Mitchell
Agents will get into the business early in their lives implicitly understanding that their real estate business is their own start up. They will be educated as entrepreneurs and be given education on the path of real estate investing as they enter the industry.
Agents will begin to see the wrong in large organizations they pay dues to, selling documents back to them and preventing the evolution of processes in the industry. They will stand up as a unit without 3rd party wrangling and become a force to be reckoned with as a group.
One or two will make their own foray into the land of Big Data inventing an automated reporting system that enables them to track, evaluate and monitor production using location, sensors and actions to dynamically create reports on the fly. Possibly using a calendar like Tempo app to aggregate already posted appointments. All will use the DISC system entirely to build their teams. Through that brokerages will profile the most successful agents (sharing their “secrets” of marketing and production) to help others grow and excel. They will match these agents according to DISC profiles and have the similar or like agents replicate those top producer actions to produce stellar results consistently. An agent will have the capability to wake up, turn on their iPad or tablet and instantly know where they are at with productions and actions leading up to a sale and a prediction of what the hottest priorities/clients are based on a separate assessment. This assessment would include the Googling/profiling of prospects and clients via LinkedIn and other social media platforms to create a more detailed client profile. They will understand implicitly what they have to do each moment in each day and with who, in order to reach their goals.
The market data they currently get in printed and digitized reports will be delivered to them in a free flowing big data format or a subscription based model enabling them to massage it into reports that best serve their clients given a set of variable circumstances. They will effectively produce their own data, of the raw data collected by Associations and MLS’s and massage it so it makes sense to their market and their consumer.
Their voices will be heard amongst the din of self serving vendors to what they truly need… a revolution of the real estate process in every respect. An efficiency unparalleled by the industry and celebrated by each and every consumer on the planet. They will embrace their niche without hesitation and put the passion and purpose behind their first loves, integrating those into their business and making the business a thrill for them again. Wait. What year is this prediction for?
A subscription database will be created by an innovative agent (tired of wasting thousands on tools and products that just don’t work) to provide a non-real estate/related 3rd party clearinghouse for vendors in the vertical. Set up so individual agents (quality rated by their peers (ranters and trolls not welcome) can rate the services provided and share with all subscribers. Then agents can learn collectively from others misadventures and not repeat the same mistakes. This system would be paid for by subscribers and partially rewarded to those sending in the best/most accurate evaluations to help agents make the best possible decisions when determining where to spend their hard earned money.
Kelly A. Mitchell | @kellymitchell
CEO & Founder
I think in 2014 we will continue to see the convergence of every day consumer data, collaboration platforms, and social media translate into better, more optimized ways of doing and managing an agent’s real estate business. It’s time for words like “big data” to be brought down to every day relevance in an agent’s world.
It’s exciting to see technology and relationships to consumers blend into tools that create a much better level of service.
Social Media has seen the shift from “shiny marketing tool” to relationship builder. We have more information than ever about our potential clients to become better storytellers, content marketers, and curators of valuable content; which in turn allows agent’s to focus on actually designing their brand in their own personal ways.
Collaboration platforms: Prospects can now be pulled from all sources and dropped into an easy to manage collaborative platform that can be used to create nurtured relationships, efficient transactions, and great communication.
Mobile will continue to play a fast-growing role in the agent’s life. From social media, marketing, CRMs, and productivity, the multi-device world we live in will this year start to overtake the desktop command central!
It’s an exciting time in real estate, and technology is changing as we speak. Being able to share, learn and grow in the real estate industry as a community across the world and through digital channels is what will keep us moving forward in 2014.
Laura Monroe | @lauramonroe
Director, Industry Engagement & Social Media
No Room for Crap Content & The Rise of the Anti-Blogger
Don’t bother creating content for your website if it doesn’t bleed your heart and expertise. Forget throwing up a post unless it’s both insightful and entertaining. Quality over quantity speaks loudest on the saturated web. So make your posts short and sweet, and use your own photos to create an emotional connection. Exceptional agents who write about and share their clients’ stories and experiences will stimulate both word of mouth and user generated content in their favor. And the biggest boost in website content for 2014 will be produced by the anti-bloggers…those that understand the importance of content but opt to create “staple content” in the form of neighborhood and niche mashup pages that out-inform their competitors.
Nicole Nicolay | @nik_nik
Co-Founder/Chief Creative Officer
Agent Evolution, WordPress Web Design & Themes for Real Estate
While we have seen technology over the last several years differentiate agents, I think 2014 will be a year where that gap grows ever wider. Agents who leverage technology to improve and automate their systems will find themselves with even more time to turn their online connections into face to face business. Vendors will continue to push the envelope to create improvements to the paperless transaction and consumers will expect their agents to be using those technologies. Video will become more prevalent as agents who can implement this medium in creative ways, including the use of drones, will find themselves with a unique advantage over listing agents who do not. Social media will continue to be important as a tool to connect, but it’s the agents who can take those online connections and the technology tools they use, and turn that into actual face to face business, they will be the difference makers. Technology will never be able to replace a great agent guiding a buyer or seller through the highly localized process of buying or selling, but it certainly enhances it!
Chris Nichols | @utahREpro
Managing Broker, Prudential Utah Elite Real Estate
Chair of NAR’s Social Media Advisory Board
What agents should do in 2014 about social and technology? We live in an amazing time where technology is no longer an obstacle to what is possible online. What that means for all business owners is that it’s now more important than ever to establish a unique voice, a point of view that connects you to your customers and helps you tell stories that move people. I know this doesn’t sound like technology advice, but without a purpose or a mission, all the technology and social media in the world is just more noise.
I would start by defining who is your customer? What’s important to them? Where do they spend their time online? And what opportunities exist to educate, delight or entertain them. I would then use that information to create your online hub, a website that you own where you can create that unique experience for your audience from your voice and perspective and more importantly guided by your ever evolving customers.
The goal of your online marketing should be first and foremost to build familiarity, likability and trust. From there Social media starts to make more sense, it becomes about relationship building, listening and sharing in ways that humans have always done. Share what you have created on your hub, share the valuable things that others have created and converse with people like you would in real life. Choose the social platforms that your customers use, start slowly and learn the language of each individual medium, resist the temptation to talk about yourself. Customers don’t care about you or what you have to offer, they care about their needs and desires. This is the new main street, make 2014 the year that you setup shop in a way delights your audience.
Seth Price | @sethstuff
The real estate industry is changing. The marketing tactics that worked last year may not be the ones that best connect with the ever-changing needs of consumers in 2014.
Because of this, it’s imperative that real estate professionals maintain a diverse online presence.
While Facebook and Twitter have been gateway networks into social media for a lot of people, I predict that Google+ will play a significant role in real estate marketing for the New Year.
With benefits like search engine optimization, semantic search and social signals, Google+ is a veritable wonderland of opportunity for real estate professionals looking to become the trusted resource within their local market.
Capitalize on Google+ by making the most of your Google+ profile. There is a lot of real estate within your “About” section, don’t be afraid to use as much as possible. Include details about your skills, special certifications, what area you serve and what differentiates you from the competition.
Then begin to locate past clientele, prospects, mortgage advisors, appraisers, and local area real estate professionals and add them to your circles. Post consistent content and engage by commenting or sharing others posts.
Just like any other social network, Google+ will only work within your business if you work it on a daily basis. Add it to your marketing plan, your calendar and your daily to-do list.
The goal is to grow your online presence. Google+ gives you one more location to meet and connect with the right people to drive your business forward in 2014.
Rebekah Radice | @RebekahRadice
Rebekah Radice, LLC
Over the past few years, we have become complacent in the free use of the social kingdoms, better known as Facebook and Twitter. We have (conveniently) forgotten these platforms are in fact “rental spaces” and not a property we have successfully purchased as our own. With this in mind, the days of free advertising and marketing are all but over (with Facebook’s latest algorithm penalizing organic reach numbers, for instance) and the requirement to pay to play is becoming more and more clear as the way to stay in front of the mass eyeballs in the year(s) ahead.
REALTORS®, therefore, have two roads to choose from:
- restructure their marketing dollars to include paid social marketing, and/or
- consistently provide content that is highly relevant and sharable (aka viral content).
Since the latter is next to impossible to do (even for the Mashable’s and WSJ’s of this world), I anticipate the former will be the road most travelled.
However, through all this, the real message here is about advocacy. Now more than ever, for a REALTOR® to be successful they will need to focus on building and maintaining their relationships, and in turn create advocates for their brand and their business. The behavior of people in general is, and always has been, dominated more by an organic word-of-mouth than a paid placement which can only be achieved by being authentic, relevant and trustworthy. Conquer this, replicate it consistently, and you’ll be successful in 2014.
Suzanne Roy | @suzroy
Social Media & Industry Outreach Manager
Realtor.com / Move, Inc.
In listening to RE consumers, the most important thing an agent can do moving into the new year is use technology and social media outlets as a supplement to the hands on, personal approach the consumers base their decisions on and ditch the sales approach. Posting a listing on a Facebook page will never make a better impression than responding to a Facebook friends status update and answering questions about local schools and traffic. Viewing technology as a way to attract consumers as opposed to a means to capture and communicating degrees of separation as it relates to what we can do for our clients on these platforms rather than listing our designations and our latest listing is what we should all be focused on.
Brandy Saldivar | @brandysaldivar
President / Partner
Hear It Direct
I think agents are getting the hang of social media. There will be less advertising and more personal connection. What’s more, agents are demanding better designed mobile technology. They’re expecting a higher degree of functionality and design.
Zach Schabot | @zachschabot
Late adopters of social media and technology are going to use 2014 to catch up and finally get to the starting gate.
Early adopters, inundated with so much social media and technology over the past few years, are going to leave the buffet of products they have discovered and delve deeper into their chosen entree of tools to make them work to their fullest.
Technology will be a two way street between broker and agent, not just brought in on the backs of the innovative agents.
Don’t get me wrong, there will still be the dreaded “shiny object” syndrome, but overall the learning curve has wained and 2014 will be the year to stop experimenting and start implementing.
Joe Schutt | @JoeSchutt
Unit Realty Group
I think there’s a very real sense of news feed fatigue, which is driving a lot of users towards more visual, niche-driven platforms such as Instagram or Pinterest, all fueled by mobile. Facebook is creaking under the weight of content volume squeezed through the news feed every day, posing some interesting challenges for brands and individuals.
As it becomes increasingly more difficult to remain visible within a news feed structure, the only real option is to consistently create incredible content excellence, which is an enormous challenge for many brands, in and outside of the real estate industry. This is further complicated by platform maturity, especially when platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are increasingly beginning to look the same (hashtags in Facebook, photos in Twitter).
One way brands are working within this climate is to double down on real-time marketing, focusing on reaching the right people, at the right time, with the right content, in the right place. And this is why working smarter than ever with your own mobile data is becoming critical, in order to remain relevant in the moment and avoid your content simply evaporating into the shared flow of posts most users will simply tune out. Not sure what your mobile data looks like, or where to get it? Google Analytics is always a wonderful tool to add into your digital arsenal, and the ability to not only understand, but change and tailor how your messages reach people on their phones, is starting to separate agent effectiveness within the real estate industry. For example, do more people see your listings on their phones, or on their computers? If you knew the answer, would it change the way you photographed your listings? Agents working with these questions are beginning to rise above the noise. The product itself is free, all it will cost you is your time.
Given this climate, we’re also seeing much more momentum and effectiveness behind personal, intimate, one to one use of digital platforms, and less focus on the more broadcast-driven aspects concerning reach and impressions. The power of many social platforms has always been in personally, often privately, connecting with others, and as the platforms mature, we’re seeing a renewed emphasis on that level of digital intimacy.
Matthew Shadbolt | @Corcoran_Group
Director of Interactive Product & Marketing at The Corcoran Group
I believe that in 2014 we’ll see an explosion of mobile tools for agents to use to manage their transactions while on the go. While over the past few years there’s been considerable growth in solutions to help agents manage their transactions, these solutions has been designed for use via the browser on a laptop or desktop computer with little if any consideration for being used on a mobile device. I believe that this will change in 2014 and we’ll see both existing solutions optimized for mobile devices as well as new entrants focused on mobile from day 1.
Glenn Shimkus | @glshimkus
Vice President, Docusign
I think that “Paperless is the new BLACK” but I think that there will be lots of frustration from the goal to reality … I think that the next few years good agents will be so busy and there will be so much noise in Social Media that do-it-yourselfers, like myself will have to go to the dark side and hire 3rd party specialists to get their voices heard. I also think that Google will make SEO only doable organically … but that phone offers to put you on the first page of Google will only increase …
Richard Silver | @richardsilver
Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, Toronto
As we start 2014 the digital dust has started to settle. The most successful agents moving forward will focus on people, not pixels. Technology has become so intuitive (and ubiquitous) that the focus needs to shift immediately to empowering the right people to use these established technologies, platforms and tools to grow a business. The ingredients and recipes for success have been established and shared openly during the last few years. To thrive in 2014 you need to either learn how to cook, or hire a chef.
Think of your technology in two ways. Seth Godin explains it as the lab and the factory.
The lab is fun. It is where you learn, test and try new and exciting things. Try going into the lab quarterly. The “lab” as a real estate agent could be attending a conference, watching a few webinars, reading some blog posts or visiting Facebook Groups.
Unfortunately the real money is often made in the factory.
The factory is where you need to be daily. The “factory” for a real estate agent could be making phone calls, responding to emails, generating leads, engaging on social media with your sphere, sending hand written notes, providing excellent service or spending time managing your database.
Putting people first, in a digital-first world, requires focusing on the right people (and activities) at the right times.
Chris Smith | @Chris_Smth
Technology is a tool, a lever, to help you both simplify and grow your business. 2014 will introduce many new shiny objects into the agent’s technology tool box. Focus on tools you need, that you can implement – and measure their effectiveness. Don’t get sucked into the hype. Test, measure and adjust. Rinse and repeat.
In the social space, keep an eye on Facebook in 2014. Changes in how Facebook displays business page updates in the timeline will render many real estate Pages less and less effective for lead generation. Consider focusing your efforts on your personal timeline. Use lists liberally to control who sees what and target past and potential clients. Use Facebook as an engagement platform, not a lead gen platform and you’ll find more success in 2014.
Jay Thompson | @PhxREguy
Director of Industry Outreach
I believe a true shift to embracing technology and social media to build genuine relationships and trust (not market/promote) will be in full force in 2014. Also, an understanding that technology is about saving us time. Time we can invest in our passions and with our loved ones. Conversations are already starting to center around creating better experiences with, and understanding, the tech we have – not looking for the shiny new app. There will be a push towards integrating a focused social media strategy on one or two platforms (not all of them), and getting back to what truly matters… PEOPLE. The thought of entrepreneurs enjoying the process of getting to know their sphere on a deeper level, understanding their needs, and sharing time with them – while infusing tech and social to help them save time they can then invest in their passions and loved ones — truly FIRES ME UP!
Debra Trappen | @debra11
I don’t think agents will have time to experiment with social media in 2014, they will be too busy selling homes. Those who do social media well, will continue, but those who have been filling up their time doing the latest guru sanctioned gimmick will soon use their time face to face with real people. This is the most important thing an agent can do in 2014. Focus on real life relationships. Crazy, no? I believe that Bricks and Clicks intersect, in the real world, and I think larger agents and Team Leaders will invest heavily in creating an image that matches, both online and off. Cloud based systems will be huge and agents will run 90% of their daily business life from a smart phone or tablet.
Kendyl Young | @glendalehomes
Division Chief, DIGGS