Why Twitter Does Not Work For Real Estate

Services for Real Estate Pros with Vidlisting.com

Don't get me wrong.  I love Twitter and have been using it for some time. Because of my schedule, I'm mainly on in the early mornings eastern time (@vidlisting) but sometimes on throughout the day.

You may be surprised that this post isnt going to be around Twitter's downtime. If you are a regular Twitter user that may have been your first thought about what I have posted here - it's not. :)

The premise of this post is that despite all of the rightful hullabaloo about Twitter, it has some real drawbacks for business users. It's funny but also telling that very few blog reviews discuss Twitter within a business context.


Here are some of my observations looking through the real estate business lens:

No easy or quick way for customers to find you or for you to find them: The basic assumption about discoverability on twitter is that someone already knows who you are and/or what information is contained in your very brief Twitter profile.  If you are a normal person trying to using Twitter as a lead generation source, there is simply no reliable way for customers to quickly know who you are or for you to know who they are without a large time investment in the conversation required to build a large network of followers (a huge percentage of which will never be a lead).

Here is the unsaid secret of why Twitter works for A-List Bloggers that I've never read anywhere else:  A-list bloggers already have built a critical mass of people that know who they are and often what they do. Think about who you initially followed when you joined: likely it was people that you actually know and then people that you virtually "know" through blogging.

Designed To Be Very Public: Let's say that you do find a prospective customer that has indicated that they are looking for a property in your area. Twitter simply isn't a great place to do pre-sale activities. If you dont have your conversations set to private, everything that you twitter with that person including their interest in services will be available to anyone looking at your or their profile. Before you say that you can direct message the person (or "DM them" in Twitter-speak), you have to actually be following each other before you can commucate via DM.

Additionally, some people (like me) take a gander at people's previous tweets prior to accepting new followers or considering whether or not to follow someone. If those tweets are 100% marketing messages then you'll be less likely to build the network of followers required to build a business network. 

No direct way to pass marketing materials: Twitter has no mechanism to directly pass photos, videos, PDFs, or other marketing materials publically or privately. You'll need to rely on links or otherwise go outside of Twitter to use these.

140 characters is too limiting: It's hard to build a compelling marketing message in 140 characters beyond a simple slogan. You dont even really get 140 characters if the message is addressed to someone. While I view the conciseness required for Twitter compelling from a conversational perspective, having to use 5 messages to give someone more than a slogan is a serious drawback on the business side.

Most of the people on Twitter are not customers: There I said it. Someone needed to. :)

UPDATE: Pat Kitano has posted an excellent response to my blog post at http://transparentre.com/2008/05/16/why-twitter-is-potentially-a-mainstream-media-killer-app.aspx



So, I love Twitter for social conversation with people that happen to be real estate professionals. However, when viewed a pure business tool, it takes a lot of time without a definable end state. That time could be more profitably spent in an activity with a much higher mix of prospective buyers.

It immediately works for those that have already built a large following elsewhere that happen to also be open to trying Twitter (think about that the next time that you read a review about tech from someone with a large base of followers)

Again, I love Twitter. What are your thoughts?

Tony (Twitter Name: @Vidlisting)

PS - Something better is coming...perhaps even this week.


Comments (74)

A. Grey
Vidlisting.com - Bremerton, WA
Real Estate Video Mentor - Vidlisting.com

Wowsa - a lot of catching up to do after a friday night out

Ann: great points as usual

Dave: best of luck to you. As pointed out by me and others, Twitter can add business values within certain contexts. Ticker taping is the most obvious.

Eric: dont forget to mix in a bit of "being like the cool online kids". Thats where a lot of this using Twitter, Facebook, etc. for business use comes from...  

Obeoman:  Actually it works fine for me for the context and perspective for which I use it. I wouldn't spend the time there that I do if it didn't some value for me.

Jonathan: send me an email :)

Bo: Thats one perspective, clearly some are finding value...including me.  But the value is more of a conversational communicatio tool than a lead generator

Alan: excellent advice

June: I'll be following you soon.

Elite properties: Thanks for the laugh :)

Bill: I thought the same thing. I never thought about why until we needed to add messagng into our social netwrking product for video

Joey: The internet has never been one size fits all. Thats the genius and beauty in it :)

Russ: I dont. I try limit my time to balance time spent with desired outcome. I also have lots of stuff to do.

Christy: the socialness with other real estate professionals is definitely the part that I like

John: excellent additions to the conversation. Thanks for sharing.

Cindy: it works for us in the same way then as a tool that grows our professional association but hardly the manna from heaven lead generation tool that some would lead us to believe

Karen: the key question for each of us is whether that time spent is worthwhile. There is no one answer :)

Jo: but number one in Google for what? being one for an uncommon keyword like Hemut mortgage isnt any different from you being Number One in Google for Jo Soss

Maureen: I remember that Twitter conversation well.  Glad to have helped :)


May 16, 2008 10:15 PM
Sarah Cooper
Real Estate Shows - Hurricane, WV

@Vidlisting ... Oh, Hi Tony!  :) 

The thing about real estate is that it really helps your business to know people EVERYWHERE. You never know where your next clients is coming from or going to -- so if you have a network of people across the country you've got an invaluable tool.  I've seen pleny of tweets where someone says, "Who knows a good agent in ... ?" and BOOM, they'll likely get five answers at once.

You know for me it's social, it's stress relief.  I'm a better Mom/worker/wife if I have less stress.  Goofing off with you and the rest makes it easier not to let stress pile up.  It's worth it just for that right there. 

I love the links -- when someone you respect throws out a link, see where it goes.  I learn all kinds of cool stuff that way!

I even got my job because of a tweet!!!  If I hadn't tweeted a frustration, I wouldn't be where I am.  Amazing!!

But the best of all is the closer friendships I've made, stuff that seeps out of Twitter into Skype, ooVoo, emails, texts and calls ... and soon I'll be hanging out with some of them in real life.  Twitter is some powerful stuff!!!

May 16, 2008 10:28 PM
A. Grey
Vidlisting.com - Bremerton, WA
Real Estate Video Mentor - Vidlisting.com

Sarah: you are such an incredibly social and friendly person that I wonder if those good things happen just because you are "you" than because of the online tools that you use :)


May 16, 2008 10:40 PM
Missy Caulk
Missy Caulk TEAM - Ann Arbor, MI
Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate

Two thoughts, I follow people in Ann Arbor that I have never met, so they know I am there and into social networking, only 4 of us from Ann Arbor are Realtors. I have grown as a Realtor due to being on Twitter, the links I follow are amazing and I have been introduced to many blogs that I know follow in RSS.

I can't remember who but someone was twitting the other night about appointments and leads from twitter.

When someone is following me, I check out their tweets, their web site and decide if I want to follow them back. Heck where else can you interact with so many social network bloggers ?

May 16, 2008 11:59 PM
A. Grey
Vidlisting.com - Bremerton, WA
Real Estate Video Mentor - Vidlisting.com

Missy: Excellent points! Nice to see someone having great success with Twitter.


May 17, 2008 12:10 AM
Karen Rice
Keller Williams Real Estate - Hawley, PA
Northeast PA & Lake Wallenpaupack Home Sales

How about saying "Why Twitter Does  Not Work For Me" or "Why Twitter May Not Work For You" but don't say "Why Twitter Does Not Work for Real Estate."

That is a very broad, sweeping judgement and you really have no authority to make such a statement. 

Lots of things work for some folks and don't work for others.  I'm currently being followed by a couple of people in my area who are not realtors.  There are only a handful of local people on there now but there will be more coming.

Plus by interacting with other agents I am building a good relationship for possible future referrals.

If you don't think it's worth your while, that's certainly fine and I don't begrudge you that opinion.

In all areas of our lives it seems that someone decides something "isn't for them" and then that translates into "This isn't worth much to anyone."  In Christianity you have people who dislike contemporary Christian music simply as a personal preference but somehow they have to take that personal preference and make it a matter of holiness...CCM is the work of the devil! You will go to hell for listening to it!

In real estate we have all these different programs and someone decides they don't like it, and whamo, it's no good to anyone.  It's unproductive! You will waste time! Don't do it!



May 17, 2008 12:28 AM
A. Grey
Vidlisting.com - Bremerton, WA
Real Estate Video Mentor - Vidlisting.com

Karen: I'll repeat what I said in my first response to you, "the key question for each of us is whether that time spent is worthwhile. There is no one answer :)"

Is this better? "In real estate we have all these different programs and someone decides they don't like it, and whamo, it's no good to for anyone.  It's unproductive! You will waste time love it! Don't do it!


May 17, 2008 03:20 AM
Natalie Langford
Realty Negotiations - Winchester, VA
Winchester, VA Real Estate

There are professional ways to use twitter which have nothing to do with direct leads/results.  Any one familiar with Terry Watson?  He says something about spending time with successful people and sucking their brains for information?!  Well, twitter is a big, brain oozing fest in that people are just sharing both spontaneously and upon your request for info/help!  I have a ton of respect and twitter love for the people I follow!  Not everything I do leads to $$$$, so I think it's worth the time!

May 17, 2008 03:45 PM
Natalie Langford
Realty Negotiations - Winchester, VA
Winchester, VA Real Estate

Just noticed you live in my parents' town.  Small, small, world!

May 17, 2008 03:46 PM
A. Grey
Vidlisting.com - Bremerton, WA
Real Estate Video Mentor - Vidlisting.com

Natalie: I do spend time on Twitter. If you look at my twitter profile, I have over 2000 tweets.  The professional association is well worthwhile.  But business isn't just around soft marketing, is it?

Looking at Twitter from a sales perspective and the given that some percentage of the population is looking for a property at any given time, how will you find those people on twitter?

Just realized that you live in my hgh school best friend's town..software guy retired from AOL and now farms in winchester.

Thanks for writing about your experiences...



May 17, 2008 11:59 PM
Stanton Homes
Stanton Homes - New Home Builder - Raleigh, NC
Design/Build Custom Home Builder in North Carolina

Thank you for demonstrating the other side of Twitter.  I've been hearing a lot about the upside and wondering if it was worth looking into.  I feel like I have a much more balanced view of the ups and downs now.

May 18, 2008 11:12 PM
Joel Weihe
Realty World Alliance - Wichita, KS
Helping you to use your VA home loan benefits

I'm new to twitter, as of last night, but to me.... I feel like it's stalking people!!

I did have a hard time seeing how it would benefit my business, and at least I see that it's not that I'm missing some big hullabaloo about it, whew.  I just don't see how it would help the consumer any either. 

Who knows if I'll keep Tweeting.  I probably will just because I'm hypnotized by Jeff Turner's baldness. :)  (but it still feels like stalking!)

May 19, 2008 02:04 AM
A. Grey
Vidlisting.com - Bremerton, WA
Real Estate Video Mentor - Vidlisting.com

Penny:  You are welcome. :)

Sheree: I use Twitter almost daily.  Feel free to add me (@Vidlisting). Who is stalking whom in that case?  :)


May 19, 2008 02:43 AM
Lisa Ryan
Callaway Henderson Sotheby's International Realty - Montgomery, NJ
Selling Princeton,West Windsor and Montgomery Town

I'm having trouble seeing how Twitter can be valuable to my business.  Thanks for the pointers

May 19, 2008 12:48 PM
A. Grey
Vidlisting.com - Bremerton, WA
Real Estate Video Mentor - Vidlisting.com

Lisa:  Thank you for stopping by and adding to the conversation.


May 20, 2008 12:26 AM
Clint Miller
Real Estate Pipeline, Inc. - Missoula, MT

For us, the whole web 2.0 thing is a huge advantage.  So, we are using facebook, twitter, flicr, AR, and anything else we can get our hands on...

May 20, 2008 12:37 AM
A. Grey
Vidlisting.com - Bremerton, WA
Real Estate Video Mentor - Vidlisting.com

Clint: Thanks for adding to the conversation. The big question is which of those online are generating real estate leads in an time effective manner?

Analogy: I can spend an hour trying to pull a nail with a phillips screwdriver - just because it worked once should I recommend that tool even though it may have taken 1/100th the effort with the right tool?


May 20, 2008 12:44 AM
Mara Hawks
First Realty Auburn - Auburn, AL
Inactive-2012 REALTOR - Homes for Sale Auburn Real Estate, AL

Hi Tony, wish I had something useful to say here, but I'm still a Twitter non-hitter. Why do I get the feeling that it could blow a fuse in my brain? Am I that close??! LOL. Have a great weekend.

Jun 14, 2008 11:25 AM
IMNJ - Internet Marketing Specialist
Internet Marketing NJ - Red Bank, NJ

Social networking has its value but more importantly I have made soe really great contacts through Twitter.


I am IMNJ @ Twitter


Jun 14, 2008 02:44 PM
DeAnna Troupe
Learn Small Business - Stone Mountain, GA

I disagree with you.  I actually saw a post where a realtor sold a house via twitter.  As with most things, the effectiveness of a particular technology usually depends on the user.  Just my two cents.  By the way, I sent you a follow request.  My id is deannatroupe.

Jul 20, 2008 09:36 PM