I came across a thread Stephan Swanepoel started in the Real Estate Trends group on Inman News. The subject of the thread and the title of this post were one in the same. While Stephan's article was insightful by itself, I was also intrigued by some of the comments.
In response to an underlying theme about leaving "virtual bread crumbs" as a way of establishing agent credentials, readers offered the following:
- The MLS has expanded to become a B2C ("Business-to-Consumer") medium...
- The internet hasn't really changed real estate in the sense that it remains a relationship-based business. However, what HAS changed is the nature of relationship building. That is, the internet has enabled a much faster, efficient and scalable process than previously achievable by any single marketer.
- The marginalization of the MLS will result in the marginalization of the listing agent...
- The emphasis for real estate marketing will shift from "who has the most data?" to those with more insight TO the data, expertise and local knowledge.
- "The advantage that Web 2.0 tools give is that they allow the agent or broker to establish and cultivate relationships, to create a customer experience that is positive before that customer even becomes a client."
I think that last one especially resonates with me because it relates to the "virtual bread crumb" Stephan alluded to, and the term "virtual footprints" I've used in other circles when describing the activities associated with blogging, posting comments, creating professional online profiles, establishing web sites, and so on. I've posted before on the insight gained about your virtual persona through the simple act of googling your name. The results of that search read like an online trail of footprints about where you've been/what you've done, how visible you and your business are online (or not!).
I don't necessarily agree with the comment that the emphasis will shift from who has the most data to who has more insight and local expertise. I say that not so much because I disagree with the statement, but rather that I think that shift has already happened. I also think it has always been about consumers migrating to professionals with insight and local knowledge. But that may just be due to personal biases I have about the importance of skills development, life long education and professional networking.
I wonder, though, is it really so much about online (technologies) changing traditional real estate marketing? Or can we just as well say technology, in its boader context, changes traditional real estate periodically. I mean, to the extent that the proverbial "MLS book" of old, though not an online technology was, in its own right, a technology innovation of its time; couldn't that be said to have changed "traditional real estate" as it was defined back then?
The more I think about it, the more inclined I am to believe that a unique aspect of online technologies (web sites, blogs, social networks, etc.) is in its enabling aspects. It enables users to be at once authors AND readers, consumers AND service providers, mentors AND mentees. It also enables the quantity and speed in which individuals touch other individuals. As for quality of touch point, I'm not so sure. Certainly I'd say online technologies enable the potential for quality touchpoints; but I think people only experience the realization of that quality at a personal/one-on-one level. To that extent I could agree it (online technologies) is efficient -- but not always -- or even "usually" -- effective.
For example, have I effectively convinced you to hire me by the simple act of posting this blog article? I'd say not. But, by virtue of the fact that (many of) you now know more about who I am than 10 minutes prior, if even marginally, makes this activity at least efficient. Especially since it didn't really cost me anything.
But, I'm just one guy who doesn't profess to have all the answers...