Let me begin by saying that this is undoubtedly the LONGEST blog post I have ever written! I apologize in advance, But the subject matter is crucial to gain a better understanding of where we're going...
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It's been interesting, to say the least, to observe the response and resultant discussions across the Network regarding the recent private BETA launch of the new Localism.
Member comments have covered the full spectrum from thrilled elation to threats of mutiny. We're either the best thing since sliced bread or the Anti-Christ. In a social network of our size, it's rare that you please everyone, most of the time, regardless of how hard you may try.
First, let me just state for the record that the powers that be at ActiveRain have always been open and responsive to the opinions, input, and feedback of their members. They have never turned away a deaf or uncaring ear, but have consistently remained sensitive to the needs of their valued members. That's been one of the primary hallmarks of this platform, and a main reason for its success.
Additionally, they have always been extremely transparent and forthright about their plans and intentions. They have worked very hard to earn/merit the trust and respect of this community.
If, for whatever reason, your voice/opinion has gone unnoticed or without meaningful response, please do not take that as any indication that your thoughts are not valid or appreciated. We genuinely attempt to answer any and all questions. We have repeatedly posted numerous 'featured' articles in response to your questions and concerns, and have been busily responding to literally hundreds of member posts by interjecting informative comments. In spite of all our efforts, we've still missed many of your concerned thoughts, either in posts or comments. We apologize if it appears we're inattentive or uncaring. Nothing could be further from the truth.
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Since its inception, the phenomenal success of ActiveRain has been the direct result of a mutually beneficial cooperative collaboration. The visionaries/designers of the platform created/streamlined the vehicle, and our members provided the fuel (content). Together, we've achieved some truly amazing results - results that have been beneficial to all of us.
However, there are some clearly pronounced concerns over the direction we've taken with the new Localism. We have some truly passionate local content contributors who have invested a significant amount of time and energy. They have valid concerns and deserve reasonable, intelligent answers.
It is my intention here to help explain and clarify a few things, and to simply offer my $.02 worth as to why I feel contributing to Localism makes for a wise investment of your hard work/effort.
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The guiding vision of Localism was to create a viable on-line environment where real estate professionals and consumers could have a meaningful dialog, and talk with each other.
In order to understand the value proposition of the New Localism, we need to revisit what was offered in the previous version.
When the Old Localism was first introduced, we all jumped on the Local Content bandwagon. I think my first Localism article was about crabbing (Gee, fancy that!). We all busily populated our local City, County, and State pages with various articles, market reports, listings, etc. Our posts were proudly displayed in the relevant geographical location for all to see. And, if we amassed enough points, our profile pic showed up as the "Featured" member. Life was good!
- Never-mind that Localism was never released from its BETA form.
- Never mind that few consumers ever found their way there.
- Never mind that, due to various reasons, Localism was put on a back burner, and lie dormant for months on end, without any content updates.
Nonetheless, because we were publishing our wonderfully relevant local content through our AR blogs, the search engines were happy, and consumers were finding us!
And now we come to the New Localism. It's not like the old platform. It's different. There's been some changes made. And Lord knows, many of us are resistant to change. Which is rather interesting, considering the fact that we pride ourselves as an industry for embracing change!
The basic premise isn't any different - "contribute good, relevant local content to engage and attract consumers to your blog."
"Content will always be King here on ActiveRain."
Those who achieve the greatest success with Localism will be those who consistently write/publish helpful, practical, informative articles for consumers, period. There are no shortcuts to that process. True success at blogging takes time, effort, and commitment.
THEN & NOW
In the past, when you would categorize and publish your articles to the old Localism, your listings would show up under 'Listings,' your market reports displayed promptly under 'Market Reports,' and depending on geographic location/topic, your posts would show up under the respective City, County, or State locations. When the site was being updated, the articles would be pushed/shifted down the page by subsequent articles, and become part of the indexed archives. Each article would also become part of the respective blog author's archives.
In the New Economy, all articles, with the exception of listings and market reports, show up on Localism within 10 to 15 minutes. They remain on the respective page until the Localism editors review it. If the article is approved, it will remain on that page. The length of time that a particular article remains in view will depend on how many other subsequent articles are approved, and push/shift your article down in descending order. Any articles not approved simply become part of the author's post archive on Localism. In the near future, there will be a link button for listings and market reports that will redirect you to a separate page for that respective geographic location.
That being the case, what we need to ask ourselves is this:
"What's more important - that YOU see your articles showing up on Localism, or that consumers find YOU through your articles?"
The window of opportunity/time for people to actually 'see' a given article is limited. The realities are that, initially, most consumers are going to be searching the Internet using key search terms, and will find your articles/profiles through their searches, not by necessarily accessing/viewing the Localism pages. As Localism gains traction through our aggressive promotion, and becomes a viable consumer destination, we will be incorporating numerous RSS feed options that allows people to subscribe to specific content segments.
On the Old Localism, depending solely on your AR point score, you had the possibility of having your profile pictures displayed on your respective city, County, and State pages as 'Featured' agent/member.
On the New Localism, we have 'Top Neighbors.' Since Localism will eventually be partially populated by people who are NOT ActiveRain members (local residents, merchants, etc.), a more equitable method for determining 'Top Neighbors' was needed in order to be fair to all participants. Scoring for 'Top Neighbors' will be primarily derived from the amount of content you contribute to a particular region/community. Additional points will be awarded for 'approved' posts, pictures, and videos. Like ActiveRain, we will also award points for comments made on Localism posts.
Let's take a few minutes and talk about the 'sponsorship' of communities and neighborhoods. Many people are looking at this 'option' with an attitude of the glass is half empty. Their contention is that anyone can come in and sponsor a neighborhood/community. Without posting a single article to Localism, they can drop down some cash once a month, and pay for space on the neighborhood/community page, similar to a Google AdSense or Sponsored Links campaign.
Will some ActiveRain members adopt this mindset for sponsorship? No doubt. Some people are always looking to gain additional exposure. Will it be effective without any meaningful content to back it up? That's hard to say. When you search for something on the Internet, how often do you click on the Sponsored Links? Or do you normally access the Organic search results instead? Sponsorships should be like 'MSG.' They are designed to bring out the flavor of all your Localism ingredients!
But this 'purchase-only' mindset is simply one strategy. There are many other positive 'glass-is-half-full' strategies that can be employed by members who have consistently invested and contributed solid local content.
Imagine if you've been farming a particular residential development. You may even live there, and be active in the Homeowners Association. What better way to solidify your position and enhance your sphere than to sponsor that specific development on Localism. Send out a mailer and solicit involvement on the development page for all the residents. Have it become the local community bulletin board to share upcoming events, advertise garage sales, school events, whatever. And guess what? There you are right in the middle of it all!..
Maybe you're representing a builder for new construction, a downtown condo project, or an older upscale resurgent neighborhood. Perhaps even a commercial development could be created?...the possibilities are numerous!
Sponsorship is only an 'option.' You don't have to 'pay-to-play.' Many members will most likely continue to publish good relevant content to Localism, as they have been, and enjoy excellent returns on their contributions without sponsorship. According to Jonathan Washburn, Co-Founder of ActiveRain, sponsored areas will only comprise less than 5% of the overall content of Localism.
In the end, regardless of how much information we share, or how many times we attempt to explain our vision/direction, there will continue to be those who are suspicious and/or critical. That's okay. We welcome your concerns and continue to solicit your input in the process. Hopefully, over time, your outlook/opinions will transition to one of cautious optimism, and eventually, heartfelt support.
The long-term vision of Localism is huge, and we are only seeing a small portion of that vision right now. There is a tremendous future and potential for this community of ours, to make a positive impact in our industry, and in the communities we serve, as we all continue to work together!