Real estate brokers and agents are an identifiable categorical group in the social media, everybody recognizes their presence talking shop or chatting up the local community. The industry’s relationship with the Internet has historically been mercenary; the principal reason for online presence, whether with a website in 2001, a blog in 2007 or a Facebook page in 2009, is lead generation.
Examine the broker/agent’s marketing mindset. Their commercial mission is to stay “top of mind” to literally tens of thousands of people in their focus community on the off-chance one of them makes the decision to buy or sell a home. Pre-Internet, they did this with post cards; pre-social media, they drip email marketed their community to death, and always asked for referrals. The business has always been perceived as a numbers game based on how wide that network net was cast.
No wonder the real estate industry leads all other businesses (except tech and porn) in the adoption of new ways to expand online presence. The early adopters in real estate are hyper-practical and they figure out what works long before the social media pundits can see the utility. Every real estate social media conference I’ve attended has much richer content than the talking heads at typical tech conferences. Most of my colleagues in real estate will concur.
The paradox is everybody believes the real estate industry are slow adopters, and always describe it metaphorically as the classic aircraft carrier. This is also true. Most real estate agents are slow adopters (say, 95%) because they believe that their job is selling, not wasting time chatting online. They ask questions like “give me one example where somebody got a lead from Twitter”.
Real estate agents are slow to react because they are conservative, only acting on the fear of losing competitive advantage. With literally hundreds of competitors in a zip code, they need that advantage. So the aircraft carrier analogy is apt because the agent community will all react at once. When agents see their competition on Twitter and Facebook, they are obliged to follow until eventually the tipping point is reached when the paradigm of using social media as a marketing tool becomes the norm.
At today’s REBarCamp Silicon Valley, one of many social media barcamp venues focusing on real estate, the majority of the attendees were new to the BarCamp concept. Previous REBarCamps from even last spring were collegial affairs, with all the early adopters knowing each other intimately. Today, the newcomers were there… and that signals the tipping point has been reached. It also signals a kinder industry who are using (and being trained to use) social media to attract clients as opposed to spamming them with unwanted emails and new listings.