Boy, did we ever get it wrong. Unintentionally, of course. But somewhere down the line, we came to accept as gospel that technology was going to be the driving force behind the real estate industry as the first decade of the 21st century came to a close.
Oh, I’m sorry. For my readers who aren’t real estate agents, I’m going to speak Italian to Mike assuming your assent, McCluskey.
Todd Carpenter, NAR’s Social Media Manager, recently put together the beginnings of a six-year history of the RE.net. I say beginnings because the handful of milestones listed in the post don’t really give form to the changes in the way real estate agents related not just to consumers but to each other.
I made my own entry into the waters in January 2006, technically speaking, but didn’t begin posting regularly on my original blog until the middle of July. After six months on RealTown Blogs’ platform I discovered WordPress and this site was born; the All Phoenix Real Estate.com name came about a year later when I tripped over the domain.
Todd mentions the many high-profile members of the RE.net who got their start on Active Rain; I got there in September, two months after I had launched with intent, only to give up the ghost when it felt like points mattered more than content to some. And hey, I had a brand of my own to work on.
Back in the day, there only was a handful of us in the Valley doing this real estate blogging thing; there was me, there was Jay, and there was Swann. All of us wrote local, all of us wrote national, none of us really worried about what difference it made what was written.
Phoenix’s blogging community grew faster than most and the competition, such that it was, both raised the bar and often lowered the gloves. Dust ups such as the one that Todd found himself embroiled in this week weren’t uncommon locally and they often stretched nationally. Needless to say, there usually was one common element in nearly every one of these incidents, but only the true (and somewhat blind) believers didn’t see the game for what it was – stupid tricks intended to make a name for ourselves, similar to the rookie hockey player who drops the gloves twice a preseason game to make the roster.
What strikes me most about this period was the sheer naivete of it all, the ignorance that we all showed for the rules of the road. Which probably was excusable because there were no rules of the real estate blogging road at the time; the concept of hyperlocal was just beginning to take hold and it still was more fun writing about Redfin and Trulia and dogs pissing all over themselves from the sheer irony of the pith.
It wasn’t until later, when not just more agents had entered the game but some both in and out of the industry chose to anoint themselves as the experts of real estate blogging, that endless rules and increased niceties entered the arena. Doing something different was viewed less as something different than as something wrong. Because without right or wrong there’s nothing to teach and nothing to market to the newbies.
Yes, somewhere along the line real estate blogging went mainstream, at least as much as a niche activity could go mainstream. Those of us on that leading edge believed we were ushering in a sea change in the way real estate is transacted. Fast forward a few years and it’s abundantly clear that we were wrong.
More and more agents entered the real estate blogging world over the past couple of years, often passing those on the way out of the blogging world and/or out of the business on their way through the revolving door. For every two of us in that first wave who still are around, there’s another who either has stopped blogging or stopped selling. It’s the nature not just of the real estate blogs but the real estate business in general.
Maybe it was spending the time in Brian Buffini’s 100 Days to Greatness, or maybe it was spending a year realizing technology alone can’t purchase client loyalty, but it has become abundantly clear that a large portion of the message we in the RE.net deliver is flawed. The technology stands as the focus when in truth it’s little more than a means to an end.
It’s great that I have people registering for the home search on my website (call me an unrepentant killer in that respect) but I’ve come to view those registrations less as hard numbers – x number of registrations a day equals y conversions and z commission dollars – as people often walking along blindly and hoping to make a connection along the way.
Taking two seconds to click the “like” link on a Facebook update takes far less effort and, to me, has far less impact than picking up the phone just to check in and see how someone is doing. No matter what changes technology brings – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the long forgotten MySpaace – the need for real human contact remains as strong as ever.
That’s the message you virtually never hear at a REBarCamp with its almost exclusive focus on learning emerging technologies and mastering existing technologies. (With any luck, I’ll personally be changing that with my own yet-to-be named session at REBCPHX and bringing 2.0 technologies back to 0.0 methodology.)
Speaking of REBarCamps …
After nearly 18 months of the craze, I’m still struggling to understand who the audience is supposed to be – newbies who don’t understand what the rest of us are doing and almost certainly aren’t going to implement 99 percent of what’s discussed, or those of us who have been doing this for a while and are looking for a higher level discussion?
Put another way, if there’s nothing to offer those who have been doing this social media thing for awhile except the opportunity to teach, how long before REBC* becomes little more than a playground for the vendors to push their wares? And once you’ve reached that point and virtually abandoned the spontaneous, interactive, communal discussion that’s supposed to be the hallmark of an REBarCamp, is it really a BarCamp at all or just another of the vendor fair most agents can’t help but attend in hopes of getting a pen?
That’s a discussion for another day and maybe even for a day that may never come since the march of social media education continues on without pause and seemingly without reflection. And as long as everyone stays in their lane like the bloated people floating on moving lounges in WALL-E, all will be well.
And it will be more than a little boring. Which is a shame, because that’s one thing that the RE.net certainly wasn’t a few short years ago when we all turned on our monitors and made up the rules as we went along.
[tags]Phoenix real estate[/tags]