By Todd Carpenter, Director of Digital Engagement, National Association of REALTORS®
With nearly half of all REALTORS® using social media in 2011, it’s safe to say that it’s no fad. But will further adoption of social media be a driving force of change for the real estate industry in 2012, or will other trends prove more disruptive? I asked several social-media-savvy real estate professionals, “What new tools or trends will have the biggest impact on the real estate industry in 2012?” Here’s what they had to say.
Social Becomes Normal
“In 2002, we stopped calling it ‘e-business.’ In 2012, ‘social marketing’ meets a similar fate. Going forward, this is just ‘business,’” says Dan Green, loan officer with Waterstone Mortgage in Cincinnati and author of The Mortgage Reports. In some ways, social media’s mass adoption now makes it less disruptive. But as this form of marketing hits critical mass with the agent population, the companies they work for will try to leverage it. Green predicts that, “brands/brokers will begin actively amplifying their individual agents’ marketing messages. Expect top-down ‘messaging’ within a brokerage for agent Web sites, blogs, and social network presence.” Derek Overbey, senior social media manager at VerticalResponse, has a similar view, “In 2012, we will see deeper social integration into every aspect of business, including e-mail, promotions, advertising, and public relations.”
Ines Hegedus-Garcia, a Miami REALTOR® with Majestic Properties, thinks competence in technology will need to become the norm for real estate professionals: “2012 will not be about the best and newest shiny objects, but instead about how we, in the industry, are able to stay atop technology and able to integrate it into our daily business in a way that is useful. The consumer has learned to ask the right questions, and agents will have to show proof of successful business practices which incorporate technology.
Search Becomes More Socialized
I think social search could have a significant impact on how consumers connect with agents. I will even moderate a panel about this it Inman Connect next month. Adding a social layer to the way consumers search for an agent is a reality from general search sites like Google to Industry specific portals like Zillow and Trulia. “We’ll continue to see advancements in social search.” says Ginger Wilcox, head of industry training at Trulia. “In 2012, more consumers will want social proof that their agent is an expert and trusted in their field. Having strong online profiles with customer recommendations will be essential to gain the trust of connected consumers.”
The Rise of Mobile
Real estate has always been about location, location, location. Mobile will make that mantra apply to the Web as well.
In 2011, smartphones made up the majority of all US cell phone purchases. “We saw unprecedented growth in mobile in 2011 and will continue to see mobile explode in 2012, especially with smartphones being the norm and inexpensive tablet options expanding and becoming mainstream.” Wilcox says. “Mobile solutions for real estate pros will be essential to help agents connect with mobile consumers.”
Bill Lublin, managing member for the Social Media Marketing Institute, thinks the rise of mobile will change how consumers use real estate Web sites and social media, “The increased use of mobile by consumers will drive agents and companies to create mobile Web sites (as opposed to mobile compliant), participate in local review sites (to demonstrate their connection to the local community), and provide consumer tips on location-based services like Foursquare, Foodspotting, Yelp, etc.”
The ‘Great Data Debate’ Heats Up
“In 2012, listing data and how it is shared across multiple platforms — from IDX to syndication to social media platforms — will be a hot topic. It could fundamentally change how real estate agents do business,” says Jay Thompson, broker/co-owner Thompson’s Realty and a member of NAR’s MLS Committee. Jay lobbied for the creation of a special subcommittee to help sort through these issues.
In 2011, Edina Realty made a decision to withhold their syndication feeds to third-party sites like REALTOR.com, Trulia, and Zillow. Lublin believes the rest of the industry is watching. “Large and small companies alike will be watching Edina to see what happens as they leave aggregators’ sites in an attempt to drive consumers directly to their company site. If REALTORS® decide to disintermediate third-party sites, the impact on the industry could be immense.” Nobu Hata, 2012 YPN chair and Minneapolis REALTOR® with Edina Realty, hopes all agents understand the stakes. “I can tell you first-hand that brokers waking up to listing syndication issues will be heavily impacting us in 2012. It’s a numbers game, and a lead-gen and empowerment issue that all brokers — big, small, indie, franchise — will be gunning for. Here’s hoping that their agents realize this, and advise when necessary.”
A New Focus on Conversion
“Tools and trends will (finally) focus more on client conversion rather than lead generation … social and otherwise,” argues Jeff Corbett, chief thinking officer for XVentures. I agree. Agents are beginning to understand that social networking is not a numbers game. It’s more about who is in your sphere of influence than how many. The focus must be on networking and prospecting practices that can convert into real business. As Dan Green predicts, “In 2012, the agents with the best lead-generation tools plus lead-management tools win. It’s not just *how* you earn a lead, but what you do with it once the lead’s in your CRM.”
Now it’s your turn. What new tools or trends will have the biggest impact on the real estate industry in 2012?
Todd Carpenter, Senior Manager of Industry Engagement at Trulia Previously the Director of Digital Engagement for The National Association of REALTORS®, overseeing the association’s communication strategy on its social media channels. He's also been a real estate and mortgage professional since 1992 and created the first broker-focused mortgage blog in 2005. Todd is an industry pioneer in leveraging the social web.