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Online Social Networking and Realtors

Washington, DC

May 07, 2009

Economists' Commentary: Online Social Networking and Realtors®

By Danielle Hale, Research Economist

Facebook is in the news again. Perhaps you read about it surpassing 200 million members or attracting older generations at surprising rates? (And no, it's not just because the population is aging-though as my colleague shows us in this piece, it is aging.)

According to a Harris Poll released April 16, of adults who are online 48 percent have a Facebook or MySpace account. The prevalence of Facebook or MySpace accounts for 18-34 year olds was 74 percent compared with less than 50 percent for all other groups.

However, sites that track demographics of the users on Facebook such as Inside Facebook and iStrategyLabs show that the share of older users on Facebook is growing at much faster rates than among younger users. In part, this is because those groups were growing from a much smaller number. For example, if we add 5 to a group of 5, it grows by 100 percent; if we add 5 to a group of 50, it grows by a more meager 10 percent. Even after explosive growth, Inside Facebook data showed that on March 25, 2009 users aged 55 - 65 and 45 - 54 were still only five and eight percent of all Facebook users respectively. By comparison, 13 - 17 year olds were 11 percent of all users.

Social Networking Uses

Users of social networking sites vary in their goals. For some, the sites are primarily for personal use. Others use the sites more for professional networking. For others, the line between social use and professional use is less clear.

Users of social networking sites generally have control over the amount of information if any they make public. As more users set up public profiles, others are putting that information to use. Blockshopper.com is a website that matches public information on real estate transactions with information gleaned generally from the web including publicly available information from social networking sites. According to the web site, it aims to be "a local news and market data service for current and aspiring homeowners, home buyers and home sellers. In short, we're one part community newspaper, one part ultimate hyper-local real estate research tool." Right now it covers New York, Chicago, and 9 other areas including D.C. In the D.C. market, blockshopper covers only the district itself which has only 294,000 renter occupied housing units and 256,000 owner occupied units; by comparison, the larger metro-area has 1.5 million renter occupied units and 3.66 million owner occupied units.

What about Realtors® and Social Networking?

The National Association of Realtors® has been surveying members to find out about their use of technology like websites and blogs for several years. Now, Research, too, has its very own Facebook group. Research joins other Realtor® social networking groups including the National Association of Realtors® Linked-in group with just under 9,000 members and the National Association of Realtors® Facebook group with just under 15,000 fans. There is also ActiveRain, a real estate-focused social network site that has over 144,000 members.

Whether Realtors® ultimately use social networking sites to establish new client and peer relationships or simply to maintain current contacts they have met in a face-to-face setting, only time will tell. As this medium of communication and information sharing grows, more Realtors® will get involved and find even more applications for this tool. In the meanwhile, Research will be sure to track this and other business developments. In fact, you can look forward to the results of a question on Realtor® use of social networking in the 2009 Member Profile, scheduled for release at the upcoming Midyear Meetings.

Until then, check out the 2008 Member Profile available for download here (free for members!) as part of the Right Tools Right Now initiative. And be sure to check out the Research Facebook group.

This is one in a series of commentaries by the Research staff of the National Association of REALTORS®. Read more commentaries >


Northfield, NJ

May 21, 2009

Thanks a million for explaining the truth, with perfect statistics in "Economists' Commentary: Online Social Networking and Realtors® ".

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