The Socialization of a Real Estate Brokerage
Innovation has a home in the Sonoran Desert City of Tucson, from Doctor Andrew Weil’s Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine to advanced battleground weaponry at Raytheon. It should come as no surprise that a new generation of real estate social media brokerage is born in the same community.
Long Realty quietly launched its “Long Connects,” social media intranet last month. “Long Connects” represents a milestone in actionable social media design. Long Realty is not a new company. The company was founded in 1926 and advances to a leadership role nationally as the first brokerage to embrace a social media design that boldly aligns its internal culture for social media success.
Consider the trends. Increasingly, real estate agents adopt new technology that relies on the convenience of virtual connections. Web-based multiple listing services and messaging link agents with customers and their brokers; online transaction management platforms, contract software, and online fax reside on agents’ computers. Corporate culture needs to shift to deploy technology platforms to engage conversation between agents and brokers.
Wide scale social media engagement finds real estate licensees across the country tripping landmines – antitrust and fair housing violations abound; ethical faux pas raise consternation of professional associations; and new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) social media guidelines have the blogosphere buzzing.
What’s a broker to do when agents are following advice proffered by Bloggerazzi Pied Pipers that fly in the face of licensing law and their fiduciary responsibilities?
Most brokerages have neither a social media policy nor an engagement plan. Social media plans, in many cases, do not exceed a mix of half-hearted brand monitoring and haphazard engagement.
Enter Long Realty with a social media plan for external and internal conversations. Long’s internal technology solution is based on Telligent Community software, an advanced social media design suite that is a far cry from the Cracker-Jack-box digital product flooding the market and outmoded bulletin board intranet architecture. The platform paves the way for agent-centric technology in-house that allows increased agent-to-broker interaction, more efficient sales production, and ultimately safer client-centric conversation on public platforms.
Long Connects resembles Facebook with a smidgen of Google Wave interactive threads. Company execs framed the risks associated with social media by building an internal sandbox that is a safe harbor for independent contractors and employees.
Long Connects widget-based tech does not leave the company hostage to proprietary code models. The familiar Facebook/microblogging design holds the promise of early, wide adoption across the ranks of 1,200 sales associates.
Increased Agent Productivity
“We are pleasantly surprised at the early adoption rate,” said Kevin Kaplan, Vice-President of Marketing and Technology. “In the first four weeks more than 50% of Long Agents logged in to Long Connects. Agents are using the system daily and incorporating it into their daily business to learn and share real estate information and best practices.”
Approximately 350 Long agents are using Facebook, and more than twice that number are already using Long Connects. The content management system is more robust than the Facebook design. Easy-to-use Customer Management System (CMS) entry editors let users add formatting, photos, and rich media to their content. Agents share forms and documents and media galleries, and watch training videos.
The first month of Long Connects saw 800 forum posts, 17,000 views of posts, and 45,000 total page views, in fewer than 4,000 visits. Agents spent on average 10 minutes onsite, looking at 11 pages of content, sharing real estate content, according to Kaplan. The Long agent community lends its voice and user generated content to a growing Help and Support Forum.
“Online forums, media galleries, micro blogging and community groups are just a few of the features that connect our professionals with each other in an online community focused on real estate business dialogue,” said Kaplan. “ While much of the real estate industry is still trying to understand social media, Long has made the progressive leap to integrate social media into our everyday business practice.”
Agents customize their profile pages, connect with other agents, and join groups. There are company-wide groups and forums, and each branch office comprises its own group and there are subgroups within the office – teams, projects, etc. Discussion forums offer agents support on many levels:
· Executive support is corporate wide
· Broker/manager support targets branch-level operations
· Agent-to-agent connectivity at both the company and branch level
Discussions range from open house dialogue, technology tips, buyer and seller related activity, and REOs and short sales. A marketing and technology thread features discussion about PDAs, iPhones, and Mac computers. Fifteen agents already have shared productive ideas about using Macs. In addition, Long Companies has also integrated discussion groups and accessibility to Core Services – its mortgage, title, and insurance companies.
An activity stream on the profile page resembles the Facebook news feed. It ties together applications and user activity, messages from other Long Connects users, media files, and discussion threads. Two executive level blogs offer finely tuned real estate perspectives; Jerome King, Designated Broker, writes “Broker Buzz” posts about licensing and professional matters; and Kaplan and IT Director Jim Adams team up for the “Marketing and Technology” blog.
Rosey Koberlein, Long Realty CEO sums it up: “Long Connects marks a real estate milestone, agents connecting with their company and fellow agents online in a secure environment, with all the bells and whistles that help them turn social media into actionable, dollar productive activity.”
(Frances Flynn Thorsen is CEO of Socialebb Strategies and Solutions. She is the co-author of Real Estate Social Media Policy and Procedure Manual.)
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