Internet companies and technologies are a hot topic once again. As Google buys up YouTube and News Corp buys MySpace, the media is abuzz about “Web 2.0” technologies, such as blogs, social networking, podcasts, wikis, and more. It’s hard to keep up with it all – even for employees of an Internet solutions company!
In this issue:
- The Latest Internet Terminology – A Quick Reference
- The Who, What and Where of Blogs and Podcasts
- Social Networking Websites Demystified
- iHOUSE Announcements
- New Case Studies: How Agents Use ConnecTel to Capture Leads
- Recently Launched: Spotlight’s a Hit!
Everyone’s talking about “Web 2.0,” but what does it really mean – and more importantly, what can it do for you? In general, Web 2.0 refers to the intersection of the following technology, social and economic trends:
- The evolution from static websites offering basic information to providing interactive content and increased functionality. For example the migration of traditional installed software applications, such as Excel, to web-based applications, such as web-based, multi-user spreadsheets is very “Web 2.0.” Another example of Web 2.0 technology are the photo management and sharing sites such as Shutterfly, Ofoto and Flickr.
- The joint social & technological movement centered on open communication and an increased freedom and ability to share information, experiences, images and the like. Leading examples include MySpace and YouTube and the explosion of blogs.
- The rapid growth of the Web’s economic value. The combined valuations of web-focused companies these days may surpass those of the late-1990’s dot-com boom.
- The excitement about innovative Web applications and services that have gained a lot of momentum since last year.
So, what can Web 2.0 do for you? Web 2.0 has introduced a set of tools that can help you connect with like-minded people, provide information and tools, share ideas and experiences, develop relationships and interact in a deeper, more meaningful way.
While the majority of current Web 2.0 activities tend to be consumer-oriented, businesses and industries are not far behind using these technologies to share information, gather feedback and build relationships with customers and peers. There are an increasing number of real estate blogs, podcasts and networking websites already, and the number is sure to grow.
Major Web 2.0 Terminology:
Blog: Short for “weblog,” a blog is a website that contains journal-type entries. Blogs are displayed in reverse chronological order, but are usually searchable and have topical or chronological indexes as well. While blogs have been around since the late 1990’s, blogging has recently exploded as easy-to-use blogging software and free blog hosting – Blogger, TypePad, and WordPress – has become available.
Blogosphere: A term that refers to the collective community and subculture of blogs and bloggers, the idea of the “blogosphere” is especially appropriate given the dense connections that are created through cross-linking and citations that occurs between many blogs.
Blogroll: This is the list of recommended sites that appears in the sidebar of a blog. Typically these sites are on similar topics, sites that the blogger reads or references regularly, or sites that belong to the blogger’s friends or colleagues.
Blog Search Engines: Similar to Google and Yahoo, there are now blog-only search engines that index the blogosphere. Technorati is the largest, tracking over 55 million blogs, but others include Blogdigger and IceRocket. Google also indexes blogs in their regular search results.
User-Generated Content/Consumer-Generated Media: User-generated content is the lifeblood of the most profiled Web 2.0 technologies. The term refers to content – articles, photos, and other information – that is produced by website users rather than traditional media producers, broadcasters, and production companies. In marketing circles, consumer-generated media also includes opinions, experiences, ratings, advice and commentary about products, services, brands, and/or companies, as expressed by individual customers – not professional media or reviewers. User-generated content appears in places in postings on Internet discussion boards, Web business directories, forums, Usenet newsgroups and blogs.
Mash-Ups/Aggregation: Gathering and remixing information from multiple web sites onto a single web page, often using RSS feeds (see below); For example, MyYahoo lets you build a personalized page with information produced by different websites, including newsfeeds, weather information, stock quotes, and the like. Our own IDXPro MLS Search offers a “mash-up” feature: it displays clickable results of an MLS listing search on a Google Map.
Newsreaders: A newsreader gather updates from multiple blogs, news or trade sites that you select, and displays them for you in one place, so that you can read the headlines (and click through to stories) without having to visit and navigate through each website. Newsreaders “pull” these headlines from RSS feeds (see below). There are both Web browser-based and installed software newsreaders. MyYahoo and Mozilla Firefox2 are two web-based newsreaders. Feed Reader, and RSS Reader are software-based newsreaders that you install.
Podcast: Podcasts are like radio shows or audio blogs, which you can listen to at any time. They are typically updated weekly, sometimes daily. Podcasts are usually in an mp3 format that you download from the Internet. You can listen to podcasts on your iPod or mp3 players as well as your laptop or desktop computer.
RSS: RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Many news sites are blogs feature RSS feeds, which provide a constantly updated version of the site’s latest content, in a form of an electronic feed that can be read by a newsreader or aggregator (see above). RSS is based on the XML file format, which is a standard format for storing online information.
Social Bookmarking: Social bookmarking services, such as De.licio.us, let people store their favorite websites or webpages, and share them with other like-minded people.
Social Networking: Social networking sites help people discover new friends or colleagues by illuminating shared interests, related skills, or a common geographic location. Leading examples of such sites are LinkIn, MySpace, and Friendster.
Tags: Tags allow social bookmarking sites (del.icio.us), photo sharing sites (Flickr) and blog search engines (Technorati) to index user-generated content so that other people can search for relevant information. Tags are keywords that you add to your entries – bookmark, photo or blog post – to describe them. When selecting tags, you want them to be terms that will connect the people you want to reach, and who would be interested in your offering, to your content.
Wikis: These are collaboratively edited webpages or websites. The best-known example is Wikipedia, an encyclopedia that is written and edited by any interested contributors. Wikis are frequently used to allow people to write a document together or share reference material. Jotspot, for example, is a web-based wiki provider (just acquired by Google).
Blogs have quickly gone from a simple method of keeping an online diary to one of the most common ways of staking a claim in the online wilderness. There were 100,000 blogs in 2002, according to Technorati, the leading Blog Search Engine. In 2004, the figure jumped to 4.8 million. Today, there are 57 million blogs.
These days blogs are used for everything from online reviews, to op-ed columns by amateur journalists, to industry insight posts by CEOs and other professionals keeping in touch with an information-hungry client base.
Blogs can be created and hosted for free on websites such as WordPress or Blogger, a recent Google acquisition. These sites offer many templates to choose from and are easily adaptable. Your blog is hosted on a shared domain, rather than a stand-alone website like your iHOUSE Website (e.g., the url for blogs created on blogger.com are NameOfBlog.blogspot.com.)
Blogs are best used as a source of opinion, predictions, and up-to-the-minute information. Unlike more traditional media, blogs are typically not reviewed by an editorial staff with some professional obligation to fact check or present a balanced or thoroughly researched perspective.
Here’s a few real estate blogs to keep an eye on:
- Future of Real Estate Marketing: Despite a rather strongly worded disclaimer, Joel Burslem is thoughtful and up-to-minute on new technologies, concepts, and controversies in the real estate marketing space.
- 360Digest: While 360Digest is rather Seattle-centric, the themes and ideas discussed are useful across-the-board, especially as they relate to online marketing and the Internet in general.
- Matrix: Matrix has been constantly updated since August of 2005, and continues to be a source of information on all things real estate, particularly in the economic sector.
…and there are literally thousands more. When you find blogs you like, check the right hand side of the page for a list of other blogs (known as a blogroll). These are blogs that the author has linked to, and is usually carrying on a conversation with via commenting on their posts.
iHOUSE Customer Poll:
Are you interested in creating and hosting your own blog on your iHOUSE Website? (Poll is now closed.)
As sophisticated recording and editing software become affordable and more user-friendly, and the Internet has allowed for self-syndication via blogs and iTunes, more and more people have been able to live out the dream of having their own radio show. The word “podcast” – combined from “iPod” and “broadcast” – has become one of the biggest buzzwords of the last two years.
Podcasts are downloadable audio or video shows that are formatted to play on a portable media device (despite the –Pod prefix, podcasts can play on anything that handles mp3s). They are usually available as a free subscription, and are available from any number of online directories, websites such as NPR, and from the iTunes Store.
The world of real estate podcasts is still reasonably small, but here are a few of the more popular ones available:
- 10 Real Estate Marketing Ideas in 10 Minutes: This is a well thought-out, weekly podcast that lives up to its title.
- The Real Deal: New and well-produced, Curbed calls this a “high powered blast of information about the Manhattan real estate market.” Despite the focus on New York, it is well worth a listen.
- Real Estate Masterminds (iTunes Store): Twice per month, Real Estate Masterminds has conversations with top-producing agents regarding their “secrets to success.”
The face of social networking has changed significantly. These sites aren’t just for students or young professionals anymore. They can help people at all stages in their careers discover new friends, contacts and colleagues by illuminating shared interests, related skills, or a common geographic location. These networking sites can jumpstart your online networking efforts.
You’ve all heard the rage about MySpace being the new way for people to get online and communicate in interactive ways. The MySpace community is now made up of hundreds of millions of people, and not all teenagers. There are high concentrations of the first-time homebuyer age group as well.
Creating a MySpace webpage is free, and the content and format is entirely up to you. To begin, you can create a simple profile with information about yourself, links to your main website, your Spotlight websites, and all of your listings. But you can also do so much more.
- Post Blurbs, Blogs and Multimedia: Add videos or pictures that showcase your listings and other interesting images or information for site visitors. Add audio mp3 files to your page including descriptions of your listings, or just a quick blurb about your business and what you do.
- Collect Feedback and Testimonials: Other MySpace users who have found you on the web can leave comments on the work you’ve done for them.
- Send an Email to your Network: Create messages that include links and image, and send them to your entire “friend list.” Each one of your MySpace friends will receive your message and have the opportunity to re-post it or pass it on to others if they find it interesting.
- Create or Join a Group: Get your entire office to join and create a group that is rich with information on specific listings, or the services that your office specializes in.
There are a number of social networking sites, including Friendster and Facebook. These sites are similar to MySpace in their capabilities, but MySpace boasts the highest number of users (106 million in September 2006.)
Similar to MySpace.com, but designed more for the business professional world, LinkedIn is another popular social networking site used by more than 8 million users who represent 130 industries. LinkedIn is a popular site for showcasing your professional accomplishments and finding jobs, people and business opportunities. It is a highly referral-based type of network, which makes it perfect for real estate professionals.
A “network” at LinkedIn consists of your direct connections (colleagues, friends, business acquaintances), each of your connections’ connections (2nd degree connections), and the people they know (3rd degree connections). The network is very secure where contact with any professional requires a pre-existing connection with a contact of yours or theirs. Often alumni and professional organizations used LinkedIn for its Groups features. “Groups” are members-only areas that serve as a great networking tool for finding jobs or facilitating other communication between alumnus or business colleagues.
LinkedIn can be a great place to facilitate connections within your office as well as with local builders, mortgage brokers, moving companies, and related service professionals.
New Case Studies: How Agents Use ConnecTel to Capture Leads
The evidence is compelling: ConnecTel generates leads and improves advertising effectiveness. Read how adding ConnecTel to their marketing mix has paid off for these realtors:
Claudia Mundlos, Watson Realty
With her background in Internet marketing, Claudia knows all about powerful marketing technologies. And that’s what she immediately recognized in ConnecTel. “ConnecTel has more than tripled my calls! Plus now, the calls never get lost. And the instant alerts are wonderful.”
Albin Soto, Beach & Bay Realty
“I hope other realtors never find out about it!” says Albin. Since he began using ConnecTel, the calls and deals have been rolling in. “Before ConnecTel, I wasn’t getting any calls. Now I get 1-2 hot leads a day I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.” Moreover, each month Albin closes two deals he never would have landed if it weren’t for ConnecTel.
Recently Launched: Spotlight’s a Hit!
Since Spotlight Single Property Websites launched one month ago, thousands of Preview websites have been created and hundreds of websites have been activated.
And to make it easier for you to try Spotlight, we are now offering every iHOUSE account one FREE Spotlight website activation with a basic $9.98 web start-up fee. This promotion is for existing iHOUSE website customers and runs through December 31, 2006. Only one FREE Spotlight website per account. Just enter in the promotion code SPT200 when purchasing your Spotlight website activation, and we’ll take care of the rest.