Using New Technologies

Brian Boero of the 1000WattConsulting Blog had a great post this week about the “Bizarro World” of social media, making many of the same points I’ve talked about with regard to adoption of new technologies.

I’ve talked to lots of agents about utilizing facebook and blogs to help build and develop their social networks. Blogging is a great tool. So is Facebook. So is a mobile phone and a contact list of all your past clients. They’re all good tools, it’s about how you use them.

Brian’s point is that most agents aren’t using those tools effectively, and he’s right. He’s also right that many people can’t really use those tools successfully because they don’t have the right skill set for it. Also true. I know lots of agents that really shouldn’t be blogging, but I’d trust them with any referral I had to give because I know they’d do a great job with the transaction.

Here’s what you need to remember about new technologies:

  • If the technology allows you to do something you already were doing, but to do it easier, cheaper, or more efficiently, then it’s a GREAT technology.
  • If the technology seduces you into doing something that you never used to do, and never realized you needed to do, it’s probably a BAD technology.

You know what’s a GREAT technology?  A DVR.  I used to watch TV, and now I can watch it a lot more efficiently because I skip through all those ads.  You know what’s another GREAT  technology?  A cell phone. I used to talk on the phone before I had one, now I just talk more efficiently (but not more cheaply, mind you).  More GREAT technologies: GPS, Ipod, wheels, flint, condoms. I could go on.

So what’s a BAD technology?  Well, that depends. For example, a DVR might be a TERRIBLE technology for you, because you don’t watch television.  You’re out there doing much more productive things with your time, and the only show you like anyway is that “Law and Order”.  But then you get a DVR and now you’ve discovered that you can record about 15 hours of “Law and Order” every day, so now you never leave the house because (a) there’s always more “Law and Order”, and (b) you’re scared to go outside because you’ve been watching people get murdered for hours on end.  That’s a BAD technology for you.

Blogs are a GREAT technology for me, because I always wrote a lot and now I can write in a way that I might be able to reach people.  Blogs are a BAD technology for people that don’t write a lot, because (a) they don’t write much, so it probably takes a lot of time, (b) they probably don’t write all that well, so they’re not going to shine a flattering light on themselves, and (c) they probably don’t like writing, so it’s going to be painful.

More importantly, why are so many agents blogging to other agents on places like Activerain?  What’s the point of that? I write to agents because agents are essentially my clients or potential clients.  Brian Boero writes to agents and brokers because those are his clients or potential clients.  Why are are agents blogging to agents?  That’s not business development.  That’s a hobby.  Active Rain has become the world’s largest coffee klatch, an army of generally unproductive agents yammering at each other with no particular positive effect.  I think that a lot of them have interesting things to say, and I do read some of the blogs on Active Rain, but I have no idea why an agent would spend a lot of time blogging to other agents.  READING those agent-to-agent blogs might be productive activity for an agent looking to learn some new tricks, but WRITING a blog?

And some things are both GREAT and BAD technologies to the same person at the same time. Like Facebook.  Great for things like getting in touch with relatively out-of-touch friends, although, to be honest, that gets old pretty quick.  The initial burst of “oh my God, how are you????” emails soon seems to devolve to a long arduous slog through myriad unfunny status updates — and then you realize why you stopped hanging out with that old friend in the first place.  But for people in your inner or middle-circle, it’s fun to post pictures and see their pictures and stay in touch and all that.  Good stuff. And for business, good stuff if you use it right.

If you think about it, that’s the GREAT stuff about Facebook — you always used to exchange pictures with friends, you always wanted to stay in touch, and Facebook makes it easer to reach a lot of your friends at once, and MUCH easier to share pictures.

Which brings up the BAD technology aspects of Facebook — the sending of virtual flowers and the mob war updates and the quizzes and quizzes and quizzes and GOD HELP ME the quizzes.  Put it this way. For much of my life, I imagine that my friends played video games, I just never used to get updates on their progress.  And I never really missed that.  Now, I get lots of updates.  And I don’t remember seeing a lot of quiz results before I got on Facebook, and I don’t remember being invited to take a lot of them.  But I sure do now.

Hmmm. Smells like a BAD technology.

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  1. With membership totaling more than 150,000, I am proud to say that I am a “Rainmaker”. Initially I was a skeptic as to what Active Rain could do for me and my business. As a new agent, it helped me move my name up Google search engine to the #1 slot; toping Ginny Warsaw (a folk singer from Indiana) and even Warsaw Poland (tough competition!) I also thought that I would make a commitment to write blogs; and in the beginning I did. I do admit that most of the AR agent/members do not know how to write a blog and that these “painful” posts sound like “whining”; and yes this is “Bad technology”.
    On a positive note, I have blogged with and to other agents and besides an exchange of ideas, I have gotten referrals from them. By posting my new listings and writing about Community events on the “Localism” pages, I have become re-acquainted with past clients and acquaintances .Did you know that you can post a listing or a blog for consumers only? AR is not just a bunch of agents “yammering for attention” but when used correctly, it can be a productive venue. For example, recently someone I had met at an open house found me on AR and sent me their brother to help purchase a short sale (we currently have an offer pending). This, I believe, is “Good Technology”
    Bottom line: I agree that technology is a GREAT tool if it’s used right
    While AR may not be good for everybody…..I believe I’ve used it to my advantage!

  2. Hi Ginny, thanks for the comment. I will say that you may be one of the exceptions to the rule. You’ve been among the first to adopt these technologies for your business, both Active Rain and Facebook and some others. Here are my issues with Active Rain:

    1. Agents are encouraged to spend lots of time on it, and gain currency to gain “status” with other agents. (Look how proud you are to be a “rainmaker,” a status that means absolutely nothing from a production or client satisfaction perspective). I don’t necessarily think that’s the highest use of time. AR is a time-sucker, just like FB can be a time-sucker, and I just don’t think that’s a good use of most agents’ time.

    2. You could be an exception to that, but before I conceded that, I’d need to know exactly how many closed transactions you did that were directly generated from your AR presence. Did other agents refer a client who closed with you? Did clients find you through AR and buy or sell with you? It might be that AR creates a lot of soft marketing for you — strong SEO presence, credibility with clients you generate elsewhere — and that could be valuable, but it’s like anything else: you need to calculate time invested with results generated.

    3. Moreover, I am amazed at how many people have agent-to-agent blogs, rather than agent-to-client blogs, or who have agent-to-client blogs that are clearly generic (generated by some service that gives them five well-written and bland paragraphs).

    4. And the biggest problem is the issue Brian Boero raised — for most agents, who do not have the deep comfort with social media that you do — spending time blogging is not time well-spent.

    Ultimately, I don’t disagree that AR has its own value. It’s a place for people in the industry to share their concerns, ideas, misery, etc. (And misery does love company.) Every industry has a site like that, and there are sites like that for people that, for example, like to knit. And it’s great. People who knit get to talk about knitting with other knitters, and get a lot of personal satisfaction and enjoyment out of being a part of that community. That’s largely what AR is. That’s okay, as long as agents recognize that’s what it is. But most people shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking that the hours they spend on AR are “productive” hours rather than something they’re doin for enjoyment.

  3. Joe-I agree that a lot of agents can become “consumed” by these sites and lose track of what their real purpose is. Although I have not closed any deals yet from AR (remember I’m still relatively new at this!) I believe that I have created some relationships that will ultimatley result in closed biz for me. I still beleive that it is a greeat SEO as is Facebook, Twitter, etc (when used properly!) Enough said, now I must go help out a client that has joined the Army and vacuum out her house…..a new rental listing!