Editor’s note: This article is Part 2 of a four-part perspective series looking at the impact of new online social media on real estate.

Editor’s note: This article is Part 2 of a four-part perspective series looking at the impact of new online social media on real estate. See Part 1, “Real estate’s Adult Friend Finder“; Part 3, “Real estate and social media spark bright future“; and Part 4, “Blinded by the light.”

Toyota recently announced that it is abandoning traditional media to market its new Scion xB. The company has gone all in on a Web strategy. Research tells them this vehicle’s target consumer resides on the Internet.

The Internet is where these consumers buy their music, meet other people. It’s where they spend their time.

Toyota has done something incredible here. Go to scion.com; the site resembles, reflects, connects with Toyota’s customer. There is even a social network for “members” who are Scion owners.

Some would refer to what Toyota has done as out-of-the-box thinking. I disagree. It couldn’t be more conventional. They’ve determined where their customers are going and have decided to go there with them. In fact, out-of-the-box thinking is doing just the opposite, like in our business of real estate. Eighty-percent of real estate consumers are online — socializing, networking, communicating, searching and enjoying transparent experiences. Not going along with them is definitely out of the box. It’s more like riding in the ditch.

An estimated 110 million late teen and young adult consumers are coming into the real estate market. If Toyota owned a real estate franchise, how would the company reach out to this group? Look at scion.com. There’s your answer.

Each time I hit a real estate site and find clunky IDX, lead capture bait-and-switch, mangled navigation, no mapping, no means to interact with anything and no local data, I think about the staggering disconnect between real estate and its customers that awaits those who do not follow Toyota’s example. 

I am not an alarmist. Just look at what’s happening. Even with children, the first-time buyers of 2017.

Welcome to ‘Tweenland’

Twenty-nine million U.S. kids between the ages of 8 and 14 (known as “tweens”) have an estimated $40 billion in annual purchasing power. Ninety percent of those kids are online. Their capacity to respond to traditional media will one day be as small as a 75-year-old’s affinity for online media today.

Here are three sites that offer a glimpse of the future:

WebkinzThis company derives revenue from the 2 million stuffed “pets” they’ve sold since 2002. More than 1 million kids have registered on webkinz.com to watch their inanimate pets come to life. The site allows members free access to games, trivia contests and chatting. Kids assign jobs for their pets that earn them “spending money” to do more things on the site. Kids stay on for hours at a time being educated, entertained and stimulated.

Club PenguinOffers kids “play” access to adopted online pets, which they name, feed and clothe. Members contribute stories about their pets in the Club Penguin newsletter. “Premium play” access allows members to decorate their pets’ homes and partake in themed scenarios that put the pets through different ordeals. 

Club Penguin saw 2.9 million unique visitors in January, according to Nielsen/Net ratings. If you asked the CEO of Club Penguin what his concerns are he would probably tell you it’s constantly trying to ponder what his customers will want in the future — like next week.

XangaXanga is a site devoted to photoblogs, audiblogs, videoblogs and Webblogs. Twenty percent of its 40 million members are under age 14. Xanga breaks its network down by geographic areas. Members post info about themselves, where they live and how they live and communicate via blogging.Oh, and 35 percent of its members are age 35-54.

You have to wonder what these kids will want when they grow up and look for places to live. Toyota did — and so should you.

Next week, I’ll look closely at the adults and the places they live, network and make decisions that shape the way they interact with real estate.

Marc Davison is a national speaker and vice president of OnBoard, a real estate data provider based in New York. Davison previously served as vice president of VREO, a provider of electronic signature and Web site software for the real estate industry. He can be reached at mdavison@onboardllc.com.

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