HomeGain opened its virtual doors to the praise, criticism and everything in between when it invited prominent real estate bloggers to discuss such topics as "The Case Against Blogging" and "The Failed Promise of Real Estate 2.0" at its company blog.
"In the past two weeks … I’ve learned that I don’t know too much about blogging and that many bloggers don’t know too much about HomeGain," Louis Cammarosano, HomeGain general manager, wrote in a Feb. 27 post at the HomeGain blog.
So why is HomeGain, a real estate lead-generation and marketing company, inviting guest bloggers who are not fans of its business model to write at its blog?
Cammarosano told Inman News that some bloggers have been venting about HomeGain and other lead-generation companies at other blog sites. He has welcomed discussions about the many forms of online marketing available to real estate professions on the company’s own blog turf to better understand the alternatives … and the opposition.
Many corporate blogs tend to shy away from controversy — and certainly to steer clear of outright criticism.
"I’m very open to different forms of marketing. A lot of people out there are saying, ‘Do not use HomeGain. There’s something wrong with HomeGain.’ By having them on the site we’re attracting a different crowd, different points of view," Cammarosano said.
"It’s not an advertisement, it’s a conversation. I’m not trying to pitch anything." He has also made an effort to reach out to the real estate blogging community by visiting and commenting on posts at their sites.
The company’s goal, he said, is to supply real estate agents with marketing tools. The commentary about blogging has been constructive, though Cammarosano said he remains unconvinced that blogging is the future for all real estate professionals, and questions the true value of the medium.
"My point is (that) not tens of thousands of people out there are closing deals from blogging," he said.
Some bloggers balk at paying for leads when they can generate business using their own blogs or Web sites, though he said that there are plenty of real estate professionals who don’t have the desire to do it all on their own.
"Just because you can do something on your own doesn’t mean you should. You could churn your own butter, generate your own electricity, but should you?" he said.
"It depends on what your priorities are. If you feel you can bring in visitors and it’s worth your time to do it, go ahead and do it."
At one of his blog posts, Cammarosano questioned whether "it may be time to start calling ‘Dot Bomb’ on Real Estate 2.0," adding that he was not aware of any Web 2.0 real estate company that has generated a profit. Also, he said he was aware of only a handful of bloggers who were making money directly from blogging.
One commenter suggested that the post "is just link bait," a term bloggers use to describe a post that simply aims to generate Web traffic. A couple of commenters said that blogging can have indirect financial benefits, such as gaining a referral from someone who visited a blog post, and several commenters noted that a mixed approach to marketing — using new technology and old-school tools, is probably not a bad idea.
Jay Thompson, who owns Thompson’s Realty in Gilbert, Ariz., and created The Phoenix Real Estate Guy blog, said he has enjoyed the invitation to contribute as a guest blogger for HomeGain even though he is not personally a fan of lead-generation companies.
After his first contribution to the HomeGain blog site, Thompson received e-mails and phone calls from fellow real estate bloggers questioning his participation there.
In a blog post at his own blog site, Thompson wrote that HomeGain "is considered by many to be a ‘lead seller,’ " and as such has drawn criticism from real estate bloggers.
His response to questions about his participation: "Why not contribute to HomeGain’s blog. I do enjoy writing, and I enjoy helping people out. You know what else I enjoy? Exposure. I’ll admit it, I’m not doing the ‘blogging thing’ just for fun (though personally I do find it enjoyable, most of the time)."
He added, "Blogging on a platform like HomeGain’s blog exposes me to more people." And that means an expanded business network.
Cammarosano’s posts about blogging may be purposely inflammatory, Thompson told Inman News — and he said that may not be such a bad thing.
"I think he’s intentionally stirring up controversy just to get people talking. He’s biased toward the whole HomeGain lead aggregator model, as he should well be in that position," Thompson said, though he has also welcomed contrary views.
"He lets me post about anything I want. I’ve never been a big fan of lead-generation companies at all and I’ve been relatively vocal about it," Thompson said. "Lead-generation companies don’t have the best reputation out there."
But lead generation, just like blogging, may work for some people and not for others, he added. "I’m starting to see (third-party lead generation) is a viable option for some people."
While Thompson said he spends a lot of time researching blog posts and posting at his own blog site, "not everyone has the capacity to do that, whether it’s skill or time."
And just by hosting the debate at the HomeGain site, Thompson said that agents may look more favorably on the company. "I think it brings some credibility to HomeGain in that they’re openly inviting people known to be not the biggest fans of that model to blog on that (site)," he said.
Cammarosano said, "I am seeing people who were vehemently against HomeGain seeing benefits to using HomeGain. That’s been a positive experience."
He also said it is the company’s objective "to educate our users, our consumers. If we learn anything (from this), that can help us."
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