Move acquires SocialBios

Founders of 'social layering' company join Move's product development team

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Realtor.com operator Move Inc. has acquired social media search platform SocialBios, and the company’s three co-founders have joined Move’s product development team.

Move said SocialBios — named "Best Tech Startup" in January by attendees at Inman Connect New York City — will continue to be based in Denver, Colo., and that its products and brand will remain in production and available to real estate professionals. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

SocialBios says its "social layering" technology helps real estate brokerages and other businesses turn their websites’ "About us" pages into social networking hubs by allowing visitors to see how they are already connected to agents through Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Gmail, and LinkedIn.

Move says it will incorporate SocialBios’ social layering technology into Realtor.com and other sites in the Move network, and also leverage the SocialBios platform and talent to develop new products.

SocialBios founder Ernie Graham and co-founders Ira McMahon and Andrew Van Tassel have joined Move’s product development team.

Graham will head up Move’s social product and development team, working with franchises and brokerages to develop strategies that help their agents and brokers make more connections with consumers.

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From left to right, SocialBios founder Ernie Graham and co-founders Ira McMahon and Andrew Van Tassel.

Realtors were early adopters of social media for marketing purposes, and a number of companies have cropped up to provide them with additional tools.

Roost, an online real estate site that formerly specialized in real estate search, changed its business model last year to focus on building social media tools.

Last month, the company introduced a scorecard to help small businesses figure out how many of their Facebook fans are local.

In January, Realtor.com rival Trulia announced that it was integrating Facebook Connect, which allows Facebook users to bring their Facebook profile to other websites. Trulia members were already able to share real estate listings information and open-house times via Facebook.

In December, Trulia announced the acquisition of Movity, creator of social media check-in tracker weeplaces.com.

Realtor.com President Errol Samuelson, who is also Move’s chief revenue officer, said he first become aware of SocialBios in spring 2010. The company was known as Peep.ly at the time.

"George Harvey, who was the Colorado Association of Realtors’ president, pinged me in March or April, and said, ‘I’ve found this company that’s really interesting to me,’ " Samuelson said. "When we sat down with them, we were blown away not only by that first application, but by the way they were thinking about social."

He said Graham is a "tech guy" who took a year off to go skiing in Colorado, and then spent nearly a decade selling real estate in Telluride. Then he decided to apply his tech expertise to real estate.

"The technology was wonderful, but we liked the way they were thinking about bringing social technology to real estate," Samuelson said.

Social media is becoming a vital tool for homebuyers and sellers who are looking for an agent they will click with, he said.

When you go to the store to buy a bottle of milk, it doesn’t really matter who’s behind the cash register, he noted. But a purchasing a home is a "lengthy, big, emotionally charged process — I need somebody I feel in synch with."

In the past, consumers have used different "proxies" to find the right agent, he said, such as asking friends for advice or driving through a neighborhood to see who has the most listings.

"The idea behind SocialBios is, for the first time, to open up that dimension of real estate search," Samuelson said.

When consumers use their Facebook or other social media credentials to log in to a brokerage site that’s adopted the SocialBios social layering technology, they can see what connections and interests they share with agents.

"As a consumer, I can feel like we can be compatible, this could really work," Samuelson said. "I don’t really know any other way to do that except to interview a bunch of agents."

The technology has the potential to be "mildly disruptive," Samuelson said, because new agents who are just starting can vie for the attention of consumers, competing with agents who are used to landing business based on their years of experience in the industry and closing volume.

One thing consumers don’t see on the front end of the SocialBios platform is the ability for brokerages to display a leaderboard showing which agents are making the most matches and have the most social media relevance to website visitors.

This "gamification" of the SocialBios backend can motivate agents who might otherwise be skeptical of social media to participate, and increases the level participation for those who are already using it.

"You can have an agent with 10 years of experience be 14 out of 20 on the leaderboard say, ‘Who’s this new agent who has more in common with visitors to our website than I do?’ " Samuelson said.


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