BERKELEY, Calif.–”MojojoJoe,” a member of a discussion group for real estate and mortgage brokers on social networking Web site Tribe.net, wanted advice on how to obtain a real estate license. Using Tribe, he obtained some ideas on where to start from a person he otherwise might never have known.
MojojoJoe and a dozen others belong to a “tribe” dedicated to discussions about the real estate business. The tribe format enables them to communicate with realty professionals around the globe, discover new ideas about the business and engage in professional networking.
The growth in social networking Web sites, or virtual communities, and their impact on how people live was one topic of a panel discussion, “Revisiting Virtual Communities: The Internet’s Impact on Society and Politics,” at U.C. Berkeley Friday morning. Panelists focused on politics as one facet in which people are using the Internet to create social change.
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Real estate groups already exist on social networking Web sites. That trend suggests brokers could recruit agents, and agents could swap referrals and even find home buyers through these virtual networks in the not-too-distant future.
“The best virtual communities always connect back to the real world,” said Susan Mernit, partner in 5ive consultancy and author of the “Navigating the Info Jungle” Weblog.
People use the Internet to discover things they haven’t seen or heard about before, to share stories and ideas or business with other people, and to seek entertainment, she said. Online networking can be a destination for any of those reasons, and Mernit expects the trend soon to become as common as online shopping.
Markos Moulitsa Zniga, author of the “Daily Kos” Weblog, talked about how Weblogs represent a type of virtual community. Weblogs engage people in journal-format discussions about many topics, but he used politics as an example of how this media is making social changes.
“Technology is creating a revolution,” he said.
Tribe Networks co-founder and CEO Mark Pincus spoke about social networking and politics. He said he started Tribe.net to give a voice to people who had considered themselves disenfranchised from politics. But social networking already is growing beyond politics and online dating services, he said.
The largest groups on Tribe.net are political, but users also have built tribes around cities and neighborhoods, businesses, schools, hobbies and other specific interests. Some real estate tribes center on referrals, loans, global investment, New York real estate and for-sale-by-owner properties.
People visit Tribe.net to seek jobs and sales opportunities, to build personal and professional networks and even to chat about as mundane an interest as why they hate Tuesdays, the topic of one group.
“I’ve been hoping for a revolution for a long time,” Pincus said. “What Tribe is trying to do is give people a way to have an identity.”
He believes former presidential candidate Howard Dean’s campaign, former San Francisco mayoral candidate Matt Gonzalez and MoveOn.org, a political action Web site, are part of the same social networking trend. The Web helped engage people in Dean’s and Gonzalez’s campaigns.
With social networking Web sites, the network itself becomes a database of information for each user, Pincus said. Users create and build their own circles of contacts and discussions, and as people join and use the network for other reasons they add more details to the network database and it becomes more useful to them.
One of the oldest and most well-known examples of social networking is Craigslist.org, a San Francisco-based online community. The Web site has become so pervasive in the Bay Area, it’s rare to come across someone who doesn’t use it or at least know about it.
Craig Newmark, founder and chairman of Craigslist.org, describes the site as nothing more than a bunch of mundane classified advertising categories–whether it be real estate, jobs, personals or someone looking for a carpool. The community shows what really matters to people.
“People feel connected (on Craigslist),” he said.
The closest real estate gets to its own version of a social networking site is RealTalk, a real estate-related listserv hosted by InternetCrusade.com. Through RealTalk, brokers and agents can post questions, answers and observations regarding all things real estate.
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