SAN FRANCISCO – “Hide less, show more,” was the theme of the three keynote speakers in a panel on blogging, mapping, search and other new ideas at Real Estate Connect 2005 today.

The four major trends in real estate marketing today are video, mapping, search and blogs, said Bradley Inman, moderator of the panel and owner of Inman News, which sponsors the twice-yearly conference. Connect examines innovation and technology in the real estate industry.

The three panelists – Craig Donato, CEO of Oodle.com, a real estate classified ad search site, Udi Manber, CEO of A9, a subsidiary of Amazon.com that uses mapping in its search process, and Lockhart Steele, founder of real estate blog Curbed.com – represented three of those trends.

“Blast the information out there,” said Donato, whose site searches newspaper classified ads, craigslist, Homescape, Harmon Homes and other publicly available listings and displays summaries of them. “People have gotten trained to search when they want information. The Internet is designed for centralized distribution of information. Consumers don’t need a third party.”

The audience got a sneak preview of a new search mapping tweak by A9. Currently, it’s possible to search A9’s yellow pages for, say, Mexican restaurants near your house, by inputting “Mexican restaurant” and your address. The search yields photos of the storefronts and a map of the area.

The photos exist because the company photographed business storefronts and entire downtown blocks throughout the U.S. using a fleet of trucks mounted with video cameras.

With the new release A9 is currently developing, when the map appears, there’s a magnifying glass at the exact location on the map shown by the photo. As the magnifying glass moves, you “walk down the street,” viewing photos of the area.

Results of search listings on A9 include sponsored links, which is a way agents and brokerages can advertise. There’s also a “click to call business” icon. “If I click on this, the phone will ring,” Manber said, to applause from the audience.

Blogs got a big boost as marketing devices, with Lockhart Steele of New York real estate blog Curbed.com noting that the Property Grunt, a New York broker, “gets clients because of his blog.” Steele noted that blogs get high ranking in Google’s natural search.

“You – the real estate agent – write a blog about what you’re doing and it ends up high in Google,” Steele said.

Steele’s site, Curbed.com, reports on real estate events in New York from an offbeat perspective. Steele explained that, “Blogs are short, almost e-mail-like posts appearing online.

“You can build an audience in a grassroots way,” said Steele, who noted that the process is extremely simple. “If you can e-mail, you can blog. Go to Blogspot.com, sign up, and just enter what you want to call your blog. They host it, it’s free. You type in your entry and it goes up.”

It’s a little more complicated if an agent wants to run the blog on his or her own Web site, Steele said.

“It (a blog) provides people insight into you and who you are,” Donato said.

Donato advocated RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, as a way for agents to syndicate their listings.

Through RSS, individuals who can subscribe to an agent’s listings through an aggregator on their own Web sites. As a listing is published, a link to the listing appears on the individual’s site.

“When they click on that listing, they come to your site,” Donato explained. “The vendor who created your Web site can create an RSS feed for you.”

Manber’s “Hide less, show more,” comment came in response to feedback from an audience member during the question and answer period.

“There is a fear of getting that (listings) information out there,” the audience member, a broker, said. “We feel we have controlled our customers so the only place they can get that information is through us.”

Manber responded, “It’s (information getting out) already happened. The thing to do is figure out how you can add value.”

Donato said, “Three-quarters of people shopping for a house start online. Aggressive marketers who go after those people will win.”

According to Steele, “There’s no reason the local Realtor can’t be the hub of conversations about real estate.”

***

Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to janis@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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