Move Inc., the company that brought you Realtor.com, is now hosting the ongoing saga of a couple of 20-somethings — Danny and Nina — who moved to Denver, Colo., based on the votes of an Internet audience, among other blogs related to such topics as senior housing and home renovation projects.
It is part of a very coordinated effort by one of the most popular real estate search destinations on the Internet to connect with consumers in a new way. Move, a publicly traded company that formerly operated as Homestore until a brand change last year, hired blogging entrepreneur Dustin Luther, founder of Seattle real estate blog RainCityGuide.com, in November as director of consumer innovations.
Move is branching out into blogging during a time of incredible growth in real estate blogs. Real estate agents and companies are using blogs to inform and connect with potential customers and to network with one another.
In addition to Move Inc.’s main company blog, which has been active for less than a year, the company has quietly launched six other blog sites under the company banner: Danny and Nina, Behind the Walls, Rental Survival Guide, First Time Home Buyers, Living with Roommates, and Senior Housing. The blogs generally mirror the various content areas of the company’s Web sites, such as moving services and for-sale and for-rent housing.
Move Inc. sponsored Danny and Nina’s move to Denver (Denver beat out Plano, Texas, by 27,464 votes), and their blog moved to the Move Inc. site.
“The Move Blogs are designed to facilitate a conversation with our consumers,” Luther told Inman News via e-mail. “Our objective is to address topics that are most relevant to our audience, such as ‘Rental Survival Guide’ and ‘Behind the Walls,’ that provide a place for our consumers to both learn and be engaged to contribute to a conversation on these topics.
“Our bloggers include a range of people including real estate and community experts, citizen journalists, other home-related professionals and employees.”
The company’s main blog noted that Luther is hiring “a slew of interns … to help him out with some grassroots marketing initiatives.” The company posted a job description for a “viral marketing intern,” for example, to work with a director and “viral marketing coordinator to lead and execute online brand promotion activities including blogging, commenting, linking, ranking, voting, etc.” The company seeks experience in “online viral technology” for this position, including “e-mail, blogs, wikis,” and recommends that applicants are active in at least one social network.
If the Move Inc. blogging effort is a sincere effort to provide valuable information then it could be a hit, said Greg Sterling, founding principal of the Sterling Marketing Intelligence consulting and research company that is focused on the online behavior of consumers and advertisers.
“It depends on the content,” he said. “If it’s just a transparent marketing tool then it will be unsuccessful, but if there is real value and real content in there it will be meaningful.” While blogs can be effective marketing tools — they may not be effective if they are perceived to be primarily marketing tools, he said. “It all really comes down to what’s on the blog. It’s a big commitment to do a blog well and you have to have dedicated resources for that. Companies that aren’t willing to commit — their blogs will be abandoned.”
Some of the best real estate blogs “are pretty edgy,” he said, and corporate-operated blogs could be less effective if bloggers feel constrained about what they’re writing, “which (can make) the content less rich or less provocative.”
Luther said that some of the Move blogs allow anonymous comments, while others require user registration in order to comment. “Our goal is to facilitate the dialogue and our main concern with moderation at this point is not to control the conversation but rather (to) fight spam,” he said. “For example, I’ve found that by moderating the first comment by any given user to ensure it is not spam has almost completely eliminated all the spam on the site.”
Jim Cronin, a real estate consultant who operates the “Real Estate Tomato” blog site, which offers advice on online marketing, said that the new blogs launched by Move Inc. “look like blogs, smell like blogs, even tasted like blogs … but what blog that looks so much like a blog has no presence in the search engines?” He said there apparently hasn’t been much online promotion of the new blogs yet.
According to the Move company blog: the company is seeking a product manager in charge of search-engine optimization.
The company is on the move in other ways, too — Errol Samuelson, president of Move Inc. subsidiary Top Producer, has been hired to serve as president of Realtor.com, the company announced last month. Samuelson succeeds Allan Dalton, who has left that position to pursue a hush-hush new business venture for the company.
Cronin said he was impressed by the “stellar” design of the group of Move blogs, adding, “but then I noticed that every one has the exact same (design). That’s like everyone showing up to the prom in the same dress.”
There aren’t many comments at the sites, Cronin also noted. “Posting (is) at an incredible pace … my hat is off.” But the blogs have a challenge in building a community, otherwise it may be “like shouting into a hurricane,” he said. “These are islands. If I have not heard of them, I assume that most in the real estate blogging community have overlooked them as well.”
Luther said that content is key for building up the blog sites. “Great content will attract readers and bloggers. We continue to take an organic and grassroots marketing approach to promoting our blogs,” he said. He also noted that the blogging effort is “just getting started.” While the company has a national focus, Luther said that “real estate is local and as the blogs and dialogue continue to involve community leaders and citizen journalists this will provide compelling local experience.”