Editor’s note: This article is Part 3 of a four-part perspective series looking at the impact of new online social media on real estate. See Part 1, “Real estate’s Adult Friend Finder“; Part 2, “Out of the box and into the ditch“; and Part 4, “Blinded by the light.”

Real estate’s future is indeed bright. It glistens. Why are so many so blind to this?

Editor’s note: This article is Part 3 of a four-part perspective series looking at the impact of new online social media on real estate. See Part 1, “Real estate’s Adult Friend Finder“; Part 2, “Out of the box and into the ditch“; and Part 4, “Blinded by the light.”

Real estate’s future is indeed bright. It glistens. Why are so many so blind to this?

Most real estate people subscribe to the power of face-to-face connection. The ability to touch, stand alongside and feel with the consumer.

Traditionalists want to do this in person. “Tech-savvy” folks are comfortable doing this via cell phone and e-mail. And the truly progressive are jumping on new online social networking platforms.

Things are going great and getting better

Online social networks are thriving. They are replacing our parks, malls, dance halls and social clubs as places where people congregate, interact, bond and transact with each other. Real estate folks have always thrived in these traditional social organizations, and they will no doubt thrive in the new ones.

The most interesting attribute regarding these networks is how closely member pages, profiles and posts resemble the online offerings of real estate agents. Both are virtually identical in almost every way but one: social network members share as much information as they can about themselves, which serves the greater good of the entire social community. In real estate, on the other hand, participants share as little information as they can in an effort to serve and protect their own positions. Each participant in the real estate network swims in her own isolated pond with no bridges to each other and few roads for oncoming consumer traffic.

The future I see for traditional real estate is extraordinary if those in the industry would study the market place and changing consumer behaviors. If socially awkward musicians and “geeks” can master new online social platforms, surely Realtors — consummate social beings — can too. They just need to recognize that networking in one of the places I list below is quickly becoming more important than next month’s Rotary meeting.

Twitter

Twitter has more than 4 million users, adding 1,000 new ones every hour. Why? Because it lets people share information with other the people in their world. Twitter users send text messages about what they’re doing at any given moment to the Twitter site. Their friends can then receive instant updates or check in as they please.

Twitter members are acclimating to an entirely new way of communication. Before you roll your eyes, think about how you can leverage this platform. At the very least, think about how you’re going to deal with people who network like this when they are your customer.

LinkedIn

This social network launched in 2002 with 350 members, a small group of technology entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Their average age was in the mid 30s — Gen X. Today, LinkedIn’s 10 million members use it to create meaningful business relationships. That’s 10 million corporate business people making critical decisions online that were once conducted face to face.

MySpace

If you’re of the opinion that MySpace is for kids then a) you’ve never heard of Xanga and b) stop having opinions. Stats taken from ComScore Media Metrix, a leader in digital media measurement, breaks MySpace users down as follows:

MySpace is all about strangers finding strangers, sharing, and engaging each other. The site has 100 million registered members. By my count, 80 million MySpacers are within the home-buying/selling age. They have a passion for online relationships. Sure you can pick up a cell phone to prospect, but with this crowd, who’s answering?

Facebook

Facebook launched out of Harvard in 2004. Three years later they turned down a $1 billion offer from Yahoo. What do people on Facebook do? I get the feeling it has something to do with face-to-face activity. Today 18 million faces adorn Facebook, 34 percent of whom are aged 18-24, real estate’s future customer. Another 35 percent of Facebook users are aged 34-54, real estate’s current customer.

The sensibilities of Facebook members — how they size one another up and accept or reject connections — is indicative of how they size everything else up in their life. Think about how well these people will respond to traditional networking and prospecting methods.

Gurus, coaches, educators and columnists continue to spoon feed their constituents stuff they know people want to hear rather than what they need to hear. As a result, hordes of real estate salespeople are missing out on amazing opportunities that play to their natural strengths as networkers, communicators and relationship builders.

Marc Davison is a national speaker and vice president of OnBoard, a real estate data provider based in New York. Davison previously served as vice president of VREO, a provider of electronic signature and Web site software for the real estate industry. He can be reached at mdavison@onboardllc.com.

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