Is blogging just the latest fad or is it a tool that every future Realtor should implement as part of his or her regular business plan?

At the recent National Association of Realtors Midyear conference in Washington, D.C., an audience member asked the following question:

“I’ve just been hearing about this new blogging thing. Do I really need a blog?”

The answer: “No — this shouldn’t be a high priority.”

I was stunned not only by the question, but even more so by the answer. Blogging is new? I don’t need to make blogging a priority?

When I’m out on the speaking circuit, I strongly encourage agents to use blogging and social networking as an innovative way to generate customer leads. The response to this approach has been lukewarm at best. Out of a typical audience of 200 agents, maybe one or two agents are blogging. Agents are interested, but only a small percentage will take action on any of the technological innovations I discuss, much less go the route of creating a blog.

What’s particularly disturbing is a recent survey that reports that 35 percent of all agents are not online. The long-term outlook for these agents is poor. As Marc Davison wrote in a recent Inman News column,

“For the 35 percent of those who are not online, for anyone thinking that national listings should not be a part of every agent’s Web site, that blogs about your neighborhood are a waste of time or that user-generated feedback isn’t the holy grail of traffic, you are on the gurney heading off the bleeding edge and into the morgue.”

The challenge may be insurmountable for many agents. According to Ann Randolph of Lore Magazine, when baby boomers purchase technology they have an expectation that you plug it in and it’s supposed to work. Until the advent of computers, every electronic gadget we owned worked simply by plugging it in and turning it on. No manual required. This expectation is part of boomer DNA just as much as computers and social networks are part of the Gen X and Gen Y culture. User manuals are typically incomprehensible and offshore customer support is usually abysmal. It comes as no surprise that so many older agents are completely overwhelmed. The process is so frustrating that it’s easier to give up and say, “I’m sticking with what has worked for me in the past.”

Consequently, part of the blogger disconnect is due to the aging Realtor population. The median age is still at 52, placing over half of today’s Realtors being born before 1955. Even though boomers still own most of the listings, Gen X and Gen Y are now buying their first homes and many are preparing to sell. Web 2.0 applications are easy for them. In contrast, older agents struggle to learn an entirely new technology with an entirely new jargon. Terms such as “RSS,” “wiki,” “pinging,” “widgets,” “Technorati” and “trackbacks” are not only new words, they are entirely new systems for organizing and experiencing information. While it may be easy to understand how a television show like American Idol creates an interactive experience with the audience, the idea that a complete stranger may be able to post on my real estate blog or make comments on my social network can be intimidating to those who are unfamiliar with the process.

This concern is especially apparent among broker owners. Many express concerns about having their agents participate in blogging. For example:

–“What kinds of liability will our company have if an agent says something about a property that is incorrect?”

–“What if the agent flames another agent or a property? Are we exposing ourselves to litigation?”

–“If we encourage blogging, do I have to hire someone to monitor every post so that we don’t get sued?”

The liability issues for brokers are huge. Blogging is still in the frontier days. There are very few legal guidelines that brokers can use to protect themselves from litigation. Furthermore, many agents are oblivious to the fact that what they post on their blogs is out there forever — there’s no way to take it back.

Perhaps the biggest challenge the real estate industry faces in terms of blogging and social networking is the issue of actually writing posts. Boomers and traditionalists prefer e-mail, but lack technological expertise. In contrast, much of Gen X and Gen Y communicate primarily by text-messaging. This doesn’t lead to great writing. All groups are challenged by finding time to write and to read other blogs. Also, many people in the industry start a blog, only to find they have difficulty making the time to keep it up.

This raises some important questions about the future of real estate blogging and social networking. Are bloggers really just the next generation of self-proclaimed journalists? Can you be a great blogger and still run a full-time real estate business? If so, is this the exception rather than the rule? Will your blogging activities hurt or help your production? We know that the public definitely wants social networks. Will agents and brokers end up using ready-made blogs by third-party providers in lieu of creating their own content?

Bernice Ross, national speaker and CEO of Realestatecoach.com, is the author of “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters” and “Who’s the Best Person to Sell My House?” Both are available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com or visit her blog at www.LuxuryClues.com.

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