I’ve spent the better part of the last decade talking with real estate brokers and franchise executives about the need to innovate and polish their brands. Most agree they should be doing more. But there’s almost invariably a point where the conversation takes a fatalistic turn — sharply left, down the dead-end street of bad excuses.
“I don’t have an IT department.”
“I can’t afford it.”
“My agents won’t get it and I can’t force them to do anything.”
“I don’t have time.”
These excuses hold no water in today’s Web 2.0 world. As you are about to see, you don’t need an IT department. Regarding affordability, you can’t afford not too. As for the agents in opposition, replace them with agents who get it. They’re your future. As for time, I just don’t get that one. There’s always time.
Lean in and peep this: For the price of that double-truck newspaper ad you ran last week featuring all those eager agent faces smiling at no one, you could have built your own Web 2.0 platform.
It’s true. All you need to do is shake off the bewilderment, the wary, defensive attitude toward the social media explosion in real estate. If 1 percent of the energy the “traditional” industry expends trashing Redfin, conjuring Zillow nightmares, or trying to find new ways to apply the “lion over the hill” metaphor were channeled into creating and executing its own Web 2.0 vision, it would find itself in a much better place.
Guy Kawasaki was Apple’s chief evangelist in the company’s first heyday. Today, he runs Garage Venture Partners, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. His latest effort, Truemors, is worth understanding.
Launched earlier this summer, Truemors is a Web 2.0 application that lets people post and share rumors. Stupid? Maybe. But how he did it is brilliant. Using off-the-shelf, easily modified platforms such as WordPress (for publishing), My SQL (database architecture), hosting on Yahoo! Small Business and a remote programming vendor, he was able to bring the site to market in 7.5 weeks. Total cost: $12,107.09. As he puts it:
“During the dot-com days, entrepreneurs had to raise $5 million to try stupid ideas. Now I’ve proven that you can do stupid for $12,107.09.”
The site draws massive traffic and is now sponsored by Audi. They just released a Facebook application.
So I’m with stupid on this one. It’s never been easier to innovate online. You can do it without breaking the bank or sidetracking your organization. You don’t have to hire a new IT team, buy servers or try to recruit programmers.
To all of you franchise executives: Take the money you’d spend having Huey Lewis headline your convention bash next year and play it at the Web 2.0 table.
What to do?
Consider that Web 2.0 is about a conversation. In your case, it’s a conversation about real estate, something you and your agents have been doing since the dawn of brokerage time.
Be Guy Kawasaki. You’re probably as connected in your industry as Guy is in his. You’re prewired for success, just like him. Surround yourself with smart people like he did. Leverage your knowledge, your contacts and your brand. Connect. Build something. Or take a look at some of the newest online real estate companies. Many have APIs (application programming interfaces) that allow you to integrate their applications into your site.
All that’s left to overcome is your own conception of what’s possible.
As I head to Real Estate Connect this week, my hope is that this year’s show will make it apparent that the barriers to online innovation have crumbled, and that many in the industry step over the rubble and make their play.