A porn star attends a Debutante’s Ball dressed in her best AVN attire.

A traveler orders sushi at a truckstop.

A real estate vendor uses ActiveRain to spam members about a new application.

There are some things you just don’t do.

Street Smarts

Gena Riede is a gentle, experienced Sacramento, Calif.-based Realtor. She is also a self-admitted social network neophyte who spent last week fighting to save her professional reputation from what amounted to a gangland attack by members of Yelp, the phenomenally popular review site.

I came across Gena on ActiveRain, where she blogged about her ordeal. Her story began innocently enough at Real Estate Connect 2007, where she spent each day absorbing the possibilities of Web 2.0. Gena returned from the conference eager to jump in.

“I didn’t get into this business to sit in front of a computer all day,” Gena offered when I called her to learn more. “I like real-world interaction, but I understand that’s part of what our business is becoming. So I took the advice I was given and began signing up on as many sites as I could.”

It was sound advice and Gena did the right thing. She made the decision to be progressive, make changes to her business and plug into the scene. What Gena needed, however, was a primer on social media etiquette, the things those of us who live for this stuff inherently grok.


You don’t tug on Superman’s cape.
You don’t spit in the wind.
You don’t pull the mask off the ‘ole Lone Ranger.
And you don’t mess around with Jim.

Yelp is a collection of user-generated reviews of local businesses and services. Unregistered visitors can search the site. If you want to contribute to the discussion or add a review you must sign up for a verified account.

Seems simple enough — like a New Yorker riding the subway. We just know you don’t look at the other passengers on the train. Out-of-towners don’t know that unless they’re informed. Sometimes it’s the person you’re staring at that gives you the 411. Hopefully, all he does is ask, “Hey, you got a problem?”

Gena was the out-of-towner. She asked clients to post unregistered testimonials of her real estate practice. To a Realtor, reviews and testimonials are the same thing. It makes sense. Not on Yelp, though, where its gangbangers proceeded to maul her like a Crip crossing over into Blood territory with brutal comments about her, her profession and her clients.

“Had I read the fine print,” Gena wrote in her blog post on ActiveRain, “I would have known that reviews must come from registered users.”

I feel ya

A few years back I contacted a Realtor by phone after reading her post on the popular listserv RealTalk. She was seeking advice on a topic that I felt I had a solution for. The agent attacked without warning, wanting to know how I got her number. “From your Web site,” I replied. Little did I know I had violated an unwritten RealTalk rule. The agent slammed down the phone and posted her impression of me to the group. For the next several days, I was out of body watching my name being torn apart like chum in a Realtor frenzy.

Like Gena, I learned a valuable lesson.

Bad, Bad Leroy Brown

Uptown got its hustlers
The Bowery got its bums
And Forty-Second Street got big Jim Walker
He’s a pool shootin’ son of a gun

Social networks are rife with classes, cultures and cliques — just like real life. LinkedIn is all business; Flickr has that youthful, I’m-a-Mac vibe; Facebook is the big tent. There are nuances.

People who, like me, see the great promise social platforms hold for real estate brokers and agents have perhaps been remiss in not stressing the need to study these cultures before jumping in.

In the real world, Gena is indeed a professional. She is well-read, has a progressive mind and a class that enables her to weave in and out of offline social groups with grace. But online, Gena remarked, “I don’t have the time to sit and figure out how to play each and every network. We’re told to join with no instructions on what to do or what they stand for and what they mean.”

It’s true.

Sugar Daddys

As we concluded our visit, Gena apologized for her defensive tone when we first got on the phone. She thought I was a vendor, a member of another social group at odds with real estate. It was then she realized how things like the Yelp incident happen. Gena acknowledged that just knowing the Web 2.0 buzzwords doesn’t cut it. It’s not as simple as it’s sometimes made out to be.

As I explained to Gena, social sites are like candy, pretty confections made of sweet syrup and artificial color. Some are quite pleasing. Others are like a Sugar Daddy: By the time you finish chewing and prying the sticky mess from your teeth, you realize it wasn’t worth it.

Marc Davison is a founding partner of 1000watt Consulting. He can be reached at marc@1000wattconsulting.com.


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