We’ve all read the O’Reilly manifesto. It’s deep, comprehensive and defines how millions of people interact online. Most have no sense of what folksonomy, long tail, open source, and Ajax on Rails are or mean. Nevertheless, these things have changed the way they interact with each other forever.

Perhaps it is simple curiosity that propels most people into social engagement on the Web. Or the challenge of figuring out something new. Or maybe it’s a desire to be part of a phenomenon.

Author’s note: This year, as in the past, I’m moderating several sessions at Real Estate Connect. If you’ve not yet registered, take the time to do so — it’s going to be a great show. One session is titled "Building a killer brokerage in a Web 2.0 world." I’m devoting this article to what that means to me.

Register for Connect SF ’08 Now!

What is a ‘Web 2.0 world’?

We’ve all read the O’Reilly manifesto. It’s deep, comprehensive and defines how millions of people interact online. Most have no sense of what folksonomy, long tail, open source, and Ajax on Rails are or mean. Nevertheless, these things have changed the way they interact with each other forever.

Perhaps it is simple curiosity that propels most people into social engagement on the Web. Or the challenge of figuring out something new. Or maybe it’s a desire to be part of a phenomenon.

Real estate people, on the other hand, are more practical. And at times stubborn. Maybe a bit too much for their own good.

But let’s face it. Some of what’s popular about Web 2.0, while arguably cool, is a bit silly. I get Facebook. But then again, I’ve never written on someone’s wall. What’s the point in that? And the notion that I have more than 500 friends is a tad dishonest. And Twitter. Yes, I have an account. But the volume of utter nonsense that streams into it is deafening. And for most agents, Twitter’s a game that has no measure of return on it.

So what is it about this quirky Web 2.0 that so many are drawn to? What, if any parts of it, can real estate use to build that "killer brokerage"? We’re going to dig into this in my session next week, but for now let’s get started on …

The road to killer

I’ve isolated five elements of Web 2.0 that pertain to this endeavor. Nail these and you’re good to go.

Design: Think curb appeal. Picture that carefully manicured front lawn. And the unencumbered path that points guests to the front door. That’s your home page.

Web 2.0 design is an aesthetic that instinctively creates purpose. It distills a sense of invitation to the site. Specific colors transmit activity. Connectivity. Empowerment. Those oranges, greens and blues throw off a ray of fun. Excitement. Youth. It’s an appeal that invites and welcomes.

Real estate, however, still clings to a Reagan-era palette tied to logos developed before there was such a thing as research and marketing.

Web 2.0 design is something that can take your worn-out broker brand and pop it with freshness. If you think your marketplace will be confused by a logo and design redo … ask Lennox Scott if it affected his company when he did it 20 years ago. Better yet, I’ll do it for you. He’s on the panel.

Navigation: You may understand terms like "MLS." And "exclusive properties." The user, however, does not. What does "exclusive" mean anyway? Does it mean I need to be special to view it?

Web 2.0 navigation is simple. Like one entry point to search. Not 10.

Like "Contact Me" offering a dozen ways to make contact. Not one form where I get to tell you how to reach me but you still don’t tell me how to reach you. A killer navigator guides people down a clean and simple path. A killer brokerage is one that does that online as well as offline.

Copy: This is also simple in the Web 2.0 world. Unencumbered by saccharine odes to the home and ham-handed hucksterism. It’s not long and winding, whistling its own Dixie. And it never tries to take ownership of what it can’t guarantee. You don’t get to tell me you’re my "Realtor for life." You don’t own that right, just like Apple doesn’t own the right to sell connectivity even though most of its products are built to create it. They cannot guarantee connectivity. But they own "Twice as Fast — Half the Price."

Killer copy. It’s short. To the point. And tells it like it is without sap. And it takes ownership of only those things you can own.

Content: Web 2.0 content is original. Meaningful. Opinionated. Fresh. And topical. If your copy is written by others, and cloned over and over on hundreds of sites … well that’s simply not killer. I’m sorry but I don’t believe that a "Home Buyer’s Guide" should be the same for a site in Santa Barbara and for one in Stockton.

Killer is real content. Written by the people in your company. It taps the brains of your agents who know the community better than any technology ever can. And it leverages that knowledge. A killer brokerage deals with issues. And isn’t afraid to publish content that is truthful. Like telling sellers they will never sell their home if they price it too high. That’s killer.

Conversation: Lets face it: Few of us are mired in endless debate over the merits of Euripides and his progressive portrayal of the intelligent woman versus those of Aeschylus and Sophocles, his counterparts who together made up the trilogy of great tragedians of classical Athens.

Most conversation is simple. Sometimes even trivial. Regardless, people have a dire need to converse. A killer brokerage gets itself in the center of that conversation — especially if it’s about the community. Brokerages have scripted a tragedy of their own these past 10 years by distancing themselves from the conversation by virtue of Web 1.0. The consumer went somewhere else. But they are still conversing. Trulia Voices proves that. A killer brokerage should own the voices of its own community.

A killer brokerage in a Web 2.0 world

A killer brokerage is one that inspires oneness. Internally with its independent agents and externally with its customers. It’s a culture.

Picture the Yankees. A team of independent free agents. But when they put on the pinstripes and step out onto the field they become one. Better than many other teams. That’s what I mean by killer.

I will be moderating this panel of killer people that includes: Guy Wolcott of Sawbuck Realty; Henry Shao of Movoto Real Estate; Lennox Scott of John L. Scott Real Estate ;and Matt Fagioli of Diamond Dwellings.

Come join me. Take part in the conversation. Tell me who your favorite ancient Greek playwright was. And get on the road to killer.

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

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