A National Association of Realtors job posting for a "social media manager" has touched off a maelstrom of online commentary at several real estate blog sites.

Depending on whose comment you read, the new position should either be applauded as a move to bring the association up to speed in engaging in online industry conversations; raise questions about whether the motives are to squelch Realtors’ digital dialog rather than promote it; or be condemned for arriving at the Web 2.0 party too late.

Among the job duties, according to the post at Monster.com: "Monitor real estate industry and related social media, facilitate NAR’s participation in external blogs and social media," and "maintain, evolve and enforce NAR’s social media policies and guidelines."

The individual will also train association staff and its elected leaders on how to write for blogs and other social media, monitor the association’s existing blogs while building new ones as needed, and measure the effectiveness of the group’s social media efforts.

The trade group has been dabbling in online media, including online video, and has launched several blog sites. The group has used Twitter, a quick online messaging tool, as a way to communicate with attendees and other members during conferences.

"We’ve put our toe in the water," said Hilary Marsh, managing director for Realtor.org, the trade group’s Web site for members. Marsh will serve as the supervisor for the social media manager.

"We have blogs, several different things happening on Twitter. We’ve been ‘Twittering’ at our major meetings for more than a year. We’ve been trying out blogs for several years already, and we have podcasts."

She added, "We have adopted individual components of Web 2.0 contemporary online stuff for quite a long time, but this (new position) will help our efforts gel."

The social media manager will "have a pretty big charge" in monitoring both incoming and outgoing conversations.

The individual is "supposed to listen — to find out who’s talking about NAR, talking about our issues, talking about the real estate industry," and to find ways "in which we participate" and have a presence in the online conversation, Marsh said.

It will not be a "rogue job," Marsh noted, though she also said the social media manager position isn’t about "spin."

"The person’s going to make sure that our information is out there accurately and thoroughly. We want to join those conversations … so that it’s not a question of spin at all. It’s a question of presence and participation."

Jay Thompson, a Phoenix real estate broker, said in a blog post at the Agent Genius Web site that he is pleased the association is pursuing the new position.

"I say kudos to the leadership team at NAR for at least recognizing the importance of establishing a social media position," he stated. "The NAR seems to be trying to ‘get it.’ That alone is a significant step forward." He asked readers of the blog to weigh in on whether the group was "simply playing lip service."

Several dozen commenters have responded to date on Thompson’s post. Benn Rosales, founder of the Agent Genius blog site, which has more than 30 regular contributors, stated in a comment that a hurdle for the new hire is understanding the perceptions that will come with the position. Some other commenters, for example, expressed reservations about the purpose and intent of the position and whether the new hire would seek to filter online conversations.

Marsh said the association is not "envisioning setting guidelines for every member out there" on how to engage in social media conversations. "We are figuring (out) what’s the best way to do the connection" with others in the social media space, she said, and evaluating how to create a better "feedback loop" for members.

With 1.2 million members, Marsh said it is a big proposition in building new tools to reach all of them and to gather their feedback.

"As we evolve our online presence, certainly it will involve more participatory media elements. They’re evolving under our feet," she said.

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