In my previous column I discussed the use of an editorial calendar to make Twitter more manageable. The ability to schedule promotions on Twitter helps you compartmentalize your time while continuing to push out relevant information.

This week I’ll continue on the scheduling theme with TweetLister, a tool for automating listing promotions on Twitter. It’s a tool that is designed to assist with agent-listed and for-sale-by-owner property sales. TweetLister has three main features:

  • Distills your property listing information into a Twitter-friendly post.
  • Makes a landing page for your listing.
  • Search feature scans all of the entered listings.

Objective: Promote listings regularly via Twitter without spending all day, every day typing 140-character distillations of your listing information.

Making property info Twitter-friendly

With all of the variables and attributes in a real estate property listing, trying to get it shortened to the 140-character limit of a Twitter post can be a challenge. One thing which TweetLister does well is shorten the listing information for you.

You enter the broad-stroke information via pull-down menus and a few text boxes. You can also select a repeating schedule with start and end dates. TweetLister shortens it all into a classified-ad-style Twitter post. Nothing fancy, no snappy copywriting or anything. Just short and simple.

TweetLister also adds a hashtag — "#tl" to your tweet. This probably has more benefit for TweetLister than for real estate professionals or home searchers at the moment. I suppose if it became well-known that #tl was the hashtag for real estate listings, then home-searchers might use that term to find properties.

A landing page for your listing

The post generated by TweetLister includes a page on their site which includes all of the basic information you entered, a photo (if you uploaded one) and links to your own Web site and virtual tour (if you provided them). There’s also a contact form on the landing page that forwards to you. You can also download all of the contacts for a given listing in Excel.

As detail view pages go, this one is pretty plain. No mapping or any of that, but it’s functional. TweetLister mentions the potential for search-engine optimization value from the links provided on the landing page. While any link is alright, the coding of the page (I’ll spare you details of the perils of table-based HTML for another time) and anchor text (the words that are clickable) of links inhibit the SEO potential of those links. All the same, you should use them if you choose to use TweetLister.

TweetLister Search

So I bet that some of you have noticed that to get the use of the previous two features, you’ve handed over a fair bit of information about a property. TweetLister also runs its own search engine on the listings that it is gathering. Visitors can enter the parameters of their search and get matching results from TweetLister.

As with the #tl hashtag I don’t see this as a big benefit right now. And given that all the results shown by the TweetLister Search will be the landing pages on the TweetLister site, perhaps some won’t consider this feature much of a benefit at all.

For now, the functionality of the search is limited by the amount of listings and by the necessity of choosing an entry for each of the search parameters. For example, you can’t just look for all property in Burlington, Vt. — you need to specify if you are looking specifically for residential or multi-family properties.

Suggested improvements

It’s not really fair to pick on beta software for having a few rough edges. But I’m not going to let that stop me. Here are some ways that I would love to see TweetLister improve:

  • Include a contact message in Excel exports. Name and number is great, but knowing what they said in the message is important, too.
  • Improve coding practices on landing pages — make it more customizable.
  • Allow ability to customize anchor text for virtual-tour links and detail-listing links.
  • Release an API (an application-programming interface, which serves as a building block for Web developers) to allow connecting Internet Data Exchange (IDX)-enabled sites and/or multiple listing services to integrate the service.
  • Analytics on the clicks from Twitter. Better yet, integrate with Bit.ly’s API.
  • Analytics on the generated landing page.

I’m a big data geek and the last two are probably most important for me. I’d want to know how many people are clicking on that link and what they’re doing when they get there, and so on. I’d be using that information to make changes to the photograph, the features I promote, and the language I use with the system to help optimize conversion.

For those who aren’t data geeks, the code practice improvements and customizing anchor text would help with SEO.

Cautionary tales

Please don’t confuse automating your listing promotion via TweetLister with being an engaged social-media-expert real estate professional. As with forming an editorial calendar, it’s tempting to put your use of Twitter entirely on autopilot using a tool like TweetLister. If you do, your Twitter stream will read like the classifieds page of your local newspaper. If that’s your brand, then go for it.

Another cautionary tale might be around the idea of pumping another Web site or service full of your listing data and inserting a contact form that you don’t own between you and your audience. This is something that people talk about a lot on the forums here at Inman: how hard it is to rank for a particular keyword on Google when you’re competing with "Yatrullow" (Yahoo, Trulia and Zillow) and they are using your listing data to beat you.

TweetLister could be another of these types of services. For now, their content and coding practices don’t help them much for beating you on the main search engines. But it’s something to watch.

Gahlord Dewald is the president and janitor of Thoughtfaucet, a strategic creative services company in Burlington, Vt. He’s a frequent speaker on applying analytics and data to creative marketing endeavors. He will speak during a Bloggers Connect workshop at the upcoming Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco, which runs from Aug. 5-7.

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What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor.

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