Real estate agents by their very nature are marketers. Some are quite savvy, while others apparently graduated from the Crazy Eddie School of Marketing. Still others are stuck in the vast middle doing so-so marketing and providing so-so results. But all are marketers to one degree or another.

Which explains why real estate’s love affair with technology is actually a love affair with new marketing.

Real estate agents by their very nature are marketers. Some are quite savvy, while others apparently graduated from the Crazy Eddie School of Marketing. Still others are stuck in the vast middle doing so-so marketing and providing so-so results. But all are marketers to one degree or another.

Which explains why real estate’s love affair with technology is actually a love affair with new marketing.

Social media isn’t actually a technological phenomenon. The core technology involved with things like Twitter and Facebook are actually ancient. Blogging did not involve any cutting-edge research into artificial intelligence and nanocircuitry.

The focus on building real relationships with real people through online methods is a welcome one, but believe an old gamer when I say that the "Twitterati" have a long way to go to come close to the real human bonds we were building with each other in Everquest back in 2000, and doing it without ever knowing each others’ real names.

I once had a three-hour online conversation about life, family, aspirations and hopes with "Gariok Gutchewer." He (I assume Gariok is a man in real life) turned out to be a real sweetheart, a sensitive guy who worked as an accountant but wanted to direct independent movies about his hometown of Gary, Ind.

So real estate people talk about technology when what they’re really talking about is marketing. And usually, they’re thinking and talking about marketing homes for sale using technology: "Should I put listings on Twitter?" "How do I get more leads by using Facebook?" "Can you show me how to use video to increase my Web site search rankings?"

Wrong questions

Frankly, these strike me as the wrong questions to ask. Marketing properties for your client is you doing your job. It isn’t marketing.

John D. Rockefeller once said, "Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing." Using technology to better promote homes for sale, or to generate more leads, is part of "doing the right thing," but it is not part of letting people know you are doing the right thing.

You know what else is not letting people know you are doing the right thing? Telling them, "Hey you, I’m doing the right thing over here!" Or what’s worse still, getting a bullhorn and shouting from the rooftop that you’re doing the right thing over here.

First, no one believes you in this day and age of advertising saturation, assuming they heard you in the first place. The average American is bombarded with more than 5,000 advertising messages every day from all sources.

Second, even if one wanted to believe you, they can see no evidence that you are, in fact, doing the right thing.

A Web page claiming that "Ms. So-and-So" is the finest Realtor ever to walk the earth — who cares deeply about client service, works 29 hours a day, sells 200 houses a day (even in her sleep), and loves puppies — does not, last I checked, constitute evidence.

Right answers

What makes social media and such technologies so exciting for some in the real estate industry is that they make it possible to tell people that one is in fact doing the right thing by showing, not by telling. This is new marketing in real estate. …CONTINUED

Of course, there are two parts to Rockefeller’s quote. First, you must do the right thing. If you suck at the actual job of being a Realtor, I’m not sure there’s much to show and tell.

If some relocation buyer contacts you asking questions about the local schools, and you can’t tell her anything she can’t find herself on some Web site (because I guarantee such a Web site exists), then there isn’t much point to the blogging and the twittering and the hollerin’ and the carryin’ on, whatever the technology.

Assuming that you are doing the right thing, then you can start showing people that you are doing the right thing. There is no single way to do this. Each person will have strengths and weaknesses. Some people are great in person, but can’t write worth a damn … so give video a try.

Others have a face for radio and a way with words that makes the average National Football League lineman sound like a poet, but have a gift for numbers and quantitative analysis. Try crisp market reports that make dull statistics come to life. Maybe you have the soul of an artist and can take breathtaking photos. Leverage Flickr by all means.

Maybe you can’t write, can’t talk, failed math in kindergarten, and have no gift with the camera, but your clients love you because you’re super-friendly and super-caring and you still know what you’re doing. Try getting your clients on video then, or get them to blog.

Maybe you can’t write, can’t talk, failed math, are antisocial, and ugly to boot. If you have good hair, consider politics as a career. If not, um … law school?

It’s the marketing itself that constitutes evidence. Provide insider-info about an area and you don’t have to claim that you have local expertise: everyone can see that you do.

Put videos on showing how personable you are working with clients, and you don’t have to say, "I’m real friendly and I give great client service." People can see it for themselves.

Compared to such powerful new marketing, enabled by technology, that sexy listing flier looks pretty feeble, doesn’t it?

Which is not to denigrate the sexy listing flier. Or the best (Internet Data Exchange) search capability on the Web site. Or listings syndication. Or search-engine optimization. Or a great Web site. Or any of the thousands of things you can do to serve your client better.

Rather, the point is to understand that marketing properties belongs in the "doing the right thing" column. Social media, blogs, and these new technologies often belong in the "showing people that you’re doing the right thing" column.

So get out there, and as "Public Enemy" said, "Show ’em whatcha got."

Robert Hahn is managing partner of 7DS Associates, a marketing, technology and strategy consultancy focusing on the real estate industry. He is also founder of The Notorious R.O.B. blog.

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