Online classified ad service Oodle has launched a self-service platform for real estate agents that automatically uploads their for-sale listings, distributes them to more than 200 Web sites, and helps them generate viral exposure on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
Oodle Pro distributes listings to classified marketplaces that Oodle powers for Facebook and MySpace, where they are visible to the entire community — not just agents’ friends. Agents’ profiles are tied to the listings, helping them promote their brand.
Listings are also shared automatically with members of agents’ Facebook and Twitter networks, providing them with added visibility as consumers discuss them with friends, said Oodle Chief Executive Officer Craig Donato.
Wherever they appear on the Internet, Oodle Pro listings link back to agents’ profiles on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. Agents can create a tab on their Facebook page and MySpace profile, creating a "mini Web site" to showcase listings.
Although real estate agents, like consumers, have had the ability to place free classified ads on Oodle.com for about 18 months, Oodle Pro was designed with professional users in mind, Donato said.
"To real estate agents in particular, their business is driven by word-of-mouth referrals," Donato said. "When done correctly, social media can be explosive."
The challenge for sales professionals like real estate agents, Donato said, is figuring out exactly what steps to take in order to harness the power of social media.
Donato said that while Oodle may be second to craigslist.org in terms of traffic — the site claims 10 million unique users a month — where it has tried to distinguish itself is through the concept of "social classifieds," he said.
By helping simplify the process of getting listings onto social networking sites — and track how often listings are viewed and commented on — Oodle Pro can take away some of the guesswork. …CONTINUED
Donato says the idea was to bring Google AdSense sensibilities to the process of posting classifieds, while harnessing the power of social media.
"As people talk about your listing, it spreads virally," he said.
The first version of Oodle Pro to launch is designed specifically for agents, with a version for brokers to be available by the end of the year or early 2010, Donato said.
Oodle is offering agents a free 90-day trial of the service, after which subscriptions will be available for $180 a year or $24.99 per month.
Agents affiliated with Coldwell Banker, ERA, Century 21, Better Homes & Gardens, and California brokerages McGuire Real Estate and First Team Real Estate will have the ability to automatically "fetch" and post their for-sale listings to Oodle’s network of partner sites, without entering them by hand.
Agents affiliated with other companies can also sign up for the subscription-based service, and Oodle can make arrangements with their broker to enable automatic upload of listings, Donato said.
There’s some debate among agents and brokers who use social networking about the effectiveness of promoting listings there. Some who prefer not to post listings to sites like Twitter say they prefer to build relationships through more informal, personal communications.
Donato is aware of the debate, and agrees that agents shouldn’t use social networks solely for publicizing listings.
Oodle publishes guidelines for social networking that advise real estate agents to participate in two-way conversations, and to "share and share again" without limiting themselves to just talking business. It’s also a good idea to create separate identities for professional and personal postings, the company says.
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