Editor’s note: Please welcome Tom Flanagan, director of information technology at Residential Properties Ltd. in Providence, R.I., as a technology columnist for Inman News.

Challenging market conditions have forced real estate brokers to operate leaner and meaner. Print budgets have been drastically reduced, and in some cases permanently cut. Gratuitous billboard and bus stop advertising is a thing of the past.

Open house grids in the local newspaper are minuscule at best, and despite a substantial marketing shift from print to Web, Internet advertising budgets have also felt the crunch.

The technology budget has also been impacted. Brokers and agents can choose from a plethora of technology products. Floor plans or property videos? Community data or mapping? It can be overwhelming and difficult to decide which product is right for your business or which product will yield the highest return on investment.

Here are five technologies that are not only recession-proof but can help your brokerage weather the downturn:

1. Listings syndication: Syndicating your real estate listings on popular real estate sites such as Zillow and Trulia will give your listings additional national exposure.

Syndication services like ListHub (which was recently acquired by Realtor.com operator Move Inc.) and Point2 (recently acquired by Yardi Systems) are integrated with many multiple listing service organizations and will typically syndicate your listings for free, charging a fee for enhanced services.

2. Cloud computing: Cloud computing (Internet-based computing) can be extremely advantageous for the real estate brokerage. Google Apps is a cost-effective software suite that includes Google’s popular e-mail application, Gmail, and Google Docs, which include online spreadsheet and word-processing, and Google Calendar.

E-mail is today’s most important communications platform in business, and there are more than 3 million businesses running the browser-based software. Not only does it reduce expensive information technology (IT) hassles, it allows agents to be productive anywhere.

3. WordPress: WordPress is an extremely flexible, easy-to-use open-source application. Open-source software is free to redistribute and does not require a fee. WordPress can power your blog, press page, CMS (content management system) or even a property website. It has a great community and knowledge base, and informative tutorials.

4. Blogging: Content is still king and there is no better way to create dynamic content than blogging. It has tremendous SEO (search-engine optimization) value and it’s a wonderful publishing platform. Blogging is a perfect way to educate your customers and showcase your expertise.

5. Social media: Social media is not a trend, it’s a game-changer! It has given the consumer a platform to discuss and reviews brands. As I mention in my last column, "3 steps to better social media etiquette," traditional social boundaries have changed. Embrace these changes and begin to measure your return on engagement!

Implementing these strategies will help "trim the technology fat" and help your organization operate more efficiently. It will also free up your sales associates to focus on what they do best: assisting customers and selling properties.

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