I recently caught up with Pam O’Connor, the President and CEO of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, which is a global real estate network with membership from about 600 independent real estate firms.

Pam recapped some of the hot topics from the network’s annual conference, held last month in Las Vegas.

The following are excerpts from my Q-and-A with O’Connor.

Q: Can you discuss some of the highlights of the conference?

A: We used video to share examples of how members engage, innovate and lead, and our speakers focused on these strategies as well. (Speakers) covered the gamut on ways to engage both consumers and agents … addressed concepts and processes to foster innovation and … shared leadership best practices. Former White House adviser, economist and author Todd Buchholz provide insights on the global economy and political landscape as they relate to our business.

Q: Social Media has had such an impact on the real estate industry. What are some of the pros and cons that you have observed?

A: There are absolutely ways to use and misuse social media, but the reality is that it is and will continue to be the fabric of new-age communication. Those who leverage it properly will be the winners. On the plus side, social networking and blog sites offer such efficiency in establishing that "trusted local market expertise" of the best agents in a broad medium that maximizes exposure to prospective clients.

On the down side, social media communication can damage the agent’s brand if it isn’t authentic, doesn’t deliver value, or is too self-promoting, and being too ubiquitous can portray someone who spends all his or her time blogging vs. selling real estate — not the persona top practitioners want to have.

Like anything else, it’s a tremendous tool if used wisely and in balance with other activities. It is truly a channel that allows good agents to do what is paramount in this business: engage consumers and build relationships.

Q: What technology trends are you keeping an eye on this year? For example, video, mobile, tablets, etc.

Pam O’Connor

A: All of the above! Mobile is all about giving the customers what they want wherever they are. Tablets provide a convenient, non-clunky application for consumer engagement and knowledge demonstration. Videos address the short-attention-span, information-overcrowding phenomenon affecting today’s consumer. We are providing (video) solutions … for LeadingRE and … Luxury Portfolio International.

We’re also very focused on enhancing the real estate search experience for consumers, on providing a kind of research and development division to vet the best technology providers for our members, and influencing the emphasis on lead conversion as opposed to lead generation.

Many out there today are making claims of delivering "bazillions" of online leads, when in fact, it’s really just traffic. There is not nearly as much focus on the best practices required to turn that traffic into viable leads and, ultimately, into closed transactions.

The competencies for lead generation and lead conversion are very, very different. Metaphorically, what I see are some great efforts to make the phone ring but then allowing it to ring off the hook, creating a terrible customer experience.

Q: Can you talk about "Our World"?

A: (LeadingRE’s Our World initiative) provides a 24-7 online community platform to allow our members to do what they love and benefit from most — networking — and with their top-ranked manager and agent colleagues across the network. It’s "the business side of social," proprietary to our network, using … software that Cisco, Nike, Intel and other top companies have used to engage their customers and employees.

It goes beyond traditional intranets in terms of providing open and private interest-based communities for each affiliate company as well as our broader network, and it also functions as a one-stop repository for "all things LeadingRE" to make our … programs and tools (such as online continuing-education programs and other resources) easily accessible for members.

Q: What are your priorities for the network?

A: When determining priorities, it’s always a balance to remain fluid and nimble in order to take advantage of ever-evolving opportunities while also being committed to the long-term vision and strategies. We try to evaluate potential new initiatives based on how they fit with (the company’s mission, goals and values).

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