I had a great conversation with Eric Bryn this summer at Real Estate Connect regarding social media, mobile and more.

Bryn, Baird & Warner’s vice president of digital innovation, serves as a catalyst between Baird & Warner sales associates and corporate headquarters to ensure that Baird & Warner sales associates have ready access to digital marketing tools.

He works closely with the company’s marketing, information technology, and residential sales units to develop and introduce new technology solutions.

Bryn formerly served as vice president of strategic development for Leading Real Estate Companies of the World. He authors the Real Estate Relativity blog.

Q-and-A with Eric Bryn

FLANAGAN: Cartoonist and blogger Hugh Macleod recently announced that he was leaving Facebook and Twitter to focus more on developing content for his own blog. He is not the first notable blogger to make this move and many have recently contemplated the advantages and disadvantages of Hugh’s announcement.

Can you talk about content creation and distribution for the real estate industry? Is there a happy medium for creating content for your own blog and engaging content for social networks?

BRYN: The major theme that jumped out at me from Macleod’s post is content ownership. Assuming that what you create is original content, you own this content. And what you own you can control.

This control naturally extends to how you choose to distribute it, what permissions you grant regarding reuse of your content, and under what circumstances you may seek to enforce rights (such as copyrights) that attach to this content.

On many social networking sites, however, content ownership rights can get murky. This is why I always suggest you read the terms and conditions of any social networking site in which you may want to participate. Then choose to participate knowing the content ownership ground rules.

In terms of defining a happy medium, I look at social networking sites as reflective elements back to your brand. That is, the core brand experience should take place on your site, but that is not to say you cannot leverage social networking sites to engage customers in dialogue, answer questions, etc., while exerting a modicum of brand control.

A good example of a brand exerting some control on a social networking site is the "House Rules" section on Coca-Cola’s Facebook Page. Similarly, the KCM Crew Facebook Page is another great example of a brand leveraging a social network to engage customers and drive traffic back to its two core brand sites: the KCM Blog and the Keeping Current Matters website.

FLANAGAN: Committing to a social media strategy can be time-consuming, and time management is critical for real estate agents. I recently watched a fantastic video series developed by Michael McClure, president and CEO for Professional One Real Estate, where you discussed the topic of social media ROI (return on investment). What advice can you give real estate agents for managing their time with social media?

BRYN: Agreed. Michael McClure did an outstanding job of curating that series on Social Media ROI. I had a blast participating in that series. Hats off to Michael’s creativity, passion, and time-management skills.

And time, in my opinion, is the No. 1 investment a person makes in managing a social presence. It is a precious asset. So my advice:

1. Set business objectives.

2. Discipline yourself (i.e., manage your time) by setting an editorial calendar and social engagement calendar, and stick to this process so long as it delivers results.

3. Have a method in place to measure the effectiveness of the time you invest while working to achieve those business objectives.

Constantly ask yourself whether the time you invest in social media drives toward realizing your business objectives. This topic is multifaceted and I encourage everyone to watch Michael’s series. It’s well worth the investment of time.

FLANAGAN: Social media etiquette is a hot topic these days. Should brokers have a social media policy in place? What kind of risks should brokers be aware of?

BRYN: Brokerages should consider having social media guidelines, which are different from policies. Generally, guidelines set expectations and are aspirational in nature. Policies, by contrast, create a responsibility on brokerages to ensure that their employees and independent contractors follow them.

Some risks brokerages should be aware of are defamation, intellectual property violations, and code of ethics violations. Any guidelines or policy document should address these risks.

With respect to etiquette, there’s a simple mantra I’ve been using for years: Think before you post, think again, then post. That one off-color comment you made in a tweet, Facebook post, blog comment, etc., can get redistributed, retweeted, flagged, live in Google’s cache for months, and you have very little recourse to stop this conflagration after the fact.

Thus, manage your online reputation before the fact and be smart about your online conduct.

FLANAGAN: Google Plus, Google’s new social platform, launched with a bang, becoming one of the fastest-growing networks. Traffic seems to have slowed down. What does the future hold for Google Plus and how will Google further introduce the platform into its other products?

BRYN: At Baird & Warner we are heavily leveraging the Google platform across all business units, with the goal of making things easier for our sales associates and managers. At its core, this platform is a unifying element that promotes collaboration and cohesiveness within an organization.

Google Plus is my favorite social platform, principally because of its "circles" feature and the manner by which it’s already integrated into the Google-verse. Google has publicly stated that it will introduce Google Plus into its apps environment.

And once Google Plus rolls into the Apps environment, Google Plus will be one more unifying tool that helps me do my job better and more effectively for our sales associates and managers. I see Google Plus, over time, emerging as a healthy competitor to Facebook.

FLANAGAN: When I spoke at Real Estate Connect this summer in San Francisco, I discussed how the explosion of mobile is a catalyst for the open Web. Many brokers in the audience asked whether they should develop a mobile version of their real estate site and a native app. What are your thoughts on that and the future of app development?

BRYN: First, let me refer you to my blog post Collaborative CRM Strategies and Concepts, where I discussed this topic last year and encourage you to read the study I reference. This study has some excellent takeaways and is a great primer in terms of setting mobile strategy.

Personally, I don’t see the "native" vs. "mobile version" debate as "either/or"; I see it as "and." That is, you should consider doing both. However, my recommendation is to get a mobile version of your site first, then monitor how your two primary user segments use this mobile version.

What aspects of your site are sales associates using the most via their mobile devices, and what aspects are consumers using the most? Then determine which (or whether) native apps make sense based on this utilization.

It’s about promoting collaboration and delivering an excellent consumer experience. In some cases all that’s needed is a mobile version of your site; in other cases you should consider launching native apps.

It’s whatever your customers decide, but you’re employing usage data to inform your decision-making process.

FLANAGAN: Mobile and cloud computing have had a significant impact on the real estate industry. Do you see the traditional "brick and mortar" model changing drastically for brokers in the near future? If so, can you give a few examples?

BRYN: In some segments of the U.S. it will change drastically; in others it will not. The basic question to ask: What do your sales associates and consumers in your market need?

For instance, the needs of sales associates and consumers in a rural area are likely different from the needs of sale associates and consumers in an urban environment. In some markets, they will need a heavy brick-and-mortar presence that has an optional mobile environment.

In other markets, these constituencies will need a heavy mobile environment aligned with a light brick-and-mortar presence. The key is to have a plan in place to account for any changing norms that occur in your market and then act accordingly.

At Baird & Warner we’re accounting for both of these situations and we’ve redesigned and refitted offices while simultaneously aligning systems that leverage mobile and cloud computing so as to make it easier on our sales associates and their customers who, by and large, are becoming more mobile.

One positive thing we’ve noticed is that our office refits have enhanced sales associate collaboration and collegiality, whether in an office or working remotely.

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