It’s a question real estate agents face on a daily basis: What should I spend my money on? And now that question is a Facebook group.

As independent contractors operating in a sluggish housing market and struggling national economy, many agents are paying very close attention to every dollar spent.

Jimmy Mackin, who is co-founder of The MLS App, a tool allowing agents to market real estate listings on Facebook, and a contributor to agent advice and information site InmanNext, posed this simple question in establishing a Facebook group yesterday. Today, at last count, the group had nearly 1,200 members.

"I’m very encouraged to see such a high level of involvement this early on," Mackin told Inman News.

"Right now, agents are wasting an incredible amount of time and money trying to find that ‘best’ product. By creating a place where agents can openly discuss their purchases and share their stories, we believe we can help agents find better products that will help their business.

He added, " Facebook and social media play critical roles in this evolution in peer-to-peer instant feedback."

In a YouTube video (see below) introducing the group, Mackin said that the genesis for the group idea was a conversation with Chris Smith, Inman News chief evangelist. Mackin and Smith will both take the stage next week at the Real Estate Connect event in New York City, which runs from Jan. 11-13 at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square.

Mackin said he discussed with Smith "some of the challenges agents are facing in today’s market," and a question that emerged was: "What should I spend my money on, and why?"

Before the explosion of social media, Mackin noted that conversations leading to spending decisions used to happen "behind closed doors between an agent and vendor." But social media has empowered agents to tap their social spheres when making purchase decisions.

Nowadays, agents can ask online, "Is it worth me spending $50 a month to buy this product? And if so, why? You can get real case studies without having to get all the information directly from the vendor."

Mackin noted in the video that the group is intended to be an open forum for vendors, too. "We also want to give the opportunity for the vendors to come in here and be a part of the conversation and share success stories," he said.

The group guidelines note that members should not "start a thread by linking to your product or sharing an affiliate link," and offers good examples and bad examples of group posts.

Mackin said, "Posting that a product is ‘great’ is not nearly as valuable as posting, ‘I bought this product for X dollars and it helped me close 25 new leads this month," for example. "We want our members to know what to expect if they are going to invest in a product."

Jody Moore, a real estate photographer in Nicholasville, Ky., shared that he has used website creation tool Weebly.com, which cost him about $27 for six months of service, and purchased a Canon 60D camera for about $1,200 and Photoshop Elements photo editing software for $99, as examples.

Moore also offered, "Here is something that you should not spend your money on: Please do not pay for analytics on your website. Google offers analytics for no cost."

Another group member, Lucia Valedez-Escobar of Greenacres, Fla., posted the question, "What’s the best (customer relationship management tool) out there? She said she had used Top Producer 8i, while her husband "claims Salesforce to be the best."

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