Lead Gen
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'Places' wants to be the new social network for agents

Platform uses places, not people, as the basis for connecting professionals in the real estate industry
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  • New social network for agents, now in beta, uses locations and events to help agents connect with one another.
  • Product lets real estate agents search "in the past" by looking at previous dates of events and time spent in jobs.

Places is a social network that uses locations and dates instead of names to help real estate agents connect.

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Places is a social media platform designed to help agents connect and refer business.

Platforms: Browser
Ideal for: New agents building their connections; agents seeking lead sources from vendors

Top selling points

  • Designed to connect around places or events
  • Fast sign-up
  • Lack of advertising content

Top concerns

Places will have a very hard time competing with Facebook Groups and LinkedIn, especially without an app.

What you should know

Places encourages members to search for connections by physical places (such as an old job) or events (such as a concert or business conference).

The developer’s intent is to capitalize on what it views as a flaw in Facebook: its inability to search by previous dates.

For example, you can enter the name of a place and a time frame (e.g., Inman Connect, 2011), and Places will return anyone who has entered that place in their profile.

In theory, the approach has merit, but it’s far from the technical sophistication of a location-based lead and networking product like myPlanit, a visually stunning app powered by patented geolocation technology that proactively tracks every place and person you come across every day.

Places has a spartan interface inspired by Facebook, with menu items on the left and a centered feed of news and updates by people in your network.

When creating a profile, users enter “Realtor” to identify themselves, and Places knows to search for other agents when the user enters a name or place.

It’s reasonable to assume Places will have to change the instance of “Realtor” in its user interface (UI) to all caps and include a copyright symbol, given that the National Association of Realtors (NAR) has tight usage standards in place for the term (Inman editorial standards notwithstanding). After all, it’s a designation, not a profession.

Users can enter any place in any time frame when creating their profile to help others find them according to each location entered. Groups can be created according to each place and set to open or private.

User selections in the left-hand navigation include: Profile, News, Timeline, Friends, Places and Messages.

News feeds can include links and notes and help fuel discussions among members.

It’s confusing why “Places” wouldn’t be the first menu item, given the product’s value proposition.

Agents can search by ZIP code to find nearby colleagues or service providers to build a network of like-minded professionals. Each “friend” is designated as a referral or lead source, based on where each is located.

Facebook has become a very busy user experience (UX) with its multiple menus, shortcuts, notification reminders, pages list, recent posts and sponsored ad boxes. Thus, I understand the intent of Places to minimize the noise so real estate agents can network in peace.

However, that Facebook UX wasn’t built on spec — the company has galaxies of data to back its decisions on what to put where and why and to ensure we keep coming back.

This is why Places will have a hard time dislodging people from Facebook, especially agents who use its advertising power to pull in leads and earn accolades from their colleagues.

My demo of Places revealed few tools or features that can out-gun the existing armory of UX concepts deployed by Facebook or LinkedIn, a social network specifically designed for professional networking.

Everyone wants to bring down Goliath, but sometimes slingshots simply aren’t accurate enough.

Places is very early in its development and only now seeking beta testers. Overall, I applaud the software’s intent, and it’s hard to predict the future of any technology product these days. Still, until what lies ahead is somewhat more clear, it’s best to live in the present.

Have a technology product you would like to discuss? Email Craig Rowe.

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