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SphereBuilder, another social media engine or something more? Tech Review

Social media is a heavily trafficked category in real estate, and this is yet another entry into a crowded space that would require a lot of effort for an already established agent to switch platforms
Digital, social marketing

SphereBuilder offers listing marketing, marketing analytics, ideas for improving your online presence and a host of features to produce and measure digital marketing.

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SphereBuilder is a social media marketing solution for real estate agents.

Platforms: Browser
Ideal for: Mid-level, growing agents, teams and brokerages, marketing admins

Top selling points:

  • Sphere-of-influence focused
  • Content provision partnerships
  • Onboard paid ad builder
  • Engaging user interface
  • Recommendation cards for account upkeep

Top concern:

Social media is a heavily trafficked category in real estate, and this is yet another entry into a crowded space that would require a lot of effort for an already established agent to switch platforms.

What you should know

SphereBuilder, by Collabra Technologies, is essentially a social media management solution. Like several social media solutions, it offers a scoring and analytics mechanism, against which agents can benchmark and manage their online presence.

Users can connect all of their social accounts, even YouTube, create paid ad campaigns and build out the always-critical Google My Business profile.

It provides a content library via an API hookup from Ripl to be used across all accounts for scheduling posts, creating themed campaigns, etc. It offers listing marketing, ideas for improving your online presence and a host of features to produce and measure digital marketing.

Know that SphereBuilder is not a tool designed to earn new business from new leads. Rather, it wants to leverage one’s existing network. But I maintain every agent who uses it will expect to get new leads and measure the app accordingly. So then, the sphere of influence, or SOI, pitch is really a clever marketing touch.

It centers a lot of its content suggestions (and its entire UX, basically) on consistent use and oversight, comparing itself to Credit Karma. That’s apt. SphereBuilder even claims (jokingly?) on its website that “calculating your score has no impact on your social profiles.”

How could it?

You can’t look at this app and not be impressed with the commitment it makes to its user interface. It’s exceptional. There’s a heavy consumer influence throughout, eschewing a clinical, business tone in how it jumps from function to function. It just looks fun to use.

I also noted during our demo: “Its interface is what will lead to its success.” Because from an overall content provisioning and feature delivery, there’s nothing compelling enough to make a successful agent or team switch from something that’s already working unless they’re seeking similar tools in a superior user experience.

So we’re clear: This is social media marketing software wrapped in an SOI label. It offers to do all marketing should do — keep you top-of-mind. Collabra decorating it with a “sphere of influence” label doesn’t change what it does for agents, the same thing Chime Social Studio offers, Luxury Presence, or Hubspot.

BuzzSumo, Sprout Social, Hootsuite, and at one time Klout offered social influence scoring, which is basically a summary of your various accounts’ performance. It’s not a new idea, but surprisingly, that’s how the SphereBuilder team pitched me SphereIndex, its take on influence scoring.

The SphereIndex score is only available to members of Denver, Colorado’s Denver Metro Association of Realtors and users, for some reason, in Huntsville, Alabama. Yet, it’s the heaviest pitch on the website.

Upon onboarding, the SphereIndex requires some user input and surveys their respective online presence, more or less. It compares the result to the “top five percent” of agents in a market. (Well, two markets.)

I’m somewhat cynical about this, as many top agents work quietly, out from under the morass of social media trend-watching. They’ve long learned how to farm their SOI without social outreach. I personally know at least five top guns who are hard to find on Facebook.

I’m not saying all top-performing agents are absent online, I’m saying there’s no way to authenticate that the SphereIndex benchmark is using comprehensive data fully. It’s an approximate score, which is fine. Its current geographic limitation doesn’t help.

The Recommendation Cards present insights on each connected social media account, providing granular checklists, color-coded strengths and weaknesses and under-marketed listings. Each card has a firm call-to-action. I think this feature is enough to hold a user’s attention, and it’s where I’d spend most of my time.

Each user’s MLS-ID is used to pull in their listings, from which content can start to be created using the Ads Center (paid) or the Content Center (included), and of course, the savvy user will pull inspiration from the Recommendation Cards. The Ripl interface for content creation is pretty seamless, impressive given the tremendous volume of options it provides, and ultimately another testament to how well this software glides through functionality.

Users can choose to promote reviews, tips, neighborhood amenities, recent success stories and what have you. In truth, while comprehensive, no mass-produced content can better authenticity in social media. But again, this is software for the busy agent, a tool to maintain market position.

I admit to being put off by the SOI spin, an attempt to use a trendy sales term to repackage what countless other products already offer, and there’s nothing specifically related to attracting one’s sphere outside of typical, already practiced digital marketing tactics.

I have little doubt this software can fulfill its promise to its users. It looks great, functions well and is built by folks who know real estate. I think it’s best for a marketing assistant or admin to tackle, though. There’s a lot here, from worrying about social status to choosing which spring cleaning meme to send, and it can pull an agent from more meaningful tasks.

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

Craig C. Rowe started in commercial real estate at the dawn of the dot-com boom, helping an array of commercial real estate companies fortify their online presence and analyze internal software decisions. He now helps agents with technology decisions and marketing through reviewing software and tech for Inman.

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