Twice a year at Inman News we have our Super Bowl, our World Series, our Olympics.

It’s called Real Estate Connect.

The entire team here at Inman works tirelessly behind the scenes for six months thinking about every possible detail of the event — from who our ambassadors should be, to who are the right speakers, who are the new up-and-coming companies, to how registration is going to work seamlessly. In between that, there are hundreds of little details that make Connect go off without a hitch. To say it is a lot of work would be an understatement.

It is an enormous effort, and I want to publicly thank everyone whom I get the privilege of working with here at Inman for their enormous heart. My colleagues at Inman care so much about providing the industry with a top-notch event, a place where all the industry leaders can gather for three days to meet, mingle and be inspired by the possibilities of the future. 

This Connect was my eighth Connect and my sixth since being at Inman News. Each and every Connect, I walk away with an inspiration, a nugget I can take back. For me, I walked away from Connect with two huge points of clarity.

1. The next generation is here

Every Connect I get the privilege of meeting more and more people “in real life” — people I have met online and can’t wait to connect with face to face.

This Connect, some of the highlights for me were connecting with so many people who make up the next generation in this industry: people like Heather Ostrom from the Sacramento area; Chavi and Kim (aka the “Seattle Divas”); Anne Jones from Tacoma, Wash.; Melanie Piche from Toronto; Austin Allison, CEO of DotLoop (and winner of the Innovator of the Year); Matt Beall (who is killing it at Hawaii Life); and so many more young 20- and 30-somethings who are passionate, opportunistic and excited about the future.

It was exciting to be able to present data from a survey that Chris Smith and I conducted about “fear and opportunity.” What was amazing from digging through the data is the level of optimism with the 20- and 30-year-olds in our industry: optimistic about technology, data, syndication — all the things that many in our industry are fearful of. The overriding theme from 20- and 30-year-olds was that because of technology, data and syndication, the future was bright for them. I am excited to watch this next generation and see how they will stake their claim in this industry.

2. It’s about the people, not the technology

It’s not about the status update — it is about the people. Social media is about connecting and engaging with people. It’s not about the technology. It is about the people.

Never before have we lived in an era in which we are so connected with people. How we market and brand ourselves has changed dramatically because of social media, and we can’t pretend it away anymore. Let’s be honest, a few years ago a lot of us were closing our eyes and hoping “this Facebook thing would just go away.”

It’s not going away. Social media is about so much more than how many times a day you should tweet. It is about connecting with people in a way that people want to be connected. It is about having an incredible tool to stay in touch with clients — to make sure that YOU are the one they call again to be their agent and that you aren’t like 90 percent of consumers who say they are going to use the same Realtor but really never do (*NAR stat). It’s about having a fantastic communication tool to recruit some of the best agents in town to your brokerage.

We have been talking about social media for some time now; I hope that this is the Connect where the CEOs in the room sat up and said, “OK, this is the year we do this — this is the year we figure out how this works into our overall strategy.”

However, like I said onstage, it has to start with the top down. It can no longer be about just hiring someone to post to Facebook and Twitter. It has to start with the executive team. It has to start with a thoughtful company-wide social strategy, having an engaged and skilled social media strategist at the helm, but also getting the support from their leadership. I hope that next year at this time I won’t be able to count how many CEOs in real estate are killing it on social media — because right now that list is a small club!

A big thank you to everyone — all of our amazing sponsors, exhibitors, presenters, attendees, ambassadors, colleagues and friends — who made Connect SF 2012 an incredible event.

See you in NYC!

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