Of all the ‘mashup’ map sites that exist out there, Windows Live Local (or is it Windows Local Live…) is probably my favorite – despite its tongue twisting name and URL.

Windows Live Local’s (WLL) rapidly expanding feature set is quickly outpacing Yahoo‘s offerings and those of first mover Google. Generally, being first in any category should give you the edge – but that’s contingent on keeping your product fresh, something Google has failed to do in my opinion.

I’ve written about the Windows Live network of properties before, namely Windows Live Expo, and I think that as these ‘local search’ sites hit their stride and ingrain themselves deeper into the mainstream they are going to become increasingly important component of a real estate marketing plan.

Greg Sterling dug up a new feature unique to WLL, one that I find particularly exciting. It now has a ‘Call For Free’ feature on all of its business listings.

Check out this search for Portland Real Estate. Listings appear on the right, and the ‘Call For Free’ link appears right next to the phone number. Clicking on the link launches a pop up asking for your phone number and you are then connected directly to the business number. The system, still in Beta, nevertheless worked flawlessly when I tried it. It even remembers your number for the next time around.

So why do I think this is important?

Well, there’s no doubt that integrating VOIP with e-commerce is growing trend, as evidenced by eBay’s $4.1 billion buyout and subsequently rollout of Skype. But that’s just part of the big picture.

Online listings, such as those provided by WLL, are going to become increasingly relevant to consumer searches. Features like Click to Call provide an increasingly compelling value proposition and will help these sites “cross the chasm“. Furthermore, I believe it won’t be long before more and more ‘social’ aspects will be added to these listings, including tags, rankings and reviews – adding even more to their functionality. Yahoo Local already does this to a limited extent.

This is going to require Realtors and brokers, among all other business professionals, to begin to practice what I’m calling the 3 M’s of Reputation Management:

  • Managing the various services (Google Local, Yahoo Local, Windows Live Local)
  • Monitoring each of them continuously, and
  • Maintaining your listings (reviewing rankings, responding to false reviews, etc.)

Once again here, the market will reward the leaders. Those that ignore this trend stand to be left behind.
Secondly, a ‘Call For Free’ link will be a very valuable tool for all the FSBOs out there.

If Windows Live rolls out this feature to Windows Live Expo it will have a significantly valuable tool to leverage home listings on that site.

Forsalebyowner.com, eMongoo, Redfin et al. this is a warning shot. I believe you will have to look at providing this feature before Windows Live does. There’s a huge opportunity to be the first mover here. Somebody’s going to do it.

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