NY Times on Blogging as Marketing

Dec 27, 2007  |  Michael Wurzer

The NY Times writes today about blogging in Blogging’s A Low-Cost, High-Return Marketing Tool. I won’t say the article is great but it’s a decent introduction to business blogging and its pros and cons. I definitely agree that blogging won’t work for every business. In fact, were it not for the controversies surrounding MLS these days, I wonder if the FBS Blog would be interesting at all.

I’ve been thinking lately that the FBS Blog has been more of a one-trick pony than I would like, so focused on real estate data standards and MLS regionalization to the exclusion of other possibly interesting topics. I really like the idea of developing conversations with our customers, but our experience with the FBS Blog so far is that those conversations don’t occur quite as easily out in the open. So, we’re working on developing support systems internally to our MLS to allow more private conversations within the MLS and among our users, which really will be an extension of blogging. This is a definite priority for us in 2008, because we fundamentally believe that customer service is the new marketing.

2 Responses to “NY Times on Blogging as Marketing”

  1. Candy Lynn says:

    Michael:
    I’ll be interested in discussing the communication systems you are working on. I’m working on Ning.com site for our association. It seems to have great capabilities.

  2. John Tittle says:

    I just ran into this blog and am compelled to comment. I am a Broker and member of MLS for 23 years.

    The comment about MLS being a one trick pony is extremely apt. I should make clear that I really like the people who run my association and over the years I have benifited greatly from MLS. This is not about the people, its about an unavoidable change.

    This is an evolutionary thing and its hard to see how it could have happened any other way.

    I think that the Multiple listing Service has lost its grip. Services like googlebase are free. It won’t be long before free data will be nearly as good and more accessable than MLS.

    The MLS, understandably, has viewed realtors as a profit base. Energy has gone into things like electronic lockboxes that increase the cost of being a realtor, but do little to increase profitabilty for the Realtor.

    As I search the web I see new things for Realtors all around. Most are clumsy or poorly used. But it is interesting to see the twenty something realtors, who I assume don’t sell much yet, blogging away, asking for help from their peers and getting it. Networking and referal sites are cropping up at no cost to the user. As an old guy, I’m sure there are things I don’t even imagine.

    I look at this and wonder how much has the basic concept of the MLS evolved since I started this business in the early eighties? I would think the MLS would take a look at what a Realtor spends per month and consider the Realtor’s return on investment. This is what Realtors will do when they realize the monopoly is breaking. When the small brokers finally leave, the big brokers will follow.

    MLS has been in the position to offer valuable tools to its members such as simple personalized web pages, feedback tools and blogs and Reciprocity sites. Instead, they have remained just the keeper of information and enforcer of rules and collector of money.

    From what I could see MLS was dragged into Broker Reciprocity kicking and screaming, it seemed to be a move of last resort.

    As recently as a little more than a year ago I asked if latitude and longitude could be included in the BR data feed I was laughed at and told not to hold my breath. The quickest response to something different is that I could be breaking the rules. Again and again, in writing, I am reminded if I make a mistake and break a rule I’ll lose my access AND be fined.

    Then I go to Yahoo and see my listing, my property photo and no credit to my brokerage. I search google for my town and click on the top organic result and get google base with a forclosure company advertising my listing with my photo at the wrong price and the offer that if I pay money I can be connected to the listing Realtor.

    It spells trouble when those who are not members have an advantage.

    When tools are offered by MLS, these tools are expensive for the small broker. My single office has to pay the same amount for a RETS feed as a broker with thousands of agents or a developer who has hundreds of clients – talk about stifling. I am forced to watch my listings pop up on my competitor’s web sites 24 hours before my own.

    The cost for me to retrieve data in a timely manner from my own association eclipses my google advertising budget-which returns real money. I might ad that I already pay a substantial annual fee, a monthly fee to my association and so do each of my agents.

    Companies like Google are offering free tools, such as blogs, that are becoming indespensable for Realtors. At the same time they are gathering information on Realtors and building databases that will be better than MLS.

    This trend will impact large brokers as well. Currently, agents support large, inefficient, expensive advertising campaigns. What do they really get in return?

    At some point Realtors are going to take a look at their dues and say, “what am I getting?”. The culture of fines and threats combined with high fees will drive Realtors away.

    Currently I buy yellow page ads only because everyone else does – its a perception thing I don’t get much tangible from them. When my first succesful competitor drops his yellow page ad, I’ll drop mine like a hot potato.

    MLS might not be the yellow pages, but it might not be that far behind.

    The Multiple Listing service is like a highly evolved creature, and the internet is like a metor impacting in slow motion. The creature looks up with food hanging from its mouth. The creature won’t die today, but the landscape is changing. Something more efficient will fill the nitch.

    I’d much prefer that Realtors remain in control of listing data, but I think that phase is drawing to a close.

    I do okay in this old world, but I am watching with great interest as the changes come faster and faster.

    My web site which I baked from scratch is http://searches.tittlerealestate.com