(As originally posted on RETechnology.com on April 27, 2010)

I just returned from the 140 Character Conference in New York City, it was held at the 92nd Street Y April 20-21, 2010. Jeff Pulver organizes these conferences, and peripheral meetups around the country.  The Real Estate Panel was new this year, and our Moderator was Bob Watson, and my fellow panel members were Amanda Wernick and Eric Stegemann.

This event was looking at the “State of NOW”, the effects of the “Real Time Web” on media, mainstream and otherwise, as well as a variety of industries, including Real Estate.  The take-aways from this event were varied; the presenters were wonderful (see my list of my favorites with Twitter profile links at the end of this article).

The first day was more about the “media” and mainstream effects, the here and now as it were, the power of the immediacy of Twitter.  The instant reporting, the instant responding, the sense of community that we have all built together to make this world just a little smaller and more familiar. The second day was a bit more esoteric, delving into some very deep subjects, and then smack in the middle of a few very emotional topics was the Real Estate panel As Jeff Pulver introduced us, he said “… Now, on to capitalism”. Isn’t that what Real Estate is all about?

I sent Jeff an email and asked for his thoughts on the Real Time Web/NOW and Real Estate and the 140 Character Conference, here is what Jeff wrote back.  I think it might be easier to share his reasons for including out industry in this event, and then to discuss it afterwards. These are some of his comments.

“I’d like to believe that #140conf helped put the spotlight on how some members of the real-estate industry are using the real-time internet to stay ahead of the curve.

On an industry level, for the first time in the modern era, real estate brokers have access to an open partyline where by simply listening, they can both discover clients looking to make a purchase a home as well as sell one. As time goes on more and more brokers will learn about how other brokers are leveraging twitter but at the moment this offers a strong competitive edge for early adopters.  For some people this is just a reinforcement of the old adage – relationships, relationships, relationships.

One of the side effects of brokers leveraging twitter is that this will force the multiple listing services to evolve. I’m thinking that rather being just a static directory of listings there will be an opportunity to actively engage a community in ways never before envisioned.

And for the real estate industry luddites, just another platform and innovation they will continue to ignore.”

Jeff has some wonderful points in what he wrote. He did help shine a spotlight on what some in our industry are doing, but to truly get in depth would require a multi-day Real Estate intensive conference. The industry is changing, and the use of Twitter as marketing and branding tool is very powerful.  As our panel spoke, and answered some questions, it became clear that we did not all agree on what the “proper” implementation is.  I don’t know that there is a proper implementation but it is very clear that there is an improper implementation on which all of those active in Twitter will agree. You can not join the community, expect an ROR (Return on Relationship), much less an ROI if you are not willing to engage, interact, and learn the “rules” of the community.  The push back is fierce, and strong, but I say if you don’t want to adopt the new “highest and best” practice, fine, more for those of us that do.

Real Estate Professionals (REP as I will refer to them in many of my posts) are salespeople, at their core, but also in those sales is the service aspect that we have. To serve our clients needs, as well as the needs of the consumer.  Using Twitter strategically, and effectively, takes effort and understanding.  Far too often REP are known for our reputation as “hard sellers”, and that does not translate well into the community on Twitter.

 A REP who joins Twitter, establishes a peripheral software service and begins spamming their listings, with no engagement or interaction, will quickly be filtered out, unfollowed, and potentially blocked.  The key to Twitter is engagement and being part of the NOW. I teach this all the time when I am training, or speaking to REP groups. 

This all appears very simple, and it all appears very user friendly, but the reality is that utilizing Twitter properly is really more of an art than a science.  You do need to combine the two.  I personally do not believe in sending my listings out on a regular basis. I have a personal strategy, or as I advise a Twitter Business Plan, with actual points of actions, rules, and a structure. I Tweet for business, and every interaction is part of building my community, my brand and my persona. Twitter is not for everyone I warn, and it should not be used alone, it is but one of the tools we have in our Social Media arsenal.

The consensus amongst the panel truly was that you can NOT just send listings, and provide information without giving back to the Community.  The path from tweeting to becoming a clients “trusted advisor” is not a simple, clear, or short one. With the immediacy of the Real Time Web we need to be even more aware. How you choose to engage, and present information is the first impression that people will get from you.

For instance, when I do an open house, I will take a photo of the property and send it to Twitter stating I am at an open house, the times, the basic details, and price of the property. I do not reveal the location for safety purposes, and invite people to send me an at-reply (@) for more information. I know other REP who do broadcast their open houses in great detail, and invite the general public to attend. As I said – no rules, no set way to proceed.

My experience at the 140 Conference became more about what we can give to the community, and to others, rather than what we can take from it. By sharing our experiences, and our wealth of knowledge as REP – we can provide some insight to those that lack guidance. The sheer volume of people who approached me, as consumers, for more information on how to proceed in purchasing a home, how to find a REP on Twitter, etc. really amazed me. I was actually able to probably capture between 5-10 outbound referrals to my RE.net network (RE.net is what we informally call ourselves, the social media Real Estate community, all are welcome to join).

REP are very friendly people in general, and I find that we are often quick to embrace new faces/avatars. So I think the greatest take-away may be that those of us who have already successfully seen an ROR and ROI need to help guide others into the venue so they may also reap the rewards of the community. This serves two purposes.

As many of us strive to improve the public perception of what we do and who we are, we find that those who do not uphold the higher standards of the Code of Ethics (COE) are starting to filter into Twitter, and possibly draw us back down. The key is for everyone there already to hold the hand of someone new, to mentor and help them find their way through the social media puzzle. Their success is our success. Their reputation is our reputation. To give is to receive as is said.

The State of NOW for Real Estate is the ongoing effort to best determine how to use these new venues, and how to prospect the existing community, keep the standards strong and steadfast, and still be a human being.  As this era of digital media evolves, the Real Estate industry will be right there as early adopters, some of us, and others with heels firmly dug into the sand, resisting the forward motion.

Get on board or get out of the way.

Some of my favorite “Characters” in the cast of the NYC 140 Character Conference to follow on Twitter:
Chris Lehmann
Donny Deutsch
Ivanka Trump
Steve Garfield
Ann Curry
Liz Strauss
Gary Vaynerchuk

Hank Wasiak
Jessica Gottlieb
C.C. Chapman
Dennis Crowley
Shane Lennon
Matt Pinfield
Joe Randazzo
AJ Leon
Melissa Leon
Stacey Monk
Jeff Jarvis
Scott Heiferman
Liz Strauss
Melinda Emerson
FakeJerry Paffendorf
Mo Krochmal
Flex Mathews
Oz Sultan
Chris Bartlett
Andy Dixon
Geo Geller
Marc Sirkin
Ray Chambers
Stefanie Michaels
Alice Wilder
Beth Blecherman 
Maya Bisineer
 Stephanie Aaronson