Web 2.0 for Real Estate Agents: Content, Collaboration, Creativity

king and queen playing cards Web two-point-oh. You have been hearing about it several years and in 2007, it was EVERYONE’s favorite online buzzword.Now it’s 2008 and all you know is that you are supposed to be more “involved” online and that you probably need to sign up for a bunch of “social networking” sites and get some cool widgets to make your site score more visitors.

You also know that you don’t have the time to send messages to people on MySpace (and you don’t really want to). So, if you can just find the right tool, the right technology, that elusive “thing” you are missing — you can conquer this Web 2.0 frontier. Right?

Sorry. The answer is No.

There is no holy grail — despite all the products and services out there promising to help you conquer it. I hate to break it to you, but many of those companies are trying to sell you something that helps their bottom line, not something that helps yours.

The GOOD news is that competing in the Web 2.0 world really isn’t that difficult, you just have to understand what the term means to you (and your business) and what it can mean to your clients (and your ability to serve them).

If you want to create your own Real Estate Fiefdom online, you must start with the basics.

3 C’s of Online Success: Content, Collaboration, Creativity

Content is Still King
Content will always be the most important aspect of the web world. No matter what new technology emerges, it’s the content that keeps visitors coming back. What changes is the approach, format and delivery of that content. Web 2.0 followers merely take excellent content and incorporate new and developing technologies as quickly as they are made available.

If you don’t have information people want or need, it doesn’t matter if they can collaborate or how creative it is – they still click away to another site to find what they seek. So the first task is to determine what your target market wants and deliver that information to them in an un-complicated, easy-to scan, digestible format.

Take the time to update your content regularly. Please, please, please (with sugar on top!) review your property descriptions and eliminate overused, tired words. Offer original articles on your local market, particular neighborhoods, and/or working with a real estate agent instead of merely “subscribing” to the same content that thousands of other agents are using.

Your website should offer information relevant to your market that showcases your services and indicates your personality. If you need help, get it — but don’t “buy” your content from a generic source.

Collaboration is Queen
Web 2.0 is an invitation rather than a presentation. It’s like the difference between watching the Superbowl on TV and attending the Superbowl. Most people prefer to BE a part of the experience, rather than passively watching others have fun. Your visitors are no exception.
Consider the difference between a static “website” and a blog. The website looks the same day after day, week after week, month after month. The blog offers regularly updated information. Readers are encouraged to “chime in” and participate in the discussion by agreeing, disagreeing and/or adding additional information to the topic. Most blogs link to a network of other ideas and information across the web which increases the value the site for any visitor. Your site is now a resource!

Web 2.0 replaces the classic elitist, “powers that be” approach to information. Compare the Hardbound Encyclopedia Britannica to Wikipedia. One is static, quickly outdated and produced by a small number of people. The other is dynamic, constantly updated and produced by individuals world-wide.

Good content is still the first requirement, but encouraging people to add to that information, share their own views, and become a part of the discussion makes good information more enticing.

Always encourage cooperation on your site. Give your visitors the ability to participate and reward that participation with your gratitude. Thank them personally (online) for their comments and offer them a link back for their trouble (most content management software offers this option automatically).

Creativity is Your Court
Creativity and the ability to present information in an entertaining and unusual way will give you an edge. If two sites have great content and encourage collaboration, but one is creative and the other is flat – the creative site will always win more visitors and will capture more online “buzz.”

Collaborative creativity is no longer bound by geography or even personal knowledge of the parties involved. People are taking sites that encourage showcasing creativity (like YouTube) and pushing those creative limits even further.

For example, Mia Rose. This guitar-wielding girl did a YouTube recording of an original song. She was then joined by others (virtually) to create a full band. A great Web 2.0 example. The members of this impromptu band never met… and with the availability of the new technologies, they didn’t need to! Each added something to what existed, “mashing” it into a new, superior creation.

Although there is some question on the veracity of this young woman (some are calling her a “Lonely Girl” Clone), the fact is that this type of creativity IS now possible!

So, take the time you currently spend looking for the holy grail of real estate online marketing and go build your own little real estate kingdom!

Just make sure your site is filled with excellent, useful content. Encourage your visitors to participate in conversations and to explore by offering ways to collaborate on a creative site that is attractive and easy to navigate — if you want to capture a larger audience and keep them.