Inman Real Estate Connect: Social Media Is Real, Mobile Will Be

Social media may not be worth much as an advertising medium right now, but it has become a critical part of real estate marketing, according to speakers at the Inman Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco. “It is not just FaceBook or MySpace,” noted Sami Inkinen, cofounder and COO, Trulia. “With Trulia Voices, you ask a question and within 20 minutes you start receiving answers from 100,000 real estate professionals. It is connecting buyers and sellers every day.”

Inkinen also said that mobile can hardly be hyped enough and has its own set of rules. “Mobile is very very important,” he noted. He said peak usage for the iPhone for real estate searches is Sunday afternoon, when open houses are at their peak.

It is very different from other mobile apps, such as dating, where the peak time is after 1 a.m. on Saturday morning “when the bars close.” (He used to work in the wireless dating business.) It is also a very different experience from that of the PC with a 21-inch monitor. “You have to tailor the experience” to each channel, he said. Trulia’s analysis has gone into the development of an iPhone app, which is nearing launch.

The importance of mobile was also emphasized by Move.com President Lorna Borenstein, who cited research showing that 50 percent of Realtors will be using smartphones by the end of 2008. “People do their research online, then they start driving,” she said.

Borenstein also cited the importance of “accuracy, freshness and comprehensiveness” in the database. “By the end of the summer, every Realtor.com listing will be time stamped,” she says. Currently, 2 million of Realtor.com’s 4.5 million listings are updated every minute. (Realtor.com is Move.com’s premier online property.)

Having large, numerous magazine-style photos is also key. Borenstein said she was “surprised at how much large, numerous photos are used by consumers. If they don’t see them, they doubt the credibility of the Realtor.”

The popularity of large photos has a direct impact on usage. In Las Vegas, for instance, usage of the MLS grew subsantially after it started featuring large photos. “We can get a 300 percent boost” with photos, she says, noting that Move.com sells them to 265,000 Realtors as a premium. That analysis played a large role in the redesign of the site, which is geared “100 percent” around photos. “Before that, I was buzzing about video,” but it isn’t nearly as important, she indicated.

MyNewPlace CEO John Helm said apartment listings also are highly dependent on photos. “Fifty percent of listings don’t have photos. But without a photo, you will get just 25 percent of the lookups.”

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