Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Will 'free' be the end web 2.0 ?

I wrote a while back that people in general still expect the same services as they used to get, but now they expect more of it, quicker and for free.

As one who used to try and sell 'free' can testify: it wasn't easy. Yet everyone now wants free?! You can now give it away. People no longer ask what is the catch?

1000watt posts about a recent article which discussed the collapse of all things web 2.0 and asked whether this culture of providing services and products for free would lead to web 2.0 companies imploding and much of the web disappearing overnight.

During tough economic times, one will and should look at what has been created and ask, ‘ought we not be making money from these products/services’.

The property software game is guilty of this and with too many players chasing too few clients, many companies are giving away their products for 'free'. This is a mix of too much supply and the web 2.0 concept of providing something for nothing (for want of a better phrase). Google et al can get away with this. Twitter, the darling of the moment is getting away with it, but for how long? Indeed, how long can property software companies give away their product? Do they really hope that in 6 months, 12 months, they can start charging for it? Will advertising spend continue downwards? Extend this principle to portals and one has to wonder whether ‘free’ can last.

Our JRA site is based on this web 2.0 logic of build it and they will come and then worry about the revenue later. Indeed, we are proud of it and did not build it for profit, but as it gets more popular (and it is!) there will come a time to monetize it. Why? Not to make a profit, but to cover the increasing costs of running it. We already have google ads appearing, but these do not cover the costs at the moment so it is unlikely we can rely upon advertising in the future. Active Rain have started to consider monetising their site and why not?! They obviously have a number of people maintaining the site and advertising alone cannot support such a site.

Perhaps we are going full circle and users will now pay for premium services once again? There is talk of users regaining ‘white space’ or basically logging off. I do not deny there are times when I ask whether my life should be spent with a laptop and a blackberry for all my waking hours (and sleeping come to that) and I long to throw them into the sea - I have honestly concocted a plan to do this – but users such as me and others looking for white space are older and may be fed up with the Internet. The younger generation are the ones demanding free and when they come to buy a house they may well ask why they should pay to find the house, why should they pay an agent, in fact why should they pay for a house in the first place?!

And free always benefits the consumer doesn't it? Well, I doubt free is the backbone of competition but it certainly improves the customers position as it ultimately drives down prices. Perhaps the catch (and there is always a catch) with ‘free’ is that the company selling free may not be around to support you in years to come.

Monday, 23 February 2009

The Owl and the Pussycat invite you for drinks

Ok, January was dismal, February I seem to have had a cold for a month, so I am determined to see my friends and make new friends in March.

To this end, the Owl and the Pussycat are inviting our friends for a few drinks on the evening of 12 March 2009. The venue: Windmill pub, very easy to get to, closest station Oxford Circus, but also close to Bond Street.

The great and the good will be there so we hope to see you.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Twitter for estate agents - everyone is talking about it

Twit this, twit twoo, Twitter is a bit like marmite, you either love it or hate it. Actually, you either love it or you don't really get it. Well, I like marmite!

Anyway, everyone is talking about it, saying it is the next google, a social network for the entire planet and will take over the world etc.

So, whether you are new to the game or a high tech want to have it all on your page type how does the average estate agent benefit from Twitter. The simple answer is sign up and play. Great agents already using twitter - have a look at Isle of Wight homes.

Also have a look at an experiment on econsultancy which makes for good reading. By integrating a twitter feed based on keyword searches you can personalise your website for local content - I see this having value.

Econsultancy will be releasing their widget for download soon so I will probably try it out in a few places and report back.

Anyway, we like to think we were ahead of the game when we adopted the 'twit twoo' for Property Owl.

Content for estate agent websites

I have banged on about content for years now and there are some healthy discussions ongoing on JRA.

Geekestate have been posting on the subject of content as well and here is a brief summary of my thoughts flowing from these points.

- What you want is an ever-growing body of content that is related to living in your area, and buying and selling real estate (by the way, why don't we call it real estate here, it would be much easier?!)

- Your future income from the Internet is dependent upon it.

- Write for the visitor first and search engine second

- Write relevant content

- Ask a friend to write some content

- Ask your local businesses/colleagues to write some content (see below)

- Use freelancers

- Video – get on it now! Look at Dominic James.

Think about who is out there that may want to put content on your site in exchange for some free press and links to their site.

Almost every village/town/city in the UK has a website. Normally run by one person in their spare time. They are looking for exposure, are technically adept and probably haven’t been contacted by your competitors. Be the first to network with them, tell them your ideas!

Ditto, business owners. Anyone connected with the house moving business must be top of the list. Cleaners and gardeners thrive on word of mouth and what better way to promote their services. They will write a page for you about advice on cleaning etc. Plumbers, electricians etc will all want to promote their services and will write content for you. They are local!! And will write for the visitor. It may not be Shakespeare but it will be ‘relevant’.

We forget what the local council can offer. They have announcements, meetings, promotional material, schools, services. Ask for permission to publish and chances are it is material that may not already be online.

Video. Get on it. This is the future.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Sex and Naked Estate Agents

Wow, I turn on the iplayer and there is a whole documentary devoted to estate agents getting naked and then I read on the EAT that estate agents have more sex than rabbits.

Just in case you are interested, the naked estate agents were part of a confidence boosting exercise and the EAT report was based on a poll of estate agents.

Anyway, I heard that the Estate Agency Expo had been cancelled so perhaps they should put on show like the above.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Video for estate agents and all in the industry

Video is the hot topic of 2009 and I suspect it will continue with more applications and uses created over the next year.

Well, video is the hot topic in the States, but it is starting to catch on a little over here. We have just given away a Flip video camera over at JRA and anticipate more and more agents and industry professionals uploading video, whether that be of property for sale or rent or just information.

To this end, we thought why not set up a site just for video. So we have! Go and have a look at Property Owl Tube.

We hope this is the beginnings of a property market place via online video. Simplifying the search for property through video.

Property Owl Tube is a platform where agents can upload videos of property for sale or to rent, their local area, businesses in the area, property video news, industry videos, service providers.

The benefits as I see them:

• It is free
• You can monitor traffic (number of views are displayed)
• You can link to your website
• You can advertise your business
• You can upload as many properties as you like
• The search works better than some portals and is simple.
• You can communicate with customers and colleagues alike
• Each video is a page and therefore indexed by google
• There is much more to come

Anyway, love to hear your thoughts and feedback. Too soon? Never take on in UK? Great idea? Yes, I will upload some videos? Oh god not another site, we are just getting used to JRA :)

Thursday, 5 February 2009

New Poll - Is there a future for print advertising ?

My recent post and the subsequent ongoing debate at JRA has prompted me to ask, is there a future for print advertising?

A simple yes or no poll. (sorry for the delay in the poll, but the poll widget has been broken).

I know there may be a future for newspaper advertising if newspapers are delivered via digital means, but our point here is whether the actual ink and paper print advertising will fade away.

Talking of advertising, I have included an amazon link for the Flip Camera within the side bar, so please all click on this and buy one:) If you don't want to buy one, sign up to JRA and win one!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Open Houses

I mentioned the other day that I don't read my local rag's property section. Well I still don't, but I did read someone elses instead.

I was surprised to find a couple of articles on the back page that sparked my interest. One of which was promoting an open house that weekend. What a great piece of free marketing, here was an agent with all his details, the property he was selling with big pictures, full descriptions. The open house gives the agent the ability to collect punters details, promote other similar property and generally push his good name. I didn't check, but he can also market this online. Indeed, why not set up a microsite for that house or all open houses he promotes?!

Not only does this help the agent, but it is also very proactive in selling the house. If this chap was my agent I would be most impressed. Having spent a little time in Australia, open houses are common place over there and I have often wondered why they are not more popular in the UK. Open houses in Australia are quite often followed by auctions, the agents lay on food and take details from all that attend. Agents are judged on the spread they put out and many people turn out just for a beer and a barbie. Of course, this does not matter as the agent is making some valuable marketing leads and more often than not there are enough people in attendance who are actually interested in the property. This works for developers too.

Ok, perhaps beer wouldn't work in the UK, but you get the idea. Agents are missing a trick and the papers are crying out for content so give them some, they can't fill the pages with adverts!

Monday, 2 February 2009

HIPS - still a waste of time or a bonus in tough times?

It has been a while since we have commented on the HIPS market. Indeed, I wrote it off a while back and was just waiting for this government or the next to scrap it.

But I have been hearing positive stories of agents making money from HIPS. Granted, I also hear persistent comments that they are useless and customers could not care less about them and they do nothing to assist anyone. But given the law dictates that one needs to be in existence, why not make some money out of the useless exercise?!

Of course, this hardly enhances the images of agents, who will ultimately foot the blame from the end user. That said, being commercially minded is not a crime, especially when you are delivering a product that is forced upon you.

Passion is still running high on this one and the EATs recent post confirming that a Tory government would abolish HIPs has generated 49 comments on Friday and 26 yesterday! Admittedly, some of these comments are of the normal flavour found in the EAT forums, but nevertheless passion is running deep.

Snow! Grab your camera

Just because you can't drive, get on a train, bus, tube, doesn't mean you can't do something constructive.

Get your staff to put on their wellies, grab a camera and take pictures of the properties you are selling, some will look great in the snow.