The Inman Conference- Conquering the Social Media Universe

With a fantastic venue in the palatial halls of the Palace Hotel, over a thousand real estate and technology entrepeneurs and seasoned agents colluded in this 3 day event, each conspiring to conquer this new universe of social media soon-to-be-giants.

As a mignon in this world of collosal idea makers, I scan the registration hall and pick out whom I think might be some of the industry’s founders, CEO’s and heads of these newly emerging technologies, one even going by “Virtual Earth Technical Evangelist”. Of Microsoft, no doubt. I meet two guys who have flown from Australia for the conference, excited to be in San Francisco, if not somewhat jetlagged.

Blogging has become a new media outlet that real estate professionals are jumping into with both feet. Many view this as a way to share their voice with their clients, and clients begin to feel that they have come to know these writers they follow and it helps them choose who they would feel comfortable working with. Blogging has also brought news, market data and heated topics of discussion to the readers, allowing them to comment and lead the discussions.

With dozens of new outlets coming online daily in the areas of real estate listing sites, social media, multi-media, communications and blogging platforms, there was a wealth of information to be had. New API and Widgets allow users to incorporate useful content and tools such as mapping into their own websites. This open source revolution is putting access to great features into our hands, the users, and enabling our brands and services to become a part of the industries.

One of the notable leaders in new technology that I was especially pleased to talk with is Jason Spencer, Co-founder of Street Advisor. I stopped by the vendor booth for streetadvisor.com interested in the neighborhood ranking feature that they pioneered. Google’s satellite mapping combined with ortho-photography (3-D) mesh with the results and detailed narratives of neighborhood reviews, commenting on everything from schools and parks in the area, to the best cup of coffee (71 Irving Place in Manhatten), to notable neighbors- have you ever heard of Cyrus Field?

After coming upon a vacant computer, Jason walked up and introduced himself with a charming Australian candor, and offered me the tour through this user-based city and neighborhood guide. I was pleased to hear they are coming out with API to allow integration into user’s sites. He offered to email me when this feature comes out, and I offered to link to his site in the meantime. This one-on-one with the man behind this new, user-centric software renewed my admiration for the entrepreneur who believes in technology, but more importantly, takes the time to connect with users directly. How many people has he offered to email when new features come out? He must be very efficient in his correspondance!

Pete Flint, co-founder of Trulia, also engaged in such a personable manner which stood out in this mass of media display and technical nomenclature. I didn’t have anything specific I wanted to ask him, but just wanted to put a name and a voice behind a software that has made such a strong presence in the new Real Estate cache of tools.

Hugh MacLeod, of Scottish Highland ancestry, really showed everyone what was under his kilt (figuratively), in telling the sotires of how an English Tailor, a South African Winery, and a Kula-obsessed culture in the South Pacific turned simple “social objects” into cult-followings. He brings home the message that a story worth telling is one that is close to you and the things you love. His cartoonist depictions make their way into blog posts, and have driven multitudes of people to a small tailor in England and an unknown winery in South Africa.

Hugh told me one of the things he has embraced is never to denegrade competitors. The English Tailor he brought into the limelight was asked to set himself apart from another very good tailor down the street. He simply told the customer, “You should go to him and have him make you a suit, he is the best”. The customer came back to him later, and told him he really wanted a suit from not from this other tailor, but from him, yet the tailor would not sing his own praises. That, says Hugh, is how to be true to your own message.

There were speakers on SEO and Web Marketing, Video and New Media for Real Estate, Luxry Marketing, Real Estate Portals and much more. The idea of branding quality, consistency of presence in marketing your brand, and featuring your listings as a lifestyle were important messages.

Energy ran high in the conclusion of the event, with Innovators recognized in an award ceremony, and Brad Inman sending a strong message in this diverse conglomoration of techies and real estate leaders. I look forward to the next phase in the new world of Web 2.0.

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