NAR 2009, held in beautiful San Diego, was once again a mind expanding series of seminars over 3 1/2 days. As with last years conference in Orlando, I came away educated, stimulated and invigorated, and probably a couple or other "ateds" I can't think of right now!
Social media networking and technology were the major topics of discussion this year. The economy wasn't nearly as Top of Mind as it was in 2008. The use of popular social media sites such as facebook, Twitter, U Tube and LinkedIn is gaining traction, with many REALTORS focussing their marketing efforst exclusively in these areas for marketing property, keeping in touch with past clients and finding new clients. However, the caution flag was waved numerous times over the course of the Conference about how dangerous it is to be too pushy while doing this. When you push your business too hard on the more social of the social medias, for example, facebook, the on-line community will shut you down and ask you to leave. Just like the annoying guest at the coktail party, who insists on giving everyone a business card, you soon will be shunned. Sites like LinkedIn, however, are for business so people expect it more and you can promote yourself more directly and still be excepted.
John Mayfield gave a great lecture on Top Tech ideas for business. I will be exploring these more this weekend. Some are only available for use in the US but if I find anyting interesting I'll be talking about it here later. I'll probably post in on Twitter nad facebook too, so look for it there as well.
We had a session on "Cloud Technology" which was very interesting. I had heard that term tossed around before but had never found anyone to tell me precisely what it meant. Jerry Matthews lead the discussion on this and really did a good job of explaining things which I probably won't do justice to here in a short paragraph. Basically "the Cloud" describes all the things done on the internet. Google is a tool you can use in the Cloud, so is UTube. All the calculating, data manipulation and storage, all the searches are done in the Cloud.
As time goes on this will lead to some significant changes in how business operates. We are seeing some of it now with functions like x-ray images being sent to India, interpreted, and the results sent back to the hospital in North America. Work is done cheaper and done over night while the doctor gets a few hours sleep here in North America. Some accounting functions are being handled the same way. The work is just as good, the costs are lowered and the client is happy.
We will soon see businesses leasing software as it is needed. They won't have to buy software licenses, nor all the various upgrades. Just lease it, by the minute, from somewhere in the Cloud and you will always have the most current version. Data storage, back up and so on will be handled in the Cloud as well. No more servers, wworm drives and other similar types of hardware in the office. Just wireless accesss to the Cloud. Access to the Cloud will be through laptops, netbooks, plus iphones and Blackberries. The Virtual Office is but a click away. It sounds a bit Orwellian, but it's almost here.
For example, while walking down a Ocean Dr. in Coronado, across the Bay from San Diego, I saw a house for sale. The REALTOR had wisely put a website address for the house on her sign. I looked it up on my Blackberry, while my wife and I stood in front to it, and within 30 seconds I had information on the home, including pictures. We considered buying it, but didn't have $12,400,000 US with us at the time!
Finally, for what I thought would be a complete change, I went to a session on Word of Mouth Marketing. It was lead by John Moore who was part of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Yes, believe it or not, there is an association for word of mouth marketing.
According to market research, John told us, 76% of consumers surveyed, believed advertising lies. Yet 78% believed other consumers when they talk about a product. This is the strength of WOM Marketing. Although 75% of this takes place face-to-face, social media (damn-there it is again) is gaining ground fast. Currently, 69% of US businesses post on Twitter at least 4 times per week. Starbucks has 5,000,000facebook fans. They get" the power of social media.