Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.
One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
Twitter, some say, is a useless waste of time. That’s often true. But then, sometimes, it’s really kinda fun and useful to boot.
Case in point: Earlier today, I had brief Twitter exchange with a few people starting with a question I asked.
“Why do you have a ‘website’ and a ‘blog’? Why not one site that does it all?”
A number of people responded that they were struggling with that very question. Still others provided even more in-depth thoughts. Kelley Kohler (@housechick) had some very interesting insights on the blogpost linked to above:
It’s an interesting line to walk, and it’s taken a bit of doing to stop thinking about the blog like it’s a blog, because it isn’t a blog, it’s a framework (can I get that printed on a t-shirt?). Having started originally with AR and Blogger, it was a difficult mindset to break – two blog services where blogs really ARE just blogs. But for WordPress and Drupal, they aren’t blogs, they’re just platforms, a framework.
In the end, it’s not about what is website and what is blog, it’s about where in the framework some piece of information should live. And that’s a liberating place to be, conceptually, while in the midst of designing a new web presence. (emphasis added)
While I agree with Kelley wholeheartedly from a certain perspective, I do think she discounts a bit the psychological and marketing imperatives that may be driving realestistas to divide their web operations between a “website” and a “blog”.
Crass Commercialism vs. Authentic Engagement
I think the hint of the underlying issue came from Fran Bailey (@franbailey) who wrote:
My site is my blog which focuses on helpful info 4 buyers. They can search listings on my broker’s site which promotes listings.
The mantra of Web 2.0 — borrowed from the good people of Cluetrain — is authentic engagement. People don’t want to be sold. They don’t want to be marketed to. They don’t want to be a lead. And so on. Hence, the listings — which is the basis of the commercial engagement — are over there on the broker’s site. My site here is where I’m simply helpful. I understand the instinctive pull.
There’s something to this perspective that says that anything which smacks of crass commercialism is bad in social media/blogging/whatever-you-call-it and that blogs have to do more to educate, to engage, to brand the writer as a local expert, and so on. To surround a post on the local neighborhood with listings, or to have a “Ten things to consider about mortgages” with a “Featured Listing” does seem somewhat… in bad taste in the world of bloggery.
Even Kelley Kohler’s own website (which, I guess is under revision) shows that the blog lives in a top nav link and lives in its own url (www.mytucsonblog.com). In addition, her blog has no listings search, even though her “website” features a listing search prominently in the top left position:
So I do think there’s something to the division between the “storefront” and the “fireside chats” in the real estate world.
And yet, is there a notion that such a dichotomy is just a bunch of hooey? Mike Simonsen of Altos Research (@mikesimonsen) pointed out to me via Twitter:
@robhahn riiight. as if there’s a hard line between the personal and professional. The functional difference is one of tone
As a matter of fact, a blog is — in a way — a gigantic extended ad. [Granted, I thought (and said to Mike) that Notorious ROB was my personal blog written primarily to entertain myself, while the corporate blog of Onboard Informatics, my employer, is where I write to promote Onboard and its products and services. But Mike may be right. Perhaps with social media, we are entering an age where the Personal is the Political Commercial.]
For a realtor blog — one written to help drive business, as opposed to satisfy the blogger’s need to put words on virtual paper — the distinction disappears completely. The Personal is the Commercial.
All the advice-giving, all the helpful hints, all the videos of mojito-making, and so on continually brand the realtor as an expert, as a good person, as a fun-lovin’ master of the mystic liquors. Since real estate appears to be an intensely personal business, it simply pays to be personable and personal.
And if the advice-giving, helpful hints, and videos and twitstreams and such are actually not bringing you any business… then don’t you have to ask yourself why you even bother with the blog?
One Site to Rule Them All
But having established the business importance of being personable… why leave a “website” hanging out there ruining all of that goodwill? What’s the point of a brochureware site that has a bunch of boilerplate about how great an agent you are, or how much you care about your clients and all that when you have a whole other website dedicated to showing, rather than saying, precisely those things?
The ideal realestista site to me is one where you have the fusion of content: listings, statistics, and dynamic content. For larger organizations, listings and statistics will take precedence, but they too need dynamic content that showcases their brand promises and lets consumers form authentic relationships with their people. For individual realestistas, I think the dynamic content drives the site, but listings and statistics must also be present. Again, see Kelley Kohler’s site for a great example. She already has her latest blogpost there; why not just merge the thing together and create the ash gwî (One Web…site)?
The consumer knows — or should know — that he is on a realtor’s website, reading a realtor’s opinions and professional advice, and learning more about that particular realtor. Either the site visitor is in the market or is not; if he is not, then he may turn into one at some point or refer you someone who is. If he is in the market, then he’s not only looking for a fun person who knows a lot about real estate and the local communities — he’s looking for someone who can help him.
Authenticity does not mean pretending to be a disinterested commentator — hell, I’m as close as such things come, and even I’m not 100% disinterested in everything. So in that, Mike Simonsen may be right. Authenticity simply means trying not to bullshit someone, spin bad news, get into marketingspeak (“this house is doubleplusgood” is a bad sign), or such. It means letting your personality come through while at the same time maintaining the commercial nature of the desired relationship.
The dichotomy is false. Ash gwî durbatulûk!