The Shine Goes Off The Penny

There is a notion that, if you want to really know what the next big thing is, ask a teenager.  Actually, I first read about this concept a dozen years ago in, I think, Wired Magazine.  At that time they were touting the gadget forecasting wizardry of Japanese teenage girls.  You know, the same group that led us to ‘Hello Kitty’ and neon hair-color   I’ll never forget one of the graphics for that piece:  a photo of a girl wearing a phone on her hand.  The mouthpiece went on her pinkie finger, the earpiece on her thumb, and both were connected to a small, square keypad she held in her palm.  Now I thought that was about the coolest thing I’d ever seen . . . and of course, that’s the last time I ever saw it.

Now Buzz Marketing  a company that routinely polls teens about what’s hot and what’s not is out with some startling new information.  They are telling us from the floor of the huge Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, that:

Apple is, like, soooo over!

Apparently, Mr. Job’s little baby has suffered a kind of logo death,  its ingenious iconic label having appeared so many times that it is now seen by the young as the establishment:  stoggy, slow, definitely NOT cool.

There seems to be another element contributing to this growing un-coolness.  The parents of teens today, largely GenXrs’ and even Millennials, are very quick to line up for the latest IPhone . . . and you know what happens to last year’s model?  Yep, it gets handed to the kids who then have to explain to all their friends why their screen is a silly millimeter smaller.  ‘Oh, you know, like the new Iphones came out, and my parents were all, like, you know, and, like I even had to hold their place in line for, like, deades!  So they got their stupid new phones and I was, like, stuck with this old piece of junk!’

To teens today, the Samsung Galaxy line of phones is seen as cool.  Not surprising: it is cool.  But get this . . . the hot new portable computer is not the Ipad, it’s the new Microsoft Surface!  Now that gorgeous piece of hardware is a little pricey for teenagers, which probably explains in part why it hasn’t exactly flown off the shelves at Best Buy.  But still, it’s 50 year old REALTORS (!) who lust after Ipads these days, not those on the cutting edge of style and hip-ness.

Buzz Marketing has more for us.  Guess what else is passe, today.  Drum-roll, please. . . . Facebook.  I mean, for-reals, who would want to go to the same club to socialize with their friends that their PARENTS go???  Increasingly, kids are turning to Tumblr for social purposes and to something called Snapchat.  I know the former of those platforms, but the latter?  It’s news to me.

Noticeably absent from Buzz Marketing’s message to us (at least the parts of it I saw) is my chosen platform, Google-Chrome-Android.  But then, I think big-G is so pervasive that it’s beyond hip.  It is the universe in which hip comes and goes.  It’s like, you know, God or something.  So while the rest of America is lining up for whatever Apple tells us we cannot live without, while kids are poisoning their parents (!) to get a couple more hours of Internet time, I’ll be quietly playing Angry Birds (oh, that’s sooo tired) on my Acer Tablet!

(Thanks to Chris Matyszczyk of Wired Magazine for the fodder that led to this post)

Big Brother: 1984, 2011 Style

Does the idea of someone hiding secretly in your living room, peering out through a little hole in the curtains, watching your every move, taking notes, gathering information they may use against you in the future creep you out a little?  Are you starting to recognize a pattern in the results your Google searches retrieve?  Does there seem to be a theme to the ads on your Facebook page?  Cue the eerie music, and start looking over you shoulder because there is most definitely a Ghost in Your Machine.

Eli Pariser is out with a book today (The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You) describing the discomfort if not the danger of the new ‘highly-personalized’ Internet.  Since 2009, Google has gathered information about your online behavior and used it to tailor your search results.  Facebook has been doing the same and at this point most sites that serve up information to you are following suit.  The idea makes great sense from a marketing standpoint:  if they know what kinds of information you routinely seek, if they know what kind of advertisement makes you ‘Click’, they can serve up more of the same to you eliciting even more clicks.  It is the ultimate in targeting, something we Help-U-Sell folk know all about.

So, if you are a tea party Republican and visit sites espousing those views and your friend is an eco-friendly liberal and surfs accordingly, when you both Google ‘Obama’ at the same time, you’re going to get very different results.

And that’s the danger.  The Internet (read: Google) is serving us a diet made up not of truth, but of what we want to see.  And it is a very personalized offering.

I am particularly disturbed by this because if flies in the face of so much I’ve said about the glories of unlimited access to information.  Let me see if I can quote myself . . . ‘Instead of sending troops to Afghanistan, we should be flying over and dropping smartphones on the people.’  I guess if we did that and the people immediately started surfing to sites that espouse hatred for the West, Google would establish that pattern and serve up more of the same; hardly  the eye opening and broadening effect we might want.

We had so much press about polarizing rhetoric several months ago, particularly after Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was  shot.  There was a plea that we turn down the volume, crank it back a notch, become more civil to one another.  Now I understand how the language could have become so rigid, so harsh, polarizing.  Thanks to the personalized Internet, each side of the debate (any debate) was being buoyed by the constant reinforcement of their own point of view.  If all you see is what you want to see you can become pretty rigid in your thinking.

After all, tolerance is a virtue and it is born of empathy – the ability to walk in the other guy’s shoes, live in the other person’s skin for a moment.  If all you’re getting is a recycling of your own opinions, how can you ever know what the other guy thinks or feels? How can you ever empathize?  How can you become tolerant?

I guess the point is this:  you can’t rely on Google or Facebook or any clickable source to serve up truth.  If you want truth, you’re going to have to do it the old fashioned way:  you’re going to have to dig.  You’re going to have to go out of your way to understand the opposing point of view.  Bias is everywhere and on the Internet, the bias is YOURS.

This Generation and That One

I was talking to Ken Kopcho, a great Help-U-Sell broker, today about an email I’d sent him.  He hadn’t seen it yet.  ‘You know, I’m a mano a mano kinda guy,’ he said,  ‘I respond well to face to face meetings and conversation.’   I think he was ribbing me about sending an email rather than calling.  And he’s right:  I do resort to electronic communication probably more than I should.  Truth is, I can get 3 or 4 quick business-like text or email messages out in the time I can have one phone conversation.

‘There are people in this world,’ he continued,’who could be sitting at the desk directly across from me who would send me a text if they needed to tell me something!’  This ribbing was turning into a smack-down!

‘Come on, Ken,’ I finally answered, ‘It’s just different kinds of communication for different kinds of people and we should to be able to work with everyone.’

That’s when Ken got excited and started telling me about the sale he just made.  His buyers are a military family:  he’s  in Korea and she’s at home in Texas.  He’ll be stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Ken’s Santa Maria marketplace, so they have been looking at houses online.  They first found Ken on his office website after Googling ‘homes for sale’ in Santa Maria.  Then they found his listings again on Zillow and it was through Zillow that they made contact with him.  He was right back to them and they said (almost on cue), ‘Why, you’re the only broker who’s gotten back to us!’

Though they have been in touch over various listings, Ken has never met this family . . . and here’s the kicker: they are now under contract on a house they have never actually seen (except online).

There are lots of little lessons in this brief saga.  First, if we’re going to be successful, we’re going to have to be sensitive to the communication styles of the people with whom we work.  The shortest distance between your message and the person you want to get it is through their preferred mode of communication (not yours).  Though Ken is a more traditional guy, he was able to communicate so well  with this family electronically that he made a sale.

The story also puts me in mind of the great real estate generation gap.  The average REALTOR is 52 years old.  The average home buyer is 32 years old.  Those twenty years are measured mostly in terms of technology.  Our buyers are often more tech savvy than we are.  They are also impatient with anyone who isn’t up to speed with the new way of doing business.  Here’s where we (more mature) real estate professionals have to really hunker down and learn the new way.  I mean:  you may be the best horse and buggy salesperson in the world, but if most of the world wants a Model T Ford, and you don’t understand those new fangled things at all . . . you better get busy learning.

I talked with another broker a few weeks back who I think illustrates this dilemma.  Like me, he’s . . . um . . . mature.  He’s been in the business for 30 years.  His strength has always been the personal touch.  He gets to know his customers and does the searching for them, showing them only the homes that closely match their criteria.  His marketplace has become trendy and the upwardly mobile early 30s crowd is moving in.  His buyer lead conversion rate has been in decline for awhile and is now frustratingly low.  Truth is:  his style is probably turning off many of the buyers in his marketplace.  He needs a quick masters degree in working with the tech savvy buyer:  how to use Zillow, Trulia, Facebook, Listingbook, Sikku, and websiteSSS to empower consumers in the home search process.

I know that’s harder for some brokers than others, not because they are stupid, but because it’s not enjoyable for them.  They’d rather be meeting the people, showing property and solving problems mano a mano.  This is a perfect situation for a sharp young buyers agent to come in and handle that segment of the market.

Take it from one . . . . um . . . . mature real estate broker:  if electronic communication and marketing is not your thing, it’s probably a problem in your business.  One way or another, you’re going to have to deal with it, either by going back to school or hiring someone who already knows it.

Great Facebook Usage

Check this out:


It’s a great Help-U-Sell testimonial photo taken by Mikki Hart of Help-U-Sell Amarillo, TX.  Aside from it being a great photo, it’s not unusual:  one of the things we all do is take these kinds of photos for use in marketing pieces.  What’s cool is that Mikki posted it on her Facebook page.  And look at the comments:

Looks like the photo was seen by another one of Mikki’s sellers who excitedly said, ‘Me Next!’  Can you imagine how great all of this makes Mikki look in the eyes of anyone who sees it?  This is great use of Social Media to build your business. 

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