Category: Tech Tips


#TechTipTuesday: Are Your Listings “Smart” Enough For Your Buyers?

smart home banner

One thing that we’ve noticed recently is that the whole world is getting interconnected. First it was our computers, then our phones, and now home gadgets are getting in on the action. And it’s not just the gadgets you’d think should be hooked up, either. Here’s a list that we found scouring the internet:

  • Coffee machines
  • Washers
  • Dryers
  • Thermostats
  • Refrigerators
  • Cooking devices
  • Water purification systems
  • Light switches
  • Light bulbs
  • Home security systems
  • Vacuum cleaners
  • Garage door openers

And that’s just a small portion of the information we found. While some of them might seem silly (the light bulb one comes to mind), it’s also something to notice: more and more appliances are converting, and if your listings have them, they can become selling points just like features on a vehicle.

Convenience

These devices make life even more convenient than they were before. Instead of garage door openers that were unreliable or home alarm systems with codes, now we have Wi-Fi enabled devices that don’t miss an infrared beam or a security system that doesn’t need a complex code but a simple authentication on your phone. And the lighting and coffee? Well, imagine not needing to get out of bed to start your coffee in the morning. Convenience started this industry, and it’s not going away any time soon. Home listings can benefit because being ready for this kind of automation is a great selling point.

Security

But it’s not just convenience that keeps this trend going. It’s also a matter of security. Our mobile devices contain a lot of information about us and, because of this, we keep them closer to us than our keys. Using a mobile device to unlock doors or turn off security alarms, then, is a matter of security because we can choose when and where to unlock doors and systems—or call the police and emergency services clandestinely. There’s even a Wi-Fi enabled fire alarm that you can set up your emergency plan and it’ll notify you if you ever need to put that plan into action. It’s a safety feature that your buyers will want in your listings—and will pay more for if it’s installed.

Demand

The demand for these devices is going up. The term “internet of things” is starting to trend because the devices we all know and love are starting to network together for everyone’s benefit—including your buyers and your listings. Because of this interesting trend, we’re starting to see the potential of a smart listing making more money. People have been buzzing about it for years but the practical, affordable application of this idea is finally starting to come to fruition. Now that it is, you might consider advising your buyers to add some of these simple gadgets—if practical—or at least ensuring that they can be hooked up. Being prepared means better opportunities for both you and your listings.


Communication With Clients: Learn To Speak Digitally

iPicnic | ©JD Hancock via Flickr | CCBY
iPicnic | ©JD Hancock via Flickr | CCBY

These days, cell phones and revolutions in how we all communicate and interact mean that older methods of communication with leads and clients are not as effective as they used to be. This can be dangerous for those of us who don’t have a strong background in using these devices or who are heavily accustomed to the tried and true methods employed by professionals for many years.

text message quick response

This isn’t just a long-distance telecommunications phenomenon, either. The evolution of communication has bled into standard communication and has changed not only how we send messages to each other but how we speak, as well—and not knowing the differences can make all the difference.

Rule 1: Be Concise

We’ve noticed that people don’t pay attention to others if they’re rambling. The internet is an enormous source of knowledge, but the overload of knowledge works against it: people don’t have the time to read everything. 

NPR recently took advantage of this principle for an April Fools prank, using the photo and metadata of an article to suggest that people don’t read. Many people protested, commenting about how they do read and how it was offensive for NPR to think that way. However, if you click and read the article, it lets the reader in on the joke. The offended people commenting didn’t read the article. And there were many people offended, too.

The same is true for your clients. They don’t have the time to waste on you if you’re not providing solid information, whether that information is a blog post on your website or a listing. Say what needs said and stop.

The takeaway: speak clearly and quickly; don’t waste time.

Rule 2: Be Prompt

The expectations of communication have changed, as well. Not even 20 years ago, answering machines were common because unless we were very well off, instant replies and instant communication were not expected. 

This has changed. The internet and the ubiquitous nature of cell phones mean that your reply is expected extremely promptly—often within minutes. If you’re waiting longer than an hour to reply, even if just to let them know you’re busy, you’re most likely losing business. To the modern professional of any age, time is money and waiting for excessively long periods of time is detrimental to business.

While this might seem like it’s an invasion of your life, consider how many things you get instantly these days and how you expect quick replies from those companies who have your business. You’re no different. 

The takeaway: respond quickly with solid information—even if only to say that you’ve received the message. 

Rule 3: Be Mindful

The differences that the market faces can seem insurmountable, especially when it deals with changing the way that you do business and how those social expectations have shifted with little warning. But, learning to speak “digitally” in what used to be an analog world isn’t too terribly difficult—just keep your clients in mind, how they operate, and how they define the relationship. If you work to define it your way, you’ll get clients who think like you do—and that number is on the decrease.

Don’t just assume that one way of doing business is best because that’s the way it always worked. Remember, 20 years ago print ads and billboards were more effective than this thing called the internet. Now, computer monitors and phones are the billboards. Things change—and so must we if we want to keep getting business. 

The takeaway: pay attention and adapt.


#TechTipTuesday: Instagram and Real Estate

Instagram Glyph
Instagram glyph

Instagram remains one of the most popular social media networks because of the gimmick it uses to get attention: the entire network is based on photography, both artistic and commercial. This seems like it should lend well to real estate (and we think that it does), but here in Tampa as well as in a lot of places it lacks a lot of agents. Considering that data is showing lower ages for new homebuyers (a demographic that’s also more likely to use Instagram), the opportunity to reach out to home buyers on Instagram is huge.

Instagram and Your Listings

The most obvious use of Instagram’s services is to photograph and detail your listings. While there may be some concern about filters and other modifications to photos of listings, you can add a disclaimer that they’re modified photos—not to mention that it’s expected in the medium. And the reach you’ll get if you use the social medium to find leads is huge—especially if you find some people with follows to boost your posts with likes and, if you’re lucky, sharing it with their friends.

There’s no “re-instagram” button, so you have to build your network the old-fashioned way: by reaching out to clients and people with captivating photos. (There also those pesky hashtags, but as long as they’re descriptive people will find you.) And we know that some of your listings have great curb appeal—why not show it off? There’s enough food and selfies to last all of us for a while.

Instagram and Your Business

It’s not just about listings, either. Instagram is a social network, meaning you’ll have to talk to people. While your listings should be prominent, it shouldn’t be the only thing you post. If you find yourself taking a lot of photos at events and while out and about, you can build your following by showing off who you are when you’re not “on the clock.” 

Reaching out to others is easier when you’re connecting on a personal level. Remember the new world we’re living in is profession second, person first. No matter what kind of business you do, people want someone they can trust. Is your professional image a carefully manufactured and curated cardboard cutout, or is it your personality shining through the professional armor? Take some shots of your next outing, live a little, and gain followers—and possibly leads.

Instagram and You

Finally, we need to mention that the point of Instagram is to share photos and videos of amazing and interesting things, whether they’re listings, events, or even what you had for dinner. But, like any other passion or outlet, mediation is key. If you’re always on Instagram posting images and other distractions, you’re (1) taking away from your ability to do work and (2) overloading what followers you do have with photos. Be smart about how you use your photos and Instagram might be the untapped market you’re looking for!

Below are some examples for great photos for real estate on Instagram:


#TechTipTuesday: Google Goggles Saves You Time

Far be it from us to shill for another company, but Google makes some really interesting gizmos, from good software for telephones to the hands-down best email system that’s ever existed. But, there’s a nifty tool embedded in the Google Search apps on iPhone and Android as well as through their web interface: Google Goggles.

google goggles
Google Goggles logo

If you see something that you’re curious as to what it is—like a strange-looking bug outside a home or a nifty looking decoration—you can just point your smartphone’s camera at it and Google will do its best to find what you’re looking for.

While it might seem pointless at first, imagine how much easier finding something could be if, while you can’t exactly describe it, you can just take a picture of it? It’s especially handy if you’re showing a home and a client asks what something is—it might not be your home but if Google can find out, why not use it?

There are other benefits, as well. The Goggles search links to the regular Google search page for it so not only can you identify something, but also do research on it. If your client wants to know how good a certain appliance is, you can pull it up without knowing about it and get the information they want in real time. If you want to know how trustworthy a company is, snap a picture of their logo and check the reviews.

We know that you’re busy people, so we figure that having a tool like that in your pocket might help you be more efficient (and, therefore, more successful in your showings). If the only limiting factor that you have is not having the information, changing that is as simple as pulling out your smartphone and taking a picture. Happy Tuesday!


#TechTipTuesday: How to Avoid a Scam (And How to Avoid Looking Like One)

Scams (and being identified as a scammer even if you aren’t) is one of the biggest fears of any business (and we’ve all seen the contents of our spam folders). But, while accepting large sums of cash from Nigerian princes is pretty easy to spot, how good are you at identifying more subtle scams?

nigerian prince scam

Phishing Scams

The biggest scam and internet threat out there today is the phishing scam. Phishing is a letter, fax, or email that claims to be someone from a bank or other money-handling institution looking to get your account credentials. Popular targets are large consumer banks like Bank of America. Most people think that they can identify their bank’s emails or website, but some of the phishing sites are scarily good at imitation. So much so that for each phishing blast that’s sent, 45% of people who opened the emails submitted their information.

It’s fairly simple to dodge this scam if you’re worried: always look at the address bar. If the address for a website isn’t right, it’s not the right place. Most financial institutions also sign their websites now; Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari all show when these signatures are present, validate them with another authority, and display the company name. Pay attention to these and you shouldn’t fall victim.

Spam Email Scams

Spam isn’t exactly a scam, but it certainly scams you out of time and focus. Every email for a dubious substance or product takes time away from what you’re doing. But, it’s not just for prescription drugs. Spam can be any form of email that is unrequested.

And, this is one your business can fall into fairly easily. Marketing writing can be magical, well-developed, and a pleasure to read. But poor marketing writing can be misconstrued as scammy and spammy writing, which can lead to people disregarding your product or service. If you sound like an infomercial, stop—they’re already on to you. But, if you can write honestly and passionately about your service or product, you stand a chance of not being seen as spam or a scam.

Paying For Links

This isn’t technically a “scam,” but it’s gained a reputation for being a scammy-looking business practice—so much so that Google and other search engines actively penalize you for doing it if they find it. While linking out to people you know, trust, and like is important to your business’s website, paying for links are different.

Google (and most other search engines) purport to be looking for the most relevant information to a search. Part of their system is using how many links to a page it’s found to determine how useful it is. When people pay for links, they’re paying other people to link to them, thereby increasing their relevance (in theory).

In short, if you’d like to see your site disappear off Google and other search engines, go ahead and pay for them. But you’ll not see your page at the top of the Google page for much longer.

In short, the rule of thumb for avoiding being bitten by a scam is this: if it looks like you can avoid a lot of hard work and sacrifice for a low, low fee, don’t do it. If you can’t verify the identity of the web service, don’t do it. If your copy reads like Billy Mays wrote it, don’t do it.

We know that you’re class act professionals—be sure to make your business’s public appearance looks like one, too.

 


#TechTipTuesday: Use HDR For Better Photos

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Sometimes it can be a real pain to get a great photo of whatever we’re trying to get. (OK, maybe more than sometimes!) You’ll line up the shot, get everything in frame, and take the shot. The flash goes off, and everything in the room that you lined up in the frame so beautifully…ends up washed out and overexposed due to the bright flash. While the flash has a purpose, most modern smartphones (including the iPhone 4 and up and most Androids from that period forward) have a mode called High Dynamic Range, or HDR.

Photos are rapidly becoming one of our favorite communication media. Check Facebook and Twitter if you don’t believe me. They gather clicks and views (and they’re generally prettier to look at than black-and-white text). But if you’re washing out your photos with a flash or not taking photos because you’re dissatisfied with your photos, HDR might make a big difference to you.

That difference is made bigger if your industry requires great visuals—like real estate, for instance. The house needs to look the best it can, right? The difference between an intimate-looking dining room and a washed out one is in the HDR.

HDR comparison shot

In this article, writer Elia Locardi tells and shows the difference in a series of before/after comparisons of HDR shots and standard shots. (The most impressive improvement is depicted above, as well. Click the image for a full-size side-by-side.) HDR captures multiple shots of a subject, each allowing for a different amount of light into the camera. The software then blends the three shots to get the best lighting for each of the subjects in the frame The difference between HDR and standard photography is—almost literally—night and day. Shots that would normally need a flash to wash the scene in light suddenly become feasible without spending large amounts of cash on a specialized camera. In short, HDR is the best friend of amateur photographers and business folk everywhere who need photos for their business.

So, to reiterate: if your camera has an HDR function, be sure to try it out to see what happens. It might be the difference between a simple photograph and a work of art—or between lackluster response and the sale you were looking for.


Tech Tip Tuesday: March 11, 2014

Apple releases iOS 7.1 for iPhone, iPad with bug fixes, new features

Summary: The latest version for iPhones and iPads landed on Monday, with new features, user interface tweaks, and a number of bug fixes that aims to appease those who have yet to upgrade.

ios-7-1
(Image: CNET, ZDNet)

Apple has released iOS 7.1, the latest iterative version of its mobile software for its smartphones and tablets.

The software was made available for download on Monday, a week shy of six months after a radically redesigned iOS 7 was released.

The latest software version is compatible with iPhone 4 and later, iPad 2 and later, and iPod touch (5th generation) devices. 

Users of iOS 7 and older versions can upgrade compatible devices over-the-air by navigating to “Software Update” in the “General” section of the device’s settings.

iOS 7.1 includes 41 bug fixes that have plagued some early adopters, along with user interface design tweaks, such as visual changes to the phone dialer and power-off features.

The software also lands with a number of new features, including:

  • CarPlay: formerly known as iOS in the Car, which supports iPhone calling, music, maps, and messaging. It also allows users to control certain functions through iOS’ in-built voice-activated assistance Siri;
  • Siri improvements: Including natural-sounding voices for U.K. English, Australian English, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese. You can also use it in push-to-talk mode by holding the Home button for the duration of your query;
  • Calendar changes: The list view has returned in month view, and the update has also included country-specific holidays added for many locales;
  • iTunes Radio updates: The radio feature, first introduced in iOS 7, has been updated with new features, including the ability to buy albums over-the-air from “Now Playing”;
  • Accessibility additions: The “parallax” motion feature option now includes Weather, Messages, and multi-tasking user interface animations;
  • Camera settings bolstered: Including a setting that allows users to automatically enable HDR mode for iPhone 5s users;
  • Touch ID improved: The software that controls the biometric reader has been improved to make fingerprint recognition better.

Overall, with its user interface and bug fix improvements, the update is designed above all to resolve some of the initial problems with the software, which some insiders previously reported was rushed in order to land in line with the release of iPhone 5s and 5c smartphones in September.

According to Apple, about 82 percent of all compatible iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch devices are running iOS 7 as of late February, based on App Store data.

As many millions have waited to upgrade until some of the known and well-documented bugs and user interface flaws have been resolved, that figure is expected to rise significantly in the next days.

For those not able to download over-the-air, Windows and Mac users can alternatively connect their compatible iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch devices to iTunes, and upgrade by selecting the “Check for Upgrade” button in their device’s summary window. 

Or, users can download the software bundle (.IPSW) files from Apple’s website for offline installations in the coming hours. (Enterprise users can use Apple’s Phobos server for download links.) 

In past updates, downloads are often slow at first as millions attempt to upgrade at the same time.

Downloading over a Wi-Fi connection is recommended due to the size of the file, and some users may have to delete content from their devices in order to install.

By Zack Whittaker, ZDNet


Tech Tip Tuesday: March 4, 2014

The Importance of Creating Human Connections with Your Brand in Social Media

human connections

One of the best things about social media is that people are becoming more real, revealing more about themselves. People are showing more courage in putting themselves out there – sure, some guy you went to school with might judge you for sharing your feelings, but there are others with whom your opinions will resonate, and those are the people you really want to connect with. Social media facilitates better connections with likeminded folk, leading to the creation of online communities that foster encouragement, creativity and genuine relationships. It’s really great to see, really heartening to see people who might have felt out of place in the world finding others who feel the same way.

I was reminded of this when Bryan Kramer did a presentation recently where he summed this up perfectly from a business perspective:

There Is No More B2B or B2C: There Is Only Human to Human (H2H)

It’s a simple, inspiring summary that’s been rightfully praised by many in the industry. It underlines that community spirit, that tangible sense of belonging that people are finding in the social media landscape. Inspiring is the best word for it, and I applaud Bryan for his clarity.

What does this mean for business?

Bryan’s statement really captures the mood around social media and how it should be used by brands. There’s a clear shift away from advertising and selling and a move towards creating genuine connections with people. The emphasis on content is largely due to it being a way to create human connections, an opportunity to present who you are as a company, as opposed to what you do. It’s an exciting time to be involved as the opportunities for creating real, meaningful relationships are there, waiting, and the audience is looking for engagement. You just have to reach out to them, understand them, and, ideally, contribute to their world. The opportunity to take up a place of trust and service has never been better, it’s now up to businesses to take it.

So how do you do it?

Listening. This is emphasized by every social media expert in every post and every publication. You need to learn what your customers want, listen to what they’re after, then be responsive to their needs. You’ve got access to more consumer data than ever before, and most of it is happening in day to day discussions, right now, conversations that you can tap into and take notes from. You need to listen, but more than that, you need to hear what’s being said and absorb that information into your processes.

Brands need to be more human

Be real, be genuine. Be adventurous with your messaging. You know your target audience – ideally, you are amongst them yourself – so if you’re taking a risk and putting yourself out there, think about what would resonate with you. What would you respond to as a target consumer? You have the data, the platforms, the means – you can find like minded, or better ‘like-wanted’, folk that will connect with your brand identity. You just have to establish what that identity is.

Be about people

What’s the thing that people always say when they leave a company? ‘The best thing about working here was the people’. Social media gives you a chance to make all businesses about the people. Obviously, your product still needs to be great, but that inner-company camaraderie can be spread further, creating a more collaborative relationship between your business and your clients. People want to be part of a community, to feel like they belong. Social media gives you the chance to show that they belong with you.

It’s not about consumers, it’s not about clients. It’s about people. Listening, engaging, creating real connections. H2H.

They’re out there now, talking to each other, establishing like minded communities. All you have to do is go meet them.

Source: Andrew Hutchinson, Social Media Today


Tech Tip Tuesday: February 18, 2014

 Online Marketing: 5 Tips to Help You in 2014

The beginning of a new year always brings with it new marketing plans, budgets and a revitalized excitement about the opportunities that await any business. If you are in charge of marketing at your company, the potential could actually be overwhelming. Luckily, we have some suggestions to help you grow your brand and online following in 2014. Here are 5 online marketing resolutions to adopt today:

1.     Amp Up Your Content Marketing

Look for 2014 to be another year for companies to amp up their marketing. The take-away of this statement is that marketers need the time and tools to produce unique content to tell a story that personifies the company. For all the small companies who have to earn their way to consumers’ news feeds, it is essential for content to have a captivating sound. Large corporations have the resources to hit a steady rhythm by always churning out content multiple times a day. That said, it is not important to keep up with the Jones’ on that metric alone because only 9% of B2B and 7% of B2C companies think their content strategy is “very effective.” Amping up the uniqueness of content will ensure a steady growth in social media following.

2.     Make Mobile a Priority

Optimizing content for mobile use is more important than ever before. Looking at the steady trend of mobile devises by 2017 87% of all connected devices will be smartphones and tablets. The first thing to hammer out is a responsive websites design so that the web page is optimized to be viewed on every device. Next in line is a clean and simple user interface to help keep people on your page. Mobile users expect to find answers quickly and easily because they are always on the go. If you make the navigation to their answer easy, they will come back.

3.     Spread Your Social Media Wings

Experimenting with social media will be critical in 2014 now that the two social giants, Twitter and Facebook, are “pay to play” and a post will only stay on news feeds for a matter of minutes, if not seconds. Take time to experiment with other networks like Pinterest, Instagram and Tumbler.  All of these sites are growing at warp speed and you have the ability to connect with followers through creative, personable campaigns. Google Plus is another network that is slated to improve their standings in the social media world this year. Finding the appropriate niche on Google Plus can be hard, but the benefits of higher search engine results will always help.

4.     Say It With Images

The Power of images and videos is astonishing for online marketers. In fact, the web is shifting all attention to a visual landscape. For example, images on Facebook get more likes, comments and shares than any other form of communication. In addition, Google has changed its search results to promote images above text-based results. In fact, the love consumers have for visual eye-candy is likely why you clicked to view this infographic.

5.     Keep It Simple

If there is one thing that will hold peoples’ attention this year, it’s a simple message. Do not over complicate the content. Companies that simplified the purchasing decision (meaning took out industry jargon) were 86% more likely to convert customers.

5-Online_Marketing_Resolutions_for_2014

By: Marketing Tech Blog