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How to use Facebook to brand yourself and expand your business network

April 8th, 2008 · 10 Comments

I have to honest. I have been reading Kevin’s posts on social media and blogging, I am itching to write one on the topic myself since internet & blogging has done tremendous for my business. So here it is! (We will continue the regular programming on staging for next post ;) I promise.)

I have been toying with Facebook a lot lately because I am intrigued of how this thing can work for my business (since I am spending a ridiculous amount of time on it) and how fun it actually can be even for work. Facebook has exploded on the business sphere lately largely because of its user-friendliness, much more professional look than myspace, and easy to network quickly with a string of people in a more relaxed atmosphere (they now even added a People You May Know section, which is frankly scary how they know I know these people).

At first I only used Facebook for contacting old college classmates & long lost friends, secretly comparing looking where they are working now how much weight they had gained, but lately I am finding a lot more business applications being developed and used, as well as an increased number of contacts in both staging and realtor fields. (Finally, no more of those invites of “Are You a Vampire?” but “Have my online business card.”)

I also read Guy Kawasaki’s 10 Things You Don’t Know About Facebook: “the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is those ages twenty-five and older. [per Facebook's own stats] Facebook is quickly becoming not just place for friends to meet friends, but for business users, baby-boomers…”

Which prompted me to establish a “store front” (in Facebook lingo: Page) for my staging business. I listed my mission statement, basic info, even added blog syndications and apps such as charity that I personally support.

It’s an interesting experiment so far. According to Facebook’s stats, (or “Insights” per Facebook lingo) I have received 88 hits so far in the last 2 days. Although it is unclear where these traffic are coming from…. While my page is not like a major consumer product’s page, such as Dr. Pepper or Guiness where they have legion of fans who have the kind of viral power that can multiply consumer bases quickly and sell more products through their Facebook pages, I am interested to see how small businesses or professionals can use this to help them increase exposure.

Moreover, more and more people every day are joining for the sole purposes of prospecting and expanding networks. Similarly to LinkedIn, you can seek introductions via Facebook by simply “poking” someone to view their profiles, nudging them to respond and even visually displayed how many friends you have in common.

Similarly to twitter, you can update your status quickly via your mobiles or on the internet to let your sphere of influence, as well as millions of other users to know what you are doing.

I also have to say, the SEO on the Facebook page is SCARY. I only made it couple days ago, it already popped up on my google alert. I am experimenting and I plugged in “Burlingame” just now, to test and see if it will pop up on future searches.

What do you think? Any success stories so far? What do you use Facebook for? Be part of my social experiment by becoming a fan of my page at http://tinyurl.com/3jryvf. Or simply add me as your facebook friend :D

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Tags: Facebook

Mortgage Mania Part 13 - A Halloween Story

October 31st, 2007 · 1 Comment

Dsiclaimer: The following post is based on a presentation by Christopher Thornberg, an economist at Beacon Economics, that I attended last night, courtesy of my accountant, Tom Wagstaff of Petrinovich, Pugh and Co. This is a departure from my normally upbeat view of the local economy, and fortunately they re-opened the bar following the presentation for all the Realtors in the audience to drown their sorrows.

Economist Chris Thornberg showed some pretty convincing evidence for his expectation that housing prices will fall between 20% and 25% over the next couple of years, primarily because the ratio of home prices to incomes is higher than anytime in history, almost double the peaks in previous economic cycles. Gloom and doom for an hour, ah it brought tears to the eyes of many a Realtor in San Jose. Smugly I said, ” . . .but I live and work in Palo Alto, land of Stanford, Venture Capital, Facebook and Google! Sushi on every table and a BMW in every driveway! We are our own little world here, so we don’t have to worry about the housing market meltdown in Nebraska, or even the East Bay.”

Not so fast. The lastest housing boom has been driven by increasing housing prices, driven in part by cheap credit and loans. More people got these loans, bought more expensive houses, so the demand for these loans went up, and the cycle accelerated.

Now the appreciation is going the other way (flat to negative), and the equity that has driven consumer spending over the last few years (cash out refi = new boat), has gone away (bye, bye boat, and house!).  Thornberg forecasts that the subprime meltdown will be followed by Alt - A defaults (already happening) which will pull down the high-end markets from below (that would be Palo Alto, Los Altos, etc.). Even if the Fed were to reduce interest rates to 0%, it wouldn’t fix this mess. Much like last night’s temblor in San Jose, Palo Alto will be on the periphery of this shakeup. We won’t be knocked flat, but we will rock and roll a bit, and not in the fun way. Sigh . . .

To add to the gloom, I have been attending recent forums for candidates for Palo Alto City Council. Whether the topic is Palo Alto’s aging libraries, or green initiatives, the same topics keep coming up: Infrastructure, Schools, Tax revenue.

If you live or work in Palo Alto, I highly recommend you take an interest in the upcoming City Council race and the issues the candidates are raising. You can learn more about the issues and candidates on the Palo Alto Weekly website.

Happy Halloween!!

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Tags: Real estate

What The Microsoft-Facebook Deal Means For Real Estate — Part 2: Revisiting Move.com Vs. ActiveRain

October 26th, 2007 · 9 Comments

Yesterday I, among many others, commented on the Microsoft-Facebook deal — though in my case, I’m more interested in the potential impact on real estate than I am in the specifics of the deal itself.  While yesterday’s post thought through the implications for real estate consumers in the mid-Peninsula, today I have some thoughts on the implications for real estate professionals, and in particular the ongoing legal brouhaha between Move.com and Active Rain.

A quick recap:  Move.com, the 800-lb gorilla of the online real estate world, was apparently in negotiations to buy ActiveRain, the 50,000-member strong real estate blogging site.  The price tag was rumored to be around $30M.  ActiveRain is now suing Move.com for allegedly reneging on the deal.

The $30M price tag certainly raised eye brows.  The BawldGuy himself wondered aloud in a comment on my first article on the issue whether ActiveRain was even worth $1M.  My back of the envelope calculation — based on the fact that Facebook was roughly valued at $250/user – suggested an argument for a $12.5M valuation for ActiveRain.  Yesterday’s news upped the ante for Facebook to around $300/user, implying ActiveRain may have a value of $15M.

Back to Microsoft-Facebook for a minute.  What does Microsoft see in Facebook?  Simple — it has the potential to become a finely honed online advertising machine, in which Microsoft can target users’ interest with pinpoint precision — not (as is currently the case with search engines) simply by what the user is searching for, but rather by what the users’ interests, group memberships, and friends’ list implies about his or her interests.  You’re a member of the groups “San Francisco” and “Wine afficionados?”  Perfect — we’ll serve you up with an ad for a weekend getaway in Napa.

What does (or did) Move.com see in ActiveRain?  Perhaps one of (at least) two things:

1) Yet another venue to rape pillage plunder charge agents for the Web 2.0 equivalent of “Enhanced Listings.”  Want to have a blog?  That’s free.  Oh, you want to actually be able to write something in your blog and have pictures, links, and comments?  That’ll be $4.95/month.  Want to get rid of competing agents’ ads next to your blog articles?  Another $4.95/month, please.  Want to “enhance” your blog so it shows up higher in a search on Active Rain?  $9.95.

2) A finely honed online advertising machine, a la Facebook, but specifically within the real estate industry.  Again, ads could be tailored according to the users’ group memberships and friend lists.  You’re a Coldwell Banker agent, and a member of the “Boise interest group”?  We’ll serve you up an ad from a competing Prudential franchise in Boise that’s looking to expand.  You’re reading an article comparing some of the different MLS search providers?  Bingo!  We’ll show you an ad advertising such wares, along with a one month free coupon.

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Tags: Active Rain · Facebook · Industry · Microsoft · Move.com

What The Microsoft-Facebook Deal Means For Real Estate — Part 1: The Real Estate Market In The Mid-Peninsula

October 25th, 2007 · 3 Comments

The blogosphere has been buzzing since yesterday with news of the Microsoft-Facebook deal in which Microsoft invested $240M in Facebook in exchange for a 1.6% stake.  To spare you reaching for your calculators, that gives Facebook a whopping valuation of 15 billion (with a b) dollars — not bad for a company with a 24-year old college-dropout CEO.  (Perhaps part of the attraction of Facebook for Microsoft was a sort of nostalgic deja-vu on the part of Bill Gates, who is also a Harvard dropout, and was also running an exciting and very successful company by the age of 24.)

I’ll leave the analysis of the deal itself to pundits far more knowledgeable on the subject.  What interests me as a real estate professional is the impact this deal may have on real estate in the area.

The connection, in my mind, is quite simply:  One of the reasons why the real estate market here in Silicon Valley continues to chug along is that the tech industry is doing very well.  VC’s are flush with cash, busy investing in the next big thing.  Many of the local tech giants are having good years.  The current bellweather of the local tech economy is Mountain View-based Google, and with its shares well north of $600 each, and its ongoing voracious appetite for skilled engineers, the Valley is feeling pretty brash and confident these days.  That confidence, and the cash that comes from stock options, translates into buoyed demand for housing in this area.

So what happens if Google, which currently can do no wrong, stumbles a bit?  What if it fails to hit analysts’ quarterly earnings target?  What if it even fails to beat expectations by as much as analysts thought it would?  What if its stock drops to, say, $300, over a one year period?

Without a doubt, that would have a negative impact on our local real estate economy, both directly — Googlers not buying as much housing — and indirectly — the overall attitude of the local tech economy getting soured.

Here’s where Facebook, currently housed in downtown Palo Alto, comes in.  The company reminds many of us of the pre-IPO Google of, say, 5 years ago:  great product, smart people, excellent management, modest cash flow, and HUGE ambitious and expectations.  If Facebook continues along the same trajectory, it may well be that in, say, three years, it becomes our local bellweather.  It may well have several thousand stock-option-engorged employees right at the cusp of their homebuying life stage.  They may well do for our local housing economy what the Googlers are currently doing.

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Tags: Consumer · Facebook · Microsoft · Mountain View · Palo Alto