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Interview: Brian Wilson of the Zolve Real Estate Network

Many real estate agents understand establishing an online presence is more important than ever. But not only an online presence?you want to generate some business! That?s why the social network(s) you choose for your real estate business should have strong referral tools built in. One such system is Zolve.com. Recently I cornered Brian Wilson, founder of Zolve, and asked him some questions. Read the interview below.

Q. In your words, what is Zolve?

A. Zolve is a business exchange platform for industry professionals built to simplify the inefficient, time consuming process of referral tracking, its paperwork and locating like minded professionals to work with. It is a marketplace of real estate professionals where people can objectively evaluate and select a local expert in their market.


Q. How do you see Zolve benefiting real estate professionals?

A. Several ways. First and foremost, Zolve?s platform completely systematizes the entire referral process so it can be executed and tracked online. Secondly, the Zolve network will be comprised of members with online profiles and consumer ratings that simplify the process of choosing referral partners. Of high importance, it helps real estate professional to ?be found online? which is no small challenge. There needs to be some reasonable alternatives to every web-based real estate professional in a market all competing for the first 10 search results on the search engine. Zolve provides a technology economy of scales that allows members to be found in an objective marketplace.

Q. How do you see Zolve streamlining the referral process?

A. Zolve provides binding referral contracts in an easy to use ?referral wizard.? I can send a digital referral agreement in a few minutes and the member on the other end will get an email alert which will allow him/her to accept, decline or discuss it. Once a referral in place, the receiving member is automatically prompted for regular progress reports and all communications between the cooperating members are stored in a permanent transaction log. Zolve also provides members with a host of exclusive online social and marketing tools to handle inbound and outbound referrals and interview requests.

Q. How will Zolve differ from ActiveRain and other social networks?

A. Zolve is a platform built to process referral transactions. That?s its primary function – to serve as a business tool. All of its social features are designed to support the business center within the platform. Active Rain and other social networks work completely the other way. Their business tools are designed to support the social network. We have designed this network so the time spent on it results in business and is thus productive time. Every decision we make in continuing to evolve Zolve and add features answers the question, ?How can we directly help the agent on the street grow his/her business??

Q. What social tools does Zolve provide real estate professionals?

A. They are considerable. To begin with, Zolve is also an online community ? a group of like-minded professionals gathered for mutual benefit. Zolve members create a virtual sphere of influence comprised of other members with whom they have or would like to do business. Each receives a personal blog that allows them to leverage their expertise and local market knowledge. We have built this blog and are continuing to improve this blog so that it can be used as a truly consumer-facing tool. In fact, we are currently developing an option that members can have their profile look one way to non-logged in viewers and differently to fellow members. Thus, the agent who has a static website that is not producing business for them could use their Zolve profile both as a network profile page to interact with other professionals and as their consumer facing website/blog. This will enable them to focus their marketing investment and time into one online brand rather than managing several. Zolve also provides a rating and feedback system that will serve to police the activities as it does on eBay, creating an accountability system that helps ensure that the customer willg et the best possible service.

Q. How can a real estate professional expand their sphere through Zolve?

A. They very same way professionals expand their sphere through a network like LinkedIn. At its core, Zolve provides its members with a new source of business by granting members access to inbound referrals from across the country and globe and connecting them with a community of reliable practitioners to whom they can confidently refer business. A big difference in Zolve is that our members grow their sphere visually. We created a Google Map mashup for each of our members that shows visually where they are connected. With one click of a mouse, they can look beyond their own sphere of influence and view their ?sphere network? which shows their network?s sphere of influence as well. Thus, a member with 15 members in his/her sphere can now be connected within one degree of association to thousands of people worldwide, graphically.

Q. Is Zolve only for Real Estate agents? Who else should join?

A. Zolve is absolutely not just for agents. We have members who practice in many real estate service areas and actively encourage them to participate in the platform.

If I am real estate professional like a lender or inspector and I generate most of my business by building relationships with REALTORS?, I want to be on a referral network where top professionals from markets across the country are building out their networks.

If I am selling vacation property in St. Thomas, I want to be on a network where real estate professionals who have clients with 1031 funds or 2nd home aspirations can find me as a trusted, proven professional off-shore.

If I am a real estate technology provider, I want to be on a network where real estate professionals who are willing to pay for an online service are actively trying to build their online brand. I could probably fill a need that they are experiencing.

I want Zolve to become the answer to this problem? if my mom in Bloomington, Indiana wants to refinance her home and asks me for help, I would love to be able to go to Zolve and screen the 5-6 lenders on the network for that market and be able to read 3-5 customer and real estate professional feedbacks on each of them to determine who would be the best fit and take the best care of my mom. I would like the fact that the person that we choose for the job would know that when the refinance closes, my mom as the customer and me as the referring member will both rate him/her on objective criteria that will ?stick? to him forever. This is a layer of accountability that does not currently exist. As it is now, if this lender takes advantage of mom or does a terrible job, he has lost nothing in terms of future business since I am an out of state REALTOR? who never sends referrals to his market anyway. Zolve solves that problem.

Q. How should an interested party get started?

A. Go right to Zolve.com and sign up for a 30-day free trial. If you like it, then on day 31, you will be charged $34.95 for the whole year. At this membership you can do everything on Zolve to include sending referrals, except receiving referrals. To accept a referral on Zolve, you must upgrade to our regular membership rate of $40 per month or save 20% by prepaying the year.

Q. Why join now?

A. I think for those early adapters who understand the need to use systems to save time, save money, and expose themselves to new opportunities during a slow market, then Zolve can be an important component of their business. Zolve is a solution that enables its users to take part in a global real estate market that they would otherwise never get exposed to. For the cost of one business lunch, you can be found online by real estate professionals across the country looking to do business with someone in your market.

For those who tend to procrastinate, I say put off your procrastinations. Get started now. Build your profile and send some referrals whether they be customers across state lines or to the lender you are already using in your market. The advantage is that you and your network can begin earning valuable ratings & feedback that will translate into business you would have not otherwise have in the future. Take advantage of our offers to elevate your current network online and to build a new book of business.

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Real Estate Bloggers: Increase Your RSS Subscribers with Facebook

If you are a member of Facebook, you have most likely been hugged, poked, or even superpoked by now. With over 2000 applications available on Facebook, it can be a daunting task to uncover the ones actually worthy of installing. Don?t get me wrong, I?m all for fun and interesting?and covet my iLike Music Expert status. But recently I?ve taken advantage of a fairly new application that real estate bloggers may enjoy and benefit from. The Blog Friends application allows you to share your blog and feed with your Facebook friends, and your friends? friends.

With Blog Friends, you can:

  1. Track blog posts made by friends?on topics that interest you
  2. Display those blog posts on your profile page
  3. Increase your network of friends with additional blog exposure
  4. Increase your RSS feed count with RSS feed icons on Facebook

So real estate agents, if you are already on Facebook, this seems like a win-win application to take advantage of now! Viral marketing techniques are often criticized and the word ?viral? alone calls out for hand sanitizer. That?s why I prefer the term ?spiral?. Spiders work quickly and efficiently when making their webs, so why shouldn?t bloggers do the same. If a spider can utilize the wind to effectively to carry its adhesive thread?then its only fitting to make Facebook’s technology work for real estate bloggers. So consider installing the Blog Friends application and let the wind carry your thread.

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Kyte Offers Online TV Technology for your Real Estate Business

Video has been reshaping the Internet, and it?s no different for your real estate business. Think back to your listings online, what do consumers want? Enhanced content?right? They want multiple photos, home tours and now video. So the same could be said for real estate information on your website. A text-based story would work, but imagine an article with video and photo support. Could you prove your point better? Could you also brand yourself better? I believe so!

Introducing Kyte.tv; their technology will allow you to create your own FREE real estate TV channel and broadcast it to the world. Your TV channel can include still photos, slide shows, video, music, voice and instant polls to help enhance your online presence and in turn, provide you a competitive edge in your real estate business. You may choose to include videos outlining industry trends, steps towards home ownership, the selling and buying process, real estate investment, or even showcase local attractions & hotspots. Of course you would also include video tours and photos of your listed homes for maximum appeal. Why not also invite colleagues such as your preferred lender to talk on evaluating loans, and improving credit. The ideas are limitless.

Once your TV channel is built, Kyte will allow you to embed it on your website, blog or even Facebook. Then every time you update your TV channel using the KTYE.tv interface, your website and blog will be updated simultaneously. Kyte has also integrated chat technology, allowing your audience to leave comments promoting your website community.

If you are interested in leveraging the latest in Internet TV technology for your real estate business don?t wait; create your own channel today!

A few other companies providing similar TV channel technology:

  1. SplashCast
  2. Vidiac
  3. Panjea
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SpotIt Brings Community Interaction to your Real Estate Website

Do you want an easy and quick way to enhance the content and value of your real estate website? Well, SpotIt?a new solution offered by OnBoard, may have just what you need. SpotIt is a ?plug and play? Web 2.0 solution that allows consumers who visit your website to vote on their favorite local ?spots?. Instantly turn your real estate website into a social networking community by giving visitors the opportunity to create their own categories and vote on them such as ?Best Date Spot? or ?Best Neighborhood for Kids?. SpotIt utilizes OnBoard?s huge store of community, amenity and school information and brings it to you via the SpotIt API or hosted page templates. SpotIt?s easy integration will give your real estate website a more significant presence on the web, as well as increase traffic. This fabulous community tool combines pinpoint mapping and local opinions to give your website visitors ?real? information regarding hot spots in their area. Now your real estate website can promote you as a local expert and facilitate the community dialogue that will get you noticed! Check it out!

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Got Real Estate Questions? TruliaVoices Answers.

Trulia launches answers to your questions with ?Trulia Voices?. The Trulia community provides a place where anyone can ask real estate questions and get real answers from homeowners, real estate pros or anyone with an opinion on your local market.

To get started, visit Trulia online. Click on the ?Trulia Voices? tab up top, then type your real estate question in the provided field. Update with your area info and submit. You will be prompted to register, if you haven?t already. Within seconds, your question is submitted to their online question/answer forum. You can view questions/answers that may be similar to your inquiries. If there are no like answers found, then just sit back, relax, and soon other community members from your area will begin commenting and answering your specific real estate question.

I asked the question, ?Where do you find the school scores for your area?? Now, I already have a few favorite resources when it comes to that question (see past article: School Scores & More), but I wanted to test the Trulia forum to see if I would really get some quality answers. And within 10 minutes of submitting my question, I had some fabulous results. The first real estate pro who answered my question provided me with list a great list of websites. Two of which, I use and recommend frequently (GreatSchools.net & NeighborhoodScout.com). And the following 3 real estate pros also recommended GreatSchools.net, among others.

Trulia Voices makes it easy for anyone with almost any kind of real estate question get knowledgeable answers quickly. It?s quite a helpful forum, really. And, it was nice to see some familiar Trulia Voices: Pat Kitano, Kevin Boer, Brian Brady, Tyler Moxley, Maureen Francis, Trang Nguyen.

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Using Video in Your Real Estate Business

Last year when Real Estate agents spoke about home tours online you could almost guarantee the tours were going to be compiled using a combination of still photos, stitched into a tour. (Photo Story etc.) Well that?s all changing as we predicted in November. Why are video tours and video presentations in Real Estate catching on? Well that?s mainly thanks to YouTube for making previous awkwardly large video files easy to share.

What else is it about video that?s so compelling? If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, what?s video worth?10,000 words? Video allows the interested party to get even more realistic imagery and hear audio which means less to read online. Video also convey?s emotion when produced correctly.

Now just because you have a video camera doesn?t mean you should start making your Real Estate video tours and video presentations for your website. You need to first address the idea of professionalism. You are not trying to film ?The Blair Witch Project? you are a professional Real Estate agent trying to position yourself and the homes you represent as a wonderful opportunity for interested parties. To do that successfully, your video should have flow. If you are filming a house, bring your tripod to get smooth, level shots. Use well lit areas, and zoom-in for maximum impact. When these tools are used in the right combination, your Real Estate video will capture the essence of what you are trying to convey.

How do I get started?
Obviously, you will need a video camera, tripod and corresponding accessories for the actual video sessions. Also look into a microphone to attach onto your lapel. This will help remove the echo sometimes caused by using just the video recorders built-in microphone. Also pickup a lightweight, easy to collapse tripod.

In regards to video editing you will need a fairly powerful computer. Using an old PC will definitely test your patience. The right software is also important. If your price-point is FREE*, you are in luck Windows Movie Maker is a decent program. (*Free if you have a registered copy of Microsoft Windows) With Movie Maker importing video is a snap. You can easily add text, transitions and special effects. The result will produce good quality video for web display. For Real Estate agents using Microsoft Vista Premium or Ultimate you will also be able to burn high-quality DVD?s with Movie Maker HD.

If you are still on XP and are looking to create offline high-quality videos on CD, I recommend Adobe Premier Elements 3.0. This program has been a hit for years, and packs a ton of power from its big brother Adobe Premier Pro. Premier Elements is around $100 and now works with Windows Vista.

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7 Ways to Syndicate Your Real Estate Listing

With so many buyers turning to the Internet to shop real estate, getting your listings in front of them couldn?t be easier. There are many website solutions to choose from when it comes to posting your listings online. Many of these sites provide a comprehensive suite of products and services in order to better market your listings online (i.e. listing flyers/ads, virtual tours, mini-websites, blogs, etc.). Spend less time recreating everything, when you can create it once and share it in several formats while also getting the info you want in front of your potential buyers! But don?t take my word for it, check out a few of the following ways you can syndicate your listings for yourself. Keep in mind that not all aggregated websites reach the same audience, so be wise before posting your listing. Are you really reaching out to the right demographic?

As of the CAR 06-07 Internet Vs. Traditional Buyer Report, the share of Internet Buyers (those who use the Internet as a significant part of the home buying process) reached 70% in 2006. Many have estimated this percentage closer to 90%.

vFlyer.com
A one stop shop for creating, promoting, and distributing classified real estate listings. Their easy-to-use interface allows you enter information in quickly and get your listings out to Google Base, Edgeio, Oodle, Vast.com, Trulia, PropSmart and others! Other highlights include: Built-in tracking for ads, cut and paste ready to use HTML into Craigslist and eBay, embed your ads into your blog or website via their slick widget, and generate PDF files you can email or print. vFlyer also includes social bookmarking and Yahoo maps. Example Example Widget

Postlets.com
Postlets make it fast and easy for just about anyone to create a real estate ad like a pro. Utilize drop down menus of standard features to walk you through the process of creating your elegant listing ad. Your listings will be automatically sent to Oodle, Google Base, Trulia, Backpage, Propsmart, Edgeio, Vast, and other classifieds search engines. Postlets also includes a small Google Map for aerial and satellite views. Once your ad is complete Postlets will generates HTML code for posting ads on Craigslist and LiveDeal. You can also use the code for your blog or email newsletter (although it?s not quite as slick as vFlyer?s widget). Example

RealBird.com
RealBird, known for their map based-search, will syndicate your listing to Google Base, Google Blog Search, Edgeio.com, Oodle.com, Lycos, IceRocket, Vast and Technorati when you make a listing flyer using RealBird Publisher. RealBird also has built-in support for cross-marketing your blog and your other listings on your virtual tours. Once you enter your blog’s RSS feed in your RealBird profile, your virtual tours will show the latest blog posts in the footer. Your listing flyers are also optimized for search engine indexing and include social bookmarks. Example

Tourfactory.com
Tourfactory can give your real estate presentations and virtual tours the professional look they need in this competitive market. In addition, your real estate listings will be delivered to millions of potential buyers via Move.com. Realtor.com, Google, Yahoo, Home Debut, Sprint, and the Dupont Registry. Example

Classifiedflyerads.com
ClassifiedFlyerAds.com is a simple solution for creating full color, eye catching real estate ads, rental ads, auto ads and items for sale ads that will automatically be posted to top classified directories and live data feeds (Craigslist, Google Base, backpage, edgeio, Propsmart, Syndic8, Realty Feed Search, Oodle.com, Lycos, Trulia, LiveDieal, FindHomeRentals, hotpads.com, geebo, Vast, Realty Feeds, and more). Example

PostYourListings.com
Postyourlistings.com provides a suite of products and services, including: listing syndication, agent/broker websites (design & hosting), and print marketing flyers. Your real estate listings are transmitted to major portals every night: Yahoo, Cablevision 12, LongIsland Press, Google, vlshomes.com, HomeSeekers.com, Home Gain, MLS.com, Real Estate Espanol, Lycos, oodle.com, Craigslist, Real-Estate.com, ListingMania.com, Trulia, Propsmart. Their designs may not be among the best, but they sure get creative when it comes to their syndicated partners. Example

reallyo.com
reallyo is a free tool for real estate agents and brokers to create great looking flyers with video tours, photos, floorplans, Google maps and descriptions. Point interested buyers to your reallyo flyer, link it on blogs, forums, emails and other classifieds sites and embed video. Create impressive real estate mini sites in minutes and reach thousands of buyers via Syndic8, Google Base, oodle.com, edgeio, backpage, Local.com, Lycos, Realty Feeds, Vast and Livedeal. Example