There’s always something to howl about

The Social Media curve

if Arthur Laffer can have a curve for taxes that defies the static revenue generation models in use at the time and since, then I can have one for social media. (Hat tip to my friend Scott Hack at Selling Greater Louisville for starting me down this road…)


The true reach and impact of a given social media aite has a lifecycle. A site starts as an ineffective blob and the sites promoters must somehow inspire a LOT of people to waste a LOT of time building it up. **cough**Twitter**cough** As they do it gains traction, but unless it hits “critical mass”, a point at which it is a household word and EVERYONE is using it and will not stop using it, then it will decline. **cough**Myspace**cough**

For business purposes, since we are trying to maximize our ROI, my thought is that we only should spend time on those social media sites with enough RELEVANT traffic to warrant us spending our time on them. (Right now that is likely ONLY to be Facebook and then only where we can connect with our friends from the past effeciently and possibly get deals from them.

Twitter, for all of its rabid followers is now IN MY OPINION in decline.

**Eric ducks a tomato and few folks from NAR who are just now learning to spell the words “social media” (grin)**

How do I know? The aforementioned Scott Hack told me last week that he was noticing that more and more twitterers are doing less and less tweets. He is an avid twitterer. So I took it upon my self to do my own marketing research over Thanksgiving.

Of the many people in their 20s and 30s that I talked to, who were on Twitter, most (75%) planned on spending less time there in the coming year.Interesting to note that they STILL INTEND TO USE FACEBOOK.

So then I went to the younger crowd (read: Nephews and nieces) Are they getting on Twitter? No, No and no…why? Because they have become comfortable with the Facebook platform.

When I talk to the 35 to 45 year old crowd, they are climbing on Facebook to friend their kids and keep an eye on them, and then they get hooked and start meeting old friends from school and such…

Add to all of this that posts to a site we both (Scott and 1) contribute to, have been regularly tweeted by us with diminishing results in terms of people clicking to the blog via a link.

There is my anecdotal and certainly less than scientific social media market research pointing to the following:

1 Facebook MAY be the first and likely only social media platform to hit critical mass ala how Ebay, Google, and etc did in their respective industries.

2 Twitter is on the decline.

3 From a business perspective, to maximize ROI, time spent on any of these should be minimal and focused directly on connecting with people who are already connected with you that you may have lost track of over the years OR on connecting with specific people via advertisement since Facebook style targeting allows for precise ads to go to precise audiences.

Ok, my twittering followers and facebooking buddies, and all you social media geniuses and gurus that have poured the last 3 years of your collective lives into social media. Please show me where I am wrong.

Where should we REALLY be spending our time in 2010?

Fair warning, just because it is kewl, cool, or cuil (do y’all remember that search engine? they were supposed to put a dent in Google-snort), is no reason to spend time there for business purposes. You are throwing valuable cold calling time away…grin.


How much time do you intend to spend on social media in 2010 and what is your expected return?


24 Comments so far

  1. Mike Stefonick November 30th, 2009 7:27 am

    Thanks for a very well written blog. There is only so much time real estate agents have in a day. After using Facebook for about a year, connecting with friends has been more fun. Sharing photo’s and connecting with links to Universities has really been beneficial. From my perspective the Internet has been an incredible ride since first using it in 1996 when I built one of the first RE/MAX regional websites:
    Today there is excitement in every bright mind who thinks they have a better idea of how to use the net. I cannot wait to see the next Facebook!

  2. Eric Hempler November 30th, 2009 7:40 am

    I find Twitter very unpractical. If you’re following more than 30 people on twitter how can you keep up with all the posts? And the majority of posts aren’t worth anything. There’s probably a better use for it.

  3. Steven Groves November 30th, 2009 8:03 am

    Thank the stars you have the vision!

    I thought this kind of fortune-telling was reserved to card readers and crystal ball gazers! Thank goodness we have you to let us know that the social media thing is past it’s peak…

    Cynical response aside, I cannot see for a second how you (or anyone) can be predicting the peaking of the phenomenon we call social media, web2.0 or whatever name you want to use just a few years after it’s birth.

    If history tell us anything, it is that enthusiasts in the middle of a fad cannot see the valleys and pundits cannot see the peaks – hindsight shows us what actually happened and I think we have a good deal more ahead of us before we call the social media thingy a passing fad.

    My sense of it is that we’re still smack dab in a transformation in the way we use technology to connect. Social media will become media that has social elements and we, as a culture, will just expect it, pretty much like we now expect a TV in every house, a phone in every business and the manuals for all our appliances and audio gear to be online.

    IMHO you’re a little ahead of yourself in presenting the peak of social media or it’s imminent decline.

  4. Eric Blackwell November 30th, 2009 9:09 am

    @Mike – Thanks for getting my point! Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving.

    @Eric H – Good to meet you.

    @Steven – Please re-read what I wrote. I am not predicting the end of social media by any stretch. I am merely charting the typical lifecycle of SPECIFIC sites and where I think they are along the lifecycle.

    I do think that an awful lot of people waste a lot of valuable business time contributing to a site when it is in its infancy or when it already has one foot in the grave-hence the wasted time on my chart.

    best to all


  5. Steven Groves November 30th, 2009 10:26 am


    Thanks for the follow-up, but again, I think it is a little off-base and premature to make any prediction of the sort relative to the right / wrong place to spend time – I may think ActiveRain is precisely the wrong place for a real estate professional to spend time, but they boast about reaching a 170,000 members, most of them real estate professional blogging to one another about one another.

    Second, your window of relevance, positioned only at at the top of the peak is irrelevant. It suggests that only a wise few will divine when to jump in and when to jump out of a site, a trend, fad, etc.

    I agree 100% that people waste a LOT of time on sites they do not belong in, but that has nothing to do with whether or not the site is relevant in the overall picture as your post suggests.

    When you look at the average age for the various social networks, here is what you find –

    26 – average age of a MySpace User
    31 – average age of a Twitter user
    33 – avg age of Facebook user
    39 – Avg age of a LinkedIn user

    *Pew Internet & American Life Project

    What is the average age of a 1st time home buyer? 30 or so (according to NAR) When do you want to get their trust? Prior to a transaction I suspect because once they elect to enter the home buying market, the ability to influence them in the process drops dramatically.

    So we agree people waste time on social networks, but what value do we place on the interaction? If you want to sell them ALL their houses based on the lifetime of a customer, maybe a MySpace page is not too bad an idea.

    To provide an armchair assessment of where the right / wrong place is to be or which property is on the up or down is a tad sanctimonious – how could you, me or anyone know yet – I’ll still suggest we’re way too early in the adoption phase of the technology.

    I am glad to see you questioning the effort spent though – the ROI of social media is a big topic these days and real estate people have sooo many options open to them. Knowing where to spend time is hard.

  6. Eric Blackwell November 30th, 2009 11:15 am


    For the record, I think Active Rain is an absolute waste of time (that would be in absolute agreement with you, yes?), unless of course you are marketing TO REALTORS…then there is a huge target audience there.But for REALTORS, why go there?

    I agree with you that ROI is the subject of the day. I do not think that the more complicated machinations that most of us marketing folks do when measuring the ROI of a brand really hold much water with REALTORS. What matters is, if I spend time, will it generate a sale. It really is as simple as that.

    Average ages of people on the site matter little as well. What truly matters IMHO is there a large audience that you can easily connect to that will possible want to buy or sell. Facebook fits that more quickly and efficiently than the others.

    For real estate professionals, I think Twitter is losing what positive ROI generating capacity it had. I know that may sound arrogant, but I put a pretty high premium on my time.

    I do think Facebook at present stands the best chance of netting a REALTOR a sale (used wisely), and unless there are skinned cats on the wall, there is no ROI.

    I think that MySpace’s audience is now too small to go after. Again, that may be arrogant of me, but I value my time.

    I would maintain that my position about REALTORS not wasting time on the long tails of this bell curve stands. What is wrong with teaching people to pick the low hanging fruit?

  7. Malok November 30th, 2009 11:29 am

    @ Steven – I think you are missing his point. Eric is not bashing “social media”. He is not saying its “past its peak”. And he is not saying its a waste of time. Please re-read the article/response with those 3 biases removed.

    He is saying that most of the social media sites have a life cycle and that at a certain point you reach a maximum return for your time spent on a particular site. That is all.

    Remember MySpace? MySpace would be an example of a site that is probably past its peak in the life cycle chart above. Remember when it was on the local & national news constantly and everyone was joining it en masse? When is the last time you saw a story about MySpace on your local TV news? Personally, its been a while since I’ve seen any significant coverage regarding that site. And while a lot of persons may still have accounts there, most of the persons I know have abandoned it in favor of other social media (like Facebook). And unless MySpace comes out with something to draw people back in, it will likely fade into obscurity.

    @ Eric – great article. Social media is just that: social. You need to be where you can generate the maximum return for your time spent. I think a lot of persons get into habits of where they spend their time, and end up inadvertently playing “Captain” and going down with the ship (without even realizing it).

  8. Barry Cunningham November 30th, 2009 11:44 am

    One of the problems I see is in the arguyment itself. I for one had a HUGE problem in trying to explain to myself the time that I was spending on Twitter and the other Sm sites. yes, The ROI was abyssmal…that is until I realized just what it was I was seeking the return upon.

    If I was a Realtor seeking to find someone to sell a house to via SM I would probably be looking to slit my throat. Trying to sell a house on Twitter might be like trying to play golf in Connecticut in a January blizzard with a white golf ball and no caddie!

    Seriously, you more than likely won’t get anywhere yet so may try to do it…sell a house on Twitter that is.

    Once I realized what the value of SM was and how it allowed me to monetize my business in so many other ways, the floodgates opened. I mean blew open!

    I ahve not been too active in the real estate niche (on the agent side of thins) in some time. Why? Because while everyone is looking for the holy grail on Twitter to help themselves sell houses or originate mortgages they are COMPLETELY missing the true ROI manna that exists on SM.

    I don’t expect the ActiveRain crowd to ever understand what I’m talking about but I would think that those on this forum would indeed understand and at this point have found a way to enjoy a substanital and REAL ROI (the kind that you can spend!)…but alas, the same old argument and tired analysis remains.

    Stop trying to sell houses on SM and instead focus on the monetization of your SM efforts and you’ll see a great deal of true and substantial ROI.

  9. Steven Groves November 30th, 2009 12:27 pm

    ahh… a lively conversation and a focus on ROI in social media – I vote for more of these!

  10. Paul November 30th, 2009 1:00 pm

    I know that I am using Twitter less and less but I was never the person who got really into it. I just started using Facebook and if I had to compare the two I would say that because Facebook is personable it has lasting power over Twitter. I know that Twitter is a sort of update on the go but then who is logged in all day watching the stream? I think this was a great post with a great debate.

  11. James Boyer November 30th, 2009 1:48 pm

    Hi Eric,

    Liked what you had to say quite a bit. I use Facebook and to a lesser extent Linked in. In 2009 I can attribute at least one transaction totally to using Facebook. I never liked Twitter, and thought it a waste of time from the start.

    I liked Active Rain in the beginning and found it a good platform to learn on, but I now agree that as it currently sits it is a waste of time.

  12. Ryan Ward November 30th, 2009 8:15 pm

    I have a twitter account – even paid $2.99 for Tweetie II on my iPhone. I check. Sometimes. Most tweets are garbage (and that is being nice about it). However, it is undeniable that news occasionally breaks on twitter. Fights between senators and congress people, it’s where I found out first that Kevin Warmath had a heart attack….it has it’s use, but, let’s be honest, it’s not really much more than a public texting site. Just don’t spend much time trying to sell a house to someone.

  13. Eric Blackwell December 1st, 2009 5:14 am

    @Ryan – I’d agree with that. Breaking news is one of the things that Twitter is good at. The problem for me is filtering the noise and garbage, but that is certainly Twitter’s stength.

    @Twitter and Active Rain et al- As well, it is important to keep a clear distinction between what is a nice platform run by nice people and what is a truly effective marketing platform.

    This is not a comment at all on the character of those involved in these platforms. It is simply looking at the as marketing vehicles and saying “Is this the highest and best use of my marketing time.

    Simple as that.

  14. Ryan Ward December 1st, 2009 5:24 am

    I know someone who sold a 500K house from Facebook. She posted on her wall that she got her license and closed on an old friend that saw what she wrote. It’s easier to stay connceted to people that martter on Facebook than it is on twitter.

    We must be practical with what we do online…

  15. Sam Chapman December 1st, 2009 5:54 am

    Twitter is a fad and a waste of time for many people. I keep Facebook open in the background like Outlook, checking occasionally, but not spending much time on it. I have found it to be a great way to reconnect with people I went to school with.

  16. Mark Green December 1st, 2009 6:56 am

    Eric, great article. Twitter’s a flawed communications vehicle, and the way people have gone about Twitter makes no sense (to me anyways).

    The reason Facebook will win is simple – we care about a high percentage of the content we get from Facebook.

    One caveat, syndicated content is starting to screw things up. Fortunately, I learned how to block syndicated feeds from within Facebook and I’m again in love 🙂

    I still think Twitter will have its place. But they ought to take the money from someone (Google?) while they can. The business is in decline already and Yahoo and MySpace have shown us how quickly you can go from high flyer to largely irrelevant.

  17. Brett Meade December 1st, 2009 9:32 am

    @Ryan That’s a pretty solid ROI. 1 post, $15,000. She must have been pretty stoked!

  18. Joe December 1st, 2009 9:35 am

    Nice work Eric. Your research and observations land with a bit of relief as we have not done much on Twitter and feel a bit guilty about it. Colleen is too busy as it is and mainly through sphere of influence type of marketing/relationships. So much so, we are kinda neglecting stuff online. Twitter being one of the ‘neglects.’

  19. Brad Andersohn December 1st, 2009 9:37 am

    ActiveRain will never be everything for everybody, yet it may be something or everything to somebody, but just like any social media or networking platform, it’s available for anybody who wants to explore and extract it’s value, whatever that may be for that individual.

    Though I may be a little bias as an employee of ActiveRain, (go figure) I can honestly say that I see members getting value and ROI from ActiveRain everyday… including Real Estate Business.

    The choices and decisions of where folks spend time and what works for them (and the rewards they get) is unique to each individual.

    Case and Point: Two Top Producers in the East Bay Area spoke on a panel recently, one claiming ALL THEIR BUSINESS was generated by Local Paper ads, whereas the Top Producing Agent sitting right next to them said, and I quote “Running Ads In The Paper is a Complete Waste of Time!”

    I believe that whatever sites, resources, or tools work best for you, those will always be the right choice. 🙂

  20. Steven Groves December 1st, 2009 10:45 am


    Excellent! I think your perspective is right on, the challenge and Eric’s initial post suggests that he’s divined that it’s already time to begin throwing dirt on MySpace and Twitter is passe.

    My challenge to Eric’s post really revolves around how in the world Eric can possibly know this, what substance does he offer to support his assessment or is his post just noise cluttering up the blog-o-sphere?

    I recognize that he has ‘in my opinion’ all over the post, so ‘in my opinion’ his post is way off base and his assessment will likely confuse people trying to figure out a proper strategy in using social media as a part of their marketing – your comment however is right on – use what works and what you like.

    There are strategic options that will yield better results than a hit & miss approach, but those kind of strategic discussions are more individualized I think and one man’s wine may be another man’s poison.

    My suggestion is to engage a social media professional who understands your industry, the tools and the tactics – establish a strategy and then and only then move on the tactical decisions as to what site, online properties or activities will get you the ROI you want.

  21. Karen December 1st, 2009 12:42 pm

    The bell curve is great, and if nothing else is a stark reminder that ROI is what should drive our time. Which is more profitable – the same amount of time spent on Twitter, ActiveRain, or cold calling expireds? Seems to me – or maybe I should word that *for* me – the answer is obvious.

  22. Ryan Crozier December 1st, 2009 7:09 pm

    I agree… I think twitter is a tad bit overrated. I use it, but I think Facebook has done a great job of integrating the same features. I see teenagers staying away from Twitter, because it doesn’t present a big enough difference from Facebook!

  23. Robert Worthington December 1st, 2009 8:46 pm

    Eric, I have never closed a deal from a social media site however my friend Greg Dallaire of Green Bay Real Estate has closed a few deals from social media. I would rather work the expireds that work social media.

  24. Louis Cammarosano December 7th, 2009 8:45 pm

    I suppose that facebook has a greater anchor as you can add more content. I prefer twitter as I don’t need to have my life posted on line and get by with a few random tweets. That’s doesn’t mean Twitter is better for business.
    Indeed Facebook is probably good for referrals as is active rain.
    I do think however, Eric, that social media is just that-“social” not business media so spending time on twitter an facebook looking for deals is like hanging out at parties trying to sell insurance.