There’s always something to howl about

Have You Seen Some Of The Answers On Trulia Voices?

Trulia Voices | Real Estate Radio USA

As I am constantly in search of constant promotion and link love, I recently ventured over to Trulia Voices.

I love the format. Consumers post questions about real estate and anyone who subscribes to a certain criteria that you choose, will receive the questions via email and then you have the opportunity to post your answer to the consumer…to the consumer!!

Great idea, great concept, and in its simplicity, a great way to interact with the consumer in a honest and open fashion. You are allowed to suggest an answer according to how you would handle a certain situation or dilemma that the consumer may have or be facing in the near future.

Of course, it is to be expected, that with a gazillion Realtors on the planet, that one answer may differ from another’s answer. We all have different life and vocational experiences that we can look to for our answers.

That’s what makes blogging so special. I may have one belief, you may have another and we can truly voice (no pun intended) our opinion as to what we feel is a suitable response to the consumer’s inquiry.

How wrong I was. Why did I ever go over to Trulia Voices? Yes, I probably received some of my sought after link love (no I didn’t check the “no-follow” tag), but I was not prepared for my other bonus.

Vilification as if one was an interloper! I began answering the questions that were being asked directly. I was giving the answers that I felt best solved the consumers problem or inquiry. I did not know that isn’t the way to respond.

Excuse me for speaking my mind and responding openly and honestly to an inquiry from the public. I didn’t see the response guidelines that said there was a specific manner in which to communicate with the consumer according to the amended Code of Realtor Mandated Responses on Trulia Voices. I now realize what I was supposed to do. Now I need a shower.

Most of those who choose to answer over at TV seem to be following some golden oldie real estate agent playbook. Most of the answers seem to be straight from the NAR manual for Standard Operating Procedures. There indeed must be such a book.

If I could find that book I am sure it would read as follows:

1. Never answer a question directly. Always make the consumer think you know more than you do by actually avoiding the question by telling the consumer to seek out a local professional.

2. Always, and I do mean always, tell the consumer that they need to seek out a local real estate professional for any question. (did I say this already…now you are getting the point of Trula Voices)

3. Never, ever, tell a consumer that any Realtor will EVER take a reduced commission.

4. Never say another Realtor was wrong (but secretly submarine him by clicking the thumbs down button)

5. Always tell the consumer that they received a lack of responses because they just don’t understand how the business works

6. Always be sure to tell the consumer how much a Realtor does to make sure the transaction goes smoothly and to reinforce the need to have a “local Realtor involved.” (regardless of the question the “local Professional will always have the the Ace Hardware man.)

7. At all costs, try not to DIRECTLY answer the question. That would be way too easy!

8. An issue previously discussed by Jay Thompson and Jonathan Dalton, Always answer as many questions as possible, even if you have no idea as to the answer or don’t live or work in the area. It does not matter. gotta get those points and improve those “rankings”. Seems I have hear about people commenting for the sake of points elsewhere…hmmm.

Actual Question courtesy of TV: “Looking for a Realtor willing to take a 2% commission on a new construction and give 1% back after closing.”
Written by an actual Buyer
looking to do a deal and not one response was an affirmative “I’ll do it!”.

An Actual Answer:The lack of responses to your question should tell you a great deal, but I’ll try to bring it down to laymen’s terms. Imagine your boss coming to you and asking you to work a full 40 hour week, plus another 10 hour’s overtime. But after he pays you and you receive your check, he wants you to give the overtime payment back to him.

If you did agree to that, might you be inclined not to work as hard or diligent? If you do find such a hungry and desperate
agent, look at the bigger picture – not just the monetary aspect.”

Wow..Thanks, Sparky..I bet the consumer who asked that question feels fulfilled. You certainly told him, albeit “in laymen’s terms“. If you were unwilling to do as asked..why did you bother answering? Oh yeah, must be that darn playbook!

Another Answer:An agent who is willing to take a 2% commission; share it with a selling agent; and give back 1% would actually lose money. You would need to find a real dumb agent to accept such a deal and I would not want him or her representing me.”

You would actually lose money?? I’m sorry…did he ask you to come out of pocket with any cash? Did he ask or state that this was the entire commission? C’mon, do these people even believe the words they are typing? I am not a mathematical genius but 1% of something is a lot more than 100% of nothing.

Rudy and the guys at Trulia came up with an amazing concept. A way for the consumer to interact with the consumer directly. An open line of communication wherein an agent could simply anwser a question and like writing a blog post, become an authority figure.

By answering a question with a clear and concise answer the agent could build credibility not just with the person asking the question but with other consumers reading the answers.

Instead, on TV we see question after question answered in party line talking points telling the consumer to “call me”, or ” work with a local Realtor” or “let me send you some information”.

This is a Web 2.0 world people! You can’t force old school marketing down the throat of today’s consumer. Everyone knows the stat, 84% of prospective homebuyers begin their search on the Internet. While we know that to be true, we can not be sure where that search actually begins.

It can be on your blog, on, on or one of a million websites. It could even start on TV.

If it is starting on TV you are wasting a valuable resource and not working with a clear understanding of today’s instant information age.

Not to digress , but I love Twitter. I have just 140 characters to convey a message. That’s it, no more. Better make it clear and concise or the message is lost.

Today’s consumer doesn’t want to hear the mumbo jumbo that most Realtors are serving up on TV. If they wanted to consult a “local professional” they already would have!

They want an answer to a question. Answer it! Don’t use the space to advertise yourself or defend your profession or talk down another answer. Answer the question asked. Period!

Expose the others as professionally inept. Go ahead, this isn’t Romper Room…take the opportunity that the consumer is giving you to shine and DIFFRENTIATE yourself from the rest.

This is your moment on stage. You have direct communication from a consumer who is casting a line in the water looking for the most credible, authoritative person he or she can find. Don’t blow the opportunity with a talking point crafted response.

It might sound good to the other Realtors but it’s going to make you look just like what the consumer thinks you look like. We’ve all seen the studies, it’s obvious that now is the time to break from the pack and howl like the big dogs!

Trulia has given you the opportunity to be a purple cowand most agents just aren’t seizing the opportunity. You don’t get a second chance to impress. You have that one moment to answer the question and after you’ve’s over. You had better make it work.

I assume, even though I should not, that the reason people answer questions on TV is to make money. The eventuality of the Q&A is to lead to a consummated transaction. That being true, the opportunity is forever wasted if you do not give the customer that what they are looking for.

Trulia Voices is like a great restaurant, with great food and a wonderful ambiance. Unfortunately the wait staff doesn’t understand the menu and won’t serve up what the customer is looking for.

Like all restaurants in that predicament, the customer moves on un-satiated and quite unfulfilled. In doing so the wait staff goes home with sparse tips.

It’s not the restaurant (TV) that seems to be the problem here, it’s the quality of the service. In the end the customer relates the two as one.

While there are undoubtedly a number of agents who are using TV to their advantage (Ines from Miamism for one), there are far too many agents ruining the dining experience, if I may continue my metaphor.

I urge those Realtors who are willing to provide clear and concise answers and who have learned through their blogs what being an authority figure can mean to your business, to venture on over to Trulia Voices.

The consumer needs you.


11 Comments so far

  1. Greg Swann April 29th, 2008 11:03 am

    > If they wanted to consult a “local professional” they already would have!

    Bravo. I cannot think of a better marketing message than doing the damn job — perfectly and completely, with dispatch and panache.

  2. Todd April 29th, 2008 11:34 am

    Building on this post’s subject and your love for Twitter, you may want to check out Answer Me.

    It’s Trulia Voices inside a Twitter wrapper. I’ve been testing it for the past week, and it’s pretty cool. There are thousands of agents using Twitter now, it’s up to us to find/develop tool to connect them all, in an easy lightweight way, to get homeowner questions answered. Maybe it’s answer me, maybe ( Disclosure, no I do not work for Answer Me or Hash Tags )

  3. Sean Giorgianni April 29th, 2008 11:44 am

    Well said, Barry … puh-leees keep answering at TV the way you describe! I too try to be informative, memorable, and responsible. Most others blather like a downed high-voltage wire in a windstorm.

    That being said, I wouldn’t mind a little slobber from the big dogs to help me be even better.

    Keep up the great posts!

  4. Barry Cunningham April 29th, 2008 12:29 pm

    Trulia Voices..I believe is a great forum if used properly. I’ll keep posting..definitely need to try out Todd’s mashup

  5. Hi! I\'m Rudy from Trulia. Thanks Barry. April 29th, 2008 1:14 pm

    Hi Barry!

    Great post. Thanks for sharing your feelings with us. What can I say, you make some really valid points Barry. The culture on Trulia Voices or for that matter, any online community or social network, will go through some growing pains. There is also a learning curve for those agents not accustomed to participating in an online community.

    We provide a list on our blog but it may be time update the list.

    It’s quite a challenge to change the mindset of some agents about “how” to effectively communicate with the numerous buyers and sellers we have on Voices. As you say, if someone asks a question and you don’t have an answer, then skip that question. Answer the questions that you “own”. Answer them in a manner that adds value to the conversation and more importantly gives the consumer an “answer”.

    No online forum or community is perfect. That said, if you see someone providing an answer that does not address the persons question, and you “know better”, then please, by all means jump in. As you say, it’s your time to shine and differentiate yourself from all the others in the pack. And believe me, we have many agents that are standing out by providing some fantastic answers.

    More and more, the agents who provide solid answers to hungry consumers are getting contacted by home buyers and sellers resulting in closed transactions. If you haven’t seen two of our Voices videos already,which includes some great testimonials from Deborah Madey, Mario Pinedo and Jonathan Miller, I encourage you to do so.

    It’s amazing how many consumers I meet that tell me how useful Trulia and Voices in particular, has been to them. So, consumers are getting tremendous value by visiting our site. Now we just have to make sure, with valuable feedback from folks like yourself, that we continue to improve the quality of our community.


    Social Media Guru at

    P.S. I have not seen any playbook 🙂
    P.P.S. Trulia Voices was thriving long before I joined Trulia 🙂

  6. Broker Bryant April 29th, 2008 3:00 pm

    Barry, I am a member of trulia but only get questions related to Poinciana which are far and few between. But I certainly hear what you are saying. AR has a Q&A as well and it’s the same thing….folks just blabbering and not getting close to answering the questions asked.

    Jeff Turner put up a post yesterday basically just reposting a question a FSBO had posted on Twitter. Most of the REALTORS(R) that responded on AR were just slamming this guy for being “ignorant”, “an idiot” and so forth. I couldn’t believe what I was reading! And it was a public post for the world to see, not that that should make a difference in the responses.

    TV has the opportunity to become a great resource for consumers and agents alike. It’s a shame so many folks are wasting the opportunity.

    By the way, many REALTORS(R) on these sites are answering so many questions because they want to show that they “know it all”. Unfortunately, they don’t see how foolish they really look.

    Unlike me, who saves foolishness for the airwaves!!! I do everything in a big way:)

  7. Barry Cunningham April 29th, 2008 3:25 pm

    Hey Rudy…TV can be a great forum and no doubt many consumers will continue to reap a huge benefit.

    I get the RSS feed for my area as many others do as well and it just amazes me that the interaction opportunity is so often being lost by the Realtors who sometimes answer.

    Like Broker Bryant says above…I am not sure people realize that so many can view the answers and realize what kind of impression that it leaves.

    I’m going to keep at it, trying to answer questions I can and keep my nose out of those I can’t.

    And BB…no foolishness about you Brother! Real Deal you are..that is when you’re not chasing the ladies in Lake Buena Vista! 🙂

  8. Mike Lefebvre April 30th, 2008 5:25 am

    I think that’s a key point (“trying to answer questions I can and keep my nose out of those I can’t”). Nothing is more annoying that an agent from Las Vegas giving a homeowner advice on the market outlook for the Savin Hill neighborhood of Dorchester, but like Rudy said, it’s the nature of the open forum. Wait, there is one thing more annoying than that…the blatant self-promotion some agents like to shove down the consumers’ throats in the guise of “expert advice”. I love TV, I’ve connected with several buyers and sellers in my area from it. And I look forward to the day when I can add that I’ve made money on TV. It will happen. But like some many other aspects of social media and web 2.0 it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

    Keeping my nose out of where it doesn’t belong,

  9. Sean Giorgianni April 30th, 2008 8:52 am

    I never was any good at math, so maybe I got this whole RE/Web 2.0 thing wrong.

    What, exactly, qualifies as blatant self-promotion? I ask because the last thing I want to do is run afoul of consumers and other professionals.

    I always close my TV answers with: “Thanks for the opportunity to answer your question and compete for your business. Feel free to contact me directly at XXX-XXX-XXXX or if there’s anything else I can help with.”

    And while I’m at it, what are your thoughts about referencing a previous answer given on TV when answering a new question?

  10. […] Have You Seen Some Of The Answers On Trulia Voices?, by Barry Cunningham. […]

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