There’s always something to howl about

Fragments Shored Against Our Ruin

Clive Thompson just wrote a brilliant article for the New York Times magazine, describing the cumulative impact of following someone across Twitter, Facebook and other social media. I read it with interest because Redfin has been thinking about embedding our agents’ micro-blogs into Redfin’s site, so that clients can get updates (e.g. touring properties in Capitol Hill) and timely, local advice (e.g. seeing a lot of price reductions in Noe Valley).

But the New York Times article was interesting for personal reasons too, because it speaks to how anti-social people in social software can be.

I’ve already struggled to describe the phenomenon of feeling loved, but by no one in particular, of not-being alone when you are totally alone, of intimacy with everyone (several friends have told their inquisitive mothers to “just read my blog” and I always wonder how that makes the moms feel).

Clive’s most interesting argument is that the cumulative effect of a Twitter feed is larger than we realize. “Merely looking at a stranger’s Twitter or Facebook feed isn’t interesting,” Clive writes, “because it seems like blather. Follow it for a day, though, and it begins to feel like a short story; follow it for a month, and it’s a novel.” 

I’m not sure that I completely agree. A friend of mine once paid $9.95 a month to get a daily voice-mail from Jose Canseco when Canseco was a slugger for the A’s; every day, he mumbled something about working out and washing his hair (nothing about Madonna). It was somehow even more disappointing than we thought it could be.

But Clive’s observation does begin to answer the question people always ask about why anyone bothers to update Twitter three times a day: it’s the only way most of us can write a novel, piece by piece. And it’s the only way most people will read one either, 160 characters at a time. I think his point was that the most evanescent thing in the world, a twitter, might be the most permanent thing we have.

Sometimes it seems like the Internet is an elaborate record of our contradictions, our multitudes, which we can blast off into space once the sun has burned out, to tell the universe what we were like.

So I started Twittering yesterday. And asking myself if this is the best way for Redfin to talk to our clients. How are folks in the Bloodhound community using Twitter, if at all?

(Photocredit: Vivoandando on Flickr)


9 Comments so far

  1. Todd September 8th, 2008 2:56 pm

    “…So I started Twittering yesterday. And asking myself if this is the best way for Redfin to talk to our clients.”

    A lot of people get this wrong, especially in the context of using Twitter commercially…

    Twitter is a very powerful LISTENING tool for businesses. To a lesser extent Redfin may broadcast important information to your users, but you must learn to listen first. Twitter is not a megaphone, it’s a parabolic microphone.

    Chose any of the dozen of Twitter listening tools and set up keywords ( “Redfin”, “redfin_employee_name”, etc. ) then route the alerts as you see fit. Like this:

    Twitter’s 15 million users have plenty to say, some of it silly, some of it serious money making business, use available tools and filter out just what interests you.

  2. Glenn September 8th, 2008 4:37 pm

    Todd, I would like to pose this question. Through EXPERIENCE can we meet the needs of clients in anticipation of what they need to know, thereby exceeding their expectations?

  3. Michelle DeRepentingy September 8th, 2008 6:49 pm

    I lurk often and tweet sporadically but do shoot out tweets on upcoming events and rant occasionally :)about vendors/service providers who irritate me. I was scheduled to stay at a Holiday Inn recently and they do not have a corporate twitter account, but Marriott does. After venting about a reservation issue with Holiday Inn on Twitter, I was contacted by the PR department at Mariott and gave them a chance to earn back my loyalty.

    Todd says it well, corporations should monitor twitter through one of the serach apps for use of their name. If 1 angry perons twits – it can reach a phenomenal audience and it gives an incredible opportunity to redirect the experience for a more positive ending.

  4. Teri Lussier September 8th, 2008 6:57 pm

    >Follow it for a day, though, and it begins to feel like a short story; follow it for a month, and it’s a novel.”

    I don’t agree. I think it’s 99 and 44/100% chatter. I accept that my 8000 plus tweets are chatter at any rate, and if that’s the novel of my life, God help me.

    >And asking myself if this is the best way for Redfin to talk to our clients.”

    Not likely. Updating 3 times a day will show folks who visit your blog what you are doing, but you need to decide if you want to talk *to* your clients, or talk *with* them.

    If it’s the later, then you might consider a Redfin voice to engage in the ongoing Twitter conversation, I think more than 3x/day.

    How many of your clients twitter? And/or rely on twitter for real estate news? Is twitter the best way to meet your client’s needs? Would you have to teach them to twitter before you can serve their needs? Is that useful?

    My experience with those questions, fwiw, is that at this point in time, it’s not terribly useful as an tool for clients. OTOH, there are ways to use twitter that haven’t been fully realized, of that I’m convinced.

    However, Redfin on twitter could be an interesting idea if you are thinking of engaging with the on a granular level.

  5. Todd Carpenter September 9th, 2008 12:21 am

    >>>”However, Redfin on twitter could be an interesting idea if you are thinking of engaging with the on a granular level.”

    Glenn, Teri’s advice is DEAD ON. If you want to make friends with, you cannot pick a better tool. However, you’d have to authentically go out and use it at a personal level. Engage in conversations that have nothing to do with RedFin, or even real estate. Twitter is a giant chat room where you can choose who you want to tune out, but others can choose to tune you out just as fast.

    I agree with Terry that it won’t be a great way to talk to your clients. I predict that most of the people who follow you will be the the B2B level. I just followed you, (I’m TCar) and looking at your followers list, I see many familiar faces.

    I manage to effectively promote my conference and my blogs on Twitter. But overwhelmingly, I’m there to be social. Rarely a day goes by when I do not make someone laugh. By the time I got to Inman Connect this year, I had dozens of people who introduced themselves to me. Connections solidified by talking about music, sports, dogs on twitter.

    Want to know how to profit from Twitter? Give up on the idea of profiting from it.

  6. Brian Brady September 9th, 2008 1:40 am


    I’ll disagree with the pack on this one. Look at Southwest Airlines or KPBS to get an idea of how to responsibly “broadcast” or monitor conversations. You might ask Cathleen or David G. about phrase tracking.

    Broadcasting blog posts isn’t a great idea (I tried it). Providing relevant information can be a good conversation starter.

    Glenn, I don’t think you want to talk to the there is no real value to you doing that. I think you should try to monitor keyword phrases and look to join in a conversation when appropriate.

  7. Glenn Kelman September 9th, 2008 6:16 am

    All good advice, thanks Brian, Todd, Teri. Our challenge as a brokerage is finding a format that our agents feel comfortable with (short & sweet), and that consumers will absorb. We obviously use email, telephone and, increasingly, in-person meetings as well.

    By the way, there is a commenter named Glenn — but a different Glenn than I am…

  8. […] the other hand, Redfin’s Glenn Kelman wonders if this is the best way to talk to his […]

  9. Glenn September 10th, 2008 4:28 am

    Thanks for the advice everyone, it is great to read constructive criticism.