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Is ActiveRain Selling Loan Officers An Exclusive Opportunity, Or Just Selling Their Real Estate Agents Out?

active_rain_making_money_off_the_backs_of_loan_officers_by_using_agents_as_a_carrot

I’ve received a few emails and calls from my loan officers this week about some new exclusive opportunity that Activerain.com is pitching to the mortgage industry.

Apparently, Active Rain is cold calling mortgage professionals who have an AR blogging history and offering them an “extremely rare opportunity” to pay $299 / month for the privilege of being able to re-sell upgraded AR products to real estate agents.

The following email is an example of what the new Active Rain business model appears to be:

xxxxxxxxx,

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to speak with me.  As I said, this is an extremely rare opportunity.

WISCONSIN

Currently 848 Real Estate Agents

Currently 123 Loan Officers

You will have a full training course with ActiveRain to learn the knowledge on how to dominate the first page of Google.  With this knowledge you will train agents to do the same.  You will keep in contact with these agents as their trusted advisor who has directly taught them on how to fully market themselves successfully.  There will be loyalty here.  You will have full access to every single new and old agent in the whole state of Wisconsin.  You will be highlighted all over ActiveRain for this.

$299/month is your investment.

After 15 upgrades you will receive $700.

For every rainmaker upgrade thereafter, you receive $25.

The relationships and possibilities are endless.

Please let me know as soon as possible as time is of the essence.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Member Services
ActiveRain.com
xxxxxxxxxxxx

I’ve obviously blanked out the names to protect the people involved in this specific conversation, but I’ve already been given permission by my loan officers to talk about this on Bloodhoundblog.

________

Let me get a few disclaimers out of the way before I dive in to this Active Rain thing.

I’m a loan officer with several blogging platforms – some are free, and some cost money to participate.

My main objective with 99% of the group blogs that I build is to help my contributors expand their reach online with a little help from a few friends who share the same goals.

I understand the importance of having a well capitalized web project so that the development crew can stay on the cutting edge of innovation.

The real estate industry is brutal enough, so I can truly empathize with the additional complexities and logistics involved with building a social media business in this vertical- especially when competing with the new economics of free.

Matter of fact, the overwhelming demand of advances in technology, combined with limited time and resources may ultimately force us to shut down our real estate social network after 3 hard years of blood, sweat and tears.

Either way, the experience has taught me how vital it is for real estate and mortgage professionals to take ownership of their online presence and actually build equity in something that they personally control.

________

Basically, I respect AR’s right and need to create revenue streams to be able to facilitate the perceived value their members expect.

However, I’m insulted as a loan officer by a Goliath like AR thinking that it is OK to base a business model off of the same tired “pay us a bunch of money for the opportunity to meet more agents” pitch that we’ve been guarding ourselves against for years.

It just sounds dirty.  And according to one phone call I had this week with a loan officer, the AR sales team is laying it on thick – telling loan officers that if they don’t call back by the end of the day, Active Rain will find another mortgage company to give exclusivity to.

Here are my 3 main issues:

1. The veteran loan officer members have sacrificed their valuable time over the years writing content and earning points for the potential to be featured somewhere special on the site.  Yet, now a new loan officer can just buy preferred  placement and access to all of the agents in that state?

I know that the $299 may not replace the relationships that the non-paying LOs have worked hard to build with the AR agents, but it will create a little confusion.

How can you measure the true value of a point system when the members have to consider whether or not someone has actually earned their place at the top?

I guess AR is going to issue these loan officers a special badge, but that is just going to let the community know that they were one of the suckers who got duped into buying “full access to every single new and old agent in the whole state of……..”

Keep in mind that the email above clearly states this is for Active Rain, not Localism.

2. Real Estate agents have worked hard establishing a presence on AR for the purpose of reaching their target audiences in the search engines…. But instead, they are being presented as a dangling carrot in front of  hungry loan officers who are starving for the opportunity to take a bite out of that agent database.

3. I guess it would be fair to give agents free blogs since they are being traded as a commodity for the $300 / month from loan officers.  But actually, the loan officer is simply buying the right to re-sell the blogs to new agents with the potential for a kickback after a certain quota has been met.

First of all, most loan officers don’t have $300 a month to blow on a new business venture.  And, the ones that do have the money are way too busy closing loans to spend their time pushing Active Rain blogs on their few producing agents.

This sounds more like activeway than a real mortgage marketing solution.

________

If loan officers are interested in teaching their agents the super cool new tricks of getting found on Google, then here are six great resources that won’t cost you $3600 a year:


I’m just a loan officer with a few mortgage blogs and a single voice in the business, so I don’t have any personal reasons to be threatened by Active Rain’s new loan officer marketing campaign.

Actually, if I want to be selfish about things, it works to my advantage if a bunch of competitors are chasing shiny AR objects while I focus on building my own domain’s strength in the search engines.

However, for some reason, I just can’t sit back and let these giant media companies poach on our industry like this.

I mean, when did Active Rain go from being a great industry social network to just another company that wants to gouge the already battered loan officer?

We’re not mules chasing carrots anymore, and we’re not the solution to boosting your bottom line.

Image Credit

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  • 31 comments

    31 Comments so far

    1. J Messina July 29th, 2009 9:17 am

      AR is a good networking tool but I have had limited success obtaining any new referral business coming to me from AR. In Arizona we don’t have enough AR participation – membership is low. I have used AR find inspectors and realtors using the site to close loans in my pipeline. I am not finding that any AR referrals are coming back to me in the form of new business though. I find my own clients and then refer business to realtors when appropriate.
      I too recieved one of these “offers” from AR – they like involved industry participants who blog often. I did not take them up on the offer because I have limited success in getting my “friends” to join AR and it seems like another job and monthly expense.

    2. Sean Purcell July 29th, 2009 9:42 am

      Geez, this sounds like pure gold to me: I only have to spend $300/month for the right to sell a bloated blogging platform I don’t own to agents I don’t know in order to earn a badge no one cares about… Speaking of not caring, the agents out there still not blogging are probably not that interested in blogging – I could be wrong.

    3. Mike Mullin July 29th, 2009 9:48 am

      Mark, I like your comments and while not as eloquent as you I’ll add my thoughts – I was contacted by AR as well and told I was “one of the best,” in my area. Sounded nice but I don’t think I’ve posted anything since April so I’m thinking the real “best” originators have already said no. Like you, the whole thing just doesn’t sit well with me because it runs contrary to the entire underpinnings of AR – a free platform for loan officers and real estate agents to share information amongst themselves and with the public. I thought AR did that very effectively. Of course I’m already paying $29 per month to “enhance” my AR blog and I’m not happy about that. I told the AR salesperson that the biggest problem I saw with their new plan is that they will alienate ALL the other originator members while supporting just the “top 3″ that decide to buy their way in at $299 per month. I haven’t followed AR’s growth but I’m guessing the ownership or leadership today is not exactly the same as when it started. There just seems to be too much of a shift towards these kinds of marketing tactics. I DO get leads from my AR blog and I’ll continue but I won’t pony up the $299 for their new plan and I’m reasonably certain it will flop.

    4. Gene Mundt July 29th, 2009 9:53 am

      I have found AR increasingly mortgage officer “un-friendly” over the last few months. This just increases the fears and feelings I am getting regarding their approach.
      The AR website (in my view) greatly favors the views and cause of the realtors vs mortgage industry. I have found it to be more and more biased and weighted on the realtor’s behalf.
      Again … this latest action just seems to prove that point.

    5. Thomas Johnson July 29th, 2009 10:17 am

      I don’t know, but how much zexposure would $3600 a year buy for an originator on Zillow? David Gibbons, you want to jump in?

    6. Joe July 29th, 2009 10:47 am

      It’s been my experience with ActiveRain that the majority of users are not tech savvy. Sadly, it’s these folks that will jump at the chance to spend $300.00 for a blogging platform and/or lead generation service.

      If these same folks simply hired someone to throw up a single page blog with a call to action, then paid $300.00 a month in PPC, can you imagine the return relative to $300.00 month at ActiveRain?

      Not that I recommend this approach to spending $300.00 per month for marketing, but you can see the point,- there all sorts of better ways to spend $300.00+/month to garner business.

    7. Kevin Sandridge July 29th, 2009 11:05 am

      “This sounds more like activeway than a real mortgage marketing solution.”

      Pretty much how I felt when they called me. I started mortgage blogging on Active Rain, and their free service (then) allowed me to meet some great folks.

      But this move is a bad one on their part.

    8. Jason Berman July 29th, 2009 11:24 am

      Mark,

      I hadn’t heard of this AR tactic before but it seems like a distraction vs. a business benefit. Disguised pyramid schemes rarely contribute much to the bottom line.

      Thanks for the shout out for REBlogWorld. We are busy getting ready and look forward to seeing you there.

      Jason Berman
      REBlogWorld ’09

    9. Mark Green July 29th, 2009 12:03 pm

      Mark,

      Quit hatin’, it’s all good!!! My AR rep told me that once I pimp 15 blogs I’m car qualified. At 30 blogs I go double diamond!!! And that’s when the big bucks start rollin in.

      In the meantime, I’ve been building a phat downline. So far I’ve got my mom, my aunt, three kids that live down the block and a homeless guy who’s workin his peeps on the southside.

      But what I like most of all is that now I can finally buy all the products I know and love from MYSELF!!! And at a substantial profit!

      What’s not to like?

    10. The Mortgage Cicerone July 29th, 2009 12:13 pm

      Mark – When are companies going to see originators have been buying vendor products and so called access to referral sources for a long time (with limited success) and what they really need is something that will make their life/work easier and SAVE them money. Google has done an excellent job at realizing that with Internet users and yet they have figured out a great way to monetize what they do.

      Very good post!

    11. Greg Dallaire July 29th, 2009 12:54 pm

      Mark,

      I’m glad you brought this up! It really shows you the true motive of the Active Rain Community. Sadly Active Rain had a really strong platform in the beginning and I understand the importance of building a profitable business. Isn’t the Advertising they pound down there agents throats and upgraded blog platforms not enough revenue?

      The real thing that you touch on perfectly is that Active Rain is your direct competition not your friend. There are tons of great people on the Active Rain Community but the COMPANY is about themselves and not the individual agent.

      Your better off hiring a great SEO Coach and learn how to build your web presence so you own it. Eric Blackwell has plans that are very reasonable.

      Thanks for bringing this up.

    12. Doug Francis July 29th, 2009 1:06 pm

      Let them move on. Agents have been getting hype like this from “r”.com for years and it sounds interesting at first, but after you take a breath, it becomes obvious that it is an expensive sales pitch.

      Here’s an idea, find local agents who blog and are productive (actually sell homes), comment on their blogs for a week or two, and then use the old telephone to maybe deepen the relationship. cost: $0

      After a couple RE BarCamps you should know that we like to talk!

    13. Chris Brown, CMPS July 29th, 2009 2:01 pm

      I dont like how this is giving Amway a bad name. =0) I just think the sales technique of AR has been deceptive.

      Me no likey.

      Chris the implementer

    14. Mark Madsen July 29th, 2009 2:24 pm

      J Messina – AR is a good networking tool because it is industry specific with a layer of social proof. However, these new badges that people can purchase may confuse the members about who has actually earned their place vs just bought in.

      Sean – More like fool’s gold.

      Mike – “but I don’t think I’ve posted anything since April so I’m thinking the real “best” originators have already said no” … exactly

      Gene – There are simply way more agents than originators, which is why everything seems to be weighted in their favor.

      Thomas – Zillow? Great point. I’m looking forward to their response.

      Joe – It’s crazy, but $300 a month seems like a ton of money for LOs to spend these days. I remember when my marketing budget use to be about $4k a month, but things have changed. I wonder how AR came up with the research that supported this pricing model.

      Kevin – Dude, Mark Green is building a great downline and should be on track to win a car by Feb. 2012 if enough people sign up under his team. It is all about multiple streams of revenue.

      Jason – Looking forward to Reblogworld

      Green – I’ll help you build your team, but I want a kickback.

      Cicerone – Save money? I thought we had to spend our way out of this recession.

      Greg – I second the recommendation for Eric Blackwell’s SEO coaching.

      Doug – Excellent. I participate on my agents’ blogs and get business, build relationships and reach a fresh audience. You’re right on, it all starts with a few comments and then a friendly phone call. Instead of trying to convert non-blogging agents, may as well spend your time giving valuable content to the ones who have already figured it out.

      Chris – My sincere apologies to Amway. If it makes any difference, my mom sold Mary Kay for 15 years. :)

    15. Mark Madsen July 29th, 2009 2:39 pm

      Greg – “Your better off hiring a great SEO Coach and learn how to build your web presence so you own it. Eric Blackwell has plans that are very reasonable.”

      I was thinking about this. For around $3600, a loan officer could probably do all of the social media training that I mentioned from above, plus have Eric Blackwell build a pimped out multi-contributor blog that would serve as a great local platform for all of the originator’s agents to participate on.

      Jim Cronin @ realestatetomato.com has some sweet custom blogging solutions and edu as well.

      Either way, you could do a lot of damage with a $300 / month budget.

    16. Greg Dallaire July 29th, 2009 4:21 pm

      Mark,

      The great thing about this SEO/Blogging/Social Networking the majority of it’s free if not extremely reasonable.

      I’ve become a student of Eric Blackwell and for $250.00 a month I get advice from a person who’s looked at as a true TRUSTED SEO professional in the Real Estate Industry.

      You don’t need Active Rain you need a massive Call to action and a well designed wordpress blog.

      I’m looking into the above mentioned camps/retreat’s/seminars I would love to get more involved with the real shaker’s and mover’s in the blogging industry.

      Great post that’s spurring alot of activity

    17. Bob Stewart July 29th, 2009 5:53 pm

      Mark – here’s our post announcing this to the AR community. There may be some info that will shed more light on the subject. As always, feel free to engage us there for any further questions or concerns.

      Thank you for your candor.

      http://activerain.com/blogsview/1172818/certified-lender-program

    18. Brian Brady July 29th, 2009 6:02 pm

      Might I offer an alternative opinion? The Active Rain LO program is a tremendous opportunity for loan originators to get in front of clients… and any originator who reads Bloodhound Blog would be a fool to enroll.

      Originators should be talking to REALTORs. Some originators won’t be 2.0 savvy and this is a great opportunity for them to “learn” while “earning”. Forget the MLM component, the introductions (with the explicit endorsement from AR)are value enough. “shy” originators now have a “Reason” to call on REALTORs in their market.

      Why shouldn’t BHB readers enroll? Simple; you can do it without the explicit guarantee from AR. Blog, connect, buy the REALTORs a cup of coffee and whip out your laptop.

    19. Mark Madsen July 30th, 2009 12:05 am

      Bob – thank you for the link to your announcement. I searched all over AR for more info before writing my post, guess I should have started on your blog.

      Either way, the information contained in your member announcement doesn’t really match up with the email that was sent by the AR sales team.

      That email should have at least included links to your announcement, explanations of the full AR training program and an FAQ section.

      It probably wouldn’t hurt to have a professionally designed company email that clearly articulates the USP of this program. That way there would be consistency in your message, plus you wouldn’t have to worry about some crazy outside blogger putting his own spin on your marketing message.

      I’m not sure who did your market research to determine the price point, or how you beta tested this idea, but the 2 responses by loan officers on your announcement don’t look too promising.

      There are several other ways AR can give value to LOs for $300 or more a month, which is why I’m frustrated with AR.

      And, it doesn’t appear that there was much thought put into this project, which is why I’m insulted as a loan officer.

      With your size and influence, AR could have a very positive impact on the mortgage community if you wanted to. The lending world is open for leadership in the Web 2.0 space, but it doesn’t seem like AR cares to step up and make a real difference.

      Brian was right on with his response about this being a great opportunity and strategy for loan officers, but the way AR is packaging and pitching this Confirmed LO thing is going to cause more harm than good.

      Think about who the true professionals surviving in the mortgage industry are today:

      We’re scared, bruised, beaten, broken, slightly overwhelmed with the new rules and regulations being forced on us every day, and mainly just tired of being rejected by agents, clients, the media, Washington, underwriters, appraisers…

      But, as survivors, we’re also a tough as nails, hard to please, in your face, clever, skeptical, street smart, pissed off rough and rowdy crowd. And we’re proud of it. Well, most of us.

      So here’s the deal, I think the current AR Confirmed Loan Officer Program is a bad idea and completely falling short of the true power AR has the potential to provide loan officers.

      Basically, AR has the wrong idea about what true / active loan officers want or need.

      The $300 / month fee to loan officers, using agents as a commodity, and hard closing sales pitch are just going to upset a bunch of people.

      No big deal, I’ve failed at thousands of things.

      AR has done some other great stuff for blogging and social networking in this industry, so things have a way of working themselves out.

      Either way, based on the responses from my post, it looks like AR needs to figure out another way of making loan officers feel special if you want to charge us $3600 a year for something.

    20. Gene Mundt July 30th, 2009 2:04 am

      Mark:
      I think it goes way beyond just the numbers of realtors vs mortgage originators to be found on AR. To me, there has been a distinct change in “flavor” on the site recently. I do think the discontent with the mortgage industry and the frustrations subsequently being felt are beginning to surface more dramatically. Some of this is deserved, I suppose (as some have not been saints) … but not everyone has been a sinner and some of the ranting has gotten out-of-hand on AR and almost seems like mini-bashings.
      I do agree that the AR forum can be a great opportunity for loan officers, if utilized properly and fairly. We get to be in front of a large audience and have the opportunity to meet and develop relationships with customers and referral partners alike. I am very thankful to AR for those opportunities, especially in today’s market/atmosphere, and I respect and appreciate their efforts. But, I do believe they have the responsibility to somewhat monitor the methods and content of their site and to make sure that all participants are given the time, attention, and respect they deserve as professionals.
      I also believe, as was stated by Mr. Brady, that our best opportunities for networking/marketing lie within our grasp and abilities even without this latest AR program. It costs us little or nothing to “pull up that chair”, and get to know one-another. A little personal effort goes a long way and can cement a relationship far better than any other paid-for marketing program.
      Thank you for the opportunity to express my opinion here and read those of others.

    21. Tom July 30th, 2009 7:37 am

      Sounds like AR is taking a page from the BBB business model.

    22. Rhonda Porter July 30th, 2009 8:17 am

      Yesterday I received one of “those calls” from a very chipper gal at AR claiming I’m one of the top AR LO’s in my area…I can’t remember the last time I’ve posted on AR. Out of curiosity, I cut the chase and asked her “how much”… I was stunned. It will be interesting to see who might take the bait.

      Mortgage professionals can create our own opportunities.

    23. Kristen Emery July 30th, 2009 12:26 pm

      First, I must say that I have not done much on AR. When I did look at it, my impression was the same as Gene Mundt, and the posts seemed emotion based – not always based on facts.

      I checked out the link by Bob Stewart, and found a reference to the LO being able to make their money back. I would like to see how this math works – $299 per month – and after first 15 upgrades you receive $700, and then $25 per upgrade thereafter. Looks like you would have to signup 12 re agents a month to just break even, after the first fifteen. So, I agree it would be a distraction from your real job.

      And I just thought of something else – wonder if there is any conflict with Respa? So many questions. Way to expensive.

    24. Brian Brady July 30th, 2009 1:01 pm

      “Mortgage professionals can create our own opportunities.”

      Exactly, Rhonda. For those that can’t, AR could be the boost they need (although you,or I are gonna call those REALTORs anyway)

    25. Rhonda Porter July 30th, 2009 2:35 pm

      Brian, BINGO!

    26. The Mortgage Cicerone July 31st, 2009 10:52 am

      Brian & Rhonda – Do you mean you just don’t write a few blog post and expect Realtor’s to bombard you with referrals (note sarcasm). You are both on, while web 2.0 is a sales tool, the fundamentals of getting business remain the same.

    27. Jerry Santoro August 2nd, 2009 8:01 pm

      ???? you just burst my bubble! The AR rep made me feel so warm and fuzzy, building me up how I was picked because of my content,etc. and so on….
      She backed off when I said I would not have the time to commit. Shucks.

    28. Petra Norris August 5th, 2009 1:58 pm

      I’m an avid AR blogger and really like the platform where I started out blogging making friends, getting referrals and obtaining valuable information. I was truly shocked about AR’s new sales pitch to LO when I talked to a friend (LO) about it. $300 a month – who the heck can afford this, especially LO that have been in this business for less than 3 years.

      I wonder how many of you LO getting mad about it and leave AR altogether, like my friend? They may have over-stepped their boundaries and Mortgage people lost AR’s trust. I really can’t see that such program will work.

      This brings up another point about putting not all your eggs into one nest. Just like Rhonda & Brian said,
      “Mortgage professionals can create our own opportunities.”

    29. Mark Madsen August 7th, 2009 10:16 am

      Gene – I understand what you’re saying about how loan officers are being treated. It definitely seems like it is us against the world.

      Kristen – RESPA – hmmmm? Good point, I don’t know.

      Rhonda – AR should pay you $300 a month to blog on their platform.

      Cicerone – Sarcasm noted, but the real answer to your question is Yes. It is possible to post a few articles and get flooded with referrals from agents…. you just have to publish those blog posts and market them in the right place. Unfortunately for the LOs paying $300 / month, AR is not the right place for that strategy to be the most effective.

      However, in all fairness to AR, they’re only pitching this program as a relationship building tool that gives LOs a different reason to pick up the phone and solicit a meeting with a new agent. If this program was designed more around SEO, blogging and expanding a hyper-local online presence, then the $300 exclusivity fee might be worth discussing. Either way, it doesn’t make any sense why AR would target a few people for exclusive agreements at $300 / month knowing that they run the risk of really pissing off the rest of the lenders on AR that have actually earned their top placement within the ranks.

      Santoro – Sorry to burst your bubble, man. If it makes any difference, I think you’re special. :)

      Petra – You nailed it – everyone has to control their own blog and online marketing agenda. Social networks like AR are great tools, but their services and existence shouldn’t be taken for granted. Business models, budgets, and ownership can change over night and literally wipe your online presence off the web.

      I will say that AR has the power and influence to do something good for the mortgage community. I guess we’ll see if they can come up with something better than this “charge a loan officer to meet agents” program.

    30. Robert Worthington August 9th, 2009 3:53 pm

      What a scam in my opinion. If anything, active rain should be selling an idx type of solution where loan officers can capture leads ect. My humble point is this. Does anybody have a better idea for loan officers to capture leads rather than pay $300/month.

    31. Chris Brown, CMPS August 10th, 2009 6:15 am

      Robert – for $300 a month, you can do a lot! I use http://www.bringtheblog.com that creates quality content if writing consistenely is an issue.

      $300 – 59 = $241

      Get you own blog platform [not sure the cost, but mine is only $12 per month.

      $241 - 12 = $229

      If there is space on the http://www.myfhamortgageblog.com, you can apply for that [$300/ year]

      $241 – 25 = $204 [Holy cr@p - i have only used $96 so far!?]

      Geez – what to do with the other $204?

      1. My thought is invest that into Direct Relationships with Realtors in your area. Press the flesh – lunches, gift cards, book purchases for THEIR busienss, etc.

      2. If you are not part of a mastermnd group – look into coaching/ accountability.

      3. Consider getting 1-on-1 SEO help. It will get you further than any templated help. Eric Blackwell, http://www.ericonsearch.com, is a stealth NINJA and not pricey for the value you will receive!
      Who knew $300 could go so far!

      Chris the Implementer