Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Which Gender Uses Social Media Smarter?

Women are better at managing their social media pages more responsibly and more securely than men, according to a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which polled more than 2,000 adults about how they manage their social media profiles.
Researchers found that both genders have made progress in better using privacy controls and managing their reputations on social networks than just a few years ago — but women more so than men.
For example, men tend to have their pages more open to view by anyone than women, who tend to restrict it more. Twenty-six percent of men select public settings for their social network profiles while only 14 percent of women do so, the study found. Two-thirds of women allow only friends to view their Facebook, LinkedIn, or MySpace pages without any restrictions. On the other hand, fewer than half of men allow only friends to view their profiles.
Women also are more choosy about who they keep in their network. Sixty-seven percent of women say they’ve deleted people from their networks, while 58 percent of men say they’ve deleted connections.
What’s more, women also tend to be more careful about what they post. Nearly double the number of men than women reported they had posted something on their social network pages that they later have regretted (15 percent of men verses 8 percent of women), according to the study.
Source: “Study Shows Women Are Smarter Than Men About Social Media,” Forbes.com (Feb. 24, 2012)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Google+ “Hangouts” grow in popularity

David Resnick used it to break through the anxiety and isolation of people who stutter. Joe Saad launched a business. M. Monica Malone, an extrovert whose damaged immune system left her a shut-in, found a way she could give back to others. Brandon Hartung and Stacy Frazer found each other.

Google’s social network, Google+, has attracted more than 90 million users since it launched seven months ago, a mere fraction of Facebook’s 850 million users. But a surprise star is emerging on Google+ – its “Hangouts” video conferencing feature.

While video-conferencing technology is not new, Google is the first to create a free service on the Internet “cloud” that requires no special hardware beyond a webcam, has a simple interface allowing up to 10 people to connect together, and is woven into a big online social network. One video-conferencing competitor, New York-based ooVoo, allows up to six people to connect for free on a video chat, and says its user population more than doubled to more than 38 million people in 2011.

“It really could transform the way we interact with each other from our homes or our workplaces, and I think this is going to be huge,” said Paul Allen, the founder of Ancestry.com and an unofficial Google+ tracker who believes Hangouts will help drive the social network to 400 million users by the end of 2012 and spawn “thousands” of online businesses.

Hangouts, which work with smartphones, tablets or desktop computers, is rapidly being adapted by an inventive community of users, who have done everything from launch musical careers through online video concerts to Saad’s startup, ChefHangout.com, which allows customers to book cooking classes over a Google+ Hangout.

“It is a new medium; it is a new way to communicate,” said Saad, who has a Dallas-based mergers and acquisitions business, and who launched what is his first Internet business about two weeks ago.

Hangout users say the feature offers a richness and intimacy unlike typical online interactions, and a kind of culture and community is already emerging. They say it is not unusual to spend as long as 12 hours on a Hangout.

Resnick, a 32-year-old Los Angeles designer for a digital media and e-commerce consulting company, co-founded Stutter Social on Google+ about four months ago, a volunteer organization for himself and others who stutter. Members login from around the world and practice their speech on a video Hangout.

“A huge part of being someone who stutters is that every time we open our mouths to speak, there is anxiety,” Resnick said. “We really need to practice, looking at each other and speaking, in a safe environment.”

The fast-growing stutterers group recently added a fourth weekly Hangout, and now has members from about 10 countries, including India, New Zealand, and Croatia. Its power is palpable when a new member who has never spoken to another person who stutters logs in, perhaps from a more remote part of the world where speech therapists are unavailable or unknown, and realizes for the first time they are not alone.

“There’s a kind of empathetic resonance that you get in a support group,” Resnick said. “It’s hard to put your finger on it, but only people who stutter really understand what it feels like.”

Malone, 32, of Boulder, Colo., who uses the screen name M Monica on Google+, has a similar experience. She has battled lupus and other painful health problems since she was 15, and treatment of the autoimmune disease has decimated her immune system, leaving her unable to go outside without risk of catching a serious infection.

But after being drawn to a serendipitous series of Hangout gatherings soon after Google+ launched in June, she now has more than 35,000 connections on the social network. Two years ago, she passed her days alone reading or watching DVDs. Now, she is working with a friend in Italy on a service based on Hangouts that would offer emotional support for people hospitalized with serious health problems.

“I think nobody understands what this is to the disabled community,” she said over a recent Hangout. “This isn’t a tool. This is a lifeline.”

Trust between people is hard to win and easy to lose online, because most digital connections lack the non-verbal cues of facial expressions and gestures that are a big part of human communication, said Michael Fauscette, an analyst with the research firm IDC.

But Hangouts are “much more interactive and rich, because of the fact you have that video experience added to it,” Fauscette said. “Some of the best business inventions have been accidental. That is probably the case with this.”

Google has been surprised by the strong reaction to the feature, and has begun promoting it through Hangouts with celebrities such as the Dalai Lama and soccer star David Beckham. The company is working to allow developers to build business apps for Hangouts, and thinks the possibilities for games are particularly strong.

“We didn’t design it with the user cases we’re seeing,” said Bradley Horowitz, one of Google’s top social networking executives. “Until we released this thing in the wild, I don’t think we realized how special this was.”

Google won’t say how many people are using Hangouts, but Horowitz said the share of Google+ users discovering it is growing.

Frazer, an outgoing nuclear medical technician who lives near Tacoma, Wash., and Hartung, a quiet Army veteran and self-described technology geek who lives in Denver, might not be a couple but for the feature.

They met in November when they both joined a comment thread on Google+, and she gradually persuaded him to join a Hangout with a group of other people she chats with frequently.

“It takes a little pressure off when you can do a group chat, because it’s not just you and a particular person,” said Frazer, speaking over a Hangout from her home, with Hartung, on a visit from Denver, lying on the bed beside her. “That was the icebreaker, sort of, for us to meet one another.”

“That was the only way I was gonna do it, as long as it wasn’t one on one. I’m pretty shy, so …,” he said with a quiet smile. “But eventually, we made it one on one.”

Source: the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) Distributed by MCT Information Services.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Survey Reveals Qualities of Agents Who Make $100k or More

Real estate professionals who earn $100,000 or more per year show quite a few differences in how they do their job and the technology they use compared to real estate professionals who make $30,000 to $50,000 a year, according to a new survey conducted by InmanNext, a Web site operated by Inman News.
Surveying about 1,300 real estate agents, InmanNext found some of the following characteristics common to those who make $100,000 or more per year versus those who make less.
-- Close more transactions: Sixty-six percent of real estate agents who make $100,000 or more per year say they closed 20 or more transactions in the year compared to about half of those who earn $30,000 to $50,000 who say they closed 10 or fewer transactions.
-- Appeal to the high-end market: High-income agents tended to specialize in luxury homes, condos, and townhouses, and they were less likely to work with first-time buyers or REOs compared to mid-range earners.
-- Work longer hours: Forty-two percent of high-income agents say they work between 40 to 50 hours a week, and 41 percent say they work more than 50 hours a week.
-- Spend more on marketing: High-income agents tend to spend more money on their marketing. About 62 percent of middle-income agents reported spending less than $2,500 on their marketing for their business. On the other hand, 63 percent of high-income earners said they spent $5,000 or more per year on marketing.
-- Spend more on technology: High-income earners also tend to spend more on technology purchases to aid them in their business. More than half said they spend $2,500 or more on technology each year, and a quarter spend $5,000 or more. Meanwhile, about 84 percent of middle-income earners say they spend less than $2,500 on technology purchases a year. As for technology preferences, high-income earners show a preference toward Apple Macintosh computers and iPhones, more so than mid-range earners.
-- Use social networking and Web sites: Nearly half of high-income earners say they update their Web site at least a few times a week, while 39 percent of mid-range earners report updating their Web site or blog only once a month. High-income earners are also more connected on Facebook, with nearly half reporting 500 or more friends on Facebook compared to more than two-thirds of middle-income earners who say they have 500 or fewer friends on Facebook. High-income agents also were more likely to have a YouTube account and Twitter account and to have more followers than mid-range earners.
Source: “Survey: High-Income Real Estate Agents Lead the Pack on Technology,” Inman News (Feb. 14, 2012)

What Dropbox can teach us about cloud computing

Dropbox is the most deceptively simple of services.
Place a Dropbox folder on each computer or gadget you own. Drag any file into that folder. A copy of that file automatically appears on every device where you put a Dropbox folder. It’s idiot proof.

But don’t let that simplicity fool you. Dropbox also epitomizes a revolutionary shift that is transforming our relationship to technology and turning the technology industry upside down: Cloud computing.

The “cloud” has been one of Silicon Valley’s biggest buzz phrases for a couple of years now. In the past year, it’s moved from the talk of tech insiders into the minds of mainstream users thanks to the launch of services like Apple’s iCloud.

And in the coming decade, analysts are betting that cloud computing will be the defining trend in technology. Large companies like Hewlett-Packard and Oracle are rushing to overhaul their business to sell the tools that enable cloud computing services, while consumers are projected to spend $16 billion annually on cloud services by 2016, according to Gartner research.

But as important as this trend is, I find the concept can still be bewildering to non-techies. Answering the question, “What is cloud computing?” can lead to lots of rambling answers full of industry statistics. None of it really helps the average person understand what’s different about the cloud, and why this is all happening now. And most important, why they should care.

“The cloud is everywhere now in our personal lives,” said Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research. “Because of cloud computing, we’re basically assuming that everything you’re doing digitally is available somewhere else through the Internet.”

To understand why, I thought it would be helpful to put a single service under the microscope to see what it tells us about cloud computing. I couldn’t think of a better company than Dropbox.

Founded in 2007, the rise of San Francisco-based Dropbox tracks almost perfectly with the cloud’s move from the fringes of tech into its defining trend. Last September, Dropbox scored an astounding $250 million in venture capital and currently has about 50 million users.

Just last month, Dropbox was voted “startup of the year” at the annual Crunchies Awards. But it also faces enormous competition in the file sharing space from other startups such as Box.net, CloudMe, SugarSync, Egnyte, and big players such as Apple and Google, which are both actively expanding the ability of users to share files.

The company was created by two MIT grads, Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, who were frustrated about having to email each other’s files.

Let’s start right there. Once, the problem of how to move files between users or gadgets would have been an issue for only the highest end users. Maybe the business road warrior on the go or the most sophisticated programmers.

But around 2007, this started to become a problem for the average person for several reasons. Many of us now had more than one computing device, compared to a decade earlier when most people had one. As of 2010, 124 million adults in the United States had more than one device connected to the Internet, according to IDC, a technology research firm, which projected that number would climb to 184 million by 2016.

On top of that, these devices were coming in many different shapes and sizes. In the late 1990s, most of us probably just had one PC running Windows. But now we might have a PC at work, a Mac at home, and a smartphone running Android or iOS, and possibly a tablet. So moving a single file between all those devices, and changing it into different formats quickly, could be a pain.

“The cool thing about the Internet is that everything is going to be connected,” said Sujay Jaswa, vice president of business development and sales for Dropbox. “But it’s less interesting if all your stuff is not there and you’re not able to share it. And all these individual pieces to technology are magical, but they’re also incompatible.”

All of these devices have also allowed us to become far more mobile with work. According to market research firm IDC, the number of workers worldwide who are considered mobile – that is, working in more than one location – has climbed from 758.6 million in 2006 to 1 billion in 2010 with a projection of 1.3 billion in 2013, about 37 percent of all workers. All that shuffling around means we need more help moving our digital stuff from gadget to gadget.

Suddenly, the problem encountered by Dropbox’s founders wasn’t just theirs. It was a problem for more than a billion people.

A service like Dropbox wouldn’t have been as valuable a decade ago, said ChenLi Wang, team leader of business and sales operations at Dropbox. “Now people are working across many geographic regions and we’re in a much different place than we were five or 10 years ago,” he said.

Before services like Dropbox, we were able to move files between computers using thumb drives for small files, or by logging into a server to transfer really big files. But those are both a pain when you have to do it constantly, especially for the increasingly large multimedia files we create.

Still, even just five years ago, Dropbox would have a limited market for another reason: Networks were too darn slow. Uploading stuff to the Internet, especially large files, could be a slow, agonizing process. But over the past several years, network speeds have dramatically increased.

Back in 2004, less than 30 percent of U.S. homes had broadband connections, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Now Pew says that percentage has jumped to 60 percent.

In addition, the number of people in North America using speedy 3G networks for their mobile devices has climbed from 20 percent in 2007 to 54 percent in 2011, according to Morgan Stanley research.

These three pieces – multiple gadgets, mobile workforce, faster networks – wouldn’t have been enough for Dropbox if one other piece didn’t fall into place: Over the past decade, the price of digital storage declined dramatically. By one estimate, from Clearwell Systems, an IT research firm, the price of storing 1 gigabyte of information fell from $20 in 2000 to 10 cents in 2010.

That dramatic decline gave us more space to store our stuff. More importantly, it led companies like Amazon to sell space on their own servers to startups like Dropbox. That meant that Dropbox could start for very little money.

And that meant Dropbox can offer its basic service – 2GB of storage – for free.
The trends that have given rise to cloud computing are projected to accelerate over the next decade. That’s bad news if you sell disk drives or servers. But it’s going to create a world where virtually every bit of our digital lives are available everywhere instantaneously.

And that, of course, is very good news for Dropbox.

Source: the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.), Chris O’Brien. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

REALTOR(R) University Granted Approval to Offer Master of Real Estate Degree Program

REALTOR® University now offers a Master of Real Estate degree for real estate professionals who are interested in expanding their education to advance their career and improve their business.
Recently granted operating and degree authority by the Illinois Board of Higher Education, REALTOR® University was established by the National Association of REALTORS®.
“The Master of Real Estate Degree program will go a long way toward raising professionalism in real estate and creating the highest standard of competency in the industry,” said REALTOR® University President and NAR Chief Executive Officer Dale Stinton.
REALTOR® University’s mission is to foster life-long student learning through high-quality entrepreneurial and career-oriented programs in real estate. The University will deliver its programs through a global online campus to meet the needs of a diverse and geographically dispersed student population. Courses include a business and real estate core curriculum and five concentration areas in Real Estate Association Management, Asset and Property Management, Sales, Marketing and Management, Appraisal and Valuation Services, and Commercial Investment and Analysis.
The first Master of Real Estate courses will be available February 27. Courses will be offered in eight-week sessions six times annually and taught by Ph.D.-level academic practitioners. REALTOR® University also has the largest real estate library in the world and a research center which is a think tank/real estate research laboratory that provides current, hands-on, results-oriented data and analysis relevant to industry trends and policy issues from a practical standpoint.
“REALTOR® University is a groundbreaking initiative that will have a major impact not just for REALTORS® but also for the entire real estate industry,” said Chairman of the University Board of Regents Richard Rosenthal. “We will offer applied education to help students capture the knowledge, skills, and business fundamentals they need to meet current and future challenges in the real estate industry. We will provide our students with scholarships, internships, and mentoring to help them along their journey.”
REALTOR® University also includes the School of Professional Development and Continuing Education, with over 400 hours of online education leading to several designations and certifications. This includes continuing education credit-approved courses available in most states.
For more information on REALTOR® University, visit www.REALTORU.comor call 855-786-6546 (855-RUONLINE).
Source: National Association of REALTORS®

Monday, February 6, 2012

Twitter, Facebook: For Business or Addiction?

Real estate professionals rely on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to reach new customers and keep in contact with former clients. But how much time do you devote during your business day to social networking sites?
A new study suggests social networking is becoming a public addiction.
Chicago University researchers found that tweeting or checking e-mails can actually be harder to resist than alcohol or cigarettes. Researchers used BlackBerrys to gauge the willpower of 250 people aged 18 and 85 from multiple industries.
Researchers found that as the day dragged on, willpower became lower when it came to using social networking sites and temptations grew stronger.
“Desires for media may be comparatively harder to resist because of their high availability and also because it feels like it does not ‘cost much’ to engage in these activities, even though one wants to resist,” says researcher Wilhelm Hofmann with Chicago University’s Booth Business School. "With cigarettes and alcohol there are more costs – long-term as well as monetary – and the opportunity may not always be the right one. So, even though giving in to media desires is certainly less consequential, the frequent use may still 'steal' a lot of people's time."
The study will soon appear in the journal Psychological Science.
Source: “Twitter Is Harder to Resist Than Cigarettes and Alcohol, Study Finds,” The Guardian (U.K.) (Feb. 3, 2012)

Friday, February 3, 2012

For marketing, use more verbs

Real estate ads tend to be filled with adjectives and adverbs, but online consumers have short attention spans. Brief messages with strong calls to action are more effective than flowery rhetoric.

Independent media researcher Nick Diakopoulos found that Twitter users were more likely to forward tweets if they included more verbs and shorter messages.

A verb-based marketing approach could also include a new real estate button that is similar to the “like” and “share” buttons on Facebook. It could appear by all listings and, with common use, all buyers would understand that it’s the place to click if they want to learn more about a home.

The industry must first define its core verb – it could be “visit,” “watch” or “move” – before such a marketing approach will take off. However, real estate agents who move from a database search to verb-driven search could bolster brand association among online users and inspire them to action.

Source: INFORMATION, INC.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Phone app turns photos into videos

Advertisers are fixated this week on the Super Bowl. But marketers at DirecTV are looking past the Big Game and are focused instead on making a splash in Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue.

The satellite TV company is teaming with SI on a free Android or iOS app that lets folks who hold their phones over pictures of the swimsuit models watch videos of the pictured model’s shoot.

DirecTV says there will be 19 such videos embedded within the magazine, each roughly a half-minute in length and with a brief DirecTV ad featuring supermodel Kate Upton. Heading into its 49th year, the venerable swimsuit edition, by far SI’s most popular issue, hits on Valentine’s Day.

To encourage readers to fetch the app and check out the videos, DirecTV is placing a series of mildly suggestive half-page ads within the magazine – “This is why men were given eyes. And smartphones,” reads one ad. Upton will be in Indianapolis trying to raise awareness for the app at the actual Super Bowl.

DirecTV said they took the idea to SI, where the app was designed, developed and produced using “digital watermarking” technology from Digimarc.

Sports Illustrated creative director Chris Hercik says past swimsuit issues have incorporated 3-D technology and bar codes. And separate from its new DirecTV app, SI has other iPhone and Android apps tied to the upcoming swimsuit issue, including one that costs $6.99 for non-SI subscribers. “Every year we’re looking for new ways to bring the product to life,” he says.

Indeed, there’s nothing new about seeing bar codes within a publication. But “the technology has not been that easy,” says Allen Adamson, managing director at the Landor global-brand consulting agency. “It’s not taking off as fast as the market thought.”

Unlike the QR codes that appear in many publications, the Digimarc technology in use here lets a user hover over any part of the swimsuit image, rather than having to precisely frame the code with a camera phone.

DirecTV’s senior vice president of marketing, Jon Gieselman, is aware of the challenges. “We wanted this to be a cool experience for people. If it’s too hyped (or is) a lame experience, readers are not going to come back and do it on the next page.”

Gieselman wouldn’t disclose terms of the deal with SI.

As for the timing of the promotion, he says, the swimsuit issue is “the Super Bowl for print.”
Source: USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc., Edward C. Baig

Florida Realtors to launch new data system soon

In February 2012, Florida Realtors® will launch a new statewide housing market reporting partnership with 10K Research and Marketing, which will use combined data from local Realtor boards/associations and their Multiple Listing Services (MLSs) throughout the state.

Working with Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department, 10K will collect and organize housing sales data from the state’s 63 local Realtor organizations. The goal is to provide unique, localized market reports to the local Realtor boards and associations within Florida Realtors, enabling the groups and their Realtor members to serve as the definitive voice of real estate in their respective local markets.

At the same time, Florida Realtors will provide more comprehensive statewide housing market statistics – but the data series will only include statewide numbers. Beginning with the January 2012 existing home and condo sales statistics, scheduled for release on Feb. 22, 2012, Florida Realtors will no longer report any market data for Realtor members’ sales in the state’s metropolitan statistical areas, as had previously been reported in partnership with the University of Florida’s Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies.

“With this new data system, Florida Realtors will be able to offer more comprehensive statewide data, including inventory levels, average prices and time on market,” said Florida Realtors® Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo. “As the voice for real estate in Florida, the state association will concentrate solely on the statewide numbers. Working with 10K, these new housing data reports position the local Realtor organizations and our Realtor members as the experts in their areas, ready to discuss their local markets with the media, clients and potential customers.”

What prompted Florida Realtors to make a change?

“We had the opportunity to get full, comprehensive statewide data in greater detail, with charts, trending information and other housing market intelligence,” Tuccillo said. “And, we had the opportunity to create similar statistical reports for the local Realtor boards/associations, thus truly enabling our Realtor members to be the voice for real estate in their local markets – and all real estate is local.”

A division of the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, 10K Research and Marketing has partnered on housing market data series with numerous other real estate organizations, including the New York State Association of Realtors (NYSAR) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Source: Florida Realtors®

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Apps rapidly lose their appeal

Faster data networks and fancier phones have steered more Americans to embrace the apps software craze born of our fondness for the computer-in-my-pocket. But like other shopping experiences done impulsively, the appeal of instantly downloading the latest apps – prompted by recommendations from neighbors, cousins, blogs and news stories – loses its luster quickly, industry data show.

Of smartphone owners, 68 percent open only five or fewer apps at least once a week, finds a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Seventeen percent don’t use any apps. About 42 percent of all U.S. adults have phones with apps, Pew estimates.

“The novelty wears off,” Pew researcher Kristen Purcell says. “Most apps don’t have sticking power.”

But the ones that do really engage users. Android phone users spend about 90 minutes a day on their phones, about two-thirds of that on apps, says Monica Bannan, a vice president at media research firm Nielsen. “We see a very familiar behavior with (iPhone users).”

An app that’s retained by 30 percent of downloaders is considered “sticky,” says Anindya Datta, founder of Mobilewalla, an app analytic firm.

“We are constantly deleting them. That’s why the number of downloads is a very poor measure of how popular an app is,” he says, estimating 80 percent to 90 percent of apps are eventually deleted.

Ghada Elnajjar, a newsletter writer in Atlanta, has downloaded 26 apps since she bought an iPhone 4 in June. She now uses only two regularly: Facebook and MyFitnessPal. “After a while, the fun is not there anymore, and you go back to your phone, e-mail and the browser.”

Many of Elnajjar’s apps are for her two sons, ages 3 and 5. They’ve got app burnout, too. “They went back to their toys.”

Datta says there are about 1 million apps for the four most-popular mobile operating systems – Android, Apple, BlackBerry and Microsoft – and only 10 percent have been discovered.

Consumers’ fickle habits aren’t all bad for the industry. Of the top 50 apps, one in five is new every month, Nielsen says.

Source: USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc., Roger Yu