Pinning For Gold

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I love early adopters. They’re like the American settlers who came West looking for gold. They ignore the warnings of friends and bravely forge into new territory with the hope of making a better life, all the while risking attack by unfriendly natives.

Some find empty streams. Some find gold in those streams. Actually, the vast majority find empty streams and very few find gold. But the few who find gold send word back to friends and family and soon throngs of new settlers are making their way to the new land to find their own fortune. They work hard, but in the wrong streams. They spend their time panning for fools gold.  But they too send word back to their friends and family abou how exciting the search for gold is. They talk about how beautiful the country is and point to stories of others who found a nugget.

Last night I found myself thinking about this as I listened on Facebook to real estate agents tell their stories about Pinterest. The brave settlers were telling their friends that there was gold in that stream and they were sharing mining stories and showing off nuggets. Experienced minors can tell the difference between pyrite and gold. The excited settler is often fooled.

The Pinterest Stream And Fools Gold

One of the nuggets shared was from Pinterest, a social curation site that’s been around for a little more than a year. A few real estate agents were talking about it’s potential benefit in marketing and the illustration to the right was shared as an example.

Again, I love early adopters and I really do appreciate this effort. I have no desire to disparage. Someone has to be a settler and brave the arrows, but this is fools gold, in my opinion. Set aside the fact that it ignores the requirement to identify yourself as a Realtor in marketing a home  (at the time of this writing there is no indication on the page or in the profile) and that it doesn’t link out to a place where someone who might find it could learn more about the home, or that it has no useful descriptions. All of that is secondary to the most common mistake real estate agents make when they begin trying to market in new social network. They don’t stop to understand the new territory first and begin mining in the wrong place. A simple read of the Pinterest etiquette will allow anyone to quickly find this:

Avoid Self Promotion
Pinterest is designed to curate and share things you love. If there is a photo or project you’re proud of, pin away! However, try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion.

My advice here is going to be the same advice I give people in any new social network… go have some fun first. Be social. Get to know the community, the lay of the land. The rest will sort itself out. The first thing that happens when the real estate community “discovers” a new social media site is they focus on the media, not the social. This is a mistake. It leads to mining in the wrong streams.

The Pinterest Stream And Real Gold

Later in the conversation, Janet White shared this advice, “The coolest thing is as a buyers tool for visually capturing style,” Janet wrote. “Get your buyers building their dream home boards. Check out the plethora of architectural photography from across the globe – many will love this idea you can easily share as ‘oh, this is a cool tool…’ We know they are already searching online so help them organize a virtual style folder.”

The difference between the first example and the example Janet describes above, is that one of them focuses on adding value and being social and one of them doesn’t. It’s that simple. I see the second idea as being in keeping with the spirit of the Pinterest community, honoring the sites clearly posted etiquette and fully in line with its terms of service. That’s the right stream to be mining in.

I’ve stopped trying to predict what site will or won’t be the next gold mine. I don’t care whether it’s Pinterest or new sites that work off the same basic curation concept, like Bundlr(1). What I do care about, however, is this: If you’re going to spend your time on these sites, do it in a way that honors both the spirit of the community and the community guidelines. It’s the only way to insure you get the most out of the site. If I were pinning for gold, that’s the stream I’d pin in.

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(1) This is a referral link. If you click on it and sign up, I get one month of something I can’t imagine ever buying for free. But, its the only way I’m ever going to try their collaboration option, so hopefully one of you will and I’ll give it a try for a month. :)

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  1. says

    I wrote an article on this topic myself last week and put the “avoid self promotion” quote in it. I have been playing on Pinterest. Just be cause I am a Realtor doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy Pinterest. it isn’t just for realtors and most of the folks with the brilliant ideas on how to use it don’t sell real estate or really understand how to use social media for business.. . other than businesses that sell to Realtors.

  2. says

    Jeff, thanks for the shoutout and for herding cats to an elegant use of Pinterest. Like you, I’d hate to see Realtors “throwing up on the site” with hordes of useless MLS photos.

    If you are new to Pinterest, create a board called “Dream Homes” and look in the Archtectural and Home Decor categories to find some truly inspiring images.

    If you have taken fabulous Nature photos, post them or just pin from others in the Travel category.

    A great example would be to create a community board (I.e. Carlsbad, CA, where I live) and pin photos showing our famous Flower Fields season. Or if you love Wine Country, pin to your “Napa Someday” board. You can “collect” wine you love this way too.

    If you want to pin Videos you enjoy, or Pets, or Tech Trends, these are Pinterest categories also waiting for you to browse.

    Pinterest has a mobile app for you too. Open. Browse cool images. Click Re-Pin, or Like, or Comment.

    Lastly, the easiest way to sign up is to click Log in, then log in with your Twitter or FB account, which links you to social sharing options in your sphere. You’ll want to get the Pinmarklet icon onto your browser, and instructions are provided on the site.

    Thanks for drilling down to some important Pinterest passion best practices… I really believe this is a lovely thing for homebuyers to use to help them refine their Dream Home wish lists.

  3. Julie Beall says

    Jeff, you are so correct when you mention, have fun first, be social. I would go one step further and say if you are a real estate, insurance agent etc, ALWAYS STAY social on social networks, don’t crash the party. There are plenty of platforms to promote your listings and services. This is an old story right? Why, then do entrepreneurs insist on promoting themselves in social networks? Please someone answer this question so we can address the social media crashers! I find it rather embarrassing.
    I am in love and totally addicted to Pinterest and thankfully it has nothing to do with Real Estate, it has everything to do with getting to know people, places and things. I am pinning for time with my young adult daughter, as we spend hours together in a big overstuffed chair looking at very cool, unusual, sometimes kooky stuff on Pinterest. We have found a few new friends and a couple of old friends while pinning away. But all-in-all it is just plain fun! It has also lead to a few amazing off-line SOCIAL face-to-face conversations. That is what it is about in the end right? Relationships!

  4. says

    ..however, when you have thousands of dollars tied up in sold/expired/withdrawn listing photos that are just sitting around, finding an additional place above Flickr and Picasa to place them just makes you feel a little bit better about all that used $$.

  5. says

    It’s been fun watching Pinterest move from the early adopters and into the main stream. I think one of the reasons that pundits and business people are so interested in it is because it has such a high adoption rate among women. That and TechCrunch started heavily covering it 😉

    What we’ve noticed at is that often the “dream home” board is right next to the “dream wedding” board on many Pinterest user profiles. It’s something I’ve discussed and imagined with Gahlord for years and it’s interesting to see it come to life online.

    To expand on the creative energy that folks have made us a part of, we’ve created our own account to share the great homes they see on the site every day and we’re also using it as a collaborative tool inside the company to share and collect images that we find interesting or plan to group together in future stories.

    We’ve seen some Realtors using it to tell the story of a neighborhood or subdivision in a very simple visual way. Human beings naturally respond to beautiful imagery (like your sunset photos) and I think that’s a big part of the site’s quick success. I definitely see it as a part of a bigger trend of browsing via images over text.

  6. says

    Loving some of these ideas! I think the problem with a lot of us Realtors is that we don’t get social media. It’s not even about self-promotion. It’s about being social. In the process of any social environment, whether online or IRL, we share interests, have fun together, and manage to fit it in somewhere, (hopefully in a natural way) “Oh, yeah, btw, I sell real estate, what do you do?” We don’t burst in the room and yell to everyone, “LOOK at ME, I SELL Real Estate!!!” Yet for some of us, that’s exactly what we are doing in the virtual world.

  7. says

    Jeff, Moni M and Annie C were discussing this on Twitter and I appreciateded Moni’s ScoopIt link to your post. That to me, added value for me! I so agree with you. Part of the problem, in my opinion, is a visual I have of people spinning around. Omg, they say, a new site, I have to be a part of it, and if I don’t start (as you say) mining, I won’t be a ground breaker and I won’t make a name for myself. There is no time to browse and check things out with that mentality. And I think it’s a common mentality. I still believe we all only have time to really commit to a handful of places. So I hope people will take your comments here to heart, and start out on new sites by just browsing, taking it all in. People need to remember to breathe!

    • Jeff Turner says

      I agree. We only have so much time and I think most people feel that if they’re going to add something else, it has to have some kind of direct, measurable business return. So, they immediately begin looking for one. It’s the wrong way to approach 9 out of 10 social networks and tools focused on social networks.

  8. andrea says

    I love Pinterest! I’ve found some really cool shit on it and have enjoyed killing time there. I find it inspiring! The thought of realtors using it to promote their listings makes me want to poke my eyeballs out. The idea of using it as a buyer’s wish board, however, is a great one! Nice post and quite timely as I’ve noticed many of my real estate friends joining recently.

  9. says

    Good points, and you are correct about not showing up in “sales mode” I have found Pinterest very useful for sharing lifestyle and community information. Reminding others why they will love the area and find interesting things to do. My main real estate site has a Pinterest widget in the sidebar, and the scenery / lifestyle boards have been getting pins and “likes”. I try to avoid any mention of “buy this”…

    Mark Stambaugh

  10. says

    Jeff-great post. Can I add to your early settler concept? The settlers get to the streams of gold and instead of panning for gold themselves, they immediately start tagging and inviting people to join them stream side without doing any of the work to actually build the panning site. Have you noticed how many people start following you and then you are invited to follow back and they have five empty boards on their site? I’d say I am seeing this 9 out of 10 times. FB business pages had the same problem. Suggestion to anyone thinking about using Pinterest. Use Pinterest! Put some images up of who you are and what you like. That’s the “Social” part of the site. Then start sharing. I’m going back down to the river now..;-)


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