Using Flickr photos in listing presentations

Flickr_realbird Flickr is one of the most popular online photo sharing services and known for their high-quality photos - uploaded by amateurs and professional photographers. This tutorial will show how to use Flickr images with the RealBird Listing Publisher service for creating a great looking online listing presentation.

RealBird allows you to spice up your listing websites with background images. This is a great feature for visually highlighting some of the main characteristics of the property. Many of our members are using high-quality property pictures or a nature photo to capture the mood of the property, like ocean or mountain view or to emphasize that it is a horse property. The challenge for the high adaptation of this visually captivating feature is that many agents do not have access to high-quality, royalty free images to upload as a backdrop.

This is where Flickr comes for our rescue. Flickr provides a way for its members to decide under which licensing term they are sharing their photos with the public. While the default setting I believe is "All rights reserved", that is, fully copyrighted and no reuse is permitted, many Flickr users opt-in to share their photos under one of the variations of Creative Common licenses.

In order for you to reuse Flickr photos, you have to make sure that the creative common license is such, that it allows commercial reuse. There are other details which you have to pay attention to. See the tutorial below.

Let's take an example of property which has an ocean view. Probably you will want to upload a background photo of the ocean, sunset or similar. Besides searching for "ocean view" or "ocean sunset" on Flickr, you can also add some additional characteristics, e.g. California, so that the random images will more likely represent the natural attributes of the California coast vs Florida or the South Pacific.

While it is not a licensing issue, but more of a best practice consideration, selecting a general purpose design with no geographically specific visuals is advised, to avoid confusing your visitors. The background image is a very powerful visualization tool and you may mislead visitors unintentionally, if they think that the background photo was actually taken from the house or relates to your property. The goal here is to choose an image which symbolizes the main characteristics, but in the meantime, does not imply that it is an actual photo of the property or its surroundings. (Of course, this is not a problem if you are using your own images of the listing for the background overlay)

The tutorial assumes that you already created a RealBird single property website.

Step 1 - Search for photos with proper licenses

  1. Go to Flickr's advanced search
  2. Enter your keyword: ocean view
  3. Check all of the following checkboxes for the following restrictions at the bottom of the search form:

Creative Common Search Criteria

Step 2 - Choose the photo and download it

Flickr2_2 Once you found the image you like, you will have to get the link to its high resolution version:

  1. Click on the photo that you like in the list
  2. Click on "All version" above the image on the left side
  3. Select a large size version (1024x768 or bigger)
  4. Double check that you performed a correct search. Below the image, it should state with the corresponding icons, that it is a Creative Commons-licensed photo, and most likely also, that it requires attribution
  5. Click download image and save it to your local computer

Look for these logos below the Flickr picture:

Somerights20 Cc_icon_attribution

Step 3 - Using the image on RealBird

One of the options of the RealBird listing website theme customization feature is using an uploaded photo as a backdrop. To use the Flickr photo downloaded in step 2, follow the steps below:

  1. Login or register at RealBird
  2. Add/edit a listing
  3. On the list of listings page, find the subject property and click "Change design theme" on the right side
  4. Select the "Single, large background image" tab
  5. Upload the image from your local computer through "Browse..." and "Upload"

Step 4 - Attribute the work

From the Creative-Common license: "Attribution. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work)."

The best way to do this is by adding a link to the Flickr photo page (the Url in Step 2, Item 2 above) at the bottom of the description of your property using the RealBird editor. The link should say something like "Photo courtesy of [Author's name]"

That's it, you are done.

I hope you find this tutorial helpful for your next RealBird listing presentation.

-- Zoltan
RealBird.com

I hate to do this in a blog tutorial, but since we touched some licensing issues, here comes the RealBird disclaimer: This is not a legal advise on how to interpret the legal context of the copyright and licensing terms on Flickr. We are providing a technical tutorial about how to use Creative-commons licensed photos if you decide that you have the rights to do so. Please do not use copyrighted material with RealBird, unless you have proper permission from the copyright holder.




Capturing buyer leads from portals

Our CEO, Gabe Gross, wrote a whitepaper published by some major real estate media outlets recently (Rismedia, Brokeragentnews, Inman News).

The concept described in the whitepaper and supported by RealBird for the first time in the industry is  the following: A large segment of online home buyers start their searches on major classifieds portals. By "pushing" your real estate services (e.g. IDX Search) with your featured listings close to these portals, you can create new channels for capturing some of this traffic and not only for your own listing (the original value proposition of listing syndication), but also for your local IDX  search services (the new value proposition). Some portion of these home buyers, once they arrived to your single property site, will continue searching for comparable properties on your own, private labeled tool embedded in your own featured listing website. Furthermore, since your RealBird single property sites are indexed by Google and other search engines while they are active, once the property is sold, you can still use your sold listing sites with the embedded IDX Search to continue capturing buyer leads. In other words, rather than waiting for home buyers to visit your website and eventually contact you for assistance, you create multiple entry points for your services via your own featured listings and sold inventory at high profile portals and search engines. The concept is very similar to the value proposition of real estate blogging. Blog syndication (via RSS, blogroll, search engines) enables you to capture visitors on remote online locations and after you "pulled" them back to your blog, you can provide additional real estate services (comparables, IDX search, market stats etc.) With RealBird's new listing publishing technology, you can use your featured listings and sold inventory to do the same: use it as a marketing vehicle to "push" some valuable content the meaningful online locations and "pull" visitors back to access your additional services on your single property websites.

Gabe's article is below.

-- Zoltan Szendro
RealBird.com

====

A Novel Approach to Lead Generation for REALTORS®

by Gabriel Gross, President, RealBird.com

A “virtual” paradox is happening in real estate: the Internet has become the major medium for real estate information, yet real estate agents find it increasingly difficult to generate good leads using their Web sites. The cause for this is quite simple: The majority of early-stage home buyers will start their search with the major classifieds portals and so individual agents rarely stand a chance to be even “seen” by these consumers. Yet, these are clients that could be the most valuable leads because at this stage they have probably not yet committed to another agent.

Another way of looking at this problem is that no matter how interesting or informative an agent’s Web site, it will be only as useful as the traffic it gets. This of course leads to the need to generate traffic to the Web site, and the options for this are limited and expensive: keyword advertising, search engine optimization (SEO), banner ads, blogging, e-mail farming, or “traditional” media advertising. In truth, agents will find that in most markets even these methods will only produce spotty and unpredictable results because the majority of agents and brokers employ those same strategies, and therefore it is increasingly difficult to achieve differentiation even with the best agent Web site.

Another problem with the traditional traffic-generation methods is the low quality of leads that they produce. The best leads for an agent are those consumers who are early in their home-buying process, the ones who have just started “looking,” as these clients have not yet committed to another agent. However, surveys show that the majority of consumers will start looking for listings that are on the market on the major online classifieds portals- Realtor.com, Craigslist, Google Base, Trulia, Zillow, etc. Most consumers will not start their home buying by looking for an agent to work with, and so they may end up establishing a relationship with a listing agent that they contact from a listing that they see and like on the classifieds portal that they happen to visit.

So what can a Realtor do to “fish” for leads in the big Classifieds portals pond? The obvious solution is to post (syndicate) featured listings to these portals using one of the several Single Property Web site services. These services allow you to create compelling Web sites for your featured listings, with photos, slideshows, even video, and then post them with a click of a button to several classifieds ad portals and search engines. Many brokers and agents already are syndicating their listings, either on their own, or using one of the many service providers available.

A common mistake that agents are making is to assume that their listing will be indexed by the search engines simply because they are available in the “featured listings” section of their own Web site. This is not the case. Another common perception is that simply because their listings are syndicated in bulk by their broker it is not necessary for the agent to promote these on their own. Listing syndication works just like advertising - the more the better, and given the low effort and cost involved this should be a “no-brainer,” must-do activity.

As with any marketing activity, the results achieved are usually depending on how unique your approach is, and how you stand out from the crowd. With listing syndication it is no different, and in most markets the majority of listings are already being posted on classifieds portals, so posting a few listings will not be as effective as it was one or two years ago. Also, it is quite unlikely that a homebuyer who finds your listing will actually consider it to be a good fit with their need, and if that is the case then they will just click on to the next listing and you will have lost them forever!

An out-of the-box, novel approach to increase the effectiveness of your lead generation using single property Web sites is to embed an interactive MLS search into each featured listings Web site. The resulting benefit is that if a home buyer finds your listing on one of the classifieds portals, they can immediately see MLS properties and start a full search, directly from this listing that they are looking at, instead of having to click over to your Web site, which they would never do because at that time they are in the frame of mind of searching for and viewing listings on that particular portal.

In other words, instead of just trying to “pull” potential clients to your site you are “pushing” your branded MLS search to the best locations where most early-stage home buyers go when they start their search for a home.

This ability to search the whole MLS with an interactive map focused automatically on the area of the client’s interest greatly increases the probability that they will contact you for more information for any of the listings that they find using your MLS Search and can produce dramatically better results.

For an example of such a listing, please see this Single Property Web site: http://www.58Northgate.com. Note the “Nearby Homes for Sale” button and “MLS Search” tab.

With each active featured listing that you publish to the major classifieds portals, you create several additional “touch points” on the Internet. Compare this with only 1 - your own Web site where normally the MLS search resides. What’s more, you can do this even if you don’t have any listings of your own - all you have to do is borrow some nice, sellable listings from a colleague (with the listing broker’s blessing) and ask for their permission to advertise those on the Internet (make sure that you have written and that you display the listing broker and that you comply with your local MLS’s rules). All this takes maybe 30 minutes to do, and you can do as many as you have time for, with each published listing creating multiple locations on the classifieds portals where they can find your own, branded MLS search.

But wait, there is more: once the listing is sold, instead of deleting it from your account you can change the status to “sold,” and so your “sold” listing Web sites which by now are already indexed by Google will accumulate on Google to a growing number of additional “touch points” for your active MLS search tool. Again, this cumulatively increases over time the likelihood that home buyers will find you and will also create an “organic” lift effect for your search-engine standing. If, for example, you sell 10 listings each year, then the number of Google-indexed “entry points” increases in one year to 10 and after two years to 20, in addition to the active listings to be found on the major classifieds portals, as outlined above. Again, each of these sold listing Web sites will have your MLS search embedded, and thus whoever finds these listings on Google or some other search engine will be able to search for active properties on the market from right there, each “sold” listing thus becoming a potential conduit for new leads.

For more information, please visit http://www.RealBird.com


Map-based MLS Search 2.0

Map-based MLS Search 2.0 Introducing the RealBird Map-based MLS Search 2.0

It's been a while since our last major update of the RealBird Map-based MLS Search service. I am pleased to announce that the new version is now available for real estate agents and brokers in our current MLS coverage areas. (More MLS coverage is added ongoing)

There are many, many new features and novel benefits of this new release. I am going to post tutorials on a regular basis of concepts and techniques about how to best utilize these features. At this time, let me  emphasize a unique marketing concept, which enables real estate agents to reach out for home buyers beyond their website, via syndicated featured listings, viral marketing and social networks.

The problem

Your IDX solution is only as good as the level of traffic you receive on your website. Unless you have sufficient traffic coming to your site, the most advanced technology locked up on your site will not bring you business, simply because nobody knows about the value it provides. One of the most powerful real estate marketing techniques is blogging and not just because you can show off your expertise and niche while building brand and trust (the content), but for being a technology solution which reaches out for buyers and pulls them back to your online presence, your blog or website, where you can provide them with additional services (the reach). Since blogs are syndicated by default, expressed via machine readable RSS and loved by search engines, your content (and online business identity) can go a really long way to reach consumers by feed readers, aggregators, fellow bloggers sharing and tracking back your content and most importantly by search engines. In short: you "push" your information via blogs to meaningful destinations where consumers search and research and "pull" them back to your website for more. This is very powerful, no question about it.

Following this marketing concept established by real estate blogs, we decided to port the technique to single property websites:

The solution

For the first time in the industry, the RealBird Listing Publisher enables you to create Single Property Websites with Map-based MLS Search embedded for instant, live showcase of nearby for sale properties.  Take the following scenario for example:

  1. You create a single property website with RealBird and embed the Map-based MLS Search application
  2. Your listing site is automatically syndicated to Google Base, Zillow, Trulia, Geebo, Oodle, Vast and more and you can easily post it to Craigslist, Kijiji and Backpage for even more traffic
  3. A home buyer finds your featured listing on any of those highly popular portals
  4. The home buyer clicks thru to visit your RealBird single property website
  5. If your featured listing is not a perfect match, the home buyer is provided with an instant option to see similar for sale properties without ever leaving your site. In other words, you capture a portion of the traffic of home buyers from major portals. That portion can be huge relative to your regular website traffic.

Your IDX search solution (the home buyer lead capturing tool) is pushed one click closer to high profile destinations, to portals where most of the online home buyers start their search. Similar to blogging, the RealBird Listing Publisher pushes your information to 3rd party sites with high consumer traffic (portals and search engines) and "pulls" home buyers back to your full IDX solution.

Since the RealBird Listing Publisher also allows you to manage and promote your pending and sold inventory, listings sites which are already indexed by major search engines will continue to bring cumulative traffic and leads to your IDX solutions via your single property websites even after your own listing is sold !

The Listing Publisher is available for agents and brokers in the US, nationwide. For the embedded MLS Search option, please check the coverage on RealBird .com (You can also request coverage there. We'll do our best to implement new MLSs as soon as possible, based on user demand)

Below are a few examples of live single property websites with the Map-based Search integrated:

Stay tuned for the upcoming tutorials on other new features such the visually stunning MLS Hotlist widgets.


-- Zoltan Szendro

RealBird.com


End of the slideshow as we know it

I received an email from the Animoto guys this morning that their service is available for the public as of today. Animoto uses a patent-pending technology to produce high-impact video from your pictures and music.

Quote from their website: " Each video is a fully customized orchestration of user-selected images and music.  Produced on a widescreen format, Animoto videos have the visual energy of a music video and the emotional impact of a movie trailer."

Since we started to promote real estate videos more than a year ago, one of the main barriers to entry for most real estate agents was the high "cost" of production. While the cost of hardware and software to take and edit video is insignificant, the time and expertise required to actually produce it with an acceptable quality made it prohibitive for most of the agents.

Animoto might very well be the answer to this. The process is quite simple. You create a free account with them and upload your property images and music or choose from their selection. Their rendering engine takes care of the rest. Analyzing the music, it will create a high-impact, music video style, embeddable slide-show widget.

Amazing technology.  And of course, fully supported by the free RealBird Listing Publisher property website builder to enhance your listing presentation.

Here is the work-flow I suggest:

  1. Take as many high-resolution pictures of your property as possible including exterior and interior, such as the kitchen, living room etc. You can always discard bad images after downloading them to your computer.
  2. Organize the pictures into presentation sections (exterior, kitchen, living room, master bedroom). E.g. put them in separate folders on your computer
  3. Create several short clips with Animoto
  4. Create a free property website with RealBird
  5. Upload all the pictures to RealBird
  6. Embed each Animoto clips under the video section of your RealBird listing site. Add a title above the embed code to describe the clip.

Below is a short example clip using photos of my baby nephews:

I would love to feature some of your listings on this blog if you are using Animoto. Send us your RealBird property link with Animoto clips embedded  (or add it as a comment below) and we'll feature it in our case studies category.

-- Zoltan Szendro
RealBird.com


RealBird mashed it up big time

Just in time for the Inman Real Estate Connect, - which we were a gold sponsor of - we introduced a new product and a bunch of new features. We mashed up new 3rd party services, such as Zillow, Yelp, Zvents, Yahoo Traffic besides the existing ones ( Google Maps, Microsoft Virtual Earth and ValPak) With the new product release, we have a new business model also, which we believe will suit the fast changing real estate industry better.

We are going to write several posts tracking the development and best practices of different aspects of the new services. For starting, let me provide an overview of the new product mix and the most significant features.

RealBird Listing Publisher

Lp10l After a lot of soul searching some fun brainstorming sessions , we made the decision to let RealBird fly free. The updated RealBird Listing Publisher is now a completely free service with no limitations and no advertising. It's a full featured online listing marketing tool for commercial and residential real estate agents and brokers. With the  Listing Publisher service, you can create unlimited property websites with unlimited photos, unlimited multimedia and content and  unlimited design themes. The system provides distribution to 3rd party classified sites via automatic syndication and via real estate widgets for websites and blogs. Real estate agents can use the service to create stunning listing presentations for properties or use it as a seller acquisition tool with "draft" flyers for listing interviews.  It's a free service, so why don't you take it for a test fly

Summary of features:

  • Unlimited listings (both drafts and published)
  • Unlimited, high-res photos and slide-show
  • Unlimited multimedia (videos, panorama, slide-shows, audio)
  • Unlimited content, rich-text editor for description and neighborhood info
  • Unlimited design themes
  • Maps, aerial photos, bird's eye view, 3D flyover, driving directions with your photo and contact info, real-time traffic and ValPak coupons around your properties
  • Open house marketing
  • Automatic distribution to SearchOnMaps.com, Google Base, Trulia, Edgeio, Local.com, Oodle,  Lycos, Vast.com
  • Code to post listings to  Craigslist, Kijiji, Backpage, Facebook
  • Support to encourage viral marketing
  • Search engine optimization for organic search referrals
  • RealBird works nicely with your existing providers
    • Link to your existing virtual tour or embed them in your listing website
    • Link to MLS details page or your featured listings on your website
    • Cross-market your blog posts: enter you RSS feed and we stream your latest post into your flyer
  • Widgets to cross-market your listings on your website, blog or ActiveRain profile
    • Listing map widget
    • Slideshow widget
    • GeoRSS (RSS feed of your listings with geographic coordinates coordinates)
    • Maps and driving directions widget

Learn more about the features

or go straight ahead and sign up now FOR FREE

RealBird Real Estate Yellow Pages

Yp_ss2 Yp_ss1

We are glad to announce that we also released a real estate portal for consumers ( SearchOnMaps.com ) The service features a full-screen map-based portal interface with 3 main functionalities:

  1. Find real estate professionals
  2. Find properties for sale
  3. Home valuation with agent referrals

The service mashes up quite many 3rd party services. Real estate data is provided by RealBird (listings via Listing Publisher and business profiles via the RealBird Yellow Pages service), home valuation by Zillow with local agent recommendations by RealBird. Data overlays include Yelp local reviews, Zvents local events, traffic incidents by Yahoo and nearby ValPak coupons. The service allows consumers to email, social bookmark and share properties, home valuations, business profiles or a specific map extent and to subscribe to RSS updates on a specific map via the unique "Watch this map" tool.

This is also one of the first services to promote the real estate blogs of the listed professionals along the yellow pages entry and  also with their  featured listing post. Real estate blogging is now mainstream  and promoting your blog just got easier with the RealBird Real Estate Yellow Pages service.

Another unique visualization feature is that the service shows the photo or logo of the listed professional when users hover over the  location icons. This gives a personal touch to the service and face recognition value to the whole deal, plus it looks cool, I think.

We welcome all kinds of real estate professionals to post their business listings including residential and commercial sales professionals, lenders, appraisers, builders etc.

Read more about this service

Visit SearchOnMaps.com to see how others are using it

RealBird Map-based MLS Search

We have released several updates for the map-based IDX search service too.  We made it very easy for members to link the map widget to their existing IDX service for property details and to configure main features such as hiding or showing the header and footer and property addresses. A widget configuration tool is also available to generate embed code with the desired width, height for real estate website and blogs. We applied several performance tunings and we are happy to let you know that we increased the performance by two folds. The service is significantly faster now.

Visit RealBird.com to learn more

As always, please send us your feedback, comments and RealBird sightings.

Thanks,

-- Zoltan Szendro

RealBird Inc.
http://www.realbird.com