An article in Inman has just reported that Zillow has now announced that they have added neighbourhood pages and according to a Zillow spokes person “The pages are seeded with rich local demographic and real estate information, but are built for communities and neighbors to make their own.” According to the Zillow announcement, “Zillow’s online community can add photos, events and news, and can participate in discussions and ask or answer questions” .
Ostensibly it appears to be about creating an “online community” where users can actively participate and contribute. What it is really about is “User Generated content” , which, in my not so humble opinion, is quickly becoming the next big thing. Zillow, Trulia and Redfin are all trying to build a “community” where consumers can discuss real estate. Will this work? Hmmmn, I think it might be more challenging than it may appear. Why? Because the average consumer only discusses real estate once every seven or eight years when they are thinking about moving. At that particular time they are very interested in participating (or at least learning) from this type of “community”.
In a past life I spent a lot of money on advertising in print, radio, TV and online. I know first hand that most of your advertising dollars are only effective for people that are “In the market” for your product. Think about the last time you purchased something , for instance, like your last computer. When you are in the market you suddenly notice all the advertising, once you buy a system it is best if you stop looking immediately lest you suffer a severe bout of anxiety as better systems sell for cheaper.
What does that mean for a “real estate” centric community? Simply put it means that your number one draw (real estate info) will only be effective on the subset of consumers that are interested in real estate and this is a much smaller subset of consumers. While Truila voices and Redfin’s forums might be satisfied with this audience, I think that Zillow has a much bigger designs than having a community that is only about, and for, people in the market. I think they want to build a community that people use all the time in their daily lives, and are using people’s homes as starting point.
Again, in my opinion this is easier said than done. They will be competing for attention with all types of communities – from the local community, news and city guide type websites to facebook, myspace and even wikipedia. Trying to be “the place” is a really tall order. Uploading neighbourhood photo’s, news and events will simply not be enough, in my opinion, to create a vibrant community that consumers visit and contribute to often. They will have to do more, and I am sure they understand that.
One group that we know for sure that has expert knowledge, is always “in the market” and can and will contribute to the neighbourhood information that consumers need (when they are in the market) is real estate professionals. We have created a tremendous resource in our neighbourhood directory. We intend to leverage this structure in many ways and in multiple platforms. This will be done not only to provide great information for consumers but to always provide exposure for; showcase the knowledge of and bring back user generated content for use by the P2NLS real estate professional.
What does this mean? It means we are not as concerned with creating “the community” as we are about providing the underlying infrastructure and connecting it to real estate professionals. How are we going to accomplish this? Just wait and see, in the words of Bryan Adams, “the best is yet to come”.