VAR Reaches out – Part 3 of 3

This concludes the interview with Ben Martin, VAR’s “Robert Scoble” (his analogy, which hopefully will prove accurate).  My thanks to him for taking the time to answer so many questions. While he’s been on the job for less than a month, expectations are high that his efforts will bring a greater relevancy to the Virginia Association of Realtors. Stay tuned.

How can this position and outreach benefit the general public?

I frankly can’t come up with a good answer to this right now. Maybe in a few months I’ll have a better idea. I suspect we might be able to make REALTORS more proficient in the language and customs of the social web, thereby opening new venues through which home sellers, home buyers and home owners can be serviced. We also might be able to shift attitudes about the role of REALTORS in the marketplace and government.

Which Virginia bloggers have you spoken to?

Not enough! My focus so far has been to reach bloggers who are writing blogs that are at least somewhat REALTOR-facing (that is, not entirely consumer-facing). So far I’ve talked to Danilo Bogdanovic and Tony Arko, Jim Duncan, Daniel Rothamel, Dave Phillips, and Merv Forney. I’ve made (or tried to make) contact with Jay Seville, Dewita Soeharjono, “Brick” Smith, Jeremy Hart and whoever runs www.the804.com/blog. If any of y’all are reading this, please contact me!  I want to speak to all Virginia based real estate bloggers. My door is always open, my email address is mobile, and my direct dial telephone number is 804-249-5715.

Look forward 12 and 18 months – what changes do you forsee? What would you like the landscape to look like?

At least 1000 people in VAR’s LinkedIn and facebook groups. Ten new, strong contributors to the Virginia REALTOR blogging community. An annual Virginia REALTOR social web and new media event of some kind. Five thousand VAR members using RSS to read REALTOR blogs. A whole host of new ways to be engaged with VAR in a number of different program areas (convention, government affairs, governance, public relations, committee/advocacy groups, working groups, other ad hoc groups, etc.).

What are some of the most useful blogs you read?

As of this morning, I’m following 80 feeds. The top ten I open first are, in no particular order:
www.getmejamienotter.com – to help me become a remarkable teammate, manager and employee.
www.ehub.com – to stay on top of the latest web 2.0 releases.
www.principledinnovation.com/blog/ – keeps me close to the bleeding edge of association strategy.
http://leeaase.wordpress.com/ for the coolest meme going on using facebook for business.
www.commoncraft.com – for very useful social web thought leadership and “in plain English” web 2.0 videos.
www.churchofthecustomer.com – has awesome and fun word of mouth marketing content. Plus, I just dig Jackie Huba.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/schipulites/1115163032/
www.alwaysdoneitthatway.com – gives me ammunition to destroy the status quo.
Tony Rossell is a novice blogger, but his membership marketing expertise is based on many years of practical implementation and solid research.
I’m still trying to find my faves in the real estate space, but so far my “usual suspects” are real/dia blog and this fine blog, www.realcentralva.com.

What role do you see VAR playing in Realtors’ lives and businesses in the next couple of years?

I’d like REALTORS to view VAR as an indispensable resource for growing their businesses and living a fulfilling life. There are a lot of different ways we could become that, but it will take a staff-member-volunteer partnership to figure it out.  This will sound strange, but in a way, I’d like to see the social web/new media stuff fade into the background; to become transparent. I want it to become such a part of how we interact with each other that it’s just taken for granted. In my work, I keep hearing this French proverb: “Fish discover water last.” I’d like to see the social web be to REALTORS like water is to a fish.

Finally, following up on the first question I asked – what prompted VAR to hire you? Here is VAR CEO Scott Brunner’s answer:

VAR’s focus on new media and the tools of Web 2.0 is actually a strategic focus on broadening our engagement with — and value to — our members. We’re an organization of 39,000+ members, yet we’re not seen as relevant by many, many of those members. Despite the real value we deliver for our members’ dues investment – from the thousands of dollars we save them annually through our lobbying efforts, to our first-rate information services and networking and professional development opportunities — if the member doesn’t KNOW about those services, they dont realize our value proposition. And so we’re on a strategic mission to connect with and better serve a broader group of Virginia REALTORS, and social media is one new and very important tool for doing that – particularly in reaching out to and fostering community among our younger, more tech-savvy members. Ben Martin is a perfect fit for that challenge, and I’m delighted he’s leading not only that initiative for us, but our traditional communication outreach as well.

One can hope and dream.

Part 2 of the interview.
Part 1 of this interview.

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5 Comments

  1. Lee Aase September 6, 2007 at 12:11

    VAR has a great find in Ben Martin. He’s really engaged in social media and will bring a ton of creative thinking to creating a community among your members. With 39,000+ members, you have a great reservoir of expertise and energy to tap, and he’ll help you do that.

    Obviously technology has potential to be disruptive for REALTORS; the key is finding out how you can turn it around and take advantage. Ben will be all over that.

    I do have a suggestion, though. Ben says he has 10 feeds he reads in no particular order. I would like to suggest alphabetical by author’s last name. That’s always been a useful organizing principle from my perspective.

    😉

  2. Frank Borges LL0SA- Broker FranklyRealty.com September 6, 2007 at 14:49

    Thanks for the interview. I read it all.

    I’m starting to learn more about VAR. I wish NVAR would take such similar steps.

    I’m running for the Board of Directors at NVAR and technology is my platform. Elections are throughout October and voting is done online at: http://www.nvar.com

    Thanks!
    Frank

    Brian,
    May I suggest that you go back to Part 1 and 2 and make a link to the next part.

  3. Jim Duncan September 6, 2007 at 15:28

    Frank –

    Thanks for stopping by. I added the links to the other parts of the interview.

    –Jim

  4. Jamie Notter September 7, 2007 at 09:06

    Thanks for the plug, Ben (both mine and Always Done It That Way). I am proud to be in your top ten!

  5. Scott Brunner September 12, 2007 at 14:13

    Thanks, Jim, for your support of Ben’s work and of VAR. Social networking is definitely a new direction for VAR…but just one of several big new ideas we’re working on. If we do our communicating and connecting with members as effectively as we hope to, your membership value proposition will increase significantly in the year ahead. Stay tuned…