Home It’s All About Who You Know: Realtor.com Acquires SocialBios

It’s All About Who You Know: Realtor.com Acquires SocialBios

Real estate service provider Move, owner of Realtor.com and related sites, announced this morning that it has acquired SocialBios. SocialBios is the startup named the most promising new technology at the prominent annual Inman real estate industry event this year. SocialBios is a service that aggregates a realtor’s social profiles from around the Web, displays their updates, finds out which friends or interests they have in common with potential real estate clients and more.

What does social media mean for real estate? I spoke with Errol Samuelson, president of Realtor.com, last week and he said he thinks substantial disruption of the industry is possible.

“You might think realty is about me finding a house, which it is, but the way you connect and close that transaction is hugely about finding the right people, finding the right agent and them connecting with your spouse,” Move’s Samuelson says.

The newly acquired service analyzes linked accounts on Foursquare, Facebook, Gmail and Twitter. First-level connections are discovered, but so are more distant connections. Are both a realtor and a prospective client members of the same alumni association? Did the client check-in on Foursquare recently at a restaurant that the realtor Liked on Facebook?

Samuelson says that on customer surveys each year, the need to find a compatible real estate agent is always one of the top four issues articulated by real estate customers.

Above: Texas real estate agent Ken Brand embeds his SocialBios profile into his blog.

“SocialBios is trying to solve a problem that’s unusually important in certain kinds of transactions,” says Samuelson.

Move’s Big Move

Real estate management consultancy 7DS Associates says it thinks Move’s acquisition of SocialBios will cause reverberations throughout the real estate industry.

“The last time Move ventured into an area, it triggered a transformation: listing syndication. When Move acquired ListHub, I wrote that we’d see a huge push into syndication quality. That is, in fact, what has happened…but with unpredictable consequences that are still playing out. I expect that Move’s move into social in a big way will have similar consequences.

“Now, I happen to be somewhat skeptical as to whether SocialBios in its current form will become the eHarmony.com of realtor matching, but time will tell on that front. What is more interesting is the motivation for Move to take this step.

“I think Move’s foray is particularly embarrassing and troublesome for brands like Better Homes & Gardens and Redfin, who have built an identity as being the ‘next generation real estate company’. Those guys are going to end up looking very much like the last generation if eighteen months from now, Realtor.com is fully baked in with social graph, powering up a huge lead generation engine that has nothing to do with properties or listings, and they’re stuck with one-time award winning websites and listing searches.

“Of course, none of that may come to pass, and SocialBios could just flop like crazy. Time will tell.”

“In some transactions what you buy is more important than who you buy it from. In real estate, given the complexity and size of the transactions, repercussions and duration, I might be going through the search and deal for six months. Who I buy from is almost equally important as what I buy. That means social is interesting.

“Referrals are big in realty, of course. And I might drive through the neighborhood and look at the yard signs. That doesn’t help you find out compatibility, though. The agent needs to get my mindset and think the way I think.”

This isn’t, of course, the way that real estate agents have traditionally found their clients. “I think this has the potential to be wildly disruptive,” Samuelson says. “If I’m a new agent coming into the business, I might have a lot of smarts and skills but I don’t have 15 years of experience. I think by offering a different dimension [social media] it creates an alternate way to break into the business.”

It’s not just new real estate agents that are interested in the service, though. Mike Bowler Sr. has been in the business for almost 15 years. “Every realtor should be considering a Social Bio for their business,” Bowler wrote on his blog this weekend. “You’ll be happy with it and it’s free. Social Bios is the only online service that allows individuals and companies to aggregate all of their disparate social network profile and connection data for generating new business referrals.”

On the back end, SocialBios has created a dashboard that realty agencies can use to track the social media activity of their agents and see who is connected online to the most inbound clients. Samuelson says he thinks this will help motivate agents that have created obligatory accounts on Facebook or Twitter but never really use them.

Samuelson says he’s thinking actively about how to engage next on Google Plus. (“I can imagine a circle that includes your Realtor and a circle that tracks your progress as it goes through escrow or renovations. Not everyone you know wants to hear about those things, but selective sharing online means those who do want to can.”) He says that the small SocialBios team is even more interesting than the existing technology they’ve built to date. “This social graph ‘find a Realtor’ application is their first app,” he told me, “but we are very excited about the team, they’ve got about 20 other ideas that I think are ingenious.”

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