It is one year this week since I started using Twitter to help with my work as a property journalist and, by coincidence, one of my last stories of 2010 has been a road-test of property apps useful to house buyers.
The connection between these two? Well, both have shown me that many estate agents find it genuinely impossible to exploit Twitter's and apps' communication potential.
Until my apps story is published (in the Sunday Telegraph in the New Year) I cannot give too many details of its contents. But suffice to say that while several estate agents have developed apps which beautifully present their instructed properties, with the odd map and floor plans and that commonly-available clever GPS function, no agent appears able or willing to go any further with content.
Their apps lack the non-advertising information useful to house hunters, like estimated values of nearby houses or recent sale price data or thorough background about locations. All this and much more appears on apps produced by property portals and a few apps created by entrepreneurial individuals cashing in on new technology, so it can be done.
Likewise those big name 'corporate' estate agents on Twitter (usually via a PR or marketing office) operate in what can only be described as a stuff-shirt way, which seems very counter productive. They advertise the odd house or plug their latest research reports, but again do little else.
There are notable exceptions, of course, and I admire the way they as individuals have combined a 'corporate image' with modern-thinking use of Twitter.
But in social media - relying on informality, banter and the occasional exchange of opinions and information - most corporate estate agents simply appear too straight-laced and formal to take part effectively.
All this is unsurprising, perhaps, although no one seems to point it out.
Corporate institutions in long established industries like property tend to be slow to modernise. A wariness of social media and unwillingness to maximise information on apps are both entirely predictable from companies which still think the proper thing to do is to have shop front premises, corporate bases in central London and in most cases heavily male-dominated boards and attitudes.
When I started using Twitter I was very sceptical of it but it has created business for me - and it makes work more interesting, too.
Surely the big corporate agents, with very large marketing and PR budgets, can find a way of maintaining a corporate image but loosening their ties enough to compete with more modern-thinking players in social media and the like?
Perhaps that will be a theme in the year to come. On the other hand, when I joined Twitter a year ago I thought the big agents would have cracked it in 12 months but today they seem as formal and old school as ever.
(PS - before anyone says it, there are very few property journalists on Twitter too...but that's another story, coming up on this blog shortly).
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