Real estate is always about one thing — location, location, location. With geolocation services amplifying the social user experience, some real estate professionals have taken advantage of the opportunity to truly be everywhere for their clients.
New York City-based Corcoran Group is no different with its “Get Out Nearby” initiative on its iPhone app which, as of this month, integrates Curbed stories with listings. I interviewed Matthew Shadbolt, Corcoran’s director of interactive marketing, to see just how Corcoran has become a neighborhood guru thanks to tools like Foursquare and Gowalla.
How has Foursquare taken your business to the next level? Are there any plans to utilize other location-based service apps?
For us, our Foursquare initiative is really an extension of our brand premise, and reflects one of the key ways that Corcoran differentiates itself from other real estate services online. We believe that at its core, what’s beyond the four walls of the apartment or home is an integral part of the home-purchasing experience, and for many, just as important as what the apartment itself consists of.
As a result, we share local information in terms of “what’s nearby” a property. Online, this has resulted in content partnerships with Zagat Survey to see what’s around a listing or inside our iPhone app based on what the user is looking at. We provide a detailed level of information on nearby dining, shopping and nightlife recommendations, and provide a customized level of neighborhood content about an area. We believe it leads to a much better sense of what it’s like to live somewhere.
So the concept of “what’s nearby” is an important one for us, and paired with our social media initiatives in Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Foursquare became a great way to do the same thing but in a location-specific, personalized way, on the phone. We believe that providing these kinds of services on the phone and putting our local knowledge in users’ hands is very exciting. Our almost 1,000 tips around New York have proven very popular with our over 5,000 followers, and it’s been a very powerful and fun way to grow our brand presence. We have similar initiatives within Gowalla and Foodspotting.
Inside of our own iPhone app, when browsing nearby local information, users can check in to venues directly inside Corcoran’s app.
In your opinion, what makes these services so innovative? In what ways is it better to use this service to interact with clients as opposed to using the check-in features on Facebook and Yelp, for instance?
Our strategy has so far focused on tips as opposed to check-ins, mayorships and badges. It’s difficult to have a brand presence on Yelp based on their user requirements, and Facebook Places also struggles for brand-centric presence outside of bricks-and-mortar venues. We are more interested in sharing local expertise rather than limiting ourselves to only being able to talk about our actual offices. It’s also a lot more fun for the user. We believe that Foursquare understands this better than others, and how to grow these services in a powerful, focused way, truly building on their premise of making cities more fun to explore.
The recent “explore and discover” enhancements to their app are a perfect fit for how we’ve been building out our presence, and we’re excited to see where they take the product next. The aggregation of user data combined with what they’ve been building with merchant loyalty is a fascinating thing to watch grow.
For a while, Foursquare was dismissed as just another trend, and brands are just recently getting acquainted with it. As a real estate firm, how do you differentiate between some of the new technology that is considered “silly” or “just a trend,” and technology that’s actually the real deal? Do you use that to your advantage?
For us, it always come down to problem-solving. Foursquare solves a marketing problem for us in that it allows us to share our deep knowledge and understanding of what it’s like to live in New York, directly in people’s hands on the phone as they are exploring the city. It puts helpful and relevant information in the right hands at the right time. We think that being helpful, relevant and timely is a great way to grow a real estate brand digitally.
Privacy is a primary concern when dealing with geolocation tools on social networks. Does your app feature anything to alleviate some of the privacy concerns of your consumers? Do you think the debate over privacy issues will lessen the buzz over services like Foursquare, and in turn, affect your business model?
The concept of privacy is always an interesting one when paired with smartphone technology and apps. Ultimately, the user has full control over what they are or aren’t sharing, and Foursquare have been very vocal and supportive about getting their users to understand this. Just as with online, everything is “opt-in,” and you have control over sharing the information with who you feel most comfortable with. We think that as smartphone adoption continues to explode, and that more and more services utilize the built-in GPS functionality for “near me now” services, it will become more familiar to a wider group of people. We don’t see “what’s near me” or providing helpful, local information going away any time soon.
Your app is useful for plenty of functions besides its’ Foursquare compatibility; how do you keep from overwhelming consumers with all of the information?
We feel that if the information shared in the app is helpful, relevant, and targeted with what the user is specifically interested in, paired with where they are, then the content becomes less overwhelming and more interesting. The user experience on a phone also automatically forces us to simplify our approach versus what we do online. We also think that making the content fun to explore is important, and our recent project of adding Curbed, Racked and Eater news stories into our app is a good example of this. Those stories are “discovered” in the app, working in a similar way to the ‘nearby specials’ concept in Foursquare.
Though it may take time for the industry to get on board, do you think Foursquare has legitimately changed the way consumers interact with agents?
Ultimately, not yet. We think there’s a bigger play for brands right now as opposed to individuals. However, positioning yourself as a local expert and sharing relevant, useful information about places in the neighborhood is an interesting play for those in the real estate industry.
Any tips on how agents can use Foursquare to their advantage?
Be helpful, have fun, provide insight, and most importantly, don’t sell. No one wants to see open houses appearing in Foursquare.
Image credit: Pgiam, via iStockphoto