REBNY plans new website launch, amid social media boost

The Real Estate Board of New York is planning to launch a new website this fall, after ramping up its online efforts with a new dedicated social media specialist, Amanda Wood. The revamped site, which will allow users to interact online, aims to enhance members' ability to share input and comments.

"We're creating an infrastructure so they can create blogs and share information that way," Wood said of the site. REBNY has created a 15-person website committee to help determine which web features to include on the site. Among the committee members are: Prudential Douglas Elliman's Corinne Pulitzer, Warburg Realty's Steve Goldschmidt and Studley managing director William Montana. The trade organization will also seek feedback from its membership beyond the committee.

The new website is part of a larger effort REBNY has begun to increase its online presence, according to Wood, whose hiring this past summer was part of that new initiative.

"I was hired to open REBNY up and supply more information. ... We're working to make more information public," said Wood.

While REBNY declined to comment on the website's cost, Wood, who is overseeing the effort, did note that "it's surprisingly affordable, as far as websites go."





Google Pimps Out Personal Profiles

Google has redesigned Google Profiles, the profile pages that all Gmail users can set up with pictures and information about them.

If you set your Google Profile to be visible to everyone, then it will likely be at the top of the Google search results when someone looks up your name, which makes it an important part of your personal brand.

The new Profile looks a bit more like the Info page on your Facebook profile, with your photo in the top left corner, essential information about you below, while a scrapbook of photos and more detailed info about your occupation, employment, education and whereabouts dominates the biggest part of the page. The new design is not groundbreaking in any way, but it’s much nicer than before and it gets the job done.

In a blog post announcing the new Profiles, Google reiterates that Google Profiles are designed for individuals, not businesses; Google claims it’s working on “new ways for businesses to engage with their customers,” and hopefully we can expect some updates there in the near future.

To edit your profile, visit

Google Search Results Get More Social

Google is taking its biggest step yet toward making search results more social.

Though Google remains many people’s front door to the Web, people have increasingly been turning to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to search for shopping tips, what to read or travel information from people they know. Google said Thursday that its search results would now incorporate much more of that information.

“Relevance isn’t just about pages — it’s also about relationships,” Mike Cassidy, a Google product management director, and Matthew Kulick, a product manager, wrote in a company blog post announcing the new features.

Google has had a version of social search since 2009. People could link their Google profiles to LinkedIn and Twitter, for instance, and posts their friends had created would show up at the bottom of search results. But only a small percentage of people did this, and the chances that one of your LinkedIn contacts has written a blog post on a city you’re planning to visit is relatively slim.

Now, links to posts from friends across the Web, including on Twitter, YouTube and Flickr, will be incorporated into search results, not hidden at the bottom of the page, with a note and a picture telling you the post is from your friend. So if you are thinking about traveling to a beach in Mexico that a friend has visited, a link to her blog could be a top result.

Google will also let you know if a friend of yours has shared a particular link on the Web. This is a big change, because before, Google would only highlight material that acquaintances actually created.

You might be more likely to read an essay on a topic related to your job if a professional contact on Twitter shared it, for instance. That is a point that many Web publishers, including The Huffington Post and, have taken to heart.

Finally, Google users will be able to privately link their social networking accounts to their Google profiles. Before, those connections were made public, which might have discouraged some users. People will see social results only if they are logged in to their Google accounts and have connected their social networking accounts.

Notably, there is no mention of Facebook in Google’s announcement, through the company blog post says social results will appear only “if someone you’re connected to has publicly shared a link.” Facebook posts are generally private, and Facebook has made it difficult for Google to import social information, as several Google executives have complained in the past.

Why Permission Marketing Is the Future of Online Advertising

Privacy challenges by public interest groups and the FTC are threatening to dismantle or seriously curtail the behavioral targeting model of interactive advertising as it stands today. Fearful of damaging relationships with their readers, many publishers are removing third-party widgets and other technologies when those technologies are found to capture and sell user data without the user’s express permission.

Even Facebook itself has cracked down on unauthorized data scraping. Recent “Do Not Track” efforts are trying to move choices about data sharing from publishers to the people via browser technology. But these are merely symptoms of a larger problem with interactive advertising: a lack of transparency. It’s a problem that new social tools will play a significant role in addressing.

Rather than an endgame where consumers completely block any sort of data sharing, I see a future where marketers take the high road and both sides benefit from better quality data, advertising and content.

Permission Marketing

The concept of “Permission Marketing” isn’t new; in fact, Seth Godin’s 1999 book about “turning strangers into friends and friends into customers” seems remarkably prescient in today’s age of “Friending,” “Liking,” and “Following.” Godin told the (then e-mail-dominated) interactive industry, “By talking only to volunteers, Permission Marketing guarantees that consumers pay more attention to the marketing message. It serves both customers and marketers in a symbiotic exchange.”

Today, technologies like Facebook Connect and OAuth are helping to redefine the concept of permission marketing. Using these technologies, brands, retailers, publishers and other sites are able to actively establish a permission-based relationship with their users and customers on their own websites. Now websites have the opportunity to embrace transparency, to be upfront with people during the registration process about how their data will be used, as well as how it will benefit both parties.

We have a new generation comfortable using Facebook and other mobile apps and who, according to recent survey data, are quite willing to share personal information with companies and brands in exchange for value provided. They are also relatively unconcerned about the security of data they share on social networks. The bottom line is that this type of authorization-based relationship between brand and user is likely to become the norm.

This Year’s Model

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So what exactly is the data and advertising opportunity for sites? The Huffington Post is the poster child for this new social data-based permission marketing approach. Readers register on the site using their existing Facebook, Twitter or other social identity, thereby giving HuffPo access to data with which the site can personalize the user experience.

For readers, this means they can see what their friends are reading and sharing on their site, giving them a powerful social filter for relevant content. It also means The Huffington Post can sell advertising on their own site based on everything they know about the user from a social perspective.

I had a chance to meet Huffington Post CEO Eric Hippeau at last year’s IAB leadership summit, where publishers get together to talk about the future of interactive advertising, and he shared with me that their integration and application of Facebook Connect and similar technologies to create a social news experience has been the key driver of their phenomenal traffic growth over the past year plus. Social advertising is also a key source of their revenue growth. HuffPo considers their site to be in the category of social media, and structures their ad sales team to serve that unique buyer. For publishers and advertisers, this approach has the power of Facebook ads, yet is superior because it combines the best of both worlds –- deep context plus social data.

Social Sign-On

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While Social registration, also known as Social Sign-On, is the foundation for this new relationship-based model, the layers on top of that foundation are the most promising for the future of advertising. In addition to basic demographic targeting, sites could offer advertising based on interest data, targeting movie fans or iPod fans for example. Sites could also sell against social influence and activity — factors such as the number of friends, propensity to share and history of driving referral traffic, or even the number of items “Liked” as an indicator of engagement. Reward programs driven by game mechanics are a key part of the nurturing process in this new model, where a loyal, engaged and most importantly non-anonymous audience is the new currency of advertising.

Sites and brands need to ask themselves: What am I offering people that they will truly value in exchange for permission to talk to them as a friend and not an anonymous user? Badges may not be right for every site experience, but successful apps and other web experiences like those on The Huffington Post prove that it is not an unattainable goal.

As with all new models, there are challenges to address. Sites need a critical mass of users to grant them these permissions in order to sell advertising effectively. Privacy concerns with social network data will evolve over time and regulatory pressure will certainly cause the interactive industry some headaches as we move to a new equilibrium. But it is inevitable that a permission-based model will prevail, and those that are able to rapidly embrace this model and experiment with its possibilities will win higher CPMs, new ways to differentiate against the competition, and a more loyal audience.