Deliver Better Technology Education

Considering that most associations have as part of their mission statement “to help members succeed in business,” it’s fitting that they’d offer technology education. Even if all real estate is local and personal relationships are the lifeblood of the industry, there’s no doubting the major role technology plays in the homebuying and homeselling process.

But what topics do you need to offer your members?

“The hotter topics right now are going paperless in the cloud and using a lot of the free Google tools,” says real estate technology educator Craig Grant. “Anytime I teach stuff like that, the rooms are always filled.” Grant presents at dozens of real estate events a year, both association and franchise, and says real estate practitioners want to master doing business completely on mobile and stop relying on paper, “but a lot of them really have a tough time doing it.”

Kristyne Shelton at the small Aiken Board of REALTORS®, S.C., says courses on using an iPad, YouTube, and social media sell out quickly. “I think the key is finding a good instructor that focuses the class specifically on the real estate market,” she says.

Although most members can use a computer and browse the internet, determining which level of technology education will appeal to your members is tricky, AEs say.

To help plan the technology track at the annual Triple Play REALTOR® Convention & Trade Expo, Maureen Murphy, director of professional development at New Jersey REALTORS®, analyzes past attendee surveys, looks at what classes are popular at local associations, and asks local technology staff for recommendations. The conference’s planning committee takes into account all of this data and scours the submitted presentations for new ideas.

“At the last Triple Play, there was one session about the ‘Amazon effect’ that was very popular,” says Murphy. “It had no CE so we were shocked that it had such a huge turnout.” The session focused on how consumers are looking for the same personalized, fast, consistent experience from their real estate professionals that they get online from Amazon.  

Surveys, committees, and focus groups are the most often employed methods for gauging what members might want to learn, but Nobu Hata, NAR’s director of member engagement, has another idea: Hang out with top-producing members to see what they’re doing.

“The gap between broker and association is growing. Those associations that have decent broker relations tend to have more relevant education,” says Hata. “Those who don’t end up offering the same basic classes over and over again to members who won’t implement a thing.”

Hata recommends that AEs “launch a social media group filled with your top-producing members and tech masterminds, who will then draw a local crowd on the tech, marketing, and lead funnel topics, since it’s all one big conversation.”

So is technology so intertwined with business that classes merely on how to use an application or device are no longer relevant?

“Just teaching a pure Facebook class doesn’t bring them in the way it used to,” says Grant. “If you’re going to teach social media it’s got to be more about how to leverage all different aspects of social media to make your work easier. I’m seeing more interest in how REALTORS® can use technology to do their job better.”

Hata has been delivering his “What Buyers and Sellers Want” class nonstop for almost two years because it covers using the latest tech in an actionable way from people actually using it.

NAR’s growing one-day Tech Edge events, now offered nine times a year, feature a variety of topics intermingling technology with business, such as “The Internet of Things and the REALTOR®’s Place In It” and “Working with the Connected Buyer and Seller.”

Hata, an emcee and presenter at several Tech Edge events, will cover social media ad campaigns, pay-per-click campaigns, content and lead curation, team building, using portals better in lead-generation campaigns, when to use “live” technology, and using offer and transaction management tech to prevent cyberscams.

One technology trend that’s important to note when planning education, says Hata, is the heavy investment franchises have made into proprietary technology and their push to get agents to use it. “Realogy is training at every level to get their agents to use their Zap business platform,” he says. “Because there has been a lot of ‘shiny object syndrome’ spurred on by so many new tech tools in the industry causing agents to lose focus and money, brokers have been pushing their own platforms and a ‘nothing else outside of our bubble matters’ narrative.”

But while franchise agents are homing in on branded platforms, independents still have wide-ranging needs, says Sharon Hoydich, director of professional development at Florida REALTORS®. A broad menu of technology-related offerings designed to attract a wide audience is the plan at the 2017 Florida REALTORS® Convention & Trade Expo. “For this year’s event, we’ll have seven classes in our technology track featuring everything from Katie Lance on the power of Periscope to Stephan Swanepoel on digital innovations,” she says.

From understanding the relevance of Snapchat and Instagram to realizing the impact of Opendoor, Faira, and Haus, the key to delivering technology education and information to members comes down to understanding their needs and delivering relevance.

Hot Topics in Tech Ed
(from a social media survey of AEs and association education directors)

  • iBrand your YouTube page
  • iEvernote for productivity
  • iAnalytics of Facebook
  • iSocial media legal compliance
  • iTop 10 tools from RPR
  • How to use drones and drone footage
  • Virtual and augmented reality in your business
  • Understand big data and predictive analysis for lead generation
  • Listing presentations on iPads and tablets
  • Mobile productivity
  • Hot apps
  • How to shoot your own virtual tours
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