The Wall Street Journal published an article late last Sunday evening about commercial real estate firms beefing up their presence on social networks with a particular emphasis on the use of Twitter.
On Monday morning I was up early, online and stumbled upon the article. I immediately tweeted the link to the article. I am not saying I was the first to tweet it, in fact I am sure I was not, but there are not a lot of commercial real estate professionals on Twitter at 6:25 am.
I knew what would ensue later that morning. The article would go viral at least among the commercial real estate professionals on Twitter.
Naturally, I read the article and in my opinion it was a fairly poor assessment of the commercial real estate industry’s affinity for Twitter. I could poke numerous holes in the perspective and overall tone of the story, but that is not my intent.
I only really have one point. If you think the commercial real estate industry is gravitating to Twitter in big numbers you’re wrong. Yes, the number of commercial real estate professionals experimenting with Twitter is accelerating and the size of the visible commercial real estate community in the twittersphere has grown exponentially over the last couple of years.
However, the number of active commercial real estate professionals on Twitter as a percentage of the total industry is microscopic. Many commercial real estate professionals are at least curious enough to open a twitter account, but quickly disappear. Some never actually send a tweet, while others send a few tweets, don’t really get what the buzz is about and never log on again. If there was one accurate statement in the WSJ article is was Ron Houghtaling, CBRE’s head of social media quote that, “People don’t understand it.”
I Don’t Care What You Had for Breakfast
I always use my own office as the litmus test to gauge how much social media is catching on among commercial real estate professionals. I work in a large office, for one of the industry’s largest firms in a major market. I believe it is accurate reflection of mainstream commercial real estate. Here is my point, I am basically the only professional in our office active on Twitter, I could say that 3 years ago, 2 years ago, a year ago and today. The “I don’t care what you had for breakfast” mentality” still lingers. In fairness, to the Wall Street Journal they also mentioned the use of LinkedIn in the article which in my opinion is the social platform with the most momentum among commercial real estate professionals. However the article’s emphasis on the number of twitter followers among the major CRE brokerage firms seemed to be the dominant message in the twitter stream that day. While there was a clear reason for this, I won’t go there.
The story of Twitter is an amazing one and a day doesn’t go by whereby you don’t hear Twitter mentioned in a conversation or on the news, but let’s be candid, CRE doesn’t understand it and for the most part they are not participating and if they are, it is just another channel to distribute their press releases. Quite frankly, I think that has been the initial attraction, the potential to reach thousands with your desired message at no cost. The push marketing mentality is well ingrained in the commercial real estate industry, just look at your email inbox every day. The big brands know they should be there, but are still struggling to learn how to effectively utilize the medium and this challenge isn’t unique to just the commercial real estate industry. There are some fantastic commercial real estate professionals on Twitter, they share great information, engage with the community, initiate new business relationships and really know how to effectively use this tool. They are just few and far between.