A master of the social conversation, Chris Smith talks about hard work, “life balance” and why it’s good when agents leave the business.
If you’ve every spent any time around Chris, you know he is a force of nature, constantly engaged and looking for ways to transform an industry recently thought of as out of touch. He’s a guy you want to be around, someone to learn from and to be inspired by. Chris has done a tremendous job of generating online and offline buzz for the ventures he has helped launch. In a social media era where most brands simply don’t get it, Chris has become arguably the most listened to voice in the real estate space by helping first without specific expectations of ROI. Seth Price of Placester recently asked Chris a few questions about his current projects, past experiences, and thoughts on today’s real estate industry.
I find that everyday things I experience inspire me to create a piece that I know will resonate. I help promote good stuff and people appreciate that a lot.
Placester: What are you working on right now?
Chris Smith: A lot. Inman News has primarily two channels, which are events and media. For events, it’s all about Real Estate Connect and Agent Reboot. There is an amazing group of smart people at Inman who put a tremendous amount of work into making it a special conference. We push ourselves on every detail and our goal, as it was at Inman before I arrived, is to set the bar for the entire industry by looking forward, not dwelling on the challenges of the past.
P: What does your typical day look like?
CS: I’d like to believe I like many Americans start my day the second I’m conscious by grabbing my iPhone. I seem to check Twitter, then email, then Facebook. My logic is that Twitter is real time, and I think it’s important to see that first.
Business is email for the most part, and then with Facebook, I usually end up being there the longest, so I save that for last. About half of my days each year, I’m on a Delta aircraft of some sort. The reason I’m so passionate about mobile is that never before could someone who was as physically busy as I am, traveling and speaking, also explore and take part in interesting conversations on the social platforms where I build my knowledge base and hone my skills.
As I travel, I’m always meeting new and interesting people, many of whom I’m very quick to admit are way smarter than me and teach me a ton, which I get to pass along via the Inman channels. Social media for me is a daily thing I do, which sounds lame, but it’s really me extending the wonderful conversations that start offline.
P: What’s the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn?
CS: I somehow ended up this one time at a Dial America type of place. I’ve had really great inside sales jobs in my career that I’m proud of and that have been critical in my decision-making and sales skills. But due to the absolutely unethical nature of the phone cold call industry, you were forced to literally read a script. Not learn it: read it. If you deviated, or they interrupted, you’d start over from the beginning and rerecord. It was brutal, and I lasted about a shift and a half. Now that I basically teach inbound marketing and permission marketing, it’s actually kind of ironic.
P: Three real estate trends that excite you?
- Not to be negative, but agents leaving the business excites me. I’m hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t agree there are way too many people in the business who give truly talented professionals and brands a bad name. Less is more, and in this case fewer agents is better for the end consumer and the process.
- I’m starting to see agents really see beyond the vendor horse-and-pony show, which is good for all. In the past, as the web was evolving, agents were so enameled as we all were. The idea that for x amount of dollars x million people would see your listings was the sale. As social and blogging and Twitter and other forums have evolved, it’s caused vendors to get better. Bottom line, if they don’t about 8 Tweets can really cause them some headaches. I’m excited because even if they want the solution to be figuring out how to keep that from happening it simply isn’t possible. I am excited because this makes the products AND the way the products are marketed with launches and such really exciting to watch.
- Content, and specifically super rich, super useful content, is starting to win. Due to the obvious length in the sales cycle around homes, agents and brokerages have to come up with new and exciting ways to incubate interest. Listings are not going to be the answer. Expert content that’s shareable and starts conversations within the local markets agents operate is going to be critical to revenue more than ever before. I’m excited to see which companies emerge when real estate companies are all forced to become content/media companies.
P: How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?
CS: The number one way is probably by reaching out to anyone else in the same category and building bridges with them. There is so much new online audience that it really comes down the content and who people feel a connection to. If that’s someone at another media site, or another blog, or even one of our InmanNext writers, I’m thrilled. I help promote good stuff. I think people appreciate that a lot.
P: How do you bring ideas to life?
CS: I use analogies a lot. I find that everyday things I experience inspire me to create a piece that I know will resonate. One of my favorite articles was about a nice girl at a pizza shop who was asking me all these questions about my neighborhood. She was really excited and at the end she said, “Thanks. You know you can never trust the Realtor.” For me, that’s when I write about agent reviews and the Yelp phenomenon we are seeing.
P: What inspires you?
CS: It’s a pretty short list, actually. Appreciation and gratitude are really one and two. In business and in my personal life. I only really have two passions, which are work and being a good husband and father. Everything is is a distraction to me.
P: What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
CS: I make mistakes all the time, so this is tough tough one. In all seriousness, I’m admittedly not a trained journalist or writer. I think sometimes that may be why a lot of people actually like me: they can understand it. That being said, I make a lot of grammatical mistakes. I’m awful about the use of “your” versus “you’re.” Every time I mix them up, I get get a flood of nasty messages publicly and privately. It teaches me to a) get better, and b) never be like the people who lack tact when they let me know.
P: How do you measure success?
CS: I had a friend who at a young age had an enormous amount of financial success and spotlight. I remember asking him what it felt like to take a step back and just take it all in. He said that he really doesn’t do that because he is always looking ahead. I copied him.
P: What advice would you give to someone starting out in real estate today?
CS: Have a budget. Have a plan. Find an experienced mentor. Research it for a year, minimum. Establish it is a true passion. Understand the 24/7 life it brings. Don’t watch reality shows about selling real estate and let that guide your entry decision.
P: What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
CS: I touched on it earlier, but help others publicly. Profile the 15 web savviest business in your area and tell your audience what makes them so great. Tell them you did it and then wait. Rinse and repeat, as time allows. The are a lot of ways this can be done pretty easily with technology, social, mobile, blogs and the like. Very little cost as well, which is always attractive.
Profile the 15 web savviest business in your area and tell your audience what makes them so great. Tell them you did it and then wait. Rinse and repeat, as time allows.
P: What do you read every day, and why?
CS: My iPad. Probably not what you meant. I read Twitter everyday. It leads me to reading really great things because I’ve been pretty solid with who I’ve put into my stream over the last few years. It’s really diverse. I am a big fan of Mari Smith, Jason Fried, Seth Godin and Gary Vaynerchuk. I can’t say I read them all daily, but they don’t put out any garbage, so I read them often.
P: What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?
CS: There are a lot of really great tech and social books that give a blueprint, like Crush It by Gary Vaunerchuk. The book I think most Realtors should read is ReWork by Jason Fried. The level of inefficiency technology is causing, compared to what it should be doing, which is the opposite, is sad. ReWork helps you really understand how to operate a business today.
P: What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
CS: The iPhone 4S, by a mile. I get asked a lot, “should I get an iPhone or an iPad first,” usually asked by a Blackberry user, and the answer is easy. The iPhone has quite literally created additional work hours for me in the day. I can’t even calculate the sum.
P: Who are three people we should follow on Twitter, and why?
@Corcoran_Group, really the epitome of how a brand can leverage the platform in all the right ways. Useful, helpful content by Matthew Shadbolt, their Director of Interactive Marketing, focused on New York City. @professionalone, because he’s who showed me the ropes and taught me the etiquette that had eluded me for a while on Twitter, like most. @katielance, she is the Inman zone’s social media director, and manages many accounts with 10,000’s of followers. She really is a great example of Twitter done right.
P: What Real Estate expert would you love to see us interview?
CS: The one who sold the least amount of homes for the most amount of money!
P: When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
CS: My son has a friend at school that loves Transformers. We saw Transformers underwear at the store, and Lucas wanted to get them because he wanted to show Marcus. Pretty funny.