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Promoting Good Works in the MLS

Jul 30, 2007 Michael Wurzer

Last week (which seems an eternity ago), I posted about Clay Shirky’s article called A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy and how the principles discussed apply directly to MLS in this web world. I said then that “I truly believe this is the framework for reinventing the constitutions of the MLSs” and I believe that statement even more now than I did last week in the rush of reading the article and writing my post.

To back up my statement, I intend to delve into the Shirky principles for developing social software in more detail in several posts, starting with this one. Shirky lists four issues you need to design for in social software, and I’d like to focus on the first two:

  1. ” The first thing you would design for is handles the user can invest in.”
  2. “Second, you have to design a way for there to be members in good standing. Have to design some way in which good works get recognized.”

These two things seem to me to be very related. The user can invest in their “handle” (who they are on the system) if their good works get recognized. These two things combine to create a reputation.

Historically, in the MLS, reputation has centered on sales statistics, which certainly are important, but limited, as Mark Twain so aptly described. If you slice and dice the sales stats enough, everybody with even one sale is number one somewhere for some market.  (Which might be one reason MLSs often don’t allow members to run system-wide sales rankings; that, and the myth that brokers will use such stats (as if they don’t have them anyway) to poach the best agents.)

Also, are sales statistics the only “good work” in real estate? The idea of teams has put that question into high relief recently, as team members each bring their talents to the equation. Of course, team sales are the ultimate objective, but how do you slice and dice those stats for the individual team members?

I would suggest that MLS social systems could benefit greatly from expanding the good works of real estate beyond sales to any content created in the system. Athol Kay keeps his blog running with the Bad MLS Photo of the Day. Could there be a virtuous cycle created by allowing agents to promote their photos better in the system? How about photo ratings within the MLS, creating reputations around excellent photos? Or how about the best CMAs? Or the most knowledge about a particular neighborhood? Or the buyer’s agent with the most prospects? Or the best blogs?

The bottom line is that there are many types of content added to the MLS system all the time that are never tracked or promoted as they could be. The “hot sheet” in the MLS could become a lot hotter if some of these additional good works were better promoted and allowed the members to garner reputations around them. This could lead to more segmentation of services and allow agents to focus on particular talents as opposed to only rewarding the ultimate sale. In turn, that could raise the professionalism of the MLS members as a whole. Okay, maybe that’s going a little far, but, again, there’s a seed here, I think, and it needs growing.