Automatically Turning Real Estate Listings into Tweets

TweetLister is an online service that makes it simple for real estate brokers, agents and owners to market their property listings on Twitter. It automatically takes your real estate listings, turns them into information-packed 140-character tweets, and posts them on a scheduled basis to one or more of your Twitter accounts. You can schedule listings to tweet daily, every two or three days, weekly, or monthly, and you can set a start and end date for each listing.

TweetLister was launched in November 2009 as a free service, allowing users to manually input and schedule one listing at a time. The press and users quickly caught on, and soon we had a large and growing number of users from around the world. A few months later, we formed a relationship with ListHub.net, a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) aggregator that now feeds more than 2 million U.S. property listings to TweetLister daily – so that all brokers and agents need to do is sign up, “claim” their listings, and schedule them to tweet.

TweetLister became a subscription-based service in January 2010. Agent accounts, which allow individual agents to claim their own exclusive listings, are $9.95/month; Broker accounts, which allow brokers and real estate offices to claim all of their listings, are $19.95/month. While the vast majority of subscribers are agents and brokers from the United States, we still have a user-base of real estate professionals and home sellers from a number of other countries. The vacation home sales and rental market, for one, is one of our stronger areas outside the U.S.

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One of TweetLister’s main objectives is to make sure the service remains sensitive to the spirit of “social media”. One reason that listings must be scheduled individually is to prevent spammers from misusing the service. Another goal is to constantly update and upgrade the underlying functionality of the website, so that it continues to operate reliably for its subscribers.

In addition to the subscription plans that TweetLister offers, users can also contract for custom solutions. These often include feeds of non-MLS or non-US listings and vacation property listings, and customized tweet-scheduling options. One of the most interesting parts of running a site like TweetLister is that we regularly hear creative ideas – some of which approach the level of genius – from real estate entrepreneurs worldwide. These are people who struggle to stay ahead of the competition on a daily basis – and they are always thinking of ways to use the internet to their advantage.

TweetLister was started and continues to operate on a self-funded basis. The three principals – Lloyd Chrein, Mark Schleimer and Prakash Parikh – are web developers who have been working together for more than a decade. Mr. Chrein owns and operates a web development agency, Chrein.com (http://www.chrein.com), with more than 120 clients – many of which are in the real estate area. Mr. Schleimer and Mr. Chrein build and maintain real estate sales and marketing sites brokerages and management companies in their home base of New York, and well beyond.

The idea for TweetLister grew out of a set of tools they began building for several of their brokerage clients. One of these tools – which turns listing information into tweets – gained in popularity, and it made sense to try and turn it into a business for a wider market. The principals put their own money and even more of their own sweat into planning and building TweetLister, a process that took approximately four months. At first, the main costs were for hosting and software licensing. Since the paid model was introduced, TweetLister has been operating in the black, and revenue is steadily increasing as more users learn about the service.

While the business is a success, the “shoestring model” presents constant challenges to TweetLister and its owners. Without a substantial marketing budget, a good amount of time each day is spent on getting the word out on a grassroots and social level. It would have been nice to have the resources to advertise, and more importantly, to travel around the country attending real estate trade shows and making personal connections with the major players in the national real estate industry. Customer service is also a challenge. Without the resources to hire customer service specialists or even use a call center, a lot of top-level time is spent answering user questions (even if the answers can be found on the website). Luckily, development and upgrades have never presented an issue – because of the in-house abilities of TweetLister’s principals. And as revenue continues to grow, more options for overall management are becoming available.

But with continued effort, and ingenuity, we have been able to continue to promote and improve the TweetLister service. And as our popularity grows, one never knows who could take an interest in what TweetLister has to offer.

Website:
http://www.tweetlister.com

Twitter:
http://www.twitter.com/tweetlister

Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/TweetLister/140547992676573

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