Blogger Spotlight; Jeff Turner

Whenever Jeff Turner ’speaks’, I listen!” A quote from one of my early interviews with Jessica Hughes. Jeff is among the most respected views on Active Rain. So when I saw his familiar face across the room at Inman Connect last week, I detoured my course to go introduce myself to him. Jeff’s blogging efforts go way beyond Active Rain though. In fact, they go beyond real estate, and the business world as well.

Hi Jeff, I want to talk about blogging with you. But first, please tell us a bit about Real Estate Shows.

Todd, thanks for inviting me to be a part of these interviews. I’m really honored to be doing this.

Real Estate Shows is a different approach to the real estate home tour. We mimic the look and feel of video by using still photos and a technique commonly referred to as the “Ken Burns” effect. The idea for Real Estate Shows came quite by accident. In the process of making a wedding video from our black and white wedding photos, I noticed that the images of the building and rooms without people really looked a lot like video. I remember saying to myself, “Wow. That would be a good way to show a home online. At the time, four years ago, if a home had a tour at all, it was a 360 virtual tour. I called them “vertigo tours.”

So I begin poking around. After a few days of searching, I really felt like something was missing from the marketing of a home on the Internet. There was nothing about the few presentations I found that drew me into the home. I didn’t really put my finger on the exact reasons why until I showed my first few samples to Bill Leider, who is now one of my partners. Through some early research and conversations with him it became clear that what our Shows were doing was using the combination of image, movement and music to create an emotionally positive experience. That what differentiates our tours from others.

Initially all of our Shows were exported as video. But our clients quickly educated us on how inflexible the medium was. We’d get request to change the music, because the seller didn’t like it, or to change our a scene because of redecoration or seasonal changes. Rendering the video for each change didn’t make sense on either end. So we decided to create a solution that simply and elegantly allowed the real estate agent to do it without our help. Everything is dynamic and all changes are instantly applied wherever the Shows are linked. I think that makes it better than video for greatest percentage of listings. And the changes dramatically reduced the price as a result.

We’re proud of the back end of our site. I can say with a great deal of confidence that no one makes it easier than we do. And, as I’m sure you’re aware, things that are hard to use don’t get used. One of the reasons Real Estate Shows works is because it’s easy. And for that reason, people use it more often.

What lead you to the decision to market Real Estate Shows through blogging?

Again, it was an accident. One of our clients, Russ Perlowski sent an email into our customer service department saying that I should take a look at ActiveRain. He said it was a real estate networking site. My first post there was really just a test. I was trying to see how everything worked. But I quickly discovered there was something very familiar about it.

We had been trying to educate our clients about the need to use our shows for more than just listings. We wanted them to use our pricing model their advantage and create Shows for buyers and about neighborhoods, businesses, restaurants, events, etc, But we were never able to identify a platform that would help facilitate that.

Blogging is that platform. Our clients are now coming to realize that they can snap photos of a local park, or schools, and very quickly make a Real Estate Show that can be embedded into the blog post. Much of what we had been advising agents to do is best accomplished via blogging and our shows just add value to that. And ActiveRain really opened my eyes to that..

But I don’t often blog about Real Estate Shows directly on ActiveRain. The vast, vast majority of my posts have nothing to do with RealEstateShows.com. I’m thankful for what I’ve learned there and my goal is to try and give back as much as possible. Our Real Estate Shows Blog is where we spend our time talking about how to use the product more effectively.

Poking around the net, I see you’re using blogging as a medium to communicate several non-business related topics. For instance, would you tell us about stopchildslavery.com, and why you choose blogging to advance this cause?

I work out of my house, which I love. One afternoon my wife called me out of my office and forced me to watch an Oprah episode about child slavery in Ghana fishing villages. I sat stunned watching a four year old child, like one of my sons, working grueling 18 hour days on these dangerous boats. I cried like a baby. I felt like I had been asleep and someone just woke me up by pouring ice water over my head.

I got up off of the couch, walked into my office and immediately began writing. What is now StopChildSlavery.com was up in less than an hour. I began by simply saying, “I don’t know where this is going to go or how it’s going to work. But I’m certain that someone must stop child slavery. I’m certain that I’ve got to stop thinking that someone is someone else.”

I’m proud to have attracted a couple of other passionate writers to help educate and focus attention on the topic. The next step for me is action. The beauty of blogging is that it can extend the reach of your voice… if you’re willing to commit yourself to doing it consistently. Because of that reach, I’ve now met people who are in the trenches actually working directly to get children out of slavery. I’d like to be a part of that.

I ran across a post you made on Active Rain concerning the responsibility to communicate properly while using the written word. Looking back at the posts you’ve written since then, do you feel that you’ve done a better job of conveying your intent? What advice would you like to share from the experience?

You know, it’s funny. That post was actually triggered by a misinterpreted comment I made on Kevin Tomlinson’s blog. My intent was to congratulate, but it was taken as the wrong way.

The written word is easy to misunderstand, so I thought the best way to correct the misunderstanding was to do a video. That way they could see my face, hear my voice, and get a better feel for who I was.

I’m not sure much has changed in the way I write posts since them, but I’m much more aware of comments I make. They tend to be more immediate. My advice? Don’t rush comments. The biggest mistakes in communication I see are found in the comments, not in the posts.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

I’m a big technology fan, so my reading leans in that direction, though I spend a good deal of time on poetry and design blogs as well. Macrumors, Scobeilzer, Mashable, John Batelle’s Searchblog, and Engadget are a few. I like LifeHacker too. For writing tips, I like Copyblogger and Daily Writing Tips. I spend a lot of time reading online. The majority of my time on the computer is research.

Do you have any tips or advice for a fellow real estate professional that’s looking to get into blogging?

Write from a place of desire. A desire to share. A desire to learn. A desire to connect. Write with a desire to actually meet people and engage in dialogue. The goal is to actually meet real live human beings. So write like you’re telling a friend about the topic
And do that every day. It works, but not if you don’t work at it.

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