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Op/Ed

Fake news, reviews, and now fake people? Oh my!

(OPINION EDITORIAL) You’ve likely heard that reviews and like can now be purchased as easily as you morning paper, but the newest commodity may surprise you.

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Fake likes

By now you’ve likely heard social media “likes,” site reviews and comments can literally be bought and undisclosed sponsored posts on social media are now subject to regulation by the FTC.

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So, you’d think that would be the extent of the fake commodity game, right? Unfortunately, there’s more to come.

Surkus surplus

The Washington Post’s Peter Holley detailed the latest plot to allow some businesses to get the upper hand on their competitors. The new idea comes from a former Groupon employee, Stephen George, who developed an app called Surkus that allows individuals to connect with businesses in a unique way.

Surkus connects individuals with businesses that are willing to pay people to come to their store or event. That’s right, you can now pay people to show up at your event.

Genius marketing tool or absolute madness?

You might be thinking who on Earth would want to pay people to show up at their store or to attend an event? I thought the same thing at first too, but when you think about it a bit more, it’s just a more inventive, possibly more effective, aspect of marketing.

If you open a new business, maybe a restaurant, club, coffee shop, or even bookstore and you want to ensure there’s a line outside the door on opening day, Surkus can help make that happen.

Oftentimes, grand openings are covered by local press and using Surkus can ensure the first impression made is a lasting one. Long lines generate interest and curiosity: what’s going on there? What do they sell? It must be good if people are waiting for it.

What’s it going to cost me?

Businesses pay anywhere between $5 and $100 per person to create a fake crowd, with the average price per person being between $25 and $40. Seem a little high? Stephen George explained, “[Businesses] hire promoters and marketers and PR agencies to connect, but it’s a one-sided interaction that involves blasting out a message to get people engaged, but they don’t necessarily know if that message is being received.”

He also argues that Surkus’ “crowdcasting” model is the answer as the app uses an algorithm to target age, location, style interest, and Facebook Likes (which can be bought, remember?) to select favorable candidates to show up to your next event. The app also employs geolocation technology to ensure the paid attendee stays as long as they’re supposed to; if they leave early it effects their “reputation score” which is also tracked in the app.

What’s the long-term benefit?

I’m not sure there is a long-term benefit to fake crowds. While I can certainly see the advantage of having a prosperous (or at least prosperous-looking) opening, if these individuals are not asked to leave a review or engage with the brand on social media, what long-term benefit does it offer the business? Also, remember when I mentioned that social media moguls are required by the FTC to disclose when a post is sponsored? How is this any different?

You’re basically sponsoring a person to show up.

I’m not sure why this wouldn’t or shouldn’t be subjected to the same rules.

One could argue that businesses have been employing this fake crowdcasting model for eons through the use of coupons, raffles, and moonlight madness sales along with the lure of free food and drink or the chance to win something bright and shiny, as this also makes people show up in droves (hello Black Friday?).

The takeaway

In my opinion, a business needs to know what it’s true target market looks like and buy patronage to fill seats. In rare cases, I can see how this could be used to save face in the event you’re expecting press and people bail at the last minute, this could be a useful tool.

However, using this to make your business look as though it’s flourishing when you’re just getting started could do more harm than good; because even though Surkus members are instructed to keep the fact that they’re being paid to be there under their hats, all it takes is one disgruntled member to tell tale and potentially ruin your business. What will people think about your business if they find out you’re buying fake customers/reviews/comments/Likes?

I believe in dire situations this might be a tool, but for the vast majority of businesses, I fervently believe your money and marketing efforts would be best spent elsewhere.

#DontBuyPatrons

Senior Staff Writer at The Real Daily, Jennifer Walpole holds a Master of English from the University of Oklahoma. She has long been a dedicated business and technology writer, and she holds real estate close to her heart, as she comes from a family of brokers.

Op/Ed

Make better decisions in 2018 by quitting (wait, hear me out)

(EDITORIAL) 2018 doesn’t have to be the year that you start something. Embody the phrase “less is more” by quitting and letting go.

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Around this time every year, people everywhere gear up to attack New Year’s resolutions with short-lived vigor, while people like me get ready to ridicule some of the more over-the-top examples of the “New year, new me!” crowd. This year, perhaps we should consider the adage “less is more” by cutting old habits rather than implementing new ones.

Put simply, it isn’t feasible to jump into 20 different hobbies/routines/lifestyles every time a new year rolls around, yet we seem to convince ourselves otherwise every January 1st; if your heart isn’t in what you’re trying to do, you won’t stick with it, no matter how much you “want” to do it.

Take the gym crowd, for example: you may have an objective understanding that working out is good for you while actively hating the gym, making it difficult for you to stick to what ends up being a shaky resolution.

What IS feasible is taking stock of everything that you do that doesn’t fit into your paradigm of operation. Do you spend an unwanted extra hour or two on the computer each day? If so, perhaps it’s time to start drawing the line at 5:00 sharp rather than letting clients hold you over.

The same goes for personal preferences as well: you may feel as though you need to devote countless hours of your time to weeding or cleaning, but it may be better for you to focus on the things that actually matter to you.

Obviously, we all have responsibilities that demand our attention (we’re not suggesting that you start ditching your kids’ soccer practice in favor of Tequila Tuesdays) but it is possible to exaggerate those responsibilities’ importance.

What you do with the spare time from your lifestyle pruning is completely up to you; however, by focusing on your actual hobbies, interests, and passions, you’ll most likely find that your quality of life improves while your day-to-day stress level decreases exponentially.

2018 doesn’t have to be the year that you start something; instead, consider making it the year that you close some overdue chapters in your personal book to make a little more space for the things that you love.

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Op/Ed

Technologists still think they can supplant Realtors #eyeroll

(EDITORIAL) It’s an age-old tale, but a new Alexa app implies they’re going to put Realtors out of work. Sure thing, buddies.

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Gertrude Stein once wrote that, “everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”

No doubt about it – the more information one can get, especially in a critical business negotiation – the better. But, as with many things, the volume of information becomes so overwhelming that we lose focus of what bits of information are truly important, how to deploy what we’ve learned from them, and how to use them to our advantage.

In a bygone era, Realtors used to serve as the founts of knowledge about a home – its features, its relative worth in the market, and what the neighborhood, schools, and modes of living around the house were like. With the rise of the Internet era, as well as multiple companies that aggregate this information from other places, consumers now need no longer rely on their Realtors for all of that information, being able to find it, along with interior and exterior pictures of the home, online.

So, some reason, with the continued expansion and refinement of the capabilities of online shopping, there won’t be a raison d’etre for Realtors any longer, with the home buying experience being able to be distilled and handled virtually, perhaps as easily as ordering a new house through Alexa.

After all, car buying was a very different experience just a few years ago, and now, through the efforts of Carvana, among others, one can now research, buy, and have delivered a car without ever leaving one’s house.

We get pitches every day from companies that seek to disrupt real estate, the most recent an Alexa app that claims to sell you a home (subtly indicating it doesn’t take a Realtor). Eyeroll.

Technologists continue to fail to take into account the added value that Realtors bring to each transaction and interaction with both home buyer and home seller. While providing information on a home and neighborhood no longer may be at their core mission for every interaction (although they must be prepared to do so), the ability for the Realtor to navigate the process of sale and purchase, intercede in negotiations when necessary, and frankly, to keep everyone’s emotions, which are often frayed, in check to keep the sale moving forward is vital.

For most of us, purchasing a home is the largest and most significant financial investment that we will make. While the internet, and technology-based disruptors in the space are amazing at providing us with information to narrow our choices when selecting a potential property (or, in the author’s case, providing too many choices), it doesn’t give us access to an expert on the process, a coach in negotiating the finer points of the sale, nor a counselor when things get hectic or the process hits a snag.

Using the services of both allows the customer to get the best of both worlds—data and information combined with someone who knows how to distill it into action, and that’s what a Realtor does – gets consumers into the action, in the right place, at the right time, and fights for the best outcome possible.

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Op/Ed

How to get a meaningful head start on your resolutions without magic

(EDITORIAL) Most editorials about resolutions offer apps or tricks, but let’s take a more meaningful look at how to make this your year.

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If you’re like most people, you abandoned your 2017 New Year’s resolutions in February or March. With 2018 just around the corner, you may be wondering if it’s really worth setting goals for the new year. After all, you didn’t do too well this year. What’s the point?

I believe that we need goals, personally and professionally. We fail, not because we aren’t committed, but because we set lofty goals that aren’t measurable and realistic.

Get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions by doing things differently this year.

1. What is it that you really want to change?
Instead of thinking about what you should do differently, what would make you happy? Resolutions that matter to you personally are more likely to be seen through.

2. Focus on three things:

  • What is one thing you want to start doing?
  • What one thing would you want to stop doing?
  • What is it that you’re doing that you want to continue doing?

3. Set goals that are SMART, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

Instead of saying that you want to eat healthier, tell yourself that you are going to incorporate more color into your menu.

How? By choosing one unfamiliar piece of produce each week and learning to cook with it. Or by selecting a salad when you go out for fast food.

Think about small changes that you can make, instead of making broad, sweeping changes.

You don’t need to download productivity apps or buy a whole bunch of equipment to make lasting changes to your routine. But you do need to really think about your resolutions to have a good handle on what you really want to change. Go into 2018 with determination to be a better you.

Carefully consider your goals to really identify what you want and how you can make lasting changes.

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