Adding Broker and Agent Branding to Syndication

by Victor Lund on November 28, 2012

The gray skull of shame is the single most tarnishing factor of an agent’s online reputation. Yet today, more than 30% of listings on leading third party websites are missing photos or display incorrect contact information about the agent. There is absolutely no reason for this to happen. Today, listing syndication service providers and MLSs can fix this with ease.

In truth, no change in real estate data is easy. Unless there is profit motivation, change takes place at a very sluggish pace. In order for agent and broker branding to be added to syndication, standards need to be developed.

A Thesis For A Standard

Developing standards is never easy. Simply look at the complexity of the standard for listing display on IDX websites and you will appreciate the considerable thought that goes into them. Perhaps it is best to begin with a thesis, and allow the critics to bring forth purpose driven refinement.

At a minimum, websites displaying listing content of licensed agents or brokers must display the broker logo at a minimum pixel size of 150 x 150 or higher on listing detail pages, 75 x 75 on listing result pages with a baseline screen resolution of 1024 x 768. The pixel size allowable for higher or lower screen resolutions will adjust the minimum pixel size pro-rata (this means that if the listing is being displayed on a mobile device whose screen resolution is smaller, the requirement is proportionally smaller).

The broker logo will be the default image to display on every listing. If the listing agent photo is provided to the publisher, the agent photo will be given priority for display in place of the broker logo.

Here is the Rub

Ideas like this are easy planted, but harvesting them is the burden of fruitful enterprise. The fact is, data in the MLS and at the Association of REALTORS® that identifies agents and brokers is not that great. Broker logos and agent photos are not required fields. This is also true for many franchise databases like Realogy™, the nation’s largest single syndicator of data. It is pretty hard to set a requirement without full data. I would think that as an industry, we should do a better job at setting standards for professionalism of licensed practitioners. What we cannot get over is the following: some brokers to not have a logo, and some agents do not like their photo taken.

A Question About Privacy

It is my understanding that websites may not display personally identifiable information on public websites without that persons’ permission and acceptance of the terms of use on the displaying website. According to many sources, Personally Identifiable Information is information that can be used to uniquely identify, contact, or locate a single person or that can be used with other sources to uniquely identify a single individual. That sounds an awful lot like the information displayed about agents on third party websites.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, ncsl.org, 16 states have passed privacy laws including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New York, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia. I looked through these laws, and it seems that the spirit of the laws are aimed chiefly at protecting identity theft, or protecting the privacy of employees. Agents are usually not employees of the brokerage under most State Laws, so I am not sure that this consideration would apply.

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