(Got this one under 1,000 words! WOOT!)
I noted previously that the changes NAR is proposing to Sections 18.1 through 18.4 of its IDX policy are generally good. (Here are links to my disuccsion of it; the copy Matt Cohen posted; and his discussion of it.) I suggested a clarification that a broker displaying another broker’s listings should have actual and apparent control of the place where the listings are displayed. In a sense, Broker A should be able to display Broker B’s listings only where the consumer would conclude, “This is Broker A’s website / mobile application / future technology.” I recommended in my earlier post that no MLS should adopt Section 18.5 without thinking it through very carefully. And today, I’m trying to think it through. Here, I’ll get over the hump of trying to define “social media,” and I’ll try to define the categories of arguably social media use I’ve seen brokers and agents attempt with other brokers’ listings. Hopefully, there will be comments, and a discussion here; I might then try to draft a version of Section 18.5 that I’d be willing to advise MLSs to adopt.
First, to define “social media” display generally: I’ve posted before on how slippery a question that is. I propose not to bother. Instead, let’s just talk about “displays not under the actual and apparent control of the displaying broker.” In other words, if it does not meet the requirements of rule Sections 18.1-18.4, it falls into this last, catch-all category. We could still call it a rule for “social media” display, simply because practically every website and application where you’d display listings has at least some social media aspects. But recognizing that traditional IDX displays can or will also have social media characteristics, we might want to just call these “other” displays.
Second, it seems to me that there are at least three kinds of display that Displaying Broker can make of Listing Broker’s listing via media not under Displaying Broker’s actual and apparent control. This is a first approximation of categories; they need further refinement.
- Individual Linking (what Matt Cohen calls a “tease”). Example: See Matt’s examples of Tweets of other brokers’ listings. This is a post of a minimal display (probably one photo and no more than x characters or y words of text) of a single listing, including a link to a fully-compliant IDX display. This also accounts for an agent posting a link on Facebook to another broker’s listing (my earlier example), as long as there is a link in each post immediately to a fully IDX-compliant display.
- Embedded Search and Display. Example: Displaying Broker buys a “widget” to appear on her Facebook page. Now, while never leaving Facebook, a visitor to her Facebook page can enter search criteria and display search results. Let’s assume for the moment that the displays of other brokers’ listings meet all the IDX display requirements, except that this is an embedded or framed display of a utility under Displaying Broker’s actual control on a site not under Displaying Broker’s apparent control. Note that the IDX listings never actually reside on Facebook’s servers; Facebook is just framing the IDX-like widget.
- Bulk Advertising. Example: Displaying Broker ships listings of every MLS participant who has not opted out of Rule 18.5 display to Yelp. Now, when a consumer pulls up a map on Yelp, she sees little “For Sale” signs on the map corresponding to the listings of all the brokers. When she clicks on any of these signs, she is taken to Displaying Broker’s mobile app or IDX website, depending on whether she was using Yelp on her phone or PC. This category would apply to any instance where Displaying Broker transmits listings of other brokers to some medium in a way that does not qualify as Individual Linking or Embedded Search and Display.
Some immediate thoughts:
- I have discussed Individual Linking with several brokers, large and small, and none of them objected to it, possibly because they know their agents have been doing this for a long time.
- The same brokers are uniformly opposed to Bulk Advertising. If Yelp wants listings of the brokers, they reason, Yelp can get them through syndication from the MLS, where listing brokers can opt in or opt out on a site-by-site basis.
- Embedded Search and Display poses a conceptual problem, as some brokers seem to be ok with it, and others consider it identical to Bulk Advertising.
- I assume there will be other categories of display, but for now, I’d put them in a fourth “Other” category and say they are prohibited.
- Note that some of these displays, even if they were allowed by the MLS rules, might not be consistent with state license law.
- To the extent that Displaying Broker is showing Listing Broker’s listings to a client or group of clients, this policy probably would not apply. These client interactions are permitted subject to the general MLS rules, without regard to medium, and under the VOW rules with regard to websites that meet the VOW requirements.
So, are we missing any kinds of arguably “social media” displays that brokers or agents have tried to do in the last couple years? If so, what are they? What refinements are necessary to these three category definitions to make them practical?
Next is to figure out what the rule should look like. My sense is that we may want two forks to the policy: One would just plain permit Individual Linking (with no listing broker opt-out), because it always provides limited information that links back to a full IDX display. It’s generally non-controversial. The second fork would give MLS the option to permit or not permit Embedded Search and Display, depending on local broker sentiment about the issue. I suspect we leave Bulk Avertising in the “other and unpermitted” bucket.
I’m waiting to hear what you have to say.