It’s hard to remember an Inman conference so thoroughly dominated by one topic. Honestly, in my time at Inman Connect Las Vegas this week, I tried my best to focus on other seemingly existential issues facing the real estate industry. But in almost every session, expo booth pitch, cocktail party chat, and networking event, the conversation invariably turned to the 800-pound gorilla in the room: The dizzying pace of artificial intelligence (AI) innovation, and its seemingly inevitable disruption of the industry we all love.
So instead of telling you where Zillow economists think interest rates will be six months from now, I decided to answer the burning questions I know you have about the challenges and opportunities of AI and how you can pivot your business to meet them with confidence.
Here are my top seven takeaways from the stellar lineup of thought leaders who spoke at Inman Connect Las Vegas. You’ll get actionable strategies you can use to thrive during the most disruptive period in the history of our industry—and maybe the planet.
1. AI Will Level the Playing Field for Agents & Consumers
Founder Brad Inman kicked off the week with a session that helped address some of the fears so many agents have about the disruptive impact of AI on the real estate industry. Decked out in his trademark futuristic style, at times Inman sounded more like a tech evangelist than a real estate pundit. After telling the audience that he thinks AI will extend our lifespans, create more jobs than it destroys, and even replace dogs as human companions, his takeaway for agents struggling with the impact AI will have on their careers was simple and reassuring: AI will level the playing field between agents, and more importantly, between real estate professionals and consumers.
How Agents Will Benefit From AI
Agents who embrace AI will be able to generate leads and market their businesses a thousand times faster and more efficiently. AI will use billions of data points to predict when the contacts in their databases are most likely to move and uncover their hopes, dreams, and desires.
How Consumers Will Benefit From AI
Consumers will have access to AI tools that will not only make finding a home easier, but give them the kind of expert advice and opinions they used to get from agents. This isn’t in some hazy future world, either. It’s happening now. Zillow has already rolled out AI-powered virtual home tours that highlight different listing features for different buyers.
Of course, Inman’s prediction for the future of real estate wasn’t quite as rosy as other technology pundits like venture capitalist Marc Andreessen. He thinks there will be clear winners and losers after the AI dust settles.
2. AI Will Replace You, But Only if You Let It
When picking the winners and losers, Brad Inman didn’t mince words. Agents have a choice to make, and they need to make it quickly: They can be spectators or participants.
Participants who dive in head first and embrace AI will find themselves with tools that let them do a thousand times more work in the same amount of time it took before. Spectators will sit on the sidelines and wait until the technology develops to the point where they face a genuine risk of being replaced by AI. Inman said there is a very real possibility that they will be. Since buyers and sellers will have access to more information than ever before, as well as the advice they would typically rely on a real estate agent to deliver, I agree with his assessment.
3. Authenticity Will Be More Important Than Ever on Social Media
If you’re wondering how to stand out in the coming tsunami of AI-generated social media content, viral TikTok sensation Glennda Baker offered simple advice: Be your authentic self on social media, and the leads will follow. Use ChatGPT to crank out generic scripts for “real estate content,” and you’ll get crushed by agents who focus on showing their authentic selves to their audiences.
Still not convinced? Glennda mentioned another glaring problem with letting AI create social media content for you. That perfectly scripted and polished agent you let AI create for your Instagram Stories won’t be the one showing up in front of your clients. You will. Make sure the online you and the in-person you match.
“People fall in love with you, not some made-up Google analytic that anybody could be. They do business with you. They do business with people they know, like, and trust,” Baker said.
4. Tech Companies Using AI to Humanize Marketing & Lead Generation Will Gain Market Share
Not surprisingly, the conversations about how agents can leverage or beat AI didn’t end at the session doors. Almost every conversation I had, whether with agents over cocktails or software salespeople on the expo floor, started or ended with AI. It became a running joke to ask everyone how they planned on using AI to market their business, generate more leads, or close more deals. Not everyone was laughing, though.
The concerned looks on the faces of the sales reps staffing the booths on the expo floor told me that not having an AI strategy was far from a joke for tech companies struggling to sell more expensive products to Realtors with less money to spend in the current market. They may have tried to laugh it off at first, but their worried looks told me they had been asked some variation of “the AI question” hundreds of times before I arrived, and a lot of them didn’t have a good answer.
One group of people was all smiles though: Sales reps for companies using AI to humanize marketing and lead generation. There is a straightforward reason why. At almost every session I attended, the presenters spent at least a few minutes discussing strategies to humanize or compete with AI.
Here are a few standout examples from the conference:
CINC’s AI chatbot is trained on scripts from top-producing agents to give buyers and sellers the one thing they want from a Realtor: empathy. Instead of using the hard sell to generate appointments, CINC’s chatbot uses these scripts to build rapport and trust with people who visit their websites. I expect more lead-generation website providers to follow suit in the coming months.
Since their handwritten postcards were already an ideal solution for agents who want to humanize their marketing to compete with AI, I wasn’t surprised to learn how much they’ve grown over the last year or so. After all, hundreds of agents probably visited their booth a few minutes after listening to presenters like Verl Workman, coach and CEO of Workman Success Systems, pleading with attendees to add a human element to their marketing campaigns to compete with the coming tsunami of AI-generated marketing content heading their way.
But even after purchasing more than a hundred handwriting robots to keep up with demand, Addressable hasn’t been idle. Instead, they rolled out a new AI copywriting tool to help agents write more effective postcards. And this isn’t just ChatGPT with a fancy UX slapped on it. Like CINC, Addressable used real estate performance data to train their AI. It even lets you choose a tone (playful, casual, neutral, professional, or formal) and outreach scenario to increase conversions.
Offrs took the call to humanize AI literally with their new ROOF feature. ROOF uses licensed agents as concierges to help qualify and convert the seller leads that their predictive analytics software generates. Learn more about the company’s features in our in-depth Offrs review here.
5. Agents Who Combine Artificial Intelligence With Emotional Intelligence Will Thrive
In his session on AI and leadership, Workman summed up a thread that ran through every session where AI was discussed (which, as I mentioned above, was pretty much all of them). If you want to have a chance of competing on the level playing field Brad Inman is so optimistic about, incorporating AI into your business isn’t enough. You need to combine artificial and emotional intelligence.
Once 90% of the skills consumers traditionally hired agents for can be done a thousand times faster and cheaper by AI, agents focusing on that last 10% will thrive. For most agents, that means building personal connections that lead to face-to-face interactions—something AI has yet to master.
So how do you combine artificial and emotional intelligence in your marketing? Real estate marketing consultant Katie Lance summed it up nicely in her session on how to use ChatGPT and AI in real estate: “The best kind of content you can put out there is content in your voice. With your opinions and your personality. I don’t want to use ChatGPT to replace that.”
One strategy Lance suggested to get more of your personality into AI-generated content is to use what she calls tone prompts. These are short descriptive words such as “compelling, friendly, informative, or conversational.” You can add to your prompts to get ChatGPT to produce content that sounds more like you. If you’re unsure how to describe your tone, she suggested asking a few close friends or colleagues to describe your personality.
6. Follow This Simple Formula for Creating Compelling Content
In her session on the psychology of attention, Attentioneers CEO and co-founder Hilary Billings walked us through a simple but brilliant formula she used to generate more than a billion views for her short-form videos. It works for any content you create, from emails to blog posts to mailers. As you’ve probably already guessed, her formula relies heavily on authenticity to get and keep people’s attention.
- Grab their attention: You have zero to two seconds to answer the question, “Do I care?” If the answer is no, they won’t consume your content. One of the best strategies to get them to care is to immediately tell them what they want to hear. Or, as Hillary’s mentor Rory Vaden put it, “Save the best for first.”
- Spark an emotion: Once you have their attention, sparking a feeling like joy, love, wonder, fear, or sadness in your video will keep them watching for longer. How much time people spend watching or reading your content is crucial for success in every medium.
- Create curiosity: Making people curious is the best way to get them to click on your content and consume it until the end. According to Billings, being very specific in your titles is an easy way to build curiosity and keep people watching. She used a brilliant example: “How much money I made off my six Airbnb properties in November.” People will want to know how much he made from all six, not just one.
7. Storytellers Will Continue to Dominate on Social Media
Social media guru Giselle Ugarte stressed the importance of storytelling in building trust and empathy with your audience. When other agents are cranking out generic content ChatGPT wrote for them, agents who tell stories that make them more likable and relatable to their audience will continue to dominate social media.
To help drive the point home, she referenced research from Stanford University that showed people remember stories up to 22 times more than facts alone. Become a better storyteller if you want to stay top of mind and get leads from social media.
She also mentioned that stories about your struggles as an agent or even owning up to your biggest mistakes tend to do much better than ones about how amazing you are. As I learned from Billings, every good story needs an emotional hook. Bragging about getting your listing under contract in a month is not only dull, there is no emotional hook to let your audience get to know the real you. Walking your audience through a tricky closing is a much better way to let your true personality shine through. It also makes it much easier for prospects to know, like, and trust you enough to consider hiring you.
How authentic is too authentic? Well, one of Baker’s videos with the highest engagement was titled “How I Sold the Wrong House.” And no, that title isn’t clickbait. She actually sold the wrong house!
Over to You
Did you attend Inman Connect Las Vegas this year? Come back with different takeaways or disagree with mine? Let us know in the comments!