If you’re a follower of realestate.com’s @housewatch Twitter channel, you will have already noticed their regular tweets showing information on mortgage rates, featured homes and realestate.com’s contact details.
These tweets are sent out automatically by realestate.com’s “bot” (tech-speak for “robot”), and were launched by the website’s director of business solutions architecture Dennis Kuntz in April this year. What you might not have noticed yet is that the @housewatch bot can do more than just regularly send out information – it can also respond to your requests.
Put simply, the bot responds to requests sent through direct messages on Twitter. Followers of @housewatch can start by direct messaging the word “commands” and they will then receive a list of the information the bot can provide along with instructions on how to send through their requests.
As Kuntz outlined in a blog post, the bot gives users access to a lot of the statistical information realestate.com has available on various cities, including crime and transportation statistics and weather information as well as real-time home values and home prices.
“All of the commands return a suitable snippet of information (suitable for 140 characters, that is) and a link to the full web page of statistical or home value data,” Kuntz explained. He went on to put the focus back on users, asking for feedback on his bot’s functions:
“Now, you might be thinking, ‘Ok, this is a neat novelty item, and you folks at realestate.com are oh-so-very-cool. But what the heck practical use is it?’ Well that's where you come in – we want you to guide us in making it useful!
For example, since Twitter can be hooked into SMS, an agent might have easy access to data – home values or neighborhood/city statistical data – while out in the field; it could just be a voyeuristic little toy for consumers to ‘ask’ questions, etc. In addition, since it's an in-house effort, we can modify it to our – and more importantly, your – hearts' content.”
It seems realestate.com isn’t shy when it comes to experimenting with social media – the website launched a new social networking section last month that includes features such as user-generated blogs, forums, wikis and groups. The website also loaded virtual tours of all of its agents’ listings to a dedicated YouTube channel back in March.