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Mar 1 2011

Can Social Media Buy You a House? Part 2

I’ve changed the title of the series from “Can Social Media Buy ME a House?” to “Can Social Media Buy YOU a House?” for the simple reason that, as a social experiment I don’t really care if what comes from this is personal gain. In fact, it would be far more interesting if it were someone else who was the beneficiary of the experiment.

When I first put this notion out into cyber-space a few days ago I received several Facebook notes from friends telling me how I could go about finding a place to live. Some suggested social housing even. While I am not against social housing I must say that the attitude required, in ones mind, to accept socially assisted living is part of the problem that I want to solve with this experiment.

Social assistance is, by now means, a new notion. The Romans did it. In the Jewish tradition it was considered a right of the poor to receive charity from the wealthy. Most organize religions promote charity as a way to shave off some of ones sins.

But there is a price to charity. Often (and I’m not saying always) people who live on the charity of others become dependant on that charity. It becomes a mind-set that is passed through generations. There are numerous stories of individuals who pull themselves out of such lives but that requires a herculean effort that not many can aspire to.

So, the notion of just buying someone a house is not going to work. If someone does not have to work for their success they won’t. It’s human nature.

When I was at Trent University I had a job on the line, at General Motors. I worked 89 days (90 would’ve put me in the union) and I was able to use the money to pay for my education. I graduated in 3 years with a BA. I had several friends who’s parents paid for their post-secondary education while they lounged around at the cottage in the summers. Guess what? 80% of them had to go on to a 4th year to finish their degrees. It was a great lesson for me. As much as I resented their free-ride, I realized quickly that the value of doing it yourself far out-weighs sipping margaritas by the lake.

Having said that I do believe that providing charity to others is a social obligation that should be part of everyone’s life. We are among the top 10% of the world’s richest people. We shouldn’t be receiving charity, we should be giving it.

The question becomes “where can my efforts produce the greatest good?”. If you look at the opportunities to help others you an break it down into several categories.

The world.
The country.
The community.
The home.
The family.
Self.

Yep, you have to include self because helping yourself may just lead to helping others.

Helping others. Where would you get the most bang for your buck and the most satisfaction? I would suggest that helping others in your community could potentially have the largest impact and here’s why.

If you set up someone to succeed you help to change the way they think about money, giving etc. If they have come from a place of receiving charity and you take them to a place where they can make their own successes then you enable (in a good way) them to pay that behaviour forward and help others. Thus creating a community of people who think in a philanthropic way first.

To that end, I think that looking around your community and seeing how you can help to make it better, not by donating money but by improving someone’s situation so that they can help someone else may just be the best sort of “giver” you could be.

As always, I am very interested in your thoughts about this notion. I’m sure there are skeptics so bring it on, I’ll try to answer all of your questions and comments.

Next article: How can we make this funner (I know it’s not a word, that’s what makes it funner ;)


Feb 27 2011

Can Social Media Buy Me a House? Part 1

As a Social Media Strategist I am fascinated by the power of this medium to bring about all sorts of new, unexpected results.

Take the BP oil spill for example. In the past a company like BP completely screws up, screws the environment then white-washes the entire affair through expensive ad campaigns and propaganda. Not so this time. Enter a twitter page that tells us the truth and BAMB! BP is kicked to the curb, made to own up to their mistakes and, essentially (and rightly so) vilified in pretty much every sort of media.

BP is a great example of how the internet and the lightening-fast dissemination of information is changing the way that business is done. In my ever-optimistic brain, I hope that one day the use of social media will hold all companies to a higher standard where “what’s in it for us” becomes “what’s in it for everyone”. But I’m a dreamer :)

I decided that I would offer up my own social media experiment. While I spend most of my time providing value to others and preaching that providing value to the public is the corner-stone to a well-run social media campaign, I will admit that there this experiment was born from a more selfish motive. i.e. to, once again, own my own home.

That said, I think that by setting this up as an authentic, transparent experiment I can provide a great deal of value to others who want to use social media to grow their business or help out their non-profit. The successes and mistakes made over the next few months will be well-documented and should serve as a guide of either what to do or what not to do to gain exposure. (I hope it’s the ‘what to do’ :)

Let’s begin.

Here’s the background story: When I had my 2 daughters, 9 and 12 years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom. I had a small photography business but, for all intents and purposes, I didn’t really work. When my marriage ended 3 years ago I had just lucked in to a great job as a Recruiter for a video game company. Unfortunately the Korean company that owned us shut us down and I was left with, essentially nothing, in the worst economic crisis in my adult life.

We had to sell our house in June of 2009. 6 months before, or after, would have garnered about $50,000 more but we had to sell then and so we took a massive hit. My equity share, after any debts were paid, was $19,000. I bought an $11,000 Volvo and used the rest to pay first and last and a pet deposit on a rented home for my kids and myself.

This story is not unique. Far from it. In the recent economy both in the US and Canada there are hundreds of thousands of people with exactly the same story. I don’t even think it’s a sad story, it’s simply the way things are for many of us and there are many worse stories out there.

In addition to the circumstances that bring most of us to this point (not a bad point, just a point) is the fact that it is very difficult to get back into the housing market on your own, especially with a couple of kids.

The choices about spending become a major focus. Do you put your life on hold, no vacations, no movies, no skiing etc in order to save for a downpayment on a home that costs over 3/4 million dollars? That seems a bit crazy. And it’s not fair to the kids.

Most families, at least in Vancouver, have so many financial obligations it would make your head spin and if having a home is a priority it means that you’ll have to sacrifice those things that make the day-to-day fun like sports teams and summer road trips.

So what’s the answer? Is it time for the upper 10% to start finding ways to support society’s lower 90%? I don’t really know.

So I’m conducting this experiment to find out if there is a way to relieve some of the pressure from this middle class who want to give their kids a head start but don’t want to completely, financially devastate their own future in the process.

I’ll be collecting and publishing ideas that people come up with. One idea I had was an investors group that works with the “client” (that would be someone like me) who chooses a house then they work out a lease-to-own arrangement. That way, rather than paying just rent, the client has that satisfaction of working toward their own goals.

What’s your idea?