Facebook has recently become replete with countless real estate groups of every stripe. There are tech support groups, online marketing groups, direct mail groups, WordPress groups, video groups and so on, all focusing on the real estate realm. This can be a great resource to brainstorm with others in the industry, hammer out best-practices, find cool tools, etc.

But it can also become an annoyance when you just want to see what’s up with your college buddies but your newsfeed ends up inundated with real estate posts. Inevitably, you come across people saying and behaving in ways you can’t believe. Recently, I stumbled on a thread that left me a bit dismayed.

The thread started with a video showing how agents could use a particular service to draw an area on the map then harvest all of the cell phone numbers and email addresses of the residents in that area. The video continued, showing how this agent would send unsolicited emails to members of the community sharing their latest listings and marketing material, as well as cold-calling them in an attempt to gain prospects for their business. The original poster told everyone that if the post got enough “likes,” they would give away a free subscription to this wonderful service.

Nospam_clip_artThe result? Agents practically salivating at the prospect, liking the post and posting replies such as, “Ooh ooh, pick me, pick me!” and “This is awesome!” The whole time I’m thinking, “Wait, isn’t that spamming? Isn’t that illegal? Or at least in poor taste? And why isn’t anyone mentioning that? Am I think only one thinking this?” I’m not attorney, so maybe I’m not understanding it correctly, but I thought sending unsolicited email was the very definition of spam and sending it to harvested email addresses was illegal. And if those phone numbers were not crosschecked with the Do Not Call Registry or were performed via robocall, those would be illegal, too.

So I waited for someone to comment about that, but nobody did. So I did. I said, “Wow, everyone seems so excited to begin spamming their neighbors!” The response was underwhelming. One person asked why I didn’t want to “take my business to the next level.” So, as long as it brings more business the ends justify the means? All’s fair in love and real estate? The original poster replied with a post by motivational speaker Tony Robbins which invoked Dr. Martine Luther King, Jr. (Huh?) An attempted appeal to emotion I suppose, but completely irrelevant. Another agent commented that it was no different than direct mail, which is unsolicited, too. True, but it’s not illegal last time I checked. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think twice when I get junk in my physical mailbox, but when I get unsolicited email, I think, “Who is this and how the hell did they get my email address?” I hoped to spark a conversation on the topic, but it didn’t happen. At least I did get one like! 🙂

Put the legality aside and just boil it down to the most simple and basic of all ethical concepts: treat people like you’d like to be treated. (Yes, “ethics.” You know that thing that REALTORS are supposed to have a code of?”) In my company, we never call or email anyone who hasn’t freely given us their contact information. Am I alone on this in the real estate world?