Host: Ronn Ruiz and Martin Canchola, Co-Founders of ApartmentSEO.com
Guest: Robert Watson
Martin: Hello, everyone, welcome to the multifamily podcast with Ronn and Martin. I am very excited today for today’s guests, as he has been involved with Apartment SEO since the very inception. Not only did he developed the first version of the Apartment SEO website, but he has also been a vital part of evolving our website product into what it is today. It is my pleasure to introduce Robert Watson, Director of Digital Marketing for iZone marketing sister company of Apartment SEO. This should be a fun entertaining and very informative podcast. So, buckle up, and let’s get right into it. Robert Watson, welcome to the multifamily podcast.
Robert Watson: Ronn, Martin, thank you so much for having me on. I remember talking about creating this podcast a long, long time ago, when I first started getting into podcasts in like 2012 when I moved to California, I had no family. So, I started listening to Joe Rogan and all the cool Southern California comedians that started podcasts. And then we were working at the same company at the time, we should do a podcast. But yeah, I’m super stoked to be on today. Welcome aboard.
Ronn: Welcome aboard. Yeah, definitely. And Rob, I mean, you love being with us. I feel like we all gave birth together very much the concept of Apartment SEO, when Martin and I started around that same timeframe. Actually, you guys already had known each other. And I remember you saying, I think candidly to me, you’re like, yeah, I think Martin is onto something with this one with working with Ronn. So, I know you’ve endorsed us from day one. And you’ve definitely supported the vision and the dream and actually have taken us to a whole another level just by way of your inspired thought. And, you know, you’re a jack of all trades. I mean, this podcast is gonna be awesome for everybody listening. And it certainly does not, we don’t have enough time to cover everything that Rob knows. But we definitely should have him as a guest even more so. We haven’t even started, and I can’t wait for him to come back. But we have a lot lots of emerging technologies to cover today. So, let’s start with the first big topic and this is a fun one, because there is a lot of buzz around Open AI chat GPT product. So, Rob, can you first explain what this product is? It’s new, just in case some of our audiences haven’t, hasn’t had a chance to hear about it.
Robert Watson: Yeah, so chat GPT is a called a large language model. And it’s developed by a company called Open AI. They were kind of put together for the purpose of protecting the world against AI and what it could be. So, a bunch of tech millionaires got together to kind of develop a system around how do we develop AI in a way that is scalable, because before these guys started putting it together, it was incredibly expensive to do any kind of machine learning. So, what it actually does, chat GPT is a larger language model developed by Open AI. And it uses deep learning techniques generated by human like text models. And what that means is, they’ve essentially taken a bunch of samples of conversations, samples of all the data on the website, so they scrape websites, they scrape Google, they scrape Yelp, they put all this data into the machine, and then they can ask questions. So, can you find me a five star restaurant that serves duck on Sundays, and it will go through, it’ll scrape its data model, and it will be able to respond back to you in human format. It’ll say, based on where you’re located, this restaurant has the best duck and has a five-star rating. So, it’s designed to communicate with you in a way that feels like you’re talking with humans. So, a little bit different than what we’re used to, like on a Google search where you type in maybe a question and it gives you a bunch of options back that you can pick from. This just essentially creates the response for you.
Martin: Okay, so there was a recent article that I came across, it was talking about Microsoft being partnership with chat GPT, can you speak on the impact this could have for being taking users away from Google search engine over time? Do you see this as an actual threat to Google?
Robert Watson: I don’t see it as a direct threat to Google and Bing. Chat GPT has a lot of great features. And when you start playing with it, you go, oh, wow, you could use this instead of Google or Bing, any kind of search engine. The main thing that it’s good for is like quick responses, or maybe helping you write a more professional email. But what it’s not a data set that’s 100% accurate. So, they have old data. So, chat GPT, for example, it hasn’t been updated since 2021. So, any, if you ask something like relevant, like who won the baseball game yesterday, it doesn’t work, because it doesn’t have that data. It’s really designed for having a large data set and then refining answers based on the existing data. Really the big advantage for the search engines here is they get to hone in and craft the responses.
Ronn: So, how do you see agencies using chat GPT in the future, and I actually just saw that they launched their own chat GPT Perot for a nominal $20 monthly the other day, what are some used cases that you’ve seen?
Robert Watson: Fun fact I am, I have a chat GPT pro account. We’re waiting for another member in our team to get their name pulled off the list. But yeah, it’s really interesting. There’s a couple of different ways that we could use it. Especially if you have a smaller agency that doesn’t have a lot of customer support staff. You can build a chat GPT bot, you can get their API and you can train it for like your most common ask questions. And you can train it with the correct responses you want. So, like you have a chat bot or customer service bot, and somebody keeps asking, oh, what time do you open, or I have this specific issue and I’m getting this error code. You could program it to understand what the error codes are, and then respond back with the appropriate support. You could do it for content generating. You want a blog post written, a social post written, it’s pretty good at writing just generic content. You still need to refine it, so you can make sure to use the right hashtags and stuff. Chat bots, generally speaking, it’s like, it’s literally designed to be a chat bot. That’s why it’s called Chat GPT. So, there’s a lot of chat companies out there. Hopefully, their products are going to be getting a lot more user friendly. Due to this AI large language models.
Martin: Now how can you see the multifamily industry utilizing chat GPT in the future?
Robert Watson: Yeah, the multifamily industry, it’s pretty interesting, because you guys have a wide variety of in person, kind of marketing, and digital marketing. Obviously, chatbots for lead generation, I know there’s companies out on the market, that that’s their primary business model. You can create your own version of that with your own training set, so, that it’s responding exactly the way you want. Like if you’re a large property management company, and you have a lot of properties, and you want them to be all managed the same way, you could train the chatbot to respond. That way, virtual tours, content generation again, and then customer service and support, you can kind of train them. You can train the bots on any kind of model you want. So, if there’s like specific tasks inside of, inside any business, and they’re repetitive, like what Martin and I used to build web bots for, to go onto a website, click that button, sign in and download this. That’s essentially what you can train these bots to do, at the same time, communicate in human like conversation verse command prompts.
Ronn: I remember those humans, those bots’ you guys would make, remember? That’s cool.
Martin: Yeah, I remember like at our old company, I’d have like, how many computers, Rob? We were just running them all day, just making sure the machine wouldn’t mess up.
Ronn: Didn’t break all the time. That’s hilarious. So what’s your take on why Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, are returning to Google, given the success of chat GPT initial launch?
Robert Watson: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s necessarily they’re coming back because of chat GPT specifically, or because they need some, some fresh thoughts on how to approach this. Because it it’s a threat to their model in the sense that, Google gets paid based on people seeing and clicking on ads. And if you can go to one website and ask any question or Siri like if they build this into Siri, and you ask your Siri. You know, what’s the closest five-star restaurant near me? And it just does it. You don’t have to go to Google. Google doesn’t have opportunity to display ads. That’s kind of the biggest threat to them. But Google is already working on bringing in their own version of this, which they call Bard, are having a press conference. Chat GPT is having a press conference today, talking about Bing and Google’s having one last thing later this week. To kind of give you an overview of how they’re gonna plan on implementing their version of it into Google search.
Martin: I actually just read an article, I think it was today about Baidu, their stock kind of surged a little bit because they announced that they’re going to be putting their own spin on chat GPT and putting their own AI bot out in the coming, however long. So, they’re going to be releasing something as well soon.
Ronn: Yeah, and you actually had a good point about like, I always refer to like Siri and how he or she doesn’t understand me. So, I think with Chat GPT as well, like, it’s all about the query and getting it right, even if it takes you several times to get the responses you need, right? So let’s get into using AI products like chat GPT, and others, like it to design websites and create robust animations, voiceovers and even more. What do you see as pitfalls and opportunities for digital marketers using these AI products?
Robert Watson: In the beginning, some of the biggest problems or pitfalls that we’re seeing is like bias and errors. So, depending on what kind of subjects you’re talking about, if it’s mathematics, you know, and you’re not a mathematics person, you still probably need a mathematics person to review the content, because it answers very confidently, but there are errors, it will give you the wrong answer confidently. Inside of an agency, a lot of what I can see being an issue is lack of creativity, or potentially management might say, oh, great, I have a tool, I’ll just put my low end people working on it, and just let them go, right, because you could easily see that being a thing you’d want to do, because it seems obvious. The problem is, we’re not there yet. And with the technology, you might maybe 5, 10 years from now, we’re at the point where these things are trained, and the cost is efficient enough. And the other thing is like over reliance on technology, and marketing is never good. Because you actually have to understand the why things are working and why things are not working. If you don’t understand the why, then you’re never going to be able to optimize your campaigns. Some opportunities, you get your increased efficiency and scalability. So, you can train these datasets, to auto answer emails, if you need them, to respond to customer support, chat if you want them. The thing I’m most excited about is the training of your own data models, which is we can use our data that we currently have. And we can push this through the models, to give us future forecast predictions. It could give us written out reports. You know, like Ronn, instead of getting like an Excel file with a whole bunch of pivot tables in it, you get a written out Executive Summary based on that pivot table. Which game changer right, in terms of being able to efficiently process. And then personalization is a nice opportunity. That’s, you know, I think more we get comfortable with this and figuring out how users like to interact with them. We’re going to have a lot of fun with how we develop them, will we develop AI characters to go with them? Will we have like a new kind of phone call system, where we’re just calling, like calling a chatbot and talking to them instead of talking to the actual company and understanding that and that has certain options in it. So, there’s a lot of opportunities. It’ll be interesting to see how they pan out.
Martin: Totally. So, moving on to the next emerging technology, virtual reality, augmented reality and wearable tech. How do you see the multifamily industry utilizing these technologies in the future?
Robert Watson: Yeah, this one is very interesting, because this is like a whole new category, where AI is kind of like doing what we do is automated, where VR and AR is like how do we add the computer to our everyday. I think VR makes a lot of sense for virtual reality tours, like a Matterport, put on my glasses, I’m sitting in my office, now I’m touring the property. That to me makes perfect sense. That’s not a big leap. I think there’s gonna be a lot of in-home technology, smart home stuff, vacuums, air conditioners, like potentially just wearables. So, like you live in a community and the community wants to be as green as possible. You can have it where your phone is tracking you and your tenant is from home, the air conditioner turns on instead of the air running all day. Little things like that are really going to be the next level wearables, it’s going to be all those little things that help you. Now super cool stuff on AR for maintenance and repair like Microsoft HoloLens, for example, they have the ability now to wear their lenses and you can be inside of a job site and it will outline where you need to go, what pipe is has a leak in it. Where are you seeing decompression in the pipes, so fully be able to walk a building and see behind all the walls. So, ton of interesting stuff. And I mean, it’s a repair of buildings. And then again, energy efficiency, I think is going to be a big driver for a lot of the VR AR stuff.
Martin: Yeah, right on, even like yeah, the wearable tech and you’re on tour, like people sometimes they do your own touring, I mean that could help guide them to the community. They go through the floor plan and kind of have like that virtual experience can be pretty, pretty neat. So, the next technology has been emerging for quite some time now. What are your current thoughts on voice search technology and if you see this as a place apartment marketers will want to focus on?
Robert Watson: Yeah, me personally, I’m not the biggest fan of voice search, just because I don’t see it being used by very many people. I think you’re limited based on what people are willing to search out loud for around other people. Because if you can, if you can’t get past that point, then you’re not going replace Google, right? It’s easier just to search on your phone or use a chat GPT to get a response. Because if I based on voice search, I need to ask it something while talking. So, what are the, what would I be willing to do on the bus say, hey, can you find me a two bedroom apartment that’s less than 1200 bucks? Probably not going to say that on the bus. Can you find me a Quinoas nearby? Probably not gonna say it on the bus. So, I think voice search in home, my hands are full, I got the kids, makes perfect sense as like an assistant. I don’t think it replaces traditional search. I think it’s just different. It’s like if you had to call like one 800 movie phone, would you do that anymore?
Martin: No, I mean, a finding an apartment is really a visual experience at the end of the day versus like a voice experience for sure.
Robert Watson: Yeah. And that’s where VR brings you in, right? Because you can give them the entire experience of the property through that verse. You know, a website’s still kind of a 2d representation, it’s a little bit more movement, a little bit more update than a flier, but traditionally, it’s the adapted version of a flier. So, VR would be like, making like a pop up experience. Where if you really want to sell that high end luxury property, you can bring them into the showroom, it could be like a blank wall, that’s clear plexiglass, but when they put on their AR glasses, boom, they’re walking through, oh, watch out for the couch, jump, I’m under the couch, that type of thing. But really let them feel it. You could, if you have them in the room with you give them control the experience even more, like with, you know, sense and all that kind of stuff. There’s a lot of, there’s gonna be a lot of great new VR AR marketing coming up. Just a question of where’s the technology gonna pivot? Right now, the problem is the cost of the headsets, I think we got compute down. Just really, a lot of upfront costs are something that’s not proven yet.
Ronn: Yet again, for the industry, they’re gonna want to see the ROI. There’s no doubt about that, right? And make sure those headsets or the technology stays on site. So, I know we push this a lot, Martin and I and in Apartment SEO, but what’s your perspective on the rise of short form video? And do you see it as an evolving trend more and more for apartment marketers?
Robert Watson: Yeah, I see a short form of video was our first step to the AR VR evolution, getting us used to short quick experiences, because the problem with AR and VR is a lot of people get motion sickness, so they can have a pleasurable experience for like, 20 ish minutes.
Robert Watson: With technology, we’re getting a better like some of the new stuff that we’re working on is like an hour no problem. But still, it’s limited time. And a lot of what we’re doing like chore for video is like, I call it like, channel surfing, like what we used to do back in the 90s, you click the button, and I’m just, I’m on TikTok, I’m seeing what’s coming next. I don’t, I’m not planning to look for anything. So, you really got to think about it like TV advertising. So, I think there’s a tremendous amount of brand building available in short form. And I think that’s probably where the majority of the focus in return would be. First trying to do like a lead generation, probably a little bit trickier. But definitely brand buildings where short form video lets you shine.
Martin: Nice. Okay, so, moving on to the next one. Definitely one of my favorite topics. Do you see blockchain and web three technology taking users away from big tech companies like Google and Meta. With platforms like DuckDuckGo, which is a private search engine, brave browser, which is web three web browser, and then that allows you to actually earn crypto while you search without, you know, the users actually get paid to use the search engine or decentralized social media platforms like mines, allowing you to post pretty much as you please, without any restrictions. How do you feel about these types of technologies for our industry?
Robert Watson: Yeah, I think you know what it is we’re just coming up to an edge of our current tech understanding on web, you know, we’re kind of restricted on the new technology. So, a lot of these new like, web three tech, there’s nothing, I don’t think there’s nothing there that’s uniquely different from web two, you’re just kind of changing who owns the database, and who has access to write and read the database. So, to me, it’s not that big of a deal. Now on to privacy, security, definitely. Those have major benefits. I just don’t know anybody who’s really concerned about it. They say they’re concerned, but people would much rather have ease of use than privacy, right? The biggest problem for like Bitcoin, it’s impossible to use, it’s very difficult to go to the store and buy a loaf of bread with a Bitcoin. You got to have like 10 devices, you got to remember a keychain and have a QR code. It’s too hard to use.
Ronn: Sorry, Martin. So obviously, there’s a lot of buzz around Google Analytics UA sunsetting, in June of this year, can’t believe it’s already happening. With the rise of the deep analytics like J4 and living in a cookie less world. How would you see this playing out with keeping your source of truth accurate and maintaining data integrity?
Robert Watson: Yeah, this is a challenge. I know Martin, when we first found out about it, I’m like, what are they doing? But it makes sense. Definitely, you know, the same kind of problem web three is trying to fix with privacy and security. The federal government is wanting to make sure that our privacy is not being violated. So, it totally makes sense, I think the biggest problem going away from this kind of tracking, is just relying on a reporting to catch up, we have a lot of third-party reporting platforms that we use. So, we just have to make sure that they’re all caught up with integrating, and we’re keeping up with the latest trends of what the new cookie list type of data tracking is. They have a lot of interesting things like digital fingerprints, and cross device tracking. But it really comes down to, is this going to be good enough? Or is the federal government going to come and ask us to change it again, which most likely, will happen? It’s just a question of, are we going to, are we going to be able to maintain data integrity going forward, continuing. So, it might be a thing where we start saving our data and downloading our data and storing our data offline, just to have it as a backup. Verse, traditionally, we leave it in the cloud, because it’s never going away, Google will store it forever. We might want to keep it offline, so that we can use it, even if in the future it goes away.
Ronn: Actually, good point.
Martin: Yeah, it’s a good idea. So, our last topic is around the idea of AI being everywhere, and how software is eating the world. With the rise of Uber, Airbnb, Tesla’s self-driving cars and more machinery and software automation than ever before. How do people compete in this new world of technology taking over everything?
Robert Watson: Yeah, I don’t know, if it’s taking over everything, I think just our transition. When we were kids, computers, were just coming into the classroom, the early 90s, my mom used to tell me, don’t go on the computer, you’re wasting your time, go outside and play, I spend the majority of my time in front of a keyboard. So, I think it’s more of just understanding that technology, understanding how that relates to your business, right, it really just comes down to think about it as a tool, right? It’s not a business killer, in way like that. Like Airbnb didn’t kill hotels, they just saw there was a pocket where hotels are being inefficient. Same thing with Uber. Ubers, a little bit, you know, they’re a taxi company that figured out a way to skirt the taxi regulation. So, it’s a little bit different. Same kind of thing with Airbnb, Tesla, you know, Tesla is a little bit different self-driving, that might be a real thing, just because that’s a hard cost and a job. But I think the majority of what’s going to happen is, we’re just gonna go through the refinement process, like we just did. Through getting everybody into the office, I consider it like part of our next evolution of we went from everybody in the farms, everybody in the factories, to everybody in the office, now it’s gonna be everybody at home. And you’re gonna have a more diversified work life balance going forward.
Martin: I like that.
Ronn: Sure, so obviously, this kind of wraps up our emerging technologies topics for today, there’s so much more we could talk about. So obviously, in our industry, we have had a lot of great business partners. Partnerships that is by way of the multifamily industry and where iZone came to be is because more and more of our clients had lights, even spouses who had businesses, we had vendor partner friends who to this day we still work with, we’re so honored and excited to work with them and help get them some, in some regard off the ground and launch their businesses. And I realized that we needed to have more focus on all those industries and make them, make us agnostic versus Apartment SEO clearly obviously being more for the multifamily. And I wanted, I didn’t want to dilute that, I wanted all of the employees at Apartment SEO to focus 100% in Park Apartments, and iZone could be the best of the best for all other industries. So obviously is you know, Rob, we work in you know, multifamily. I mean, I’m sorry, we work in healthcare. We work in government, we work in nonprofits, restaurants, medical elective, medical home services, so unit and then also the vendor partners that we work with in multifamily. So, it’s a good, good blend.
Martin: Also, did you guys want to get into any big news or updates you want to share on behalf of iZone marketing?
Robert Watson: Yeah, we’re gonna be launching iZone ONE here shortly. We’re going to be putting our request page up here shortly. But really what, we really worked on building, trying to get all of the tools that we use for the small business together in one place. So, what we did was we started working for him, okay, we have a reporting. We want to bring in our social media content creation, we want to bring in our reputation management. We want to bring in our website creation and management all into one place, so that our clients can see all the work that we’re doing. They can see all the leads that we’re bringing in for them, and they can also process the leads and marketing through the system. We have a lot of really great features that we worked on putting together, but a lot of the main things we want to focus on was helping small businesses be able to do their own social media marketing. We found a lot of small businesses have hard time trying to go from Facebook to Instagram or go to TikTok and do their publishing. So, we kind of built out a social media marketing suite that has templates built in. So, if you’re an auto repair company, we have like auto repair social posts predesigned for you to give you a head start. Yeah, we have, we can host your website, WordPress website, we can create you a new website on there, we have marketing funnels, literally everything A to Z that you need to keep track of, to understand how your marketing is performing. From SEO, PPC, social media reputation. All inside iZone ONE.
Martin: Yeah. So, from top to bottom, they got you covered.
Ronn: It’s definitely something I wish I had when I started my first company.
Martin: So that wraps up the show for today. So, make sure to check out izonemarketing.com/one. And that’s o n e. If you are a vendor for the multifamily industry or a general business in need of digital marketing services, let iZone take your business to the next level. Rob, thank you so much for joining in hanging out today, we will definitely have to do this again to cover more fun topics around technology and innovation. Any final words before we wrap it up, Ronn?
Ronn: No, thanks again, Rob. Again, I know that we had 20 million different things we could talk about. We try to squeeze it all into one, with the most latest and greatest of what may be on people’s minds. Rob, I think you’re amazing. Thank you again for being a guest and I hope you come back.
Robert Watson: Yeah, I’m super excited to be on. Hopefully we’ll have another one where we can talk about some AI technology, we’ve built in for Apartment SEO.
Martin: Oh yeah, alright everyone, you know the deal. If you haven’t already subscribed to the show, head to MultifamilyPodcast.com subscribe right now. We’re on iTunes, Spotify and all other major podcasting platforms. Also, if you want your free marketing analysis or reputation report card, go to ApartmentSEO.com, to claim your community’s free marketing analysis and set up a time to deep dive into how we can help your communities thrive online today. Until next time, bye everyone.