“As a word of advice, don’t hate or disparage things that you don’t understand. No progress and few successes were ever accomplished as the result of having a closed mind.”
It’s a common phrase, but it carried more weight when it came from Jason Crouch. After spending what accidentally turned into three hours on the realtor’s website, AustinsCoolestBlog.com, I learned surprisingly little about real estate. I know he loves his wife of 21 years, Pam. I know he has four children - Brandon, Aleah, Abby and Jenny – all who say the darndest things which, lucky for site visitors, are captured in the black hole categories that are “Personal Stories” and “Family.” I call them black hole categories because once you start reading the enclosed entries, you’ll likely be sucked in.
But why get personal with a business blog? In our talk, Crouch said,
“I've found that it helps me to make a connection quickly with certain clients. Maybe they homeschool, or they relate to the fact that we have a relatively large family, etc. I typically end up becoming friends with the people I represent, especially home buyers, probably because we get a chance to spend more time together.”
There’s really no escaping Jason Crouch. The man is six feet, four inches tall, a former radio host, former social media consultant, church-goer, avid blogger, realtor, and probably a whole suite of other identities I’m sure I’m missing. Oh right, he’s also working on a local TV program, which means he’s covered all possible media bases in his beloved Austin. And according to the guru, there's a lot to love about the booming Texas city:
“People [in Austin] are truly happy to be living here, and almost everyone I know who lives in other cities in Texas wishes they could be here, too. There's an optimism and a genuine friendliness that you don't find everywhere.”
The project up for discussion, Austin’s Coolest Blog, has been active since March 2007 and is a veritable playground for social engagers. Many of its comment logs rank in the high seventies and are populated with long-time readers. No stranger to digital advertising, Crouch blogs enthusiastically about social media (less marketer, more advocate) and with the heavy blog following, 4,500 circlers on Google Plus, and 17,000 Twitter fans, is proof of its importance,
“I can emphatically state that social media interaction has been hugely beneficial to my business. I've had tons of sales, referrals from other agents around the country, I've grown my company with agents I met via online contacts, and much more.”
Crouch’s blogging categories are so varied that I’ll have to compile a list: family, book reviews, social media tips, road trips, negotiating, referrals, church, networking, grammar, weight loss, humor, radio, property listings – but my favorite is "Personal Stories," where reading usually unveils a moral or two.
One could scan through Austin’s Coolest Blog titles and decide Crouch is utterly full of himself, touting his convictions about faith, marketing, and life lessons. Bloggers and social media users are not uncommonly labeled self-involved or narcissistic by naysayers. After all, it’s just too easy to broadcast a custom, righteous image into cyberspace.
But what makes Crouch’s blog so engaging is the atmosphere of transparency, humor, and gentleness. Crouch ditches the soap box and instead opts for humility: he does not dish out life lessons, he shares what he’s learned, most of all from being a father. Being a dad to four kids is no doubt a challenge, but Crouch is quick to acknowledge his blessings and, thankfully, reserve his best stories for his blog:
“Abby, who is almost two and a half now, still pronounces ‘F’ as ‘S’ most of the time. . . ‘Daddy, I has a nice. I has a nice, dad.’ ‘What, honey? Ohhhhh a knife.’ Nice, knife, same thing, right? Here, honey, have a spoon instead.”
I laughed out loud at this and many more vignettes starring a fledgling Abby, now seven.
In the end, believe it or not, Austin’s Coolest Blog does cover real estate, evidenced by the hundreds of property listings in and around the Austin area, and a few from other states. Every listing is accompanied by gorgeous photos, and every once in a while you’ll get a real treat. For example, the image to the left of this paragraph was taken in the back yard of one of Crouch’s Round Rock properties.
For every personal entry, Crouch has several more real estate and community focused topics. Readers can learn about negotiating a list price, local A/C engineers, home inspectors, schools, loan topics and far more. A very obvious goal of Austin’s Coolest Blog is enhancing buyer education:
“I think education is a really important part of my job, but my favorite part is helping people find their dream homes, regardless of the price range . . . I once heard someone say, ‘I'm in the friend-making business.’ That's how I feel, too.”
For the business-minded, the blog has an impressive spread on real estate marketing, where the topics range from business cards and social media, to “Empathy,” a category containing a surprisingly honest post about walking the line between making cash and being true to a personal sense of integrity. The post reads,
“I have yet to meet a single client who doesn't appreciate the fact that I care about them. Do I want to make money on their sale? Absolutely. I have five mouths to feed. Would I sacrifice my integrity or my sensitivity to get this money? Well, I haven't yet.”
That’s the thing about Jason Crouch - I get the sense that he’s keeping things very, very real – no matter how sensitive the topic. In a June 17, 2010 entry about an especially frustrating and challenging day that ended with a rewardingly aromatic meal, Crouch writes,
“Garlic Breath Pizza was....well, a breath of fresh air at the end of the day.”
The phrasing sums up my feelings exactly: Austin’s Coolest Blog is a breath of fresh air – wonderfully crude, and always earnest. I highly recommend you check it out, whether for the love of Austin, or curiosity about its coolest realtor, Jason Crouch.
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