By Andrew Hayes, Public Relations Expert
Virtual buzz is replacing word-of-mouth for many, especially for real estate professionals. Let’s face it, real estate is a personal business, and as a result, what is said about you online can impact your reputation. Likewise, social media is also personal; therefore, correctly connecting the two is your opportunity.
It’s important for you to know that as your clients search for homes and loans and other related information, they are also searching to learn more about you, find pictures of you, and seeking to generally learn more about your sales and business successes (as well as any failures). Here are five easy things you should consider to manage and protect your online reputation:
Don’t combine your business and personal life on social media platforms. If you are someone who uses your name as part of your business brand, I’d caution you to not participate online personally at all. Or, at a minimum, separate the two completely – because everything and everyone can be searched and has an online footprint, the combination of personal and business can become problematic for those who blend the two. I have counseled clients to create personal Facebook profiles and other social media pages using maiden names and pseudonyms so that their personal and business worlds can co-exist peacefully.
Take advantage of your brokerage’s online platforms. I would think that almost every Chicago brokerage firm has online platforms that can be utilized by agents; ask your broker, manager or marketing director. When you can connect your online voice with your brokerage firm, you’ll have an implied credentialing of your reputation just by being seen as a part of the company’s online platform. Start by authoring articles, blogs, and sharing news links via your brokerage. It’s a great way to build your archive or portfolio.
LinkedIn can be a great way to begin your online presence. From here you can blog, author articles, collect contacts and even tweet. My only word of caution is that you need to build this platform in a thoughtful, meaningful way that is authentic. This means, don’t connect with people as a way to access their contact list and don’t connect with people that you don’t know. This platform takes time to nurture and develop, but over time, can become an easy way to communicate virtually. In addition, many LinkedIn contributions are easily picked up on Google and other search engines.
Publish authentic and relevant information online semi-regularly. This can build reputation and populate your name in search engines. Becoming more active on social sites and blogs and real estate Q-and-A sites is relatively easy to do. Start watching to see what various publications, like Chicago Agent magazine, do, that offer this medium.
Engage, do not retreat. You can’t be hit or miss with your online interaction. Either commit to making this a part of your practice or don’t do it at all. If you chose the latter, keep in mind, as more and more of us turn to social media for research and opinion gathering, your lack of presence could be perceived as a lack of relevance.
Finally, know that transparency and truth will win out. When it comes to establishing your reputation online, it’s really important to be present, be helpful, and be yourself. Having worked in real estate marketing and PR for many years, I’ve had the opportunity to watch the Internet truly change the way real estate agents have to work, and just as importantly, change the way in which consumers behave. Knowing that 87% of real estate transactions begin online – why wouldn’t you put some energy into developing your voice online? With that said, a note of caution: this is not about throwing ideas against the wall and going with whatever sticks. At the end of the day, Social Media is about personal connections and personal exchanges. People ultimately connect (or don’t) with others because of this social, personal connection. Therefore: be strategic, be thoughtful, be helpful and be interesting.
Andrew Hayes has over 15 years of experience in public relations, media, and reputation management and is well-known in Chicago’s real estate community. He currently manages PR and reputation management for Fifth Third Bank Chicago.