Brand.com reviews the online reputation management needs of professionals from all fields, and what the company has found is that no professional community is exempt from the needs of positive online branding—including, and perhaps especially, real estate professionals. According to Brand.com president Michael Zammuto, this stems largely from the realities of how most consumers find realtors, in this online age. “When somebody wants to find an agent to assist him or her with buying or selling a home, it’s likely that the consumer will turn to the Internet—perhaps to a Facebook search, but more likely to a Google or Bing search,” Zammuto opines. “As such, what individuals find out about a particular realtor can really prove make or break.”
The sad realities of online reputation management, however, are that real estate professionals face many threats to their online respectability. “If a consumer has a bad experience with you, you can bet that he or she will voice frustrations via Facebook or an online review site,” notes Zammuto. “According to Brand.com, reviews for realtors are growing more common and more influential all the time. As such, agents need to do everything in their power to ensure that these reviews are positive, because they really do affect whether or not potential buyers and sellers select you as their agent.”
And there are still further causes of potential online defamation. “Do you have an unscrupulous colleague, a rival, or a disgruntled former employee? All of these folks could sabotage your reputation with a malicious online review,” Zammuto notes, adding that most realtor review sites do not require comments or criticisms to be authenticated in any way.
The question that real estate professionals face, then, is that of how best they can defend their online image. In the paragraphs that follow, Brand.com reviews some top strategies for realtor online reputation management.
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The first tip that Brand.com reviews is one that real estate agents will no doubt take to heart—and that is to invest in some prime online real estate. “If you don’t own the rights to your exact-match online domains, acquiring them should be your top priority,” Zammuto says. “This means YourName.com and .net and .org, and perhaps some variants, like YourNameRealty.com, or whatever else.”
Zammuto explains that, if nothing else, this is a key defensive move. “You need to use at least one of these domains to host a personal website, but even if you do not utilize them all, you need to acquire them simply to keep other people from getting them—and possibly using them in ways that might embarrass you.”
Brand.com reviews another tip, which is for real estate agents to invest in some tools for enhancing and expanding their online authority. “Online reputation management is not just about defending yourself from bad reviews and warding off online attacks,” Zammuto explains. “It is also about branding yourself as someone with true knowledge, expertise, and authority. In short, it’s about showing potential clients that you know what you are doing and that you are there to help them with whatever their real estate needs may be.”
Zammuto says there are many ways to build this kind of online authority, but maintaining a blog—with information and tips regarding real estate—can go a long way. “A robust social media presence also helps establish your online authority,” he offers.
To this end, Zammuto says real estate agents should ensure that they have completely filled-out and up-to-date profiles on leading social media sites—especially LinkedIn and Completed.com. “These SEO-driven platforms are especially vital, because they not only provide solid search engine results, but they also allow real estate professionals a forum for showcasing their achievements,” he offers.
From there, Zammuto considers the nature of online reviews. “All industries have their own review sites these days, and real estate is no different,” he explains. “As such, it is crucial for real estate agents to know how to respond to these reviews.”
His first tip is to play nice, even when the reviews are malicious or scathing. “Keep a level head, and make sure you don’t fly off the handle or respond to these reviews hastily,” Zammuto comments. “Your response can do just as much damage as the reviews themselves, assuming it is a hot-headed one.”
According to Brand.com, reviews do not always warrant a response at all. Zammuto encourages real estate pros to keep up with their notices and to respond to reviews that are favorable or that offer legitimate, constructive feedback. He also cautions real estate professionals against responding to reviews that seem unreasonable or simply defamatory.
“If it seems like it’s the handiwork of a cyber bully, just drop it,” Zammuto advises. “Responding to those kinds of reviews is only going to draw more attention to the situation, and ultimately just make things worse.”
According to the president of Brand.com, reviews that do damage can often be drowned out by more positive, brand-enhancing reviews. “At Brand.com, reviews are known to be either helpful or harmful, and if you’ve got damaging reviews, sometimes the best way to suppress them is by cultivating positive ones.” Zammuto encourages real estate professionals to include links to their online review profiles on all of their website and social media pages, and also to ask their happy clients to leave them some positive feedback.
A final word of advice from Zammuto is for realtors to remember that there are professional services out there, eager and able to assist when online reviews or comments become too aggressive to handle. “Retaining the services of a professional reputation defense and online branding firm is, naturally, the best way to effectively shape the way you are presented on the Internet,” Zammuto explains. “A professional company can help you present yourself as someone of integrity and authority on the Web.”
Brand.com reviews the online brand enhancement needs of professionals in all fields, and has worked with many real estate pros.