Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Their (Online) Reputation Precedes Them: 4 Case Studies
Top producers share tips for managing your online presence.
September 30, 2015
Hear from the team leader, the new agent, and sales associates to glean ideas on how to manage your image online.
Name: Dawn Thomas
Company: Dreyfus Sotheby’s International Realty, San Francisco Bay Area
Thomas places a major emphasis on customer reviews—or “endorsements,” as she refers to them—allowing her customers to talk up her good work. When you search “Dawn Thomas real estate” on Google, it’s her client reviews that come up highest. One of the main drivers is her Yelp business page, which she uses to collect reviews. “I manage my reputation one client at a time,” Thomas says. “It’s a continual building of a foundation. I have 51 Yelp reviews, but that didn’t happen overnight.”
- Set the stage for reviews. In her initial meeting with clients, Thomas tells her clients that her intent is that by the end of the transaction she wants her clients to be so happy with her performance that they’ll want to leave her an endorsement online to tell everyone they know about the great job she did. “I try to get them to buy into this immediately – that an endorsement is my intent,” Thomas says. She sends an e-mail post-closing asking for them to write a review on one of her profile pages at Yelp, Google+, LinkedIn, and so on.
- Ask which reviews resonated. Reviews give Thomas greater insight into what is most important to new customers. She asks if they saw an endorsement about her online that prompted them to contact her. “That tells me what resonated most with them,” Thomas says. “Then, I know to hammer home on that piece.” That information also tells her what sites potential customers frequent. Customers are more apt to review you on a site where they already congregate, she says.
- Promote your positive reviews. You can claim a Yelp business page for free to start collecting reviews. Once Thomas had several rave reviews, she decided to upgrade her Yelp business page. With an upgraded page, she now has targeted Yelp ads on users’ real estate-related searches or competitor business pages that showcase her Yelp customer ratings and reviews. She also has an “endorsement” section on her website that features customer reviews and prominently links to other places for reviews on LinkedIn, Google+, and Facebook. “You need to be in several different places because buyers and sellers nowadays are looking in a lot of places,” Thomas says. “They may research seven to eight different places before reaching out to you.”
Commit as a Team
Name: Brian Copeland
Company: Village Real Estate Services, Nashville, Tenn.
There’s undeniable power behind a team, but teams face a risk of diluting their brand if they segment customer reviews and sales performance under different profile pages. That’s why many teams choose one central figure to serve as the face of the team. Brian Copeland, the Nashville and Beyond team leader, has the team’s business profiles and customer reviews all under his name. Still, his team – consisting of a listing specialist, buyer and investor specialists, and client care coordinator – work together to promote a positive online image through social media to find connections with those in the community. “Our goal is not to be the most reviewed agents. It’s more important to us to be the most relevant,” Copeland says.
Seize control of your online reputation, and claim your realtor.com profile.
- Show that your doors are open. Copeland makes sure there are plenty of places for customers to review him and his team by completing profiles on Yelp, Google Places, realtor.com®, and other professional and review sites. “Your picture should be there, your bio, and other photos should be uploaded,” he says. “If you see an avatar of a building—the Yelp default—or the Google ‘G’—Google’s default—that looks like a huge fail. It makes your business look closed when your profiles are incomplete.”
- Give in order to get. Copeland urges his team to be active members in the review community online. He and his team members have earned a Yelp Elite badge, which is given to those who are active on Yelp in contributing well-written reviews. “In order to receive reviews, you must also give,” Copeland says. “We give positive reviews to other companies, especially those that are involved in our kind of business.” It’s even led to more real estate business. They left a review for a restaurant called “Batter’d & Fried” that he and his team eat at frequently. Recently, one of the waitresses there recognized them as the ones who posted a positive review online and asked them to sell her house.
- Urge community engagement. Copeland and his team are also active in promoting real estate news and community information on social media and blogs and posting videos about the neighborhoods they serve. “My charge to my team: Keep social media positive, engaging, and as personal as possible,” Copeland says. “Engage in a positive way because for everyone it’s a reflection of our brand.” The goal is to find a connection, whether it’s through forming bonds over pets or community events – or even documenting their own home renovation projects. “Ninety-five percent of what we post online is personal,” Copeland says.
Social Media Maven
Name: Megan Farrell
Company: Watson Realty Corp., Palm Coast, Fla.
For a new real estate agent, sales performance obviously can’t be the driver of your online reputation from the get-go. Even customer reviews have to be built over time. That’s why since starting in the business two years ago, Megan Farrell has made social media and forming relationships with prospects online her No. 1 reputation-building strategy. She may not have been in the business long, but she has found ways to connect. “My hope is that as people get to know me [through online channels], they’ll want to work with me,” she says. “This is a relationship business so I use social media to show myself as approachable and professional. Also, I want to keep people informed. The information is out there and they are going to find it one way or another. I want them to find it from me.”
- Be authentic. Farrell has found videos to be a powerful way to connect online and ramp up her online reputation. For example, she’ll upload videos of her paddle boarding through the canals in Palm Harbor to show off the area. Or, she’ll have an education video with a home inspector talking about the importance of home inspections or a vlog about how to boost your credit score. “Videos are powerful because people see me and they feel like they know me,” she says. “Then, when they meet me, they see I’m the same person.”
- Engage the audience. To get more interaction on social media, Farrell uses contests. For example, on Facebook, she’ll post a photo of a new listing and have a contest on “guess the list price.” Recently, she raffled off three 5K run registrations for a race in the local area to the two people who had the closest guesses and the one who shared her status on their pages and then collected the most guesses. Her post garnered more than 1,000 views.
- Find ways to get on others’ news feeds. Farrell will have photos taken of herself standing alongside her customers holding a “sold” sign that she’ll then post on social media channels, like Facebook and Instagram, on closing day. She’ll tag her customers on the photo. It’s a subtle way to get exposure in front of her clients’ social network. “They’re not going to keep you on their wall if they’re unhappy with you,” she says.
Claim Your Profiles
Name: Tiffany Curry
Company: Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Anderson Properties, Houston, Texas
Curry wants to make sure anyone checking up on her online finds a plethora of information about her – from her education and skillset to her sales performance. One of the main things she’s leveraged to build a bigger online imprint is the Houston Association of REALTORS®’ customer review system, which she can use to link to her other online profiles too in showing off more than 60 direct customer feedback and ratings on her transaction performance. Curry has been part of a work group helping to bring enhanced profiles to realtor.com®.
- Claim your domain. Curry completed and claimed profiles on all the main sites, realtor.com®, Zillow, Trulia, Yelp, and more. She also targets social media sites, like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Houzz. She makes sure her profile bios are consistent, thorough, and up-to-date. She has opted in to HAR’s Client Experience Rating system, a free benefit to HAR members, in which all her clients automatically receive a post-transaction customer feedback survey to review and rate her performance. The results appear unfiltered on her online profile at HAR.com.
- Use a friendly profile picture. Curry paid careful attention to the photo she selected for her online bios, after finding her phone didn’t ring as much when she used a formal headshot, slightly set-back, of her sitting in a chair and wearing a business suit. “It was a little too stuffy,” she says. She swapped it out for a more casual photo – still in a suit to show professionalism – but she chose an open-mouth smile that showed her teeth and that was tighter cropped in – viewed as a more welcoming gesture. “The picture made me look more friendly, and it’s amazing but my phone started ringing more. I think people felt more comfortable calling me with that picture,” she says.
- Be transparent with your results. Through the HAR customer review system, Curry features unfiltered customer comments and ratings on her HAR profile page as well as plug-ins with it through her social media pages. Curry is rated 4.95 out of 5.0, based on 60 completed customer surveys. Customers rate her on competency, market knowledge, communication, and their overall experience while working with her on the transaction. “The reviews personalize you because it’s the words of people who have worked with me on a transaction,” Curry says. She also highlights her track record in her bios online by saying that she has a “six-week average for getting listings sold.” “Sellers want to know if you can sell their home in a short time and for good money,” Curry says. “So I make that part of my profile.”