Today’s tech savvy consumer spends a lot of time online reading reviews, referencing social media and looking through countless websites before making a purchase decision. Since buying a home is one of the largest financial investments a consumer can make, you can bet they are doing extensive research to find the right person to help them through the home buying process. Are you confident in what they are finding about your business?
Building a positive online reputation for your brand should be top priority if you are serious about growing your business. Highly recognized brands like Target and Starbucks have spent millions, if not billions, of dollars growing their brand online. While it’s unlikely you will ever need this amount of money to market your real estate business, it just goes to show how important your online image is.
Homes.com spokesperson Joe Sesso highlights strategies that can help real estate professionals improve their online reputation during his “6 Steps to Building and Protecting Your Brand” presentation from NAR 2013. Homes.com has consolidated this presentation into six easy steps, so that you can use it to start taking control of your online reputation today!
1) Ask yourself three simple questions
- What does my business do the best? This will help you evaluate the strengths of your company. Sesso stresses not to do too much, rather spend your time focusing on the few things that you excel in. The best way to do this is to figure out what you’re doing better than your competitors and build your brand off of those strengths.
- What does my business lack? Identifying your weaknesses may be the most difficult step of the process. Start by identifying what you can do better, recognizing the areas in which you lack will help you become better at what you do. Sesso has found that the most common weaknesses are inconsistent social media campaigns and lack of customer reviews. Consumers rely on one another for recommendations and these two resources are where they are gaining the most insight.
- What are my opportunities and potential threats? Determine what competitors you have in your area and find creative ways to stand out from them. If there’s a local builder in your market, see if there are any partnership opportunities that allow you to both grow. Maybe there’s a new construction neighborhood that has yet to sign an agent to help sell the homes, see if your business can fill that void. Always be on the look out for ways to extend your connections and opportunities to “one-up” the competition.
2) Building your online presence
What’s open all day, every day and represents your brand and should be a reliable source for clients and prospects to find their dream home? It’s your website and Sesso stresses that this is one of your most important assets. You should be investing time and money to optimize it. Make it look fresh! When potential buyers visit your page and it looks like someone just slapped it together, it’s likely they will immediately leave. Be sure that it works properly and make it easy to navigate from a desktop or mobile device, keep in mind that a majority of home searches are done from a mobile device.
3) Utilize videos
There’s a reason why Facebook is charging about $2 million per day for a 15 second video ad. Videos present you an opportunity to connect with your consumers on a more personal level, which is one reason why Sesso has used videos to build his own brand. Resources like paid YouTube ads and Facebook videos are like your own personal commercials. Don’t just share your listings. Create a short clip highlighting what makes you the local expert. These videos are more sharable than content with only text and it allows the viewer can gain a better idea of who you are.
4) Taking control of your online reputation
The first step in managing your online presence is to identify what sites you are on and the ones you are not. The best place to start would be major search engines like Google Local, Yahoo Local and Bing Local. Almost every internet user begins their search on one of these search engines, so be sure to confirm your information so that they can easily find you.
Getting online reviews is your next step, whenever you have a happy client ask them to share their experience on sites like Yelp, Google and Angies List. To make it easier for the client, send them an email containing links to where they can submit these reviews. The most important thing to remember, always address poor reviews and ratings. Although one bad review may not be on the top of your “to-do” list, it may be all that it takes for a potential client to lose interest in you. Word of mouth is the most common way that homebuyers are finding you, so make sure that everything they see online positively represents your business.
5) Always use social media
According to real estate tech guru Jimmy Mackin “Social media is not all about pushing your listings, it’s about growing your referral network”. Obviously using social media to promote your business isn’t “breaking news”, but where most real estate professionals fail is optimizing their use of these powerful tools. In order for social media to really work, you must be active on each of them. Continuously updating your photos, sharing content that provides value and interacting with your followers is the best way to build your presence on social networks. Sesso states that a lot of real estate professionals create social pages and never update them again, so when a customer discovers the page it looks like the business is no longer running or it’s not important enough to maintain.
6) Online scorecard
Obtaining reports of your online performance helps you recognize your strengths and weaknesses. They provide insights on what content you’ve share has been most popular, where your website is generating the most traffic and how you are doing in comparison to your competition. Not only can these reports be used internally, they can also be provided to clients and prospects to show how you are performing better than the next guy.
Establishing your reputation online is more than just a marketing tool, it’s the lifeline to your business. Gone are the days that people simply drive by and see an open house sign. Today’s consumer is conducting their search online and from the comfort of their own home. Homes.com wants you to take this information and start strengthening your online presence to ensure that when a homebuyer finds you, there will be no reason for them to search anywhere else.