Online Reputation Management for the Real Estate Business
First, let’s define the concept of Reputation Management. Simply put, a brand’s online reputation is measured by consumer perception in terms of credibility.
Seventy-five percent of apartment shoppers said they would base their decisions on ratings and reviews but would be “rent focused” while 80% of consumers have received advice through a social media outlet regarding which product or service to purchase .
Consequently, user-generated content in the form of online reviews and social conversations significantly shape your brand’s image. They can be the deal-breaker for maintaining existing and acquiring new relationships.
Whether you’re a large corporation, a freelance professional, or a small, “mom and pop” shop, reputation management is a crucial part of marketing. Take a moment to consider how clients and prospects perceive your brand.
If you did not answer ‘yes’ to these questions, then it’s time for you to invest in your online reputation!
Real Estate Companies are investing heavily in managing their reputations because two-thirds of consumers are using search engines to help them research and make purchase decisions.
While word-of-mouth recommendations are still important, ‘word-of-mouse’ recommendations are spreading the word electronically over the internet. 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. If consumers can’t find you, haven’t heard of you, or aren’t talking about you online, chances are your competition will gain their business.
Think of Reputation Management in terms of a game or a sport,but with the goal of making it to the championship game year after year.
As you read on, you’ll be provided with the tools to get in the game and strategy for playing offense and defense to strengthen and protect your name.
First, can they easily find you online?
Second, do you know what they’re saying about you?
Lastly, do you know where they are talking about you?
The number of marketers who say that Facebook is critical or important to their business initiatives has increased 83% in just 2 years.
Brands with the highest “social media activity” (including reviews) increased revenue by as much as 18%3.
74% of consumers rely on social networks to guide purchase decisions.
So, what do all these numbers mean to you and your business? These numbers are representative of the fact that people are not only talking, people are talking with the intent to buy. This is why it is so important for you and your brand to be active on social media sites. We all want a high amount of followers, but do we know why?
Brand advocates. That’s why.
These are your biggest fans that have had an amazing experience with your brand and believe in it so much, that they will sing your praises any chance they get. What brand would not love to have thousands of brand advocates out there singing your praises? This free, word of mouse marketing is priceless.
These recruiters are trying to convince consumers that are on the fence about your brand and your competition that you are the best choice—the right choice.
How do you get these brand advocates? You have to go where they are. You have to make your presence known in the social spaces—Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Instagram are the biggest social platforms that currently gather the most engagement and conversation.
Countless brands know that they need to be on social sites, but what they don’t realize is that it’s not enough just to be there. They need to be having conversations with past, present and future consumers.
Brands need to be engaging on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis. Consumers are active on social sites constantly—not just Monday through Friday from 9 to 5. Consumers want to interact, to be heard, and they want to be spoken to.
When brands interact with consumers, it brings the“big business” mentality that the consumer may have regarding the brand and replaces it with a “human” feel. So, if your brand isn’t interacting with consumers, you better believe that your competition is!
Don’t miss out on this opportunity! Check out our sample Social Media calendar on page 21 for your use. Print out and customize for your business so that you’re posting a variety of appropriate and engaging content.
So what do you do now that you are equipped with this knowledge? Get your brand on social sites to increase your online visibility and engage with your fans.
As your fan-base builds, so will their online conversations about your brand. Ultimately, you’ll see those online dialogues convert into sales and significant growth overall. Who wouldn’t want that?
They say it’s always “the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.” Well, the same is true for customers who complain, leave not-so-nice reviews and one star ratings on your business profile. It’s the bad and ugly ones that get the attention and require your quick, carefully-worded responses.
We’d all love to, and should, respond to the good ones—the pleasant and glowing reviews about how wonderful their experience was with your brand, but truthfully, we’re typically on the lookout for the bad and ugly ones so we can quickly pounce on them and put those fires out stat.
PepsiTM and Coca-Cola.TM Wendy’sTM and McDonald’sTM. TargetTM and Wal-Mart.TM All of these brands have a strongonline presence and they are all watching each other’s next move. Whether it’s a public relations catastrophe, a charity contribution or a new product launch, they are all talking. Part of Reputation Management also means keeping one eye open on your competition.
And, more importantly, these brands are learning from their competitor’s mistakes! After all, a wise man once said, “Winners build on mistakes. Losers dwell on them ” Take the opportunity to take some risks, play off others’ successes and failures. Take the lead on a tactic that your competition couldn’t get quite right, and even take a page out of their playbook and make it work for you too.
In 2011, Target produced a documentary called “Behind the Bull’s-eye”, in which they explained to viewers that not only are they the number two discount retail store behind Wal-Mart, but they are happy there. They are happy in the number two spot because they aren’t scrutinized as much in the shadow of the glaring limelight that shines on Wal-Mart. Target can fly under the radar when it comes to negative publicity, which is more difficult to do when you are number one. Not to say you don’t want to be number one; however, this tactic of paying close attention to your competitors can work in your favor. You can push your brand harder and take risks when your competitor receives some negative publicity.
Set up Google Alerts and other third-party tools for competitors and industry news.
Pay attention to what is being said about competing brands and the industry as a whole. Use the information to make your services better, pick up where your competitors are slacking, stand out where
they don’t. Find out why your competition is being noticed and figure out how you can make it better.
Follow industry leaders on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, as well as growing channels like Pinterest and Instagram.
Similar to Google Alerts, use the information you see in social channels to your advantage. If they are launching a product or hosting a contest, see how you can play off of it. Could you do something better?
Is there a way you could offer something that could work hand in hand with the prize they are offering?
Stay in tune with your competitors’ social initiatives and make some of your own that are fresh and new.
Check out analytical tools and reports to compare and evaluate the activity on your social channels versus the activity on your competitors’ channels.
Use these tools as a benchmarking system to evaluate how your content stacks up against your competitors. Are they getting more click-throughs and comments than you? Are they positive or negative? Do they have more followers? These reports will be helpful in fine-tuning your messaging and determining what type of content triggers more engagement and business growth.
Sign up for your competitors’ promotions and newsletters and subscribe to their blog feeds.
Taking these steps and understanding what is, and isn’t, working for your competition will prove to be a strategic move for enhancing your own reputation and coming out ahead. Take some risks.
Now that we’ve armed you with the basics of how the game is played, now you must actually play. So huddle up, practice, incorporate some moves into your playbook to score points, win over the fans, and avoid dropping the ball or throwing an interception.
In this game, it’s very important to communicate openly. Find out how your image is faring by listening and, more importantly, responding to what the public is saying on social sites, review sites, Google searches and blogs.
It’s also paramount to be proactive. After all, how are you going to play offense without fielding your fans for some winning reviews.
Continue to ask for referrals, but ask satisfied customers post a review about their experience on your business profile in the directories to mentioned earlier. Promote those links on your business cards, email signatures andother marketing materials. Consider offering incentives for submitting an online review.
Even more crucial to the game than playing offense and scoring points, is your defensive strategy and responding to unsportsmanlike conduct – or handling negative reviews in this case.
Carefully crafting the appropriate response is key to maintaining relationships and acquiring potential clients.
Your harsh words will come back to haunt you. Often customers justwant to be heard. By responding you are giving them the satisfaction that their complaint was acknowledged. Plus, your potential clients can see that you addressed the issue.
Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand why they feel the way they do. If you come across as unsympathetic or dismissive you will either look bad to other clients/consumers or encourage the person to take further action. Being genuine and open about your brand—good and bad—is always the right way to go as it lends to your credibility and authenticity.
Take responsibility for the situation and confront it head on.
You should quickly apologize and then do some damagecontrol before a situation gets even more widespread .Consumers don’t care whose fault it is. They just want it fixed.
If you start pointing fingers at the customer they will go on the defensive and the situation will escalate.
Always keep it professional and respond quickly to unfavorable reviews. Your number one goal is to attempt to rectify the situation. Advise the reviewer to meet or call you to discuss the matter further to show that you are concerned about their experience.
Always acknowledge the review and respond quickly to set things right.To recoup their trust, follow through immediately or they may not trust you or remove the negative review.
Reputation is an asset and must be managed like other assets. Employees are a company’s best advocate and become your protectors (defense) and promoters (offense). We recommend setting up a team of key players representing several departments that have ownership of the brand, social media, reputation and risk management, legal and human resources. The team should champion the cause for social media and Reputation Management.
This group’s goal is to ensure that ownership and management of the brand is carried out at the corporate level.
Most brands typically have multiple departments that range from sales, marketing, public relations, legal and human resources, IT, third-party vendors and customer service.
The team should have a variety of players with different roles, and include one to take ownership of the company’s image – your quarterback or team leader. This player makes the calls, rallies the team, knows the plays backwards and forwards, and is your “go to” for day-to-day management. The team leader within this group should be responsible for championing resources, identifying internal and external brand advocates, and safeguarding the brand.
The team is critical in establishing governance and best practices, policymaking and conducting companywide training. Here are steps to help you get started in creating your team:
Identify the key players to become a part of the team and engage each of them in the creation of the guidelines.
Set routine meetings for the team to share best practices, new trends, emerging platforms and technology.
Establish goals, objectives and tactics to support them.
Conduct a reputation and social media audit.
Craft a risk management plan along with response protocol to become a strategic guide for units of the organization to follow.
Set up listening tools and formal mechanisms to actively monitor, measure and manage reputation.
Develop internal training material and deliver it to the organization as often as possible.
Evaluate effectiveness of actions taken.
Development of corporate policies, with particular emphasis on those relating to social media participation and managing your online reputation is important. You should define the rules of to help guide your organization’s response to threats. By building in a defined set of response procedures, it is possible to minimize the amount of damage that a social media crisis can inflict.
Comment guidelines set the boundaries for acceptable behavior on the company’s social media profiles, and across the web on review sites, local directories and search engines. Know what the media, competitors, employees and consumers are saying about you, and track the content of the conversation to gauge success.
It’s good to respond to the three inevitable types of conversation - questions, complaints and compliments.
Questions that need to be addressed:
• When are your employees ‘your’ employees?
• Are you responsible for their actions when they are “on the clock”?
• Are you responsible for their actions when they are on their own time?
• Consider your audience and be authentic.
• Remember to protect proprietary and confidential information.
Focus on a simple, clear and compelling narrative that will stick in the mind. It’s the main thing about your business. This is what you always want people to know about you.
• Be authentic. Talk in a language that is real for you and your brand. Avoid the jargon of corporate speak and marketing theory. The more genuine and human you are in the way you talk, the more you will engage people.
Don’t be afraid to use humor where possible.
• Talk about the “dramatically different’’ things you do. People want good stories, so find the things that are exciting to talk about and amplify them.
• Encourage conversations with your customers, employees and the press.
Social media allows you to do this via Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, blogs and LinkedIn. You need to have people monitoring and actively encouraging conversations.
• Make it as easy as possible for consumers to talk about you. Empower your team to talk directly with consumers and build rapport, recruit consumers to be fans, and when anything goes wrong, deal with it at lightning speed.
And there you have it - Reputation Management in all its glory! We’ve armed you with what it is,why to do it, when to do it, where to do it, how to do it, the do’s and don’ts, the good, bad and the ups and downs! Now, it’s up to you to nurture that shiny, new reputation, and foster those ratings, conversations and engaged audience into a thriving business.
Remember, if reputation management is a sport, your goal is to get in the game and win! Your identity should be complete with a team of brand champions to protect your brand from injuries, promote your brand to win over your fans, take risks, learn from mistakes, size up your competition, add to your playbook, practice daily and most of all, give the fans what they want - a solid, reliable, trustworthy company that listens to its customers and delivers on their promise.