From Facebook, Twitter and Yelp to hosting fees and domain decisions, building an online brand is a daunting task. Before you dive into the hot new channel with low ROI or begin paying for a website you don’t have time to maintain, take a few steps back.
Below are our top “Dos” and “Don’ts” for real estate agents hoping to build a robust online brand.
DO: Start from scratch to thoughtfully develop your brand’s value proposition
Before you decide on which channels you’ll go “all in” on, or which headshot you’ll use, it’s important to consider the big picture of your brand and the value you offer your clients. Ask yourself:
Why am I an agent?
Why do my clients like to do business with me?
What kinds of clients do I prefer to work with? (Go beyond “buyers” and “sellers” to consider personality, location, timelines and more)
What unique talents do I bring to the table?
What’s one thing I would NEVER do, even if it would get me ahead?
By jotting down your natural aptitude, aspirations and limits, you can begin to craft overarching goals for your business. From there, you can begin choosing the online tactics and channels that would work best, given your niche and preferences.
DON’T: Try to be all things to all people
Sometimes, when we help agents create a custom ad campaign, we see that they are worried about focusing on one specific group of people (sellers, for example) and leaving out another group of potential clients (like first-time buyers).
The result is an ad that tries to be everything to everyone — but ends up being nothing to anyone.
As you develop your value proposition, be sure to focus time and energy (and websites, ad campaigns and messaging) on your primary client base. If you want to show that you’re open to other types of clients, create focused landing pages (or marketing pieces) that you can send when these secondary clients approach you.
DO: Stay consistent
Before you set up any new websites, landing pages or social media accounts, gather the basic assets and copy you’ll need to develop a consistent online persona:
A current, high-res photo of you (Put your 1998 headshot to rest!!)
An approved broker or franchise logo
An approved logo of your brand (whether agent, team or group)
A “handle” to use across social media accounts. Examples:
A short bio (under 140 characters)
A medium bio (between 500-700 characters)
A long bio (2-3 paragraphs)
A primary phone number (mobile) and back-up (office)
A private, secure email address
Then, whether you’re setting up a Twitter account, a new squeeze page technology or online ads, be sure to use your pre-approved and pre-written assets and copy from the above list. That way, if anyone should “Google” you, they’ll be able to recognize you and your brand immediately.
DON’T: Rely on your broker or franchise to build your brand for you
It’s not a problem to take advantage of the tech tools that your broker or franchise offers you. In fact, you should be sure you use these features to their full ability (as you are paying for them within your commissions).
However, you don’t want your online persona to be 100% tied to your franchise or broker. Be sure to build a few online destinations that you “own” outright. That way, if you ever leave your office to join a competing broker or franchise, you can still leverage your robust website, Twitter handle, Facebook presence as you make the transition.
DO: Pay attention to online reviews and respond to the negative ones
Whether you set up Google Alerts or check out Yelp and other national review sites regularly, it’s smart to keep up on what past and current clients are saying about you. And it’s okay to feel a sting when you see a 3-star review come in, tainting your perfect 5-star rating.
When you get a bad review, take a few hours to allow yourself to get over any anger or disappointment you feel. Consider the client’s testimonial and experience and ask yourself if they:
Have the right to feel angry in general
Have the right to feel angry at you
Are honestly portraying the situation
Then, respond thoughtfully to the complaint. Be sure to take full responsibility for anything that you may have done wrong and explain how you will prevent this from happening to future clients. If the client is being outright disingenuous about what went down, it’s okay to quickly clarify where they have misstated or misinterpreted the situation.
DON’T: Dwell on negative reviews and don’t point fingers
Repeat after me: You don’t need to have the last word on a negative review. If you’re feeling personally attacked or misrepresented, it can be easy to keep responding to ongoing commentary. And it’s easy to start pointing fingers at the poster, reminding them of what they did wrong throughout the transaction.
But the reality is, when someone leaves a negative review, they didn’t do so on a whim. They spent time and energy on it. You’re unlikely to change their mind about what happened and you’re unlikely to receive any future referrals from them.
Instead, it’s time to focus on any new potential clients who are visiting the review site and may be swayed by the review.
So, take the high road. Post one response explaining your side, and only respond a second time if you are able to stay calm and say something like, “I’m sorry you feel that way and again, I did do my best to keep the transaction moving forward on time. I have taken precautions to ensure that future clients will not experience a similar misunderstanding. I wish you all the best and hope you are happy in your new home.”
Then. Walk. Away.
DO: Focus on the channels that you’re naturally attracted to
Can’t get enough of Pinterest or Instagram in your everyday life? Great! You’re more likely to enjoy prospecting or brand-building if it’s on a channel that you naturally gravitate to.
Over time, you’ll want to measure the ROI of these “passion” efforts, but in the beginning, just explore, create a community and have fun.
DON’T: Force yourself to buy into every new tech craze
You’ve likely heard of Shiny Object Syndrome and you may know that solopreneurs and small business owners like agents are especially susceptible to it.
Don’t force yourself to master the newest technology every time.
And no, don’t fire up Snapchat just because your nephew said his 24-year old real estate agent friend just won a deal on there. (Remember, that deal was likely hard-won after dozens — or hundreds — of highly filtered selfies and up-to-the-minute updates. It didn’t materialize out of thin air.)
Not every technology can be your sweet spot and it’s okay to steer clear of those you don’t have time for, or that don’t naturally appeal to you.
Remember, just last year, we were all talking about how Pokemon: Go was going to be a game changer for the modern agent. When was the last time you spotted a hoard of Poke-hunters at your local park? Or a Poke-stop listed as a perk of an open house?
The ultimate “DO”: Focusing your sights on sellers who are ready to list this year
As low inventory continues to plague our market, you may be ready to focus your online efforts on a smaller, targeted group of homeowners who are ready to sell now.
See how SmartTargeting can predict local sellers, then help you win their business via targeted online ads and strategic, low-maintenance follow-up. Check it out here.