Last week, I sent an email article that covered personal safety while showing houses or hosting open houses. Taking stock of another form of safety, this article is going to concentrate on how to safeguard your life online when marketing or advertising your services via email, blog, or home listings.
Real estate has become more and more of an online industry as time progresses. Social media outlets such as blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, ActiveRain, HAR.com, and Twitter have become great marketing channels for generating traffic to your business. They are inexpensive, quick, easy, and get your name out to more people than traditional newspaper or radio ads. However, with this exposure come some natural hazards – it is important to ensure your safety while simultaneously keeping your name and company top-of-mind to potential clients.
I compiled these tips on the tail of Andrew Wooten’s recent webinar presentation in observation of the National Association of Realtors “Realtor Safety Month”.
Keep Private Information…Private: Do you use Facebook as an outlet for advertising listings or linking new blog posts? Ensure that your personal page has all of the correct privacy settings in place by going to your page, clicking on “Home” and “Privacy Settings”. There you can select who can see your posts and posts people tag you in; here you can also designate your privacy settings to prohibit getting tagged in photos or posts until you have approved this action. Have separate accounts for private and business-related Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or other social media outlets. This will allow clients to see important market updates and blog postings while not letting them know too much about your private life.
Do not announce your location when posting and be sure to keep your contact information off your public “About” page. This includes your birth year, graduation year and any references to such timelines. These are easy ways for internet “phishermen” to find ways to infiltrate your accounts.
Everything you put online will be there forever: Regardless of how many times you delete or remove a photo, it has been released into cyberspace and will stay there eternally. Consider avoiding photos or posts that contain alcohol, bad behavior, swearing, political and religious views, or anything that might be offensive to a prospective client that is trying to get some background information on their agent.
Vacation – all they ever wanted: A big mistake that many agents make is announcing that they will be out of town due to a family trip or business meeting. This is the perfect invitation for online stalkers to know when they can get to your house when you aren’t going to be there. Have your phones forwarded to your mobile and post your vacation pictures after you return.
Password protection is vital: Your account passwords are the main defense against hackers and phishers. According to Microsoft, these are the integral components of a strong password.
Ensure that your password:
- Is at least seven characters long
- Does not contain your user name, real name, or company name.
- Does not contain a complete dictionary word.
- Is significantly different from previous passwords. Passwords that increment (abcdef1, abcdef2, abcdef3, etc.) are not strong.
- Contains characters from each of the following four groups: uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numerals, and special characters (%, *, &, etc.)
Safeguard your home office: Be certain your office computer is also securely protected with a complex password in order to protect your clients’ personal information. If you use a home computer, verify you have their information carefully stored, perhaps offsite, to make sure it cannot be compromised. The FTC has made a nice tutorial where they cover steps you can take with storing your clients’ sensitive information: Protecting Personal Information: A Guide for Business
Click here for an article we penned for our customer base discussing how to keep your identity protected. Many of these concepts overlap the above suggestions (yet are client-centric), and would be a good resource to share with your clientele as a guide to keeping their credit safe.