Since the creation of Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2006, social media has grown exponentially with millions of people posting stories, pictures, videos, advertisements, and other media online. For most of us, checking our social media accounts is part of the daily routine, and the use of social media platforms continues to grow.
Social media plays a big role in real estate agents’ marketing and advertising efforts. It has become a primary advertising tool for listings, as well as for promoting an agent’s business. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter offer private pages for agents to post about issues they are facing in the local real estate market, as well as request recommendations for home inspectors, structural engineers, handymen, and other service providers. Social media has replaced the water cooler, picture album, and office bulletin boards of years past.
I scroll through my social media accounts every day. I try not to spend an excessive amount of time on them as I discovered early on they are “time suckers” taking me away from more meaningful and productive activities. I participate in social media sites used for personal and family postings and several professional sites used to acquire and disseminate information from other real estate professionals and industry leaders. Sometimes I find the viewing enjoyable and entertaining and other times troubling.
There is no question that all aspects of social media are part of our everyday lives — so much so that people’s daily routines and experiences are being played out on social media sites like never before. This is all well and good, but some degree of caution should be exercised before we put something out there for all to see.
Some of the threads I regularly see on these sites are from a wide variety of people, including close friends, acquaintances, and fellow agents, as well as complete strangers. Many of the comments contain strong opinions on social, political, and ideological issues that may be viewed by some as inappropriate and insulting and may possibly harm long-standing relationships. On a regular basis, I read threads full of arguments and heated discussions that go on and on with insults and insinuations that genuinely “cross the line.” Some of these come from my fellow real estate agents.
Here are some seven tips to keep your social media postings from negatively impacting your business:
1. Think about what you want to say before you write or respond to a post. As you scroll through and read posts fromyour friends or connections on your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or other social media timelines, think about how – or if – you want to respond to a post. In your mind, the words you write may not be considered controversial or offensive, but you never know how the words or “expressions” contained in your response may be received by the one who wrote the post.
For example, I have seen the word “unbelievable” used in a social media response interpreted as both positive and negative. The following two phrases, using the word “unbelievable,” have different meanings: “Completely unbelievable! Most agents are smart enough to remember to close the lockbox!”; “It’s unbelievable he has reached that level of production in a short period!” I know this sounds like a little thing, but one word or phrase can be taken the wrong way.
2. Keep all of your posts non-controversial and neutral. You need to keep in mind that your posts will be seen by many people, including your current and past clients, prospects, and friends who might refer future business to you. If one of your posts appears to be on a controversial subject with a disagreeing or differing point of view from your client, it could easily backfire and cause damage to your relationship with the client and possibly do damage to your business. I feel there are two areas to steer clear of: politics and religions. Both of these are “hot topics,” and I have seen threads in response to a post on these issues get pretty offensive. Stay away from these!
3. Don’t attack or berate other REALTORS® using social media. The National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice clearly states we are not to make disparaging remarks toward one another. Article 15 reads: “REALTORS® shall not knowingly or recklessly make false or misleading statements about other real estate professionals, their businesses, or their business practices.” You might find yourself in front of your local REALTOR® association Professional Standards committee if you post something about a fellow agent on a social media site that could be construed as defamatory or insulting. If you have an issue or problem with a fellow professional, talk to him or her face-to-face to seek a resolution. Their managing broker should be consulted if you find discussions between you and the other agent are not progressing productively and positively. The bottom line: keep opinions and comments of other agents to yourself.
4. A controversial post could cost you your affiliation with your firm. As a managing broker, I review social media accounts before and after hiring agents. I have a great concern when I see something incongruent with the values of our company. If a current agent is posting inappropriately, I will have a serious discussion with them and, depending on the situation, take corrective action or release their real estate license from the firm. And I am not alone. Almost all employers in every industry now review social media before deciding to hire an employee. Ensure all of your posts keep your broker happy.
5. Remember what you post on social media can advance or hinder your career. Social media can be a huge asset to your real estate business. Agents and brokers continuously share property listings, market analysis, and real estate news with those they know. I grew my business over the years by posting to all of the significant social media sites on a regular schedule. It takes organization and discipline to regularly post, but it is worth it. But, keep in mind poor judgment in what you write on social media can also hinder your real estate career
I know we all have opinions and want to share those opinions with others. However, consider who is looking at your posts: past clients, prospects, neighbors, club members, friends, family, etc. Our real estate practices depend on getting referrals from those we know — and many of these folks are on social media. Once it is out there, it’s out there. Yes, you can take your post down, but remember anyone can take a screenshot of what you posted. The old saying, “closing the stable door after the horse has bolted,” applies here. People will always remember the negative posts more than any positive post. If they share your negative posts with others, it will be difficult to repair the damage.
6. Social media is one tool in your toolbox. Social media should be one of the many tools you have in your real estate business “toolbox.” As I previously mentioned, social media is an excellent avenue for marketing your property listings, conveying the latest news in your neighborhood or community as well as local and national real estate market updates. Educate and inform your prospects and clients through what you post on social media. Watch any response you compose to posts written by others. Don’t use social media to be your bully pulpit on issues that could land you in hot water. Keep it at a professional level. Social media can be a successful communication and marketing component of your business plan. It should be managed carefully, sensibly, and responsibly.
7. Do not let social media devour your time. I learned a long time ago, scrolling through the various posts on my Facebook timeline can be all-consuming. There are so many hours in the day for you to be productive in selling real estate. Do not let the attraction of fascinating articles, pictures, and video distract you from the vital work on your daily “to do” list. Spend a maximum of ten to fifteen minutes each morning and evening reviewing your social media posts. I know it doesn’t seem like a great deal of time, but you don’t have time to lose. Be disciplined and plan your social media time in a useful way.
Again, as a real estate professional, keep your posts neutral and non-controversial. Always assume your clients and fellow agents are reading your posts and viewing your videos. In today’s cyber-savvy consumer world, prospects and past clients might make a decision on choosing you as their agent based on what they read on your social media sites. If you create a fire on social media with opinions and conversations that are contentious, you might find yourself trying to fix the damage that could be irreparable.
John Giffen is Director of Broker Operations for Benchmark Realty, LLC in Tennessee. He is the author of “Do You Have a Minute? An Award-Winning Real Estate Managing Broker Reveals Keys for Industry Success.”