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It’s 10 o’clock Monday morning. Do you know what your customers are saying about your business? As sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook become intertwined with business uses, real estate companies need to establish guidelines and best practices.

Many real estate companies are learning that social networking, when used properly, can be an effective business tool. We know from experience that having sales associates involved in the community can enhance a company’s reputation and bring in more business. Sales associates who take part in a social community via blogging, tweeting and participating in forums can also increase business—as long as it’s done right.

But how do you monitor the conversation? You need a social media policy that explicitly lays out what is and isn’t permissible, both on the company’s network and outside of it. This is especially true if sales associates are presenting themselves as representatives of the company.

If you do decide to take the “easy” way out and just block social networking sites at the company firewall, remember that what people post from home can still affect your company’s reputation.

How to Get Started

Consider creating a task force with people in your company who understand policy and procedures and others who are responsibly using social media. Together they can create a company platform.

As always, before you can develop a policy, you need to define the company’s overall attitude toward social networking. A well-executed social media strategy helps consumers and licensees follow an online dialogue protocol that shows promise of a successful outcome for consumers in real estate transactions.

Create a statement that reflects the company’s mission statement and commitment to the consumer.

• Do you know what your agents are doing on the Web?
• Do you know where your agents are placing their listings and what other listings they are claiming?
• Copyright do’s and don’ts
• Logos and company names. Who has the authority to start an online group using a registered trade name?
• Q&A platforms. Are they generating leads in the discussion thread, or are you putting your real estate license at risk?

Social Media Tools to Monitor and Maintain Reputation Management Controls

Educate agents in the correct use of tools to avoid problems and pitfalls and engage consumers in a fashion that will build and enhance a company’s reputation online.

Remember to always reward responsible online interaction. If you can show positive examples of building an online reputation, your sales associates will be better informed and gain an understanding about best practices.

You might also consider hiring a social media director for your association or company.

Use Tools to Monitor Your Online Presence

Set up Google or Yahoo! alerts based on your company’s name, principals’ names, etc. These alerts will send you an email every time one of your search words is found by the search engines. You may also want to perform a Twitter search via http://search.twitter.com or http://tweetbop.com.

Here are some other reputation management tools to look at. They charge a fee, but will do the time-consuming work for you:

Privacy Gurus
www.privacygurus.com/firm.php

Quality Service Certified
www.qualityservice.org

Amy Chorew is vice president of platform development at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC.

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