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Maximizing Your Online Reputation – Part I: How the Internet Can Make or Break Your Business

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By Erica Campbell Byrum

online_reputationEditor’s Note: This is the first of a seven-part series from Homes.com on how to manage your online reputation. Homes.com has put together a free playbook on the topic, which can be downloaded here. Watch for this series in RISMedia’s Friday Weekly Business Builder e-newsletter.

Business magnate Warren Buffett once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Think about this: In today’s business world, where so much takes place online, your reputation could be ruined in much less than five minutes. One erroneous click, and everything you’ve worked so hard to build could suddenly be at risk.

These days, it’s imperative that you have an online presence to effectively market your business. While we’ve long relied on word-of-mouth recommendations in the real estate business, it’s critical to realize that today, word-of-mouse (recommendations that circulate on the web) is gaining momentum. Did you know that two thirds of all consumers are using search engines to help them research and make purchase decisions? That means that before they turn to anyone else, they’re looking to the Internet to find out about you and what your business can offer them. With that comes an online reputation.

Online reputation is measured by consumer perception in terms of credibility. Basically, your online reputation is a measure of how consumers rank your credibility on the Internet. Online reviews and conversations over social media have the power to make or break your real estate business. Such user-generated content can significantly shape your brand image—for the better or for the worse.

And the Internet does not discriminate. No matter who you are, your online reputation is crucial. From large corporations to small, mom-and-pop organizations, the way that clients and prospects perceive you and/or your brand is critical to your marketing efforts.

The first important step to take in maximizing your online reputation is to ask yourself the following questions:

• Is your business easy to find online?
• What are people saying about your brand in online reviews?
• Where are these reviews posted?

If you don’t have an answer to any or all of these questions, you should probably join the estimated four million companies who are going to invest in their online reputation this year. The bottom line is this: if consumers can’t find you online, or instead find negative reviews about you, they’re going to take their business elsewhere. It’s plain and simple.

In our next column, we’ll show you how to start getting noticed online through building relationships with business directories.

Homes.com has put together a FREE playbook on how to manage your online reputation. Click here to download it today!

Erica Campbell Byrum is the Director of Social Media for Homes.com.

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