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online_reputation(2)Today’s “Ask the Expert” column features Erica Campbell Byrum, director of Social Media with and For Rent Media Solutions.

Q: Why is online-reputation management so important in order for brokerages to maintain success?

A: It’s no secret that thanks to the power of the Internet, not to mention the anonymity it provides, people are quick to give their opinions on social media sites and websites designed for reviews.

Statistics show that people who are unhappy are more likely to take time to post a social media comment than people who are perfectly pleased, and people are more prone to vent their anger before thinking things through.

The problem is, once a negative post is out in cyberspace, it most likely can’t be erased. And that can cause substantial damage to you and your business.

That’s why having a strong reputation management strategy is so important for any brokerage. Your reputation is based on anything that people say about you, and managing it is nothing new. Social media has made it much more important in today’s world of smartphones and tablets, where comments spread at lightning speeds.

Word of mouth always influences decision-making, and released statistics that show that 92 percent of consumers trust opinions posted online by other consumers, including 70 percent trusting unknown users.

Unfortunately, negative reviews will happen, as no matter how friendly and good at your job you are, you can’t control all aspects of a real estate transaction, and sometimes people will get mad and put the blame on you. In these cases, it’s important not to be baited into a heated message exchange, but to take positive action.

Be quick to apologize, be proactive—not just reactive, and always be listening and helping. Never write a response while angry; always use empathy and be authentic; don’t blame the client (even if it’s their fault!); never get into a comment battle; and never ignore bad reviews.

You should be sure to monitor reviews of your brokerage daily and be quick to deal with negative reviews.

Keep in mind, a negative review presents a great opportunity to showcase just how good your customer service really is. This is your chance to address negative comments and not only talk with those who feel wronged, but show other clients that you care.

Personalize your response and be nice. Keep your comment short and sweet and don’t get personal or push blame. Thank people for their feedback (both good and bad) and ask if there’s anything you can do to help with their complaint. Some people (but not all) will appreciate that you took the time and effort to respond.

The best way to balance a negative review is to counteract it with as many positive comments as possible, which can be done by asking previous clients to post positive comments. Many times, people will say they will but don’t follow through. Make it easy for them by emailing them a link to the site so all they need to do is click and write it up. Perhaps even offer an incentive like a gift card for coffee for anyone who posts a review.

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