Your online profile is a digital representation of you and your business, which is why it’s important to make it strong. Referrals are still the No. 1 source for buyers looking for an agent, but the amount of buyers finding agents online without a referral is increasing. Of the buyers that find agents via referral, most still go online to read reviews to confirm that the recommended agent is a good fit. Regardless of how the client finds you, it’s imperative to manage your online identity. When it comes to managing your identity online, there are two sides to consider: what you say about yourself and what other people say about you.
The first part of managing your online identity is ensuring that YOU control the message. Be selective in the information provided and be consistent across all profiles. Include keywords and phrases that reflect the expertise, skills and education you want emphasized. Pay attention to tone as well. You are speaking to potential clients, so keep it professional but conversational. An NAR report found that when choosing an agent, younger buyers are more likely to value honesty and trustworthiness, while older buyers tend to value reputation and knowledge of the neighborhood. It’s important to keep this in mind when creating content—who are you trying to reach? Finally, keep profiles current; consumers pay attention and expect up-to-date information.
The second part of maintaining your online identity is managing what others are saying, as reviews and ratings impact your business. According to NAR’s latest Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 19 percent of buyers used online recommendations when choosing an agent, a trend that continues to grow. Potential clients may not read your bio, but they will read your reviews. Keep track of what is being says about your company with a search engine alert notifying you of online mentions and use positive reviews to your advantage by promoting them on your website and in marketing collateral. In the event of negative reviews, have a procedure in place for handling them. Address every negative comment if possible. Respond on the same platform or website that the customer used, and be thoughtful and professional in your response. Potential clients will see these exchanges and this is the perfect opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.
Just as there are many platforms for agent reviews, agent rating websites are proliferating, driven largely by consumer demand. Sites are so numerous that the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS® released a report card last year to rank agent rating sites based on policies, features and functionalities. Brokerages like ZipRealty and Redfin have integrated agent-rating systems into their websites and have seen an increase in new client leads as a result. Other brokerages have chosen to partner with any number of third-party customer service management companies. No company has emerged as the dominant market leader, but you should evaluate each one and determine if it meets your needs.
The numbers don’t lie. More and more agents and brokerages are being chosen based on online profiles and performance. You can distinguish yourself by maintaining an active online presence. Establish brokerage-wide policies and best practices for consistency and encourage your agents to maintain an active online presence as well. NAR’s ePRO® certification and training program is an excellent resource when it comes to managing an online profile and so much more. Positive reviews and rankings add to your online reputation at no cost to you. Curate your online identity—and your online reputation—by managing your profiles and your client feedback.
Marc Gould is vice president, Business Specialties, for NAR and executive director of REBAC.
For more information, visit www.REBAC.net.