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Refueling Your Online Image

by Wendy Forsythe

BrandDo you remember the day that you learned that eating a salad with regular dressing at a fast food restaurant has about the same amount of calories as eating a hamburger and fries? I was shocked. How could that be?

I learned a couple of valuable lessons from that surprising discovery. For starters, always order low-calorie dressing with a salad. But even more importantly, never blindly assume that you are on the right track, because you could very well find yourself way off course. You need to check and validate your actions and then monitor your results and reevaluate your strategy often.

One of those great life lessons that can be applied directly to the real estate business is to always test and validate your assumptions. Consider your online brand, for instance. While you can certainly set up your profiles, post a bunch of online listings and assume you're all set, it's important to revisit your online branding activity often to maximize the potential of this fabulous marketing tool.

Today's world of social marketing and online branding has made the need to monitor our online image critical to our success as real estate professionals. Here are four steps you can follow to refuel your online image.

Step 1: Focus on Fabulous Fundamentals

More than 60 percent of today's consumers admit to Googling real estate professionals. They see your name on a "for sale" sign and Google you. They meet you at an open house and Google you. A friend recommends you and they Google you. Google has become a fundamental business tool.

Considering that the results of a Google search on your name can mean winning or losing a potential client in an instant, it is imperative that you do everything possible to influence those results. There are two key ways you can influence Google search results. One is through industry-related profiles, and the other is through social media profiles.

On your brokerage website and other industry sites, such as Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com, ensure that your profiles are up to date and contain matching information. Some common mistakes among real estate professionals include forgetting to update all profiles when changing brokerages, not using the exact same name everywhere (such as being Jennifer in some places and Jen in others) and failing to use the same email address and contact phone numbers. When Google detects inconsistencies like these, the algorithm questions whether it is really you, thereby impacting the search results associated with your name.

Similar standards apply to social media profiles. Make sure that your info is up to date and that you're correctly identified as a real estate professional with your brokerage info and correct contact information.

Step 2: Providing Unparalleled Service

One of the biggest gripes consumers have with real estate professionals is not being able to reach us when they want to. Apparently, getting us to answer our telephones or respond to online leads has proven to be difficult. I hear agents complain all the time about the difficulty of getting a listing agent to return a phone call, email or online query. Imagine what buyers feel like!

I recently "secret shopped" five agents by sending them an online inquiry, providing my name, email, phone number and telling them that I was being transferred into the area for work and was looking for information on the market. How many responses do you think I received? Well, if you guessed none, you weren't far off. One agent did respond via email (two days later) and asked me if I wanted to be added to new listing alerts. This is hardly what I would call unparalleled service.

How does your service rate?

Step 3: Strive to Exceed Expectations

Are you doing the bare minimum expected, or are you over delivering and exceeding expectations? Now and then, it's a good idea to put yourself under the microscope and evaluate whether you're doing the best job you can to support your clients.

For example, let's consider the photography used in online listings. We've known for a long time that listing photos are an important element of online property marketing. Yet, why are there so many poor property photos online?

Considering that most of us are walking around with smartphones that can take pretty good quality photos, there is really no excuse for subpar images in our online listings. Taking the average smartphone photo from an ordinary shot to a visual showstopper is pretty easy when you use features like cropping, auto tuning and filters. Isn't it worth investing those few extra minutes to take your photos from average to exceptional?

Step 4: Are you Leveraging Opportunities?

With all the talk about technology, the top two sources of business for real estate professionals remain repeat clients and referrals. With that in mind, ask yourself: Are you staying in touch with past clients through personal contact in addition to e-newsletters or direct mailers? And, are you asking for referrals and discussing real estate whenever and wherever it is appropriate? If you aren't doing these things, you are failing to leverage some fairly powerful opportunities to expand and reinforce your business and image.

To remember these four steps, consider this: Your real estate career is a bit like an automobile. Just as you regularly put gas in your car to make it go, your business needs fuel, too. To keep your online image moving forward and in the right direction, you can think of the four steps as:

F: Fabulous Fundamentals
U: Unparalleled Service
E: Exceed Expectations
L: Leverage Opportunities

Now go have fun, sell some real estate and keep FUELing your online image.

WendyForsytheSmallWendy Forsythe is executive vice president/head of global operations at Carrington Real Estate Services, where she is responsible for the operations and growth of the national brokerage licensed in 22 states and with 1,200 agents. She can be reached at wendy.forsythe@carringtonres.com. To learn more about Carrington Real Estate Services, visit carringtonrealestate.com.

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