We are in an age of transparency — of that there is no doubt. There are some who claim that what they do in their private lives has nothing to do with business.
Maybe what we do in private doesn’t have anything to do with our businesses, but it becomes public when it is tweeted about, blogged about, shared on Facebook and when the photos are published on the Internet.
Prospective employers — in my case, buyers and sellers — see it all out there in a nice transparent way when they use Google to get information about me.
Last year I took some heat for an article I wrote about how I avoid drinking at some of the after-hour parties at real estate conferences because I don’t like being photographed holding a drink. It isn’t so much the photograph but the fact that they all end up on the Internet.
Yes, my clients know that I am a grown-up and I don’t have any clients that have any kind of aversion to a Realtor who drinks socially, but what tends to happen is there will be 20 photos, and 19 of them will be of me with a drink in my hand, and the other will show me dressed in a suit up at the podium.
My clients get to see that while their homes languish on the market. Sure, it is my free time and I can spend it anyway I like, just like my clients do, but it leaves an impression that isn’t a true picture of who I am.
I spend far more time working than I do going to parties, yet there are very few photographs of me working. I remember thanking a friend at the last Inman conference for taking a photo of me in a suit.
It is possible for business contacts and clients to form opinions of us based on what they see on the Internet, which is usually a mix of business and personal. For that reason I think we all need to be selective about what we share on the Internet.
This month I am serving on a hiring committee for a nonprofit, where I sit on the board of directors.
As I go through my huge stack of resumes and fill in the numbers on my rating sheet, I also go on the Internet and do a search on the candidate’s name. If I can’t find the person on the Internet, I have some concerns about their ability to raise money for us and to get our message out. …CONTINUED
When I find the candidate on the Internet, I can’t help but be influenced by the photos I see, the Twitter stream, and by everything else. It all paints a kind of picture for me of who the person is and what the person’s values are.
It may be wrong for me to look into the personal life of a job applicant, but if I can get a glimpse it gives me more information. The additional information is helpful — we’ve received 56 resumes, will likely interview only about eight of them, and in the end can hire only one.
Similarly, in the real estate industry there are plenty of qualified agents to work with a buyer or list a home, but our clients will hire only one.
What I put out on Twitter is not all business — in fact little of it is business — but most of it isn’t very personal, either. People form an opinion of me based on the information they have, including my tweets.
I know that most of my new clients find me on the Internet, and I think they do some research because they seem to know a lot about me before we ever meet.
It might not seem fair to be judged by something I said or did in Las Vegas, but it is all out there for anyone to read. Some of it could easily be taken out of context or misunderstood.
We can blame the people who misunderstand and tell them that they are wrong, but we have only one chance to make a good first impression.
By the time we get to the stage where we are explaining what we consider to be a "non-business" tweet, it is probably too late to make a good impression.
We are in an age of transparency and it is hard to hide from it. We can’t be two people and have two separate lives — it is all one life.
Everything we put on the Internet pretty much stays there forever. It is a good idea to take care with tweets, comments on blogs, and blog posts. They all go on our permanent record and usually we don’t get the chance to explain.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
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