Every individual and business should be aware of what is being said about them online — but the internet is so vast, you might need a little help knowing how or where to begin. Here are five online tools every real estate agent can use to monitor their online reputation and keep tabs on any cyber chatter surrounding their brand.

Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent the past six years working for Zillow Group. He retired in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column publishes every Wednesday.

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American business icon Warren Buffett 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.”

He is a wise man, that Warren. Overly-generous too when it comes to estimating how long it can take to ruin a reputation. In this social media-infused world where anyone can publish a thought to the world inside of 15 seconds, reputations have been sent spiraling in moments, not minutes.

Timing aside, the real point is that your reputation is everything in this business. So it is important to know what is being said about you and your work. The internet is a big place, it never closes, and it is full of all sorts of nooks and crannies that make it virtually impossible to watch and react to all of it.

Hopefully, everyone understands why the need to monitor their online reputation is obvious. Every business — and in today’s world, every personality — needs to be aware of what is being said about them online.

But how do you do that? Who has time to slog across the internet, looking for God knows what? It would be a tedious, horrifically boring task, that’s certain. Fortunately there is some magical software and such out there that simplifies the important task of monitoring your online reputation:

1. Google Alerts

An oldie but a goodie, Google Alerts are still your first step in reputation monitoring. A simple interface at google.com/alerts allows you to select keywords and receive email notices whenever those words are used on the web.

Set up Google Alerts for your name, variations of your name and the name of your business. When I owned a brokerage, I set up Google Alerts for the names of all of my real estate agents. (An aside, we also set up Google Alerts for the addresses of all of our listings. Helps catch the knuckleheads on Craigslist using your listing for a rental scam.)

Like any tool, Google Alerts aren’t foolproof. Depending on the commonality of the name, you might have to wade through irrelevant notifications. Google Alerts also can’t see into Facebook groups that are “closed” or “secret” — and the vast majority are — but they are quick, easy, free and very effective for monitoring name and brand mentions on the web.

2. Facebook search

The search function in Facebook is not the best. However, short of going into individual groups and scrolling through past posts and comments, it’s the only way to get a relatively efficient look into closed and secret Facebook groups.

It seems incredibly underutilized. People tell me they can’t find it. It’s across the top of the screen, but seems to be one of those things that if not used, becomes invisible to you. It’s a so-called “smart search” that in theory can look across pages, profiles and groups for terms you supply.

Depending on how frequently you decide to actively monitor your reputation, you should include making manual searches within Facebook for brand and name mentions part of that established routine.

3. Social media management platforms

Most of the larger and popular social media platforms out there for pushing content to multiple social sites also have very effective monitoring capabilities.

Hootsuite, Buffer, Sprout Social, TweetDeck, Zoho and the like all provide a way to monitor keywords and hashtags that you can define.

As with all others, these platforms cannot see into most Facebook groups. That’s a limitation on Facebook’s side, and it’s understandable given the original intent of having closed and secret groups be, well, closed and secret.

4. SocialMention.com

The best way to describe SocialMention.com might be to just say it’s the Google of social media. It’s a search engine designed to scour over 80 social media sites for usage of the search terms you select.

So in addition to regularly Googling yourself, you need to also be regularly “SocialMentioning” yourself as well. Yes, it’s a manual process, but definitely more effective than searching each site individually.

5. Reputation monitoring services

There are, of course, a multitude of businesses, apps, services and products out there, all designed to scour the web, endlessly searching for mentions of you, your brand and your business.

There could be people out there also watching your brand mentions. Keeping an eye on what the competition is up to has been done since the first cave dwellers set up shop selling clubs and blankets. If there are tools that help you monitor what’s being said about your brand then you can rest assured that someone is using those very tools to watch what others are doing,

Many of these reputation services are very good. Many are not inexpensive. Of course a blunder in the social space can quickly derail things, and that could get expensive. But what is the likelihood of that happening — and is it worth the expense of utilizing a reputation monitoring platform?

Maybe, maybe not. That is really only a question you can answer. While I doubt it’s cost effective for most individuals or even small teams or companies to go all out on a reputation platform, it’s certainly something a franchise, larger office or even a large team might consider. As with any such investment, do your research, seek out referrals and think and assess deeply. Yes, there are some wonderful companies out there — and more than enough shady operations as well.

Don’t freak out, but observe carefully

When you talk with people about reputation management and monitoring, when you share examples of brand implosion in under 30 seconds, sometimes people freak out.

There are indeed boundless examples of reputation destruction in recent history. What you don’t often see lauded, however, are the countless examples of brilliant brand positioning and growth, the careful use of reputation monitoring tools and processes, and those embracing the positive aspects of what you can build online.

So don’t freak out about what could happen. Instead, develop a plan to regularly monitor your online presence and reputation, execute that plan, and keep a watchful eye on things. Understand today’s online world — don’t fear it; leverage it.

Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree in Seattle, as well as the mastermind behind Now Pondering. Follow him on Facebook or Instagram. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty.

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