September is Marketing and Branding Month at Inman. That means we’re talking to the chief marketing officers at major brokerages about how the pandemic is changing their jobs and what it means for agents. We’re publishing a suite of tactical Inman Handbooks for marketing on digital portals. And we’re looking at what pages of the traditional marketing playbook still work. Join us all month long.
Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent 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.
“There is no such thing as bad publicity.” – P. T. Barnum
“Bullsh*t.” – Jay Thompson
OK, maybe this quote attributed to Barnum held true in the late 1800s, a time long before the internet, Facebook, Twitter, the 24-hour news cycle and countless examples of company reputations imploding in seconds.
Ask Tiger Woods, who lost $22 million in endorsements in 2010 alone — along with his reputation and dignity — if he agrees with Barnum, and you might find yourself getting a 7-iron upside the head.
In today’s online world, it seems there are stories every week about an agent getting fired, losing it on video or saying something questionable online. The internet works at warp speed, and it’s a place where people talk. A lot.
You know what they are talking about? Their experiences, their trials and tribulations, their lives. When their lives involve real estate, and they often do, that means they are talking about you. Hopefully, that’s a good thing. But if it’s not, you need to know it, respond and protect the brand you’ve worked so hard to establish.
Monitoring your brand is critical. Sure, there’s the whole disgruntled customer thing that needs to be nipped in the bud — swiftly. But looking on the bright side, you need to understand and know when people are talking positively about your brand. There’s opportunity in amplifying positive mentions.
You should be using those positive mentions, good reviews and satisfied customers to let others know that you possess mad skills and can help them in their real estate endeavors.
Here’s a perfect example. I spoke glowingly about my real estate agent right in these pages of Inman, and she is unaware she has positive mentions in a national real estate publication. It would make sense for her to exploit that. To pull a few snippets for use in her marketing collateral. Maybe some potential client who’s on the fence about utilizing her services would be swayed if they saw those thoughts and opinions.
She needs to monitor her brand mentions. You do, too. (In her defense, this is a subscription, which makes discovery harder, though not impossible. Read on to find out how.)
Monitoring reactions to your brand is important, whether you run a large corporate entity or are a sole proprietor in a small market. Your reputation is everything in this business, and negative mentions need to be addressed swiftly, and positive mentions amplified. Building a lasting brand isn’t easy, so don’t let one dissatisfied person knock you down.
This begs the question, how? You’re a busy entrepreneur, who probably doesn’t have time to get bogged down in minutiae of scouring the internet, looking for brand mentions.
Big companies have teams of people and stupidly expensive enterprise-level software to help manage the task. You don’t have that luxury. Frankly, given the significantly lower volume of mentions you’ll be looking for compared to a RE/MAX, Zillow or Keller Williams, odds are good you don’t need a team or expensive software to manage the task.
Paid vs. free options
Where there is a need, there is some software developer who has a solution. Given the importance of brand monitoring, there are many paid options out there. Some cost literally thousands of dollars a month. Most are far more than the typical agent or team needs to adequately monitor their brand.
One reasonably priced solution is Hootsuite, which for $39 a month does a good job monitoring major social platforms for keywords and hashtags you specify.
You might be weary of all the “for only $39 a month we can solve all your problems!” cries from the software vendors. That’s completely understandable as it is very easy to $39-per-month yourself into poverty.
Fortunately, there are free solutions for brand monitoring that also work well, though they will take a little time — just a few minutes a day — and you have to actually do the work, consistently. Put it on your calendar, develop the daily habit. It’s well worth your time.
It might seem like the ultimate act of vanity, but you really should Google yourself. It’s not only OK, it’s a smart thing to do. Your clients and potential clients are Googling you, and you need to know what they are seeing.
Googling your name is the obvious first step, but don’t stop there. Add terms with your name as well. The example given above about how my agent could have found the Inman mention is a great one. There are not that many mainstream real estate news sites.
Google, “your name Inman,” “your name HousingWire” and “your name RIS Media,” and you’ll catch mentions in the major outlets. I’d add “your name Real Deal” if you’re in or near the New York City market.
Google indexes hundreds of thousands of pages every day. Take two minutes to Google yourself daily.
A free, somewhat automated way to Google yourself is to set up Google Alerts. It’s super simple. You tell Google some keywords (your name, brokerage name, etc.), and it will send you a link every time that keyword is indexed. It’s not 100 percent effective, but it does a decent job. You can choose to be notified instantly, daily or weekly. Given the speed of the internet, pick instantly.
Tips: Set alerts for common misspellings of your name, business and the addresses of your listings. If you’re a broker or team leader, set Google Alerts for all your agents as well. You can even set up alerts for your competition, and keep an eye on their mentions as well.
Social site searches
Every major social site has a search function. Some work well. Some are notoriously spotty. But it’s pretty easy to just go to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc., and type keywords directly into their search function.
I know it sounds tedious, but once you get in the habit, you can knock out searches on all the sites in just a couple of minutes. That’s less time than it takes to look at pictures of cute kittens and watch silly TikTok videos.
Tweetdeck is a free Twitter platform (owned by Twitter). It’s very simple to set up a dashboard to monitor keywords and hashtags. You can see every mention on Twitter on one screen. It just takes a glance to see who’s talking about what. Even if you don’t use Twitter, this is the tool to see what those who do are saying about you and your brand.
The Facebook group problem
There is a lot of activity and discussion happening in Facebook groups. The problem with brand monitoring of Facebook groups is that Facebook prevents third-party software from peeking inside private and secret groups. (You can monitor public groups, but the vast majority of groups are not public.)
If you want to monitor your brand mentions in Facebook groups (and you should), you’re going to have to join the group and use the search function to look for mentions.
Don’t limit yourself to real estate-related groups. Look in neighborhood groups as well. When I did brand-monitoring for Zillow, I was in over 100 groups. Yes, it was painful but necessary. You won’t have to monitor nearly that many, and it’s important to watch brand mentions in groups.
Someone reading this is rolling their eyes, saying they don’t have time for this, and it’s not that important. All it takes is one disgruntled person to make your life miserable and damage the reputation you work so hard to grow and maintain.
All it takes is one glowing comment to help you land another client. Spend a few minutes monitoring your brand daily. Hopefully, you’ll never need to react to negative mentions, but if you do, you’ll be prepared.
Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree living in the Texas Coastal Bend, as well as the one spinning the wheels at Now Pondering. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty. “Retired but not dead,” Jay speaks around the world on many things real estate.