What once was an occasional pain has now evolved into a daily hurdle for those who attempt to navigate the troubled waters of social media life.
Internet trolls are real people who create complicated interactions that need to be handled with a strong plan in place to protect your business and your digital reputation. Trolls are no longer just “good or bad”; they have to be dealt with.
What is the online disinhibition effect?
It’s a phenomenon that began in the early 2000s with the rise of internet chat rooms. When people are online, they act very differently than when they are having a person-to-person interaction.
The lack of eye contact, body cues and even the ability to stay anonymous changes a person’s emotional IQ. Catfishing is real and takes just moments to pull off. The scariest part? Many people do not even bother changing their real names before acting out online.
Friends and family
If you have not had a serious talk with your friends and family about how you run your business online and on social media, you need to do it now. One of the most complicated interactions that create stress and heartache for agents is figuring out how to keep their business professional and keep their personal life separate.
Reality check: If you know that people you are connected with online are prone to drama, hacking, political controversy, etc. you may have to remove the connection to protect your digital presence. It is one of the trade-offs of working with the public.
Action item: Edit who you are connected with, block, mute and clean up connections at least once a quarter.
It would be best to have a written policy in place to talk about social media with your clients. If your clients are discussing sensitive transaction information online, it can create a troll situation very quickly.
You should be aware of your client’s comfort level with social media and if that is their preferred method of communication. Your clients may be your “top” fans and biggest referral sources online. Give them the tools and boundaries they need to enjoy interacting with you online.
Reality check: Screen clients online to see if they leave chronic one-star or poor reviews. Handle with kid gloves during transaction management.
Action item: Create easy ways for clients to leave reviews and always engage positively in their accounts if they send you regular social media business. The effort should go both ways. If your client has trouble online, they may not be someone you can be connected with. Monitor closely.
Unfortunately, some of the worst trolls that you might run into online are other real estate agents. Agents armed with above-average social media skills and time online can often overshare, soapbox, tear down colleagues, complain about clients and create chaos for those trying to keep above the noise.
Competitors will frequently monitor and imitate what you are doing online if they think you are successful.
Who is looking at your advertising the most? Other agents who want to be like you in the area. In low inventory market conditions, the tension between agents is tangible and can result in very negative interactions.
Reality check: If you know that an agent has a bad reputation online or causes problems in general, block and monitor them. Prevent the issue before the situation arises. Always take a moment to research and know the agent on the other side of the transaction.
Action item: Be selective about who you connect with inside your local market. Your No. 1 priority should be connecting with your audience and taking care of your business. Do not let other agents be a distraction. Be supportive of agents you admire and set an excellent example for the industry.
The general public
Trolls who create a negative situation online usually have three things in common: time on their hands, a negative situation in their personal life that makes them want to lash out at an easy target and the belief that they are doing the right thing by bringing attention to the subject matter.
In most cases, you will not be able to change the troll’s mind.
Reality check: You will need to be vigilant, calm, logical and prepared to manage the situation with professional help. You may need to hire someone to help you clean up damage online. Have an emergency budget for this.
Action item: Make sure to review notifications, read comments and have a Google Alert set up around your name and business. If you have built a more significant social media presence, you will need professional help to keep your accounts appropriately monitored.
The metaverse is here, ready or not. Preparing your business for what’s next means that you will have to know what it looks like in both the digital world and the physical world.
Be prepared to deal with two personas of your clients, the physical and the digital. Work to develop some self-awareness of what your online persona may be like and how you want to improve it.
Creating space for your business online and off will be a delicate balance. Make sure to take regular reality checks and develop action items to stay grounded.
Internet trolls have evolved and intertwined into an ecosystem that fuels your business. How you interact will carve out your space from this point forward. Stay flexible, keep learning, and remember that the way things work today is not guaranteed for tomorrow.
By day, Rachael Hite helps agents develop their business. By night, she’s tweeting and blogging. Feel free to tweet her @rachaelhite.