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Op/Ed

Review marketing platform sales even more deceptive than their products

(EDITORIAL) Some agent review platforms use misleading stats to sell their products, and some lead agents down the path of illegal review fraud – are you up to date on the topic?

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You are being lied to. By now, most real estate professionals (especially those trying to better understand if collecting ratings and reviews is the right path to boost their business and if so how) have seen the stat that claims 88% of consumers trust reviews as much or more than personal recommendations.

This claim is regularly cited by marketing companies trying to sell you on the benefits of their “review” platforms. That makes sense, and wow, it must really be powerful if that many consumers blindly trust the real estate reviews they see – you better get started, right?

Hold the phone. This stat, to provide real estate context and add credibility, is often linked to a CREA article on the importance of reviews for real estate agents (oh, and they want Canadian Realtors to sign up for their “review” platform). However, that article is linked to a 2014 study that has nothing to do with real estate services and clearly states that of the 88%, 30% only trust the reviews if they believe them to be authentic, and another 26% only trust reviews for some types of businesses but not others.

Do you think real estate is a business consumers are skeptical of? You’re smart, you know the answer to that.

Much like the “ratings” platforms these marketing companies are promoting, they will never give the complete, honest, and transparent answer; the truth. Because the truth would not help them push a product designed to “help” market filtered reviews that is more likely to damage an agent or broker’s professional reputation in the long term, but the story they have spun feels nice and is less scary than honest (potentially critical) customer feedback, with the transparency and accountability that goes along with it.

The truth, based on the same study they are pulling their deceptive statistics from, indicates that closer to only 32% of consumers may blindly trust real estate reviews. With all of the recent fake news and review fraud studies today, the number is likely even lower than it was 4-7 years ago (when the data for the cited study was collected).

The Real Daily’s Definitive Guide to Real Estate Ratings & Review Platforms, 2018 Edition was the first to objectively investigate the services available based on trustworthiness of the reviews collected and published.

Google and Yelp are taking a stand against Review-Gating (the practice of only requesting reviews from satisfied clients). Google has changed their Terms of Service, in part based on the efforts of Jason Brown of ReviewFraud.org and other pioneers trying to expose those companies, sites, and services that engage in deceptive and even illegal behavior that is harmful to consumers.

Agents who hire someone to write reviews for themselves or their competitors, or use a service that allows, suggests, or helps collect only positive customer feedback, are participating, supporting and associating themselves with review fraud. FRAUD, you guys. These are lies of omission and deceptive marketing, and in many cases outright illegal. Be part of the problem or part of the solution. It is your choice.

Learn the ins and outs by checking out “Fake Reviews and Review Fraud,” an online event this Thursday that includes Jason Brown and Kevin Romito, President of RatedAgent/QSC from the real estate industry.

For decades, including a recent gathering in the desert that produced The Parker Principles – a 12 point Manifesto, industry leaders have been calling for greater transparency, accountability, higher standards and quality service to benefit consumers.

In public, very few argue the other side – who would?

Then why is nearly every review platform designed for real estate agents void of serious standards, accountability and transparency, with some even admitting their “reviews” are for marketing purposes only and cannot contribute to improving the customer experience?

Because they know the data collected is selective and it’s not that they don’t care; in many cases it is actually by design, while others find it is easier to claim a secret algorithm or that an icon of a shield does enough to imply authenticity.

Do you like to be lied to? Neither do consumers.

How can one establish a relationship that requires trust while sharing data that has been manipulated for personal gain? This goes for the review services that help agents “get more positive reviews” and then by extension the agents that buy into and use these less than transparent review platforms.

We believe in ratings and reviews and the value they can have to consumers in selecting a professional service provider. We do not believe review fraud, in any form, benefits anyone other than the marketing companies who profit from it and those agents that cannot compete on the reality of their own service standards, so they can literally “fake it ‘til they make it.”

Like many under-regulated, yet powerful early stage technologies and innovations, how they are deployed directly impacts the potential for benefit or harm to society.

Want to honestly “get more positive reviews”? Use transparent feedback to ensure you are providing your best service, learn from your mistakes to provide even better service, then repeat, repeat, repeat.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The Real Daily and sister news outlet, The American Genius, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Op/Ed

5 Consumer behavior shifts caused by the pandemic

(EDITORIAL) COVID-19 has changed the way a lot of people look at and act in the new world. These are the biggest 5 changes you should be aware of consumers.

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COVID-19 is affecting businesses in multiple ways, depending on the industry. One thing that affects every business, regardless of industry is customer behavior. It’s no surprise that customers are changing behavior to meet the challenges of the pandemic. Google just released information that should help your business. It’s estimated that over 4 million people are staying home around the world to slow the spread of coronavirus. Use this information to help you shift your marketing efforts.

  1. Consumers are using multiple devices more than ever before.
    With kids home trying to do school, parents who are working, and people who are furloughed, content is being consumed at record rates. According to Google, Americans are watching 12 hours of media content each day.
  2. Increases in search for critical information.
    Online grocery shopping and cooking videos are top searches these days while Americans are staying home. Telemedicine is another hot search topic. People are looking for ways to stay home and protected.
  3. Consumers want to stay connected online.
    Google announced that in April, Google Meet hosted over 3 billion minutes of video meetings. YouTube has seen an increase in “with me” videos. People are filming themselves going about their day to connect with their friends and family. Virtual events have changed how people meet up.
  4. Routines are changing to be “internet-first.”
    Telecommuting is a top search these days as consumers try to find ways to work from home. People are looking for exercise options that can be managed at home. Consumers are using the internet to find options that keep them socially-distanced but connected to their routine.
  5. Self-care is taking a higher priority.
    Meditation videos are being consumed at a higher percentage than before. People are looking for books, games and puzzles to stay occupied at home.

Consider Your Business Against Consumer Behavior

COVID-19 restrictions may be easing, but consumer behavior may not change much until there is a vaccine. Your business can use this information to change your marketing to meet consumers at their point of need.

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Op/Ed

5 Secrets to a more productive morning in the office

(EDITORIAL) Productivity is king in the office, but sometimes distractions and other issues slow you down. So what can you do to limit these factors?

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Regardless of whether you’re a self-proclaimed morning person or not, more efficient mornings can be catalytic in your daily productivity and output. The only question is, do you know how to make the most of your mornings in the office?

5 Tips for Greater Morning Productivity

In economic terms, productivity is a measure of output as it relates to input. Academics often discuss productivity in terms of a one-acre farm’s ability to produce a specific crop yield, or an auto manufacturing plant’s ability to produce a certain number of vehicles over a period of time. But then there’s productivity in our personal lives.

Your own daily productivity can be defined in a variety of ways. But at the end of the day, it’s about getting the desired results with less time and effort on the input side. And as a business professional, one of the best ways to do this is by optimizing your morning in the office.

Here are a few timely suggestions:

  1. Eliminate All Non-Essential Actions


    Spend the next week keeping a log of every single action you take from the moment your eyes open in the morning until you sit down at your desk. It might look something like this:

    • Turn off alarm
    • Scroll through social media on phone
    • Get out of bed
    • Eat breakfast
    • Take shower
    • Brush teeth
    • Walk dog
    • Watch news
    • Browse favorite websites
    • Get in car
    • Starbucks drive-thru
    • Arrive at office
    • Small talk with coworkers
    • Sit down at desk

    If you do this over the course of a week, you’ll notice that your behaviors don’t change all that much. There might be some slight deviations, but it’s basically the same pattern.

    Now consider how you can eliminate as many points of friction as possible from your routine. [Note from the Editor: This may be an unpopular opinion, but] For example, can you skip social media time? Can you make coffee at home, rather than drive five minutes out of your way to wait in the Starbucks drive-thru line? Just doing these two things alone could result in an additional 30 minutes of productive time in the office.

  2. Reduce Distractions


    Distractions kill productivity. They’re like rooftop snipers. As soon as they see any sign of productivity, they put it in their crosshairs and pull the trigger.

    Ask yourself this: What are my biggest distractions and how can I eliminate them?

    Popular distractions include social media, SMS, video games, news websites, and email. And while none of these are evil, they zap focus. At the very least, you should shift them to later in the day.

  3. Set Measurable Goals and Action items


    It’s hard to have a productive morning if you don’t have a clear understanding of what it means to be productive. Make sure you set measurable goals, create actionable to-do lists, and establish definitive measurements of what it looks like to be efficient. However, don’t get so caught up in the end result that you miss out on true productivity.

    “There’s a big difference between movement and achievement; while to-do lists guarantee that you feel accomplished in completing tasks, they don’t ensure that you move closer to your ultimate goals,” TonyRobbins.com mentions. “There are many ways to increase your productivity; the key is choosing the ones that are right for you and your ultimate goals.”

    In other words, set goals that are actually reflective of productivity. In doing so, you’ll adjust your behavior to come in proper alignment with the results you’re seeking.

  4. Try Vagus Nerve Stimulation


    Sometimes you just need to block out distractions and focus on the ask at hand. There are plenty of ways to shut out interruptions, but makes sure you’re also simultaneously cuing your mind to be productive. Vagus nerve stimulation is one option for doing both.

    Vagus nerve stimulation, which gently targets the body’s vagus nerve to promote balance and relaxation, while simultaneously enhancing focus and output.

  5. Optimize Your Workspace


    Makes sure your office workspace is conducive to productivity. This means eliminating clutter, optimizing the ergonomics of your desk, reducing distractions, and using “away” settings on apps and devices to suppress notifications during work time.

Make Productivity a Priority

Never take productivity for granted. The world is full of distractions and your willpower is finite. If you “wing it,” you’ll end up spending more time, energy, and effort, all while getting fewer positive results.

Make productivity a priority – especially during the mornings when your mind is fresh and the troubles of the day have yet to be released in full force. Doing so will change the way you operate, function, and feel. It’ll also enhance tangible results, like income, job status, and the accolades that come along with moving up in your career.

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Op/Ed

5 Side hustles that could turn into your new career

(EDITORIAL) With COVID throwing all jobs out of whack, maybe now you can explore something new and actually make a career change. Here’s 5 side hustles to try.

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When you think of finding a side hustle, you might picture yourself finding an obscure job as a bike courier three nights a week or maybe even walking your neighborhood dogs. Both of these positions can be fun and pay extremely well depending on who you work for.

There are endless opportunities for part-time, enjoyable, profitable side hustles. However, if you take on any of the following side gigs, you could end up with a new career.

1. Day trading

Day trading is the purchase and sale of a stock, bond, or security all within the same day. Many entrepreneurs are drawn to day trading because it’s fast-paced and risky, but with the right skills, day trading presents a potential for serious profit.

If you’re curious about day trading, RJO Futures published a guide on how day trading works. RJO’s article explains that whether you trade from a large firm or on your own, you’ll need three tools:

  • Access to a trade desk. This will give you instant order actions the moment your trades are placed.
  • Analytical software. Analytical software will help you identify key indicators to inform your next move.
  • Access to news outlets. Day trading – specifically day trading futures – is volatile. Prices move by the second and having access to news outlets will give you a heads up if your market might be affected.

Be aware that if you enjoy day trading and get good, you might want to go full-time. It’s possible to turn day trading into a career, but the learning curve is steep.

2. Investing in real estate

Real estate is a lucrative industry, but it’s not for everyone. Popular among entrepreneurs, investing in real estate requires long hours of study, extensive research, and getting your hands dirty.

Usually, real estate investors have side hustles to supplement their income. However, many people get into real estate as a side hustle and end up turning it into a career.

If you want to get started in real estate, don’t jump to investing right away. Take the expert advice from the folks at Bigger Pockets and start by learning about the industry. Get a part-time job as an assistant property manager to pick up industry knowledge and learn your local landlord-tenant laws. If you’re going to invest in real estate to rent out, you’ll be a landlord at least for a short period of time until you hire a property management company.

If you know someone who can help you make your first investment, you don’t need to wait. However, to be successful you have to think outside the box to gain a full spectrum of industry experience.

3. Content writing

Every business needs content writers and many are willing to settle for any level of proficiency. If you have any writing skills, you can easily pick up some content writing gigs on job listing sites.

If you love writing, you might start out writing one blog per week and decide you want to pursue writing full-time. If it’s truly your passion, stick with it and you’ll find the right clients who will pay you generously for your work.

4. Coaching

Whatever people are struggling with, there’s a coach to save the day. Life coaching and business coaching are the most popular, but you can coach people on anything you’re passionate about.

Being a coach isn’t easy. Even people who intentionally start a career as a coach struggle. What most people don’t realize about coaching is that passion does not equal profit. Coaching is a hard sell, but life coaching is especially difficult. Running a coaching business requires more than business skills – you need to be proficient at helping people solve their problems.

If you’re good at helping people solve their problems, there’s a chance you might get addicted to being a coach. There’s nothing more satisfying than helping people grow and transform their lives.

5. Thrifting

It’s not hard to find sellable items at your local thrift stores. However, you need an eye for what people want to buy. If you’ve got that eye, you could end up with a new career.

For example, Natalie Gomez, a former merchandise planner at Macy’s, took on thrifting as a side job and wound up making thousands of dollars. Gomez was interviewing for a new job when she realized she was already making a good living selling clothes.

Enjoy your side hustles

Even if you don’t turn your side gigs into a career, take on gigs you enjoy. Money is necessary, but it’s never worth sacrificing your happiness.

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