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It’s now illegal to sue for bad online reviews

(BUSINESS NEWS) The bill is a reaction to several lawsuits that have been levied by companies trying to penalize their customers who speak poorly about them online.

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Fiscal retribution a thing of the past

The U.S. House of Representatives finally passed a bill that will make it illegal for companies to put “gag clauses” in their contracts that block or penalize customers for posting negative online reviews. It’s expected to move through the Senate soon.

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This is not the first time I’ve reported on this issue (you can read more here) so it’s nice to see there is some sense of resolution taking place that supports the consumer.

Action and reaction

Just to recap a bit. This bill, officially called the Consumer Review Fairness Act, is a bipartisan piece of legislation that will void any existing non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts and give the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general the authority to take enforcement action against businesses that attempt to use “non-disparagement” clauses to quiet consumers.

Crazy stuff, right?

But the bill is a reaction to several lawsuits that have been levied by companies trying to penalize their customers who speak poorly about them online.

Forget about free speech. A number of businesses insert provisions into contracts and terms of service declaring that if the customer writes or says anything negative about the transaction, the company can seek damages.

For example, points out an Consumerist, gadget and apparel company KlearGear once sued a costumer for nearly $4,000 because the individual wrote a negative review online.

Or how about this one: a pet-sitter sought 1 million dollars in damages over a negative Yelp review.

All it takes is a voice

Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ) and Rep. Joe Kennedy (MA) took up the cause in the House this spring with the Fairness Act. Though the bill garnered significant bipartisan support, it still took quite some time getting to the House floor for a vote.

The issue at stake is about posting and protecting honest feedback online.

Explains Rep. Lance, “Online reviews and ratings are critical in the 21st Century and consumers should be able to post, comment and tweet their honest and accurate feedback without fear of retribution. Too many companies are burying non-disparagement clauses in fine print and going after consumers when they post negative feedback online.”

Onward and upward

Now that the bill has passed the House, it goes to the Senate. That would normally seem like another political roadblock, but seeing as how the Senate already passed a version of the same bill last year, all that’s left really is ironing out the small print in order to combine the two versions before pushing forward for the President to sign.

#ConsumerReview

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.

Real Estate Marketing

Happy Grasshopper helps real estate folks by offering free content

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) The one stop shop for real estate communication with clients, Happy Grasshopper, has extended it service for free to help with COVID-19 problems.

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Happy Grasshopper provides high quality, helpful, and timely content to real estate professionals to help them keep in touch with their client list and other potentially interested parties. Up to now, their content was only available to their paid members. For the first time, in response to COVID-19 and social distancing, Happy Grasshopper is offering up their premium content for free to every real estate entity.

Welcome to HG Free. It’s kind of a big deal.

The country–and the whole world–is topsy turvy due to the awful spread of the novel coronavirus. The real estate industry, along with many others, has basically slowed down to a mere trickle of business. Social distancing may be what saves us, but for many industries, the loss of income is a crushing blow. Real estate agents are trying to figure out how to connect with leads and clients while staying at home.

Happy Grasshopper’s content is all messaging based. They provide ways to start and carry on conversations with prospects. Offering true value to people is the best way to earn loyalty. With scads of people facing job loss, furloughs, or a sharp decrease of income, nobody is looking to be “sold” right now. It’s abrasive and insensitive. That doesn’t mean to stop reaching out, though, to people. People are craving connection more than ever, as they deal with physical distancing from nearly all others and a complete shutdown of any social life.

HG Free is available via the HappyGrasshopper.com home page, and will offer free content on a regular basis to help those working in the real estate industry keep in touch with their contacts in relevant and appropriate way.

Their content includes:

  • Email Message Templates
  • Text Message Templates
  • Social Media Posts/Quote Graphics
  • Voicemail Message Scripts

Happy Grasshopper features

CEO Dan Stewart states, “Our mission – to connect the world in conversation – has never been more important. In this unprecedented time of social distancing, we must continue to hold conversations with each other through the communication media available to us. For our largest client base–real estate agents, brokers, and franchises–staying in touch with leads, their sphere of influence, current and past clients and others is always important. Today, in the face of this world-wide, self-quarantining pandemic, it is crucial.”

Happy Grasshopper CEO

People need people. HG Free can help real estate people connect with their people. Don’t sleep on this, real estate folks! Take Happy Grasshopper up on their generous offer. It’s thoughtful for Happy Grasshopper to do this, and in turn, they’ll surely convert more loyal customers of their own when times are better.

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Real Estate Marketing

COVID-19: Should real estate pause “days on market” featured on sites?

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) MLS platform rely heavily on a constant market. With the current pandemic, certain features can negatively impact buyers, sellers, and their listing agents.

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With more and more states, counties, and cities issuing “shelter-in-place” orders, it looks as though this will be the new normal for a while. For real estate professionals, this leaves a lot of unanswered questions and apprehension. With shelter-in-place, naturally, there will not be as many people looking to buy or sell homes, but what about the homes already on the market? How will they be affected?

Maybe it is time to review certain listing features: days on the market, tours, and open houses, to name a few. These features are heavily dependent on an active market. When the market is in a slump, recession, or facing a crisis, like pandemic, natural disasters, or in an area where people have been experiencing extensive furloughs and layoffs, this data can be unfairly impacted.

When there are not as many homebuyers/sellers in an area due to these events, days on the market will rise, tours will sit unviewed, and open houses will not receive any foot traffic because people are not financially in a place to partake.

Typically, buyers use the “days on the market” feature to leverage better deals; the longer a home has been on the market, the more likely the owner will be to strike a better deal (in theory). During these shelter-in-place orders, the longer a home looks as though it has been on the market, the more likely a perspective home buyer will be to think, “if it’s been on the market this long, what’s wrong with it?” Also, it can give the false impression that the listing agent isn’t doing all they should be to sell the home, as the days on the market increase, which unfair both to the real estate professional and to the homeowner.

In California, where there is currently a shelter-in-place order, the MLS Listings Board of Directors has issued an order to suspend days of the market for active listings. Active listings will no longer accrue days on the market, effective March 17 (the day the shelter-in-place was issued). The Board also disabled broker tours and open house listings effectively keeping the listing marketplace from being adversely impacted.

This change should happen across the board, in my opinion, so other markets aren’t negatively impacted by a continual “days on the market” count when we are all dealing with the pandemic. Perhaps other MLS listing services will follow suit and it will soon become standard to suspend the features most impacted by the shelter-in-place order.

The MLS Listings Chairman in California, Karl Lee, stated, “This action is intended to relieve pressure on sellers and buyers during the coronavirus pandemic and to underscore public compliance efforts during the shelter-in-place. The health of the public is priority number one. We are actively reviewing policies to identify ways to support buyers, seller, agents, and brokers in these unprecedented times. We continue to collaborate with other MLS listing platforms for best practices under the impact of coronavirus.”

However, not all MLS listing agencies agree with this policy. In fact, some agencies are not addressing the inadequacies the shelter-in-place has presented. Instead, they are telling their agents to carry on as normal, which is a violation of the shelter-in-place order. What do you think MLS listing agencies should do? Should the days on the market continue to accrue during the pandemic, or should it be suspended until business can resume as normal?

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Real Estate Marketing

Quickly turn any text, link, or tweet into an Instagram post

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) If you have wondered how to share the same ad across multiple social platforms, Remix is your answer for the brand unity every company needs.

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Developing unique and “likeable” Instagram content is a crucial objective for any brand. This involves being aware of outside apps that help one develop the best content for their brand. These apps include a myriad of purposes, from additional filters to repost abilities to creating eye-catching stories.

Now, an app exists that allows users to transform any link, tweet, or product into beautiful Instagram content. Remix by Buffer is designed to help people share their content across every channel in an effort to give their content consistency.

Bring tweets to Instagram. Put your products into Stories. And much more,” says Buffer’s landing page for Remix. “With Remix, you can share information quickly, efficiently, and completely on-brand. Remix is fully free. No watermarks. No in-app purchases.”

One of the best aspects of this is that the content you’re designing can be altered to include your brand’s colors to ensure that every post is, as they said, on-brand. After selecting your colors once, you can keep them on file to use for future posts.

To create a post, you grab a link from a tweet or a product and bring it into Remix to generate an image that you want to share. After choosing the colors, you select a size and style as different layouts are available to match your content or brand.

Then, you have the option to customize the background by uploading your own image or selecting one from Unsplash. Remix is available for both iOS and Android.

Buffer recaps the purpose on Product Hunt by writing, “Share tweets to Instagram. Turn links & products into social media content. You can create on-brand assets from any tweet, link, or product & share to your favorite social network. We hope this can streamline your workflows and help you engage with your audience.”

Audience engagement is obviously the main point of social media, and people love fresh content as well as consistency from brands. This can be a difficult line to walk in order to create content that is both eye-catching and hits your brand’s mark every time. Having outside tools like Remix can help you to accomplish this goal.

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