Social media theory
Although the infographic below outlines theory that has been in practice for several years now and the concept of online trust building is not new, it is still a theory that eludes many real estate insiders. Eight common components of building online trust are as follows:
Applying these 8 steps to real estate
Most of the tone of the above infographic is reactive and somewhat defensive, starting right off with admitting mistakes, but what if you haven’t made any (yet)? Let’s break down these steps as they pertain to real estate.
Realtors can tell truths by making expertise clear and not making any false or misleading claims on their blog or website. Agents should not say they are the “#1 agent,” rather more specifically “Highest volume sold in 2010” so as to be specific and add trust. Avoid subjective terms like “#1 agent” that could leave consumers feeling lied to down the road.
Often, Realtors are held accountable for misdeeds of the entire industry which is when being honest in communications is a good idea. When it is found that a massive investigation penalizes local Realtors for involvement in a mortgage scheme, that is an opportunity to publicly note that illegal behavior is not tolerated at your brokerage and here are some steps you’ve taken to insure your team is on the up and up.
Old fashioned real estate involves writing down social security numbers and incomes and handing it to an agent which was not very scary because a consumer could see exactly where it is going. Now that most transactions are electronic, agents should make very clear to clients where their information is going and who has access to it. This can be done by phone or email if your client is filling out an application through the lender, or in a blog post created for new clients. Don’t assume they feel safe or already know.
Consumers should know when they are registering their email on your site that you will not sell their email and that they will (or will not) be getting email notifications from you. Always offer unsubscribe options (it’s the law).
Real estate is a world of negotiations and promises and a broken promise be it a simple failed return call or a brand promise, trust can be irreparably damaged by broken promises. To avoid breaking promises online, make clear your process and intentions on your site. Put your listing presentation online and make your pricing clear. Then stick with it. This sound simple, but promises by Realtors are broken all the time and could very easily be avoided.
Constance Freedman of the National Association of Realtors’ Second Century Ventures technology fund noted that 65% of all calls to Realtors go to voicemail and 80% of failed calls end up with competitors which amounts to major losses.
According to Trulia, “Agents who have instant access to their leads and respond to inquiries within the first five minutes have a greater likelihood of connecting with leads on the first call. Research has shown that the odds of contacting an online lead if called within the first 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drops 100 times, and the odds of qualifying an online lead if called within the first 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drops 21 times. Using Instant Leads and responding to online leads immediately can allow agents to catch the consumer at the peak of interest—while they’re still searching online and near a phone.”
It goes without saying that Realtors should be extremely responsive, but not just in the lead generation phase, but throughout the process. Use all tools available to help make this happen.
Integrity isn’t an option in real estate like it is in maybe other industries like entertainment. Every Realtor’s word online (and off) could potentially be documented and used in a lawsuit, so it is best for agents to always act as if in front of a judge. There isn’t much grey area in real estate, but when contracts are treated as such, integrity not only of that particular agent, but of the transaction, those involved and possibly the sector as a whole are impacted.
Years ago, when the transparency debate was hot, it was believed that an agent’s personal financial forms should be shared online, as it was a very extreme time. Now, transparency is expected in moderation as the web has gone mainstream, and your financial details are that of your own private home. Transparency in real estate pertains to practices and consistency and not offering better rates to some people and not others, it’s about being public with what you offer and what your process looks like, and if you’re really brave, what your stats are. Some agents choose to publish this on their own websites, others dodge it, but transparency these days mostly pertains to keeping professional promises and being clear with your offering up front.
In a world where repeat business is many agents’ bread and butter, establishing history is important. Doing so online involves soliciting testimonials from past (or current) clients and posting them on your website, or asking for LinkedIn recommendations. Building history online involves featuring sellers or buyers on your blogs and telling their story (to the extent that you legally can), and showing that you’ve done more than one transaction. Speaking at conferences is fabulous, but those credits are not the same as having done a side in real estate, so remember to focus on the client, their needs and making them comfortable via past transactions on display.
If you’re a dishonest person in real life, chances are that it will convey online, but if you’re focused on integrity and results, your natural desire to share that with others will come across in every tweet that you share as you provide value over fluff, and it will shine in your recommendations on Linked-In. Be honest, provide as much information as possible, and always keep consumers as the center of your web efforts rather than focusing on your ego (and your next conference) as the center of those same web efforts.