Before you launch your real estate social media accounts, you need to think about the brand you want to present online. Your brand is more than just your logo and a tagline, your brand will communicate to clients and prospects who you are and what you value.
Before you invest in a brand, it's important to take stock in what you have already done, what others are saying about you, and what values you wish to communicate to the public.
Here are several actions you can do today before you begin to build your real estate social media plan.
Audit your existing (past and present) online presence
Unless you have been living underground for the past twenty years, it's likely that you're pretty Google-able.
If you're looking to build a public brand, know what is out there in your Google search results.
The first thing you can do for your brand is to know what people are seeing when they type your name into the Google search bar.
I know several real estate brokers who had more than one Facebook page, or who had never updated their websites when they moved brokerages. Every time a client finds an outdated website, an abandoned social networking page or a link that leads to a dead end, you lose credibility.
If you had another career before real estate, it's okay if evidence of your previous job exists in news articles, blogs, or other websites, but you'll want to make sure any owned or social media pages are fresh and up to date.
Respond to your online reviews
One of the most common PR questions real estate agents bring to me is what they should do when someone leaves a scathing review on their business or personal page on Zillow/Trulia, Facebook or Yelp.
No matter how good you are at what you do, it is unavoidable: you are going to have unhappy clients at some point in your career. In the real estate industry, emotions run especially high because people who are making the single biggest purchase and commitment of their lives.
One downside to living in the hyper-connected digital age is that when people need to vent, they can do it on a public forum. I once worked with a real estate broker whose client didn't get the apartment that he wanted, so he took to social media to lambast the agent. However unfairly, those social posts were out there for the world to see.
The best thing you can do is treat every review, negative or positive, as an opportunity. It's easy to respond to positive reviews to thank the reviewer and show appreciation for their words of kindness or satisfaction.
It's harder to dig deep and respond politely and professionally to a negative review. When you respond to a negative online review, keep it simple, think before you use the words "I'm sorry" and do whatever you can to guide the conversation offline.
Define your values and purpose
When anyone is launching a new brand, it's important to first define what you stand for and how you want to be known. Gap Inc. didn't open the doors to its first store as a worldwide clothing and accessories retailer.
They opened one store in 1969 and they sold denim jeans.
As they found success selling jeans, they built upon their core offering and expanded over the years, offering new products, new product lines and eventually, developing new brands under the Gap umbrella.
When you're beginning to build a brand, you do want to dream big and think about where you want to be in 5, 10, 20 or 40 years, but it's equally critical to be pragmatic and honest with yourself about where you are right now.
No one is going to roll out of bed and become a top-producing real estate broker on their first day at work, but you can take the steps to reach that initial goal by staying focused.
Before you begin marketing your brand, think about what it is you can offer right now and who your target audience is.
Here's an example: I know a real estate broker who focuses her business on first-time homebuyers. The value she brings her clients is that she can help first-time home buyers navigate the overwhelming, emotional process of purchasing a first home,
Some people might say that she is short-sighted to exclude other demographics from her marketing, but she is actually being very strategic.
As a young professional herself, she knows where her target audience hangs out on and offline and is targeting her advertising and marketing to that very specific audience.
As this agent sees success in marketing to this audience, as her sales increase and as her business grows, she can add services and offerings and market them accordingly.
That is not to mention, as time goes on those first-time buyers will eventually upgrade their starter homes, move to the suburbs to accommodate expanding families, purchase summer homes, downsize, etc.
If you want to be everything to everyone, a great way to start is to be invaluable to someone and you can always add and grow as the Gap did.
If you start off expecting to be able to juggle all the balls without dropping one, you are going to find yourself struggling. Start with a narrow focus, and expand from there.
A version of this post originally appeared on my portfolio site.