Truth or Consequence: Managing your digital presence

Did you ever do a funny impression of a colleague at an office party before realizing he was standing directly behind you?  Or maybe there was that one time you lost your cool when the restaurant messed up your Mother’s Day brunch reservation? Well, imagine if such embarrassing moments happened on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube for all the world to see and judge.

Certainly having an online presence offers the exposure of your brand and your business. Social media is an effective, low-cost way to attract new customers as you build your business.  Realtors can reach out to potential clients from across a range of demographics at all times of day and night while earning positive feedback from those who are satisfied customers willing to share their experience with others.

However, the social media universe also poses risks to your professional reputation.

The reality of today’s world is that people will gladly take advantage of the anonymity and lack of authority in social media environments, to post whatever they want about anyone, minus the constraints that once existed in pre-Internet generations. Negative comments about you and your business can stick — even if you didn’t earn them.

And it goes both ways. One lapse in judgement and you may embarrass yourself and your colleagues.  For example, expressing opinions that are controversial or hateful and insulting to other social groups or individuals is more than just wrong, it’s risky. What someone thinks is a harmless joke on social media can be disastrous when dozens, even hundreds of others view and interpret that humour as tasteless, crude or just plain stupid.

The adage, “familiarity breeds contempt” also applies here.  Though people may find your insights about home buying and mortgages valuable, getting notifications of your posts multiple times a day, every day, may make them want to “unfriend” you altogether, especially if you intermingle too much content unrelated to real estate.

So, how do you convert the risks of exposure into real benefits?

Use the same level of consideration and respect that you normally demonstrate to your clients in person.  Make a concerted effort to share content that is relevant and interesting with your target audience in one simple way, not in every possible way. The marketing value of social media will largely depend on the credibility you earn as a real estate expert by giving potential customers information they need and want. Using social media merely to promote and advertise to as many people as possible will not bring you the benefits that social media offers.

The following is a useful checklist before you post:

  1. Is this promotional information or explicit advertising?
  2. Will anyone actually find this information interesting, besides me?
  3. Is it possible that I could offend someone with this post?
  4. How many times have I already posted on this site today? (More than three could be considered excessive.)
  5. Did I check the spelling of the text? Is the photo going to display well?
  6. Is the meaning of my post clear, or could some people find it difficult to understand?
  7. Am I using too many abbreviations and slang that my audience may not know?
  8. Is this really something I want to share, or is it just me venting?
  9. How will this content benefit my clients?
  10. Does this content show my knowledge, skill set, service value?

Remember that you can remove your posts on some sites, including Facebook. But, even deleted posts can show up elsewhere if they are shared.  And sometimes it’s not what you posted that causes problems, it’s the people who are your online “friends” who share their posts on your account, or make inappropriate or unwanted comments on your account.

The benefits of a social media presence should not be underestimated. But neither should the risks. Be diligent about managing your online reputation.

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