Managing your online reputation is of utmost importance, Pacinelli, who spoke at the recent National Association of REALTORS® Convention, said.
“Many REALTORS® have no idea there are about 10 different sites that rank, grade and review real estate agents,” Pacinelli said. “But consumers know the sites exist and they’re posting en masse.”
“REALTORS® need to look at their business and the industry like consumers do. Consumers are reviewing everything online. Whether it’s choosing a refrigerator or selecting a dentist, they are researching everything,” he said. “Before a consumer buys a $500,000 home, you have to expect he’ll Google his REALTOR’s® name. Consumers want to get the most for their money,” he said.
Rather than leave the reviews on these sites to chance, Pacinelli advises REALTORS® to manage the process by directing satisfied clients to these sites to give testimonials. “You can have great testimonials on your website or on a brochure but these review sites give you the opportunity to have ‘world of mouth,’ not just ‘word of mouth,’” he said.
Many of these sites allow REALTORS® to create a free online profile. One REALTOR® Pacinelli uses as an example has 62 reviews on one of the sites. She routinely asks her clients to go to IncredibleAgent.com to post a review.
“Handwritten testimonials aren’t doing you much good if you’re already sitting in front of the client. These aggregated online sites will help clients choose you so you get the interview,” he added.
Pacinelli said he knows another REALTOR® who has received bad reviews on one of these sites and when her name is Googled, the site with the negative comments ranks higher than her website.
“All you need is one disgruntled client to find his soapbox on one of these sites and the results can hurt your business,” Pacinelli said. “Because Incredible Agent gets 100,000 hits a month, it ranks higher than most REALTORS®’ sites in a Google search.”
There’s no predicting which website will become the primary source for REALTOR® reviews but it’s important to select at least one to begin managing your online reputation. “It’s still in its infancy, so you should probably visit a site like Compete.com to see the traffic on different sites, then choose one or two and ask your clients to put their information on them.
“REALTORS® need to proactively manage their online reputation because 95 percent of consumers start their search online,” Pacinelli said. “REALTORS® do a lot off-line to manage their reputations but they need to apply those principles to the Internet and social media.”