“All press is good press.”
“There is no such thing as bad publicity.”
These are sayings popularised by PR agencies, forever spinning stories to clients in their favour. The idea behind this is that anyone talking about your brand (even in a negative fashion) is still better than no one talking about it at all.
The reality is, bad publicity does exist because no company is perfect. And imperfections, especially when realised at large scales can certainly take their toll on a brand’s image.
For larger companies, brand recognition and longevity can lessen the impact of bad press and poor reviews over time. This isn’t necessarily the case for small business, who don’t already have the power of numbers on their side.
The smaller you are and the bigger the blunder, the less time you have to come back from a brand reputation that’s taken a hit.
The Power of Social Proof
Social proof is a psychological concept. It stems from an idea called normative social influence, which suggests that people conform to their surroundings in order to be liked and accepted.
Understood in relation to how your real estate brand image translates online, it’s the tendency for people to adopt beliefs established by reviews. See multiple negative reviews about a company and you begin to look at them through a negative lens, without ever having had a direct, personal experience.
Nowhere is this truer and easier to grasp than in relation to the restaurant industry. How many times have you sought out a new place for grub and immediately scrolled past those with only two stars?
Seldom do customers give businesses the benefit of the doubt and because of this, they are unable to realise that the subjectivity of poor ratings can fail to tell the whole story. The work falls on you, as a real estate agent – the manager of your personal brand – to own the narrative and make right those inevitable imperfections.
Factors That Can Negatively Impact Your Real Estate Brand Online
Before seeking a solution, understand the problem.
There are a variety of issues, well within your control, that can fuel a customer’s negativity fire. By proactively taking stock of what can go wrong with your real estate brand image online, you’ll be better equipped to react in the moments that they do.
All of the digital marketing expertise in the world won’t help you if the actual end service you provide is poor. Plain and simple.
And while critiques of your business from an operational standpoint are not always nice to hear, they can lead to growth. Before immediately reacting to any negative review of your brand you may come across, walk away and take time to internalise the feedback without letting ego take the wheel.
Is the customer justified in their evaluation? Were there aspects of the relationship that could have been handled better? Can the situation be remedied and if not, can it be learned from? It’s important to answer these questions for yourself.
Don’t take things personally. Remember that this person has taken time out of their day to tell you about their experience – whether it’s true or not is irrelevant. These people are some of your best customers because they’re telling you about gaps in your service offering. The people who you should really be worried about are the ones who talk about you in private.
Sometimes it’s not the quality of your service that’s the problem, but the quality of its perception.
After all, your website is the most important digital platform for your business. And everything affiliated with the overall experience, from general navigation to marketing automation, can provide potential clients with enough reason to leave behind some negative words of advice for future visitors.
Just because you’re not active in the digital community, doesn’t mean no one’s talking about you. Managing your brand reputation isn’t an out of sight, out of mind activity.
The same can be said for those choosing to make their investments on rented land (i.e. social platforms) alone, rather than building out a website of their own. When you don’t give potential clients a means of realising the authority of your brand, you leave the door open to even more critiques and distrust. And worse yet, you forfeit control over managing those conversations on your own terms.
How to Manage Your Brand Reputation Alongside Negative Reviews
Regardless of why a negative review has been shared, once published, it can’t be ignored. Nor should it be.
These are people who have taken time out of their day to provide feedback, whether warranted or otherwise. Just as you would respond to those with positive testimonials, you should do the same for those on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Doing so ensures that your brand reputation doesn’t have to suffer on account of a poor customer experience. It just has to be handled in a way that makes sense for the situation.
Online reviews are like a spectator sport nowadays. What does it say about your brand if negative reviews go unanswered?
Own and Monitor the Conversation
We’ve touched on this a bit already, but it’s worth reiterating that managing the reputation of your real estate brand should start with a sense of awareness.
This means, for example, if you’re using some sort of email marketing automation tool, you’re conscious of your unsubscribe list. Technology isn’t perfect either, so if you’re putting the promotion of your brand in its hands, regularly make sure it’s doing the job you want it to do.
Additionally, set up Google Alerts for your real estate brand name and any variations. This will help you more readily keep tabs on new reviews as they’re published, rather than having to manually scour the pages of different review sites. Reputation management tools like ReviewTrackers can also be helpful in this regard.
Give Apologies Where Due
Mistakes happen. Bad business happens. Fess up and say sorry – it doesn’t make you a weaker person. It makes you human.
You can choose to act like they didn’t happen or take responsibility for your actions. Going the route of the latter doesn’t just give you the opportunity to turn one negative experience around. It helps you combat a wave of public opinion in the real estate business that is already working against you.
In conjunction with the above advice, it’ll always work in your favour to opt for transparency over excuses. Ironically enough, even when you try to cloud the truth, people can still see right through it, and that only makes things worse.
Especially if you’re already nervous about encouraging more negativity by engaging with a disgruntled client review, it only behoves` you to be as straightforward as possible from the get-go.
You’ll always find that for some people, it might not make a difference, but it paints two sides to the story. And that allows other visitors to make a more informed, objective decision should they come across the same review down the road.
Fix What You Can
When it makes sense, go out of your way to make a situation right.
Even if you don’t believe you’re completely in the wrong for any one scenario, small, peace-making gestures can make a difference. At the very least, they open the door of possibility for the reviewer to update their original review with a change of tune.
Work to Remove Within Reason
This isn’t to say you should start requesting that every negative mention of you be removed from the Internet. Remember our little talk about transparency? Just remember that there are avenues to explore should you feel you’re being unrightfully targeted.
Take Complaints Offline When Possible
When in doubt, move a conversation offline. In your responses to public-facing reviews, ask the reviewer to privately message or email you for further follow-up. If you already have contact information on file, it might work in your favour to proactively reach out and continue the discussion — as long as it doesn’t mean you’re just berating them through a private channel.
This response above is ok, BUT… respond like a real person. Don’t end your reply with “…from the Social Media team at ABC Real Estate”. Include your name, contact information and position in the business. It makes the response more genuine and your prospects who are checking out your reviews will certainly notice.
Make it Easy for Happy Clients to Leave Reviews
Maintaining a healthy brand reputation is as much about fostering positive reviews, as it is managing the negative ones.
If you have an email list at the ready, boasting a handful of satisfied clients, consider soliciting them for reviews in exchange for a small incentive — like, a $5 coffee gift card. Note that on platforms like Google, this is technically against their terms of service — definitely a grey area, overall.
Think of ways in which you can integrate review asks into your regular service. Something as small as a short call out in an email signature can help in making these types of actions top of mind for current and future clients. OR, when you’ve delighted your clients, strike while the iron is hot! Don’t wait to ask for a review, do it asap.
Showcase Positive Testimonials
For both your owned assets and those managed through third-party platforms, promote the client reviews that are most reflective of what you want your brand to be recognised for.
Use positive testimonials to help shape opinions through promotion on your website, email newsletters, and/or an ad funnel on Facebook.
Final Thoughts: Managing Your Brand Reputation Alongside Negative Reviews
A bad review doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your real estate brand. The important thing is always to review the situation accordingly and avoid the urge to immediately go on the defence. React thoughtfully and use every instance as a means for learning and improving upon systems for managing the online reputation you already have in place.
Curious to see positive review promotion in action? Well, have we got a prime homepage example for you. Check it out!