Seven No-brainers for Keeping it Civil Online

Seven No-brainers for Keeping it Civil Online

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Creating fire on social media might just cause irreparable damage

Originally published on Inman News on June 20, 2019

Social media has grown over the years to play an integral role in real estate agents’ business lives: It’s become a primary advertising tool for listings, as well as for promoting an agent’s business. Facebook and Twitter have become essential resources for agents.

We look to connect with peers over issues we’re facing in local real estate markets. We network to request recommendations from each other regarding home inspectors, structural engineers, handymen, and other service providers.

The fact is, social media has replaced the water cooler, picture album, and office bulletin boards of years past.

I scroll through my social media accounts every day, but I try not to spend an excessive amount of time on them as I discovered early on that they can hijack my daily objectives.

Sometimes I find the experience enjoyable and entertaining, but oftentimes, it’s troubling. I’m not alone: Many studies in recent years have found troubling links between stress, anxiety and social media use.

In fact, a group of Silicon Valley insiders are so concerned about the destructive design decisions embedded into social media that they’ve founded an entirely new nonprofit called the Center for Humane Technology that is dedicated to reversing its worst impacts.

In that spirit, I want to point out that it’s too easy to get distracted by the stray comment or provocation online, and then to get sucked into something that consumes you and your day.

On a regular basis, I read threads full of arguments and heated discussions that go on and on with insults and insinuations that genuinely “cross the line.” Some of these come from my fellow real estate agents. Like a bad one-night stand in a movie or consuming too much alcohol, you end up regretting it all: So it’s wise to practice some restraint.

Here are seven tips to keep your social media postings from negatively impacting your business:

1. Think about what you want to say before you write or respond to a post

As you scroll through and read posts from your friends or connections on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or other social media timelines, think about how — or if — you want to respond to a post.

In your mind, the words you write may not be considered controversial or offensive, but you never know how the words or “expressions” contained in your response may be received by others. Semantics and context matters, and it’s so easy to for people who don’t know each other, or who don’t know each other well, to misunderstand what you really meant.

For example, I have seen the word “unbelievable” used in a social media response interpreted as both positive and negative. The following two phrases, using the word “unbelievable” have different meanings: “Completely unbelievable! Most agents are smart enough to remember to close the lockbox!”; “It’s unbelievable he has reached that level of production in a short period!”

I know this sounds like a little thing, but one word or phrase can be taken the wrong way.

2. Keep all of your posts non-controversial and neutral

You need to keep in mind that your posts will be seen by many people, including your current and past clients, prospects, and friends who might refer future business to you.

If one of your posts appears to be on a controversial subject with a disagreeing or differing point of view from your client, it could easily backfire and cause damage to your relationship with the client and possibly do damage to your business.

I feel that there are two areas to steer clear of: politics and religions. Both of these are “hot topics” and I have seen threads in response to a post on these issues get pretty offensive.

Stay away from these!

3. Don’t attack or berate other real estate agents (or anyone) using social media

The National Association of Realtors‘ Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice clearly states we are not to make disparaging remarks toward one another. Article 15 reads: “REALTORS® shall not knowingly or recklessly make false or misleading statements about other real estate professionals, their businesses, or their business practices.”

You might find yourself in front of your local realtor association Professional Standards committee if you post something about a fellow agent on a social media site that could be construed as defamatory or insulting.

If you have an issue or problem with a fellow professional, talk to him or her face-to-face to seek a resolution. Their managing broker should be consulted if you find discussions between you and the other agent are not progressing productively and positively. The bottom line: keep opinions and comments on other agents to yourself.

4. A controversial post could cost you your affiliation with your firm

As a managing broker, I review social media accounts before and after hiring agents. I have a great concern when I see something incongruent with the values of our company. If a current agent is posting inappropriately, I will have a serious discussion with them and, depending on the situation, take corrective action or release their real estate license from the firm.

And I am not alone. Almost all employers in every industry now review social media before deciding to hire an employee.  Ensure all of your posts keep your broker happy.

5. Remember what you post on social media can advance or hinder your career

Social media can be a huge asset to your real estate business.  Agents and brokers continuously share property listings, market analysis, and real estate news with those they know.   I grew my business over the years by posting to all of the significant social media sites on a regular schedule. It takes organization and discipline to regularly post, but it is worth it. But keep in mind poor judgment in what you write on social media can also hinder your real estate career.

I know we all have opinions and want to share those opinions with others. However, consider who is looking at your posts: past clients, prospects, neighbors, club members, friends, family, etc.  Our real estate practices depend on getting referrals from those we know — and many of these folks are on social media.

Once it is out there, it’s out there. Yes, you can take your post down, but remember anyone can take a screenshot of what you posted. The old saying, “closing the stable door after the horse has bolted,” applies here. People will always remember the negative posts more than any positive post. If they share your negative posts with others, it will be difficult to repair the damage.

6. Social media is one tool in your toolbox

Social media should be one of the many tools you have in your real estate business “toolbox.” Educate and inform your prospects and clients through what you post on social media. Watch any response you compose to posts written by others.

7. Do not let social media devour your time

I learned a long time ago, scrolling through the various posts on my Facebook timeline can be all-consuming.  There are so many hours in the day for you to be productive in selling real estate. Do not let the attraction of fascinating articles, pictures, and video distract you from the vital work on your daily “to do” list.

Spend a maximum of ten to fifteen minutes each morning and evening reviewing your social media posts. I know it doesn’t seem like a great deal of time, but you don’t have time to lose. Be disciplined and plan your social media time in a useful way.

In today’s cyber-savvy consumer world, prospects and past clients might make a decision on choosing you as their agent based on what they read on your social media sites. If you create a fire on social media with opinions and conversations that are contentious, you might find yourself trying to fix the damage that could be irreparable.

John Giffen is Director of Broker Operations for Benchmark Realty, LLC in Tennessee. He is the author of “Do You Have a Minute? An Award-Winning Real Estate Managing Broker Reveals Keys for Industry Success.”

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