Today's reality is that people go online to find out who you are before they even pick up the phone to call you, and when they do, the perception they get will determine if they make the call. This is social proof.
From Twitter to Instagram to sites like Zillow, people who seek property have an abundance of ways to find help, and they are definitely using what’s there to sort through the plethora of offerings.
A 2013 study by Nielson found that 84 percent of consumers around the world say they trust word-of-mouth recommendations more than any form of advertising. To take that even further, a study by BrightLocal, a London-based SEO reporting company, found that almost 80 percent of consumers trust online recommendations as much as word of mouth, while 88 percent of consumers look for reviews when making local business decisions.
Why is Real Estate Social Proof so Powerful?
One reason real estate social proof has grown so powerful is that people cling to the backs of their own friends to keep from drowning in the sea of messages and marketing where everyone is forced to swim today.
By consulting with friends, peers and sometimes experts, they become part of a crowd, and they feel strength in being part of that crowd.
This also means that people who seek social proof are golden customers. And, they are likely to turn right around and reel in other golden gems.
So how do you use that power?
Start by making sure that every place you touch consumers, the information you present is accurate and appealing.
Take a step back and see how consumers view you in light of how you are presented on your own website, blogs and social media sites. Get onto every site where you’re mentioned—from Facebook to Zillow to LinkedIn—and ensure that your profile is up to date and thorough.
List accomplishments and presenting yourself as unique from your competitors. Look at what information you’re putting out there that generates likes and more importantly, gets comments and reviews.
With some sites, such as LinkedIn, you can also solicit and obtain direct recommendations from peers and customers in areas that establish your expertise in real estate.
Then don’t be afraid to just ask clients to sing your praises on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and wherever they might spend their typing and texting time.
People are becoming more and more comfortable handing out compliments through these channels, because they are more and more dependent on social proof to help them with decision making.
Get Those Reviews
While some people rely on reviews for everything, surprisingly few people write them.
But there are ways to generate the positive talk you desire. For one thing, you should go as broad as you can. Beyond Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com lie a number of websites that exist to validate the customer experience or that are not specific to real estate but specialize in geographical areas or type of business.
For example, the site RealSatisifed.com allows participants to request testimonials and ratings directly from customers. Also, general review sites that started out mostly with shops and restaurants, such as Yelp and Google+ Local, are expanding to include other services such as selling or buying real estate.
But you should also be using your own website and blog to attach to reviews from current and past customers. One effective tool increasingly in use is video testimonials, which can either be linked from YouTube or embedded on your site and used as a link itself.
A Few Points On Reviews
Don’t fake it. The reason advertising is on the decline while real estate social proof is rising in popularity is that no one ever did quite believe the hired actors that hawked a brand of life insurance or a drug as a great guardian of people’s well-being. Fake reviews are easy to spot, and they can do a lot more harm than good.
Make it easy. If you’re going to ask someone to give you a review, it should be an uncomplicated process. Send out an email following the close of a property and remind them they promised praise, then provide a direct link to make it easy.
A good way to ease the burden of your customers, who may be uncomfortable with the writing process itself, is to send a list of questions that reviews generally address such as: did the home sell home quickly, was the process easy, did your agent/broker/mortgage provider seem to know what your needs were?
Don’t let negative reviews go. Anyone who takes the initiative to invite comments is bound to stumble across an unhappy customer once in a while. Find a way to respond to these painful criticisms, because the only way to counter a bad review is to address it directly. On the other hand, people gain respect for individuals and companies that respond as long as the response is factual and not defensive.
A Quality Experience
As with everything in business, driving the crowd-think bus in the right direction depends on delivering a quality experience. If you deliver a quality experience on a day-to-day basis the praise, the recommendations, the reviews, the comments flow naturally.
The key is to encourage an open dialog when it comes to getting your clients to express their quality experience.