How to manage your online reputation and win new business
The home building industry has experienced a lot of change in the past decade, but one area that many builders still overlook is how online communications is revolutionizing the buying process. This is especially crucial as more Millennials enter the market and rely on online tools to find their next home. A recent study conducted by the NAHB found that real estate-related searches on Google have grown by 253 percent over the past four years. In addition, more than three-fourths of home buyers use social media in their home search, up from 52 percent in 2011, according to the World Property Journal (Photo: Unsplash/Pixabay).
Many buyers’ first impression of a builder is online and it’s usually not from your website. When searching for new homes, buyers are seeing what other people have to say about you first.
Managing your online reputation through review sites such as Houzz, HomeAdvisor.com, and Yelp, or social media platforms, like Facebook, is critical for home builders to attract new customers. Whether managing online review sites or social media profiles, follow these three tips for more effective online reputation management:
- Solicit Reviews: One of the best ways to gain reviews is to make them a part of the new home process. Word of mouth is the best way to ask for a review; add it to your review process with new homeowners. Happy customers will take the time to write a review while excitement and satisfaction are still on their mind. After they move in, you can send them a follow-up email with a link to an online survey and links to online review sites as well. Free services like Survey Monkey make it quick and easy for you to create surveys and send them to clients. Offering incentives, like small gifts and promotional pieces, work well to gain reviews too. But, be careful; to avoid fake reviews and follow review site guidelines to keep your brand authentic and trustful.
- Be Responsive: A best practice is to respond to all reviews, both positive and negative, in a timely manner once a review is posted. No matter how negative a comment may be, don’t delete it. A response that is personal, helpful and considerate may turn an unsatisfied one-star review into a grateful five-star review. You may even gain a loyal customer out of it. Realtor Magazine found that 95 percent of unhappy customers will return if an issue is resolved quickly and efficiently. If a negative comment does appear, own up to the mistake and deliver a helpful solution.
- Track Your Progress: The key is to routinely check review sites and social media. Many free tools, such as Google Alerts and notifications from review and social media sites, will alert you via email if a new review is posted under your profile. If you take the time to monitor and track relevant review sites, you’ll be able to respond quicker and gain higher customer satisfaction.
Proactive online reputation management is also a great way to engage current and former buyers, increase positive awareness for your brand, and drive website traffic, especially as online review sites and social media platforms keep growing.
Robust online reputation management is increasingly vital for home builders as more buyers look to online sites as part of their buying process. A 2013 survey from Dimensional Research found that 90 percent of consumers are influenced by online reviews. The real question is, what are buyers saying about you online?
Elyssa Bernstein is a Communications Specialist with Commonwealth Partnerships. A graduate of Virginia Tech, she has several years of experience helping new home builders with social media and public relations campaigns.Andrew K. Ryan, APR is a Partner with Commonwealth Partnerships. He has over 10 years of experience working with new home builders and their trade partners on strategic marketing and communications initiatives. Both Bernstein and Ryan are based in Richmond, Va.