Reviews and What They Mean to Your Brokerage

iHomfinder - Reviews What They Mean Brokerage Image - 20170329

Word of mouth is a critical component of your brokerage’s growth and reputation. Of course, this isn’t something you can create out of thin air. It has to happen naturally, because your future clients have an innate sense of manufactured word of mouth.

Your potential clients may use your website to access MLS listings, they may explore the local communities and discover information about the neighborhood, but they will want to know more about you before finally settling on an agent.

You need to give homebuyers a reason to choose you over the competition, and reviews and testimonials will weigh heavily in this decision.

Think of them as a way to help homebuyers prequalify agents and brokerages before making first contact. This will help them feel confident that they made the right choice.

Let’s take a closer look at what reviews can mean to your brokerage.

Why Reviews are So Important – According to the Statistics

There have been a lot of studies that show exactly how important reviews really are. Some of the more salient points include:

  • 85% of consumers use online reviews to evaluate local businesses
  • Consumers trust peer recommendations (including online reviews) 5x more than traditional advertising
  • 62% of consumers say they would choose to contact a real estate agent found online if the agent has reviews that were clearly posted by real customers
  • When asked if they would contact an agent that had many 5-star ratings as well as a few 2-star ratings, 19% said yes, 33% of customers said they were “likely” to contact the agent, and 38% were “somewhat likely”
  • 43% said that if they got an agent recommendation by word of mouth, they’d still do an internet search to learn more about the agent.

Reviews Help You Improve the Brokerage

If someone takes the time to provide a detailed review, it may contain the kind of information you need to reassess and reimplement the strengths of your brokerage. The more in-depth the review, the more you’ll be able to act on that feedback.

It may not be pleasant to read a negative review, but they are a natural building blog of your company.

Reviews Give You an Opportunity to Resolve Concerns

You can catch the problems before they have a permanently negative effect on your brand. It’s been shown time and time again that people are willing to forgive a bad review if it’s clear that you responded to the problem and did what you could to make it better.

Reviews Show You Areas Where Coaching and Training May be needed

When you receive feedback from clients, you can use it as a window into your brokerage and see exactly where you can help your agents get more leads and provide better customer support.

This is also and opportunity to gather reviews on each aspect of your agents’ performance, so you can see who may need more help.

Reviews Naturally Answer Important Questions

A good review can answer some of the most important questions that potential clients may have about your brokerage or agents. When someone is just starting down the path to home ownership, they want to know:

  • Is the agent honest and trustworthy?
  • Does the agent have a good knowledge of the neighborhood?
  • Does the agent respond quickly to questions?
  • Will the agent listen to their concerns?
  • Does the agent have a caring personality?
  • Does the agent or brokerage have an overall good reputation?

All of these items are commonly answered in a good review, making it easier for new clients to find the information they really want.

How to Get and Use Reviews

It’s okay to be proactive about seeking and promoting positive reviews. Here are a few guidelines for encouraging more reviews and getting the most use out of them.

Ask for them –

Don’t just assume that, no matter how great the experience, the buyer will automatically feel moved to leave a review. Ask them to share their experience and mention the websites where it will be the most helpful.

Earn it –

It seems obvious, but if you want a good review, you have to deserve it. You will need to deliver an experience they will remember. More than that, it should be the kind of experience they will want to tell others about.

Show your gratitude

Reward people for their effort on your behalf. Find a way to express your gratitude and make them feel like they made the right choice telling others about your brokerage.

Use unique reviews

When identical reviews pop up all over the web, it will reduce your credibility with search engines and clients. Try to mix it up when you can and share different reviews on different sites.

Take negative reviews in stride

No one likes to see bad (or even neutral) reviews, but they’re a part of the business. More importantly, research shows that consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad comments. We all understand that no one is perfect, so if you have nothing but 5-star reviews, it can seem suspicious.

Make reviews visible and accessible

Share your reviews across the major portals and search engines. Highlight them on your own website, and maybe even share them on your social media. There are a lot of ways to make sure that your potential customers have an opportunity to see this information.

Reviews are the modern word of mouth. Help your potential clients learn all about you by proactively collecting and publishing them in the most effective places.

Real Estate Video Marketing – What You Need to Be Doing Right Now

iHomefinder - Video Marketing Blog Header - 20170324Personalization is a key element of communication between real estate professionals and potential homebuyers. While there are several ways to accomplish this, one of the most effective is to add video to your marketing efforts.

Video can be a very powerful medium that builds a story that homebuyers can relate to. It puts a face on the agency, so their initial interactions begin by getting to know you on a more personal level.

Of course, not all videos are created equal, and simply uploading countless videos to YouTube without a plan will not be very effective. These videos need to have a specific purpose or they won’t have the necessary impact on your clients.

Here’s what you need to be doing right now to make the most of your real estate video marketing.

Embrace Video Marketing as a Necessity

More and more homebuyers are turning to online video in their path toward purchase. It’s a great tool for house hunting, and these statistics seem to support the idea that both buyers and sellers are getting a lot out of them:

  • 85% of buyers and sellers prefer to work with agents who use video marketing
    • And yet, only 15% of agents are actually using video (i.e. there’s a huge opportunity here for you)
  • Properties listed with a video can generate 4x the number of leads
  • 80% of viewers remember what they’ve seen in online videos
  • Videos in emails double clickthrough rates and reduce opt-outs by 75%

Create Videos about the Community

86% of homebuyers use video to research a community. This is a good thing for you because a single community highlight videos can be used over and over again. It’s going to stay relevant for a long time because there probably won’t be that many big changes over the years.

Create Videos that Showcase the Inside of the Home

The second most popular use for video in the home buying process is the “virtual tour.” The study linked above also claimed that 70% of homebuyers use video to see what the home interior looks like. It will require a little more time to make videos for your listings, but the results can be worth it.

Supercharge Your Emails

Videos are particularly useful in prospecting emails. Most of us have learned to disregard unknown emails in our inboxes, but if there is something impressive or eye catching in the body of the content, you can stop them before they hit the delete button.

Including a video in your email will show your clients exactly who they will be working with. This creates a certain sense of human-to-human connection that you just can’t get with plain text.

Reach Clients through Facebook Video

Creating videos to market your agency or brokerage is great. The ability to target your ideal audience with those videos is even better.

People are already watching more than 100 million hours of video on Facebook every day. There is a huge opportunity here for you to show your videos to an interested audience.

Right now, Facebook video ads are some of the most cost-effective forms of online advertising, going as low as a penny per view.

Tips for Creating Facebook Video Ads

  1. Frontload the ad – You’ve got roughly 3 seconds to engage a viewer. Make sure the important information shows first.
  2. Be visually appealing – Most videos on social media start playing silently. Your presentation should be able to entice them with the visuals alone.
  3. Optimize your ads with Facebook tools – Facebook offers a range of targeting options to make sure you’re delivering the ad to the right audience.
  4. Always test, never assume – You can guess what your audience will like, but that will never be as effective as actually testing your ads to see which preforms better.

Expand Your Social Media Reach

While there are several ways to promote your listings on Facebook, video has become extremely important.

In 2015, Facebook updated its algorithm to prioritize posts from friends over posts from business pages, which very suddenly and harshly hobbled a lot businesses on the network. Video can turn that around. In one study, it was discovered that native video (i.e., video uploaded directly to Facebook and not just linked to) could double organic reach.

And, the best part about this method is that people are 12x more likely to share video than text, links, or photos.

Anyone Can Do Video Marketing

Video marketing will continue to gain prominence in the real estate industry, and the sooner you get started, the sooner you will see results.

While it is easy to tell yourself that you don’t have the experience or the equipment to get started, the simple fact is that anyone can do this. Your personality and openness is more important that the ability to get lighting exactly right.

It really does just require some basic equipment and some software (much of which is available for free) to introduce yourself in video form or to turn a number of high-quality images of a home into an attractive video.

There’s a lot of options out there. Let your creative side show and find out how you can connect with a whole new audience.

Featured Client – James Kastner, District Residential and Slate Properties

Real Estate Success Story
James Kastner and his team of 4 other agents make up District Residential, an agent team that’s part of the Slate Properties brokerage. Prior to signing on with Slate, James spent 12 years in San Francisco where he founded a real estate marketing and consulting services company.

He sold the company and moved to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for one year, before, on a whim, choosing to relocate to Washington D.C.

When he started comparing the digital marketing capabilities between the coasts, he discovered a huge opportunity as the established D.C. brokerages weren’t marketing well at all. In fact, marketing largely consisted of offering a lock box and leaving black-and-white printouts from the MLS on the kitchen counter of the seller’s home.

Not only does James have a great website – check the site as it gives ‘the nod’ to the popular Netflix show, “House of Cards” – but he and his team go a step further by creating custom websites, including the floor plans, for every listing they manage. They also provide powerful brochures than have more in common with a sleek and stylized 12-page catalog than they do a traditional real estate pamphlet.

His team also creates the furniture staging experience with high-quality furniture owned by the brokerage and even bring a housekeeper to ensure that everything looks polished and inviting by the time of the first open house. All of this happens in 7 days or less.

Where did all these efforts get him?

James went from $0 to $30 million in just over a year and a half. He even made the Washingtonian Magazine’s Top 100 list this year for best real estate agents. This list is based on both sales volume as well as personal reputation.

Building a Winning Team and Brand

When James came to D.C., he was heavily recruited by other brokerages, including Compass, which had recently moved into the area and started acquiring smaller brokerages while promising technology, apps, and marketing resources.

When he was deciding between Compass and Slate Properties, he quickly realized that Compass would own any branded content that they created on his behalf. This would lead to a situation in which he’d be creating a business around their brand, and if he didn’t want to have all that work go to waste, he’d be forced to stay with Compass for the balance of his career.

So, he opted instead for a boutique brokerage, Slate Properties, where he could create his own brand.

Excited, he now knew he needed an online presence equivalent to the large destination sites and digital brokerages, like Redfin and Compass.

His research led him to iHomefinder and MarketBoost.

Why MarketBoost?

There were several places where James could have gotten market stats and nice website graphics, but he needed to do more if he was going to compete against Compass. He needed something that would showcase him in a top-notch light and support his marketing activities.

MarketBoost gave him the ability to register clients for specific content and automatically send market reports, including recently sold homes, inventory levels in the area, and recent price changes. This way, clients who have already purchased can receive relevant content about their home and neighborhood.

This contrasts with the traditional “farming” method, in which agents will send direct mail to the same 500 people for 30 years. James knew, however, that everyone has different needs, and the lack of personalization could harm an agent’s personal brand.

MarketBoost also made it easier for James to define and create niche content. He doesn’t need to send a D.C. market update to everyone when he can send highly personalized content, instead. So, now, when they close on a home, the agent can stay top-of-mind with highly relevant market reports. In brief, MarketBoost provides the following:

  1. Automated report generationMarketBoost gives James the ability to register clients for specific reports and automatically send them. This way, even people who have already bought a home can receive relevant content. That means he can focus his efforts on people ready to buy and sell and leave lead nurturing to MarketBoost.
  2. Custom market creation – Defining markets is tricky in D.C. For example, Capitol Hill is technically in Old City, but the actual boundaries aren’t well understood. MarketBoost maps neighborhoods, providing site visitors – even those relocating to the city – with a firm understanding of the local area.
  3. Niche marketing – James created nearly 50 markets. Each of these markets leaves consumers with the explicit feel that James and his team fully understand the local market. The site shows how quickly properties sell, if they sell over-ask, and how much inventory is on the market. James also adds a custom write-up for each of the 50 markets. This provides site visitors with a solid understanding of the local market – even though he’s only been selling locally for 3 years.

In just a year and a half, James took these tools and created a great team that is focused on long-term success and growth. MarketBoost empowered James and his team to take advantage of the huge opportunity that was open and waiting for him in Washington D.C.

How to make your listings stand out with Facebook 360

Facebook 360 Blog HeaderWe don’t have to sell you on the importance of adding strong visuals to your real estate listings. As real estate professionals, you know that a picture is worth a thousand words, and directly contributes to the emotional decision making process of making a home purchase.

Many of us spend hundreds of dollars on companies that can produce virtual tours, or empty our budgets on expensive professional equipment so we can showcase our listings. Not every home we list requires that kind of technological investment, but all of them will require engaging, attractive visuals.

The technology landscape has changed, and people no longer want to jump in the car and drive to see 10 random homes in a day. (Neither do we.) The modern consumer relies on the convenience of viewing homes online at their leisure. Your challenge as a real estate professional is to make your listings stand out from the rest without breaking the bank.

Well, thanks to Facebook’s new 360 feature, you can do that for free from your mobile device. You can give tours of exquisite home features, neighborhoods, yards, and so much more. And you can do it in minutes from your mobile device.

With Facebook 360 you can now place your perspective clients in the center of the action, ensuring there's something to see and experience at every angle.

Create a story with your photo that encourages your followers to explore your property the full 360 degrees.

See our Live Facebook Example (You may have to be logged into Facebook to view it properly)

Facebook 360 Blog ABC Realty Image

If you need further convincing on how cool this feature is, check out the Facebook 360 post of Manhattan from Mark Zuckerberg the founder of Facebook.

 Facebook 360 Blog Mark Zuckerburg Image

How to Create a Facebook 360 Image

There are several ways to create an effective Facebook 360 photo. You don’t even have to buy elaborate photography equipment. You can simply start shooting with the panoramic mode on your compatible mobile device.

However, we found that this option could be glitchy. Sometimes the photo would be recognized as a 360 image, and sometimes it would upload as flat, panoramic photo. To avoid this glitch on both Android and iPhone platforms, we recommend the following process:

Step 1

Download the Google Street View app from Google play or the App Store.

Step 2

Open the app on your mobile device and click the camera icon found in the bottom right corner.

Facebook 360 Blog Point Camera at Dot Image

Step 3

Stand in the middle of the area that you want to capture. Point the camera at the center of the dot and pivot in a 360-degree circle.

Step 4

Save the photo to your device by clicking the orange checkmark. Your image will be saved on your mobile device.

How to Upload Your Photo to Facebook

Now that you’ve captured the perfect image that will show off your latest listing, it’s time to make sure it is properly uploaded and displayed on your Facebook account.

Step 1

Open Facebook (log into your administrator account)

Step 2

Within the Facebook app, decide where you want to share your Facebook 360 photo. Will you share this tour on your personal page, agency page, or in a Facebook group? The good news is that Facebook will allow you do all the above. Share away! This is your chance to really showcase your property.

Step 3

Go to the section to create a post as you would any other status update.

Step 4

Upload your photo to Facebook. If Facebook recognizes the image as a 360-compatible image, it will display a globe symbol on the photo like the one below.

Facebook 360 Blog Panorama Image

Step 5

Tell your audience all about your photo tour, and voilà: you’ve created your first 360 image on Facebook.

Property Shooting Techniques

 Anyone with a smartphone can start taking and promoting 360 photos on their Facebook account. You can make sure that your images stand out from the rest by using some of the following techniques:

  • Start the shoot at the least eye-catching point – It’s possible that the first and last images won’t stitch up 100% correctly, which can be very noticeable. Make sure the high points of the picture come out perfectly by starting and stopping on less important points in the room.
  • Move the camera slowly –Avoid blurry images at all costs. Take your time. I can’t stress this enough. Slow down. If you move too fast, your photos will not turn out right.

On a related note, if you’re in a place with a lot of high contrast, wait a few seconds for the brightness/contrast to auto adjusted before you move to the next orange circle.

  • Pivot around the lens of the cameraYou should not be the pivot point for this picture. The lens of the camera should be the center point and you should rotate the camera around that fixed point. It usually helps to put a mental marker on the ground and make sure that the lens always stays directly above it.

Also, note that your lens is not the center of the camera as the application might make you to think. The lens is usually located at top of your phone, so keep that in mind as you rotate around the pivot point.

  • Use the undo feature when necessary – You can retake a shot that is not turning correctly or doesn’t look right. (You can only undo the last picture, though, so, if I haven’t said it enough: go slow!)

You’ve learned how to use  to show off your new home listings. Sharing flat photos with your Facebook audience is a thing of the past -- the future revolves around interactive pics. Think beyond the photos typically used in your marketing and make your listings stand out from the competition.

Do you have questions about using this feature? Have you used this feature before? Show us your work! You can contact us on Facebook or Twitter or comment below and tell us all about it!