When you meet a prospective client and they say your reputation precedes you, you want it to be a positive one. Building a strong reputation is essential to an agent’s word of mouth business and isn’t built overnight. A bad review or an errant tweet can be harmful both online and off. While you can’t control your online reputation, you can have a say in it. Here are five things you can do to protect it along the way.1. Don’t post anything you don’t want written in inkAs if every thought that tumbles through your head was so clever it would be a crime for it not to be shared. The Internet’s not written in pencil, Mark, it’s written in ink. -The Social Network Movie, 2010While you can technically delete tweets, status updates and blog posts, that doesn’t mean they disappear from your permanent record. Ever heard of the wayback machine? It’s a project aimed at capturing an archive of the Internet, with records back to 1996. There are also handy little apps that take screen captures, so don’t think removing erroneous updates means they won’t ever surface again. You can, and should set your privacy settings on social networks, but don’t assume this is enough. Be cautious of what you post – you never know when or where it will be shared.2. Don’t drink & tweetWhile this one seems like a no-brainer, we’ve seen celebrities, congressional aides, and even your fellow agents fall into this trap. It’s hard enough to say the right things without being impaired, but mix a little tequila in with your tweets and you’re asking for trouble – drinking and social networking just don’t mix.3. Don’t let fear keep you offlineEven if you aren’t participating online, people are still talking. Avoiding the web may prevent you from making damaging comments, but it doesn’t stop the conversation nor does it stop other people from talking about you. While it’s not always easy to know what to say, don’t let fear keep you offline. Being involved in discoverable online conversations is one of the simplest ways to build a positive reputation. Blogs, tweets and some Facebook posts (depending on privacy settings) show up in Google and other search engines. Proactively use this to your advantage and create online content that demonstrates your knowledge and expertise.
4. Do monitor your online reputationIt’s important to know what others are saying about you, even if you don’t directly respond to the complaint. Start with a simple search of your name to check for negative content that may appear when customers search for you. Use several search engines to search for your name or business name on a regular basis. Chances are, you won’t be able to remove the information, but at least you’ll be prepared to address the issues. Google Alerts, Social Mention, and Hootsuite are all great tools for ongoing monitoring.5. Do get your clients talking about youOne of the best ways to combat bad press is with good press. While it’s difficult to stop someone from saying negative things about you online, you can mitigate the damage by having positive feedback from happy customers displayed prominently online. Let your clients tell your story – encourage them to talk about you with a recommendation on sites like LinkedIn and Trulia, and check out our 5 Tips to Get Great Recommendations.Maintaining a good reputation takes work in the digital world. Your customers and competitors are talking online – create your own reputation online instead of letting others create it for you.