Mathias Bergendahl's Marketing Blog


How to Damage Your Reputation in Eight Easy Steps
July 16, 2009, 3:34 pm
Filed under: General Marketing Topics, Social Media Marketing

Most bloggers get their ideas for what they’ll write about from things they observe around them, and I’m certainly one of them. In fact, the subject of today’s blog post has been on my mind for several months. Some of the things I’ll touch on I’ve used in previous blog posts. Some of them I’ve used in the social media marketing classes I teach. All of them I’ve gathered from monitoring the use of FaceBook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and ActiveRain.

Your reputation is your most valuable asset and it must be protected. The fact that how you’re perceived in the marketplace will dictate your success cannot be denied. The cornerstone of your business must be to build credibility and instill trust so that you become known for your work ethic, your commitment to customers, how responsive you are, and your knowledge.

In the past we spent weeks developing ads that would accurately reflect who we are. We took professional photographs to look the part. We would continuously work on our biographies to make sure they would spell out our qualifications to serve those we seek to reach. We wrote letters carefully to make sure grammar and spelling were correct, and especially making sure the tone was appropriate.

Then FaceBook and other social media platforms came along. Things we typically would never share with others are now considered news worthy for anyone who’ll listen. Many say “oh, it’s just FaceBook” and “everyone on there knows me.” The latter part isn’t necessarily true as people you may not have connected with before will come across your profile.

Effectively, the profiles you have online and the content you post all contribute to the branding of you and your business. The purpose of this article is to highlight actions that easily can damage your reputation, and provide ways by which you can prevent that from happening.

1. Branding Yourself as a Fan of Playboy Magazine

Let’s say I want to introduce myself to someone at a fundraiser. I walk up to the person and say “Hello, my name is Mathias – it’s nice to meet you.” After a minute of initial introductions I continue “I would like to share with you that I like Playboy magazine.”

Seems crazy, doesn’t it? Of course I’d never do that (even if I liked the magazine) and I’m quite certain most wouldn’t (even if they liked the magazine). But, while monitoring the use of FaceBook I’ve come across quite a few professionals who become fans of various entities and groups that to some probably might be deemed questionable. Others may even be turned off by any such choice.

When you choose to become a fan of a FaceBook page, my suggestion is to choose carefully in order to make sure those you want to form relationships with will not find your affiliations distasteful or even offensive.

2. Enough with the FaceBook Quizzes

Which 80s rock star would you be? If you were an animal, what would you be? Is your IQ higher than that of your friends? What’s your favorite dish?

The list of available quizzes on FaceBook is endless and so seems the time available for many who take them. If a client has hired you to assist them, they expect you to put 100% into the effort. Seeing you take quiz after quiz during the work day may give the impression that you’re not hard at work.

I admit that some quizzes are rather entertaining and enticing to take. My recommendation is to do that within a personal FaceBook account (more on that later). And, refrain from inviting others to take quizzes as they may consider you a spammer.

3. Online Photo Album 101: No, I don’t want to see your Speedos

Have you been to Las Vegas recently? I recently came upon proof that some things that happen there don’t always stay there.

Case in point: I recently came across a photo album on FaceBook and the pictures within weren’t exactly flattering. Simply put, poolside pictures and photos from late-night parties may not be the best way to convey professionalism.

Personally, I suggest posting pictures with an abundance of caution. Additionally, ask friends and those around you to refrain from posting pictures of you online until you’ve had a chance to review them.

4. Use Platforms for Both Business and Pleasure

I recently visited a website for an attorney. Curious to find out more about his business, I clicked on a link to YouTube and a formal video presenting the company started streaming. Once I’d viewed the video I went to see his YouTube profile. I wish I hadn’t. While the company presentation certainly was professional, the other available videos, featuring the attorney attending a recent street party (I’ll refrain from giving further details), didn’t quite reflect professionalism.

Similar to pictures, I would recommend using caution when sharing videos online. In the event you do want to share videos with friends, consider setting up a separate YouTube account so that those wanting to know more about your business do not mistakenly come across videos you’d prefer they didn’t see.

5. Cyber-TMI: Finding a Balance of What You Share

It’s natural to want to share our thoughts, beliefs and opinions with others. We want others to get to know us beyond the professional exterior to see the values we hold. However, most would probably agree that there are some topics one should try to avoid, especially when working to establish new relationships. For any conversations, hot button topics such as abortion, gun control, and certainly religious affiliations, should be avoided in order to not offend anyone. While you’re fully within your rights to support a particular candidate running for office, be cautious when you share your views online so that you don’t alienate those who may have different political views.

While we may know to avoid such potential mine fields offline, it seems the casualness of social networking sites lead to the abundance of opinion-sharing. The golden rule of social networking is: anything you would hesitate to share offline should be avoided online.

6. Tell Them Like It Is!

Have you come across a news article you completely disagreed with? Did you post a comment? You’re not alone. These days there’s no shortage of ways we can comment on news stories, articles, and television shows. Every anchor at CNN, Fox and any other network invites viewers to post comments through blogs, Twitter and FaceBook, and newspapers typically invite comments directly underneath the article.

Be cautious when posting a comment or writing a letter to the editor. While your point may be accurate there’s still the potential that readers may not agree with you or find the tone too strong. Remember, all such comments are now saved forever online.

7. Want to Be My friend?

On any given day I receive a number of requests to be a “friend” on FaceBook, “follower” on Twitter, and “connection” on LinkedIn. At least half of the requests come from individuals I’ve never met or spoken with. There’s no doubt that having online connections can be an excellent way to build up a referral network, even a group of potential buyers. But, a bit of social networking etiquette is in order. My suggestion is to first make sure to establish offline relationships before attempting to create them online.

8. Nobuddy Cares About My Speling

Few things will build a negative perception of you as much as poor spelling. Picture a prospective client coming across a text full of spelling errors and imagine what it will convey. Make sure you use spell check before posting any content online, and consider asking a colleague to read what you’re about to post before it goes live.

Top five things you can do to protect yourself:

1. Ask yourself whether you’d be comfortable seeing what you post on the front page of the New York Times. If you hesitate, considering revising your information or avoid it all together.

2. Look at your posts and materials as if you read and viewed them through the eyes of the reader. Is there anything you would possibly react negatively against, or at least find questionable? If you hesitate, even the slightest, well, see point 1.

3. Hurry up and wait when getting ready to post online. If you just finished writing a blog post, consider scheduling it to publish three hours later. That gives you plenty of time to review and, if you find something you’d like to change, there’s time to edit your post before it goes live on the Internet.

4. Set up a Google alert so that each time your name is mentioned on the Internet you’ll receive a notification via email. It’s an easy and effective way to monitor where your name shows up and a great way to make sure your name isn’t used in a negative way.

5. FaceBook gives you several options on how you want to set up your profile. First, you can have your profile set to either private or public and you you can choose to have a strictly personal account and one devoted only to your professional connections. Consider having your profile public as you want as many as possible to get to know about you and your business. Alternatively, you can have a private profile and then have a separate public page with all your business information. Regardless of which option you choose, make sure you only post information and materials you’d only share with your personal friends in a place the general cyber-population can’t access them.

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What’s Your Call to Action?
July 6, 2009, 10:45 am
Filed under: General Marketing Topics, Integrated Marketing

HOME SOLD! The oversized postcard literally shouted out the good news. Apparently, the home of one of my neighbors recently sold and last week the listing agent sent postcards to those of us living nearby to share their success. My neighbor got one too. With eye-catching colors and an attractive picture of the home, the postcard certainly stood out in the pile of plain vanilla envelopes stuffed with bills greeting me as I opened my mailbox. But, I wonder if the postcard campaign was successful. Without an enticing call to action the postcard went straight into the “circular filing cabinet.” Honestly, don’t you do the same when you receive most postcards in the mail?

The most crucial part of any marketing campaign is the call to action. Sadly, that’s often missing. While the somewhat self-gratifying postcard served the purpose of building up the image of a successful real estate professional, it failed to render a response. Unless I as a homeowner happen to contemplate selling my home that particular day, just waiting for the postcard to arrive so that I’d have an agent to call, I’ll probably let the postcard go.

If you’re planning a marketing campaign, the first step should be defining the purpose of the effort. Exactly what would you want their response to be? If they do what you ask them to, what’s in it for them? Realistically, most homeowners probably aren’t in the process of selling their home at the time they receive your postcard, and if your message is purely to advertise your willingness to sell their home, they may just ignore it. Instead, you want to entice them to join your network so that at some point when they do need assistance they’ll know how to get in touch with you.

Let’s take a look at a few possible calls to action.

1. Most homeowners are probably interested in knowing how much their home is worth given the recent price declines our market has experienced in the last few years.

“Go to www.mywebsite.com and request a home valuation for free.”

2. Most homeowners are probably interested in staying on top of what’s happening in their neighborhood. Consider starting a community blog where you share information about upcoming community events – and invite recipients of your postcard to become subscribers of blog updates. Reach out to local business owners and non-profit organizations, asking them to provide information about upcoming events. In a sense you become a conduit of valuable information and you’ll likely remain in their mind when they need a Realtor.

“Go to my www.mycommunitynewsblog.com to subscribe to upcoming events in your community.”

3. With the goal of remaining accessible to those who may be looking to buy or sell a home several months or even years ahead, you may consider inviting them to become a fan of your FaceBook page. Give them an idea for what they’ll receive if they do, such as the sample FaceBook ad you see on the right. As a way to entice them you may add a special offer. You could offer those who connect with you online a chance to win a gift certificate to a local restaurant, or maybe a nearby ice-cream parlor.

4. Few would dispute that word-of-mouth is effective. If you are planning to send a postcard following the successful sale of a home, ask the sellers to write a brief testimonial. Feature the testimonial on the postcard, with a picture of the sellers if permitted, and invite recipients to read more testimonials at your website. If you are willing to use video, maybe your sellers would agree to give a brief testimonial on camera and then entice postcard recipients to go online what others say about you. Better yet, invite them to view your ratings at RealValueRatings.com.

5. Have you ever thrown out a business card, only to days later, when suddenly the need for a particular service arises, frantically search for a way to contact the individual? I have. Most other consumers probably have too. While consumers may not need your assistance right away, you want to find a way to remain accessible to them. You could make the postcard speak to that effect, leaving them with the opportunity to join your network at LinkedIn.

6. The number of homeowners who are struggling with mortgage payments is staggering and many look for help. It’s probably safe to assume that within the geographic area you’re planning on sending a postcard to there will be individuals and families searching for either a way to keep their home or a way to get out of their home without ruining their credit score. Some may want to sell but owe more than the home is worth. Consider writing a white paper with the possible title How to Sell a Home in a Down Market, thus not making it sound negative and only geared toward those in hardship. Make sure to include general information about short sales and foreclosure.

 For your next marketing campaign, what will be your call to action?