Broker’s corner: How to avoid social media backlash?

[] We look at some of the precautions that real estate brokers should take, while engaging in social media activities and how to deal with negative feedback

The importance of social media channels in business growth, is evident from the fact that not many enterprises (real estate brokerages included) today operate without a team to manage their marketing activities on these platforms. Unlike any other marketing tool, social media allows you to reach a much wider consumer base without having to spend an exorbitant amount. Social media and networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, have widely democratised the way brands are perceived. However, owing to the sheer size of social media platforms there are also many people to adversely judge and criticise you, as there are to support and applaud you. In case of a problem with your branding pitch or the style, or the presentation, you could be at the receiving end of a social media backlash. There have been many instances, where big brand names have suffered negative online publicity that has been powerful enough to dent business.

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Sample this.

Donald Trump’s campaign manager, in June 2020, sent a warning to micro-blogging site Twitter, after the company started adding labels and context to the US president’s tweets, ‘violating its policy against abusive behaviour’. In the same month, Snap, the company behind Snapchat, announced that it would no longer promote Trump’s posts as it did not want to ‘amplify voices that incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion’. Facebook also unveiled similar plans about offensive posts.

Recently, online fashion retailer Shein had to remove a USD 2.50 necklace labeled as a ‘swastika pendant’ from its website, because many users mistook it for the emblem of the German Nazi Party, igniting an intense and vitriolic social media backlash. “I probably am (was) the most loyal @SHEIN_official customer around, but now I’ll be taking my business to @zaful_official or really any other company that does not have such repulsive disregard for what that swastika represents to the millions of people killed by those who wore it (sic),” said an acclaimed long-term customer in their social media post. In Hinduism, as well as Buddhism, the swastika is considered as a holy symbol.

No business is impervious to making mistakes, especially with a large client base constituting millions of users scrutinising every move. Worse still, shaming on social media could be extremely harmful for people running small businesses in individual capacity, such as individual real estate brokers. While there are no guarantees that you will not be at the receiving end of a social media backlash at any point, sticking with certain ground rules, while making your branding pitch on social media platforms, could help real estate agents to minimise such instances.

Broker’s corner: How to avoid social media backlash?

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How to avoid a backlash?

Ensure that the words convey the intended meaning

It is the content, which lies at the centre of all your branding efforts on social media that is susceptible to praise and criticism, at the same time. Hence, you should be mindful about the wordings in your social media posts. Ensure that your message is clear and that it is not offensive to any caste, creed or social group. Attempting your hand at humor that comes across as crass or vulgar, would cause you a great deal of trouble apart from not getting you any laughs.

Check the post for errors

You could become a butt of jokes on social media for typos in the copy. In whatever language you are delivering the message, the post must be free of grammatically errors. Ensure that you do not:

  • Use wrong images.
  • Copy text, images, or videos.
  • Create links that only act as click baits.
  • Make spelling mistakes especially with project or builder names.
  • Tag the wrong project or the builder, in social media posts.

Respect all religious and social beliefs

The incident involving Shein, shows that you simply cannot afford to come across as endorsing products or views that are widely held as offensive. Do not hurt the consumers’ sentiments and pay enough attention to the product and its design. A brokerage firm trying to brand a housing project where, say, people from specific communities or pet lovers are not welcome, could attract intense online condemnation. As the internet has turned the world into a global village, what might seem offensive to a client in the US may be equally offensive to a client in India. Be mindful of this fact and keep the pitch inoffensive at all times.

Avoid saying unnecessary things

That strategy to cash in on special occasions and join in on discussions on current topics, to increase your reach, could backfire in a big way if you are not well-versed with the subject. Sample this:

As #COVID19 is trending, a broker tries to use this opportunity to increase the reach of a villa-based project that he is trying to sell. In his message, he talks about how safe this investment is, at a time when scores of people are becoming infected by the Coronavirus, while also focusing on the luxuries that this product offers. In this scenario, he may come across as an insensitive professional, who is trying to cash in on a crisis, in an atmosphere when many people have lost their livelihoods. Moreover, you certainly do not want hashtags such as #luxury property and #COVID19 to be part of the same sentence.

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Stick to the facts

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Ensure that you are not making any mistake with facts or misrepresenting the facts, as it could raise questions over your competence and credibility. For example, a property agent, who is selling a project in Navi Mumbai, cannot say ‘operational airport’, when the fact is that the Navi Mumbai Airport project is still in the works. Sentences like ‘20-minute drive from the location’ would also receive negative feedback on social media, for being vague. Unless you are certain about the facts and are in a position to substantiate it, do not make random claims, thinking that people will not check the veracity of the post.

How to survive a social media backlash?

How should you deal with the situation, if you are somehow at the receiving end of negative social media publicity?

Be quick to apologise

Irrespective of whether the mistake was on your part or an inadvertent one, the first step towards containing the damage, is to issue an apology and take down the contentious post. Getting into a confrontation, would only make matters worse. The apology note should state that you regret the mistake and any offence it caused to anyone. Also state that efforts would be made, to ensure that no such mistakes are made in future.

Validate your point

While tending an apology is important, even in a scenario where you are actually not at fault, you must also validate your point by saying that you stick by the facts/statements made in your post. This is the point where data points should be used, to substantiate your claim.

Let it go and move on

Social media marketing tools have advantages as well as disadvantages. Time and again, you may have to deal with some issues. While doing so, ensure that you do not waste more time or energy on it, than what is necessary. Once a problem is solved, move on and focus on your core work.

Take the feedback in your stride

All sorts of feedback, including negative ones, help you build your brand, if you can focus on the learnings from your experience. Active criticism would force you to improve the quality of your content and perform better.


How can brokers avoid social media backlash?

While posting content, brokers must be mindful of the tone and wordings, while ensuring that it is factually correct, inoffensive, does not conflict with any social or religious beliefs, etc.

What is the flipside of social media marketing?

Social media promotions, if not done with proper care and strategy may backfire, causing negative publicity.

What are the common social media platforms to promote property sale/purchase?

Social media and video sharing platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter, are some of the best platforms to promote real estate-related content.

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Category: Lifestyle

Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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