Facebook Ruined My Deal: Ethics of Social Media

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A few days ago I posted an article “I lost a sale because of facebook!” which hit a nerve with some agents and brought up a very important subject about Social Media Ethics and Best Practices. Social Media (ie: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even ActiveRain) are weaved into the fabric of our everyday communication.

Currently, Social Media Ethics are not yet covered in our real estate education requirements. I think this subject is important to understand, so this is a “working” article (I’ll be updating based on comments and suggestions) on the possible threats social media can have on your deals and business; as well as, preventive actions you can take to mitigate these threats:

(Please feel free to comment or email me if you would like to add to any of these points)

Key social media sites: Facebook.com, Twitter.com, Activerain.com, LinkedIn.com

Potential threats (pertaining to Real Estate and transactions):

  • Client poaching: Unscrupulous agents solicit and poach clients via social media.
  • Deal manipulation: Propaganda through social media regarding transactions from the clients’ friends, strangers, and rival agents can negatively manipulate real estate deals and transactions.
  • Client/Agent defamation: Agents and clients suffer personal defamation via comments and photos.
  • Client/Transaction loss: Loss of a client or transaction is the ultimate threat.

To many, these are far-fetched; however, these threats are real and prevalent. As social media become more integrated, these threats will be amplified.

Causes (some of these are from actual cases:)

  • Negative or offensive comments regarding agent, property, or transaction
  • Derogatory/Racial comments or post that are directed to agent, property, or client (see article, “I lost a sale because of facebook!“)
  • Posting and tagging unprofessional/negative photos of agents, property, or clients
  • Using the “like” features to distribute unprofessional/unethical articles
  • Public association with unprofessional social media groups.

The main causes are due to distasteful commenting, blogging, and posts left by agents, clients themselves, and/or rival agents. The most prevalent cause is Derogatory comments directed to an agent, client, or group. In the article I references an agent lost a deal because the seller’s client publicly posted a derogatory/racial comments on Facebook. The buyer noticed these comments and retracted the offer.

Why do these causes happen in the first place?

Most people don’t fully understand that comments, posts, photos, tweets, and status updates are all “public information.” Privacy policies and settings within these social networks are unclear and sometimes vague; hence, why there is currently a huge debate in the tech community about online privacy. Users believe because they set their privacy controls to “FULL PRIVATE” or “VIEWED BY FRIENDS ONLY” means they are safe.

This is partially untrue. Example: You post a private status update on Facebook, your friend can “like” it. Likes are displayed on the friend’s profile page and copies of your comments are subject to your friends’ privacy settings. According to Facebook’s privacy clause “Some of the content you share and the actions you take will show up on your Friend’s home pages and other pages they visit.”

The bottom line is, if you post it online. private or not, consider it public and permanent. So what can you do? Prevent it from happening in the first place.

Preventative actions:

  • Professional conduct: Prevention starts with you. Keep a positive and professional tone and language when socializing on social media. Clean-up your profile and remove anything that would be interpreted as “unprofessional or offensive.”
  • Remove unprofessional photo tags: Facebook has a feature where you or your friends can “tag” you to a photo. The photo is distributed online with your name. Remove unprofessional tags of yourself to prevent hazardous photos displaying on your photo profile.
  • Educate your clients: Talk to your clients about the potential treats of social media. It might be prudent to recommend them to refrain from posting information regarding their transaction or anything that would cause or threaten their deal. This can only be for a limited time until the transactions are closed.
  • Educate the house hold: Not only do you have to educate the client, but anyone else within the household, ie: children or relatives.
  • Monitor: Monitor your own and your clients social media. Keep a pulse on what is being said to or about you.

Prevention is the key. It’s prudent to re-think your profile and audit your client’s social media as well. You and your client have a vested interest in the sale or purchase of their home. It’s important that you take steps to reduce any possibility of their deal being threatened by outside influences.

Social media is a new and amazing distribution and marketing tool. With more power come more responsibility. Social media ethics and best practices are an overlooked threat. We are starting to see some of the negative impacts social media can have on us today. It is important that we are aware of these threats and how to prevent them.

(This article is meant to be an informative resource for real estate agents and brokers. This is a “working” article which I will be updating and adding as social media grows. Please feel free add sections or key points that will benefit this resource. To do so, simply comment below or email me and I’ll make revisions.)