– by Cindy Miller
Realtor.com® has announced that they have concluded the pilot launch of their AgentMatch program stating that “using an algorithm to “match” consumers with REALTORS® is misguided”. The announcement came in letter to members from realtor.com President, Errol Samuelson. While many REALTOR® members that were adamantly opposed to this initiative will be pleased with the announcement, the end of this pilot does not mean the end of agent reviews.
In July, the company launched a test of its agent rating program in only two markets and received a tirade of protests from agents nationwide. The program would have required permission from the MLS in any market to use the data to support the new program and no agreements were in place outside of the two test markets.
While a “match” program may not be the best solution, consumers – accustomed to reading online reviews before purchasing items – now expect tools for online research before hiring professionals. Managing your online reputation is a necessary part of your marketing efforts. Historically, your brand was managed by your broker, whether it be print or electronic media, or within communities and there remains great value in that instantly recognizable brand. However, consumers now demand more information on who you are, what you do and who has trusted you in the past before making their decision to partner with you.
Many sites are building your reputation without your input and providing information online that affects a consumer’s opinion about you. Do you receive personal referrals? Of course you do, and people still trust their peers; what has changed is those peer recommendations are often online and not at the neighborhood block party. Think about the last good book you read; did a friend recommend that to you over a cup of coffee? More likely, a friend recommended it to you on Facebook or via a Tweet or you just noticed that many of your friends “liked” it online as even our definition of “friend” has evolved.
In announcing the AgentMatch pilot, Realtor.com® was attempting to capture this trend and do it in a way that allowed your actual production to play a role in your online reputation building and to play matchmaker between a seller with a home in that location and price range and an agent that actively lists in that area (the pilot was only on the listing side, with buyer agency to be added later). The objections focused on concerns that numbers do not tell the whole story, and REALTOR.com® agrees. “A computer cannot find the best REALTOR® for someone, just like a computer cannot place an accurate value on a home”, says Samuelson.
The end of the AgentMatch pilot does not mean that your online reputation does not play an ever increasing role in your business. To that end, realtor.com® provides free online tools to build your profile and solicit recommendations from the clients you have served. If REALTORS® can get behind that effort and fully develop those tools and the REALTOR brand, it will give consumers a trusted resource and a central place for agents to manage their online reputation. The marketing and profile tools available at no cost can be reviewed at www.marketing.realtor.com/engage.
In addition, I would encourage every agent to perform an online search of your own name, your team name, and your firm name and see what the internet has to say about you. Be wary of “upgrading your profile” on many of these sites; the fee is often not warranted compared to the traffic the site gets and by participating in the site, you are helping to drive traffic to it. Concentrate your online efforts on high traffic, trusted resources.
Being an industry veteran, I have seen agents vehemently object to concepts over the years that later became standard procedure (cooperating with other brokers, online MLS entry, online display of listing information, use of fax machines and cell phones, to name just a few). The oft quoted quip from Henry Ford, “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”, aptly highlights that we should be open to previously unimagined innovations while being cognizant of unimagined consequences – the building of cars necessitated better roads and bridges. Likewise, new innovations in the real estate industry might be bumpy at first and necessitate building better pathways to gain a smoother ride.