How to Protect Your Reputation in the Age of Trolls

Never have you needed to guard your reputation more than in the social media age. Nothing that you put on the internet is truly private. Actions and behaviors matter.

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” P.T. Barnum famously said.

“Bull****. He didn’t live in the age of social media,” said Jay Thompson, a speaker, former broker, and former director of industry outreach for Zillow. He spoke during the 2018 REALTORS® Conference & Expo.

“Nothing that you put on the internet is truly private,” Thompson said. There are no truly secret groups. So your actions and words matter.

During his session on “How to Protect (or Destroy) Your Reputation,” Thompson recounted the story of an agent who commented on a post about an oil rig fire that he hoped the dead included members of a certain political party. Soon he had 1-star reviews all over the internet and oil rig forums were bashing him, some to the point of violence. “The agent destroyed is reputation sitting at his keyboard,” Thompson said.

The lesson? Stop, think, and breathe before you post anything, Thompson said.

Even if tensions online boil up in a comment thread, you don’t want to end up in the same boat as the agent in this cautionary tale. Follow these do’s and don’ts for protecting your reputation as you engage on social media.

  • Don’t overreact. Write down what you’d like to say, get it off your chest, and then delete it.
  • Avoid the hot buttons like sex, religion, and politics. On the latter, you’ll anger one-half the population, so why bother?
  • Don’t bash the competition. First of all that’s a Code of Ethics violation, and second, “your clients will go to your Facebook page. Think how that bashing will look to them.”
  • Don’t ignore negative business reviews. “Responding politely and professionally shows everyone else reading your reviews how you act,” Thompson said. Put yourself in the client’s shoes and explain. If it’s an anonymous review and you can’t figure out who wrote it, ask them to email you so you can make it right. If you deserve the bad review, explain how you’ve implemented processes to ensure the issue doesn’t recur.

Some unfavorable reviews aren’t necessarily a bad thing, Thompson said. It lends credibility. If all reviews are 5s, that’s not believable.

3 Ways to Monitor Your Reputation

  1. Do manual searches. Because it’s tedious, this is best for things like private or secret Facebook groups, which aren’t searchable.
  2. Set Google alerts. They’re free. Type in a keyword and pick how often (daily, weekly) you want an alert on that keyword. Thompson recommends you set up alerts for your name, company name, agents, if you’re a broker, and even your property listing addresses. Scammers have been known to advertise for-sale properties for rent.
  3. Go deeper with specialty software, like and These paid services crawl the web and media sites to find mentions of you.

Dealing With Trolls

Ignore them. They’re trying to stir something up and there’s no basis for their opinions. If you must respond, use facts. Trolls can’t counter them. Or use humor, but wisely. Thompson once responded to this comment: “Your (sic) an idiot Jay,” with this gem: “*You’re.”

The bottom line: “This is a people business and if you don’t have a good reputation, things can go south really fast,” Thompson said.