Text Etiquette

 May 01, 2023

Texting has emerged as the “go-to” communication tool for real estate agents and their clients. Six years ago, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) ranked texting as the third most popular form of client communication, behind email and telephone. The most recent NAR study shows texting is now the No. 1 way agents connect with their clients at 93%, topping telephone and email communications. More importantly, the practice of agents texting past clients and prospects has grown more than 25% since 2016.

Because texting is efficient, quick and convenient, it is often the most effective way for agents to engage with their clients and co-workers. But sending a text can sometimes be fraught with risks.

And while texting is especially vital to millennials — who open their text messages about 98% of the time versus 20% of emails being opened — an unwanted or unsolicited text can cause an immediate and adverse reaction. Real estate agents must also be aware of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). This federal law protects consumer privacy rights and was created to limit both annoying and unwanted telephone calls and texts.

Here’s a quick primer on texting etiquette with some of the essential do’s and don’ts you should follow when texting.

The do’s 

Do remain professional 

The best texting rule in real estate is to maintain a professional demeanor. When texting a client for the first time, start by identifying yourself and explaining why you are texting them.

Use short and complete sentences instead of abbreviations or text lingo until you can observe the client’s texting style. Also, hold off on using emojis unless you know the recipient well. Once you have begun a text exchange and see the client’s style, you can determine if you should loosen up a little.

Most importantly, be mindful of the time and the time zone, and unless there’s a compelling reason, keep your text exchanges limited to business hours. Not all clients are keen on receiving texts late at night or early in the morning unless they expressly permit you. A best practice is establishing text boundaries with clients in advance when discussing the best ways to reach them and for them to reach you.

Do keep texts short and on topic

When texting prospects or past clients, it’s essential to keep your text messages brief. They are more likely to be read and remembered than deleted.

Texts should never be lengthy — that’s the job of an email or phone call. If you have a lot to say, put it all in an email; if it’s important, send a short text making sure the client read the email you just sent. Otherwise, you also risk that they will lose interest. Also, remember to use the client’s name in a text; it can be powerful to share something you know about them, such as a birthday or anniversary note. Finally, if you expect a response, you must end your message with a question. That’s how to get most people to respond.

Do send targeted updates and links: Since you’re likely sending clients emails — perhaps suggested listings or requests for document review — feel free to text them a link to a relevant video or article about the community they are shopping. They will feel like you are giving them inside information and special attention for what they want. Potential homebuyers will also be intrigued by a digital walk-through of a listing, especially if you send them a personalized tour shot on your smartphone and use the client’s names throughout the tour.

Do reply ASAP

Texting is an immediate form of communication: it comes across as more urgent than a phone call or email. Clients who text you during business hours will expect a quick response. Even if you are busy, it’s better to text back sooner than later out of politeness.

Do provide opt-in and opt-out opportunities

If you are using text to share general information vs. individual-specific information, give recipients the option to opt in to receiving texts when needed. This is especially true when promoting an event like an open house. If you plan to text clients regularly — for example, weekly — set that expectation upfront by letting them know what to expect. On the flip side, if a lead asks you to quit texting them, then stop immediately. You should also confirm their request promptly. If you are using a professional texting service, you should add a line at the end that says, “reply STOP to opt out of future messages.” This lets your contacts know they can stop any time they wish.

The dont’s 

Don’t use group message

When someone gives you their mobile number, it creates a new level of responsibility. Use their number wisely to earn their trust. Including clients or prospects in a group message is rarely a good idea, as it can quickly erode the trust you are building with them. Instead, customize your text communication for each recipient. Yes, it takes extra time to create separate texts instead of a group text, but it is worth it.

Don’t text bad news

Texting is not the best communication method if you need to share unfortunate information. Sharing bad news via text could be interpreted as cowardly or callous. If you need to be the bearer of bad news, it’s better to call the client directly. That way, you can answer your customer’s questions, provide additional advice, and most importantly, read and respond to their nonverbal cues.

Don’t send without proofreading

Do you use the dictation feature on your phone to write texts? If you do, be extra careful, as autocorrect can wreak havoc with the English language and cause unintended embarrassment. While some clients may be forgiving of a typo or two, others will see it as a negative reflection on you. To maintain your professional image, before sending a text to a client or prospect, take a breath. Make sure you proofread and check for any errors that need to be corrected. And if you accidentally send out a text with a mistake, take ownership of it and quickly clarify what you meant to say. When texting, you can correct an error by immediately responding using an asterisk before the corrected spelling of the word, like the phrase “*ample — instead of apple,” that appears in the text you just sent. You could also use a virtual editor to assist you with your writing.

Don’t send too many attachments

Sometimes, you need to send photos or short videos to a client or prospect via text. But you want to send as few as possible. Sending too many images and videos can negatively affect someone’s data plan or phone storage limits. Too many photos and videos also can make you appear to be pushy. If you want to send multiple images, text a link to the photos and videos on a webpage or a shared online document folder, like Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive.

Don’t text numbers on the Do Not Call (DNC) Registry

Don’t ever text a number on the DNC registry without permission. While doing so could potentially lead to heavy fines, more importantly, it could damage a relationship. Remember, if you want to text a number on the “do not call” list, you must either have a business relationship with the recipient or get their written permission before you send them a text.

The popularity of texting remains strong: 97% of American adults text weekly. Over 6 billion texts are sent daily — which calculates to 27 trillion texts sent yearly. But real estate agents need to use texting wisely because they are entrusted with personal mobile phone numbers. Perhaps the best rule of thumb when deciding whether to text or not to text is if that if you must ask that very question, don’t text.

This article is from the Tech Helpline at www.techhelpline.com and has been reprinted with permission. 

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