Whether you are an AndroidTM fan or an individual like myself who could not bear to part with the iPhone, the disruptive impact that smartphones have had on many industries has been proven time and time again. Steve Jobs described the first iPhone as a “truly magical product.” Looking back, as well as into the future, it’s hard to imagine another device that will ever be more readily used each day by the majority of the population than our smartphones. In 2016, Apple® stated that the average iPhone user unlocked their phone 80 times a day and checked their phone over 150 times a day!

The mobile phone started as a way to increase communication and now the idea of owning just a “mobile phone” is considered ancient. It’s not only mobile phones that were replaced by the invention of the smartphone. Think of cameras, personal computers, GPS devices and even Apple’s own product, the iPod® – all have been replaced by smartphones. It’s not hardware makers alone that have been affected; new industries emerged and disrupted other traditional businesses with the invention of smartphone applications. You now have a computer, video camera, gaming device and movie studio in the palm of your hand. With those capabilities available on our phone, it is easy to get distracted. What are we doing when we constantly check our phones?

Yes, we still spend a lot of time talking and texting on our smartphones, but for many our phones have replaced our computers for website searches, email and have become the main vehicle for interacting on social media and with our community, in general.

A great deal of time and money has been spent by real estate brokers and agents to make their websites mobile friendly and responsive to help facilitate the interaction with buyers and sellers. This shift to mobile responsive websites was caused by the majority of real estate searches being performed on mobile devices. The amount of online research that potential home buyers and sellers conduct continues to increase each year as connectivity and the smartphone ease of use improves. Mobile search and key terms are definitely critical for an agent’s online success. But with the easy access to information and time on our hands, another search category has developed.

Home buyers and sellers are no longer looking at real estate properties, neighborhood demographics and valuation trends alone, they are researching prospective agents extensively too. Two out of three people interested in buying a home are researching prospective agents comprehensively online prior to working with them (see graph below).

It’s no longer enough for a REALTOR© to be proficient at their trade, they now need to pass the Google® test and be seen as the most competent choice online. The first step in this new process is being certain you, as a REALTOR©, dominate a consumer’s search. How do you accomplish this? First, you should own your own website domain with a personal URL and have a website with relevant content. You also need to have a professional profile on dominant national consumer real estate websites, a presence on social media (i.e., LinkedIn, Facebook) and participate on consumer review sites.

The next question to ask yourself is, have you shifted your mindset to that of a media company? The reality is that when you are being extensively searched online, you are your own brand! With the mindset of a media company, you move past checking the box and being found on the Internet or social media and move towards properly promoting and managing your brand. This means you have to develop content, distribute content and be readily seen as a market expert – you have to be someone people want to do business with. The impact of the smartphone will continue to be felt by all brands. Take this opportunity to promote your real estate brand beyond what your competition is willing to do. The rules for winning at this brand game have been already determined. You need to fully commit to the new personal promotion strategy to win.

As you finish this article, take a moment to search yourself using your smartphone and see what results appear on the first page. You would be prepared for an in-person meeting with a client – you need to be prepared for the client meetings that are happening online without you. Be certain to be Google and smartphone prepared because your customer base expects it.

Check out the United Intranet for the latest training on building your brand presence.

Peter