By Ellen Hill
The best advice I ever got was from a top-producing agent at my company. On my first day in the office, I strolled in, iPad in hand, ready to learn the real estate secret handshake and the office WiFi password. But instead of rattling off business apps I might use or online marketing systems to try, he sat me down in the biggest conference room at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties in Marietta, GA and simply spoke to me, one real estate professional to another. “Always remember that people want to work with people they like,” he said. “Business is just that simple.”
I quickly learned that he was right. Scripts and high-gloss brochures are great but at the end of the day, people want to work with people they like.
And that’s where Instagram comes in. Through photos and videos, the platform allows me to express exactly who I am so prospective clients can decide if they like me beyond my great listings, market data or awards. Because the platform is so popular, I’m able to reach a high volume of people in a short amount of time while being authentic and true to myself. It’s an easy way to win friends and influence listings, I promise.
But if you haven’t quite mastered being Instagram-authentic, here are eight tips to help:1. Show people the real you, not just the business you.
Instagram is a perfect little window that gives my audience a glimpse into my life—my travels with friends, great meals I’ve had, epic concerts I go to and any other adventures I choose to let them in on. While I keep my business and personal lives separate on Facebook, it’s a whole different story on Instagram. When I eat a great macaroon, I can share that experience with my audience, geo-tag the restaurant and start a conversation with a follower I didn’t even know I had, who comments on my photo because she has also been to that restaurant and tried the delicious macaroons. Using Instagram, I’m able to connect through experience with people I might not otherwise meet.
- Tell the success stories of your business but don’t make that all you do. I sold another house! And another one! And another … and I just lost 10 followers and four others rolled their eyes. It’s perfectly OK to share your successes but do it in a way that goes beyond just telling your followers you’ve closed on another home.Once I was working with a couple moving to Atlanta and I only showed houses to the husband. The day before the closing, his wife took their three kids and drove the moving truck across country. When she pulled up to see the house her husband bought her for the first time, I had glass bottles of Coke-A-Cola and fresh Georgia peaches waiting for her out front. I snapped a quick photo, described the story and posted it right there on the spot.Sure, that photo represented another successful closing and showed followers that I work with families relocating to Atlanta and that I can work through a tough purchase process. However, what it really said was that I care about my client’s experience without being all about me. And to this day, people still talk about that Instagram shot of the basket full of peaches.
- Know what grabs attention.
It doesn’t take long until you figure out what your audience wants to see. You’ll know by how many likes and comments you get if a photo is intriguing to those who follow you. My followers never really get all that excited about houses that look like our market’s average home, but a 900-square-foot bungalow from the 1940s with a bright yellow door makes everyone swoon.
4. Engage with people.
Social media is about connecting with others. Instagram allows you to see a list of your Facebook friends who are on Instagram. Follow them. All of them. When you get a new follower, follow them back. When people comment on your photo, reply in a timely manner. When you are scrolling through your feed, like or comment on photos that stand out to you. Creating community takes time and it won’t happen without you being friendly and putting yourself out there.
Just for fun, follow me. I promise I’ll follow you back! @ellenmhill
- Make your picture worth more than a 1,000 words.
Instagram is different from other social media platforms because there are no live links in photo captions. (The only live link on Instagram is in your profile.) On Facebook, I can add a hyperlink to my listing or website. On Instagram, the caption is all you get before someone scrolls to the next image. Make your caption short, long, funny or serious … however you do it, just make it count.
- Don’t underestimate the power of a well-placed #hashtag.
Once you’ve got the hang of engaging with your friends and followers, it’s time for your insta-world to get a little bit bigger. Hashtags catalog your photo so Instagram users searching through that hashtag can now find your image. For instance in the caption of this photo, I wrote #BerskhireHathawayHomeServices. Now I can click on my hashtag and see all the great photos that have been uploaded using #BerskhireHathawayHomeServices. The power of the hashtag is incredible. Would you believe I’m working with a buyer now who was referred to me by an agent in Utah because we had been following each other on Instagram after I found him while searching through hashtags?
- Don’t be afraid to use filters.
Even the most picture-perfect setting could use a little enhancement. I like to use the custom filters Instagram provides and play with the brightness, contrast and saturation using the Instagram photo-editing tools. I’ve spent all this time snapping the right picture and coming up with the right caption, so playing with the filters helps me make sure that my photo will really pop.
- Be genuine.
There are moments in this business that genuinely overwhelm me. When I was looking back on 2015, I was truly thankful for all the support my friends and family had given me. Yes, people gave me referrals but those closest to me let me step away and “take this call real fast.” My clients trusted me with some of their biggest financial decisions. My end of the year post was this great collage of all the houses I sold but my caption on the photo was straight from the heart. It was honest and it was really me. The more we let our real selves show, the more we are able to really connect with others. The more we connect with others, the richer and fuller our lives will be.
See? I told you it wasn’t that hard.