Real estate agents once relied on a mix of word-of-mouth referrals and local advertising, but today, more agents are embracing social media as an integral branch of their business. Many real estate agents are now positioning themselves as real estate or lifestyle influencers by creating engaging online personalities to attract big followings that they hope will turn into bigger sales.
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Matthew Martinez, for instance, has over 50k followers on Instagram, and the California real estate broker uses the social media platform to attract potential buyers and grow his client base. He tells Hunker, "I usually consult with my marketing team about what to post on each social media platform. I definitely do post some listings and 'just sold' success stories, but lately I've revamped my social media strategy and have been posting more personal photos and motivational content. I've noticed a large jump in my followers and their engagement since doing so."
With the popularity of Bravo reality shows like Million Dollar Listing New York and Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles, real estate agents have been thrust into the spotlight. Like Martinez, some even have their own marketing and PR team.
One of Million Dollar Listing New York's success stories is Ryan Serhant, who has amassed 1.5 million Instagram followers. Last year, the popular agent and broker launched his own real estate brokerage, SERHANT., which includes the in-house film studio, SERHANT. Studios, that manages the social media, photography, and video content for the agents and influencers within Serhant's brokerage.
Cody D'Ambrosio, head of SERHANT. Studios, says that social media plays an integral role in the real estate world and that the studio aims to further their agents' brand recognition while incorporating a lifestyle element that casts a wider net.
"In a social-first digital climate, it's of the utmost importance for real estate agents to have an active and engaging online presence. People bristle at the idea of someone selling them something, but love the idea of going shopping with their best friend," D'Ambrosio tells Hunker. "The more agents utilize their platforms to showcase their unique personalities and character, the better positioned they'll be with respective clients, as said clients will feel that they have an organic connection on a personal level."
A successful real estate influencer is able to create a likable persona and build connections with every hashtag and double-tap. At the same time, they must present an image that is both professional and down to earth. It's a modern balancing act.
"I can't speak for all social media influencers, but the social media savvy agents here at SERHANT. are the real deal in terms of industry and market knowledge," D'Ambrosio says. "You need to show your authentic self in order to relate to and connect with your audience. We have smart, hardworking, successful agents who are strategically and authentically using social media as an extension of their business and personalities; it is an integral tool that allows them to connect with current and prospective clients."
With such a hot market, these days agents aren't even necessarily posting listings because by the time listings hit social media, they may have several offers or may already be under contract. Instead, agents are using their social media accounts to show a "behind the scenes" look at their work or an aspirational lifestyle.
"This crazy hot market has definitely impacted what I post," Martinez reveals. "Many times, before a new listing post reaches my target audience, I already have dozens of showings scheduled and offers coming in. I have dozens of people reach out to me every day while I'm out in the field and touring properties, so staying consistent with posting my daily life has been extremely beneficial."
One of Million Dollar Listing New York's newest stars, Talia McKinney, is active on social media with a little over 6k followers on Instagram. McKinney is also part of the SERHANT. team, and her philosophy for using social media is based on creating connections and having fun.
"I try to keep people interested in my day-to-day activities and my business," McKinney tells Hunker. "I ask questions to try to engage my audience and see what kind of responses I get. That guides my future posts. By building a fun and engaging social media presence, I hope to stay connected to my clients so when it comes time for them to buy or sell again, I remain top-of-mind and am the first person they reach out to."
McKinney fully believes that social media will continue to play a part in the real estate world — especially with a generation that is increasingly connected online.
"People are moving at a fast and more frequent rate these days and this is especially true for gen Z," McKinney says. "Social media is already the new search: people use it as a research tool and a resource. In a post-pandemic world, it will also serve as a way to help people gain access to hard-to-see places or new places that are far away. Social media can serve as a place to connect, to create, to check out new ideas and places, and to increasingly make important purchase decisions."
Through engaging posts and motivational content, social media is now another device in an agent's toolbox to generate leads, show potential listings, and, in the end, sell more properties. However, thanks to the current chaos of the market, real estate influencers are in a place where they must focus more on future clients instead of present ones. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues in the future and if this really is the "new normal."