Instagram: Where A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Ines Hegedus-Garcia of Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Miami started using the mobile-based photo-sharing platform Instagram in 2011. "For a while I avoided 'another' social media platform, but I'm a visual person and an architect by training, so I thought it was fascinating," she says. "I find that people who are on Instagram are not on other social media plaforms, so I hit a different audience."
Hegedus-Garcia is founder of the blog Miamism, known for its lifestyle posts showing off Miami architecture, restaurants and flair. "I don't believe in being in your face about real estate, so I focus on the lifestyle of the area in my marketing," she says.
Cole Slate, operating partner of Yellowfin Realty St. Johns in Jacksonville, FL, takes the opposite approach. "I post photos that help brand my business and tell a story," he says. "For example, [I shared] a PicStitch photo of a couple signing at closing, holding the keys and in front of the house." PicStitch is an app, which is often used in conjunction with Instagram, allowing you to build a photo collage.
The truth is there is not one "right" way to use Instagram in your marketing. Moreover, the benefits of using Instagram are plentiful. "It allows you to keep up with your sphere of influence and see when stage-of-life changes are happening so you can reach out to that potential lead and start a conversation," Slate says.
"Unlike Facebook, there are a limited number of ads and options and fewer people, so it is quieter and somewhat easier to navigate," says Katie Lance, a Pleasanton, CA-based real estate technology consultant and owner of Katie Lance Consulting. "Instagram is one hundred percent focused on photos and videos, so the engagement rate is much higher than on other social networks like Facebook or Twitter. Plus, Instagram attracts people who are of the Gen X and Millennial generations."
Wendy Forsythe, EVP and head of global operations for Carrington Real Estate in Santa Ana, CA, agrees. "From an agent perspective, one of the primary things that buyers are looking for is a photo. As a photo-sharing social network, Instagram goes hand in hand with a buyer's need for visuals," she says.
Here are some tips for using Instagram as part of your social media marketing arsenal:
1. Tell a story. Look for moments of opportunity, Lance says. "Capture the moment your clients are holding their set of keys for the first time or when your customers are standing by the sold sign. If you're a broker and you have a new agent join your team, snap a photo and share that on Instagram," she says.
For Slate, telling a story is vital. "Going through a home purchase is emotional. I like to capture that emotion through photos," he says. "I always tell agents to think of a real estate story," Forsythe says. "Pictures of new listings by themselves won't provoke people to engage. By telling a story, you invite that person in a compelling way."
2. Go local. Hegedus-Garcia, who has more than 5,100 Instagram followers, features only snapshots of Miami living and architecture. That has helped her get more involved in her community. "Because of my architectural shots, the National Trust for Historic Preservation asked me to help them lead fundraising and awareness efforts for the Miami Marine Stadium, which was abandoned and in danger of being demolished." That type of involvement leads to local recognition.
According to Lance, as an agent, there are opportunities to share or "re-gram" posts from others in your community. "If a local business has a special offer that they are promoting on Instagram, it's an excellent opportunity to share that. It benefits you and the people following you, as well as the local business." One tip from Hegedus-Garcia is to find your local city and follow them to get a sense of what's happening in your local area.
3. Follow the 80/20 Rule, which states that 80 percent of your posts should be personal (such as hobbies and interests), and 20 percent should be business related, Lance says.
4. Look at your gallery holistically. "Don't just post random pictures," Hegedus-Garcia says. "Look at your whole gallery to see what they have in common. Be picky about what you put up. It’s quality over quantity."
5. Get creative. Both Slate and Forsythe like to stitch photos together to get more bang for their buck. "It's an easy way to show multiple views of a listing," says Forsythe, who uses the app Diptic. Slate uses the app PicStitch to depict the emotion of a closing through multiple photos. Another idea is to add text over the image, such as a home’s address, an open house date or a catchy headline, says Forsythe, who uses the app Over to do so.
6. Tag it. To make searches easier, Slate suggests you pick three or four relevant hashtags, which are the words or phrases to describe the photo or post. "I use hashtags, such as #JacksonvilleRealEstate and #YellowfinRealty, so my pictures will show up in searches," he says. "Instagram is very reciprocal," Hegedus-Garcia says. "The more you engage others, the more they will engage you."
Whatever your approach, follow your heart and your passions, Lance says. "On Instagram, no one cares about a statistic. It's about packing a story and information into that one picture to get interaction and engagement," says Slate.
After all, real estate is a visual business and real estate professionals who can showcase what it feels like to work with them or what it feels like to live in their community can really leverage Instagram in a positive way.
Tracey C. Velt is an Orlando-based freelance writer. Follow her on Instagram at FLwritergirl.
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