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Since 2013, the word has been that a lot of real estate brokers are having success on Facebook business pages. Many set them up and spent money on targeted ads trying to reach potential clients outside their direct sphere cutting through newsfeed changes the network put in place. It’s even working well for some. I have tried to convince myself to start up a new business page and join the legions of incoming “like my page” requests I have received, yet my personal Facebook page still is my favorite social media venue.

Why? Because it allows me to connect in a real and authentic way that feels true to me, with my audience who consist of friends, clients and brokers around the world.

My approach is: share, don’t sell on Facebook. We are in a relationship business. Although we negotiate and market homes, we are in the business of helping people through transitions in their lives (getting married, having babies, empty nesting, investing for family reasons) and for someone to invite us into that process is an honor and requires trust in us and our skill set.

Technology is changing the lead generation process and exposing potential clients to more paid-lead agents, yet a significant portion of buyers or sellers still choose their brokers via referral. Why? Trust.

Authenticity, passion, professionalism — these three things show our humanity and build trust.

Facebook interactions have evolved: many more people share with each other today in a real way. I have organically built an engaged Facebook community of over 1,775 people on my page who know me personally, found me online via a friend or have heard me share my luxury marketing tips on stage at an Inman, Tom Ferry or other luxury marketing conferences globally.

In the past year, I’ve consistently received between one and three solid referrals per month from former clients, friends and global brokers. Not every contact leads to a sale, but when someone I haven’t talked to or seen in seven years emails me that they want to buy or sell, well then, that is a bonus.

It thrills me that somehow I’ve built trust, and it’s turned into business — just by being me. In 2013, a top Beverly Hills broker messaged me via Facebook — “I have a referral for you. I can sense my client and you will work well together based on what I’ve seen you post here for the last two years,” – that referral lead to a $3.6 million New York penthouse sale.

Online content strategy experts share the following:

  • Create an authentic voice online, and you’ll build trust with your audience.
  • Provide content that is of interest to your audience and your bond becomes stronger.
  • Know that on outlets such as Facebook and Instagram, just because people are not commenting or engaging does not mean they are not watching or reading what you post.
  • To me, engagement is as important as the number of followers.

So what do I post, and what gets people engaged?

1. My cover photo is always one of my current apartments or a great shot of New York City.

  • Even if I post a photo of one of my listings, I don’t link it unless someone asks me to do so.
  • I will speak about the staging we did for a client or what’s exciting about the design.
  • I never post “I’m having an open house.”

2. Do you know someone?

  • Recently I tried a “Be the first to know…” and shared the view shot of an apartment that was coming to market in a week. I followed up with the staged photo the next week and then asked — who do you know who might love this view or home? And I left it at that. I received five inquiries on that property.

3. Personal stories

  • What is your passion? Don’t always be “at work” on Facebook. Be a bit vulnerable and share your life, but always remember — you are curating. Balance what you create with sharing great content that others posted that your audience would appreciate. Share personal stories of courage others have written. Be interested in others.

4. Video

  • Repost videos that are inspiring, not the same stuff everyone else posts, or create your own content.
  • One of the most successful and impactful videos I created for my page was in December 2014 when I spontaneously decided to surprise my mom and sister in Dubai for Christmas by flying there unbeknownst to them and videotaping it all. With a little help from iMovie, I edited it and posted it. It was one of my most commented on and liked posts ever. When I came back to New York, people stopped me at my gym and in the street to say how much it moved them. Suddenly my referral stream grew, too. Direct correlation?

5. Be you — the best you.

  • Stay away from negativity, and be cautious when sharing about politics. As we head into election years, don’t be the one who is inundating everyone else’s feed with hourly (or more) comments on who you don’t want to be elected.
  • Provide something of value and interest to those who follow you as friends. Know your audience and speak to them. Be diverse. Be passionate. Let them know who you are. You will find your audience that way, and when you do, the referrals will come in.

If you do talk real estate — share the story of your client (be careful with names) and express how excited you are for them closing. Make it about the life experience not about asking for a referral or marketing an open house. That’s about you. Make it about them.

Tony Sargent is a luxury real estate Associate Broker at CORE in New York. You can follow him on Twitter (@antonysargent) or read his real estate blog at The Sargent Report.

Email Tony Sargent.