Social media has opened up new ways to communicate, and brand managers and "social CEOs" are realizing that the medium is a powerful tool to connect with potential clients, build trust and sell.

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly three-quarters of adults are using social media. In the Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn era, do consumers expect brands to be transparent? Will they trust a company if they don’t see its leadership on social media?

These and other questions will inform a Real Estate Connect New York City discussion, "Trust and Transparency in Social Media: What It Means for Brands," on Thursday at the Grand Hyatt New York.

The panel will be moderated by Inman News chief strategist Katie Lance.

Katie Lance

Joining her on stage will be Clara Shih, founder and CEO of the social media marketing company Hearsay Social, and Jeff Lobb, vice president of technology and innovation at real estate franchisor EXIT Realty Corp. International.

"Trust and transparency are paramount in social media," Lance said. "One of the most important things a real estate company can do is use social media platforms to build a dialogue that leads to a trusting relationship."

Clara Shih

Social media is not a choice any longer for businesses serious about engaging with customers, Shih told Inman News in a pre-Connect interview.

"There are nearly 2 billion people on social networks. Whether (or not) a brand is on social media, their customers are, and they are sharing information and thoughts about the brand," she said.

In addition to establishing new norms for online interaction, social media is an incredibly rich source of business, Shih said.

"LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are natural relationship builders," she said. "Realtors are realizing that their offline selling has now gone social."

Lobb agrees.

Jeff Lobb

Social media allows brands to show the personal, human side of their leadership, which fosters trust, Lobb said. "Leadership in real estate must be engaged beyond ‘just business,’" he said.

"The Golden Rule in sales is ‘for me to buy from you, I need to like you and trust you,’" Lobb said.

"For me to like and trust you, I need to get to know you. And to get to know you in today’s world, I want to know you as a real person, with common ground, things in common," and social media is so good at doing that, he said.

To help the 20,000 agents affiliated with the brand take full advantage of social media, Lobb said, EXIT Realty takes a "grassroots" approach, teaching agents to data mine, research and maximize engagement with the brokerage’s customers.

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