Everyone knows social media rule No. 1: Don’t post anything that will embarrass you in the future, and don’t appear in any compromising photos. This principle becomes especially crucial with platforms such as Instagram, where the social currency is imagery.

  • Make sure you're leveraging Facebook's back end to promote Instagram content.
  • Hashtags are fun, but there's a science to it.
  • Promote who you are and what you stand for. Not just your real estate business.

Everyone knows social media rule No. 1: Don’t post anything that will embarrass you in the future, and don’t appear in any compromising photos. This principle becomes especially crucial with platforms such as Instagram, where the social currency is imagery.

If only running a successful social media campaign for your realty business were as simple as that.

The troubles agents have on social media are more subtle, but they are increasingly evident as social media becomes a bigger and more important part of the homebuying experience.

A mismanaged Instagram account, one of the best options for agents thanks to the simplicity of uploading professional-quality photos and video, can make any agent look old-fashioned — or worse, cheap.

This post doesn’t focus strictly on the aesthetic elements of a well-run Instagram page. There are some great tutorials on taking better photographs online. Ultimately, however, those beautiful photographs are worthless to you if no one is looking at them online.

Therefore, understanding how to target the right demographics and tap into effective keywords is just as essential as the content itself.

I hope this information will educate you on the best practices for any Instagram user in the real estate business, along with how to apply these lessons to your own page.

4 considerations for your real estate Instagram

Instagram obviously appeals to agents because of how easily it allows them to upload beautiful images and videos of the homes they’re listing or showing.

However, consider whether an alluring photograph matters if no one comes to your profile to see it. It’s like having a phone number in 1980 but not publishing it to the phonebook.

Take these four major factors into consideration when managing your company’s Instagram account, and you’ll be set to generate more leads and then blow those prospects away with your stunning media.

  1. There are hundreds of millions of Instagram users. How can you be sure that your content and advertising is reaching the right demographics?
  2. Hashtags and networking are easy enough to understand but tougher to perfect. Are you helping to funnel more homebuyers to your page?
  3. Instagram isn’t as customizable as blogs or websites. Does your account stand out from a sea of imitators?
  4. Although we’ve focused on finding and maintaining an audience, ultimately the quality of your content does matter. Are your photos and videos living up to the competition’s?

Keep these questions in mind as you design and maintain an Instagram account for your real estate company, and you’ll be in an upper echelon that attracts choosy customers.

Targeting your coveted demographic

How do you lock in on your ideal customer?

Instagram is an excellent place for anyone to post photographs for their friends to peruse and enjoy. Real estate agencies, as a business, don’t have “friends” in the traditional sense.

Companies with Instagram accounts must assume that the average viewer of their page is someone who is interested in finding real estate in that market.

Then, the primary goal is not to create stunning content (this should also be a goal, of course, just not the first one), but to find a way to steer your target audience to that content. The answer is advertising.

Instagram is owned by Facebook Inc. and, therefore, utilizes an advertising system almost identical to the world’s other superstar social network. You can select options including photos, photo “carousels” or a video of up to 60 seconds.

The simplicity of this system makes it easier for agents to find their target demographics. The most efficient way to find people looking for a home? Find the “first-time homebuyer” targeting option when selecting what sort of audience your ad should be aimed at.

When marketing on Facebook (and, therefore, Instagram), you can accumulate this sort of specific information by building algorithms using third-party data collectors.

Facebook’s (and by extension, Instagram’s) Insights also allow business owners to find out exactly who is looking at their ads. This option allows you to peruse data such as the age, relationship status and region where your Instagram posts are most popular. If your ads are targeted at the wrong audience, then they’re almost worthless.

If Insights shows that you’re average viewer is a 20-something single, you shouldn’t be featuring four-bedroom homes in your photos — but rather accentuating the proximity to nearby nightlife.

One final option that Instagram allows for is its call-to-action buttons, which can bring a prospect directly from your social media ad to your website or a special landing page.

4 steps to targeting your audience

1. Define your audience

Use Instagram’s Insights program to find out what kind of demographics are looking at your Instagram postings.

2. Cater to your audience

Use data about your average visitor to decide what kind of content to include in your ads. What do they care about?

3. Select your audience

Adjust the settings for your advertisements to aim for specific age ranges, regions of the country and, of course, people who are in the market for a new home.

4. Call the audience to action

Use Instagram’s call-to-action buttons to bring interested prospects directly to your website, not just your Instagram profile.

Strategic content marketing on Instagram

How can you harness Instagram’s social capabilities?

The best way to grab customers is to go out and get them — that’s the purpose of advertising. Allowing customers to come to you with less effort — and more importantly, for less money — is never something to be ignored, however. The businesses that reel in the most prospects to their social media pages have a strategy for doing so.

Using hashtags to tap into trending topics and gather a higher audience is the most important part of bringing viewers to your Instagram content. And yet so few agents and other business professionals understand how to utilize hashtags correctly.

Instagram allows posters to use up to 30 hashtags when posting a photo or video, and you should use as many as possible to cast a wider net. We’ve limited the hashtags to three examples just to demonstrate some of the most glaring errors that inexperienced hashtaggers make.


“Miami” is a legitimate descriptor of the home in question, but it’s far too general. If someone looks at the Miami tag, they’ll see everything that has to do with the metropolis including sports scores and local dining.

Your post, therefore, gets lost. Something like “1234 Dan Marino Ave” has the opposite problem. No one would search for that specific address on Instagram unless they knew it already existed. If they did, they’d go directly to the listing — not an Instagram post.

Kim Kardashian revealed one of the most common mistakes made by posters who think they’re clever: Taking a trending topic from a Google search and applying it to your own unrelated posts.

Administrators had thought of this far before you did, and they have programmed Instagram and other social media outlets to punish misleading tags by moving them to the end of searches.

What are some better options for agents? Narrow cities down to neighborhoods, and use local features (such as golf courses) as relevant hashtags instead of hyper-specific addresses.

The only foolproof way to create hashtags is to research them. Study what’s trending now in your area by using Google Analytics, and then get creative to spin those topics into hashtags or recycle similar hashtags from Instagram that apply to your content.

4 tips for better outreach

1. Research what’s trending locally

Use Instagram and Google Analytics to find out what’s trending in your area. If you’re smart, you can spin them to apply to your post.

2. Use more hashtags, and get more results

Instagram allows posters to use up to 30 hashtags per post. Cast a wider net by using as many hashtags as possible.

3. Don’t overgeneralize

The broader your hashtag, the more competition you will have from other posters. Narrow your tags to get more views.

4. Don’t over specify

At the same time, if you narrow your hashtag too much, it’s unlikely that anyone will search for it.

Building your brand

How do you stand out in the crowd?

Instagram added more than 100 million users during 2014 alone. It can be assumed that more than one agent has jumped onboard as part of the rush, and they are looking to maximize their sales.

Obviously, well-placed advertisements and sharp hashtag techniques will put agents well on their way to beating the next guy in line. But at some point, the content has to speak for your company as well. And no, we’re still not talking about professional-quality photography and videos.

Instagram has more potential than any other outlet for generating brand. This means going beyond “We’re a real estate company, and we sell homes” and becoming “We’re a real estate company, we sell homes, and we have a great personality that we think you’ll love.”

Personal images — you and your kids at the beach or playing with the dog in the backyard — indicate that you enjoy the community where you work, and you understand what your clients are looking for in a home or neighborhood.

Captions can also make all the difference, and it doesn’t take much work to convert them from run of the mill to masterpiece. Consider these two descriptions of the same photo: “4 br, 3 bath, pool” and “Four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a pool. Right now I’m imagining reading a good book and drinking a tall ice tea while my kids enjoy a swim.”

It’s the same house, but one listing makes it come alive.

Another fun way to attract attention is to offer unique features that other agents aren’t. These won’t be dealmakers at first, but over time, they can build up a committed, special-interest following, such as a #GardenofTheMonth hashtag. Let your personality lead the way on social media and leads will follow.

4 tips to branding on Instagram

1. Establish a voice

Homebuyers on Instagram will feel more comfortable with someone who speaks like a human being, not a computerized sales force.

2. Give a fresh look at real estate

The real estate industry can be intimidating for outsiders. An occasional look around the office or behind-the-scenes at a showing helps to humanize your agency.

3. Develop unique content

Think of photo and video options that no one else is doing, whether it’s a themed weekly feature or highlighting an eccentric angle to the housing market.

4. Don’t be afraid to guest star

If you live in the community where you work, don’t be afraid to make an occasional post showing your personal life and the quality of the neighborhood.

Content that goes above and beyond

How can you create material that pops?

Managing an Instagram account can lead some agents not to see the forest for the trees: Making sure that your content is being seen and translates well to your target audience is always more important than making sure your content is pretty. That said, people will spend more time looking at the forest if it has good looking trees.

The simplest way to capture the audience’s attention is to use the same images that you feature on your website’s listings, especially if you hire a professional photographer to create the images for you.

You might as well get your money’s worth if you rely on highly-trained freelancers for your work. Although Instagram is touted as a place where everyone can showcase photos, the difference between a stunning high-resolution and a quick camera phone snap will always be evident.

Even if you do have a host of professional photos at your disposal, don’t be afraid to make some less professional contributions of your own.

Modern smartphones are capable of delivering high-resolution images. Your thought process should be to find the angles that the professional didn’t — sometimes literally.

Don’t repeat the obvious shots of the front of the home, the pool or the kitchen. Lie on your back and shoot upward toward the second-floor balcony. Shoot from the bushes in the large garden. Sit in the hot tub, and shoot the backyard.

Have a bigger budget? Invest in a drone and shoot from above. You don’t even need to feature the home in the photo — take in the great view or point out local points of interest, such as a marina or golf course.

Planning a unique purpose is of particular importance when creating video for Instagram. These clips (unlike video ads) can only be up to 15 seconds in length, so creating the next “Gone With The Wind” is out of the question.

On the other hand, making a comical recreation of the famous stairwell closing scene from “Gone With The Wind” would be an award-winning example of A-plus social media marketing.

Don’t have enough budget to hire a photographer? No problem. Even if you’re working from an iPhone, you can create beautiful, worthwhile photographs with some simple edits.

Don’t go too far. However, one of Instagram’s most popular features is the array of filters it provides users with gilding images. Agents would be wise to avoid them.

A sepia-tone finish might look good on your personal page, but it looks amateur at best on a professional Instagram profile. Potential buyers are looking for a real home, and the more realistically you translate your listings, the more they’ll show interest.

If only creating an Instagram account for your real estate business were as simple as taking a few great photos and waiting for the world to recognize them.

There’s a significant level of strategy that goes into bringing crowds of homebuyers to your content, however. Those who understand the art of marketing themselves better will reap the benefits.

Use this information to master the four major areas that make the difference between an average Instagram account and a masterful lead machine.

Adam Stephens is a branch partner at The Stephens Brotsky Group at Primary Residential Mortgage Inc. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Email Adam Stephens.

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