• Stop looking for set-it-and-forget-it marketing solutions -- they don't exist.
  • Buying followers or email lists is a giant waste of time. Instead, foster and grow a list organically.
  • Building a brand people want to engage with takes years. Be prepared to build a brand following one-by-one.

Stop looking for the easy way out. There is no program that you can pay $10 or $100 to automate your social media accounts and see real traction. If you’re looking for something to set and forget, please go to another story — this one’s not for you. We are going to talk about branding and why it takes authenticity to build a brand.

You cannot automate authenticity, period. Agents always try to do this by contracting out their social media work to software companies that post on their behalf. Well, newsflash: your customers can see through the BS and tell when something is automated.

Agents are notorious for this. Heck, if you head to any article I’ve written on Inman, take that URL and throw it into Twitter search, you’ll see 25-50 accounts all set up to tweet the articles automatically as they come out. This isn’t marketing; it’s being lazy.

example inman

You can do this for almost any major publication, and you’ll see the same automated behavior. However, automation isn’t the only thing all of these accounts have in common. If you take a look at the engagement levels of these accounts, they are minimal to non-existent.

Don’t automate. Instead, inform yourself by reading the articles posted on Inman, Inc, Fast Company, etc., and then pick which ones are the best for your audience.

Stop waiting for people to talk to you

Does this scenario sound familiar?

  1. Sign up for a social media account
  2. Create an up-to-date profile with photos, info, etc.
  3. Post like crazy for 10-14 days
  4. Gain between 20-50 followers
  5. Receive zero engagement on content

This is a common social media experience, and it’s discouraging for most users. It’s hard, and it should be. Expecting to earn the attention of a user after 10 days of content is extremely misguided. Agents need to stop waiting for people to message them on these platforms and go out and start conversations themselves.

The biggest failure in social media is not being social. Instead of waiting for others to engage with your content, go out and start engaging with other users’ first. If you spend 20 minutes a day using Twitter search and engaging with people, you’re going to start to build a following — even if it’s one at a time.

Write your own letters

I recently read about a service that writes handwritten letters on your behalf for real estate agents. If you don’t have time to write handwritten letters to your clients, you need to take a long hard look in the mirror.

For you to build a connection with clients, you have to put the work in, rather than some company you pay a monthly fee. If you’re taking shortcuts with this aspect of your business, you’re likely to do this with other parts as well — like using automated email software.

Just think about it, you wouldn’t pay a company a monthly fee to attend networking events on your behalf. So why would you pay them to automate your messaging?

I can already feel the owners of automated email companies getting ready to leave angry comments, but I digress.

Don’t buy email lists or followers

These are a giant waste of money. You’re more likely to make people angry than to sign a new client from these efforts. It’s better to have 10 real people who are engaged with your content over 10,000 purchased followers.

If you purchase followers or email lists, sure you have a new potential audience to sell to. However, you have no influence. Top-line metrics don’t matter if nobody buys anything. Instead of buying an email list, work on growing your list organically and providing the best content to that list. Here are four tips we use to grow our email lists.

So what can you do to build your brand?

First, hit a hard reset on your expectations. Building your brand, following, etc., isn’t going to happen overnight. It takes years. Yes, years.

As a starting point, write out realistic monthly goals for yourself. I will give four recommendations to people within my LinkedIn network next month. Learn more about this here.

Second, take control of your social media accounts, and start posting from them yourself. If this seems overwhelming, I’d cut back on the number of social networks you focus on. Start with creating a community on Facebook, and then work from there.

Third, ask for feedback often from your audience. If you have 20 followers on a platform, take the time to engage with them regularly and ask for feedback on your content.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, you might enjoy some of my other posts on Inman below:

Full disclosure: I’m the CEO of Cave Social, a marketing agency that helps brokerages with social strategy. We help brokerages with training their agents, but we don’t take individual agents on as clients.

Jordan Scheltgen is the founder of Cave Social. You can follow him on Twitter @cavejordans or connect with him on Facebook

Email Jordan Scheltgen.

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