NEW YORK — Real estate professionals should focus on engagement, authenticity and storytelling as they navigate the future of social media, former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said at Inman Connect New York on Thursday.

As social media changes, those qualities are the ones that help people and businesses build and retain audiences.

“The way you build a big audience is you start with a small audience,” said Costolo, who also worked on HBO’s Silicon Valley and now runs the fitness startup Chorus. “Optimize for meaningful engagement with a few or one over likes.”

The way to do that, Costolo said, is by interacting with a select group and sharing your own personality and point of view, following the example of T-Mobile CEO John Legere, famous for bashing his competitors and responding to individual customer complaints.

“When you respond to one person engaged on the platform, everyone else sees that as you responding to them,” Costolo said.

Narratives and storytelling are also crucial to breaking through the noise online, Costolo said. A strong point of view is one way to create a narrative.

“People have developed an amazing sense for tone of voice on these platforms now,” he said. “When you ask a waiter in a restaurant what’s good, you can tell if you get the marketing response or the waiter’s point of view.”

These tips are crucial as social media continues to evolve, through more location-based platforms and even Facebook’s changing newsfeed intended to refocus the platform on socializing rather than news and marketing.

Costolo related these tips back to the history of social media — and the history of the Agora in Ancient Greece.

The Agora, he said, was an important place in Ancient Greece where people met up to share news they had personally witnessed through conversation and with plenty of perspective and opinion. It stood in opposition to 19th- and 20th-century news distribution through the printing press and broadcast media, which depended on impartial observers and a one-way flow of information.

Now, social media combines the good and bad of both systems.

“Content is delivered immediately and globally,” he said. “It has the benefits and some of the drawbacks of both kinds.”

So if you’re worried about Facebook’s changing newsfeed — and how to stay center-stage on the platform — blame the eternal appeal of Ancient Greece.

Read all of our coverage from Inman Connect NY 2018.

Email Emma Hinchliffe

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