Here’s a walkthrough of the realities of launching a successful real estate career and growing an online presence by leveraging the most powerful and cost-effective tool — social media.

You’ve decided to make the leap and enter the bustling world of real estate. You’ve gotten your license, informed your family and friends circle that when they decide to buy or sell a home, you’ll be there to help them along the way.

You’re ready to become a real estate rainmaker and the go-to agent in your community, successfully assisting clients in finding their dream home.

Maybe you heard how hot the real estate market is for some time, and you’ve been awed by the glitz and glamour of real estate reality TV shows highlighting agents’ flashy lifestyles, big commission checks and the effortless contract negotiations, always in a matter of minutes.

You’ve been inundated with the image of real estate agents driving their $100,000 cars from million-dollar listing to million-dollar listing, unlocking doors, and thought, “I can do that.” Or perhaps you simply decided you wanted flexibility and freedom, to be your own boss.

Not so fast.

While you might have taken the necessary steps on paper, and (hopefully) done some due diligence to know that cultivating your client network is crucial to success, that’s only the start.

Below, I’ll walk you through the reality of launching a successful real estate career, with a particular focus on leveraging the powerful and cost-effective tool of social media to grow your online presence.

First thing’s first: There are no short cuts, and there is no secret sauce.

Now that you’ve made a commitment to grow your online presence, how do you leverage social media to attract clients? How do you differentiate yourself from the sea of ever-expanding agents joining the profession? How do you become the go-to agent in your community?

For those of us not fortunate enough to have our own marketing department or a large book of business fall readily into our lap, we must roll up our sleeves and take building our online presence head-on in the more traditional sense: hard work, or more accurately stated, persistent effort.

What separates the broke agents from the top producers is the grind: the day-in, day-out commitment to personally expanding your brand via social media.

Below are the steps for expanding your online presence, which I have dubbed PAID (planning and persistence, authenticity, inform, diversify).

Silly acronym aside, these concepts are all intertwined and build on one another.

Planning and persistence

It should go without saying that you need a strategy in place to succeed in growing your social media presence. Creating a bare-bones website with no updates, having random posts about real estate only when you’ve made a sale or strictly reposting other people’s funny memes are not winning strategies for online growth.

There are vital questions to ask yourself which will ultimately help in creating your online plan:

Keep in mind that whatever method or schedule you decide to use, you must commit to the execution of your plan and follow the processes you have laid out.

The most well-crafted plan will never bear fruit if you are not persistent in execution, and that means setting time aside almost daily to build your online presence. Setting reminders on your phone or blocking time on your calendar are great ways to keep yourself committed to your plan.

Here is a first-year marketing timeline for new agents to help you plan.

Authenticity

Authenticity is crucial as it builds trust and gives your audience insight into your personality and character. Ask yourself:

  • Do I have a special interest?
  • A cause I believe in?
  • Am I a subject matter expert in an area outside of real estate?

Share your knowledge with your audience, keep a mindset of helpfulness and deliver value in your content.

That said, a quick word of advice on sensitive subjects: It is inadvisable to turn your social media presence into a personal diary for airing grievances, and one should be mindful of topics that could be considered polarizing.

While some may argue censoring yourself is the antithesis of being authentic, “thin-slicing” will inevitably occur, and your audience will make snap judgements of your entire persona when there is little other information to gauge. No one likes to connect with the walking embodiment of a one-star Yelp review.

Inform (and engage)

This step goes hand-in-hand with authenticity and the concept of providing value. Your audience does not have the technical real estate knowledge you possess, so providing helpful tips on the real estate process is a great way to demonstrate value.

Engaging with your audience is another vital aspect of growing your online presence: commenting on user posts (both inside and outside the real estate community), reviewing your favorite local vendors or answering questions in online forums about your community are all great ways to build online capital.

To maximize efficiency, spend more time engaging with your audience, while devoting approximately a quarter of your time to the creation of organic topics.

Diversification

Diversification has a two-fold direction here: both of content and of social media platforms.

While the overall purpose is to grow your client list via social media, pushing real estate-only content will fall into the massive abyss of posts that get scrolled passed quickly.

Avoid strictly posting the generic “Just listed!” or “Just sold!” cookie-cutter items; your audience will quickly learn to tune those posts out if that’s all they see from you.

Choosing which social media platforms to leverage should also be taken into careful consideration. There are differing schools of thought as to which social media platforms an agent should direct their focus:

  1. One is to focus all of your efforts on two or three platforms to avoid being spread too thin.
  2. The other is a heavily diversified, broad approach where an agent uses every platform as a tool at their disposal.

The latter may not work well for everyone, based on time and technical constraints. The optimal solution here is to know your limits, and stick to what you know you can and will commit to fully.

The above concepts will aid in cultivating and nurturing your online presence. As with most endeavors, analyzing engagement performance with important metrics such as clicks, comments and quantity of shares and likes will assist you in focusing on what content is working best for you and resonating with your audience, while discarding those that are ineffective.

Remember that your online presence should not be thought of as a project to be completed, but rather an evolving cornerstone to your business, requiring continual effort that reflects your own growth and development.

Aaron S. Allison is the director of operations for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate By Design in Winter Haven and Lakeland, Florida. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter

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