This year really isn’t turning out the way any of us planned. We roared into 2020 at Inman Connect New York in Times Square, but that was quickly followed by a global pandemic, months of quarantining, reinventing how we are doing business followed by a global outcry on social injustice, racism in our world and specifically racism in the real estate industry.
A lot of folks are asking me what they should be saying on social media right now (or shouldn’t say). I’ve been asked, “When can I start posting my listings again? When will everything ‘go back to normal’?”
I don’t have that answer, but I can tell you that I do think we are in a new normal. As cliche as that sounds, I believe that to be the truth, which means we are ushering in a new normal when it comes to social media.
If you would have asked me in the past about posting about politics, religion, racism or any other “hot-button issues,” I would have probably advised for you to stay away. No one wins in those conversations.
Have we come to a point where silence speaks more than saying something?
I can only share with you my own personal experience over the past few weeks. I have always toed the line so to speak on my opinions and what I say publicly. However — there comes a time when you have to take a stand for what you believe in. For me personally — I got to the point where I couldn’t imagine not saying something. I wanted to be unequivocally clear on my support for BIPOC.
What does this have to do with business? Well, like it or not — real estate is a personal business. The lines between our business and personal lives online and in-person are usually a dotted line. Buying and selling a home is one of the most personal experiences for many of us and our clients.
We discussed some of the nuances in my conversation with Kendall Bonner and Victoria Kennedy at Connect Now in June.
How does this play out in social media?
I don’t think any debate was ever truly “won” on social media — but I do think you can take a stand and be respectful.
Listen to the other side. Don’t bash others or post inflammatory comments about other agents or your clients.
When it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement — if you are like me and just feeling like your eyes have been truly opened recently to the systemic racism in our country and in our industry — it can feel really uncomfortable, to say the least.
I am in the process of reading two books that are helping me understand this and how I can do better:
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
- The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (This book specifically talks about the history of fair housing, red lining and the systemic racism in our industry.)
I am also working on educating myself, my family and our team with:
- Educational resources
- Having public conversations with industry leaders like this conversation I had with Inman speaker Valerie Alexander about what unconscious bias is all about and how we can do better in our industry
- Having public conversations with Inman speakers and social media experts Marki Lemons Ryhal and Chelsea Peitz on the reality of racism in our industry and what to post and say right now during these times
I don’t have all the answers, and I’m at the beginning stages of educating myself. But, if you have seen me onstage at Inman over the years or have watched any of my social media training videos and have looked to me for advice — here is what I will advise you to do and not do:
- Be thoughtful and considerate with how you post. We are leaving digital breadcrumbs for the future. You can have an opinion but be respectful. Check your sources — there is a great deal of misinformation out there — to make sure you are sharing information from reputable sources.
- Take a stand, and share your opinion, but again, do so in a respectful way. Don’t post because you feel like you have to. A few weeks back, many people posted a black square on social media because it was the thing to do that day to highlight black voices. But, if you just did that and haven’t done anything else, it feels like you just “checked the box” versus really taking the time to think about your own business and how you could be more mindful.
- It’s OK to talk about your business but remember — it’s never been OK to just talk about your business. We know in the midst of a global pandemic and social injustice, we have a business to run and clients to serve. Yes, talk about business, but make sure it is not the only thing you talk about. It’s important, now more than ever, to not be tone deaf. This is even more reason to not outsource your social media marketing to someone else. You need to show up and be there authentically.
- Brokers and leaders, don’t shy away from diversity training, and know that it’s going to take more than one or two speakers or classes. This is more about looking at the culture of your company and what you stand for. Talk to your BIPOC brokers and owners, and check in on them. Here is a great resource to read from Windermere Abode’s co-founder Dave Jones on this subject.
- Keep in mind, as many have said these past few weeks, that this is a movement, not a moment. Whether we like it or not — real estate is a huge part of the discussion around systematic racism in our country. We have an opportunity to speak with our voice on social media but also with our actions with our clients, prospects, consumers, who we work with, who we hire, which organizations we support, where we spend our money and so much more. Here is another great example of an organization, Women’s Council of Realtors, speaking candidly about how we can all do better.
I don’t know when things are going to go back to normal, but what I do know is that there’s an opportunity now to speak out, to listen more — to be a leader and to take a stand. I’m in. How about you?
If you’re looking for more brainfood to fuel your journey, check out Inman staffer Marian McPherson’s “20 resources to help you begin your anti-racism journey.”
Katie Lance is the author of #GetSocialSmart and founder and CEO of Katie Lance Consulting, a social media strategy firm and founder of the #GetSocialSmart Academy. She’s been recognized by Inman News as one of the 100 most influential people in real estate and is a featured keynote speaker at many industry events. Connect with Katie on Instagram or Facebook.