From online showings to all-digital signings and closings, the digital transaction has fully come into its own. All month, Inman examines the companies and technologies driving this new world of digital transaction.

While most brokers and agency owners worry obsessively over how to find their next buyer on Instagram, the people paying those social feeds the most attention often aren’t potential clients, but rather potential colleagues.

Compass broker Ben Lalez has spent the past several months establishing his Instagram presence as an expert in Chicago’s real estate market through a series of regular market updates, listing photos and educational videos on everything from property prices to refinancing. Since he amped up his online presence and started building the image of a local all-you-need-to-know-about-buying-in-Chicago expert, he has started seeing engagement from other agents.

“My mission is to change the perception of the buyer’s agent here in Chicago,” Lalez told Inman. “The beauty of all this is that around 30 percent of the people who follow me are agents. When they slide into the DMs [direct messages], they already know that they want to work with me and be part of the brand whereas before they were kind of shooting in the dark.”

Some of the agents who reach out express interest in learning more about his strategy and the brand while others have already done their research and want to join his team, which currently has nine other licensed agents. For Lalez, it becomes a more streamlined approach to recruiting since he appreciates the initiative they displayed to find his account and learn more about it. Those DM conversations have morphed into several hires.

“One level of the interview is already done because often with recruiting, I need to sell myself and my brand to the agent,” Lalez said. “In this scenario, they already like what my brand is about and what Compass is about. They like my team and they’re reaching out to me.”

Sometimes, collaborations and even agents’ careers take form in unexpected ways. New York City Compass agent Ryan Garson, who founded Very Social, a social media and marketing agency that helps agents build their brands on social media, recently collaborated with model and actress Jessica Markowski for two videos in which they tour condos such as a 3.5-bedroom unit at 205 West 19th in Chelsea.

After the campaign, Markowski saw a spike in follower questions about real estate and decided to get her real estate license. She will be joining Garson’s team at Compass when she finishes.

“I really try to make [my Instagram presence] my reality show and I think people really respect that because it’s authentic,” Garson said. “Not everyone’s going to like what I’m doing but the people that do like it are big fans of mine and they’re really loyal. Things get shared. There’s always a lot of likes and comments. It’s been a big part of my life.”

Social media is most often the first place people look to find an agent online, before going to a website or reaching out by phone or email. While most are looky-loos, many others will be buyers, colleagues, competitors and potential team members.

According to Garson, many agents get caught up in trying to bring in sales by posting only listings and forget about the ancillary effects of a strong Instagram presence. This could be anything from establishing yourself as an authority in a given market or, as happened for him and Lalez, helping bring like-minded people to your team.

“People that I don’t know will often get forwarded to me or somebody that I haven’t talked to in years will see that I posted something that kind of resonates with them and reach back out to me,” Garson said. “It’s been a big part of my business. Instagram is a website and a newsletter wrapped in one.”

But the key to being able to build one’s team through Instagram has a lot to do, Lalez said, with building the right kind of presence. If an agent is all over the place with posts or hasn’t yet established a brand with a competitive angle, they will either fail to build a strong following or attract agents who are not quite in line with one’s vision.

To avoid that kind of situation, he recommends taking the time to map out your social media strategy and the kind of image you want to project as an agent in general. Are you an agent promoting a dream luxury lifestyle or an agent helping educate millennials make the leap to first-time homeownership? Once you have that down, invest in high-quality photography and videography, write strong posts and post frequently and regularly — with, above all, value for the client in mind.

“You see lot of influencers who are showing beach homes and driving around in a Ferrari,” Lalez said. “The people who reach out to those types of agents resonate with that type of image. I’m putting out something very different and the people that I’m attracting resonate with my brand.”

Email Veronika Bondarenko

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