Thinking of showing off your funny side but worried about how to get noticed or whether it will appear on your professional account? These are questions Matt Lionetti, a broker with The Agency, ponders continuously. His videos, which poke fun of agents and the different situations that can arise in the course of a sale, are earning him an ever-expanding audience on Instagram.
“You ever talk to a listing agent who just knows nothing about the house?” Lionetti says in a recent parody video posted to his Instagram page. “You call the guy and say ‘Hey, man, how old’s the roof?. He goes ‘I don’t know.’ I say ‘cool, can you ask?’ He’s super annoyed and goes ‘I don’t think that’s necessary.'”
Now in real estate for five years, Lionetti started off without a specific brand strategy — he would work with a team of agents and, while going through listings, occasionally get ideas for funny ways he could describe them. After branching out on his own, Lionetti decided to take the plunge with a comedic skit for what was turning out to be a tough sell (it then sold in eight hours.) Today, Lionetti’s videos gather several thousand likes and several hundreds comments on average — along with comedic home tours, he has some about everything from bad renovations to the overabundance of real estate coaches.
“I like to be a bit edgy with it as well and push the boundaries,” Lionetti told Inman. “I got into the industry because I thought I had a good personality and thought people would like me but when I [first started working] I felt like I ironically lost all of that because I was trying to be like other people.”
We’ve asked Lionetti for advice on incorporating more of your personality into your Instagram game — it all comes down to these four key tips:
1. Be yourself
While Instagram can be the place to build your brand into something bigger, it should always feel like an extension of who you are as both an agent and a person. For Lionetti, comedy felt natural since he had been dabbling in it for years. While another niche might be a better fit for some, there are a variety of options even within the comedic route — while some will enjoy filming funny home tours, others may be better off staging silly photo shoots (more than one agent has been known to pose in a dinosaur costume for listing photos) or even dancing in homes for TikTok.
“People often tell me ‘I want to do creative content but I’m not funny,” Lionetti said. “You don’t have to be funny, you have to be you. Find out what personality traits your friends like about you and bring that to the forefront because, now more than ever, people want to relate to someone before they work with them.”
2. Don’t wait for the perfect moment to get started, get going now
While Lionetti now enlists some people to help with filming, he started out with just his iPhone. Imperfect content put out consistently is, he says, much more effective than one overproduced and meticulously planned video that you hope will go viral. Trying different things will not only help build the content consistency that viewers need to understand and associate you with your brand but also show you what type of content does well. While Lionetti’s earlier videos are more focused on answering common real estate questions, seeing the comedy videos take off was what pushed him into turning funny into a brand.
“If the content’s there, people are going watch it,” he said. “You can spend $10,000 on camera equipment and filming but if the content’s not good, no one’s going to watch it.”
3. Learn the difference between funny and inappropriate
While the line between what is or isn’t appropriate will vary greatly for different people, everyone who uses comedy in their personal brand should establish a few lines they will not cross. For Lionetti, that line does not lie with swearing or gross topics (he says that he grew up in a family that never considered that offensive) but with making fun of specific homes or individuals. Instead, he prefers to be funny by poking fun at himself or the industry as a whole — the reverse is an easy way to turn your brand from “tells it like it is” to “jerk” in an instant.
“Bringing in specific people or how someone looks is just off-putting and rude,” Lionetti said. “Most of the time, I’m making fun of myself or scenarios that are deeply relatable in the business from [the perspective of] either an agent or a client.”
4. This is not a fast (or predictable) process
The most important thing to remember is that building a brand — and, for that matter, becoming known as “the funny real estate guy on Instagram” — takes time. You’ll also never know what, exactly, will lead to an important lead or connection. One time, a follower noticed a Ramones shirt that Lionetti was wearing in one of his videos and reached out to say he loved the band. The conversation got going and eventually led to Lionetti scoring an apartment listing. While it’s common to feel like you’re putting up videos no one’s watching at the beginning, good content and consistency usually lead to success sometime down the line.
“It’s not a short-term game and you’re not going to get someone who sees a video and then messages you an hour later because they want to sell their house tomorrow,” Lionetti said. “You’re nurturing these leads as they come in. I started these videos a year and a half ago and I’m really only starting to see the results now.”