Kick off the fall with Marketing and Branding Month at Inman. We’re going deep on agent branding and best practices for spending with Zillow, realtor.com and more. Top marketing executives drop by to share their newest tactics, too. It’s all you need to take your branding and marketing game to the next level.
TikTok became social media’s darling in the early months of 2020 when it suddenly rose in popularity, and then a few months later, faced a threatened existence in the U.S. after President Trump issued an executive order banning the app if it didn’t change hands from its Chinese parent company to an American one.
But TikTok is still going strong today, with close to 1 billion monthly active users. Its user demographics have expanded significantly since its inception in the U.S., and a number of real estate agents have found ways to incorporate it into their business’s social media toolkit.
For interested agents looking to expand their marketing reach, it’s not too late to find success using the app — all it takes is a bit of dedication, creativity and willingness to try new things.
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“TikTok loves consistency,” Alexander Zakharin, managing director at Avenues Real Estate in New York City, told Inman. “We’re still figuring out the algorithms, but we know for sure that TikTok prefers consistency.”
Zakharin, who is creeping up on 100,000 TikTok followers, recommended trying to post something on the social media platform once a day in order to grow a following and get into a rhythm for using the app.
However, other agents who use the platform regularly for their real estate business said even consistently posting to the platform once or twice per week — as long as it’s consistent — is a great way to start.
“Consistency is everything with social media,” Aaron Grushow, a member of the Aaron Kirman Group at Compass who has 1.4 million TikTok followers, told Inman. “And don’t overdo it — you don’t need to post every single day. Obviously in the beginning, the more quantity, the better. Some people value quantity over quality; I think you’ve got to kind of find a balance. I just think you’ve got to just be consistent, whether that’s post once a week or post twice a week, just stick to it.”
Glennda Baker, president and CEO of Glennda Baker & Associates, Inc. Real Estate in Atlanta, told Inman that after she implemented a regular schedule for posting on TikTok, her following started to grow and she began developing more relationships with her followers. Baker has about 450,000 TikTok followers today.
“Intensity is for the short-term and consistency is for the long-term,” Baker said. “Once I started posting every single day, my followers went up. Now, if it gets close to 12 pm and I haven’t posted my video, people are like, ‘did you post today and I missed it?'”
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Baker is diligent about reviewing the analytics behind her TikTok videos in order to learn more about what her followers like and don’t like. One key takeaway she’s learned from doing that is that her followers like honest, relatable content. They even confirmed it in the comments of one video she made that revolved around the question, “Why are you following me?”
“The majority of people that commented — and I think there’s 10,000 comments on that one video — said, ‘We follow you because you’re honest about the real estate industry and we don’t understand it,'” Baker explained.
“That is the common thread with the well-performing videos — being able to take the subject and connect it back to something that everybody can relate to,” she added. “They can see themselves in your shoes.”
When Grushow first started on TikTok, he stayed behind the scenes of his videos. But once he started getting in front of the camera, showing his followers who he really was, his engagement and lead nurturing via the app became much more productive.
“[People] saw who I really was and that I was an actual human being and I started to notice more traction on my other platforms,” Grushow said. “TikTok’s difficult to generate leads because there’s no direct communication besides commenting on a video. You’ve got to be following each other to direct message, so the best thing to do is to then funnel your audience to other platforms like LinkedIn or your website or Instagram, and then from there, you can kind of nurture those leads and have direct communication.”
He added that doing TikTok Live videos, where he answers questions about real estate in real time from different people, has also helped his engagement because he’s able to display his knowledge to his followers.
“I’ve generated more leads from TikTok doing those TikTok Lives than anything else,” he said.
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Like on other social media platforms, hashtags play an important role on TikTok in directing people toward your content who will be most interested in it. That’s why it’s important to be selective about which hashtags to use in conjunction with any given video.
“TikTok will push your content to people who have watched videos with these hashtags on there,” Grushow told Inman. “And if you’re making real estate content, and this person just watched a video with #hometour on it, they’re likely going to be fed this video and are more likely to engage with it because they’re actually interested in that type of content. [So] using the relevant hashtags are extremely important.”
Grushow added that there is such a thing as too many hashtags, however. If a video has too many hashtags associated with it — especially ones that are less relevant — it will just “confuse the algorithm” and render those hashtags ineffective.
Using one’s own name as a hashtag — especially if it’s used across other social channels too — is also great for brand traction, and helps TikTok users see the cumulative views of all their videos, even those that have been dueted (when two TikTok users create joint content together) or spliced on the platform.
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TikTok started out by only allowing users to create videos of a maximum 15 seconds in length. But, in July, the company announced it would gradually begin allowing users across the globe to create videos on the platform of up to three minutes.
Even with the added time available to users, however, most real estate TikTokers recommended keeping video length to a minimum, generally speaking.
“Shorter is better, but there’s a sweet spot for sure, and it depends on the content,” Grushow said. “And it depends on how engaging that content is, how you’re able to keep that audience member engaged.”
Whenever possible, Grushow likes to keep his videos closer to 15 to 30 seconds in length, because his followers are more likely to watch the entire video, which helps him get better placement on TikTok’s #ForYou page, where it recommends content to individual users. However, if he’s filming a home tour of an unusual or remarkable property, Grushow might create a full minute-long video.
“People have such short attention spans anyways — especially on TikTok — getting people to watch even a minute, even if it is an amazing house, people are usually tapped out of anything about 40 seconds in,” Blake Stargel, an agent at Compass, told Inman.
For TikTok home tours, just stick to a property’s three most outstanding features (starting with the most eye-grabbing), Zakharin recommended, so as not to overload the video, and then let your followers reach out to you for more.
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Grushow’s live Q&A sessions are a great example of creating one type of formulaic video or series that can cultivate a following.
Baker, too, has really taken the idea of using themes or series in her TikToks to the next level by creating a number of different series.
“I have ‘Taste Test Fridays,’ I have ‘Dish from the Dining Room,’ ‘Live from the Living Room,’ ‘Opinions from the Office,’ [and] I still have my ‘Posts from the Porche’ [her debut series].”
Baker also sets the scene for these videos in similar ways (though, in different locations), where she’s speaking to an unseen listener off-camera, as though talking to a friend. The only time Baker looks directly at the camera is “when I talk shade about Zillow,” she said.
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Music should not be an afterthought when creating TikTok content, creators told Inman.
“Sometimes it will take me a half hour to find a song,” Stargel said. “I’ll literally just go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth …”
Find music that fits the mood of the video, and that will align with the tastes of potential viewers of the video. When showcasing a luxury property, a little old time Frank Sinatra might feel right, or, if content is more educational, some light jazz may be more appropriate.
Whatever the desired vibe, it’s also important to pay attention to what music and sounds are trending on the platform and incorporate them into videos as is feasible, since this will also increase a video’s visibility on the platform.
Baker’s videographer that she works with has a music library that the two of them draw on for her videos, and the maintain consistency in when they use different music, so that Baker’s followers get a hint about what’s about to happen in her video next.
“That music library tells my viewers, ‘Oh wait a minute, she’s about to throw some shade,’ Baker told Inman. “‘Oh wait a minute, she’s going to tell us one of her great stories.’ ‘Oh wait a minute, this one’s going to be about her mom.'”
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Following trending music, hashtags and searches on TikTok and then incorporating those trends into one’s content can help a TikToker to gain eyes on their content, and to ultimately thrive.
“The best thing to do is to leverage trends that are on the app,” Grushow said. “Everyone’s trying to create their own trends per se, but TikTok really rewards people who take trends and implement them in their own way, and that’s absolutely doable in real estate.”
Seeing what’s trending on the app is easy too because TikTok plainly lays out trends in its Discover tab. All a user needs to do to become part of the trend then, is to find a creative way to incorporate some of those trends into their content to make it their own.
“I tell my agents when they start TikTok, ‘Don’t just copy blindly what you see from other Realtors because everyone has a style,'” Zakharin said.
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TikTok’s user experience is set up such that people who use the platform need to be following each other in order to be able to direct message one another. Because the lines of communication are a little less easy than some other social platforms, all of the real estate agents Inman spoke with for this story said they link their TikTok accounts to their other social media accounts as well (which would be a good practice regardless).
“The best thing to do is to then funnel your audience to other platforms like LinkedIn or your website or Instagram, and then from there, you can nurture those leads and have direct communication,” Grushow said.
“I’ve gotten quite a few leads and a lot of them have originally come from my TikTok, which then transferred to my Instagram, which then led to actually becoming clients,” Stargel explained.
Most agents said TikTok tended to work well with Instagram and Facebook in this way to interact with clients, but for those individuals who happen to have a strong YouTube presence, linking YouTube with TikTok might make more sense. Whatever the preferred social channels, it’s also smart to repurpose content across different types of social media.
“If you’re just starting out in real estate, definitely start doing videos and if you do any videos you can obviously repurpose those for other platforms in addition to TikTok,” Lisa Marie Kennedy, a Realtor with eXp Realty, said. “You can do Instagram Reels, you can do Facebook Stories. Once you get that video content, you can sprinkle it anywhere.”
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For any agent getting started on TikTok, it’s important to find a unique voice and decide on an area of focus so that other users on the platform can have a clear understanding of what to expect on your channel. It’s ok if this takes a little exploration too.
A few questions that might help guide this focus might be:
- Am I using TikTok to gain followers and get brand recognition?
- Am I using TikTok to get leads?
- Am I using TikTok to recruit other agents?
- Do I want my TikTok persona to be comical or knowledgable?
Baker likes to consider her TikTok channel as a medium for infotainment, whereas Zakharin’s is largely a venue for younger demographics hunting for rentals. But whatever the end goal in using TikTok, it’s important to maintain a sense of self.
“Ultimately, all of the videos need to be 100 percent you,” Baker said.
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Update: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Alexander Zakharin works at GZB Realty; the name of his company is Avenues Real Estate.