Real estate agents are led to believe that there is a correlation between social media success and real estate sales success. Broker-owner Teresa Boardman says it’s time to separate facts from wishful thinking.

September is Marketing and Branding Month at Inman. Tips for better branding and in-depth features on how to take advantage of marketing tools provided by Zillow, Redfin and other platforms are all in the works in addition to insights from experts. You’ll find it all at Inman, as well as our two-day virtual, flagship event, Your Playbook for the Fall Market, in October.

This article was last updated Sept. 27, 2022.

Burning citronella candles keeps bears away. I know this is true because I burn the candles on my front porch in the summer and I haven’t seen any bears.

I recently asked my daughter if she ever burns citronella candles out on the deck behind her house. Her yard is large and has trees that bears could hide behind.

My daughter does burn citronella candles and she has not seen any bears in her yard. They must work.

Real estate agents have all sorts of ideas about what they have to do to sell a house. To an observer, some of it looks more like it is based on superstition rather than any kind of measurement or testing.

We read all about successful real estate agents who have large followings on social media. There are books and webinars all about how to get a following. We are led to believe that there is a correlation between social media success and real estate sales success.

Look for cause and effect

Real estate agents should be looking for cause-and-effect relationships that they can measure rather than anecdotal evidence.

There are three criteria that must be met to establish a cause-effect relationship:

  • The cause must occur before the effect.
  • Whenever the cause occurs, the effect must also occur.
  • There must not be another factor that can explain the relationship between cause and effect.

I can establish that I light the candles before I see any bears, and that I have never seen a bear nearby when I have the candles burning, and my daughter has had the same results. We could do a webinar together and put it on YouTube and sell citronella candles.

I can’t prove cause and effect, which is that the candles keep the bears away. There is another factor that could explain why the candles keep the bears away. Maybe there aren’t any bears in the city, or there are so few that I have never seen one, or maybe they are so shy they don’t come close. I haven’t seen any bear droppings while I am out walking, either.

From what I have read, citronella candles may not even work for keeping mosquitoes away, and that is what they are supposed to do.

Investigate reasons

There can be more than one reason why business has picked up or slowed down that has nothing to do with marketing. Could it be the time of year? Are home sales up or down across the board in your market? Is there some other marketing that could be bringing in clients?

Back when I was with one of the franchises, I noticed an unexpected uptick in business. Much of it was coming in through the internet. I knew this because I asked people how they found me. It turned out that my name came up first on the office roster on the internet.

There had been a couple of agents who had last names that started with the letter “A” who had left. Being first on the list was good for business, and I made the most of it during all three of the months I was No. 1.

I have never used or even seen the app Clubhouse. It is a voice-based social media platform that real estate professionals were encouraged to use. It was “exclusive” and only available for iOS. Sounds kind of like telephone conferencing or a Zoom meeting without pictures.

We don’t hear much of anything about Clubhouse anymore. Maybe it is now so exclusive that people can’t even talk about it. I am sure there is someone out there who has built a real estate empire through the app and they are reading this by the light of their citronella candle right now and laughing at me.

Watch out for fads

Just because something is new or trendy, or teenagers are using it right now, doesn’t mean that it is of any use for marketing real estate or real estate services. Fads come and go, and even those that stick around may not be the best tool for real estate agents.

As we anticipate the metaverse and start thinking about how it will change the real estate business, we shouldn’t forget Second Life. I guess it still exists; we just don’t hear much about it.

Second Life users create virtual representations of themselves — avatars — and are able to interact with places, objects and other avatars. It was a big deal for several years, maybe 10 years as it grew and grew. It sounds a little similar to the metaverse, which is also virtual reality where people are represented by avatars.

There are some methods for finding customers that salespeople have used for decades that seem to always work at least a little. They include meeting people in person and keeping in touch with them.

We might use social media to stay in touch or even send an old-school postcard or letter in the mail.

People like to do business with people they know rather than with strangers. Most of us already know a lot of people, and those people know people, too.

Marketing efforts need to be tracked and measured. Where does your business come from? How do your clients find you?

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is also the founder of

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