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This post was updated Sept. 22, 2023.
When Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing made its 2012 debut and became a game-changing lead generator for Ryan Serhant, he realized how important video in all its iterations would be to his brand. The show succeed for Serhant because “people could watch the show anytime from all over the world and connect with me.”
According to Serhant, those early days allowed him to sell himself and build a trusted relationship with prospective buyers and sellers, all before the first IRL contact.
A little over three years ago, Serhant began a major push into taking control of his own video. He first began launching heavily on YouTube, subsequently creating video content for Instagram and TikTok as well. One of the things Serhant values most about the content he’s creating is its immediacy. “I can film now and put it up tomorrow night on TikTok or Instagram,” he said.
In addition, Serhant sees his investment in video as an investment in his future client base. Serhant’s content is created for prospective clients in 2030 who are currently 17 years old and already following him on mobile applications and platforms.
Differentiating video for YouTube, Instagram and TikTok
Assisting Serhant in creating his video strategy is Cody D’Ambrosio, head of Studios, the in-house creative agency and production studio at Serhant’s eponymous brokerage. D’Ambrosio is a veteran of the feature film industry and a former head of productions and operations at Buzzfeed.
Studios partners with agents at Serhant to deliver social content, content for listings, virtual tours — both cinematic and hosted, as well as storytelling experiences including interviews with architects, amenities showcases, and content that allows viewers to experience the building and the neighborhood. This is especially important in New York City, where location is such a significant part of individuals’ identity.
D’Ambrosio cautions that video content shouldn’t be the same across multiple platforms. Footage should be adapted to the unique requirements and user preferences of each.
Here’s how D’Ambrosio’s team used one set of footage to create cross-platform marketing for a single property, 432 Park Ave.
This still from the shoot was posted as a Coming Soon on June 28, 2021, and has more than 38,000 engagements (which includes both likes and comments).
This still of the exterior of the building was posted on July 10, 2021. It has more than 4,000 engagements.
This trailer was posted to Ryan’s Instagram on July 19, 2021. It garnered more than 140,000 views and 21,000 engagements. It’s brief (approximately 40 seconds) and serves as a visual introduction to the property.
This virtual tour was posted the same day and has more than 35,000 views. This one is more dramatic, longer (1:11) and features more photos, music, no voice-over and a more extensive and detailed caption with information about the property.
Another still was posted to Serhant’s feed on July 29, 2021. This one has more than 60,000 engagements.
I can’t decide 😩
This evergreen TikTok posted on July 20, 2021, offers a choice of park or city views. It is more focused on driving engagement rather than marketing the property, though it does bring in views on the day before the property is featured on the 21st. It has more than 1.7 million views and 287,000 likes.
I can’t decide 😩
This TikTok was posted on July 21, 2021, and features a cheekier caption, more youthful music and visuals, and Ryan’s commentary at the beginning rather than at the end. It has more than 5.3 million views and a half-million likes.
This eight-minute-plus YouTube video premiered on July 19, 2021, the same day the video tour dropped on Instagram. It has more than 826,000 views and more than 25,000 likes. Note that the title does not specifically refer to the property itself — it’s an algorithm-friendly title designed to drive engagement. Listing information is included in the description instead.
This is a much more extensive tour, taking the viewer through each of the home’s main spaces with Serhant as a guide. Here you’re getting both the drama and engaging visuals of the shorter videos along with a focus on information and listing details.
Here you get the shorter virtual tour seen on Instagram posted to YouTube on July 19, 2021. Note the attention-getting YouTube-friendly title. This virtual tour has more than 14,000 views.
That’s nine pieces of content for three platforms, each one differentiated to appeal to the audience and algorithm where it is posted. According to D’Ambrosio, the algorithms are constantly changing, so it’s important to pay attention to what is performing well on an ongoing basis. What works today may not work tomorrow.
“We are data-driven decision-makers,” said D’Ambrosio. “We continuously experiment to extend the reach of our stories and listings, utilizing analytics and performance data to optimize videos, tagging the content to see what performs and creating multiple edits for each.”
Focus on the audience and let the content follow
According to Serhant, his biggest fail in the early days was not knowing what the audience wanted. He pushed out and test drove a lot of content to figure out what worked. Was it property tours? Date night with his wife?
“It starts with really listening to the audience on different platforms and understanding what content they like to engage with. Overall property tours work well. People like seeing expensive places they never could afford,” said Serhant.
This one, for instance, has more than 19 million views on his YouTube channel.
One of the personality-driven videos that has performed well with more than a million views is Serhant’s closet tour where viewers can see how he dresses for success and where Serhant addresses their burning questions on how many suits or shoes he owns.
“This is more of a Bravo audience, 40 to 50 years old. It doesn’t lend itself to Instagram as much. For TikTok, you need to grab attention in seconds — before the viewers swipe up,” said Serhant.
With more than 2 million viewers, this TikTok gives a similar opportunity to get to know Serhant in a format that fits the platform.
According to D’Ambrosio, agents who are looking to capitalize on the power of video should do the following:
- Be your authentic self. The more authentic and less sales-oriented it feels, the more viewers will feel like they know you and form a relationship.
- Pay attention to the data and find out what’s working on the explore pages of your chosen platform.
- Create an environment where there is a two-way exchange. Post consistently and engage. Once you see what is working and resonating, double down on that content.
- Find the balance between what’s reasonable and what you have the bandwidth for and a frequency level that keeps people engaged.
For agents who are either just starting out with video or looking to improve their content, Serhant offers the following tried and true tips:
- Content has to be platform-specific. One size does not fit all.
- Make sure videos are good quality, including lighting and sound.
- Most of all, it’s important to get yourself in front of the camera. Video allows people to get to know you, and then they will choose to work with you.
Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers. Follow Writing Real Estate on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.