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These days, social media can be seen as a hero or villain in the broader society, but Shannon McKinstrie has spent a decade teaching real estate agents to use it to their advantage while also making it fun and unintimidating.
McKinstrie started out in TV production at CNN in 2004, back when social media was in its infancy. When she worked during holidays and overnight, social media kept her company. In 2013, she started as a freelancer managing Facebook and LinkedIn accounts for agents in the Washington, D.C., area and her career as a social media strategist took off from there.
McKinstrie will speak at Inman Connect Las Vegas in August. Inman caught up with her over the phone this week to dive into how she started working with agents and what their biggest concerns are when it comes to social media.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Inman: What made you start working with real estate professionals specifically?
McKinstrie: I actually have family in real estate. It’s funny because at my 9-to-5 I was actually managing the company Facebook page. After I had my daughter, I was like ‘You know what, I think I want to do this on my own as freelance’ because I saw that’s when people started paying attention. I was like, ‘You know who really needs help is real estate agents’ because I noticed how much they were struggling because they worked nonstop.
When you say family, is it like your parent?
Yes, my mom was in real estate and my husband had just gotten his license.
Was there something about real estate that surprised you when you started working for these real estate professionals?
The reason I’ve always loved working with Realtors so much, why they have such a special place in my heart, is I know they don’t have the time to do it, but they’re hungry and they’re not afraid of work. Social media, while it is fun, it’s still work. You’ve got to put time and effort into it and Realtors get that.
I find a lot of industries out there are so behind on social media because they do think they can just either put it on the back burner or just do the absolute minimum and get big results or throw money at ads. Realtors really understand that they need a personal brand and they understand marketing. That’s why I love it because I know they’ll listen.
Nowadays everyone knows a Realtor, right? So the way to stand out and stay top of mind is social media and they know that, so it makes my job more fun. I know they’re gonna do what I tell them to do and then they see the results. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Do you typically train them on what to do and then leave them to it?
I actually manage a lot of Realtors still. I just don’t talk about it because I’m booked all the time. But again, what’s so great about real estate agents is even though we’re managing them, they still supply all the images, they supply all the video. I’m just doing the editing and crafting of captions for them. So in a way even though we’re managing, I’m also training them.
To really grow on social, you’ve got to know the basics. I teach them that and they know they are the face of their business and that people want to know more than just the homes that they sell. So yes, I still manage, but on the flip side, I also train and mentor a lot of Realtors. I do lots of big trainings at title companies, brokerages, things like that.
Usually when a solo agent comes to me, I tell them I prefer to mentor them. I want them to learn the skills to do it so they’re showing up on social media without even thinking about it and just documenting their day and taking people behind the scenes so that people will see what Realtors do all day that’s not always so glamorous and they’re working really hard for people. The main people that we manage where we actually go and do the posting for them are typically teams.
What are their biggest concerns when it comes to social media?
Time and just not knowing what to post. I go, ‘What are you doing right now?’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m just sitting at my desk.’ ‘Take a picture. Show that you have MLS open. Show that you’re searching for homes or that you’re putting a listing presentation together. Show you’re at the dog park. Show what you do on your off time.’ They overcomplicate it, as everyone does.
One of the things I tell agents is ‘Think about the fact that people want to get to know you. They want to get to know things you love around the town and city that you buy and sell in.’ It really helps them feel a lot more comfortable and have a lot more fun with it. You don’t have to write these novel posts. You don’t have to write all these in-depth, vulnerable stories if you don’t want to. It’s all about finding a strategy that works specifically for them, what their brand is essentially and really understanding who they’re selling to.
Once they have that clarity, they post freely and confidently and then they find the time because they’re more clear on what their message is. That’s one of my favorite things to help Realtors do: What is your message? Why are you here? Why do you love it? And then the followers come in from there.
You hear a lot these days about how social media is kind of a time suck. What’s your take on that?
It can be a time suck if you don’t have a strategy. My clients are spending no more than 15 to 30 minutes a day on Instagram. Instagram is what I typically train people on. The average person is on Instagram 27 minutes a day. If you take that time and be intentional, take 10 minutes to post something that you did today.
Take 10 minutes to just engage with some people on stories, show them some love, and obviously, if you’ve got your A-plus clients you talk to your people, make sure you’re liking their posts, you’re looking at their stories. But yeah, it becomes a major time suck when you’re scrolling with no strategy whatsoever.
You hear all the time about social media being bad for mental health. Is there anything you tell your clients to do to combat that?
Absolutely. One of my big things is if they are feeling down in the dumps because maybe someone has more followers or someone had more closings, I just tell them: Mute them. Maybe they’re a part of your brokerage and you want to support them, you can follow but you’re in control of your own page.
And one thing I tell every client is at least pick one day a week that you consistently take off. For me, that’s typically Saturdays or Sundays. I usually take one full day where I just disappear from social media altogether. Whatever your busiest day is that you’re in the trenches and don’t really have time, take that day off.
Block times that you want to check social media, because you know Realtors are too busy to be scrolling social all day. So they can really be intentional with their time and mute any accounts that are making them feel less than, because Realtors know even more than anyone that a lot of the stuff people put out on social media doesn’t necessarily mean they’re successful. So block it out and stay in your lane, keep your blinders on and keep going.
Do you know yet what you’ll be talking about at Connect?
I actually don’t know. I have so many of my clients within months of showing up online, start getting leads. I just want to help them really enjoy social media, not look at it as a time suck and something they have to do to check something off their to-do lists, because it can be something they actually look forward to.
I want them picking up their phones, being like ‘Oh my gosh, you guys, I just had the best call!’ and really take people into that world of what real estate is, because we watch all these real estate shows and it’s not even really what it looks like. I tell my clients all the time, ‘Do you know how fascinating what you do is to all of us? Share it with us. We want to know.’
Anything else you’d like Inman’s readers to know before you speak at Connect?
At the end of the day, people want to follow people and because you’re going to be their agent buying or selling their home or helping them rent, this is a very big deal in their life. This is a very intimate process. It’s a scary process. So when you show up on social media, and they feel like they know you, you’re going to hear from them. You’re gonna be the first person they call, and I know that a lot of agents deal with selling a home and then five years later, the client buys without them.
That’s the power of social media. If you want retention, if you want people coming back, all you have to do is show up. Give 20-30 minutes a day, and you could double, triple your sales, your following, etc. and make a really big impact and it doesn’t have to be that hard. Luckily, Realtors, it’s something people are genuinely interested in.
We all want to know what’s going on in the market. We all want to see the insides of people’s homes. So they have an upper hand, so don’t make it complicated. We love following people and we love looking at pretty houses. So win-win.