When it comes to real estate, your reputation and your personal brand have a huge impact on your business. Becoming a recognizable name is important to boost your credibility and increase your professional network.

This doesn’t mean dropping big bucks on a public relations agency — it can actually be free! It will cost you some time and effort, but it won’t make a dent in your budget. You can start right away by following these steps:

1. Do your homework. The first and most important step is to make sure you’re well-versed in all things related to real estate. Read scholarly articles, scour news from trusted sources, absorb opinion pieces and familiarize yourself with expert advice. Make sure you have a solid foundation of knowledge and get all sides of the story, even those that differ from your own point of view. This step is one you have to diligently work on constantly in order to become influential. Staying relevant and informed is critical.

2. Find your niche. Once you have a well-rounded perspective, find the area in which you excel, or the area in which you are most interested, and really own it. Make it your job to dig deep into all relevant information you can find about the topic. The choice is yours — do you want to be a local market expert, an expert at working with first-time buyers, a real estate tech guru or something else? Find your strength and harness it.

3. Make connections with thought leaders. Start following thought leaders who are experts in your field. Follow them on social media, read their blogs and check out the articles they publish.

Drop them a line and let them know you appreciate their contributions, or tell them about a specific article that personally benefited you. Chances are they will respond to you and will appreciate that you reached out. Open doors for yourself, and good things will follow.

4. Create incredible content. Great content takes time and effort to produce, but it’s completely worth it in the end. Relevant content plays an important part in search engine optimization (SEO) because it’s what people are searching for online. Not only will doing the research help you really have your finger on the pulse of what’s currently happening, but sharing it will also make you more valuable to your target audience.

You don’t have to write a 100-page thesis paper — start with writing 400- to 800-word blogs for your website, and work on creating brief social media posts. Or look into using your data to create real estate infographics.

According to Fast Company, 100 characters is the ideal length of a tweet, and 40 characters or fewer is ideal for Facebook. You can do it!

5. Get social and digital. Become incredibly active on digital platforms and on social media and share that great content you created. If you find other relevant information in your studies, share it and be sure to give credit to the author. Get involved with the conversation and encourage people to participate.

Reach out to your followers and those who interact with you to personally thank them for their interest. This might not always be possible, but try to do so as much as you can. Your efforts will not go unnoticed.

6. Create an exponential effect. The Internet is full of clutter, and influencers help people to cut through it all. If you continue to create and share great content, plus engage with your audience consistently, you will start to see people coming to you as a trusted source and sharing your information on their own social networks and pages. If you keep up the good work, you can create a snowball effect where you’re not the only one sharing your own content with the world anymore — others are sharing for you.

This isn’t just great for name recognition; it will also prove greatly beneficial for your SEO once people start to create inbound links to your content.

If you become a trusted influential source of information, you can grow your network organically. It can all be done with hard work, dedication, time and patience. This isn’t going to happen overnight, but keep at it and your sphere of influence will surely continue to grow.

Nikki Ilchert is an award-winning digital marketer and branding expert. She loves helping Realtors, entrepreneurs and small businesses.

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