Instagram for Realtors

If you are a realtor and you are looking to get started with Instagram or improve your Instagram game, this post is for you.

We will walk you through all of the steps required to setup and optimize your Instagram account and make the most of any time you spend on the social network.

If you are impatient and want to skip around here is a table of contents.

Enter Realtor Joe

Realtor Joe is a normal everyday realtor. Joe works fulltime in his real estate practice. Joe does not have a staff, but can get help from different sources when he needs it.

Realtor Joe knows that he needs to be on Instagram, so he has an account but does not really put much thought into what he is doing on the social network.

Realtor Joe frequently posts pictures of his listings and mixes in a few lifestyle posts here and there. Joe is sharing bits and pieces of his everyday life with his followers, trying to make a human connection with possible clients and referral sources.

Joe is having trouble converting Instagram followers into real customers. Sure he gets likes on pics and he gets a few comments, but Joe is not seeing any “real world” engagement with his followers. He has not once heard someone on the phone say, “I saw your post on Instagram and I had to call to find out more.” Not even an email. Nothing...

Joe knows he has to keep up his social presence, but he wonders if it’s really worth it at this point. Joe thinks to himself, If I am not seeing any new listings or buyers from my Instagram, why should I keep doing it. Surely, there are other areas where Joe can spend his time and get a better return.

The truth is, there are probably several activities Joe could be pursuing where he would see an immediate return from the effort and time he is investing. Joe decides he is going to commit to getting the most out of his Instagram efforts for the next month. If he does not see any improvement in his engagement, he is going to move on to another channel.

Joe decides it is time to get professional with his use of Instagram. Where should Joe start? Let's start at Step 1.

Step 1: Setup your Instagram account as a business profile

First things first. Let’s make sure that your Instagram account is setup correctly. Similar to your facebook page, (you are using a facebook page as opposed to a personal facebook account right?), you should be using a business profile. Here is why. With an Instagram business profile you can add a few calls to action to your Instagram profile. You can add a button to send you an email, for example, or setup your hours and other information you might want to offer people visiting your profile page. In the future, if you ever want to advertise on Instagram, you will be ready to do so.

From within your Instagram account, head to your profile page.

Scroll down and click on the link "Switch to Business Profile."

Instagram will then take you through a few of the benefits of using a business profile. Click on continue to scroll through each of the benefits.

Here is the contact option available to business profiles.

You will need to connect your Instagram business profile to a facebook page. If you do not have a facebook page, do not worry about it, continue on and they will create one for you. A facebook page is required for payments and managing advertisements if you ever decide that you do want to advertise your Instagram profile.

Instagram works its magic and you now have a Facebook page and it is connected to your Instagram Business Profile.

The screen below is where you setup the business information you want displayed on your Instagram profile. No worries if you do not want your phone or email publicly advertised. Instagram will only give buttons to contact you for users that are logged into the Instagram application on their phone. None of the fields are required. I recommend adding at least your email address or phone number.

Notice the change to Joe's profile. There is a button visitors can click on to email him. Well done!

Step 2: Do as the big boys do

Let’s look to big brands for some clues on how you should be using Instagram. Before you starting saying to yourself, what can I possibly learn from a huge brands Instagram strategy? Think about how huge brands have gotten huge. What are huge brands good at. So I will ask you again. What can you learn from big brands on Instagram? Mainly everything. As a one man or woman team, you might not think of yourself as a brand, but you should. Your brand as a realtor is you. How do you make the best of your brand?

One of my favorite real estate brand Instagram accounts is Zillow.

Zillow is a huge consumer real estate brand. Makes sense to look at what they are doing and incorporate it into your social media strategy. Zillow is a great Instagram account for you to follow because you can apply many of their techniques to your account regardless of the size of your business.

A common complaint from a buyer’s agent is the lack of listings to use as posts. If you are a listing agent with a few listings you have some default materials provided for you, as you can use your listing photos. If you are a buyer's agent, or do not have any listings you do not have a set of listing photos to fall back on.

Follow Zillow’s lead and use pictures from other listings in your market. Always make sure that you have permission to use the listing images before posting. Check with your local MLS about the attribution required when sharing someone else’s listing. Most MLS systems have fields that clearly indicate whether a listing can be shared on the internet or not.

Zillow is catering to their audience with the posts they are sharing, for the most part, their audience is people interested in real estate. Zillow is sharing different and interesting properties from throughout the country. We can assume that your market area is not as large as Zillow’s. No matter how small or how large your market, you have different and interesting properties in your area. Line up a bunch of interesting properties in your area and save them to your phone for posting to your Instagram account. You do not need to exclusively use real estate listings, you can also use popular landmarks in your neighborhood.

Let’s also look at the frequency Zillow is posting. In reviewing their last 10 or so posts it looks like they are posting infrequently. Once a day is their highest frequency, but there are breaks of 2 or 3 days between posts. To be honest, if you are trying to grow an Instagram follow you probably want to post at least once a day, most social media experts will recommend posting up to 3 times a day.

Another example

Let’s checkout another Instagram account. This time we will look at how Gary Vaynerchuk runs his Instagram account. Gary V as he calls himself, is worth following. He runs a large social media agency and is a thought leader in the social media marketing space. In addition, he has written books on using social media to grow your business, “Jab Jab Jab, Right Hook”, and “Crushing It.” He was the keynote speaker at a recent Inman conference and frequently speaks at events targeting industries that are made up of independent contractors, think real estate, insurance, etc.

Gary V is prolific on all social media platforms, posting 3 to 4 times per day on each platform. On Instagram, Gary V is consistently posting 3 times a day.

Also pay attention to the type of content. While the content may seem self promotional it actually isn’t for the most part. He is giving away a bunch of content for free. He is posting interviews and information that he feels his audience will be interested in. Gary V is building credibility with his audience and will only ask for something after he has provided massive value.

Does this sound like something you can do for your audience / prospective clients? I think it does. Gary V writes at length about his strategies, if you are interested in learning more pick up one of his books or follow him on his blog.

The takeaway here is to give away as much as possible. Do not focus on asking for business every post.

Step 3: Make a schedule

If you are hyperventilating over all of this potential work, it’s understandable, this is a good amount of work. Let’s refer back to our big brand example for a minute. Do you think a big brand is randomly picking posts on Tuesday morning before sending them out? Unlikely.

Again, let’s think like a big brand. They are curating their posts beforehand. There is probably a meeting in their marketing department and they select and schedule all of their social media posts for the month. Again, most realtors do not have the luxury of a marketing department, much less a marketing person. Let’s not worry about what you don’t have. What you do have is an hour a week you can dedicate to scheduling your Instagram posts for a week.

If you have marketing intern in the office, or a technology saavy younger family member this might be the perfect job for them.

If you want to post at least one time per day, you need to find 7 interesting homes or topics to post on during your hour. This is pretty doable. If you want to post more frequently, you are going to have to spend more time doing research. Remember you can always share random pictures during the day. For example, where you are eating lunch or houses you are showing. You do want to make sure that you are sharing interesting information about your market. You want to be known as an expert in your market, make sure your Instagram posts reflect that.

During your scheduled time you should find the images you want to use as posts and write out the captions. Save the images to your phones camera roll. You can only post to Instagram from your phone. (There are services you can use here, but they are for more advanced users.) Then save the captions using notes or any other word processor on your phone. Use popular hashtags in your captions, we will get into more techniques on this below.

Step 4: Build a following

Now that we know the type of content we are going to focus on sharing, it is time to start building up the right audience. Notice I said the right type of audience. We want to focus on people that might actually become our customers one day. Too often we get caught up in the vanity of our follower counts. What we need to worry about is the quality. Who cares if you have 1 million followers if none of those followers are potential customers it’s the same as having 0 followers.

Sidenote, never buy followers. Just don’t do it. It’s not worth the money and again, what are you paying for?

You do not want followers that are all based in a foreign country. You want relevant and specific followers. Mainly, you want followers that you can convert into customers and referral partners. Do not worry about your follower count. Worry about the relevancy of your followers.

Friends and family are a natural start. If they are not currently following you, make sure you follow them and they will most likely reciprocate. If you want to take a proactive approach, go ahead and email your closest family and friends recommending they follow you.

Go get followers

Now to bring new relevant followers to you.

Use a system

Similar to how you are researching your posts at a scheduled time, you should also focus on building your Instagram audience for a specific amount of time each day. If you are starting out, set aside 30 minutes a day. Average users are spending 15 minutes a day on Instagram, you should be able to do this daily, instead of playing around on Instagram for 15 minutes a day, treat it as work for 30 minutes a day.

You are going to want to mixup two strategies when trying to build a following.

  1. Follow relevant accounts
  2. Like pictures

Follow relevant accounts

Let's get back to Realtor Joe. He is just starting out and only recently opened his Instagram account. He is starting at 0. No problem, that is where everyone starts. We are focusing on Instagram here, so let's use Instagram's search feature to find accounts and start building our own following.

Within the Instagram application head over to the search page. We are going to search for some of the real estate professionals in Joe's area. Joe is on Miami Beach, so he looks for some of the real estate professionals he knows on Miami Beach.

When Realtor Joe starts following real estate professionals he knows on Instagram, many of them will naturally follow him back.

Once Realtor Joe is done following some of the real estate professionals he knows, he can start looking for locals in his marketing area to follow. One of the best ways to do this is looking for popular locations within your marketing / farm area.

Locations work a few different ways. If a popular location has their own Instagram account that is great. If not, locations can also be found under the places tab in Instagram. Locations are created when people add a location when they are uploading a post.

When searching make sure the location tab is selected and then look for the top posts at that location. Follow the same process, click through to the users profile page, try to determine if they are local and follow them. It is hard to be 100% certain, but if a location you are investigating is popular with tourists, it might be better to focus on a different location.

Think of places that are popular with locals. Typically coffee shops, community centers, churches and restaurants fall into this category.

Instagram recently launched a feature that is a boon for real estate agents. In Instagram you now have the ability to follow hashtags. Previously, you could accomplish the same thing by clicking on a hashtag from a post. Now, if you choose to follow a hashtag, posts that include the hashtag will show up in your feed.

Here is why this is a great feature. If your marketing area is “America Park” you can start following the "americapark" hashtag. Instantly, all of the posts that include the hashtag "americapark" start showing up in your feed. Think about all of the other Instagram users frequently using this hashtag. Where do you think they live? Make sure you include the relevant hashtag in your posts. If there is not a popular hashtag for your area, create it. Then use it in every post.

Like pictures / interact with strangers

Similar to how we looked to big brands for inspiration for content, we can look to firms that specialize in growing Instagram followings for inspiration on how to grow your following.

If you were signing up for an Instagram service to help you build followers here is what they would do.

  1. They would ask for 3 to 5 accounts that you like or want to emulate.
  2. Then systematically they go through each of those accounts and look at who is liking each of their posts.
  3. Then they go to each of those users pictures and start liking them.
  4. When the user notices that you liked their picture, they will sometimes click to see your profile, which you better optimize (more on this below), and then will either follow you or look at some of your pictures and move on.

If you are a frequent Instagram user, you may have noticed random users liking your older pictures, most likely it was one of these Instagram services doing this on behalf of a client.

So you can pay a firm a few hundred dollars a month to do it for you, or you can just start off doing it yourself. Pick two of the top realtors in your neighborhood and a few popular locations.

Then systematically go through each realtors profile, find a recent post and click to see everyone that liked the post. When you are on that users page either follow them if you feel they are a potential client or click through to one of their images and like it. Follow the same process for popular locations.

There is no hard and fast rule for when you should follow someone or only interact by liking their photos. When you are starting out, start by following Instagram accounts that interest you. Once you have hit your "quota" of new accounts followed in a day, start liking and interacting with photos. After you do it for a while you will start getting a better feeling for it.

What is most important is that you repeat this process daily. It will require consistent action to get the results you desire.

Step 5: Optimize your profile

By this point in the article you have created a strategy for your posts and have a strategy for growing a following within your target market. Now we are going to focus on making sure you make the best possible impression when a user comes to your profile page.

When a user interacts with your post they will typically head to your profile page to find out more about you. You want to make sure that you optimize your profile for your objectives. In our case, we are trying to push as many people as possible to become clients or referral partners. If they are not following us, we want them to follow us, if they are following us we want to encourage them to contact us if and when they are interested in buying or selling real estate.

From a branding perspective, you want to make the best first impression possible. If you have professional headshots, you want to use them as your profile picture. No silly images that can be misconstrued. If you do not have a professional headshot, use as professional of a picture as possible.

Make sure your name is accurate. You do not need to include your name to use Instagram, you only need a username. However, your name is your brand, you want to make sure it is visible. That brings us to your username. If you have a silly username, this is the time to update it to something more professional. Put yourself in your potential clients shoes. Would you want to contact a realtor with the Instagram username of boatdude143, or someone with the username realtor.joe? You can change your Instagram username once with no consequence, your current followers are unaffected.

The next area of your profile you want to optimize is your biography. You have two sentences to quickly make an impression on strangers, use them wisely. You should include what you do and the area you service while sharing a bit of your personality. Convey who you are in a few sentences. If you have space in your bio, you should use the last line to encourage people to click through to the link. Quick tip: Use of emojis has been found to increase clicks.

Here is what Realtor Joe's Instagram profile looks like after adding a short bio and link.

You have a single link on your profile. Use it wisely. If you are unaware, Instagram does not allow use of links in individual posts. You will notice people frequently use the term, “link in the bio.” If you see a post and it has the message about the link, you click through to the users profile and then click on the link. There has been endless debate about adding more links to Instagram, but for now, you get one.

We recommend using this link to point users to your property listings or a webpage that provides more information about you.

Full disclosure, we own, which we feel is the best option to use to get the most out of your profile link. Here is how it works. If you include your biolink on your Instagram profile, you can include links to each of your posts. If you post images of your listings, you can link each post to a listing page.

In addition, you can also add a link to your biolink page. So if you want to drive people that visit your profile to sign up for your email list, you can include a link to sign up. If you want to send people to an overview page on your website you can do that too.

Here is what it looks like when someone clicks on Realtor Joe's link in his profile.

We think is extremely powerful for realtors because it gives you the ability to link each post to your own site. Typically, you only have one link. So you would constantly have to update your profile link if you wanted to point to a specific property. With biolink, you have one link and can add more information to each and every post. Set it and forget it.

Even if you do not use BIOLink, you should have a link in the profile where visitors to your profile can find out more about you.

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