By: Matt Murphy, CMO of Chime Technologies
Scrolling through the average Instagram feed tends to yield picturesque shots of beaches at sunset, adorable puppies, and, of course, selfie after selfie. For many real estate pros, Instagram is unfamiliar territory which, at first blush, doesn’t seem suited for lead generation and relationship building. However, this is a mistake. What began as an image-centric way to connect with friends has grown into a digital marketing juggernaut that needs to be a part of every real estate pro’s arsenal. Instagram launched in 2010 and now has over 700 million active monthly users, sharing an average of 95 million photos and videos per day. While it does not have as many users as Twitter and Facebook, Instagram offers far more bang for its marketing buck: The rate of return for branding products and services on the platform is almost 60 times that of Facebook and it provides 120 percent more user interactions than Twitter. To put it bluntly, Instagram is the cash cow of digital marketing and lead generation platforms for real estate agents.
Like any social media platform, unlocking Instagram’s full potential is dependent on execution. It’s not enough to throw up some content and hope for the best. Achieving customer interactions isn’t simply a matter of posting the right photos or videos and getting clicks. The most important goals are identity and community management—you want to build a brand. Even a popular photo or video won’t generate enough customer interactions to qualify as a successful lead generation strategy.
When done right, the results can be huge. Fredrik Eklund (@fredrikeklundny) has 770,000 followers on Instagram. Granted, he stars on a Bravo TV show and lives a glamorous New York, celebrity-filled lifestyle (which translates to Instagram gold), but his huge following shows just how powerful Instagram can be.
So as you embark on your Instagram journey, let’s take a look at the 4 Instagram Rules of Engagement.
1. What Do You Want From Instagram?
Instagram is not a one-size- fits-all proposition. The best results come from being thoughtful, focused and strategic about who you are trying to reach and what you are trying to achieve. Any Instagram efforts should stem from your existing business model, starting with your target audience. It should also reflect the nature and culture of the platform. The most important questions to ask are:
A. What can Instagram do for me, and what can it do that other social media platforms cannot?
B. How well does Instagram integrate with the other social media platforms you are using to brand your product?
A common mistake that many real estate agents make is to use the same content and types of content across all social media platforms. However, what works on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest is not necessarily appropriate for Instagram, and vice versa. For example, Twitter is best used for staying on top of the news and tuning into what people are talking about. It’s an opportunity to engage in conversations and share information. Instagram, in contrast, is about engaging people with compelling images. It’s less about conveying facts or ideas and more about cultivating a mood or eliciting an emotion.
At the same time, content on Instagram should be consistent with content on your other social media sites. If you are reaching out to younger buyers or carving out a niche in a particular area, that should be clear across all platforms. Once you have thought through your goals and the types of content that will help you achieve it, the next step is to develop a content strategy.
2. What Do You Want Instagram to Say About You?
Instagram is all about building a brand through images and your content strategy should reflect that unique identity. The real estate pros with the best Instagram strategies are those with a strong point-of-view and character. Take the Bay Area’s “kenny_fast.” His persona (#fastagent) is all about moving fast, working hard and hustling, and his Instagram reflects that with images of sports cars, street art, and inspirational sayings like “Wake up. Kick ass. Repeat.” His profile and his posts are on-brand and consistent.
To follow this lead, get organized and lay out a roadmap before you start posting. Otherwise you may end up with a hodge podge of randomly timed images that do nothing to achieve your goals. A good starting point is to come up with themes. What do you want to showcase about your company and its products and services? This will help your brand feel cohesive. If you are targeting buyers interested in vacation homes, themes could include “”relaxation,” “luxury,” and “getaway.” Then think about the types of content that can support and develop that theme, and in what proportions you will post it. And the content strategy should include a content calendar. How you will schedule content releases to keep it fresh without losing the value of content by over inundating your community?
3. How Will You Give Your Community the Lead?
The value of community (user) generated content cannot be overemphasized when marketing on Instagram. There is not a more surefire way of cultivating a community than through user-generated content. It takes the guesswork out of marketing. Rather than posting content in the form of an experiment to see whether it resonates or not, use your customers’ responses as a baseline to determine what content you will post next. It seems simple, but if your followers respond more to one type of content then another, follow that lead.
There are a couple categories of content that have a track record of doing well, and responding to these trends is also a good way to show your community you are paying attention. For example, “behind-the-scenes” content tends to be popular, as made clear by the scores of real estate reality shows on TV. People like to see the process of buying and selling homes and the lifestyles of other people and communities, and that’s valuable information when creating an Instagram strategy. People also respond well to videos, so don’t be afraid to embrace short videos to get quick tours of properties.
4. Never Forget the Hashtag
Hashtags are what help people discover content and follow accounts they want to follow, so develop a hashtag strategy. Think carefully about what hashtags to put on each image. To extend the example from above, a shot of a backyard pool could have hashtags like #pool, #relax, #funinthesun. It’s also a good idea to hashtag people and companies that hashtag you. By rewarding them, they will reward you in return. And hashtag content that is similar to yours, but not the content of your competitors. Hashtags are an opportunity to expand your community and strengthen your brand, so use them accordingly.
Photo Maps are also a great way to index and organize photos for users. This geotagging feature lays your photos out on a Google map so people can see where they are taken. It’s a great way to make content discoverable and showcase your local knowledge.
Instagram is ultimately a simple concept: Sharing images. These four Instagram Rules of Engagement are a good starting point for crafting an Instagram strategy that will strengthen your identity. It’s also an opportunity to have fun. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and get creative, while, of course, staying on-brand.