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It seems like these days almost anyone can make money on Instagram. And it isn’t just influencers earning an income from sponsored ads or paid posts. Businesses, entrepreneurs and even real estate professionals can make money from the popular social media site too. And you don’t have to pose with a product to do it. Instead, you can create a presence, build a community and be a place on the internet people want to visit and stay awhile. Once you have a following, you’ll be able to convert many of them into referrals and leads.

It sounds easy enough, right? It’s not. In fact, Instagram is a full-time job for many influencers who spend hours taking the right pictures and videos, editing their content, posting regularly throughout the day, testing different posts and making sure each post is engaging their audience. Businesses have entire teams dedicated to building social media profiles and evolving them to fit Instagram’s ever-changing algorithms. In other words, it isn’t easy and it isn’t just luck.

While no one has figured out the exact science behind social media algorithms, many have seen success with a few strategies that took a lot of time, testing and reworking to refine. Here, we’ll show you how to use those strategies to set your profile up for success and start a following that can result in leads. But first, let’s start with the basics.

What Is Instagram?

Launched in 2010, Instagram is a photo and video-sharing app and social media site owned by Facebook, Inc. It allows users to upload videos and photos to share with the world. The photos and videos post to a user’s 24-hour story or to their profile, which features a tiled collection of their uploaded content. The app allows users to add captions, hashtags, mentions, filters, locations and more to their posts. It also allows users to like, share and comment on posts uploaded by other users.

Why Is Instagram So Effective?

Instagram has more than 1 billion monthly users – an insanely large audience pool to dive into – and businesses are taking advantage. Social media platforms like Instagram allow consumers and businesses to engage on a more personal level, and that’s something that’s been proven to be important to consumers. What makes this platform so special (and why 80% of Instagram users follow at least one business) is that it allows businesses to connect to consumers through creative and inspiring visuals that tell a story without feeling like ads even if they may be. You can do that with your business too. Here’s how.

Set Up Your Instagram Account

One important thing to do when setting up an Instagram account for your real estate brand is to switch it to a business account. That way, you’ll be able to create paid ads and view Instagram insights, which will tell you more about your audience. We’ll get into more of that later.

Choose Your Handle Wisely

Your Instagram handle is your username. It’s one of the ways people will search for you on Instagram, and it tells people who you are and what your Instagram account is about. Your handle shows up at the top of your profile, in the caption of your photos and at the top of your posts on your followers’ feeds.

When choosing your handle, make sure it’s easy to spell and isn’t so similar to another handle that it’ll be confused with another user. Your name or the name of your business is best, but if both are taken, consider using your name along with your middle initial, title, location or area of interest. For example, if @JohnSmith is taken, try @JohnJSmith, @JohnSmithRealty or @JohnSmithNYRealty.

Use A Professional Profile Photo

Just like your handle, your profile picture is one of the first things people will see when they visit your profile. It’s your first impression, so make it a good one with a high-quality, professional photo that best represents you as a realtor. If you’re camera-shy or you want to highlight your brand instead, use your business’s logo.

Craft Your Bio

Your Instagram bio needs to convey who you are and what you do in 150 characters or less. A good bio should do the following:

  • Introduce yourself and your business
  • Tell consumers how you or your services will benefit them
  • Provide a call to action
  • Provide a link to your site

The bio allows for hashtags and emojis, so consider using those to grab your visitor’s attention, emphasize the link to your website or stand out from other brands. You should use these sparingly and only if they speak to your business’s brand and personality.

Create Good Content

If you want people to keep coming back, you’ll want to supply them with content that’s worth following. Good content is shared by other users, which helps it reach even more people on Instagram. Good content is also engaging and visually appealing. Think of each post like an online listing. You want to have a good-quality photo that draws the client in, while an attention-grabbing caption or description keeps them there. Make sure your content speaks to your audience and, most importantly, adds variety to your feed.

“What I’ve learned from some of the most successful realtors is this: To have a good Instagram account, you need variety,” says Yawar Charlie, a Los Angeles-based celebrity realtor from the upcoming TV show “Listing Impossible” on CNBC. “They don’t hit anybody over the head with listing after listing or boring real estate facts.”

So, as a realtor, what can you post other than listings and facts? Remember this: When choosing a realtor, many clients aren’t just choosing someone that can find them a good deal on a home or sell their home fast and at a good price, they’re also choosing someone who will be easy to work with and who can offer expertise and advice during an exciting yet stressful time. Show them that’s you.

“A balanced page varies between life, interests and real estate. All the posts are very tasteful and give the viewer insight as to who that realtor is as a person,” says Charlie, who has more than 17,000 followers on Instagram.

There are several ways to accomplish this through the platform’s many features, including your profile feed, Instagram stories and Instagram TV.

Profile Feed Photos And Videos

Your profile feed shows the collection of photos and videos you post to your account. The posts are set up like a grid and expand when you click on them. When clicked, the post will show the caption, the number of likes received and any comments from other users. Your profile feed is highly visual and you’ll want to make it look as cohesive as possible. There are a number of ways to achieve this. Some examples include following a similar color scheme, using the same filter or creating a theme layout. 

Along with sticking to a cohesive aesthetic, you want to provide different types of posts on your feed.

“Balance your profile with good real estate photos and tips, as well as behind-the-scenes videos of you doing different activities,” says Charlie.  

Other post ideas include inspirational quotes, dream homes and professionally designed interiors, renovation projects, home buying tips, events and special awards or recognition you earned.

Whatever photos and videos you post, always include a caption. That way you’ll reach people who follow for the visual appeal and those who follow for the stories behind the post. When writing your captions, include the following:

  • The reason for the picture (your thoughts on a certain topic, a story, etc.)
  • Tips, facts or anything else that will benefit the reader
  • Keywords
  • Hashtags
  • Mentions
  • A question or call to action

Instagram Stories

Instagram stories allow you to publish content that’s separate from your feed and disappears after 24 hours. Instagram stories are a great place for photos and videos that don’t fit into your profile’s aesthetic because they aren’t displayed in your feed. They’re perfect for real-time marketing, breaking news and quick, immediate updates for your followers. They provide a more human, in-the-know side to your business.

If you have stories that are so good you want to keep them longer than 24 hours, you can save them to your highlights. These are featured just above the feed on your profile page. You can create as many highlight categories as you want and even design a cover photo that matches your brand for each category.

Aside from these benefits, Instagram stories allow you to be more creative and are just plain fun! When posting to your story, consider using a few of these enhancements:

  • Write text over the picture or video. Many people watch stories without their sound turned on.
  • Use the question sticker to host a mini Q and A.
  • Use the poll or quiz stickers to interact with your audience and learn more about them.
  • Provide a mention or add a hashtag or location.
  • Announce a new post and provide a call to action with a “click here” sticker.
  • Add music to your post.
  • Make it more interesting by adding gifs.
  • If you have more than 10,000 followers you can have readers swipe up to your webpage to learn more.

If someone is following, your story will show up on the top of their newsfeed. The stories are placed in order of the most recent one, so posting multiple times per day will help your story stay toward the front.

Instagram TV

Instagram TV (IGTV) allows you to post full-screen, vertical videos that can last up to 10 minutes. When you use IGTV, your Instagram account basically becomes a TV channel.

This is an excellent feature to host longer videos instead of using your story. Stories only allow you to post a 15-second video. So to post a 5-minute video to your stories, you’d have to make 20 posts within your story. Chances are your viewers will see that many posts in your story and move on without even watching.

Charlie provides a few great ideas for videos to post on IGTV. These include videos of you staging a house, doing an interview or providing a home tour.

Get Discovered

You don’t want to waste your time creating beautiful, engaging content that won’t be seen. To get more eyes on your pots, you want to make Instagram happy – it rewards good behavior after all. When you show Instagram you’re using all of its features, posting relevant content and engaging with other users, it’ll make your posts more visible on your followers’ feeds and include them on the coveted “Explore” feed, a place for people to discover new Instagram accounts based on their interests.

Instagram uses an algorithm to prioritize what your followers will see on their newsfeeds based on what it thinks the user wants to see. No one knows exactly how Instagram’s algorithm works, and even if they did, it’s constantly changing anyway. However, there are some things we know affect the algorithm: the quality of your content, the consistency of your posting, your frequent use of the app and the amount of engagement your posts get.

It can be especially hard to get noticed when you’re just starting out because Instagram is just getting to know you, your posts and your use of the platform, so stick with it. And don’t worry, the Instagram algorithm isn’t the only thing that can help you get discovered. Here are a few other ideas.

Use Hashtags Strategically

Hashtags are basically keywords for social media posts. They help your posts become more visible in a few ways:

  • They’re searchable.
  • People can follow specific hashtags.
  • They can trend.

You can make any word, phrase and emoji a hashtag simply by putting a pound sign (#) in front of it. You can use up to 30 hashtags, but the sweet spot seems to be around nine to 11 hashtags per post. To make your hashtags look less spammy, you should sprinkle one or two hashtags in your caption and put the rest a few lines below. You can also put them in as the first comment below the post. Be mindful of the types of hashtags you use, too.

“While #newlisting, #realestate or #sold may sound like great hashtags to use as a realtor, they may not be,” warns Lori Caralis, a social media manager and marketing consultant.

That’s because, according to Caralis, your post will get lost in the hundreds or thousands of other posts using the same popular, generic hashtags. They’ll also attract followers from around the globe instead of your local area. And, as Caralis also says, “As a realtor, local followers are much more valuable.”

“Instead, try location-based hashtags that have under 500k posts,” she suggests. “For example, #bostonrealestate, #bostonrealtor, #bostonhomes – even just location-based hashtags like #BostonMA and #Beantown work well to attract local followers.”

When using hashtags, try to use a mix of small, medium and large hashtags. Small ones are more niche while large ones are used by a larger population. You can also create your own hashtag for your business or brand but be aware that people won’t be searching for that until it becomes more common.

Use The Geotag Feature

The geotag feature allows you to add location information to your Instagram post via the GPS in your phone. This feature is beneficial for a few reasons. For one, posts that have a tagged location have 79% more engagement according to Sprout Social. Geotagging is especially useful for realtors because they can reach people within their area of business. Anyone looking for content in your tagged area is more likely to find your post.

Promote Your Profile

Don’t just rely on Instagram to get people to your profile. Take matters into your own hands by promoting your account off the social media platform, too. Link to your profile on your website, put your handle on your business card and flyers and post a link on your other social media sites. Start a base following by inviting your friends, family, coworkers and past clients to follow you.

Instagram has a great feature called the nametag, which creates a unique nametag with your Instagram handle that you can print out and include on your business products. People can scan your nametag with their Instagram camera to instantly follow you. To create your nametag, log into your account, go to settings and select the nametag option.

Consider Paid Advertising

In social media, you have to pay to play. While all these tips will help you gain followers and get leads organically, Instagram ads can help you reach even more people – and ones that may be specifically interested in real estate or buying or selling a home.

“Paid, targeted ads will give you the best ROI on your outreach efforts,” says Sharlys Leszczuk, a social media strategist at New York-based PR digital marketing agency Antenna. “The wonderful thing about social media advertising is that you only pay for the results you garner. That means that if you set a $100 budget for a particular campaign but your content isn’t resonating with your audience and you only get a handful of likes/engagements, you’ll only end up paying for those interactions.”

So how much can you expect that to run?

“On average, each engagement in residential real estate typically works out to be $0.02 – $0.30 each, but the quality of the content and your targeting parameters can change this drastically. Lower quality content and targeting will result in a higher cost per engagement,” says Leszczuk, who works on the company’s real estate-specialized team.

Get More Followers, Engagement And Leads

You can’t build a following just on the content you create and the way you promote your site. It isn’t all about what you’re posting; it’s also about what you’re doing on the platform.

Be Consistent

People like working with reliable businesses, so show just how reliable you are by being consistent with your posting. That doesn’t mean you have to post every day or at the same time, but you should consistently post the same number of posts per week and on the same days. While there may be peak times or days to post, it’s more important that you pick a time, day and quantity that you’re able to keep up with.

“Instagram’s algorithm rewards consistent posting,” says Caralis. “Whether that’s three times a day or three times a week, it doesn’t matter. Just don’t post three times a day this week and three times total next week. You will see a drop in engagement and followers when you go back and forth in your number of postings. Keep it a realistic number that you can do every week.”

Build A Community

“Social media is social,” says Caralis. That may seem like a no brainer, but there are a number of businesses that don’t engage with their clients. Being social means replying to comments, acknowledging your followers, engaging in discussion and interacting with other users.

When it comes to engaging, be both responsive and proactive. Encourage your followers to ask you questions. Better yet, ask them a question or invite them to share their opinion, advice or story. Start a conversation. Bring up topics that are happening around the community you’re serving and ask them how they feel about it.

Don’t just engage with people on your profile either. Search location-specific hashtags and follow accounts of local government, news, nonprofits and other businesses. Comment on and like their posts, tag them in your posts and share their content. This can help show that you’re involved in the community, a supporter of local businesses and a local expert. Not only that, but these other businesses may return the favor and share your content to their audience.

Tell People What To Do

Sometimes people won’t do a thing until you ask them to, so make sure you provide a call to action in your post or story. Here are a few examples:

  • Check out the link in my bio to learn more.
  • Do you prefer [this] or [that]? Tell me in the comments below.
  • What do you think of this bright blue door? Let me know your opinion below.
  • Share your favorite memory of your first home.
  • Go check out my story to get the details.
  • DM me to get more information.
  • Tag a friend who would love this home!

Provide An Incentive

People like being rewarded, so why not create an incentive for visiting your site?

“Create a lead magnet and have the link to it in your Instagram bio,” suggests Caralis. “It can be a home buying checklist, a guide on how to prepare your home for sale or anything that will attract your ideal client. Have it linked to your email system so people give you their email address in exchange for the download. Now you can nurture that lead through email marketing campaigns.”

Track Your Success

“Social media is constantly evolving and requires close monitoring to optimize performance,” says Leszczuk. “Keeping an eye on analytics and checking in on your post performance on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis to see what your audience is engaging with – and adapting your content strategy based on these insights – is the foolproof way to get the most value out of your Instagram profile.”

To view all of this data and more, go to your insights page – available only on a business profile. From there, you can see your weekly interactions, reach and impressions. You’ll also be able to view the performance metrics of your posts, stories and promotions as well as learn more about your audience including gender, age range, popular locations and times they’re most active on Instagram.

Quick Do’s And Don’ts Of Instagram

  • Do optimize your posts by using keywords and the alt text feature for photos.
  • Do plan out the posts going on your feed ahead of time.
  • Do give credit by tagging other users and companies when applicable.
  • Do develop your brand and honor it.
  • Do provide value to your followers.
  • Don’t buy followers. It’s morally wrong and Instagram will know what you’re doing.
  • Don’t disappear. Let your followers know when you’ll be offline for a specific amount of time.
  • Don’t take comments or unfollows personally.
  • Don’t use inside jokes or anything else that may exclude followers.
  • Don’t focus on follower count. Having a small following that’s highly engaged is more valuable than a huge following with no engagement.
  • Don’t give up. This will take time and hard work.
  • Don’t inundate your followers with tons of posts every day.
  • Don’t follow more people than are following you.

Authenticity

“The most important factor in all of this is that you have to be your authentic self in your posts,” says Charlie.

While you aren’t using your business profile to troll for dates (at least you shouldn’t be), you should think of it like a dating profile. You don’t want to appear one way online and then be the complete opposite when you meet with clients who found you on Instagram. That’s one of the fastest ways to lose a lead you worked so hard to get. Besides that, it’s also exhausting pretending to be someone you’re not. Embrace who you are and portray that on your account. You won’t have to work as hard and you’ll get clients who want to interact and work with the fabulous agent and person you are. 

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