Pre-COVID, social media allowed real estate agents to showcase their listings to a wide audience that appreciated beautiful properties and, on occasion, resulted in a lead. Now, we are seeing more qualified buyers contact us regarding listings they have seen on Instagram and Facebook, and they are buying multimillion-dollar properties sight unseen. (I recently sold a $35 million estate to a celebrity who first saw it on our Instagram.) Instagram especially has become a popular way for people to search for homes for sale and even choose an agent to work with based on the insight into our personal lives that social media provides. While the impact of social media on the real estate industry was becoming more apparent, COVID-19 has sped up the process and there is no turning back. In order to be successful in a competitive industry, where being top-of-mind is paramount, the 21st-century real estate agent must quickly adapt since social media sites are one of the best sales tools and marketing platforms at their disposal.
I created my Instagram page, @Mumansky18, in April 2012, about six months after the launch of The Agency. My first posts were of my travels, my family and some highlights from The Agency as we opened offices and gathered for weekly sales meetings in Beverly Hills. I also started to post some images I took on my phone of my listings. I didn’t get into too many details about the property, and I didn’t get many likes or comments at first. Over the next few years, my Instagram began to further blend the personal and professional, and my following grew significantly. Of course, being on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles played a part in the growth of my followers, but I noticed the increase in popularity of posts when I shared professional images of listings and a well-written description of the home. People wanted to know more about these properties and who would live behind the gates of some of these most exclusive zip codes in the country. It was aspirational at first, but then came the leads.
At the same time, our company Instagram account, @TheAgencyRe, was growing too. We launched the account in January 2012 with our first post being a nighttime shot of a pool from one of our listings. We didn’t have the price, the agent or any details in the caption; it received 84 likes and four comments. In June 2017, we celebrated 100,000 followers for @TheAgencyRe, and today, we have 305,000 followers, making us one of the most followed residential real estate accounts in the world. I now have 412,000 followers on my personal account, and yes, we get business directly from people inquiring about posts—now, more than ever, since people are not heading out to open houses as they once did and are able to tour digitally through our accounts. The following didn’t happen overnight, and we had to have a strategic approach to content creation. We now have an in-house team that curates the content for our Agency Instagram, interacts with our followers and engages with other accounts.
Some agents recognized the importance of social media early on and set about to curate their pages accordingly. As I mentioned above, starring on television shows and subsequent media exposure helps to grow a social media following and brand. You have to keep sharing content that your audience wants to see—and that is an inside look at incredible properties, behind the scenes of the business and who you are personally.
David Parnes and James Harris are principals at The Agency, stars on Bravo’s hit show, Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles, and ranked as the third-highest-producing small team in the country. They have grown their following and become influencers on their business account, @BondStPartners with over 100,000 followers, and their individual accounts @DavidBondSt and @JamesBondSt both have nearly 150,000 followers each. Both before and during COVID-19, they have kept up with the latest trends on Instagram and taken full advantage of all the features it offers, including Instagram Live. Unable to hold open houses, the team conducted progressive open house tours on Instagram Live, taking their followers from home to home. This practice caught the attention of the media and made headlines. And they invited exciting guests on for Live sessions to talk about the market, trends and much more. One such guest—Sam Palmer—once resided in the $120 million Holmby Hills mansion the duo sold last year. Keeping their audience updated, entertained and engaged is the winning formula. In addition, James and David know that giving their followers a glimpse into their personal lives helps connect with their followers and, in turn, generates new business.
Mixing personal with professional on social media is a great way for current and future clients to get to know the agent on a more personal level. The buying and selling of real estate is one of the most emotional and stressful times in a person’s life, and so you need the person guiding you through the transaction to be a like-minded individual and someone you genuinely connect with on a personal level. When people ask me what my advice is for blending personal and professional online, I tell them to just be themselves but remain mindful that you are representing your company in the process. The most authentic narrative will be the most appealing. In my time away from the office, I love to spend time with my family and friends, so you will see that most of my personal posts are us doing just that. But when it comes to posting listings, I make sure that I have all the relevant information included in the caption. People have a lot of content coming at them at all times, and you only get one chance to make a first impression.
We also have agents who work with us but are not on television who have become top social media influencers in our field, including Santiago Arana (@SantiagoArana, 23,300), Farrah Brittany (@FarrahBritt, 355,000), Peter and Paige Torkan (@PeterandPage, 136,000) and Ben Belack (@BenBelack, 12,700). They all have created a formula that keeps followers engaged and entertained while further promoting their listings.
Estates Agent Trevor Zien (@TrevZee, 4,203) recently posted a story of a $3 to $4 million home he was previewing in West Hollywood on Instagram. One of his followers—who had started following Zien for his real estate and lifestyle content—reached out to inquire about the price and more details. The Instagram user mentioned that he had just started to look at homes and the exchange turned into a meeting. Now, Zien is representing him as they look for properties in the $3 million range.
In Toronto, managing director of The Agency Development Group, Hooman Aliary, will shortly close on a house for $3.3 million. The buyer first saw the home on his Instagram page, came to view it and bought it shortly thereafter.
Building a brand is crucial in all industries. In the real estate world, as more buyers are searching for homes digitally, having a cohesive brand is essential, but creating a strong social media following is a must to gain international exposure on listings from current and prospective clients around the world.