The Dos and Don’ts of Instagram for Real Estate
By Matthew Bushery
About Inbound Marketing
As real estate Facebook statistics have shown, you’re far more likely to generate real estate leads from the platform than just about any other social media channel. That doesn’t mean other social networks aren’t useful for real estate social media marketing, however — and that includes the more visual-heavy mediums, like Instagram.
With Instagram for real estate, you can share unique photos and videos featuring listings, record testimonial and interview videos, and share homeowner tips all in one aesthetically pleasing, fun-to-use channel (and a very popular and constantly growing one, at that).
Learn how to use Instagram for business below, including what proactive tasks to take on with your account and what pitfalls to avoid — all of which can help bolster your overall Instagram real estate marketing strategy.
DO: Post photos and videos that you actually recorded.
Sounds reasonable, right? The main reasons your audience follows you is to keep tabs on the newest and best listings you represent, hear your thoughts on local market conditions, and see what your clients and colleagues have to say about your business. That means posting content that’s actually photographed and recorded by you is essential.
DON’T: Use and alter stock photos for your account.
Some real estate agents think they can “game” Instagram, so to speak, as they assume add text to stock photos and use them to promote their businesses. Wrong.
Original, appealing real estate photography detailing your actual listings is the only way to get users to become followers and actually check out your Instagram real estate marketing. You already spend a great deal of time at your listings anyway, so just remember to snap a few shots here and there to stockpile visual marketing collateral for the homes.
DO: Create rough mini-scripts for short listing videos.
Know exactly what you want to say about your real estate listings in your Instagram videos before you hit record.
Yes, spontaneity with your videos can help you come off more natural, but in the limited amount of time you have with these recordings (3 to 15 seconds), it’s vital to make the most of them.
Here’s one idea: Create a bullet-point list of a few key aspects of your listing that you want to highlight. Then, shoot few-second clips of each and add some commentary.
Save the off-the-cuff videos for times when you’re attending a real estate conference or offering quick tips or updates to your audience.
DO: Find distinct uses for the Hyperlapse feature.
Hyperlapse was unveiled to Instagrammers in 2014. It allows users to create quick, time-lapse videos that speed up what you record. There aren’t many ways this tool can help your Instagram real estate marketing, but try to think of unique ways to employ it on occasion in your social media for real estate strategy.
A couple ways you could use the inventive feature: Show off a development where one of your listings resides or highlight fun amenities around the community, like parks, beaches, shops, and restaurants.
It’s a nifty tool when used for the right purpose, so play around with it to see what amusing ways you can use it to appeal to buyers and sellers.
DO: Get past clients to participate in testimonial videos.
Just as you can and should with your real estate YouTube channel, get satisfied clients to appear in testimonial videos.
Fifteen seconds is definitely a limited amount of time to get comprehensive footage of a client review. However, a series of videos showing off your happy clients in their new homes and how their lives have changed since making their big purchase along with a short testimonial can be effective. That way, you have not only a resounding approval for your services, but also evidence of what buyers can achieve by working with you: ending up in a home they really wanted and (presumably) for a great price.
DON’T: Request or buy followers or likes for your account.
Nothing says “desperate” quite like asking random people (or even people you know) to follow you on social media. The only thing worse would be to buy followers, but, in case you weren’t already aware, those aren’t worth your time or money.
Similarly, don’t try to get users to like your content. Though seeing one of your posts has a couple dozen likes may spark interest among some non-followers, it’s simply not a worthwhile pursuit.
The whole point of a medium like Instagram is to increase brand awareness — and for free. Spend your hard-earned money on other real estate marketing tactics, like getting a responsive real estate website, rather than getting people you’ll never sell homes to or represent in deals to become evangelists for your business on social media.
DON’T: Edit listing photos to the point they become unrecognizable.
Editing photos in general for your real estate marketing purposes is generally a big no-no. Sure, the occasional touch-up to fix poor lighting or enhance the contrast or brightness of a listing photo won’t lead to any Realtor ethics violations, but alterations that change images entirely won’t help your real estate marketing efforts.
Even using various filters for your listings can lead to poor photo quality. Whichever filter you decide to use (if any), just make sure it shows your homes for sale in a quality light, meaning they’re easily discernible.
DO: Automatically share most posts to Facebook and Twitter too.
In your account settings, you can set it up so that every time you post a photo or video to your real estate Instagram account, it also appears on Facebook and Twitter.
While not every picture or recording may be one you want to share across your social networks, you can always delete ones on specific social media channels on which you don’t want them to appear.
DO: Show off your personal side from time to time.
Who would you rather hire as your real estate agent: Someone who speaks in monotone and barely/rarely smiles and shows off their personality, or someone who’s bubbly, knows how to relate to people, and is seemingly enjoyable to speak with? It’s okay to show off your fun side on occasion via your Instagram account — the trick is moderation and knowing when to post such content.
For instance, taking pictures of your agency’s annual summer BBQ or a selfie with old clients can do wonders for your image. Just be sure the majority of your photos and videos posted to Instagram relate to your day-to-day (i.e. exhibiting listings, relaying market updates, etc.).
DON’T: Solely post pics and videos of your life outside of real estate.
The potential negative side of over-posting your day-to-day outside of work is your account loses focus and, in turn, followers. Remember that your account should humanize you to your audience, but that your photos and videos should nearly entirely pertain to your real estate business.
If you think balancing your personal and business posts could become problematic, simply set up two Instagram accounts: one for your friends and family, the other strictly for your real estate marketing. Add a privacy setting to your personal profile so only your connections can see your photos and videos.
DO: Take advantage of popular, relevant hashtags.
The key to getting found on practically every big social network these days (except for LinkedIn, really) is to use hashtags.
Just as you research long-tail keywords that pertain to your specific real estate market (e.g. “two-floor condos in downtown Seattle”), identify relevant hashtags for your local market. Search several combinations featuring your town or city name and common real estate terms — like “homes for sale,” “listings,” and “housing market” — to see which are used most often by Instagram users. Then, start using them in your posts.
Consistently research new hashtags over time. More likely than not, you’ll gradually discover new ones you’ve yet to utilize.
DON’T: Use a million hashtags or inapplicable ones.
The main negative that can arise from hashtag use is high volume. Tweets, status updates, and other social media posts that feature several hashtags often tend to come across as spammy. Additionally, they take the focus away from the message of the posts.
For instance, if you share a link to one of your real estate blog posts and then use five hashtags, your blog link won’t stand out and, thus, it may not get as many clicks as it would’ve sans the hashtags.
Some research, like this post from QA engineer Max Woolf and this data from TrackMaven, show the more hashtags you use, the better the engagement tends to be. But there’s a price you pay for overdoing it with hashtags: You’ll lose those you actually want following your account and instead gain random users following your account by going hashtag-crazy.
Be thoughtful with your hashtag use. Take advantage of ones you know will help get your real estate Instagram photos and videos in front of the right audience and ditch the ones that only generate random followers and likes.
DO: Respond to post comments and reply to followers’ posts.
This may not happen as often as you’d like (at least early on with your Instagram account), but reply to comments made about your photos and videos. If someone enjoyed a shot you took, say thanks. If a user asks a question about a listing, answer it either on Instagram or by email or phone. Small touches can make a difference with top- and middle-of-the-funnel leads — that is, those who are simply perusing listings and gauging their interest in buying homes.
Likewise, take some time to respond to others’ posts on the platform. For instance, if you notice someone liking a lot of your photos and videos, check out their page and find a post or two to like as well and perhaps even comment on. Instagram is a great conversation-starter if used properly, so keep tabs on followers you can interact with.
It’s also wise to comment on local business Instagram accounts to learn more about what’s going on in your community and gain new connections. Who knows? Your next big deal (or referral for one) could come from a local entrepreneur.
DON’T: Comment on every post your followers publish.
Social media engagement has shown to improve brand relations with their customers in several industries — real estate included. But there’s a big difference between tagging the occasional lead in a listing post that might interest them and chiming in on all of your followers posts (and even those of non-followers). Your online reputation extends from your real estate website to what pages populate in search results when your name is entered to (you guessed it) your social media presence.
Comment and tag judiciously on Instagram to avoid becoming an annoyance to your followers. If you want to engage with certain users to gauge their potential as possible leads, then try to find their email online to start a private conversation as opposed to request a talk via their Instagram posts. You’ll save them from spam-like comments and yourself from tarnishing your brand (and personal) reputation.
DON’T: Publish images with text, like quotes or blog post copy.
Instagram users love the platform for its visual nature. Use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn to offer up links to blog posts, infographics, and other content, and keep Instagram as your photo- and video-publishing tool — meaning no copy overlay on images. The only text that’s beneficial to feature in the occasional post is the address of one of your listings and perhaps a couple specs for the property, like sales price and home type. Leave the inspirational quote images for your personal account.
DON’T: Share posts too frequently or infrequently.
The old Goldilocks method: You have to find the right rate at which to post photos and videos on Instagram. Not too sparingly, but not too often — a solid middle ground.
Though a Union Metrics report shows posting a lot on Instagram doesn’t deter engagement levels, you could flood your followers’ Instagram feeds by publishing too often and, in turn, annoy your audience. On the flip side, post too seldom and your audience will forget you even exist and, in turn, the chances you’ll grow your following become slim.
To ensure you post to your Instagram account at relatively even intervals — for instance, twice daily: once in the morning, once in the afternoon — use Instagram automation tools like Latergramme or ScheduGram. That way, you’ll have content that can publish to your account a week, two weeks, or even a month in advance. This doesn’t mean you can’t (or shouldn’t) manually post photos or videos daily. It just means you have a safety net, of sorts, that lessens the workload needed to keep your Instagramming fresh.
And when it comes to the right time of day to post, well … there really isn’t one. Take these stats discovered by competitive intelligence service TrackMaven, for instance, which show there isn’t one ideal time or day to get the most traction with your Instagram real estate account:
DO: Use Instagram Direct to share personalized posts with specific people.
For most brands and professionals, using Instagram for business marketing means sharing all of your content publicly. However, some personalization can do your real estate social media marketing some good. Case in point: Instagram Direct is a feature that allows you to share photos and videos with a specified group of users.
So if there’s a listing you think only a handful of leads you follow on the site should know about, for instance, you can only show images and recordings of said property to them. The bonus benefit of this feature is you can create personal messages with those who you share your posts with (e.g. “This listing really seems like one that fits your wants and needs.”).
DON’T: Give up on your account! It takes time to generate an audience.
As with any real estate social media marketing plan, it takes some time to build an audience on Instagram. Don’t fret if you fail to reach your desired number of followers after a month, two months, six months, and longer. Since Instagram is far from a time-sucking social platform — it takes mere seconds to open the app, take a photo or video, and post it — it’s certainly worth using.
Having said that, if you’re not generating any followers or likes, switch up your posting strategy. For example, start taking more photos and videos of your listings and less personal shots and recordings. Or, if that plan fails, turn to more clients for testimonials and local community members for brief interview clips.
In time, you’ll find the types of posts, publication frequency, and hashtags that can help you grow your following.
DO: Analyze the performance of your Instagram real estate marketing.
You won’t be able to identify any issues or successes using Instagram for real estate if you don’t measure your account’s analytics. Services like Simply Measured, Iconosquare, and Curalate offer in-depth analytics features for Instagram, including ones that help you track engagement levels and follower growth and even offer insights as to how to better your account.
Try out different free options to see if any provide the metric monitoring you need to improve your Instagram presence and even consider paid options if you don’t find any that help you track everything you want.
Watch our webinar with Rebekah Radice to get expert real estate social media marketing tips.
Published on January 21, 2015
Written by Matthew Bushery
I'm the Sr. Content Creator for Placester, where I educate real estate professionals about modern marketing and, in turn, help agents and brokers make the most of their online presence, earn more traffic, and generate more leads and business.