Ep 83: Conquer Social Media Without Spending a Dime (with Katie Lance)


Katie Lance is the CEO and cofounder of Katie Lance Consulting. A nationally renowned speaker on digital marketing topics, she’s responsible for creating Inman’s Ambassadors program, as well as her own Social Smart Academy.

Today on Stay Paid, Katie explains how you can use social media to build client relationships and transform your business—offering up specific content suggestions that will help you become more visible in your community.

Key Points:

  • It pays to be personally involved in your social media marketing.
  • By featuring other local businesses on your social media pages, you’ll open yourself up to new audiences.
  • You can get more followers organically by answering audience questions and effectively using hashtags.

Q: Introduce yourself to our audience.

I was always one of those people who loved the idea of marketing, and I went to school for it. Not to date myself, but I certainly didn’t go to school for social media. About a decade ago, I got into the real estate business, after being hired by a boutique brokerage in San Francisco to do their marketing. At the risk of sounding corny, I really fell in love with the industry. I loved the entrepreneurial spirit of agents and brokers. After that, I worked for Inman as Marketing Director and, later, a social media director. Then, I got the entrepreneurial bug and decided to go out on my own.

Q: What was the hardest part of starting your business?

The first difficult thing was making the decision to do it. Inman was a great company. But I began to wonder, “What’s the next thing?” I realized that maybe the next step was for me to go out on my own. I had responsibilities—I was married and had kids—so making that decision was tough.

And then the second thing was not knowing what to do once I’d made the decision. I didn’t have a fancy business plan. It was a lot of faking it until I made it. We learned as we went, and we continue to evolve to this day.

So often, we let our fears prevent us from doing things. We become our own worst enemies. There’s a great phrase I always like to say, which is on the walls at Facebook headquarters: “Done is better than perfect.”

Q: What does Katie Lance Consulting do for clients?

We focus on three things. The first is speaking. I speak at real estate conferences all over the country. The second thing is consulting on the corporate level. We’ll sit down with leadership teams and peel back the layers of what they’re doing—figure out what they’re doing right and where they can improve. The third is the Social Smart Academy, which aims to help agents and brokers get better at using social media.

Q: What are the biggest mistakes you see agents making, and what can they do to generate leads?

I think the biggest mistake I see is that a lot of people want to outsource their social media, or just post a certain amount of times and say “I did it.” The first part of social media is “social.” You’ve got to show up. If you don’t, it’s the equivalent of having a dinner party for your most important clients and having your assistants attend instead of you.

I think there’s definitely a place for agents and brokers to have help. For instance, we have a video editor. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having people help you with certain aspects of what you’re doing. But when it comes to the day-to-day interactions, you can’t underestimate the power of doing that. It’s one more tool in your tool chest for building those relationships.

We want those results right away, but progress takes time. It’s a numbers game. When you start to post and put out relevant, unique content on a regular basis, you’ll start to attract the people you want to work with, as opposed to chasing leads. It’s just such a different mind-set, because those people aren’t calling 12 different agents. They’ve been watching you on Facebook and already feel connected with you.

Another mistake agents make is being too vanilla. So many agents just post listings, open houses, and things that they’ve read. I rarely have a great idea of who these agents actually are.

Q: How does someone find their voice on social media?

What I recommend is taking a step back and doing an exercise. Ask yourself:

  • Why do you love what you do?
  • Who do you love to work with?

Those answers will influence your content in a big way. Once you figure out why you love what you do and who you want to work with, you can layer in your voice in everything you create.

When you first start doing this, you probably won’t be very good right away. I remember that my first videos probably weren’t that great. So often, people want to wait until everything’s perfect. But you only learn by doing.

See how a 38% referral rate can change your business.

Q: How do you incorporate your voice without scaring away clients?

If your opinion doesn’t match someone else’s, you’re doing it right. That’s the secret sauce. Here’s the thing: nobody wants to offend people. But, if you’re too careful, you become boring. When we like something on social media, it’s typically because it moves us or we agree with it in some way. Some of the most opinionated people might not be for me, but they have a whole audience of people who love them. Part of it is being comfortable in your own skin. If people don’t like it, that’s okay—there’s enough business for all of us.

Q: Who in real estate do you think is doing social media well?

One of my favorites is Sue “Pinky” Benson. She’s an agent in Naples, Florida. What I really like about her is how she was able to establish herself in a brand new market through video. She does a ton of Instagram Stories, Facebook Live, and other videos. She does a great job of leaning into who she is, and she’s attracted a ton of business because of it.

Q: What are some ideas for agents looking to change up their social media posts?

It’s a really good practice to brainstorm all the questions you get asked all the time. Those are great questions. Once you have your list, take those questions and plug those into your schedule. Maybe Tuesday is #TipTuesday, where you answer one of those questions. Take those ideas and then put them on your calendar. You can repurpose that content in multiple videos.

You could take a longer video, post it on Facebook and YouTube, and then post a shorter clip from it to Instagram Stories with a link to the full video. I’m a big fan of taking the same content and using it in multiple places.

Another one of the fastest ways to grow your presence is by featuring other people. You could do #FeatureFriday. Give a shout-out to a bakery who has the best coffee in town. Think about the companies you love in your community, then tag them and bring them into the conversation.

Q: What platforms do you encourage agents to be on the most?

I think, for a lot of people, Facebook is still the number one platform. I think Instagram is a close second and, for a lot of agents, it’s becoming the first. Instagram is a little quieter, and it’s a little more aspirational—which I think is perfect for agents. If you’re writing off Instagram, I’d encourage you to explore it at least a little bit. What’s the worst thing that could happen?

On Instagram Stories, use the poll feature. It doesn’t have to be related to real estate, but it will get people engaged so that they see the rest of your content. You can see who interacted and then engage with their content.

On Facebook, groups are a huge opportunity for agents. Facebook is investing a lot into groups. Agents can take advantage by starting local community groups. There’s also an opportunity to connect with people on an individual level through Messenger.

Q: How do you build a following organically on Instagram?

We’ve spent a lot of time building our following on Instagram over the last 12 months. Quality of content and posting consistently are both key to growing your following. I post at least once a day in our Instagram news feed. Use 20–30 hashtags per post. Do hashtag research to see which hashtags are most relevant to your audience. There are lots of different apps that will help you, but you can find them by searching for topics that are relevant to you. I like to try to pick hashtags that have at least a few hundred thousand posts.

I think what’s really effective is, rather than following people who you want to follow you, start searching for hashtags and engaging with other people who are using those hashtags. I’m not just clicking the like button. I’m leaving thoughtful comments. It’s been a great way to organically build our following over time.

Q: Do you use Instagram TV, and has it been effective?

Until recently, we would make Instagram TV videos but wouldn’t get much traction. Now, you can upload a video of up to 10 minutes in length, and you can share a preview to your Instagram account. It shows up in the news feed and is more likely to show up in the explore tab. As of right now, it’s one of the best ways to get traction on Instagram.

Q: Which routines have driven success for you?

I think habits and routines are so key. A lot of people will say they don’t have time for social media, but the problem is they haven’t made it into a routine or system yet. My routine has been staying committed to my work hours, as well as what I say yes or no to.

One of the reasons we started this business was to have more time with our family. I’ve set parameters for when we take our first call and when we end our day. We want to be in this for the long haul, so having those parameters is important.

You need to be able to set expectations. When you do, people respect you even more.

Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?

The first year we were in business, we didn’t even have a website. What I realize now is the value of not just having a website, but having a website that helps to build your email database. I wish we’d done that earlier than we did, because that’s a big part of what we do now.

So often, people put all their eggs into one basket. It’s so important for you to own your list. There’s a lot of value in building up an email database so that you can send them not just listing alerts, but also valuable information once or twice a month.

Action Items:

  • Write down the 20 questions you get asked the most. Create content (e.g. a blog or video) to answer every single question.

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