Social media tips from some of the Tri-State area’s top homesellers

Should the new maxim of salesmanship change from ABC — Always Be Closing — to ABP — Always Be Posting? Some brokers might say so. Top producers in the tri-state area are now more than ever using social media posts to Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn as a way to raise brand awareness and attract clients, while also promoting the luxurious lifestyle that goes along with their high-end listings.

Using an unscientific sampling of tri-state brokers who are active on several social media platforms, The Real Deal dug in to learn their tips and tricks for growing an online audience.

Opinions on how the platforms should be used are as diverse as the agents themselves, but there was some consensus among the brokers: Most agreed that Instagram produces the most engagement, through consistent posting and storytelling. Most agents insist that racking up scores of followers isn’t the goal, and they all believe that buying followers is a big no-no. Other strategic spending on social media, however, is acceptable. Several brokers said they pay to boost posts, which ensures they show up in the feeds of more users.

The bottom line is that connecting, engaging and consistently establishing relationships is key. Read on for a look inside their social media habits.

Elizabeth Shay
Houlihan Lawrence
Rye, NY
Follower stats
Facebook: N/A
Instagram: 723
LinkedIn: N/A

Using only Instagram for her social media posts, Shay employs her IG expertise to target younger clients. As a result, top agents in her office are asking how she uses the platform, she said. “I recently hosted an event at a new development, Greystone on Hudson, an enclave of 21 estates, where we wanted to bring in local agents,” she said. “I came up with the idea to host an Instagram training session.”

She brought in an expert to teach a 90-minute class. “The focus was how to properly use all features of Instagram, including posts, stories, Instagram Live and IGTV, and how it relates to growing your real estate business on Instagram,” Shay explained.  Examples included how to use the right hashtag or geotagging in order to be discovered by people who may not be your followers. Over 70 agents from all over Westchester County attended.

“I am only focusing on Instagram because that is where I see success and that’s where my sphere of influence is,” she said. “Not only that, I love Instagram, it comes naturally to me.” Shay posts stories to Instagram weekly, which often net 100 views. Her regular Friday Instagram story, “Friday Favorites,” typically showcases new listings, price reductions or a unique property. A recently popular “Friday Favorites” post featured Bruce Willis’ Bedford home, which was recently listed for sale.

Robin Kencel
Compass in Greenwich, CT
Follower Stats
Facebook (Business Only): 1,270
Instagram: 970
LinkedIn: 1,587

Broker Robin Kencel, a founding agent of Compass’ Greenwich office, was the co-listing agent on the recent much-touted $14.9 million sale of record executive Tommy Mottola’s Greenwich estate. 

She focuses on Instagram and LinkedIn. Her Instagram posts — which she prefers to Instagram stories, since they remain for longer than 24 hours — showcase her personal interests and design expertise to attract followers. 

“I’m looking for people who came to me because a posting caught their eye and they relate to what I do,” Kencel said.

LinkedIn is her go-to for posting market reports and entries from her blog. “I often receive calls from my connections with market questions,” said Kencel, adding that her social media efforts have heightened her presence in Greenwich.

“I am always surprised when people know who I am,” Kencel said. “For me, the first step to getting a client is having you come to their mind. That is what social media does for me.”

Diane Cookson
Prominent Properties
Sotheby’s International Realty, Saddle River, NJ
Follower Stats
Facebook: 1,300 (personal) and 400 (business)
Instagram: 800
LinkedIn: 765

For broker Diane Cookson, social mediA has led to several sales. Her strongest platform is her personal Facebook page. A live Facebook video of a modern farmhouse in Upper Saddle River led to several interested buyers contacting her, she said: “The list price was $1,549,000, and it sold way over that.”

She is a frequent poster because she believes prospective clients want to connect on a personal level before meeting. “I show snippets of my life, including my boys and design features I’m using to freshen my own home,” she explained.

Tasty treats have incidentally become key to her online branding. At Thanksgiving, Cookson gives clients apple pies. Last year, she asked her Facebook followers where she could find the best apple pies. With follower feedback, her kids did a taste test of locally made pies, and she posted that video on Facebook. The result: 8,000 views. The video garnered her several more followers, though she doesn’t have an exact count of how many.

Live videos on Facebook of Cookson’s listings sans addresses with the question “Where is this house?” also get attention and new clients.

“I was contacted by a woman who said, ‘My husband is on your page every day. We want to use you because we like what you deliver,’” Cookson said.

Sarah Minardi
Saunders & Associates
East Hampton, NY
Follower Stats 
Facebook: 1,700 (personal) and 300 (business)
Instagram: 1,300
LinkedIn: 2,000

As an East Hampton native, broker Sarah Minardi uses her social media posts to promote the lifestyle the enclave is known for. She recently posted a story on Instagram that featured a listing’s beach access with a walk from the street corner to the sand.

“I like to share interesting highlights from homes I sell. The walk detailed exactly how close the house was to the beach. It got a lot of interest,” said Minardi, who added that the story racked up over 1,300 views.

When she is doing an open house, she does boost the post about it on Facebook, which has increased the foot traffic, she said. Minardi also boosts her Facebook Live open house videos, which generally last five minutes. They feature a walk through the home highlighting the property’s assets, which has been effective in producing buyer leads, she said.

Minardi’s expense to boost these videos depends on the seller’s needs and her own branding. Each home she lists has its own “plan” for social media and the budget around it. Now using LinkedIn more frequently, she shares current market knowledge and recently started posting new listing videos there.

Bridget Elkin
Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty
Greenport, NY
Follower stats
Facebook: 1,440 (personal)
Instagram: 12,595
LinkedIn: 440

Broker Bridget Elkin recently sold a waterfront cottage for $1 million with both buyers and sellers coming from Instagram, which might be one reason why she focuses entirely on Instagram for social media marketing.

It’s all about “capturing a special aesthetic of a region so when sellers come across my Instagram account, they want their homes presented the way I present on Instagram,” she said.

Many posts and live stories are landscapes of the area with people in them. “I get out of the way and show how people live here, how they enjoy the beaches and even how they eat their oysters,” she said. Elkin does not post listings in a traditional way. “If I am marketing a waterfront estate, I chose to share the beach stairs instead of the house itself,” she said.

As a big fan of Instagram stories, she relies on drone photography to capture the lifestyle aesthetic that buyers are looking for. “I am a drone pilot, and I have a lot of fun with it. This seems to be part of the allure to my followers, that I am taking all the video footage and photography myself,” she added.

April Saxe
with her sisters May Burke and June Hatch (not pictured)
Houlihan Lawrence, Rye, NY
Follower stats
Facebook: 805
Instagram: 740
LinkedIn: about 500 per person

April Saxe has been selling real estate since 2001. Her younger sisters, May and June, work with her as a
team and introduced social media to her marketing plan about five years ago. And it’s a good thing they did, considering that a recent $2.15 million sale in Rye came directly from an Instagram post.

“The home had been on the market previously and didn’t sell. We got the listing, and the sellers invested $50,000 to take it in a new direction. We posted before and after photos, and our buyer came from that,” Burke explained. 

Though they use Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn, Saxe said Instagram “gives us the most presence and the biggest response.” One popular Instagram post, for example, called on followers to vote on whether they’d rather have an oversized laundry room or a mud room. (Most preferred the laundry room.) They recently began boosting their Instagram posts, spending about $15 weekly, and plan to raise the budget once they see what content people are reacting to with their posts. 

Maria Babaev
Douglas Elliman Real Estate
Roslyn, NY
Follower stats
Facebook: 4,078
Instagram: 5,100
LinkedIn: 1,144
Twitter: 2,920
YouTube: 2,505 subscribers

When it comes to social media, Maria Babaev utilizes Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. “For neighborhood videos, I like YouTube and Vimeo. I use professional filmmakers to shoot mini-movies for my tours, which I then post on YouTube,” she said.

Babaev sold a $7.5 million property after the buyer saw the YouTube video. She currently has a cumulative total of 521,875 video views.

Since YouTube is so successful for her, Babaev does real estate-related posts three to four times a week.

“Video/tours have been a key element to allow buyers to get an insider look at our properties from all over the globe,” Babaev said. While the price for these videos depends greatly on the size of the property, the general range is $3,000 to $5,000 per property. She added that her YouTube presence helps in her rankings in Google searches for Long Island’s North Shore.

Christopher Covert
Saunders & Associates
Bridgehampton, NY
Follower stats
Facebook: 1,389
Instagram: 15,000
LinkedIn: 2,000

Posting on a set schedule isn’t a part of broker Christopher Covert’s game plan. Instead, he prefers to be “reactive to what is going on and then deciding on the right outlet.” He likes Instagram and LinkedIn best since they both offer “different vibes.”  His Instagram posts are all about the luxury lifestyle experience of the Hamptons. LinkedIn is a strategically targeted process. “For me, it’s more networking with a buying population,” he said. Covert uses the Microsoft-owned platform to share data, metrics and his weekly video marketing report. “I see LinkedIn as good for investors, while Instagram is more of an emotional buyer looking for that special home.”

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