On July 23, Elon Musk announced that the popular social media site Twitter — which he purchased for $44 billion in October 2022 — was being rebranded as X. This change comes after layoffs and the company struggling to attract advertisers. While X’s future is uncertain, the staying power of social media is undeniable and can serve an important business function. Commercial real estate brokers, for example, are using social media to make connections and close deals.
“At CBRE, we take our brokers through something called social seller training,” explains Kimberley Hoidal, senior corporate communications specialist at CBRE. “It’s a strategy for people to engage in content, whether they’re sharing content that the company created or a Wall Street Journal article and providing their own comments.”
Establishing oneself as a thought leader on sites such as LinkedIn, Hoidal continues, builds trust and expertise that can attract people who are looking for a broker. That requires not only posting content but interacting with the posts of others.
“We always train people to not just set up a profile and leave it,” she says. “You’ve got to find some time to engage, whether that’s sharing content or liking and commenting on people’s posts.”
Taking anywhere from five to 15 minutes a day to interact with relevant content can help a broker stay in tune with what’s happening in the industry and expand their network.
“I think [a social media presence] is required at this point,” Hoidal says. “If you’re not on it, you’re missing out on a business development opportunity.”
Here are some best practices and pitfalls from four brokers regarding social media strategy.
Jennifer Villalobos, broker with Team Anderson-Strittmatter at Cushman & Wakefield
Prior to her recent move to Cushman & Wakefield, Villalobos spearheaded marketing efforts for Sharp Construction, which was a young company when she came onboard. Social media was an important part of her strategy to increase visibility for the company beyond paid advertising. During her stewardship, Sharp Construction’s LinkedIn following grew from approximately 300 to 3,500.
“I’ve moved over to the broker side, but I’m going to capitalize on everything that I’ve learned,” she continues. “Now, more than ever, I have to market myself and hopefully create some leads.”
Consistency is a top priority for Villalobos, and she set a goal to create at least two relevant posts per week. Having a schedule creates slow but steady progress, which is important for building a following.
“That kept us active,” she says. “When I was looking at the statistics, it was great to see a smaller firm such as Sharp Construction keep up with these larger companies with marketing departments.”
To differentiate the content she was posting, one post each week would be dedicated to something informational, whether that was about a specific project the company was working on or an interesting statistic to create conversation around. The second post would highlight community involvement in organizations such as NAIOP or Girl Scouts to show how the company is building relationships and giving back. Creating content categories can help generate post concepts, which is especially helpful when having trouble coming up with ideas.
As Villalobos settles into being a broker, she is already setting her eyes on new social media goals.
“I’ve done a good job as being known as this business development marketing person, but now I want to be known for who I am as a commercial real estate broker,” she says. “I’m honing in on what my focus is going to be: creating more leads, nurturing new relationships and showcasing this new expertise that I’m building up.”
TAKEAWAY TIP: Consistency is key
Mark Cassell, partner at LevRose Commercial Real Estate
After entering the industry in 2015, Cassell noticed that there weren’t many people posting about commercial real estate on social media. He was the first in his firm to pursue a social media strategy, and at first, some of his colleagues seemed perplexed by it — but no longer.
“The business is slow to adapt, and taking on new technology is painful sometimes,” Cassell explains. “I was fine with being a guinea pig and trying some things out to see what works and what doesn’t.”
One of those experiments was creating videos about the market and showcasing properties. Cassell found that these videos helped establish his own creditability and added another layer of information for potential tenants beyond typical brochures and listings.
“After we posted a few videos, people would come up to me at networking events and say, ‘Hey, saw that video, it was awesome,’” he recalls. “That was completely unexpected. I thought no one was watching, but we were consistently getting 1,000 views on stuff, and it’s not like the commercial real estate community is huge.”
Making the process enjoyable, Cassell continues, yields the best results.
“Our team does a lot of social media. They love doing it because they’re Millennials like me or Gen Z, so they’re familiar with the tech and are having fun,” he says. “That’s the key. There’s a lot of boring social media I see about commercial real estate, but our team has a great time doing reels or just making creative posts to stand out.”
TAKEAWAY TIP: Be creative and have fun
Lauren Lovell, associate with CBRE’s advisory and transaction services, investor leasing
For Lovell, her social media strategy for commercial real estate focuses on three platforms: LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. The first two, she says, are focused more on generating business, whereas the latter is more used as a space for collaborating on design ideas with a business owner or a tenant during renovations.
“Instagram and LinkedIn have been super powerful for me both in building my brand and getting clients. I’ve closed deals from Instagram, and I was recruited to CBRE because of my Instagram,” Lovell explains. “LinkedIn is much more contact focused, text heavy [and about] trying to position yourself as a thought leader or market expert, whereas Instagram is purely visual.”
Because of the differences between the platforms, Lovell says she never posts the exact same thing to both platforms. An Instagram post will have far less text and needs to be visually appealing, but LinkedIn is better for longer posts about market trends and tagging other people and companies for more exposure.
“To be successful in social media,” she says, “you need to make sure that you’re not just putting out a one-size-fits-all approach, and your content is tailored toward which platform you’re on, who your audience is and what you’re trying to accomplish.”
Even though social media is a powerful tool, Lovell says spending too much time on it starts to give diminishing returns. Rather than keeping a strict content calendar, she constantly is looking out for ideas and photos that she files away in a spread sheet. That way she has a “savings account” of content to pull from rather than sitting down on a specific day and forcing herself to make a post.
“I’ve had people ask, ‘Do you spend all night working on this?’ and I tell them no. I probably spend one hour a week editing photos or graphics, writing out content or browsing the internet for ideas,” Lovell says. “If it’s much more work than that, I’m not sure it’s the best use of time.”
TAKEAWAY TIP: Tailor content to the platform
Kristina Cutillo, senior associate at Cushman & Wakefield
When Cutillo started at Cushman & Wakefield about three and a half years ago, she had no brokerage experience and knew nothing about commercial real estate. She wanted to add value right away and saw that most people in the firm were using traditional prospecting methods — drip campaigns, putting listings on third-party real estate platforms, cold calling and door knocking.
“I wanted to create a more comprehensive marketing plan that still incorporated the traditional approach, but have it go hand-in-hand with a more modern-day approach. I figured that if I make a method that gets to the decision makers right away, that’d be the most effective way to lease the building.”
LinkedIn and Instagram are the two platforms Cutillo focuses on and where she has built different audiences. She has multiple Instagram accounts that cater to specific user types — such as medical — to avoid blind marketing.
“I’ll post on one of my Instagram accounts, and then tag all my other accounts, my business partner Scott Boardman and anyone involved with the building,” she says. “Then I’ll have everyone share that post, so you have multiple spheres of influence getting their eyeballs on it.”
Taking some time to understand each platform’s built-in analytics helps identify what content works best, Cutillo continues. This setting allows her to see how many people viewed a post, if they shared it and how long they looked at it.
“If you don’t have any sort of way of tracking what is working for the audience, then there’s really no return,” she says. “I’m also able to screenshot [those analytics] and include them in our leasing activity reports to show landlords how we’re marketing the building. It’s about getting creative in a tough marketplace, getting exposure and utilizing what’s at your fingertips.”
TAKEAWAY TIP: Utilize free analytics