You’d better be doing both if you want to heat up your business through this image-based social media channel.

Key takeaways:

  • A combination of passive and active engagement is key to generating business from Instagram.
  • The passive approach—building your content, your brand, and your consistency over time—is the foundation.
  • The active approach combines those passive efforts with authentic conversations. Apply the 45/20 rule, and watch your business grow.

Why are so many real estate professionals still saying, “I haven’t gotten any business from my Instagram page”?

The simple answer is that they are treating the platform as a passive marketing strategy only. This approach isn’t the most effective use of the platform for business purposes.

The Passive Approach: A Foundation

What does passive prospecting on Instagram entail, and how does it differ from the active approach? Passive prospecting is a reactive way to generate leads. It says, “Let me build my brand, and customers will come.”

Effective passive prospecting requires time upfront but can become more of a turnkey process over time. It includes:

  • Ensuring consistent branding through the assets, color scheme, and tone of your posts
  • Optimizing your bio with the right links and by ensuring it includes “real estate” or “REALTOR®” (see proper uses of REALTOR® in a domain or username beginning on page 10 of the NAR Membership Marks Manual).
  • Consistently posting content on your grid and regularly showing up in Instagram Stories
  • Using hashtags that are relevant to people searching for real estate in your market.

Passive prospecting is an important piece to the Instagram puzzle. It’s an approach that compounds in value over time. Making consistent choices to show up daily, with an emphasis on value for your ideal client—not on yourself—will help you build brand awareness, establish credibility in your space, and get people talking about you. The goal is to make your brand discoverable.

The downside of passive prospecting is that you leave the decision entirely up to others—waiting for them to come to you. While you can measure analytics such as the number of likes, comments, or views on your posts, you lack control over how potential prospects respond past that point. Because it’s reactive in nature, it can leave you feeling frustrated at the lack of interaction you get.

That’s where active prospecting comes into play.

The Active Approach: Fueling the Fire

Marketing yourself actively on Instagram isn’t about blasting a sales message to your followers. It’s about being hyper-focused on finding your ideal clients and proactively interacting with them.

To begin finding your ideal clients, think about your “third place.” That is, when you are not at home or at work, where do you spend time having conversations with people who could one day become clients?

Whatever your true passions—love of fitness, gardening, yoga, hockey—will play heavily into how you leverage the active approach. The goal of this approach is to have conversations with people daily that you could continue because you are genuinely interested and invested in what you are speaking about. If you hate golf, trying to have conversations with someone about it will be hard. If you are a die-hard hockey mom, you’ll have no trouble talking to other hockey moms (or hockey dads) about the schedule, the day-to-day challenges, the games and practices.

The key to the active approach is leveraging the “easy” to create consistent opportunities and to create enough interest in you that prospective clients then see your passive work. This will be the gasoline on the fire. If you’re creating daily conversations, rooted in authenticity, and your passive communication is of the highest quality, you’ll create the “wow” factor.

So, how can you set up a system that enables you to find your ideal clients daily without feeling like you are aimlessly scrolling Instagram for hours on end?

The ‘45/20 Rule’

The 45/20 rule is the secret sauce to getting your passive prospecting efforts in front of the eyeballs of those who matter: Make 45 comments on other people’s feed content and 20 replies to other people’s Instagram Stories each business day. If you are reading that and thinking, “There’s no way!”, please keep reading.

To build this out, create a tracker that specifies where you’ll focus your attention Monday–Friday. A simple spreadsheet will do. In this example, on Mondays, you’re engaging with Instagram users who are following you, on Wednesdays you’re focused on connecting on social media with leads you’ve paid for (turning those cold leads into warm leads), and on Friday you’re reengaging in meaningful ways with people you’ve connected with during the week. Tuesday and Thursday are left open as your “third place” days.

Example of social media tracking document

Now it’s time to begin building those third-place relationships.

Let’s say your ideal client is a young military family into fitness. One place you might connect with such clients in the real world would be at CrossFit gyms, or places like F45 or Burn Boot Camp. So, scroll on Instagram, to find the top five gyms near you. Then, select a day in your tracker—say Tuesday—and list the hashtags, accounts, and geo-tags you want to focus on that day. From then on, each Tuesday, you know exactly where to engage. No more aimlessly scrolling. Why would this be of value? Ask yourself, who’s most likely to like or comment on those pages? People in your town who are into fitness. Hello, ideal client.

This is where active and passive prospecting collide to create opportunity. Producing content consistently builds your credibility and gives you long-term visibility, while the 45/20 rule puts your content in front of the people who matter for your business and helps to speed up the process of them knowing you. You’re showing up to engage with genuine interest and starting great conversations about interests you share. Connection made.

Your business may be doing well with passive and active marketing strategies in other realms, but how are you doing with putting the active into your Instagram account? I’ve observed firsthand how this combination of the active and passive approaches leads to higher response rates, more at-bats, stronger relationships, less aimless scrolling and more conversion.

It’s an old maxim: A picture is worth a thousand words. The power of Instagram is that it’s a visual platform that offers a quick snapshot of what makes a person tick. It can shorten the distance between the cold lead and getting on the phone. If you want to maximize your presence and potential on this platform, you need to lay the foundation and then consistently fuel it in a way that’ll keep your business burning bright.