Sales in Your DMs: The Power of Instagram Stories

There’s great value in building trust with potential clients by showing the behind-the-scenes of your daily business routine.
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With 500 million people using Instagram Stories every day—and considering that 47% of REALTORS® say social media is their top tool for getting high-quality leads—now is a better time than ever for agents and brokerages to harness this feature to connect with clients. You may even change a person’s life, as Keith James did.

The Stories feature has become a key part of the free social app, which allows users to show short snippets of their daily lives. By creating and posting Stories, real estate professionals can establish a level of authenticity and trust while clients are watching, giving people a taste of your personality before they decide to do business with you.

The Rundown on Stories

You’ll see Stories appear in the Instagram app at the top of your feed from the people and pages you follow. When there’s a new Story to see, a colorful ring will encircle the specific profile photo. Users can tap forward and backward on a Story and click through at their own pace as they look at the shared photos and videos in a slideshow format.

Your Stories will have the same privacy settings as your profile—you can even hide Stories from certain followers. When you swipe up while viewing your own Story, you can see who has looked at it. Being able to see who views your Stories can help you zero in on your audience and convert fans into clients.

Keith James, an agent and managing partner of Coalition Properties Group based in the Washington, D.C., area, uses Stories as a real-time engagement tool. “When people see a traditional post, they can go to it on your profile and it’ll always be there. But [Stories] create a different type of engagement,” he says. People clicking through a real estate professional’s Story are curious about what that pro might be doing on any given day, such as touring homes or attending closings.

There are no “likes” or public comments on Stories. Instead, one of the prime areas of connection happens in Instagram Direct messages. Those who see your Stories are able to send comments and questions via direct message while viewing the photos and videos in your Story. Stories disappear after 24 hours, but you can add past Stories to your Instagram profile as a “highlight” so followers can find them after the 24-hour cycle.

“It can take someone days to read an email, so we knew using Stories would get the message out more quickly,” says Britni Clark, social media manager for Virginia REALTORS®. “Anytime we have a new initiative, like a new web series or podcast, we can cross-promote and put it on our Story to make sure [our members] know what’s out there for them and that we have a lot of resources for them.”

The Business Value

Rebecca Donatelli, an agent with McDowell Homes Real Estate Services and team lead of the Rebecca Donatelli Team in Solon, Ohio, has leveraged her Instagram Stories to build relationships with clients and other agents alike. She travels across the country teaching seminars to real estate pros on upping their Instagram game and says posting consistently on your Story gives people something new to click on every day.

“Almost every morning I post a positive quote to get everyone’s day going, and people love responding to that,” Donatelli says. “[Stories] allow me to engage in ways other than just putting up a post and people commenting. I can start conversations between myself and [my followers] in a way that’s a little more personal.”

In June, Donatelli started working with a couple who wanted to purchase a $400,000 home—all because of a conversation that began a year ago when she connected with another agent over her Instagram Stories.

A year-long conversation that began in Stories and ultimately turned into a sale is a familiar scenario for James’ real estate business as well. One client connected with James on his Instagram page, saying she was motivated to purchase a home from watching his Stories. James sent her to his credit specialist and stayed in contact with her over Instagram. She gave him five referrals before reaching her credit goal and closing on her own home.

“Social media is lead generating—it all goes back to engagement” James says. “I want my followers to be in tune with me. You [have to] create a sense of, ‘Oh, he’s engaging with me so I must be important.’”

Enticing Features

If people are engaging with what you’re sharing in your Stories, they’ll feel more connected with you, and in turn, feel more comfortable doing business with you. There are lots of creative additions in the Instagram app to make your Stories come alive. After recording a video or snapping a photo to add to your Story, explore the icons at the top right corner for fun tools like stickers, text boxes, colorful pencils, filters, and an entire pop-up menu filled with even more add-ons for your Stories to stand out.

You don’t need to use every single aspect of Stories. The tools worth paying attention to for brokerages and agents include location tags, GIF stickers, polls, countdowns, question boxes, and quizzes. These can all be found under the square smiley-face icon before you post a Story. The GIF stickers add an animated element to your Stories that provide eye-catching visuals, while the polls, quizzes, and question boxes allow you to get information and feedback from those viewing your Stories. Both James and Donatelli use polls to ask their followers about home interior choices (i.e., “Do you like this kitchen or that kitchen?”). Clark has used the countdown feature in Stories to promote events on the Virginia REALTORS® Instagram page, which provides a “reminder” option so that people who see it in Stories can add the event to their calendar and be notified when the countdown ends.

Do It, or Don’t Do It

For Anne Jones, broker-owner of Windermere Abode in Tacoma, Wash., having access to a tool like Stories has increased the value of video for real estate professionals. With the sophisticated cameras in smartphones—and without entirely replacing professionally produced videos—real estate pros can use Stories to instantly publish candid videos and photos at their own pace and at no cost. Jones remembers when having your own website as a real estate practitioner was an indulgence, but now it’s just as much a necessity as it is to have a presence on platforms like Instagram. And if you aren’t spending time keeping up on your social platforms, learning the newest features, or making your online efforts a part of your business strategy, Jones says leave it alone.

She compares excelling at Stories with the concept of wearing natural makeup: You have to put in the extra effort to make it look effortless.

“You’ve got to do your homework to figure out how to make great Stories on the fly,” Jones says. “Know what nobody else in your community is talking about, and break news about a business opening or a new park—we’re really plugged in as real estate pros and tend to be aware of those things, [but] a lot of the people who follow you aren’t. That’s part of our job.”

Be deliberate in your social sharing—oversharing individual posts across your social channels can bog down your page and dilute chances of engagement. But Stories offers an alternative avenue to share quick moments of your day. How you choose to leverage Stories for your business will depend on your strategy and goals, but there is great value in building trust by showing people the behind-the-scenes of your daily routine.

“We know when we connect with people who like and trust us, our opportunity to do business is much higher,” Jones says. “You just have to figure out how to communicate in a way that allows people to connect with you. Then, you’re going where you want to be going as a professional and hopefully having a little fun doing it.”