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agent_with_referred_coupleAccording to the 2013 National Association of REALTORS® Member Profile, real estate professionals earn an average of 21 percent of their business through referrals from past clients and customers. Brokers and agents with stronger referral networks also tend to earn more: REALTORS® earning $150,000 or more report that 29 percent of their business comes from referrals, while those earning between $10,000 and $24,999 say that referrals make up only 18 percent of their business.

It’s time to start thinking differently about building a referral network. Your agents should seek referrals from past clients, current customers, other REALTORS® and local service providers, but you can inspire them to take a new approach. Expanding the network is about using social media to create a solid sphere of influence and build a persona of authority in order to upgrade the referral cycle.

Remind your team of the 80/20 rule: 20 percent of online marketing can promote your brand, but the other 80 percent of the content you post should focus on your audience’s interests and what will engage them. The point is to make your website content likeable and shareable to expand your sphere of influence.

Create a Facebook business page and use it to its fullest potential. After you’ve established your company’s business page, click on “Build Audience” to find ways to get followers and increase page likes. Ask your agents to link to your company’s page, and watch your online network grow exponentially. When posting on Facebook (and other platforms), think about piquing the interests of your audience per the 80/20 rule, and be diligent about engaging your influencers so that they’re likely to respond to your posts and share your content.

During the 20 percent of the time in which you devote to talking about business, think about the sharing potential of those posts, too. While explaining your company’s expertise and what you can do for clients, include information that your audience can use: Offer helpful statistics, a discount, or a useful infographic. You can also take advantage of posts by other industry influencers: Comment on or share posts from other real estate professionals to get a conversation going. While talking to colleagues online, don’t be shy about publicly telling them you’ve sent a client their way, or expressing gratitude when they send business to you; these exchanges draw positive attention to each of you.

When looking for likeable, shareable content for your social media accounts, become an authority on the neighborhoods in your market. There are a lot of locally-focused websites that agents can join to maximize their reach. Encourage agents to share photos they’ve taken around their neighborhoods on Instagram, start a conversation about civic matters they care about on EveryBlock, or post a review on the town’s blog or Facebook page. Referral-worthy agents brand themselves as the go-to resource for information about the area.

When it comes to upgrading the referral cycle, offer your agents a few lessons. First, create a solid sphere of influence on social media through informative posts that will engage both audience and influencers. Next, build a persona of authority by becoming the go-to resource for information that interests clients and colleagues. And while you’re at it, give referrals to get referrals.

Marc Gould is vice president, Business Specialties, for the National Association of REALTORS® and executive director of REBAC. A wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), The Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC) is the world’s largest association of real estate professionals focusing specifically on representing the real estate buyer. With more than 30,000 active members, REBAC awards the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation to REALTORS® who work directly with buyer-clients.

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