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social media“Be yourself.” Easier said than done, for many of us. With personal and professional lines so often blurred in real estate, most industry professionals would find themselves confounded by the notion of an authentic self. And as more experiences are filtered through social media, presenting that self online, just as critical as bona fide in person, is all the more complex.

But being yourself, according to REALTOR® Ashton Gustafson, is simple: make known the why, not the what.

“The social media platform is the most direct, and I would say beautiful, way to go out in the marketplace and share with people why you do what you do,” said Gustafson, owner of Bishop Realtor Group in Wichita Falls, Texas, while addressing attendees during last week’s REALTORS® Conference and Expo in San Diego, Calif. Adapting his message from author Simon Sinek’s “start with why” reasoning, Gustafson encouraged attendees to lend humanity to their online presence in a session entitled “Streamlining Your Social Media Platform: More Places, Fewer Steps.”

“Be the truest form of you,” Gustafson said, referencing the tenth rule in a set of 10 he follows when interacting online. “Be human. Be simple. Encourage. Enlighten.”

To delineate those abstractions, Gustafson compared the social media community to a cocktail party, likening interactions on the various platforms to the natural connections one would make at a real-world gathering.

“This conversation is happening in real-time,” Gustafson said. “Notice what people are talking about. Find a way to inspire and connect. Weave your story in and out through other people’s stories. Make it so that when the storyline comes up that they need a real estate agent, you are the individual they think of.”

In practice, Gustafson applies this approach using to engage, in real-time, with users interested in his market. One user seeking a restaurant recommendation even became a client.

“What if a real estate agent ‘overheard’ that at the proverbial cocktail party?” Gustafson asked attendees. “I became human in the digital footprint. And what do you know? It worked.”

When using Facebook, it’s equally important to forge genuine relationships—again, with a healthy dose of humanity. Gustafson shared a post recently published to his page, reading, “We believe no one should wake up in a home they don’t love.” The message focuses on what Gustafson values as a REALTOR®—values that often mirror what consumers are seeking not only from agents, but out of life in general.

Instagram, too, is “perfect for real estate agents,” in that it allows them, as members of the community they’re servicing, to showcase their market from a local perspective.

“Instagram is where it’s at, in my opinion. This is how you sell lifestyle, vibe, local flair…where people connect you to the market,” said Gustafson. And sharing “why you love where you live,” especially through images, reinforces the perception that you are much more than a REALTOR®—you’re a friend.

“Most of us hope to be the REALTOR® that just so happens to be the friend,” said Gustafson, “but the reality is, people would rather have a friend than a REALTOR®.”

And if that friendship is developed with intent (another rule in Gustafson’s credo), it runs deeper than the surface-level ‘followership’ typical of social media—and leads to lifelong client relationships.

For Gustafson, who also shared LinkedIn, YouTube and content curation strategies with attendees, every action taken through social media must be motivated, above all, by the inherently human desire to make connections, with ‘why’ at the forefront.

“You must interact into this medium leading with why,” said Gustafson, “leading with your purpose, leading with your mission, leading with an authentic story that you’re bringing into the marketplace.”

For most post-event coverage from last week’s REALTORS® Conference & Expo, stay tuned to