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Last week, Instagram released some major updates that could create a big change in your real estate business strategy. While Instagram was once thought to be a social network that was only for pictures of fancy food and artful lattes, 85 percent of top brands now have profiles, and 60 percent of the 400 million active users log in each day, making it the second most-engaged social network second only to Facebook.

Because social media is constantly changing, it’s important to keep up with the current trends to make sure you’re connecting with your clients in the right way. The first, more business-oriented change is Instagram’s creation of a Business Profile option. The second is a new Instagram “Stories” feed, similar to Snapchat. Want to learn more about how these updates can (and should) change the way you connect with clients through Instagram? Find out more, so you can begin planning your new content.

Create Your Business Profile
Instagram is more than just a way to connect with family and friends. Since it’s known for its visual opportunities, many businesses use Instagram to connect and keep in touch with potential and current customers. In fact, according to Instagram, about half of their users follow a business profile in the app. However, more importantly, engagement with brands on Instagram is higher than any other social platform. If you’re looking for a social channel to connect with clients, Instagram provides a great opportunity.

How can you get a business profile? Before you choose to convert from a personal to a business profile, there are a few things you should know. Initially, Instagram is releasing this feature gradually, so if it isn’t available to you yet, check back in the near future. Next, in order to convert, your Instagram profile must be connected with a Facebook business page. Facebook provides a step-by-step overview of how to do this. Finally, your Instagram business profile must be set to public. Then again, if you want new clients to find you, your profile should be public anyway. To learn more about the conversion process, read about it here.

What are the benefits of a business profile? The main advantage of having a business profile is that you’ll be able to access your insights. If you want to increase your visibility or measure your interaction with followers, this can provide a huge advantage. The insights available include the number of unique accounts you reach each day, your impressions for each post and the average time of day your followers access the app. These insights can help you see when your followers use their app so you know the best time to post your content and what your followers are most interested in, which can help you plan future content. (To learn more about what to post on your Instagram profile, check out some of our blogs on this topic.)

In addition to insights, when you upgrade, you’ll also be able to add more contact information, which users can access through a new “contact” button on your profile. If a user clicks the button, they’ll see some new options, such as directions to your physical location, a phone number to reach you, your email address and your website. In addition to this, you’ll also be able to see how many unique accounts click through to your website, which can help you gauge the traffic you’re receiving from your Instagram profile. If you want to learn more about these new insights, check out this explanation from Facebook.

Connect More Often with New “Stories”
The other new update is Instagram’s “Stories.” This feature lets users create a string of pictures and videos that is viewable to their followers for 24 hours. While this is similar to Snapchat, there are some key differences. While you’re able add text and doodle on the picture or video, Instagram lacks the filters and lenses that Snapchat users are used to. In business, though, this is not a key feature. Where Instagram prevails is that you’re able to see which of your followers have viewed each photo or video – just swipe up when looking at your story. Instagram Stories appear at the top of your home feed. To view them, simply click the person’s profile picture. When you’re ready to create your own story, click the (+) option in the upper left corner of the app.

Can Stories really help me as an agent? It depends on how you plan to use this new feature. Similarly to Snapchat, it’s important to first consider your goal. For instance, Stories would not be the most useful tool for lead generation, because only your current followers can see them. Instead, use them for engagement and retention. This more personal feature is perfect for visually and emotionally connecting with your current followers. Share pictures of a new listing along with a quick tour of your favorite room, a picture of yourself at your favorite coffee house (Instagram photos with faces get 38 percent more likes), a video referral with a client who just closed on a home, etc. Stories gives you the opportunity to get closer and more personal with your audience. Plus, you can post multiple pictures and videos through Stories without clogging your followers’ feeds.

Instagram can be a powerful tool for your marketing strategy and a great way to connect with potential buyers. If you need help managing your other social profiles, check out Social to engage with homebuyers and sellers and drive more leads.

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