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The real estate industry is constantly changing to match the needs and desires of homebuyers. As younger demographics like millennials and Generation Z enter the home-buying market, real estate agents need to find new ways to reach and interact with them.

Prior to this new wave of homebuyers entering the market, real estate agents found Facebook to be the only necessary social platform to generate new business leads. However, with 58 percent of millennials and 46 percent of Generation Z finding their homes on mobile devices, these same agents are finding Facebook to be less effective as the only business tool amongst younger generations, and are now starting to look to Instagram, too.

Although Instagram is the next major social platform for attracting new leads, a lack of understanding on the best practices and strategies can impact its effectiveness as a business tool. Instagram can grow your digital marketing footprint; however, there are six crucial components of the platform to master before a real estate agent can head down the path of success while using it.

Make your content searchable through the use of hashtags.
To be discovered by new users, hashtags serve a vital role. Through the use of community hashtags—industry-related or content-related—more users will find your Instagram account. Whether they decide to actually click on the picture containing the hashtag depends on how interesting the photo or video post appears to be on the Instagram search engine.

Hashtags can also be used for branding reasons. After connecting with new leads, branded hashtags allow you to see content shared by users and can result in user-generated content on your account. By developing a branded hashtag and sharing it with followers, real estate agents are given a pool of new and exciting content to repost on their Instagram feed.

Understand that your Instagram feed serves as your first impression.
Potential leads will often find your account through their Instagram feed. Your feed will help users form their first impression of you and your business as a whole. To form a positive lasting impression, it is imperative that your Instagram account is constructed with visual consistency as a goal. To achieve visual consistency, real estate agents must have a common theme throughout the page—similar color palettes, aesthetics, tone and messaging. The last two, tone and messaging, are especially important when multiple people are posting on your behalf. Everything shared through your Instagram account should align with your brand’s personality.

Use Instagram Stories to your advantage.
A visually appealing feed is what initially attracts users to your page; however, Instagram Stories convert these users into loyal fans. By employing this tool, users are able to deepen their relationship with followers because it shows your brand’s personality and gives it a more personal touch. It is important to make Instagram Stories fun and engaging to give followers a human experience. By producing concise and engaging video content, users are given better insight into your business’ culture. Video content is the best way to brand your business. It is also a good practice to highlight your most recent feed photo or video in your Instagram Story.

Create Story Highlights to showcase your business.
Instagram Stories only last 24 hours, but using its highlighting tools, real estate agents are able to keep it on their account forever. At minimum, agents should highlight content around listings, client satisfaction, team members and behind-the-scenes or even community content. Story Highlights serve multiple purposes: They showcase your best stories along with what’s important to your business, while also deepening connections with users. These Highlights are a perfect way to promote a well-rounded glimpse into your brand.

Create a call to action.
Instagram is a great tool to use to drive traffic to your website. It allows you to share one link in your bio; that link can be to your homepage, a recent blog post, your newest listing, or even a sales page. Take advantage of select posts on your feed—no more than 20 percent—to create a call to action and direct users to your website through the link in your bio.

Engage with your audience.
To increase engagement, real estate agents need to be active and engage with existing followers. Make sure users’ questions and comments are being responded to in a thoughtful and timely manner. If you want to go above and beyond with your engagement efforts, message new users to express your genuine gratitude for the follow, which oftentimes can lead to a new client relationship being formed.

Instagram is an effective lead-generating tool when used properly. With more than 70 percent of Instagram users being under 35 years old, it is more important now than ever that real estate agents capitalize on Instagram as a business tool.

Chris Smith is a USA Today best-selling author and the co-founder of Curaytor, a social media, digital marketing and sales coaching company that helps businesses thrive nationwide.

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