Using LinkedIn to win listings, build profile and recruit talented staff

16th June 2020

LinkedIn is typically viewed as the “unsexy” social media platform. However, it is an intellectual tool for real estate agents to source valuable content and build professional relationships with clients. In this episode of Digital You, powered by LJ Hooker, digital marketing coach Valentina Borbone joins Steve Carroll to explore the treasure trove LinkedIn can present real estate agents. Valentina discusses the importance of an up to date profile to win listings, how the platform can be used to digital door knock, and how to build rapport and create warm connections.

TRANSCRIPT

Steve (00:00):
This episode of Digital You is brought to you by LJ Hooker. Today, 104 million users will log on to LinkedIn, but do you know what? So many real estate professionals in Australia underuse this platform. They don’t see LinkedIn as a platform that helps them win listings, build their brand and sell property. Are they missing a big opportunity?

Steve (00:29):
My name’s Steve Carroll. Great to be here today in LJ Hooker’s recording studio in Sydney. Some of you might know me from my days at realestate.com.au. Today I am the founder and CEO of Digital Live, which is a 12-week education program to help real estate professionals get more from their digital footprint, more from their digital presence, and today I am joined by one of the very, very best social media gurus, Valentina Borbone. Valentina Borbone is the CEO of the Banter Group. She is a digital marketing trainer, a mentor, and an expert in LinkedIn.

Valentina (01:07):
Hi, Steve. Nice to be here. I can’t wait to talk about LinkedIn.

Steve (01:11):
Great to have you here today, Valentina. We’re going to talk about LinkedIn and why real estate agents should get on the page;, why they should get serious about this program. So is it that LinkedIn is just seen as an unsexy social media platform? Why is it that real estate agents generally aren’t using it as well as they should?

Valentina (01:31):
So LinkedIn was a little late to the social party in many ways, but that’s primarily because it’s completely different to Facebook and Instagram. And I think where agents are probably missing the mark, is they’re treating it exactly the same way. they’re not going to get the same traction, so they dump it or put very little effort into it.

Valentina (01:48):
So LinkedIn is, as you said, it’s a professional networking site. It’s education, advice, and sharing. So being able to just stick up your latest vendor listings is not really what the audience is there for. They are there from a professional environment. So that’s what they’re looking for; they’re looking for connections that add value to their professional environment. Now that can simply be in property as well, but I don’t think it’s the same content that people are perhaps posting on Facebook and Insta.

Steve (02:17):
So as you know, Val, I’m from Brisbane and there’s a local agent who’s written some great posts on LinkedIn about the impact of the fires on the real estate economy and the real estate community. Now I’m thinking to myself, this real estate agent is really adding value to me and adding value to my life. I’m actually building a relationship with him. I’m building a connection with him, although I’ve never actually physically met him. Is that the way LinkedIn should be used?

Valentina (02:49):
Yeah, that’s exactly it. So on Facebook, it was very much that you needed to know who your connections were and LinkedIn’s quite the opposite. You don’t need to know who these people are, and you can actually approach people for a connection, and that’s what a like or a follow is called, as long as there is a mutual understanding of what that benefit might be in that relationship.

Valentina (03:08):
So look, there’s a lot of scams that can happen on every social platform. So if you’re getting hit by a ton of SEO web specialists out of Pakistan at 10 a day, like I do, they’re not adding any value to me so I don’t accept that connection. But what you’ve just said is seeing valuable content in your feed, which is relative to you within Queensland, in the Queensland market, you’re starting to build this rapport and you’re building a connection. That’s where we talk about a warm connection. And when the other person actually makes that connection with you, i.e asks to connect, and usually LinkedIn suggests you making a warm note as part of that introduction, they’re going to be more receptive to accepting that from you.

Valentina (03:48):
So it’s not about collecting useless friends;, it’s about collecting useful connections. It doesn’t have to be useful today. It could be useful in your future. And that’s where the people need to reconsider the content they’re posting.

Valentina (03:59):
So the blogs, as you said, all the great articles that they’re writing about, LinkedIn has its own blog platform. It’s called Pulse, and writing a Pulse article where you can actually write it and edit it, just like desktop publishing, and put it out there on the platform gets a much greater reach than just having a post in your own feed.

Valentina (04:17):
So you can definitely reach a much greater audience, but just like anything in marketing, you need to have a certain number of touch points that happen;, where someone can recognize your name, your field, your industry, before they’re considered a warm connection. So you would need to post, some rough numbers, 20 times for seven to stick.

Valentina (04:36):
So think about the consistency that has to go into another platform, that works differently to Facebook and Insta, and still needs to have a high frequency of content. That’s where most agents go, “You know what? Back off, I can only do so much. I’m not going to do it here.” And they’re missing that opportunity. It’s no different to any other platform of marketing, be it a newspaper, be it radio, be it publishing. You need to put in the time and effort into that particular platform to see how it works for you to be able to reap the benefits.

Steve (05:05):
That’s excellent. Now we’re going to get into the nitty gritty of LinkedIn. So I reckon the number one question I get asked Val, when I’m working on the Digital Live program is, “How do I get started on LinkedIn?” I think you absolutely nailed it. A lot of people have been very late to embracing the platform. So Valentina, what are the basics? So let’s just imagine that we’ve got an agent listening to this podcast who is complete novice when it comes to LinkedIn, what should he, or what should he or she be doing to get started?

Valentina (05:40):
Excellent. So follow the bouncing ball. When you hit Start Profile, or Create a Profile and it says, “Upload a picture,” upload a picture. It’s as simple as that. I can’t tell you how many agent profiles I’ve looked at that don’t even have a photograph of the person. So how am I meant to recognize you? How am I meant to recognize you within my feed as well? Not just if I was to meet you in public.

Valentina (06:01):
So uploading a picture and then completing all the profile questions. Now, the questions are fairly straightforward. They ask for your history;, it’s a little like a CV compared to something like Insta or Facebook. So they ask you for where you’ve been employed, what years you were employed, and you give a short description. Now you’re not looking for every role and responsibility to be listed, but we are looking for a little more than, “Sales agent, six months.”

Valentina (06:24):
Tell us something about the area that you’re in, what you might have specialized in so that we can see a little bit of the history. Now it’s okay if you’re new to the real estate market. Actually putting what you did beforehand might give people context to where you’ve come from; everyone’s entitled to a career switch. In Australia, we quite like supporting that as well.

Valentina (06:42):
So it’s really valuable to have all of your profile filled in with a little bit of detail. So where they’ve asking for things like having recommendations or endorsed skills, actually start filling those in. So an endorsed skill simply means that, “This is what I want to be well known for.” Now, be careful not to just go, “Hey, I want to be well known for every single skill in relation to property that ever existed,” because people don’t believe that that can be really true. Unless you’ve got an illustrious 20-year career in property, then maybe that could be true.

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Valentina (07:09):
So don’t just go and pick the most. It’s looking at quality, not quantity. And if other people can endorse you too. Now, if people endorse you for things that you’re not really that good at, you don’t have to have them visible on your profile. You can go and delete them. Now to put that into context, my husband once endorsed me for public relations. I’ve never done PR in my entire marketing career. And I remember looking at him like, “Love, I can see what you’re trying to do to support me, but that’s just not true. So yeah, let’s just delete that from my profile.” I prefer to focus on what I do and do well.

Steve (07:39):
Okay. That’s excellent. That’s great. Now my name’s Steve Carroll. I’m with Valentina Borbone, we’re talking about LinkedIn in the LJ Hooker recording studio here in Sydney. And we’re talking about the importance of making sure your profile is up today. Is it exciting, is it inspiring, and is it accurate? So Valentina, how do I know if my profile is 100% complete? Do LinkedIn give me a bit of guidance on that?

Valentina (08:10):
Yeah. So LinkedIn’s got a gamification model happening, which means for each section of your profile that you complete, they’re going to tell you that your profile is 60% complete, 70% complete and encourages you to complete the profile. So it goes right down, back to your high school years. So I don’t think anyone really needs to revisit all the years back to high school. But the more of the profile you complete, the more LinkedIn is actually going to show this to other people as profiles that they might want to consider making a connection with.

Valentina (08:37):
So every day that I log into my LinkedIn account, yes, and I do it every day if not twice a day, I will have recommendations made to me of connections that I might like to make. If my profile isn’t up to date, my profile isn’t going to show up in front of other people as well. So the absolute number one, just have the basics completed. If you’re not going to be posting content, at least have an up to date profile so that when I am looking, or I check you out, or I’ve seen you somewhere and I want to go validate who you are, that what I see is actually clear and accurate content and up to date content.

Steve (09:08):
Yeah, excellent. And I mean, just out of interest, my LinkedIn profile gets viewed over a thousand times, every three months. So there’s a little thing on LinkedIn that says over the last 90 days, 1,200 people have looked at your profile. What you’re saying, Valentina is when those people look at my profile, if it looks out of date, if it looks half complete, then they’re probably going to move on to the next agent.

Valentina (09:38):
Absolutely. Think of your own perception when you see something, if there’s a half assed attempt at having something done, you are actually going to believe that there’s going to be a half assed attempt at working with you.

Steve (09:48):
Brilliant. Now I want to move on. I was at a conference a few years ago and someone referred to LinkedIn as the digital door knock. Now let me explain what the person on stage was talking about. They were saying the best way to prospect is still to knock on a door, and hope that someone is there, and hope that somebody has got five or six minutes to talk to you. Now, this person on a stage was saying that LinkedIn is the digital version of the door knock because you can actually connect with people, they can accept your request, and then you can start building a relationship with them. So can you explain to me, how do I build a connection using LinkedIn? Let’s just imagine I’m an agent in the western suburbs of Brisbane, and I want to build connections with potential buyers or sellers of the future. How do I go about it?

Valentina (10:43):
So I would be picking firstly on hashtags. There’s one universal thing that happens across all social platforms, and they can work in LinkedIn. You can follow hashtags in LinkedIn. And that also means that the content that I see in my feed, and what the algorithm’s pushing through, is actually based on the hashtags that I follow and the content that I engage in, and the people that I’m connected with. So I’ve got a very heavy property feed going on at the moment, because I’m actually following a lot in that space. If you’re looking at that digital door knock and how you’re actually finding these people, hashtags is a great way to do it, but you have to do it from a perspective that makes sense to the people on LinkedIn.

Valentina (11:20):
So are we looking at investors? Are we looking at new homes, but are we actually looking at certain industries within their employment as well? So that’s the nice part about LinkedIn, is you can actually filter and use a lot of their features, which are far more personalized to the individual and what they do and how they do it, where they spend their time, as opposed to it just being too broad on Insta, Facebook, social, which is all about the fun and games.

Valentina (11:47):
So don’t forget that. LinkedIn is professional networking, where you could argue is selling and buying day-to-day property part of my professional networking, or actually part of my personal networking. And people spend their time differently. So for me personally, I’m not going to LinkedIn to start looking at property, but I certainly would go there to look for perhaps a buyer’s agent or an investment property as well. And I get targeted on the basis that my title is CEO. So I know that people can create insights based on the data that they’re seeing. They can see that I’m in advertising and marketing, so they know about websites and social media. So that personal approach that you’re talking about, the door knock, is usually based on something that they’ve read or seen in my profile.

Valentina (12:33):
Now, when someone’s taken that type of time, then I’ll give them the time of day. When somebody just contacts me and says, “Hi, I’m an outsource company. Want to outsource your stuff to us and make more money?” And I actually do reply to those people. And my response is, “You’ve not taken the time to read the homepage of my website, which says I do not outsource solutions. Thank you.” And that’s it. So I never hear from those people again. So the warm introduction is definitely based on someone taking that time to learn something about me from my profile and using that as their introduction.

Steve (13:04):
Yeah, absolutely. Just talk to me about the filters then, Valentina. So what we know is in Australia, the average salary of a user on LinkedIn is over a $100,000 a year. Now that would suggest that there’s a lot of people using LinkedIn in Australia who are likely to be in the property ecosystem or about to join the property ecosystem. So let’s imagine that I’m an agent and I want to go after people that have got Managing Director in their title, yeah? Can I do that?

Valentina (13:39):
Yeah, absolutely. So the search function sits at the very top of LinkedIn. And when you hit Search, there’s a little dropdown arrow and that’s where you can actually say, “I would like to search jobs. I want to search titles. I want to search state or company.” So you could even go as far as saying, “I want to search managing directors in the pharmaceutical space.” There’s a nice one, because if they’re a managing director of Pfizer, Roche or any of the other big pharmas… You can then state what categories. So you even might say, “In oncology,” go that far, “In New South Wales.” And then it will literally filter out everyone within that environment. Now that’s, you might be able to say as part of that warm introduction, “We have a beautiful waterfront investment property that’s 10 minutes’ drive from your head office.” Now that is using the data to actually sell a property or to look for an investor in that space, or a buyer in that space as well.

Steve (14:31):
Got it. So I’m Steve Carroll, we’re in the LJ Hooker studio recording studio here in Sydney with Valentina Balbone, and we’re talking about LinkedIn. And we’re talking about the fact that the traditional door knocking to prospect still has a place in the real estate ecosystem in year 2020. There’s nothing wrong with plodding the streets and knocking on doors, but LinkedIn gives you a more targeted way of building connections. You can target people by professions, you can target people by the company they work for, and so I’m kind of guessing that one of the pieces of advice you’re going to give to the listeners, Val, is “Go and have a play around with the search functionality on LinkedIn.”

Valentina (15:20):
Absolutely. And try in small numbers first. So I tend to look at LinkedIn as if you’re sitting around the table going, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could target this type of person?” And it’s just usually a little chat with somebody. That you can do in LinkedIn; go and do that, set up the profile filters and see who comes out. You might actually find, and this is the beauty of LinkedIn, is it talks about connections and whether you’re the first connection, second connection, or a third connection.

Valentina (15:44):
Now, Steve and I, we’ve been connected on LinkedIn for a number of years. We are our first connections. Now, if I was to meet somebody or wanting to meet somebody that I haven’t met face to face, haven’t met on LinkedIn, but I can see on LinkedIn that you’re a second connection, as in Steve is my second connection. I can contact this cold lead and say, “Oh, hi, Sarah. I see that we are connected via Steve Carroll on LinkedIn. It would be great if I could make a connection with you. I think I have something that could be really valuable to you. Look forward to hearing from you.”

Valentina (16:16):
Now straightaway that recipient, Sarah, is going to go, “Oh, I like Steve. We’re first connections. So she must be legit. I might accept this introduction and see what they’ve got to say,” because we’re actually using a name as a connection. So you can do that with a first, second, and a third connection. Now, beyond that, I might say, “Hey, Steve, there’s this guy called John on LinkedIn, I really want to connect with him, but I don’t have any connection, but you do. Could you make that introduction for me?”

Valentina (16:41):
And then using the LinkedIn platform, Steve would say, “Hey, John, I’d like you to meet Valentina, blah, blah, blah. Here’s why you guys should connect.” Now that is a far warmer introduction than anything else you could possibly do other than picking up the phone and saying, “Steve gave me your number,” but using the digital space to do it. So I think using LinkedIn in small chunks so that you become familiar with it, so you don’t mess something up big scale, at least mess it up on a small scale first if you don’t get it right. But try the warm introduction, try being human. That’s my number one tip: be human.

Steve (17:13):
Excellent. So let’s just imagine that I’m an agent. I’ve set myself a target of connecting to potentially 50 really good connections per month through LinkedIn. It’s the month of February, I’ve done my 50. How do I inspire those 50 people to warm to me? So when they’re thinking about buying or selling, my name is front of mind. What sort of content is going to work for me and work for them, Val?

Valentina (17:45):
Valuable content is what’s going to work for you. So even being able to say, as I said before, you need 20 hits for seven of them to stick. So you need to be posting consistently with things that people go, “Oh yeah, that looks interesting.” Even if I don’t read it mentally, that reader or that viewer is going, “There’s Steve Carroll’s name again. There he is again and again and again, video after video, live after live, article after article, he is my go to man.” So when I do, and I am ready to make that connection with you, I know exactly who I’m looking for; you’re likely in the top of my feed anyway, every day that I am there, and makes that pick up the phone really, really easy from the end user. So that valuable content has to be related, as you said, not just talking about the bushfires, you’re talking about bushfire impact in Queensland, in the property market.

Valentina (18:32):
There’s two extra connections that are tied to you personally as an individual by region, that is going to resonate with you. So equally for, let’s say, someone in New South Wales. That same article could be targeting people in New South Wales, talking about people who are doing the mass exodus over the border. We know that people are leaving Sydney, they’re going to over the border in the droves, so target them. Use that piece of insight with your content to say, “This might be useful for you or someone you know, that might be considering a shift over the border.” Now, straight away, that’s going to make most agents on both sides of the border read it, but also anyone in that consideration market will be targeting and tagging their own friends or networks to say, “Oh, we remember we talked about that last week?” Or, “You might be interested in that.” And that’s where the share economy comes into your content. If it’s just, “Hey, I’ve got this place for sale,” hoorah for you. No, one’s going to be that interested.

Steve (19:24):
That’s brilliant. So LinkedIn, clearly a platform that real estate agents should get serious about. Can I ask you about the hashtags on LinkedIn, or what I mean Val is, when it says at @ValentinaBalbone or @PeterBrewer, how does that work? Like, is it important?

Valentina (19:46):
Okay, so there’s two things going on there. One is the algorithm and one is called a vanity URL. So I’ll talk about the algorithm first and that’s where the hashtags come in. So the algorithm on LinkedIn is actually quite different to Facebook and Insta; there’s humans behind the algorithm as well. But it looks at certain factors like: if I’m following hashtags, which you can do, the content that it’s going to start showing me from complete strangers, as well as my own network, is going to be based on what some of those hashtags are. So if I’m really trying to get into a new field… I’ve got a special needs daughter, so I follow #special needs or special education as well. Then I’m going to start getting filtered content from that way. Now, if my network is also related to those hashtags, so I’ve got lots of people in property and lots of people in special education, then again, the algorithm kicks up that type of content.

Valentina (20:37):
So if you want to be known, start following what the right hashtags are and also what other people are following. So if they are looking at property investment, Queensland property, actually have a look at the hashtags that come up as a pre-search. So a bit like auto complete in Google, same thing happens in LinkedIn. So adding hashtags to your posts and adding hashtags to your Pulse articles. And then the other part is the tagging where you said @Valentina Balbone, @Peter Brewer, for example. So when I want to tag people, so that I can get the maximum reach, ie. “Here’s a post that I think is going to be relevant to these 20 people.” And Steve, you do this very well on LinkedIn, so I encourage everyone to do follow Steve Carroll because his profile’s a great example of best practice. Beyond best practice, I should say.

Valentina (21:22):
Then you can actually tag by having the @ symbol, just like you can in Facebook and Insta. So it starts with an @ symbol and then the person’s handle, which is not just their name, but it’s whatever their profile name is on the platform. So @ValentinaBalbone, @PeterBrewer, et cetera.

Valentina (21:37):
To get that URL; @PeterBrewer, @ValentinaBorbone, you have to have what’s called a vanity URL. And that simply means that in the top URL bar, it’ll say linkedin.com/au for Australia, /ValentinaBalbone. Now, I’ve customized that so that I don’t have any letters or numbers following my name. So you might see people that’ll say SarahJones123Cd_F. No one’s going to remember that handle. So go into your profile, it’s just Edit Your Settings. And you can actually say, Select Your Vanity URL. That’s what it’s called. And you can customize what it says. Now, I’m really lucky. There’s not many Valentina Balbones out there, but for other people with fairly common names, you might need to add in either an initial or something else that makes you stand out.

Steve (22:24):
Yeah. Got it. Excellent. We’re here with Valentina Balbone, one of Australia’s leading social media coaches. My name’s Steve Carroll. And we’re talking about all LinkedIn. We’ve covered some great stuff in the last 20 minutes. So Val, for those people that are listening to us, what are the three things they should go and do right now to give their LinkedIn profile a real kickstart for 2020?

Valentina (22:48):
So first thing is to actually set up your profile by completing each of the components that are there. Don’t leave one component empty; complete all of them to the best of your ability. Secondly, I’d make sure that you customize your vanity URL. Start following some basic hashtags and start making connections, warm introductions, giving people a reason to connect with you. So, that could be as simple as connecting first with your employees within the same business. It could be finding perhaps your top 20 connections. The more people that you know, one thing that LinkedIn will do was start going through your email address list and finding people for you to make that connection with. So connect with people that you do know first, and then start looking for people that you’d like that connection with.

Steve (23:31):
Valentina, as always you’re full of great content, great information. I’ll look forward to seeing you at Digital Live. Thank you so much for your time.

Valentina (23:41):
Thanks, Steve, and see you at Digital Live. Really looking forward to it.

Digital You is brought to you by LJ Hooker.

How do you connect best with consumers where they are most, on their devices? And how can you use the social media platforms they're on to build your profile, fill your pipeline and win more listings? Digital You is a six-episode podcast hosted by Australia's most respected digital real estate expert, Steve Carroll.

From realestate.com.au to founder of Digital Live, Steve’s understanding of the digital real estate landscape is second to none. Join Steve as he discusses with a special guest each episode a social media channel and how it can ultimately win you more business.

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