Thoughts about real estate, referrals, technology and big data.

Webinar Recap: The Power of Giving


“The secret to happiness is: Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it.” –Dan Dennett


Last week we sat down with Caroline Pinal, co-founder of Giveback Homes, a company that empowers real estate agents to turn their everyday business into an opportunity for social change.

Caroline, who previously worked at TOMS, has always been passionate about making social giving a priority, and inspiring others to do the same. She shared how to:

  • Develop a social-giving plan that works for your business
  • Identify giving partners
  • Determine how much to donate
  • Easily jump-start your giving efforts, no matter your resources

Simply put, doing good is good for business — and integrating social giving into your business has never been easier. Here’s just how simple it can be.

  • Find the “why” for your giving efforts. Why are you doing this? What’s your motivation? What are you passionate about? It’s important to first take the time to figure out why you want to make giving a priority and what causes you to want to connect your business with your passion.
  • Do your due diligence and identify giving partners. Rather than just donating to the first charity that pops up on Google, make sure you do your research on the organizations and charities you are interested in. Charity Navigator enables you to browse and find charities by category to consider (e.g., animals, education, environment, health). Taking the time to vet the organization early on will help ensure your money is going to the right place.
  • Quantify donations, set goals, and celebrate milestones. Sharing how much your business has donated is great, but take it a step further by quantifying the difference you made (e.g., five homes built, 60 gallons of water saved). In addition, setting goals for your giving efforts are just as significant as your business goals — and once you reach them you can celebrate those milestones. Not sure how much you should donate? Caroline recommends starting small and scaling from there. After all, it’s most important to find the right giving partner that will make the biggest impact.
  • Collect and share stories. So how do you share the amazing work you are doing for your community? Through stories. Storytelling is one of the best ways to share your philanthropic efforts and inspire others to share the stories, too. Just as an agent might share their testimonials and client success stories, those same tactics can be applied to sharing how you are giving back. Sharing pictures, writing a blog post and posting on social media are all easy and free outlets for sharing these compelling stories with your customers.
  • Get involved and fully integrate giving into your business. It’s important to find other ways to get involved in addition to making donations. This may include volunteering or inviting your clients to join you at a giving event. For example, Giveback Homes invites their members to join them at local job sites across the country to help build homes for families in need. Check out pictures from the ReferralExchange Build Day in Sacramento.
  • Simplify your message and beware of “cause washing.” Cause washing is inauthentic marketing for good, e.g., brands saying they are giving back more than they are — which is why it’s imperative to be as authentic and transparent as possible with your giving efforts. Don’t just say that you give, show it. When you simplify your message, and giving strategy, it’s easy to remember. Give Realty for example, donates 25% to a non-profit of their clients’ choice at the end of each transaction.
  • Start small, then scale and be flexible. To set yourself up for success, take it step by step. Start small, then figure out what’s working and scale it from there. Be true to your business, know your strengths and weaknesses, and be open to changing it up if you need to. Take things slowly, give responsibly, and do what is most meaningful to you and your customers.

Wherever your social-giving efforts take you, make sure to be authentic; remember it’s okay to start small, be consistent and take time to find the right organization with which to align your giving efforts.

CHALLENGE: Donate time or dollars to a cause you’ve never donated to before. Take note of your experience (e.g., what you liked, how it made you feel) and let Caroline know how you felt and if it had any effect on your giving strategy:


Interested in joining the Giveback Homes movement? Sign-up today, and enter REX as your Building Code to receive the special Pro Member plan rate of $25/month.


 Photo via Stylish Detroit

With the rise of digital marketing and demand for compelling visual content, real estate agents now have to use a wide variety of tactics to reach and engage with their audiences across all platforms. With a heavy reliance on visual images to sell properties, it makes sense that social media is now a great platform to circulate listings.

Without well-shot photographs and carefully crafted captions or hashtags, however, you’ll have trouble driving any real leads from social. Make the most of your efforts with these six tips, which will help improve your listing photos to increase social media engagement.


1. Check your Equipment

High-quality photos usually come from a digital single-lens reflex, most commonly referred to as a DSLR, such as Nikon and Cannon—and that camera doesn’t come cheap.

Luckily, the camera on the new iPhone 7 is just as good, featuring a dual lens camera with a wide-angle lens. What’s most exciting is its ability to take pictures with a larger depth of field, according to a new CouponBox review, allowing you to capture high-quality images on a device you may already have or be planning to update to.

Pro tip: Play with the settings, just as you would with a DLSR, to make sure each photo you take is optimized for the home you’re in.


2. Take Advantage of the Golden Hour

This is the perfect time to photograph your listings, according to CoSchedule. During “Golden hour,” which happens within an hour of sunrise or sunset, the lighting is just right.

If you’re too late for the golden hour, brighten up darker rooms by turning on an overhead light, adding a lamp in a strategic place or even renting professional lights and knock out a few shoots in one day.

Pro tip: In a pinch, brighten your photos with a basic or low-priced editor, or using a filter in Instagram.


3. Set the Scene

When people invest in a home, they’re looking for a place to build their life. Showing them what life could look like inside the home is one of the most important parts of taking listing photos that will increase engagement and drive buyers.

However, that doesn’t mean you want the home to look “lived in” with messy covers and baby toys sprawled across the floor. Before taking any photos, follow this simple checklist:

  • Remove any personal touches such as picture frames or magnets.
  • Replace worn-out furnishings.
  • Check the curtains: Should they be opened all the way or just slightly? (This will help you find the best natural lighting)
  • Find the top feature of the room and highlight that.

Pro tip: If you feature unique interior details, use relevant hashtags to engage with interior designers to get your listing reposted for more potential buyers to see.


4. Think Unique Selling Points

When you’re taking photos of a listing, consider what unique selling points your photographs can capture and then share those on your social sites. Include a link back to the listing page so those who are interested can see the rest of the photos by clicking through.

Pro tip: Each week, post a photo highlighting an amazing feature of a new home. These more “interesting” photos will draw people to follow and engage with you. Use one of these popular real estate hashtags to make sure your photo is seen.


5. Make a Collage

Once you’ve taken the photos, a collage may be the best way to boost your social media engagement. “Splitting the main listing photo, as a collage, allows a potential homeowner to immediately see an interior and exterior shot. Because our homes are beautifully staged, the split listing photo gets a lot of attention and sets it apart from every other one in the MLS and online,” explains Paul Moore, founder of Smith Mountain Homes.

Pro tip: Use Instagram’s built-in tool to quickly and easily to design, edit and share. Connect your account to Facebook and Twitter, and share on all three platforms at once.


6. Use Hashtags

Once you post your photo, the caption should be carefully crafted to resonate with your audience and spark engagement, complete with hashtags.

However, not all hashtags are created equal. They should be relevant to your industry, audience and location. Finally, don’t go overboard; research has found that 7 hashtags are the sweet spot for increasing engagement on Instagram, and just 3 to 4 is ideal on Twitter. As a social media marketer, I’ve seen this work first-hand.

Pro tip: Find hashtags that are trending in your area, since you’ll likely be looking to attract engagement from people locally. For example, Greenville SC has a trending hashtag, #yeahTHATgreenville, that consistently gets engagement. Posting a new listing in Greenville along with the #yeahTHATgreenville is a great way to get engagement and brand impressions.


BIO: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and been in social media and content marketing for five. She’s currently a full-time blogger and has been written for Lifehack, Inman, Reader’s Digest,, and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07.

Modern Keyboard With Colored Social Network Buttons.

“Choose your social channels based on what your clients – and future clients – are using.”

Our VP of Marketing, Lisa Fettner, recently spoke at the California Realtor® Expo and explained the value in embracing the new social media channels that have burst onto the real estate marketing scene. Lisa shared how these social platforms are expanding to touch all generations, and how you can easily integrate Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook Live, and Periscope into your everyday marketing.


Snapchat has 100 million users (60% of which are under 24) who spend an average of 19 minutes a day on the platform. While the current audience is young, the largest segment of Snapchat’s growth is with users over 25. Snapchat offers an easy way to tell a story and share quick tips, news, or a sneak peek into your business or personal life that you might not share on any other social channel. Lisa also shared the importance of your Snapcode, how to cross-promote on other channels, track and manage your snaps, identify top users through Ghostcodes, and how you can use custom geofilters to promote your brand. You can view our geofilter from the conference here.  For more on Snapchat, check out our previous blog posts:


Instagram boasts a roster of 500 million users — a little over half of which are between the ages of 18-29 — who spend an average of 20 minutes a day on the platform. Just like Snapchat, there are several ways you can engage your audience, such as sharing photos and videos of new listings, before and after home renovations, home tours and inspirational quotes.

Lisa also stressed the importance of your account settings — making sure your page is public and converted to a business profile so consumers can easily contact you. Sharing meaningful images paired with brief and compelling captions (e.g., questions, call-to-actions) and appropriate hashtags are equally important for success on the platform. In addition, Instagram just introduced Instagram Stories (check out the top of your newsfeed), very similar to Snapchat, however there are no filters and you can only respond via text. If you already have a bigger following on Instagram than you do on Snapchat, it might make more sense for you to embrace Instagram Stories vs. starting from scratch on Snapchat.

Facebook Live/Periscope

Remember the Chewbacca Mask Lady? That video went viral after it was shared via Facebook Live. Similar to Facebook Live, Periscope (10 million users) also allows users to share live videos which can then be posted to social media channels such as Facebook or Twitter for 24 hours. We’ve seen agents use both platforms to do live Q&As, “how to” videos, and share behind the scenes footage at open houses. So what’s the difference between Periscope and Facebook Live? Facebook Live (Lisa’s preferred platform), is already built into Facebook so you can easily broadcast and post videos from your account. It’s also easier to archive videos and target your audience. Periscope on the other hand can be synced with your Twitter account, allows you to sketch while streaming and makes it easier to add relevant hashtags.

In summary, using Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook Live, and Periscope can help you provide a candid view into your business, reach new audiences, offer temporary engagement, communicate your company culture and value proposition, and support your visual and virtual business. Regardless of whether you use one or all of the social channels discussed, remember to always be consistent, always be relevant, and don’t be afraid to have fun!

Access the full presentation here, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat!

Content marketing strategy and ideas concept background

Yes, content marketing works! But it’s hard, has many moving parts and doesn’t play directly into a cold-eyed ROI analysis. That was the topic of our recent webinar with Paul Hagey – managing editor at T3 Sixty and founder of HageyMedia.

Paul, who has years of writing and journalism experience, explained the importance of content marketing and shared its components, strategy roles, and goals.

Content Marketing

Simply put, content marketing is a strategic approach to creating and distributing information to attract a specific audience. It’s more important and powerful now than ever because consumer attention is very difficult to attract and maintain. Content Marketing enables you to own your own platform by providing original information that consumers can’t find anywhere else. Paul shared the Denver Ear and Tacoma agent Marguerite Giguere’s websites as two examples of successful content marketing strategies.

Components of Content Marketing

The three components of content marketing include creation (i.e., video, blog posts, photos), distribution via social media channels/email, and measurement (i.e., Google analytics, Facebook insights). Paul stressed that distribution is just as important as the quality of the content you are creating. Measuring your efforts will also help you determine which content is resonating with your audience.


To create a smart content plan, you must clarify your business goals, know your brand, identify your audience, create your content, and distribute and measure it. It’s important to understand your value proposition and what will make you stand out.


Content marketing roles (which can be outsourced or done by you) include strategists, creators, editors, distributors, community managers, and analysts. These are people who think about your business goals and the type of content you want to create, brainstorm ideas, and create and edit content — many things that Paul noted are often overlooked. Community managers help maintain and nurture online relationships by replying to questions and comments. As Katie Lance often reiterates, social media is a two-way street. Lastly, a good analyst will make the time — whether weekly, monthly, or quarterly — to assess what strategy and content is working and what is not.


Before you get started, it’s important to identify your goals for content marketing, otherwise, what’s the point? Some of these goals may include generating new leads, growing your database, increasing SEO and brand awareness, demonstrating expertise and establishing trust with consumers.

The big takeaways from Paul’s presentation include: committing to your content marketing strategy, starting small and building a strong foundation, understanding why you’re doing it, and measuring so you can tweak your strategy along the way.

Want to jumpstart your content marketing efforts? Schedule a free consultation with Paul. 


Earlier this year, we announced our new partnership with Giveback Homes to help create social change through the real estate community. As part of this effort, we recently hosted a  Sacramento Build Day with Giveback Homes and their build partner, Habitat for Humanity.

Forty of our employees volunteered to work across three job sites alongside Giveback Homes agents, Habitat for Humanity members and future home owners. We are incredibly proud of our volunteers who jumped right in and put their handyman skills to work. And we’re especially grateful to Giveback Homes for organizing an amazing day of giving back to our community.

Here’s what a few of our employees had to say about their experience.

“It felt wonderful to know that at the end of the day, a family would truly benefit from our hard work. It was indeed a labor of love and I was happy to be a part of it.” –Michele G.

“It was an experience to remember. I feel as if everyone in their lifetime should have the opportunity and/or take the time to volunteer. It makes you appreciate things more and want to take care of your home and the community around you. Everyone deserves a place to call home.” –Charro T.

“A great day in the sun, getting to know my new co-workers while making a difference in our community. This was a perfect idea. –Phil H.

“What I loved about the experience was the ability for us to come together as a team for a great cause. –Tameka P.

“I really enjoyed doing the work and team work to help to make a family in need dreams come true – can’t wait for next time.” –Jeffrey H.

Check out photos from the build day here. Learn more about Giveback Homes at and Habitat for Humanity at

businessman in airport

Inman Connect San Francisco marks the kickoff to our industry’s busy conference season each year. As we all gear up for several months of booking flights, packing suitcases, and tweaking presentations — here are some tips to help you make the most of your own conference experience.

Get “Conference-ready”

  1. Set your objectives and goals. What are you hoping to get out the conference — new industry connections? A better social media strategy? A new advertising platform? Identifying your objectives and goals upfront will help you prioritize and spend your time wisely.
  2. Plan meetings ahead of time. Depending on the length of the conference, pick three to six people with whom you’d really like to meet, and reach out to them a week or two prior to the conference to get on their calendars. At the same time, be realistic with your time and try to avoid overbooking your schedule. You never know when you might connect with someone new or run into an old friend you didn’t expect to see. Keep things somewhat flexible so you can grab a spontaneous cup of coffee or dinner.
  3. Get packing. Put together a checklist so you don’t forget networking necessities like fresh business cards, batteries/chargers, your preferred device for note-taking (e.g., laptop, iPad, notebook), snacks, and agenda (Pro tip: download the conference app if there is one).

Network and Learn

  1. Get #social. Don’t forget to share your experience with your online followers. Sharing photos and videos on social media and live tweeting is a great way to share your experience with your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat followers. For example, share one new tip you learned each day via an Instagram video. Browsing and using the official conference hashtag in your posts will also help you stay in the loop and conversation.
  2. Be flexible. As we mentioned earlier, try not to overwhelm your schedule. Conferences are a great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. At Inman Connect SF, Audie Chamberlain from Lion & Orb shared the conference tip to “stay an extra day and have lunch with someone you just met.”
  3. Enjoy it! As hectic and jam-packed as a conference can feel, don’t forget to enjoy it. It’s a great opportunity for personal and professional development. This is your time away from your clients, the office, and your daily routine – so make sure you soak it up.

Follow-up and Reflect  

  1. Share your insights and takeaways. Now that you’re back in the office with your notes and “aha moments,” share them! Create a Google doc to dump all of your big takeaways and notes for your team to read. Schedule a brainstorming session so you can give your team a conference summary, share ideas and hear their thoughts. Taking the time to reflect on who you’ve met and what you’ve learned can help you effectively implement these new tips and ideas into your business.
  2. Follow up, follow up, follow up. This might be our most important post-conference tip. It’s extremely important to follow up with the people you met. Whether it’s a brief email, handwritten note, or LinkedIn invitation, make sure to follow up within 3-5 days. After all, relationships don’t grow from just seeing someone twice a year at a conference.
  3. Decide if you’ll go again. As you reflect on your time at the conference, think about whether it’s worth attending again. Did you like the size? Was the information shared new or relevant to you? Were the attendees and vendors people with whom you could do business? Hopefully the conference was everything you expected and more. And perhaps next time you’ll want to bring some of your team members to share the experience!

Attending an upcoming conference? Check our conference map to see if we’ll be there!

Chinese Proverb

Just like every year, Inman Connect SF ends as quickly as it arrives. It feels as though we blink and just like that, the content packed week of networking and learning is gone in a flash – leaving us with great memories, business cards to sort and information from the top leaders in the industry to reflect on.

Although we were unable to attend every session during the week, below are our favorite tweet-worthy quotes from the event.

Looking for more quotes and key takeaways from the conference? Browse the #ICSF feed on Twitter!


Check out our favorite places while you’re in San Francisco.

We are especially excited for the Inman Connect® conference kicking off this week — because it’s taking place in our hometown, San Francisco! Ready for a week filled with networking, learning, sharing, catching up with old friends, and making new connections? We are! And for those of you who are not local, our San Francisco Team is sharing their favorite spots, ranging from where to get a great cup of coffee to the best places to take in the stunning views this city offers.

Need coffee? If you’re in need of an energy boost, grab a cup of coffee at Capital One Café/Peets. Enjoy 50% off all drinks if you have a CapitalOne Card, Blue Bottle, Philz Coffee or Mazarine Coffee.

Dinner ideas? Our CEO’s top picks include Tosca Café and Katanaya in Union Square. Other great eats include southern tastes at Hops & Hominy, the Italian-Californian eatery Puccini & Pinetti and the bar and lounge at Press Club.  Should you venture farther out, enjoy a meal at Little Star Pizza, Brenda’s Meat & Three, Octavia, Cala Restaurant, The Little Chihuahua, Nopa, Burma Superstar and Caffe Sport. For great Chinese food, check out the Hunan or City View Restaurant (best soup dumplings ever!).

Exercise? If you’re looking for somewhere to take a morning run or bike ride before the conference begins, the Embarcadero offers a great waterfront path, and also runs past the Ferry Building. Huntington Park is also not far — a great area to walk or relax and is surrounded by the famous Grace Cathedral and Fairmont Hotel, plus bonus views of the bay.

Breathtaking views? San Francisco is full of photo ops. If you have time, check out the Golden Gate Bridge, Twin Peaks, Coit Tower, Top of the Mark, Lombard Street, Dolores Park, Cliff House, and Lyon Street Steps.

If you are extending your stay past the conference, there is still plenty to do. Hiking the Marin Headlands, spending an afternoon at Baker Beach, visiting the SFMOMA, having a picnic in Golden Gate Park, touring Alcatraz, biking around Sausalito, or unwinding in Napa/Sonoma are sure to make your trip a memorable one!

If you’re planning to attend Inman Connect this week, don’t forget to stop by our booth to learn how you can make the most of your referral business!

Man and woman couple help silhouette in mountains

Think you don’t need a real estate coach? Think again. That was the topic of our most recent webinar when our VP of Marketing, Lisa Fettner, sat down with personal and business coach Jody Burr.

Jody, a real estate conference speaker and panelist who works with real estate professionals and business owners nationwide, answered some of our questions on how working with a coach can help take your business to the next level.

What are the differences between a coach, a consultant, and a therapist?

“A consultant gives advice and guidance in their area of expertise, and a therapist tends to focus on resolving past issues. A coach looks at your individual desires and goals to help you achieve them. A coach tends to ask more than tell; focuses on helping to make you better at the job you know.”

Why would a top agent need a coach?

“Coaching can transform your business and bring it to the next level. Just because you are good at what you do, doesn’t mean there aren’t areas where you can excel to a greater extent or be more efficient. Coaching can also help you reach your most important goals, be more effective, and help both your personal and business relationships.”

How would a real estate agent use a coach?

“Coaching real estate professionals usually focuses on individual needs, goals, priorities, strengths, and challenges. For example, where you want to grow your business, and what you want to accelerate. I had one client who was on-call 24 hours a day and needed personal time. Together, we worked to set up boundaries that allowed her the personal time guilt-free, but did not impact her client satisfaction — or performance.”

What are the top areas with which you would typically help an agent?

“Time management can be a big issue. If you are not really accountable to anyone, it’s easy to fall into traps of not managing your time correctly. It’s important to find a way to work smarter, not harder. Also, sometimes our own limited thinking can prevent us from getting where we want to go. Getting those thoughts out of the way is critical for exceeding your expectations. A coach can help you build the concrete steps to get you there.”

How do I find a coach?  

“See if any colleagues or friends have used a coach and can give you a referral. The International Coaching Federation and Coaching Training Institute also have directories of coaches in your area. Try to get a sample session with a coach beforehand to make sure it’s a good fit.”

Is it important to use a certified coach?

“Yes, because a certified coach has gone through extensive training. Coaching is about asking questions that help people figure out what’s important to them. It’s also an unregulated business, so anyone can say they are a coach without any training. By getting someone who is certified, you know you are working with someone who knows what they are doing.”

What should I look for when finding the right coach?

“When exploring different coaches, you should look for someone with whom you feel a connection. A good coach will be more concerned about you getting what you need rather than them getting the business. A coach’s job is to make sure they help you achieve your goals. Explore and research several coaches to ensure you find the right one.”

How long does the average coaching relationship last?

“It really depends. The coach and the client create what is called a designed alliance — an agreement of how they will work together. Coaches typically will start a contract for a period of time (e.g., 3 months, 4 months, 6 months). At the end of the contract it’s on a month-by-month basis. Typically, if it’s a good fit, you can stay indefinitely. At the end of the day, it’s up to you for how long you want to do it.”

How has coaching changed over the last few years?

“Coaching today is getting a lot more attention and has become much more acceptable as a key part of business and success. Most entrepreneurs and businesses site coaching as a major contributor to their success.”

Still wondering if a real estate coach is right for you? Try a complimentary coaching session with Jody by phone to explore the process. 


We’ve been talking a lot about Snapchat lately and how it can help you be more successful. Hopefully you’ve caught our previous two blog posts, “6 Reasons Agents Should Join the Snapchat Phenomenon” and “Snapchat 101 – Part 2: Get started in 3 easy steps.” In our final Snapchat blog, we’re sharing tips on how to incorporate the real-time, photo app into your business.

Tell real-time stories. Real estate is all about telling a story, and Snapchat allows users to do just that. Potential buyers don’t just want to see the house for sale — they want to envision their lives there, and see the quaint coffee shop just around the corner, the charming neighborhood they’ll get to be a part of, and the middle school that is just a quick drive down the road. Think of fun ways you can tell a story beyond the home, such as reviewing a local restaurant or taking a walk through a nearby park. With Snapchat, all you need is your smartphone to show that you are the neighborhood expert.

Hold client attention. Snapchat offers a great way for you to maintain client engagement and keep you top of mind. If you’re house hunting for your buyers, you could send them videos and pictures of the homes you are touring while highlighting key features they are looking for. They can quickly send you a direct message for more information if they see one they like. If you’re listing your client’s home, send them pictures of you hosting the open house or putting together the paperwork for the closing. It will show them that you are tech savvy, working hard, and easy to reach if needed. Once you close a deal, ask your clients if you can record a quick testimonial video for you to share with your followers.

Get creative with custom geofilters. Snapchat geofilters have become a popular way for businesses to build brand recognition. Anyone can create a custom filter with their logo and target Snapchat users at a specific location or event. Social media guru, Gary Vaynerchuk, shared a creative example of how an agent in Soho could buy filters on top of the hottest restaurants in the neighborhood. He explains, “For the cool, affluent 36-year old who can afford a 3-million-dollar apartment in Soho, a real estate agent who is smart enough to create a filter on Snapchat is exactly the person who is going to win that business.” We recently experimented with our own custom geofilter when our VP of Marketing, Lisa Fettner, spoke at the AFIRE conference in Arizona. We created a custom ReferralExchange Snapchat filter that reflected both the conference and location. Check it out here.

We hope you found our Snapchat tips useful. Don’t forget to add ReferralExchange on Snapchat here for exclusive pictures and videos!