Real estate agent Victor Quiroz and his wife recently did a charity 5K run in Beverly Hills, California.

Quiroz, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, shared his experience on the popular photo- and video-messaging app Snapchat. That night, he was shown on Snapchat worldwide, when his "snap," taken wearing a Berkshire Hathaway cap, was chosen as part of the daily featured Live Story, a stream of user snaps, in Los Angeles.

Quiroz, 34, is one of a number of younger real estate agents who are experimenting with a variety of social media channels, including Snapchat, Instagram and Periscope, to build their businesses.

"Social media is the new print ad … but you get more bang for your buck," Quiroz says.

Most real estate agents use Facebook, and many use Twitter. But some are now trying out other services in an attempt to reach younger buyers.

Among those experimenting with these social media platforms is Redfin, a national real estate brokerage that has sought to use technology to upend the traditional real estate sales model. The company recently began advertising on Instagram, showing pictures of homes for sale on the highly visual social site. "The main goal is to encourage folks to download our mobile app," says Angela Newman, head of corporate communications and social media for the company. "We're really happy with it so far."

The company was already using Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube for organic content. Not only does the company post photos of homes for sales, it posts do-it-yourself tips and other content aimed at those who have already bought a home. "Anything that goes along with a house, we want you to think of Redfin," Newman says. "We're experimenting all the time."

The company tries to tailor the content to the channel, with Instagram and Pinterest content being more visual and the Facebook posts being more newsy. On YouTube, Redfin posts how-to videos covering various aspects of the homebuying and selling process.

"Facebook is definitely the most popular out of all of it," Newman says. "It's obviously not going anywhere."

The social media experiments come at a time when most agents are significantly older than their clients. The average age of a member of the National Association of Realtors is 57, essentially the age of the parents of the millennial clients they're trying to attract. According to the NAR, 91 percent of its members use social media to at least some extent, though there is no data on how successful their efforts have been.

Tiffany Alexy, 25, a real estate agent in Raleigh, North Carolina, is working with a prospective buyer she met through Instagram. Alexy, who does social media and blogging for SoloPro, which provides a la carte real estate services, participates in a local collaborative Instagram account called RDUBaton that showcases life in the Raleigh-Durham area. She gained her new client when the prospective buyer saw her posts on the RDUBaton account and noticed that she was a real estate agent.

She is now being more intentional in mentioning her profession on Instagram and using more hashtags to get found in searches. She also continues to use Facebook and Twitter, tailoring her message for each service. "There are some things I would tweet that I wouldn't put on Instagram, and vice versa," Alexy says. "My Instagram following is way different from my Twitter following."

With Twitter, she links to articles she finds interesting, but she doesn't say much. On Facebook, she writes a short post with links to articles or listings. "With Instagram, I try to write a longer caption," she says. "I try to capture more emotion in the caption." She is less focused on Snapchat because the material you create disappears within 24 hours.

She and others in the real estate industry caution that you can't adopt a "sell, sell, sell" approach on social media and expect to be effective. "I think social media is like an online cocktail party, and if you're constantly selling and selling and selling, you're going to miss the relationship building," Quiroz says.

While he might create a Snapchat story out of something work-related, such as setting up for an open house, he sees the platform as a way to show off his personality. "It's not just about promoting the brand and being authentic," he says. "You have to be a little creative."

He also uses Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, is running paid ads on Facebook and Twitter and has tried the live video-streaming apps Periscope and Meerkat. So far, he finds Facebook the most useful of his social media channels for generating business, as prospective clients often contact him via Facebook messages. "They could call me. They could email me. But they choose to get in touch with me through Facebook," he says.

Quiroz has been using Snapchat for six to eight months, and he has about 150 followers. He sees its popularity growing among young people, plus he likes the challenge of creating compelling stories – because followers won't watch if the stories aren't interesting.

He hasn't yet closed a Snapchat deal. "I'd love to be able to have a conversation a year from now saying I'm closing deal from Snapchat," he says. "I think I'm creative, and I'm up for the challenge. I like using it. I feel like I'm Orson Welles creating a film."

Quiroz is the local chapter director for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices' REthink Council, a group of 15 young real estate agents nationwide tasked with helping the company meet the needs of younger customers and recruit young agents. Through that forum, he has given presentations on Snapchat and other social media to fellow agents.

"They don't really get Snapchat," he says. "It's a little tough to get them acclimated to it." But he notes that agents were once leery of Facebook and Twitter. "As time goes on, you get more used to it," he says. "You were scared of Facebook, you were scared of Twitter, you were scared of YouTube."

He points to Disney, Taco Bell and Mashable as companies that are creating compelling stories that boost their brands on Snapchat. Of the service, he says, "It's definitely getting more eyes on it than Facebook and Instagram these days."

Tags: personal finance, real estate, social networking, technology


Teresa Mears writes about personal finance, real estate and retirement for U.S. News and other publications. She was previously the real estate blogger for MSN Money and worked as the Home & Design editor for The Miami Herald. During her journalism career, she worked on coverage of immigration, religion, national and international news and local news, serving on the staffs of The Miami Herald, The Los Angeles Times and the St. Petersburg Times. She has also been a contributor for The New York Times and The Boston Globe, among other publications. She publishes Living on the Cheap and Miami on the Cheap. Follow her on Twitter @TeresaMears.