When you think of social media platform TikTok, images of teenagers doing funky dances come to mind. And while that’s one category of content on the increasingly popular app, real estate is swiftly gaining a large following. Kylie Dulhunty did some research and spoke to two agents generating listings, sales, followers and likes on the platform, to find out how they got started and how they make it work for their business.
“Isn’t TikTok just for silly dance videos?”
“Only kids use TikTok.”
“Buyers don’t look for homes on TikTok.”
No doubt you’ve heard these phrases many times in recent years, and maybe you’ve even muttered them yourself.
While there may have been a grain of truth to them when TikTok first appeared, the social media platform has undergone a dramatic evolution since its 2016 inception in China.
In the past two years, TikTok has exploded as a social media marketing tool for real estate agents, with some generating millions of followers and likes, as well as listings and sales.
Agents across the globe, and particularly in the US, use it not just to list, sell and rent out their properties but as a personal branding tool with mass reach.
The start of TikTok
But where did it all start?
Owned by ByteDance, TikTok, in a nutshell, is a video-focused social media platform where users post short video clips in a range of categories, including entertainment, pranks, cooking and, yes, dance.
Initially, the platform was launched in mainland China, known as Douyin, before going international when it merged with musical.ly, an app created for lip-sync clips, in August 2018.
By December 2019, the company reported it had 508 million global users, and in September last year, it hit the magic one billion mark.
In a viral thank you video released at the time, TikTok Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas said the platform was about so much more than just dance videos.
“Over one billion people around the world come to TikTok to be entertained, inspired or to discover something new, like sports, music, arts and culture, fashion, DIY and more,” she says.
“That’s one billion people every month watching and sharing each other’s creativity.”
The NYC agent
One real estate agent that has embraced TikTok and reaped the rewards is New York-based realtor Madison Sutton.
Madison initially took to TikTok in 2020 to show properties to renters and buyers in the middle of the global pandemic.
But she’s had such success, generating about 100,000 followers and more than $1.7 million likes, that private real estate brokerage Brown Harris Stevens has hired her to develop TikTok workshops and train the agency’s agents to create a new way of securing leads and business via the platform.
Madison says she had hardly used TikTok before the pandemic hit but decided to try it out as a way to promote the apartments she was leasing when it became impossible to do in-person inspections.
“One day I just started posting videos to TikTok, and overnight it really blew up,” she says.
“People were really receptive to it.”
Madison quickly started posting more content, including video walk-throughs and Q and As on topics she was commonly asked about as an agent, including issues such as brokers’ fees, taxation, what to do when your landlord wants you to move out and more.
“Any business in a service-based industry should be on TikTok,” Madison says.
“TikTok has over one billion monthly users, and 48 per cent of Americans aged 19 to 29 are on TikTok, which is quickly catching up with YouTube in terms of the amount of time the average user spends on the app per day.”
Madison says TikTok’s “stale reputation” for being an app just for teenagers is quickly changing and one of the greatest features of the platform for real estate agents is its highly tailored algorithm.
TikTok itself explains it as “ranking videos based on a combination of factors, starting from interests you express as a new user and adjusting for things you indicate you’re not interested in”.
Madison says if you’re interested in cooking, then TikTok will serve you up cooking videos, and if you’re interested in real estate, that’s what you’ll see in your feed.
“If someone is interested in what you’re talking about, TikTok will put it in front of them, so you’re getting the right audience,” she says.
“You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by being on TikTok, and you’re not too late to join the game.
“You don’t have to worry about not having enough followers when you start out; it only takes one to buy or rent that property.”
Madison goes by the handle @NYCAgent on TikTok and chose that name to create a recognisable brand. And it’s worked. While people may not remember her Christian name, they do remember NYCAgent.
“Probably eight times a week I’ll be walking down the street, and people will be like, ‘Oh, it’s the NYCAgent’,” she says.
“I’ve had people tell me, ‘I watched your videos and that’s why I moved to New York City’.
“TikTok has done wonders for my brand.”
Business had tripled
But has that equated to listings, sales, more landlords and leased properties?
“It has tripled my business,” she says.
“I’ll never forget the first exclusive listing I got from the app. The landlord saw my videos and reached out to me to represent his three buildings.
“They are large scale buildings with one of them being about 150 units and the other two about 200 to 250 units each.
“It was also my birthday, so that was a great birthday present.”
Madison says she’s also had tenants rent properties from her without seeing the apartment and based solely on the fact they follow her on TikTok and trust her brand.
“It’s created real brand integrity and enabled me to scale to the point that people don’t even want a FaceTime tour,” she notes.
“They just say, ‘We trust your brand’.”
So how do you know where to start when it comes to making your videos?
Clips on TikTok can run anywhere from a second or two up to three minutes, and Madison says shorter videos usually perform better.
Other than nailing the time, it’s also important to deliver engaging content, but that doesn’t mean perfect content.
Madison says there’s a “big misconception” that agents must put themselves in front of the camera, but that’s not true, and when she first started, she stayed firmly behind the lens.
“I was terrified of the camera, so I was always behind the camera, and I was just doing voiceovers,” she says.
“So I encourage everyone to at least try it (TikTok) because you don’t have to put yourself out there to this crazy degree.
“You can just show really beautiful homes, or you can show really good content, and people are extremely receptive to that.”
But what makes great content?
Madison says she doesn’t only share her listings and advice on the real estate market but everyday snippets from her life, such as the time she decided to quit drinking alcohol, what she eats in a day to keep her energy up and what it’s like behind the scenes as a real estate agent.
She also likes to engage with her viewers and invite them to help her with tasks such as designing her new office or asking them real estate-related questions such as how much their rent has increased since the pandemic.
“People really enjoy the content that makes you seem more human,” Madison says.
“So I share anything from what I’m wearing that day to what a day in the life of a real estate agent looks like.
“People are fascinated by these things. With any career, you forget that other people don’t do this every day. They don’t have a glimpse into this world, so any glimpse you can give them, they really enjoy.”
It’s also important to be authentic, and Madison says people don’t want to see the stereotypical agent on their screens.
“We’re moving away from that Instagram model where everyone and everything has to be perfect,” she explains.
“People like authentic content, and if that means you stutter in a video or maybe you didn’t do things 100 per cent perfectly, people appreciate that much more because it’s real.
“It all comes back to making yourself more human.”
Aussie agents are on TikTok
It was the ‘human element’ that set Western Australian real estate agent Corey Adamson’s TikTok feed alight when he posted a video of himself going for a run.
A former AFL footballer and Major League baseballer, Corey became a real estate agent about four years ago and is now partners with Paul Tonich at The Agency in Perth.
Corey says it was listening to Gary Vaynerchuk that inspired him to try TikTok.
“I’d done everything else in terms of Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, and Gary was saying people should get on TikTok,” he says.
“The first thing I uploaded was a running video, just me running, and it got 300,000 views.
“That made me go, ‘wow’ there’s something in this.
“So I started experimenting with real estate stuff, and a couple got 200,000 and 300,000 views on them, and now it’s just become something I do.”
Corey’s handle on TikTok is @coreytherealestateagent, and in a little more than a year, he has amassed 17,500 followers and almost 300,000 likes.
“I’m averaging about 400,000 views every month, and I can’t think of anywhere else that you can do that, especially not for free,” he says.
“There’s no amount of letterbox drops that can garner that reach.”
Corey posts a wide range of content on TikTok, including video walk-throughs of properties he has listed, answering clients’ most asked questions and personal insights into his life, such as training for a half marathon.
He says clips of luxury properties gather a lot of views and likes, but sometimes it’s the most unexpected videos that people love the most.
“One was of me putting a pizza in the car and putting the seat heater on as a ‘hack’ to keep it warm,” Corey laughs.
“It got about 30,000 views. Sometimes you’ll post something and think, ‘no one is going to watch this’, and it will be your best video.
“Just give it a go.”
A new source of referrals
Corey says the age of people using TikTok is rising, and he has followers and leads from viewers in all age brackets.
But he says he has also received referrals from teenagers who recommend their parents contact him after seeing his videos.
“I’ve listed properties from TikTok because the vendors’ kids have said, ‘You’ve got to meet Corey’,” he says.
“That’s a pretty good way to get in the door of a property.
“You may not think parents would look to their kids for a real estate agent when they get 30 other agents dropping letters in their letterbox, but they do.”
Corey says that doesn’t mean you can do away with other forms of marketing, but he says TikTok adds another layer to ensure you get the most eyes on your listings, as well as being able to build your personal brand.
Fear of trying something new and potentially failing keeps many agents from trying TikTok out, but Corey urges other agents to “go in without any expectations and know it’s going to be all about the long game”.
“If you mix that with your Instagram, your Facebook and your emails, phone calls and letterbox drops and community work, it adds another layer, and it’s a further 400,000 people seeing my face every single month,” he says.
Corey and Madison’s top TikTop tips
1. Just do it
Getting in front of the camera will always be uncomfortable, but you won’t get better at it if you’re not doing it. So just get content out there and don’t worry about being a perfectionist. If you really don’t want to appear on camera, don’t. As Madison says, voiceovers work just fine as a starting point, the important thing is to create content.
2. You don’t have to be Spielberg
Your video doesn’t have to be a cinematic production. You can just use your phone in selfie mode. Or, Corey says, why not ask your regular videographer if they can do a shorter clip for TikTok as an added extra.
3. Check out others
Spend some time on the App or the web browser and follow other agents. Check out what they do and follow suit. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
4. Post consistently
If you’re going to post on TikTok, or any social media, you have to be consistent. You won’t build a following if you only update your content every six months.
Real estate TikTok accounts follow in 2022
Madison’s account is a smorgasbord of content creation ideas. It literally has everything. From her early voiceover video tours of her listings, Madison’s TikTok is a chronological timeline of her evolution using the platform. You can watch her discuss NYC apartment price points, and the upfront costs of renting, to getting a chiropractic adjustment and recommending local restaurants.
Kicking off his videos with a grin and a thumbs up, Corey’s TikTok videos are fresh and fun with a mix of listings, advice, information and insights into life outside of real estate. Highlights include Q and As on how young people enter the market and how he got into real estate, clips on why he loves his job, his latest listings and what happened when a car across the street from his place caught fire.
The founder and CEO of Londono Realty Group, Tatiana’s TikTok videos are vibrant and energetic. She separates her content into three groups – property hustles, millionaire tips and agent success. Topics covered include the work it takes to become a successful agent, how to grow wealth through real estate and coaching tips.
He’s the biggest brand in real estate, so it makes sense that Ryan Serhant is on TikTok. From videos shot with fans to mocking himself in a clip about a day in the life of the world’s best broker, Ryan certainly brings humour to his TikTok videos. He also answers questions from fellow agents and fans, offers glimpses into his life at home, and there are plenty of pro tips as well.
If you’re new to real estate or just need some help connecting with your clients better, then Steevie is sure to have some content for you. As a mentor and a coach, Steevie has a great mix of fun and serious content covering everything from winning more listings to her tips for showing home and personal branding hacks.
TikTok content ideas
1. Property tours
It makes sense that you want to show off the properties you have on the market. Trends that are gaining traction right now include luxury property tours because who doesn’t love to see how the other half live? Also, keep in mind that people love the weird, the wonderful and the unusual, so if you’ve got a property that fits those criteria, show it off. And don’t forget that sometimes just showing a little teaser will bring people back the following day to see more of the home.
2. A day in the life
Real estate agents know what goes on behind the scenes of your workday, but the general public doesn’t. Give them a glimpse of what you do – but make it on an exciting day. Think property shoot days, the day you’re a guest on a podcast, when you have an open, or you’re holding an auction.
3. Q and A
What are the top questions you get asked day-in, day-out? Answer them in a quick explainer video. You could talk about how to style your home for sale or why styling is a good investment, how agent commission works or what you did to get into real estate.
4. Get personal
Let viewers take a peek inside your life away from the office. People love children and pets, so next time you’re on a family picnic, shoot a quick video. Let followers see your favourite coffee shop or you playing in the local tennis comp after work. Let potential clients get a picture of you so that when they meet you, they feel like they already know and trust you.