The Real Deal New York

Agents adapt to the age of Instagram

How Westchester’s top brokers are embracing — or eschewing — social media
By Amy Zimmer | January 04, 2018 11:00AM

One of the agency’s North Salem properties

As homebuyers become more reliant on the internet to help their searches — sometimes racing through an actual house showing because they’ve already seen photos online — brokerages are ramping up their social media presence. Meanwhile, many of Westchester’s top-performing brokers are slowly becoming more active in the medium.

Generally, Instagram accounts of the firms and brokers tend to have the most engagement in terms of users liking and commenting on posts, but Facebook
still garners the most followers.

Still, some say face time — the old-fashioned kind — is still the best way to do business, even in the internet age. 

Here’s a look at some of how some of Westchester’s top brokers and their firms engage with social media. The numbers of followers were recorded in the first week of December 2017.

Houlihan Lawrence

Want to learn more about the newest farm-to-table restaurant in Rhinebeck? Houlihan Lawrence uses social media to share articles about local businesses and architecture and design, as well as to highlight its listings.

The firm’s Kimberly Arenas was an early adopter of social media. She posts frequently for her roughly 200 followers on Twitter and 400 Facebook followers, and has a weekly Facebook Live show called, “What’s Up Westchester.” It airs Wednesdays at 1 p.m. and features guests like home stagers or landscape architects.

“We are hearing that our clients are responding to video,” she said.

Sheila Stoltz, also of Houlihan Lawrence, does not think she gets business through using social media yet, but she is using online tools — with the help of an assistant — like Instagram (where she has more than 500 followers) and Twitter (she has about 200 followers). She’s also using targeted Facebook ads.

“I feel like I owe it to my clients to use every tool in my bag,” she said. “It’s just another way to expose my properties or promote my brand.”

Pollena Forsman started an Instagram account this year to provide additional exposure to her listings.

“I am slowly and organically building a following,” she said of her account, which has roughly 470 followers. “I can’t correlate a direct sale to it. But I think it is adding to my overall marketing.”

Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International

The company — created a decade ago when Sotheby’s bought the local firm — curates its Facebook feed with its #HomeOfTheWeek and #HotProperty postings, as well as other listings. It also links to media mentions and posts from its blog, as well as other sources that help keep clients up to date on local events and home-related how-tos, like gardening tips for the cold weather, trends on home offices and the best home for your horoscope sign.

Though Dawn Knief, one of the firm’s top sellers, only has 13 followers on her personal Twitter account and last tweeted in 2013, she wants to engage more online.

“Social media is on my ‘to do’ list for next year. I would like to be a little more proactive with that,” she said. “As an agent — I’ve been doing it for 20 years — I like a healthy balance of promoting my listings, but I don’t like to be in people’s faces.”

Platinum Drive Realty

The brokerage, which was founded in 2006 by a couple of Scarsdale natives who returned from Manhattan after having kids, has a Facebook feed dominated by posts about its brokers and about listings, including open houses, price drops and those that just sold. Also sprinkled in are firm-related events and fundraising efforts.

Angela Retelny said she’s active on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn, but she hasn’t tweeted anything to her 25 Twitter followers since 2015.

She posts more regularly on Instagram, where she has more than 240 followers. In one recent post, she playfully included before-and-after bedroom images of a listing, asking her followers to spot the differences and lifting the curtain on the choices she made to style it.

Vincent & Whittemore

This boutique real estate firm, based in Bedford, has a small social media presence and mainly uses Facebook to post listings of its stately properties.

Its brokers do not seem to have embraced social media.

Carol Goldberg, for instance, believes posting too much online discourages buyers from spending time seeing properties in person. Case in point: She recently had a showing where a would-be buyer said he already saw the property, even though it was the first time they met.

The person, it turned out, had only seen the photos online. Goldberg was stunned.

“I hate social media,” she said. “I’m from the old school. I want to talk to people. I’m real hands-on. I do a lot of email, but I don’t need a lot of fluff to sell.”