You see real estate agents doing things on Instagram that make you wonder, “Does this help them? Should I be doing the same thing?” 

After all, you want to reach as much of your ideal audience on Instagram as possible. And the quality of your content is only part of that equation. 

With that in mind, REFER co-founders Jason Cassity and The Broke Agent hosted an exclusive live Q&A event with Instagram growth coach Brock Johnson to answer some of the biggest questions real estate agents have about building their brand on the platform. 

Some of those questions had to do with things that hurt your Instagram engagement. Three, in particular, are worth breaking down here. 

#1—Hashtags that are too general 

While using 20-30 hashtags in your caption probably won’t tank your engagement, using hashtags that are too general won’t do you much good (if any)—and they’re likely to result in a flurry of comments by spambots. 

So, are hashtags even worth using? And if they can benefit you as a real estate agent on Instagram, what kind of hashtags should you use—and how many?

For the average Instagram user, I would say hashtags are not that important…. If you’re a real estate agent, though, it can be a great way to get super-targeted with who your posts are going to appear to, who your content is going to show up to, and…what categories your post is going to be a part of.

Brock Johnson

Instagram Growth Coach

While Brock used to recommend using 28 out of the maximum 30 hashtags, he now finds that less is more. Choosing two to five super-specific hashtags that relate to the post is the best way to utilize hashtags on Instagram right now. 

As far as using branded hashtags, that depends on whether people are actually searching for them on Instagram. 

If people aren’t going to be searching this random niche tagline that you came up with for your brand or business, it might not be that necessary to add this branded hashtag.

Brock Johnson

Instagram Growth Coach

If people don’t yet know you’ve chosen a catchphrase like #MoveMeToSeaside for your real estate brand, they won’t be searching for it. So, including that in your caption won’t do a thing to boost your engagement—though it might at least create some awareness of that hashtag among your followers. 

#2—Giveaways that ask people to follow for a chance to win

As Brock pointed out, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do giveaways. The wrong way is to ask people to follow your account in order to be entered. 

If you’re giving away something people outside your specific niche—people you would not describe as examples of your “ideal client”—would want, asking them to follow to be entered in the giveaway could get you plenty of new followers. But once the giveaway is over, one of two things will happen:

Either you’re going to unfollow because you’re like, ‘Well, I didn’t win. No reason to keep following.’ and you unfollow.…And the second option might actually be worse, which is that they keep following you, but they don’t really care about your content, they don’t really care about what you’re posting, they only followed you in the first place to win the giveaway. So, now, they’re still a follower, but they’re not an engaged follower…and that sucks even worse because now they’re hurting your engagement rate.

Brock Johnson

Instagram Growth Coach

If you really want to make giveaways part of your marketing as a real estate agent, there’s a better way to do it. It starts with keeping your giveaways to a minimum—just three or four per year. From there, ask people to do something to actually boost engagement. 

Instead of asking people to follow to win, ask them to do something else, like share your post or tag a friend. That way, your post can organically reach more people. It might even be worth it to put a disclaimer in your giveaway that says, ‘You do not have to follow to win this giveaway,’ so people are very clear that, if they do want to follow you, it’s on their own accord, and they do not have to to win the giveaway.

Brock Johnson

Instagram Growth Coach

#3—Saying “link in bio” in your caption 

What about that link in your bio that directs your followers to something good that exists outside the Instagram platform? Aside from the virtual side-eye the algorithm gives you when you send anyone off the platform, does that link hurt your engagement? 

What we’ve seen is when you say ‘link in bio,’ your posts get significantly less engagement, views, and the average click-through rate is only about 1–2%.

Brock Johnson

Instagram Growth Coach

The good news? There are other ways to give your audience good things—using features that keep them on Instagram—and that actually boost your engagement. 

This is where DM automation might start to come into things—where instead of asking people to go click the link in the bio….you can say, ‘Comment such-and-such keyword… and then you can either use some advanced tools and software so that they instantly automatically get a reply… or, if you want to do the more simple route, ask them to comment a specific keyword and, when they do, shoot them a direct message…That way, you’re actually increasing engagement…and you’re getting them into the direct messages, where you can have a conversation…Let’s think about the link in Stories or the link in bio. You don’t know who clicked. You don’t know if they got lost. You don’t know if they had a question. There’s no opportunity to follow up. That’s another one of the huge benefits of using the DMs.

Brock Johnson

Instagram Growth Coach

Considering the average DM has a 98% open rate, that’s a pretty solid strategy. And unlike links, DMs can start (or continue) conversations that build relationships. 

If you’re using ManyChat, 46% is the average click-through rate. And while you might see a decline in responses after the first few times, it’s still a tool worth exploring. You’re still getting a far better click-through rate than you’d get with your “link in bio.”

As with most tools, give it a try and see how it works for you and your audience. If the returns are diminishing too quickly, try something else—or try using it a different way. 

To be clear, we’re not hating on the idea of putting links in your bio. You just want to be careful about directing your audience off the platform by encouraging them, in your posts, to click your “link in bio.” 

Much better to move the conversation to the DMs, where you more easily start a conversation with someone and give them a reason to check out those links—without even being asked to.