Make your Instagram about your audience, not about you. It’s okay to promote your business in your social media channels, but the last thing users want to see is a sales pitch. Since most of the users in Instagram are between 18 to 29 years old, bombarding them with advertising is a no-go. This demographic is not a fan of ads in general, and so you need to promote your business through content they actually want to see.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Blades, the founder and CEO of Homicity, a real estate platform. Jamie is an executive specializing in UX and branding who started his career in real estate before turning to digital initiatives. He has helped businesses build user-friendly websites, drive traffic, and offer unique web experiences. After 14 years of experience as an award-winning mortgage broker, Jamie became the founder and CEO of Homicity, a proptech startup that harnesses the latest technology to improve the lives of home buyers.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I never had a specific career path in mind when I was younger. Now, I consider myself an entrepreneur. I started out as an undeclared major in the University of Ottawa, but after seeing that I could make as much money as a mortgage broker (as well as attend significantly fewer lectures!), I dropped out and joined the real estate industry. For many people leaving university seems like a dead-end, but it forced me to become a self-learner.
I began working as a mortgage broker in 2004. I took pride in helping my clients make an educated decision about their finances, but on the side, I started learning about marketing, UX design, and web development. My first experience as an entrepreneur was when I started a digital marketing agency. Our only purpose was to connect brands to people through stories and creative marketing solutions.
After some years helping businesses build easy-to-use websites, I realized real estate was lacking innovation. So, as any entrepreneur would, I set out to start a company that would change that. I took the skills I learned as a mortgage broker and as a marketing consultant to create Homicity, a new real estate platform that uses the latest technology for the benefit of home buyers.
Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about Social Media Marketing?
An authority in social media marketing is simply someone who drives traffic using digital initiatives. Thanks to my years as a consultant, I know the key to success in social media marketing. It’s simple: the only thing you need is good content.
Of course, what exactly makes content “good” is hotly debated. For me, good content is content that is in demand. I have seen it plenty of times. When users get what they want, it drives them to the website, it builds your brand, and it turns them into leads. At Homicity, we focus on providing our audience with content they actually want and then retaining them as leads with demonstrations of our value.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
This is a bit of a loaded question as my career is already 20 years old. In the tech startup world, I’m practically a dinosaur, although I like to think of myself as someone who merely has been here for a while. That being said, this story is about connecting with the right people to achieve my company’s goals and objectives through social media. We had a top level executive that would bring great value to our service offering. After a number of failed attempts at connecting with him (darn gatekeepers!), it was time to be creative. First, we found his Instagram and learned that he loved Canada and fancy socks. Then, we found him on Twitter and finally LinkedIn. After spending $300 on socks and starting a brief career as a foot model, the efforts began to pay off. He liked a couple of my posts, so I struck while the iron was hot. I sent one email with the subject line “nice socks,” and our business relationship started.
There have been many interesting stories along the way; however, this one goes to show that if you use the tools of the day, meeting anyone is possible.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Bootstrapping a business is a challenge for most, which is where our story started. Getting a group of friends together to build something great can either be magnificent or a complete disaster. Most times, it’s the latter. I would call this mistake funny because now it seems so clear to me that working with friends isn’t the best way to build a business. Always find talent outside of your personal network, especially if you want to remain friends with them down the road.
Which social media platform have you found to be most effective to use to increase business revenues? Can you share a story from your experience?
For Homicity, Facebook has been the social media platform that leads many users to us. We share different types of content from blog posts to listings, which highlights us as a leader in the real estate space.
At first, our content was dull. I have to be honest about that. It was not engaging or interesting in the least. After trying out different combinations of content, our team found the perfect formula to increase engagement (or at least the formula for us). The analytics show our following is growing organically and our audience is engaging with our content again and again. Thanks to our creative content, we retain them.
Let’s talk about Instagram specifically, now. Can you share 6 ways to leverage Instagram to dramatically improve your business? Please share a story or example for each.
Instagram has proven to be a powerful tool for us. As a startup, our following is still growing, but every day we see how our efforts have paid off. First of all, we developed a game plan. In the earlier days, we were just throwing content out there hoping it would stick. Of course, this didn’t work! We had followers, but not quality ones. To use Instagram and improve your business you need a plan. You need to sit down and think strategically.
We leveraged Instagram in 6 different ways to improve our business:
- Post frequently. I can’t stress this enough: Never let people forget you are there. To increase engagement, use regular posts and Instagram stories. Since Instagram is not chronological anymore, the more engagement you get, the better your chances are of showing up on the feed.
- Use quality media. When people scroll through hundreds of posts, yours needs to stand out. In Instagram’s algorithm, quality reigns supreme. Media with eye-catching visuals and storytelling has more weight. Right now, we are posting good quality images of home interiors because we know interior design has more appeal to users. Have well-written captions to complement the visual and engage with the user!
- Make your Instagram about your audience, not about you. It’s okay to promote your business in your social media channels, but the last thing users want to see is a sales pitch. Since most of the users in Instagram are between 18 to 29 years old, bombarding them with advertising is a no-go. This demographic is not a fan of ads in general, and so you need to promote your business through content they actually want to see.
- Try to be creative. Getting creative is easy with Instagram. There are many features you can take advantage of. From boomerangs to stories to live video, every feature is there for you to extend your brand’s creativity. Choose the right ones for your brand and join trends whenever they make sense with your brand. As long as you keep your content original and human, lack of authenticity won’t be a problem. As a startup, we know how to use the few resources at our disposal to create engaging content. There are many tools you can use like Sketch, but even free ones like Canva and Unsplash are a great alternative.
- Stay on message. The fact that you get to be creative doesn’t mean you have to deviate from your brand’s message. It doesn’t have to be explicit. In fact, subtle is better. For example, our use of interior home shots gives people a glimpse into which houses they can find with Homicity.
- Use hashtags to your full advantage. Posts with at least one hashtag have more engagement than empty ones. They help you connect with your target market, and with each hashtag, you can target users that might engage with you. However, don’t go overboard with it: #hashtagging #everything #is #just #annoying!
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Helping entrepreneurs, whether they are starting a small business or a large-scale tech startup, is a movement we should all support. These are the people that not only bring innovative ideas to the market but also lead others by example. Nobody works harder than someone who is just starting a business. I want to encourage both young and old, those who already have a career, and those who just graduated, to jump into the waters of entrepreneurship.
I work at an incubator, and I see this every day. I’m lucky to be surrounded by hard-working men and women who are committed to achieving something together and grow a company that they believe will bring benefit to others.
Let’s empower the next wave of entrepreneurs in every way we can. It will not only bring the obvious economic benefits, but it delivers good to all of us.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I’m waiting for Richard Branson to invite me for a weekend on his island. I could learn a lot from a legend such as himself. He continues to break new ground in everything he does and inspire the people around him whether he is doing business or philanthropic efforts.
I look forward to meeting with him one day… Richard?
Thank you so much for these great insights. This was very enlightening!