This guest post was written by Terri Lee Ryan, a Chicago-based expert in real estate development and marketing.

Times are tough in Chicago for real estate brokers who had almost a decade of growth that showed no signs of stopping.

Welcome to a new era in real estate, where deals are difficult to find and to close.  The slowness of the real estate market is widespread. Instead of the typical cyclical downturns, all sectors in real estate, with the exception of luxury rental apartment building acquisitions, are suffering.  From office, to industrial, to residential, real estate is sluggish, with no end in sight; this is not our typical recession.

With brokers starving from lack of income, many have had to leave the real estate industry to find work in other areas to support themselves.  The others that can afford to remain in the industry still need to be properly positioned for a long road to recovery in real estate.  Business will be done differently. Acquiring new clients through the use of social media will become the norm, not the exception.

Personal branding through social media is now becoming a MUST for businesses to stay competitive in the marketplace.  No longer can real estate brokers depend on their referral base, database, and their calling card to stay competitive.  It’s time to set up an effective branding strategy through social media.

The following five tips will help you get started in using social media to build your unique brand as a real estate broker:

1.)    Determine what your brand us and what you want social media to do for you before you begin/continue posting on the media sites.  Ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish with these sites.  Do you want to add more people to your database of potential clients?  Do you want to establish yourself as an expert in a specialized area?  Is there a specific property listing that you are trying to brand and promote? Let’s say that you are focusing on establishing yourself as a co-op expert.  You have one co-op listing, but want to get more.  Write a new profile on Facebook and LinkedIn that reflects your knowledge of co-ops.  Attach an article that you wrote that talks about the differences between condominiums and co-ops. Use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to begin developing your brand by offering your followers/friends information they can use.

2.)    Define what your personal brand is in one sentence and create a mission statement before you post.  For example, here’s what to say, “I am a Lincoln Park based residential real estate agent specializing in high rise buildings. My website is: and my tagline is, “Finding the best views in Lincoln Park”.  This exercise will force you to focus on what your brand is and will translate into a better representation of what you do, along with establishing what value you bring to a potential client.

3.)    Focus on your own brand, not who you work for, unless, of course, you have you own business! Set up your own web-site separate from the company you work for.  Put your time and money into building “you” as a brand, so if you do leave a company you are more likely to take clients with you.  In setting up your web-site use your name for the URL.  This will allow you to keep your brand consistent, instead of being property driven.  So, if you decide to sell real estate at another company or in a different neighborhood, you are still building your brand based on your own identity.

4.)    Evaluate the social media sites you are currently using and ask yourself if your existing profile accurately reflects who you are.  Do you have too many personal photos and scattered information that may be sending a mixed message to your followers of who you are?  Do they know what you do for a career and have a reason to pay attention to what you have to say?  With the large number of people and companies using social media sites to promote their brand these days, the sites are getting cluttered, which makes it more important for you to be very clear about who you are. Keep your message simple, “I am a residential real estate broker with 15 years experience in high-rise luxury condominiums in Lincoln Park”.  On your social media sites keep your image professional, list photos of the properties you have sold, and only post comments and photos pertinent to your brand as an agent.

5.)    Take time to build your brand on social media.  It does take some amount of effort, so plan on setting aside time every day, making sure that you are thoughtful in your postings and correspondence.  Start with one site, like Facebook or LinkedIn, by focusing on building your contact base.  Take time to reconnect with former clients and new associates.  When you ask them to be your friend or join your network, write a personal message.  Don’t rush this process or you will do more harm than good in creating a useful network. Ask your former clients to recommend your work on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Social media sites have become the preferred source for disseminating information and developing an audience.  Effectively used, it can be the most relevant resource you have to further your career, while building your brand.

Terri Lee Ryan was a partner for six years at a commercial real estate development company based in Newport Beach, California.  She also worked as a commercial broker for CB Richard Ellis, where she negotiated leases and property acquisitions for fortune 500 firms. Terri has worked with numerous local real estate firms in marketing and brand management, including, Fifield Companies, Fordham Co., Golub and U.S. Equities.  A frequent guest blogger at 435 Digitial, she also writes a real estate blog for TCW magazine, People, Places & Property. For more information, please visit