Heather Elias: ‘It’s the quality of the connections that matters’

Age: 41

Years in real estate: 10

Job title: Vice president of industry engagement at Century 21 Redwood Realty

Location: Northern Virginia

Hours per week spent on social media: Not as many as when I was with NAR!

Social media accounts: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest (in order of time spent)

Target demographic: My sphere of influence

Average number of posts per day: Depending on the day, between five and 10

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Which social channels do you work more?

I use each one for a different purpose. Since I’m not managing social channels or trying to bring in new clients, my use of Facebook and Twitter is to maintain and strengthen my relationships with my sphere of influence. I will confess that Facebook is more for personal use and “digital scrapbooking” than anything else now. Our family and friends are spread across the country, and Facebook allows them to keep up with everything going on with us. Twitter is a conversation enabler; I don’t always have time to stick my head in and chat with my friends, but when I do, it’s great to catch up. LinkedIn is a completely different beast: It’s so much more professional, so it gives me the chance to share what I’m working on or brooding about.

How many friends, likes, etc., do you have?

I have 9,172 followers on Twitter, 635 friends and 306 followers on Facebook, and 1,215 contacts and 153,855 followers on LinkedIn. (My follower count is due to LinkedIn’s Influencers program.)

Does that number matter to you?

Not a bit. It’s the quality of the connections that matters. I try very hard to keep the number of people I follow limited, because it’s so hard to hear the signal for the noise in social if you are connected to too many people. I want to be able to engage with the people I’m connected to in these social spaces.

Do you ever give it a break?

Of course. Since I’m not directly responsible for managing social channels as part of my job now, I have turned off most notifications from social networks; I don’t have to respond to the “ping” of a comment or message. I can manage the time that I spend on social much better that way.

Does social help your business, and how?

Social allows me to stay connected to some of the smartest people in this industry. It keeps me on top of the pulse of the industry; not just the news that is being shared, but what the prevailing opinion is around that news … how are people reacting to the changes in the industry? What issues are popping up? What are agents reporting from the field?

What’s your goal for your favorite social channel?

At this point, I think my goals for all of my social channels are to maintain and strengthen my relationships with friends across the country. I’m less business-driven than in my prior roles and more engagement-centric.

What’s your strategy to achieve it?

I’m not sure that I have an actual strategy right now. Perhaps a few more months into this role at Redwood and I’ll have a new strategy on how to harness social to support my current responsibilities.

What’s your craziest social media-related story?

In early 2012, LinkedIn approached me about participating in its Influencers program, which started with 150 founding Influencers, to help launch its blogging platform on the site. When I agreed, I had no idea who the other 149 would be. I was shocked when the program launched and I was included on a list with Richard Branson, Deepak Chopra, President Obama and Arianna Huffington. The whole program has been a blast, with media coverage of the stories I’ve written there. But the craziest part was when Conan O’Brien decided he needed to have more followers than Martha Stewart and was campaigning for followers on his show: My profile was one of two or three that stood between him and Martha Stewart. So I had a few seconds of fame when my picture showed up on late-night television.

What actions do you take that have gotten the most results?

Being myself brings the best results. That may sound trite, but I’ve been using social media in many different capacities since 2006 or 2007. Whether I was trying to build a brand, drive traffic to a website, increase awareness about issues, or just stay connected with people, remembering to be “social” first has been the main goal.

Is this more about “social” or about business?

The hard part about social media is that it’s not one or the other. Same as real estate: It’s a relationship business. Successful agents have real estate conversations with their friends as well as with their clients; sometimes the conversation happens in an office, and sometimes it happens in a grocery store. I have very business-driven conversations in social media sometimes, and other times I’m just sharing the latest news about my kids.

How do you monitor the channel, push notifications, email? Do you use software/apps to manage your account, and which ones?

I’ve turned off nearly every email notification from social; I respond when I have time. As an agent, I had notifications enabled on my phone so that I could keep up in real time and not miss any opportunities. I still use Hootsuite to wrangle Twitter, especially using lists for monitoring different audience segments. Facebook’s scheduling capabilities for pages and built in Insights make it much easier to manage and monitor without using a third-party system.

How many hours per day are you on social? Do you check it daily? Multiple times per day?

I probably check it several times a day; not nearly as much as at NAR. I was on social for the majority of the day in my role there.

Do you ever think of retiring?

From social media, or from real estate? I have a hard time contemplating life without either, at this point.

Do you consider yourself an influencer?

LinkedIn thinks so! Really, I just hope to try to make this industry a little bit brighter by helping as many people as I can. I’d love for consumers to have a more positive opinion of agents and this industry, so my overarching goal is to work towards that however possible.

Are you social in real life?

I’d like to think that I’m the same in person as I am online. But I confess that I do like to unplug from both the online and offline world at times and just curl up at home to relax.

What did you do with your time before?

Since I got started in social and real estate at about the same time, it’s really hard to remember life before either one. I was busy being a mom to four little ones before social media.

How do you leverage your prominence or influence on social media?

I try to use whatever influence I have to help share what I’ve learned and to make the industry stronger and more consumer-centric.

Do you have someone helping you?

Nope, I’m self-taught. Although I have learned by listening, lurking and following some really amazing people in this industry who freely share their ideas and successes.

Who do you follow, why?

I follow people who inspire me, people who share freely of themselves and people who are trying to make the real estate industry better.

Where do you find the content that you put out?

I have some news sources and blogs that I pay attention to, but frequently I share things that other friends have found and shared (friends inside and outside of real estate).

What has been your all-time hit share? Can you share a link to the post?

I think the highest traffic day on the blog came from a piece that I wrote for The Washington Post’s real estate section, which had a companion blog post on LoCoMusings. I was on the train to Inman Connect New York in 2011 when the story went live, and I was watching the traffic numbers skyrocket the whole way from D.C. to NYC.

Would you like to participate in Inman’s social media all-stars profile series? Email contributors@inman.com!