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To sit in a room with Melissa Alexander and Julie Augustyn, one would never know that the two became friends online. While the two have been friends and cheerleaders of one another for nearly three years now, they actually didn’t meet in person until the Foundry Summit in February of 2019. Long before Melissa joined the Foundry team, she and Julie exchanged industry insights virtually through Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s a wonderful collision of grit and good timing that they now work for the same company in different cities.
Julie and Melissa are widely recognized as innovators in the commercial real estate industry, both earning spots on Duke Long’s Top 10 Most Influential Online CRE People. Julie is a Senior Vice President on Foundry’s Retail team in Raleigh. Melissa is a Vice President with Foundry’s Industrial Services team in Nashville.
There can certainly be a staleness to social media that seemingly blocks anything authentic from occurring on that platform. Many might suggest that real relationships can’t actually happen on social networks. However, after even a quick scroll through Julie’s or Melissa’s feed, it’s evident that they are doing something compelling and relationship-oriented. They advocate for each other and for their clients; they cheer on women at other brokerages, and they encourage anyone who is getting started in the #CRE industry. On their networks, there isn’t room for dull content or mind-numbing posturing. No, they have developed true community. We caught up with them for this relationship-focused issue of Foundry United to learn from their best practices in forming impactful social relationships.
According to the DNA of #CRE, a survey of brokers and commercial real estate marketers released annually by the ‘Broker List and Build-out,’ 75 percent of brokers consider building relationships as the most important stimuli for winning new business. As trusted advisors to our clients, there is no doubt we are in the relationship business and communication is key. Whether by email, phone, in-person or via text, directly communicating to clients and networking with prospects is an essential daily activity in the commercial real estate industry, and adding social media into the mix creates another layer of networking and visibility.
MA: Social networking is effective! I recently walked into a networking event with more than 500 people I did not (yet) know. As I worked my way around the room, a professional whom I had not met before walked up to me and said: “You’re Melissa Alexander, right?” I nodded yes, and they immediately began to tell me how much they enjoyed following me on Twitter. Talk about your reputation preceding you! This person already knew of me and knew what I did at Foundry even though we had never met. In other instances, I have received direct messages from brokers in other markets looking for assistance in Nashville and have had multiple national reporters reach out for my input on commercial real estate stories and trends. These are just a few examples of the many connections that have been formed through social networking, including how Julie and I “met” and became friends well before we ever spoke on the phone and before I joined the Foundry team!
JA: It really was funny when Gregg first called me to talk about Melissa joining Foundry, because he was talking to me as if I knew her really well and he had no idea we’d never met in person. There are many times that I’ve “met” someone on Twitter and then later in person somewhere like ICSC, and now we’ve been good friends for years. Twitter is a more conversational platform, and LinkedIn is something I use more for commercial real estate news, but both are tools that function as additional touch points in developing relationships.
Using these tools is an investment of time, but I weave them throughout my day—commenting while in line for coffee or liking a tweet between calls. A while ago I stepped back and realized how much time I was spending on social media and tried to automate some of it, but it was useless. The biggest return is when you’re interacting, adding personal experiences with a client, or sharing things that spark your interest.
MA: Whether you interact with someone before you meet in person or they search you after you have met, social media platforms can provide these types of “warm” interactions. In conjunction with traditional networking, social networking allows your clients to get to know you before actually knowing you. Social networking can establish credibility in the minds of others and can also build deeper relationships. In the marketing world, frequency is a measure of how often your brand is seen by your audience, and I have found social media interactions to be important to building my own personal brand.
MA: It has been said that in the future, if you don’t have a presence on social networks, you won’t exist. As Millennials continue to rise within their organizations, key decision-makers are becoming younger, more tech-savvy, and are very in-tune with how social media works. If they happen upon your name and are curious to learn more, the first thing they are going to do is Google you. Having your resume online is simply not enough. Social media allows you to create an online presence and differentiate yourself by sharing industry knowledge and accolades, as well as showcasing your personality. It allows you to tell your own story, which no one can do better than you can.
In addition to being found online, social media helps create engagement with your audiences and enables you to keep a pulse on national trends. No longer do people rely on what’s reported during regular newscasts to learn what’s going on in the world, or in their industries. Twitter is where news breaks, and users can stay on top of just about anything simply by following a hashtag or a user account. Social media can also be an effective client relationship tool; many clients post recent accolades and promotions on LinkedIn, and you can use those points in time as an opportunity to reach out and congratulate them.
MA: Know your audience. Before posting on a social network, consider your audience’s interests and hot-button issues. What are they searching for? What are the latest trends? From a professional standpoint, it’s best to stay away from controversial topics. Even liking a Tweet can be seen by any of your followers.
Be consistent. Social networking can be effective if you put effort into it. You cannot just set it and forget it. You need to post regularly and interact with others. Become a part of the conversation until you’re eventually able to perhaps lead the conversation.
Be authentic. Showcasing your industry knowledge, expertise and wins are excellent reasons to post to social, but your followers also appreciate seeing the real you. Whether you are sharing something funny, something meaningful or even something you have recently overcome, audiences appreciate seeing real-life occurrences. Posting what’s going on in your world helps to break down barriers, and allows followers to feel better connected to you by engaging on an