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LinkedIn on computer screen Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

How LinkedIn Became the New Lunch

For years, networking within the real estate industry relied on plenty of old-fashioned strategies.

I’m sure you’re a really nice person, but when it comes to pitching your deal, trust me (I’m a doctor), as little as you want to have yet another lunch with a prospect, they don’t either. And the good news all around in these crazy days of COVID-19—you can’t anyway!

It’s not always been like this, as you know. For years, networking within the real estate industry relied on plenty of old-fashioned strategies. You’d start with a hand-written rolodex full of names and contact information of people you already know. From there, you would decide which ones are likely prospects and, consequently, also decide who likely has connections with other people that might be compatible.

If you did manage to meet somebody new, the next thing you’d likely do is schedule a lunch, or several lunches, taking place over the course of a few weeks or months. Following this rigmarole, you might be lucky to find an active investor who you’d be able to work with on a deal and who, if you were lucky, would invest in multiple follow-on deals. From many of these lunches, however, you’d meet a dead end and walk away empty handed.

Thanks to COVID-19, lunch meetings have stopped completely, but the traditional “lunch” cycle had already been in steady decline. Sure, plenty of people were still grabbing lunch and using that to pursue business interests. But two things had been fundamentally transforming the industry. First, the introduction of real estate crowdfunding (sparked by the JOBS Act in 2012) shifted the industry from relying on single-investor models to multiple-investor models. Second, the proliferation of social media had shifted a large portion of the prospecting process entirely online. Indeed, our data here at GowerCrowd shows that 60 percent of lead generation comes from LinkedIn, 25 percent from Facebook, and 11 percent from Twitter, with the reminder primarily YouTube and Instagram.

Digital first impressions

In the “old school” prospecting scenario mentioned above, you might enter into the lunch with some peripheral knowledge of the person you’re meeting but would often enter with an essentially blank slate, even if the lead were through a personal introduction (which, in fact, it had to be before regulations changed).

This is now rarely the case. The first thing anyone does before even thinking about meeting you is they are going to do some research, spending time online, learning more about their new connection, and forming a possibly permanent opinion about you.

These sudden and wide-reaching changes have changed the ways we think about making first impressions. Our first impressions are no longer formed by witty banter, a clean suit or dress, and our audacity to pick up the check. They are formed by how we present ourselves in the digital world, including the dynamic world of LinkedIn.

In some ways, these changes have been somewhat scary. Many people in the industry who relied on their charm and bright smiles are finding it difficult to translate these attributes into the online space. On the other hand, because these pages remain entirely within our ability to control, we can choose exactly which content and details are included (or excluded).

Investing time and effort into building a first class LinkedIn page can help ensure that our first impressions are, in fact, positive ones. What is the message we are hoping to get across? Who do we want to be seen as?

As a social media platform that is specifically designed for businesspeople, LinkedIn makes it easy to establish ourselves and showcase our best features. If you are a sponsor trying to attract a new investor, you can incorporate past successes, current qualifications, and future pursuits all throughout your profile. Your identity and your self-brand are both within your control. When people visit your page for the very first time, what are they going to think?

Ultimately, creating LinkedIn pages (along with other social media pages) is all about turning connections into conversations. This is the space where you can get your foot in the door—and manage to avoid the cost of a $40 entrée.

Just as we saw with the old school lunch, these interactions are not so much about immediately closing a deal as they are about developing mutually beneficial relationships. Very few investors will choose to act based off what they witnessed on LinkedIn alone. You will however, be able to use this platform to begin planting important seeds. If you can get an investor to call, text, email, or otherwise speak directly with you, then you can consider your LinkedIn marketing efforts to be objectively successful.

Remember, your digital marketing efforts—whether on LinkedIn or elsewhere—are dynamic and constantly in motion. There will never be a point in time where your page ought to be considered “finished” or “complete.” As long as you are continuing working, your LinkedIn page will be a work in progress. Taking advancing of new features, adding additional information about the value you can offer, and highlighting your wins will help ensure that the first impressions you are making are actually effective.

While some people might miss the days of the traditional lunch and bumping elbows, it is clear that things are moving in a very exciting direction and during the current crisis, quite frankly, you have no choice. With more opportunities for creating these sorts of impressions, your business can move swiftly and operate at a much grander scale. The industry has already dramatically transformed, and these evolutionary changes are very unlikely to ever be reversed—anyone who fails to take advantage of these new opportunities for “lunch” will quickly find themselves feeling quite hungry.

Adam Gower Ph.D. is an authority in content marketing and online communications for the real estate industry. He has more than 30 years and $1.5 billion of transactional experience in commercial real estate finance and investment. Today he builds best of class digital marketing platforms for private clients so they can raise more capital online and provides online courses for those who want to do it themselves – all at GowerCrowd.com and get Dr. Gower’s free LinkedIn profile builder cheatsheet here.

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