Be the Show, not the Ad: The Story Behind How an LA Real Estate Agent Built his Brand with Original Content
Ivan Estrada is a top real estate agent at the Douglas Elliman Beverly Hills office with a thriving team of his own, Ivan Estrada Properties. He’s been able to successfully build his business unlike any other agent with a widespread presence on social media venues such as YouTube (The Real Estate Minute), Facebook and Instagram. Because of Ivan’s’ comprehensive network, he has been featured on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing”, HGTV’s “House Hunters” and NBC’s “Open House” as a Los Angeles T.V. personality. He is continuously featured in online and print publications and is a regular in the L.A. Times, Curbed LA, The Hollywood Reporter & Dwell Magazine.
This is the story of building his brand, which is part of the #BuilderGeneration series presented by Builder.ai.
You were an accountant before you built your real estate brand and career. What inspired you to make the change?
Yeah, I’ve been in real estate now it’s going to be 10 years in March, but previously I was in public accounting. I went to school at USC, double majored in finance, got my CPA license, and worked at a very large accounting firm in downtown Los Angeles.
It’s all numbers, numbers, numbers, everything’s black and white, no gray. It definitely was not something I wanted to do long term. I’ve always been very creative. I’ve always been someone who doesn’t like to do what everyone else is doing. I was that kid who was always building things in the garage.
Career-wise, I’ve always wanted it to be different where I can stand out and that’s not something that you can do in public accounting obviously. Switching to real estate and building my brand and business from the ground up has been a lot of work, but it gives me the creative outlet for me to be me and to get really creative in my branding.
What was something different you did to build your brand?
At the end of the day, we’re all in the people business, regardless of career choices, so that’s been a big focus of mine. The first thing I did was start hosting and producing a webisode series every week on YouTube and elsewhere. No one else was doing it at the time. I started building the framework, filming them with a camcorder, and editing them myself on iMovie. Today, there’s a team behind the series, and it’s worth the investment of money and time.
What are some of the things you’ve learned along your journey?
Related to the weekly show, people think it’s easy to do, but once you put a camera in your face and you have to deliver news, insights, and opinions every week, it’s a lot, and it doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people. It takes a while to nail the creative strategy for sure.
It’s all about practice, practice and more. At this point, I’ve done maybe over 200 episodes, from the show itself to me interviewing other people. It’s become easier to be in front of the camera, but consistency is also key because people think it’s easy to build an audience.
I think my videos didn’t really start getting a lot of views and engagement until year two or three. And that’s where consistency comes in. I think people nowadays expect instant gratification and then if they do something, everyone will watch. Sure, it’s happened to some people who had a large audience before, but it’s rare. The dedication will pay off though.
What continues to make the show unique today when more and more people are producing weekly series?
What makes it different is that it’s really me. I don’t turn into a character or host. What you see is what you get. I always strive to provide value for free. So when it does come time for, you know, any buyer or seller in the real estate world, they’re going to call me. But I think it’s just encompassing of who I am as a person. I’m the brand, you know, it’s me. When I worked as a public accountant, I thought a brand was just a nice logo, colors, etc, but it’s so much more. Every little detail of my brand goes into everything we do.
Having built a successful real estate brand, what is one piece of advice you’d share with someone just starting out?
I think probably the biggest piece of advice that I would do is to pick something they’re good at and be consistent with it. For example, there are some people at Douglas Elliman who are great writers and so they’ve created these blogs that have really taken off, so if you’re a good writer, then why not produce a blog that. There are other people at my company who are not comfortable on camera, but they love hosting a podcast. So there are people out there, they’re creating podcasts. I’m interviewing other agents or other entrepreneurs or business owners that have amazing pieces of advice to give. And so if that’s something that you’re interested in, then start a podcast. Whatever it is, stay consistent with it.
How is technology changing the real estate agent business?
Tech and apps have made the job easier in so many ways. From electronic signatures to appraisals to sales data. There are so many tools that we have now to make it easier. When I started, a lot of the “data” was in books and databases. Tech has made it easier and more efficient for me, the buyer, and the seller.
How is AI disrupting the industry?
There have been so many conversations about AI is going to eliminate the need for real estate agents and how you can do everything online. I think there are a lot of advantages to using AI to help everyone, but buying a home is an emotional experience. I don’t think computers or software will ever replace the human connection and emotional intelligence needed.
What are the top three apps that you use every day?
I use apps all day long, mostly for work from Docusign to Zillow to Redfin. I also use Amazon and Uber a lot. For social media apps, it’s definitely Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.
If you weren’t in real estate, what’s one business vertical that you’re fascinated with?
I think it’s branding, honestly. You know, it’s funny you asked because I was thinking that today that if real estate was no longer, I think I would have to go in some type of branding.
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