May 13, 2018

JF1349: Using Social Media To Build Your Real Estate Brand #SkillSetSunday with Ricky Beliveau

Ricky has been a guest before and shared his Best Ever real estate advice and told us about his real estate business. Today Ricky is back to tell us about his social media division of his company. From tactical strategies to overall benefits of using social media, hear how a bigger presence on social media can help your real estate business. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!


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Ricky Beliveau Real Estate Background:

-Owner of Volnay Capital

-Social media division Volnay Social Media has over 500,000 Instagram followers on 3 accounts

-Specializes in both buy and hold as well as condo conversions

-Currently have 8 development development projects in different stages in/around Boston

-Based in Boston, Massachusetts

-Say hi to him at  

-Listen to his Best Ever Advice here:

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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff.

With us today, Ricky Beliveau. How are you doing, Ricky?

Ricky Beliveau: Hey, Joe. How’s it going, man?

Joe Fairless: It’s going well, and nice to have you back on the show. Best Ever listeners, you might recognize Ricky’s first and last name; that’s because either you’re a buddy of his, or you heard his podcast. It was episode 1001, titled “A Hidden, Wealthy Niche That Involves a Fine-tuned Team.” If you want to learn more about that, as well as his best ever advice, then feel free to check that episode out – episode 1001.
Today we’re going to talk about the importance of social media in your business, Ricky, and how Best Ever listeners can implement a social media approach in theirs and help drive business results.

A little bit more about Ricky – he is the owner of Volnay Capital. He’s also got a social media division – Volnay Social Media – that has over $500,000 Instagram followers across three accounts. Based in Boston, Massachusetts. He currently has eight development deal projects in different stages in and around Boston. I personally know one person who has invested with Ricky and has many good things to say about that experience.

With that being said, Ricky, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more context around the importance of social media in your business and how you got started out with it?

Ricky Beliveau: Sure. I made my first Volnay Capital social media account on Instagram back a few years ago. The idea behind it was to showcase my work and to start building a brand. I didn’t really understand back then the importance of it or what it would grow into or what it would become today; at that time I really just wanted to be able to post pictures of my work and have people be able to see it.

Over the time, as that account grew and people started to follow it, it kind of picked up a lot of traction and started building recognition in the city of Boston as a company that people need to know about. I started being recognized, if you were able to understand what our brand was about and the quality of our work.

As that account was being built, I realized that I kind of shifted away from what I really wanted to be doing on that account, and I think that’s one thing that’s really important for the listeners to understand – when you’re creating a social media following, you wanna make sure you understand the direction you wanna take it.

What I’m kind of saying now is that I started showcasing other people’s work and stuff that wasn’t my own; stuff that I liked, and that I thought people would like to see, but wasn’t my own work… And I realized that that wasn’t Volnay Capital. So at that point is when I started our social media division, which was built around featuring other people’s work, and let Volnay Capital stand on its own as just showcasing artwork.

Joe Fairless: That makes sense. I apologize, because I should have asked this question at the beginning… What business results have you generated as a result of having a social media presence that you can tie a direct cause and effect to? And then once we establish the benefit for it, then I’ll follow up with some how-to questions.

Ricky Beliveau: Sure. So the first thing would be for selling real estate, as well as renting real estate. We used our Volnay Capital Facebook page, as well as our Instagram account, to market our condos that we do in Boston, as well as our rentals that we have both in Boston and in Providence.

So we were able to sell those directly to buyers, without having agents who would need to list those properties. We do put them out on the MLS and other ways to show them, but social media has been a huge asset to sell our properties.

One thing that’s different – and I love this about social media – is you can reach buyers who had no idea that they wanted to buy or rent in that location. When a buyer is thinking about where they wanna buy or where they wanna live, they might have a specific area that they’re thinking of, and then they’re close-minded to that area.

When you’re using social media you’re able to reach someone who might not know they wanna live in the neighborhood that you’re doing a project in… And when they see the quality of your work, and they see everything, it can trigger them to say “Hey, maybe I do wanna look in that neighborhood.” We’ve had many buyers buy from us who originally would never have considered the neighborhoods where our projects are, and the next thing you know they’re putting an offer in.

Also, we buy properties through social media, so we’ll have homeowners reach out to us, wholesalers will reach out to us, agents who come across opportunities, they’ve been following us and they say “Oh, I see they’re doing projects just like this [unintelligible [00:05:39].20]” from contractors. We use social media to vet a lot of our contractors, as well as find contractors.

I love a contractor who’s proud of his work; I love a contractor who wants to show it off on social media. If I can see a contractor is putting his tile work, his woodwork, the stuff that he’s doing, the project, and he’s proud of it, that just gives me a reassurance that he’s not hiding things; he wants to be out there, he wants to be seen.

So we use social media to find new subcontractors all the time, and we’re contacted all the time by subcontractors who wanna be featured on our accounts and they wanna be part of what we’re doing, and they understand the value in that… It’s been a great asset to our business.

Joe Fairless: One cautionary note, and it’s just because I’ve come across this recently with a contractor – not personally, but just through a meetup (one of the members of a meetup)… They worked with a contractor, he was terrible, took all their money, ran away, and then started a new Facebook page with a brand new company and now he’s trying to, I suspect, do the same thing again, because he’s done it to multiple people.

So the cautionary note here is if they do have a social media profile and they are promoting stuff, check out how long they’ve had that company and do some due diligence if they’ve had previous companies under different names… Because it’s free to create a Facebook page.

Ricky Beliveau: For sure. Instagram is great for that, you can see how long they’ve been on there, you can see their work, you can see if it’s something that was just created, if they have the past 2-3 years of work they’re providing. That’s just one small step in selecting a subcontractor, but it is a nice addition to the meetings and talking to other developers they’ve worked with.

Joe Fairless: So you have benefitted, from a business standpoint, in the ways you described, which are 1) selling real estate, as well as renting real estate, so finding buyers and finding renters. You have found buyers who wouldn’t necessarily looked at that neighborhood, because of the way social media is structured, and you find and do a component of the vetting process for vendors and other people who you work with… Are those the three primary business reasons why you’re focused on social media?

Ricky Beliveau: Yeah, and I guess another smaller one is, from an investor standpoint, I think just as I would look at a contractor and see his work, I think from investors, they like to see your track record and also what you’ve been up to or what you are working on. So if you’re someone who is doing house flipping or development projects and you are looking to raise capital, if someone’s able to look back and see your work and follow along with what you’re doing, there’s an additional level of comfort that that creates for an investor, and it gives your business more legitimacy.

The final one is really brand building and networking. You’ll meet like-minded people through social media, you follow each other’s accounts, you get ideas, as well as you’ll be able to build your brand so that when the time comes, you start to become recognized for your work.

Joe Fairless: Got it, okay. So that helps us set the foundation for our conversation, and Best Ever listeners, if you don’t have a social media presence and you are full-time in real estate investing – I mean, come on, really? So these are business reasons why, but I’m sure that most listeners, if they’re full-time real estate investors, have some sort of social media presence… But we went over that just to make sure we caught everyone’s attention in case they didn’t have it.

So now that you and I know that most people have some sort of presence, now it’s how do we get to the level that you’re at? …500,000 Instagram followers, from where we’re at – or hell, where I’m at. I’m not on Instagram; I personally don’t enjoy social media, which is something else we should talk about… But with Facebook, I think my Facebook page, the Joe Fairless page on Facebook – it’s got maybe like 2,500 or so likes… So how do I get to the level where you’re at?

Ricky Beliveau: From a Facebook perspective, Facebook is much more of an organic growth, and it’s been around for a lot longer, and they have a lot of algorithms in place. We look at Facebook more for when we want to run ads and use their ad platform. Our most growth on Facebook is when we’re looking to market a property to sell or to rent, because then we’ll run specific ads to target individuals who we feel would be interested in that unit. And then by doing that, we’re using keywords that we feel would hit people who are interested in what we do.

So one thing that’s different for our brand is how we allow the buyers to customize their units, kind of like the show Fixer Upper. So when we’re looking to target our condos, we’re looking for using the hashtag #fixerupper, #HDTV, #DIY… People who are interested in that space, because we feel that they’d be more likely to be interested in our units.

Joe Fairless: Interesting.

Ricky Beliveau: From an Instagram perspective, which is obviously our specialty, which is obviously a newer and still evolving platform – they’re continuously changing their algorithm, which makes it more complicated to continue to grow… But I think — kind of running through what you guys need to concentrate on… Number one is really figure out the direction of your page. When you’re building a social media presence, people wanna know what they’re following, and the posts that are gonna be posted there should follow that direction. So if it’s gonna be business-related for a house you’re renovating, it should be showing pictures of the house you’re renovating; it shouldn’t show your dog in the park. Because for the person who’s following that, they don’t wanna see your dog in the park; they’re interested in you from a real estate development perspective.

There’s a lot of accounts out there that are extremely successful with being both personal and business, and that’s fine; if you wanna show off yourself personally, with your work, as well as your family, and your dog, and your restaurants, that page can work as well. But you wanna select what direction you wanna go, and grow in that direction.

Also, another thing is you’re gonna feature only your work, or you’re gonna feature your work and other people’s work. You’ll see a lot of successful accounts that only show off their own work, because that’s what they want people to know. If you see a post on our page, it’s our work.

Then once you’ve decided that, it really comes down to content, and I preach this to all the people that I meet, regarding advice on social media – if people don’t like what you’re posting on your pages, they are not going to follow your account. That comes back to the quality of the images, quality of what you’re putting into the body of the post, the information you’re providing.

So is the content you’re providing both on Instagram with the images, or the post that you’re putting on your Facebook page, whether it’s linked information to websites or data about your area that you’re in regarding real estate  – is it something that people want to see on their page? And if it is, that’s the first step in getting them to follow you.

Joe Fairless: The quality of image and quality of the content in the post… Quality can be subjective based on who’s doing the quality assurance, so for you, what does a quality image mean and what does a quality content or copy of a post mean?

Ricky Beliveau: If you’re looking at my Volnay Capital page – that page, we’re doing a lot more photos taken with a phone, because it’s being taken on the job site of active work. So on that perspective, my content level (what is acceptable) is lower, because that’s much more active job site videos and active photos from job sites.

So I would say you just wanna make sure that if you’re doing a video, it’s using a steady hand, it’s not all over the place, and that you’re also describing what’s happening in the video well in the body of the post.

If you wanna go to the next level, there’s stuff out there that can hold your phone, like self-levelizers. We use those to post videos where you can put your phone right into the leveling device, so that when you do the video your phone will be completely still. That’s something that you’re starting to see more and more people do; they cost around $300 and it definitely takes your content to another level.

Another thing you can do to improve your videos is you can actually buy additional lenses to add to your camera on your phone. You go on Amazon, you can look up “additional lenses”; you can do a wide lens, you can do a more detailed lens… So it actually slides right onto the front of your iPhone or your other device, and then that will allow you to do wide-angle pictures or wide-angle videos right on your own phone. So these are all ways you can improve your content from just a standard video.

On our social media platform pages, the Kitchens of Instagram, Bathrooms of Instagram – those large accounts – we’re looking for professional-level photos, and we get hundreds of messages a day from people wanting us to showcase their work, and what we write back is we say [unintelligible [00:14:20].00] professional photographer, with a professional camera. That’s the level of picture that we expect, and that’s what our followers expect. So if we put a picture up that’s not at that level, we see that we don’t get the number of impressions, and we actually see that it can actually hurt our growth for that week.

Joe Fairless: And what page is that, compared to the other page?

Ricky Beliveau: So our main business page is Volnay Capital, and the kitchens_of_insta is our largest account; that’s the one with 186,000 followers. That showcases other people’s kitchens, and the designs of others; people are sending us their work, and we’re putting it on that account.

Joe Fairless: Very cool. So that’s how many followers?

Ricky Beliveau: Kitchens_of_insta has 186,000, and then our next account is bathrooms_of_insta; that’s 118,000. That features bathrooms that we’ve renovated and completed, as well as people all over the world send us their bathrooms to be featured on there.

Then bedrooms_of_insta – 84,000; exteriors_of_insta – 46,000, and then designers_of_insta – 50,000. So in total we just went over the 500,000 mark this Saturday.

Joe Fairless: Congrats on that. Interiors is how many thousands about?

Ricky Beliveau: Exteriors is 46,000, and then designers_of_insta is 50,000.

Joe Fairless: 46,000, and designers… What’s on designers?

Ricky Beliveau: That’s featuring the whole house, so it’s living rooms, laundry rooms… It can include kitchens, it can include patios… Really any type of design, as well as more actual design items, so the way a living room or a bedroom has furniture places in it, and all that. More than just the actual buildout.

Joe Fairless: Do you have a Volnay Capital account as well?

Ricky Beliveau: Yeah, that was the original account; that’s Volnay Capital, and that’s where we now feature solely our own project and our own work.

Joe Fairless: And how many does that have?

Ricky Beliveau: That has 16,000.

Joe Fairless: Got it. So here’s what I notice  – your largest one is People’s Kitchen, and that makes sense, along with the bathrooms and the bedrooms, because that captures a wide audience. That captures not just investors, not just people who care about or don’t care about real estate investing, it’s just people wanna check out kitchens… And same with bathrooms etc. So when you have this account that is showcasing kitchens, how does that help your business?

Ricky Beliveau: When you look at our business as in Volnay Capital, this is a whole division of our business. We’re using those large accounts not only to feature our own work and build our brand, we also use those to leverage for marketing opportunities. The way that works is we actually sell ads, as well as negotiate terms with our suppliers based on our social reach.

So do to the fact that we have a reach of almost 400,000 individual people per week, we’re able to use that when we leverage our purchasing with suppliers. When I purchase an order with a tile distributor who is looking to push a product, I can then show them that reach and say “We’d like a preferred price, we’d like this at cost, and then we’ll help promote your tile.” That goes for appliances, that goes for — across the board we’re able to leverage that reach.

Joe Fairless: It’s fascinating. I love that, because it’s connecting a larger audience, and then you’re repurposing it for some business reasons. As far as if someone is listening to this and wants to take a similar approach – it sounds like if they’re an apartment investor, then maybe they create an Instagram account about the beautiful apartment designs, or architecture or something, and then they do that, they build a following, and then they can help decide how they wanna monetize that or leverage that.

Ricky Beliveau: Exactly, and I think one key part about it is it needs to be something that they’re passionate about. A lot of work and a lot of time goes into this, it’s not something that just happens overnight, so it needs to be something that the person is passionate about and that they’re willing to put that time in.

So if it is something that they’re interested in with architecture, or building design, or apartment layouts even, if it’s something that they really like to look at and they’re interested in, that’d be something great to start an account about.

Joe Fairless: Got it. That’s interesting stuff. I’m glad you went through each of those… One is an Instagram account, a Facebook page, a twitter handle… What’s the Instagram thing? Instagram account?

Ricky Beliveau: Yeah, Instagram page, or Instagram account.

Joe Fairless: Alright, got it. I’m glad you went through each of those. Clearly, I’m not an Instagram guy. [laughs] I’m glad you went through each of those Instagram accounts and said the followers, because that helps us understand how you’re getting the traction… I can see my wife, Colleen, being interested in your Instagram page on kitchens and bathrooms and bedrooms and exteriors and designers… That’s interesting stuff, so it casts a wide net.

Would you suggest doing that? Because this is the approach you took, you evolved into… You’ve got things that are interesting to a large audience, but still relevant to your company, and you’re using that to build your own company’s profile. Is that the approach that you’d recommend?

Ricky Beliveau: I would say the first step would be concentrate on your own business and your own brand, and then through doing that, being active on social media, I think you’ll start to see pictures that you like, the stuff that you’re seeing that you feel that other people would like, and then from that you would then grow it into an additional account and go from there. You’re gonna do one at a time, it’s probably gonna be a slow growth, but I think that would be the first step.

So kind of like we did – start with your brand, start with your account, and then see the direction that social media is taking you.

Joe Fairless: It makes sense. As far as — let’s take your showcasing kitchens (the 186,000 followers), how long have you had that account open?

Ricky Beliveau: That accounts started in November of 2016.

Joe Fairless: November 2016, got it. So what is that, like a year and a half or so…? How much if any have you paid in advertising dollars or some other way to get followers?

Ricky Beliveau: Zero.

Joe Fairless: So it’s all organic followers, based on content.

Ricky Beliveau: All organic, yeah. That’s one thing that people always ask me. “I have an account, Ricky. I’m posting on it. Why am I not growing?” That’s the number one question I get. They’ve gotta understand the way Instagram works; yeah, content is important, but when you post onto your account, Instagram is really a closed circle. Yeah, there’s hashtags, but if you were to post with no hashtags, that post will be seen by about 10% of your followers. That’s the new algorithm, that’s the way Instagram works. So if you have 100 followers, you do a post, only 10 of them are gonna see it.

Then to decide if more people are gonna see that post is based on interactions with the post, so that’s likes and comments. If your post isn’t being liked or commented on, Instagram is not gonna show it to anybody else; they’re not gonna show it to your other 90, they’re not gonna show it to the rest of the people on Instagram.

So it’s key to ensure that the content is good, but then also that when you’re posting, you are having your post interacted with. And the way to do that is that you need to be active yourself. When I say being active on social media, that means that you’re commenting on other people’s posts, you’re responding to comments on your own posts, you’re liking other people’s posts, and that you’re interacting with other people’s posts… So you’re continuing that interaction.

What that does is that shows Instagram that you’re not a bot, and that you are an active participant in their platform, and all that plays into the algorithm that they use to show your post to the world.

So when you just post and you just go away from the day, unless it’s something that your first ten people like and that starts going, if you’re not doing these other things, you’re gonna see no growth. So I think that’s where the time comes in, that you have to really be committed to not just posting, but being an active member of the Instagram community.

Joe Fairless: You can’t just post and forget; you’ve gotta post and then get in there and really engage with others, and then they’ll engage with you.

Ricky Beliveau: Exactly.

Joe Fairless: Excellent. Well, anything else that we haven’t talked about that we need to talk about as it relates to this before we wrap up?

Ricky Beliveau: No, I think we’ve covered pretty much everything.

Joe Fairless: How can the Best Ever listeners get in touch with you?

Ricky Beliveau: You can find me at, and you can e-mail me there. And obviously, on all these Instagram accounts…

Joe Fairless: [laughs] I was waiting for it… I was like, “Wait… And Instagram!”, right? [laughter] Sweet! Well, Ricky, thank you for being on the show again and sharing with us how you have grown your social media presence in these different channels, on Instagram primarily, and the way that you did it.

Your recommendation is to start with your own page, and then see where social media takes you and what you want to be focused on… But then the macro-level approach that you now have is  casting a wide net with different topics or areas of focus that are appealing to a whole lot of people, and then using those channels or those pages to then drive business to your company, and save money on projects through in-kind exchanges of exposure with discount on supplies.

Thanks for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Ricky Beliveau: Great, thanks for having me.

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