Since my early days on social media (I’m a proud ’09 Twitter inductee), I’ve always seen it as a tool. A tool to connect with people to further my creative, business and educational endeavors. Fast forward a decade to the frenzied pace of social in ’19, and I haven’t strayed from this motto. I’ve never let the medium dictate my life — it’s merely my sidekick to document my experiences as an agency owner, real estate investor, artist manager and more. Notice I used “document”. I’ve never felt the need to create content — I merely use it to capture what I’m already doing in the real world. Naturally, this is contingent on living a life worth documenting but luckily I have that part covered.
About 18 months ago, I started to document my experiences as a real estate investor. A lot of my early content consisted of me navigating my multi-family rehab projects, watching paint dry (literally) and other mundane moments. Since I was going through the process for the first time with my own money on the line, I had a heightened curiosity around everything I was doing. When that same rehab project went over budget, I was quick to share all the things that were going wrong (permit delays, contractor issues, etc) and used Instagram Stories as a reality TV-style format to share information on the process. From its infancy, I saw Instagram Stories as an undervalued medium that allowed you to drive depth and curiosity within your core audience, as long as you weren’t narcissistic about it. I wasn’t concerned with exactly who or how many people were consuming this content, I just knew it was important for me to authentically share what I was going through.
Eventually, I finished that project. I went on to complete acquire more properties and as I built up “experience,” I was able to infuse investment insights into my content. Details such as purchase prices, ARVs (After Repair Value), tax shelters and more found its way into my social content. As I created more value for the people tuning in, I saw an increase in the number of inquiries I was getting about real estate. I made sure to answer each one of the inquiries with depth, even when it was tedious. When you’re forced to teach a subject, you start developing deeper fluency and mastery of the material which only benefits you over time.
Throughout this process, I had zero expectations for the content I was creating. I didn’t think that the level of transparency and depth around what I was doing would attract serious investment dollars. That’s the thing about documenting — when you’re doing it with pure intentions and no expectations, you create your best work. Though getting in that mindset is tough, it’s the sincerity and energy behind that work that gets readily noticed by others.
Fast forward a few months and I started to notice an inflection point within my network. A few of my friends reached out for help with buying their first house and I was able to provide value at multiple points during the transaction. In some cases, I helped people save tens of thousands of dollars by discovering unnecessary fees or sharing how to outfox an overzealous mortgage broker. This is the other byproduct of documenting with no expectation — you start to become an expert because of how much time you spend with the material. Once have the reputation of being an authority, people target you with opportunities.
Then, came my first breakthrough. A client whom I was working with on the agency side mentioned that his grandmother had left him a sum of money and he was interested in investing it in real estate with me. Would I be willing to deploy his capital towards a new project? Of course I would. Here’s the thing about “breakthroughs” — many times they are a result of taking small steps every day and putting together a portfolio of micro wins for the world to see. Instagram Story and Twitter make this really easy because you can share your progress (and failures) in real time if you’re willing to get vulnerable. When people see you exhibit that level of consistency, that’s often more powerful than you hitting a home run and then disappearing off the map.
One more thing: For the 3–4 months prior to that client asking to invest with me, I had researched and assembled a process to properly take on outside capital. I met with multiple attorneys, learned the rules of the SEC and built a relationship with my banker to be able to onboard the capital in a responsible way. The worst thing is when you’re met with an opportunity and you aren’t prepared to receive it because didn’t go the groundwork. I couldn’t let that be me.
Around the time that first investor came in, I started to document the process around the onboarding. This naturally led to more curiosity across my network and that one investor eventually turned to a few more. I didn’t pitch any of them or try to convince them to place their trust in me. That foundation was already laid by the work that I had been doing in the real world and the associated documentation. All I had to do was communicate that I was open to taking outside capital. As a result of taking the money, I was able to 3x the number of deals that I did the previous year and achieve a level of scale that has opened up a new realm of what is possible for my real estate portfolio.
Though I never actively pitched anyone, in a sense I was pitching to potential investors every day by showing them my process, the results and everything in between. It wasn’t perfected and it wasn’t polished but it was real.
A lot of investors will tell you that it’s more important to invest in the right founder than the right product and they’re absolutely right. For all of the professional experience that I lacked in the real estate world, I made up for with grit and sincerity. If you’re in a position where you need to raise money, start with gauging how vulnerable you’re ready to be with your content strategy and start documenting. Take people through your “Why?” before your product and then clearly outline why investing with you is undeniably the right thing to do.
There’s no doubt in my mind that social media can be harmful. It plays to negative triggers, manipulates human psychology and wastes massive amounts of time. However, when you see it as a tool that is within your control and nothing more, it can be extremely powerful. Make the right choices and the world is yours.
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