With the real estate market becoming more competitive than ever, agents need to use any tool possible to their advantage. With the recent trend of young, tech-savvy Millennials joining the homebuying market, some industry professionals are utilizing the new generation's favorite tools for social engagement with great results. Even ancillary real estate companies, including home inspection services, could get in on the action. If you or your managers are still skeptical on how 140 characters or a 10 second video can lead to home sales, look no further than these real estate innovators who are shaking things up with social media.

Expanding on the basics

If you or your agency isn't already using some form of social media, whether it's Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or Pinterest, chances are you're already behind the pack. According to a 2014 survey of realtors by Realtor.org, 91 percent reported some form of social media use, up from only 33 percent just six years prior. A testament to the swiftness with which social media preferences change, this survey did not include Instagram or Snapchat, which have become two of the most popular social apps in just the last couple of years. With a huge number of people using these websites and phone apps, real estate agents can tap into a massive audience and broadcast new listings and photos. These platforms also make it easy to engage with potential or current clients in a casual yet meaningful way.

Numbers game

The statistics on social media don't lie: Realtors who work to create a strong presence on these sites will reap the rewards. According to data compiled by social media company Sprout Social, real estate is the second biggest market for inbound engagement relative to the size of its audience. At the same time, real estate was measured as having only the 13th highest response rate. This means that real estate agents who commit to an active presence on social media will likely get a leg up on their competition, who may not be taking these websites as seriously as they should.

Staying specific

Each social media platform can be used in different ways, especially since one may attract different types of users than others. Instagram and Pinterest are more visually-based and tend to be used to post high-quality photos. Agents hope these will serve as eye candy for potential buyers. Twitter and Facebook, though, are more news and engagement-driven. Agents may find these both useful to share brief news and updates about their business. A relatively new app like Snapchat fills a more vague niche.

One realtor, Victor Quiroz of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, has begun experimenting with Snapchat to share more casual content, according to an interview with U.S. News and World Report. Instead of using the app for purely promotional purposes, Quiroz has found utility in Snapchat for more inventive uses.

"It's not just about promoting the brand and being authentic," Quiroz said. "You have to be a little creative."

While he also uses more traditional social media platforms like Facebook, Quiroz has built up an audience of 150 followers on Snapchat, who watch his creative "stories" that consist of short video clips and images of his time on the job. This is following in the footsteps of major brands like Taco Bell and Disney, who have found success catering to younger audiences through more casual engagement on Snapchat. For agents who enjoy a creative challenge, this could be the next frontier in promotion. Even though Quiroz says he hasn&##039;t closed a deal using the app yet, he hopes to be able to say that soon.

Creating a conversation

While social media can garner more attention than traditional print or TV ads in many cases, agents who use it purely for those reasons are missing out on something even more valuable. Realtor.com offered a variety of advanced tips for growing and tapping into the huge potential that social media presents to real estate agents. The main idea separating social media from other forms of advertisement is the promise of engagement. Instead of just sharing photos, use them to tell stories, as Realtor.com suggested. A brief anecdote about the realtor-weary couple who used your services as a last resort to find the home of their dreams will garner exponentially more attention than the photo of them in front of a "for sale" sign. Contests and raffle drawings take on a new flavor of excitement when followers can keep up with them directly from their Twitter or Facebook feeds. You could even use these platforms to get direct, honest and prompt feedback from past or potential customers that will help your business improve and target new opportunities.

With this rapidly-growing new field, the rules of real estate marketing have changed for good. If you're not doing all you can to create an engaging presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even Snapchat, you may be missing out on much more than cute cat pictures​.