In today’s increasingly digital world, social media has become a vital tool to help home builders reach out to buyers. Accounts on networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram help builders connect with potential customers and stay in touch with past clients.
Marketing professionals say that builders should allocate five to 10 hours a week to their social media outreach. The best campaigns generate leads and bring customers into models or design centers, where they can meet with a salesperson. With just a little effort, a well-regarded social media campaign can boost sales.
A few simple tactics can help improve engagement, experts say, starting with these nine tips for engaging and energizing your past and future customers.
1. Know where your customers are. New social platforms pop up frequently, but this doesn’t mean your customers are using them. Instead of having a presence on every social network, focus your efforts on two to three platforms that connect your company to a specific audience. For example, if a builder is developing an active adult community, it is better to be on Facebook--the network with the highest 55+ demographic--than on Instagram or Snapchat, which are more popular with millennials. “It’s a matter of understanding your customer and how they consume social,” says Will Duderstadt, vice president of digital marketing at Columbus, Ohio–based M/I Homes.
2. Generate emotional content. Americans consume a lot of social media. A recent study from Pew Research found that 74% of Facebook users visit the site daily, with 51% saying they use the platform several times a day. With so much content flooding the Internet, it’s important to be authentic with your posts. High-quality content with good photography and no spelling errors is a must. And while there is no hard rule on how much you should post a day or week, a consistent presence will show consumers you are actively using the page and promoting your product.
3. Interact with your customers. Use Facebook messenger, and other forms of direct messaging services, to reach customers immediately. On a business Facebook page, marketers can communicate privately with interested customers who have reached out to the page by accessing the ‘Inbox’ tab. It is important to respond to those inquiries in a timely manner, and also reply to comments and shares that appear on your page publicly. Even if the comment is negative, it is better to craft a response than ignore it altogether.
4. Plan before you post. Cassie Cataline, director of marketing at Nexton, Newland Communities’ new master plan outside of Charleston, S.C., emphasizes planning ahead when it comes to social media. This includes keeping your voice consistent yet approachable, creating posting standards that reflect the basic principles of the company, and drilling down a precise plan with a specific goal in mind. For builders, examples of goals might include increased sales, scheduled appointments, or leads, building general brand awareness, or nurturing existing customer relationships.
5. Manage networks with third-party sources. Managerial platforms such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck can significantly help in organizing posts, notifications, mentions, and messages. Plus, these apps allow users to schedule posts for weeks or months in advance. Users can also create a dashboard that combines multiple metrics, such as Google Analytics and Facebook Insights, into one window, says Kevin Oakley, managing partner at Do You Convert, a Tulsa, Okla.–based sales and marketing agency for new home builders. This way, companies can keep track of what they have posted, what has performed well, and who is talking about them.
6. Consider paid advertising. Although organic posts are important in keeping a constant presence on your social pages, marketing experts say organic posts, on Facebook for example, no longer receive the reach they used to when the platforms launched. Builders should consider paid advertising in order to more effectively target potential buyers actively searching for a new home. Depending on the network and the chosen ad plan, the social sites will use algorithms to place targeted ads in people’s main feeds who have inquired about building a home or have recently visited your page or website.
7. Look at other industries for inspiration. As Jennifer Cooper, vice president of marketing at Denver-based Oakwood Homes, says, “customers don’t just buy one thing, they buy multiple things.” From cars and clothing to fast food and furniture, marketing professionals in other sectors are trying new tactics and strategies to attract consumers. Restaurant chain Wendy’s increased its engagement on Twitter by using humor when responding to customers and competing restaurants. Beauty brand Glossier, a retailer that sells most of its products online, increased awareness of the brand by using social video tutorials and user-generated content to promote its products.
8. Measure success. Last fall, BUILDER published an article with data suggesting specific companies within the industry were “killing it on social media” based on their social accounts likes and follows. But both Duderstadt and Oakley agree that a better metric to measure success is conversion, or turning social media followers into leads or sales.
For instance, one of Oakley’s Dallas clients implemented a paid social advertising campaign and then tracked the results. The builder saw a 147% year-over-year increase in online traffic, an increase in leads of 25%, and an increase in appointments of 53%. “Final sales data is still being wrapped up, but it looks like they'll see an increase of around 15%,” Oakley says.
9. Experiment with new social features. Marketing pros recommend trying out stories, slideshows with a mix of photos and/or videos that live on a page for 24 hours, and live streams on Facebook and Instagram. For an industry that specializes in imagery, stories will allow customers to see behind the scenes, a feature known to pique consumers’ interests, market an event for a short time, or showcase company news or recognition. Plus, investing in video and live streaming product demonstrations, such as new model homes, may help attract more buyers.