The new home industry has lost market share, capturing only about 10% of total homes sales compared to the historical norm, which is closer to 15%. While most builders are effectively using social media to drive sales, I believe that social media has become a major reason that buyers are not purchasing a new home.
Will Duderstadt, Vice President of Digital Marketing, M/I Homes
Social Media Successes
In this episode of our podcast Will Duderstadt, VP of Digital Marketing at M/I Homes and a speaker at our upcoming Housing Design Summit, brings clarity to effective digital marketing strategies. M/I Homes is the 14th-largest home builder in America and operates in 16 divisions in 11 states in the central and Eastern time zones. Will shares the social media strategies that work.
Interaction, Not Broadcasting
Social media is much less effective if you view it simply as a cheaper means of broadcasting your message. Effective social media requires a commitment to being social, which means actively engaging with your audience. It can be time consuming to reply to inquiries like “I love that vase. Where did you get it?” However, consumers increasingly want to interact instantaneously with local businesses, and social media provides a great platform for that interaction.
Stories also resonate well on social media. Tell your new home story, with the modern floor plans, energy-efficient building codes, and the latest fits and finishes.
The 5 Major Platforms
Great marketing has always been done where people expect to receive information or content. For a growing number of consumers, this takes place on the internet and on their phone. The three most successful platforms are clearly Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
However, don’t rule out the two most aspirational platforms: Houzz and Pinterest. Houzz and Pinterest require less time and are where consumers go for ideas and inspiration on what would look great in their house. Many of these consumers are looking to improve where they currently live and could be perfect candidates to buy a new home if you have a community in their area. Take some photos, especially of the “wow” feature in your homes and post it on Houzz and Pinterest. Let them know what your ethos is. View this as a strategy that will pay off over the long term, not just this quarter.
Learning from Your Metrics
Will prefers to use the metric of engagement rate. Absolute likes are less relevant than the percentage of recipients who like or share what you post. Will learns from the messages that receive the highest engagement rates and replicates those strategies. He has also created a “social media graveyard” for all the platforms with low engagement, so he doesn’t waste time in the future.
Social media can help astute builders get happy customers to generate sales for them. Will tells a story of an old tree M/I saved for the neighbors that gained M/I a lot of neighborhood goodwill when word spread as to what they had done. This would not have been as effective if M/I had broadcast the message themselves. Happy customers also love to share their experiences with their network.
Costing the Industry Sales
While Will and Dean did not discuss this on the podcast, social media is also clearly where unhappy customers go to destroy new home sales. According to our survey, 52% of home buyers shop for their home extensively online, with 32% using search engines and 15% using social media to find the home they want. We suspect that an even higher percentage do research on the builder before signing a sales contract.
Type in “[builder name] reviews” into a search engine and/or “#[buildername]” into Twitter and see what consumers see. Kudos to Will for having much better results on Twitter than most of the other big builders we tested. However, the search engine results for most big builders return scores of less than 2 on a scale of 1 to 5, and some really devoted upset customers are generating a lot of internet traction. This is not the case for every builder, however. One publicly traded builder has more than 800 reviews and all website reviews averaging a 4+ rating. One of the largest private builders in the country has a very large portion of their website devoted to happy customer testimonials. And several small, private builders have excellent reviews even if there are only a few reviews. A positive presence on the internet and social media is indeed possible.
Builders clearly can do more to increase sales through effective social media. They can create awareness, generate leads, gain referrals, and learn more about each potential customer to provide them the best home buying experience possible. The industry also has huge opportunities to improve what customers say about them online, which will almost certainly result in increased new home sales.