Conducting online research before investing in a product or service is a given for the modern consumer and it's no suprise that the internet has become an increasingly valuable resource for those looking into buying a home.
To help you take advantage of this trend, in this post, we'll take a look at how getting to grips with social media can help attract more home buyers to your developments.
Is this the upturn we've all been waiting for?
With every week that passes it seems that the light at the end of the economic-downturn-tunnel is just perhaps glowing a touch more brightly.
Mortgage lending is up, house building levels are up, house prices are up there is even talk that current rises may cause another property bubble and subsequent burst - surely a sign that things are improving.
House builders across the board are reporting a significant lift in sales as a result of the government's Help to Buy scheme. Bellway Homes is the latest firm to say that the incentive scheme for homebuyers has boosted confidence across the country, bringing more house hunters to its sites and raising reservations of new homes by 27% on last year's levels. From next year non-new build house purchases of up to £600,000 can also be backed by the government. After over five years of hardship, at last things are really starting to look a little brighter in the housing market.
But as that confidence increases and the market finally starts to pick up, we are going to see increased competition amongst house builders to attract every single potential homebuyer to their schemes.
The shifting media landscape
Since the financial crisis hit us in 2008 the media landscape has shifted beyond all recognition. The internet, and social media in particular, have exploded - forcing businesses across all sectors to place more emphasis on digital and content marketing.
The focus buyers place on traditional media when finding a home has vastly reduced. Are people really leafing through their local newspaper to decide which housing scheme they want to visit this weekend? I don’t think so. The Internet is the modern customer's first stop when making any purchase decision whether we're shopping for a holiday, a new coat or a new home.
Google, calls the phenomenon of online decision-making the Zero Moment of Truth - where customers decide what they want in front of a screen, before seeing a physical product. Decisions are informed by: news articles, reviews, videos, virtual tours, customer critiques and the opinions of influencers.
For example, the average person buying a car will be influenced at least 10 times online before making a brand selection. Only then will they be visiting the showroom and that buying behaviour applies to house buyers too. Yes, many people’s primary factor will be location, but in any one town they have multiple developments to choose from. Let’s be honest, there are often few true points of differentiation between most house builders so influencing buyer’s choice on line is more important than ever.
It is clear that few housebuilders have yet embraced social media to its full potential with a few notable exceptions such as Miller Homes and Taylor Wimpey. It could be down to inertia, scepticism or maybe lack of knowledge, but it’s clear that now is the time to put a plan in place and get involved.
How housebuilders can use social media to attract buyers
It isn't enough to simply set up a website, launch a Twitter account and place some local advertorials and assume you've got all media bases covered. If your developments are to get noticed in an expanding market, you will need to up your game and devise an all-encompassing media campaign if your properties are going to sell above that of the competition.
This means getting appropriate content online as well as in print media, specialist publications, on radio and, television and outdoor advertising. It means changing and adapting to using new channels in order to entice buyers into your offer with an interactive online strategy coupled with media relations and more creative stunts and events.
Top tips to get you started
So where do you start? Well here’s just a couple of things you can do to improve your on-line engagement:
Twitter – the new generation of house buyers is telling the world what they are doing this weekend. House builders need to be listening on line and finding out who is tweeting about going house hunting this weekend. It’s even easy to identify the location of people using tools such as Geochirp and to monitor conversations so there’s no excuse to not be listening and responding immediately.
Facebook – are you engaging with your existing residents online? If someone has a niggle, they are going to express their views whether you are part of the conversation or not. You can be sure that new house buyers will check out existing homeowners' opinions of you on Facebook and if you are not responding and adequately addressing issues, people will turn away. Poor Bellway Homes has been caught out several times by not responding quickly enough.
TV Channels - Maximise the breadth and depth of online content by creating your own TV channel, either on your own site or one of the many free video networks now available. It gives you the chance to provide virtual tours, interactive showrooms, site maps and customers vox pops, as well as linking to other organisations' relevant content about the area. For example this could include local guides, town centre tours, what’s on, regional TV etc. See Taylor Wimpey’s great example on YouTube here
Competitions – it’s really easy to inject some quick, fast fun into a campaign by running regular competitions on Facebook with simple, low-cost prizes such as lunch in a local restaurant, goody bags or wine for the weekend. It helps you to build up loyalty and create communities on-line. Look at how Redrow have being doing it with boat shows and bake-offs.
Blogging - Blogging is often overlooked as a social media marketing activity, however, it can be a valuable tool for driving qualified leads to your website and demonstrating thought leadership in your field. While we've devoted entire posts to harnessing the power of blogging, the headline tips are that content must be regularly updated, relevant and above all, interesting if you're to see success with your efforts in this area.
While the above might make it sound relatively easy to enjoy success online, it does need a commitment of time and resource. If you have a team in-house then great, but often outsourcing is another option and that's where we can help.
If you’ve found engaging ways to use social media or seen other house builders do it well we’d love to hear about it so don't be a stranger, leave us a comment.
We've also produced a brand new eBook to help residential developers get to grips with the basics of online marketing, so be sure to check it out completely free of charge:
Images/media used courtesy of Persimmon, Redrow and Bellway Homes on Facebook and Google ZMOT