Two buyers in a new Charter Homes community recently started a Twitter page for their dog: @FutureWaldenDog. They are tweeting about what life is like in the company’s Walden community from a dog’s perspective.
Charter Homes, of course, could spend a fortune trying to convince prospects through traditional advertising that its communities are ideal for dog lovers. Most of it would fall on deaf ears. But when a buyer sends this message through social media, the impact is immense. Charter, of course, used its Facebook page to tell people about the feed.
Rob Bowman, president of Charter Homes & Neighborhoods, shared this insight during a webinar we presented earlier this week on social media that was part of our Presidential Online Seminar series. You can watch it, along with the three others we’ve done, by clicking on this link. We have two more coming up next week–one on projects that are outselling the competition and the healthiest housing markets, and another on where to find capital for growth.
The dog anecdote reinforced the belief held by all three presenters that the key to social media is a soft-sell approach. Potential buyers can be turned off by hard sales techniques, though it’s still important to let people know that a community is opening or that you have a special weekend incentive. But those kinds of messages need to be vastly outnumbered by ones that attempt to engage the audience.
That means writing Facebook posts that ask customers for their favorite colors or favorite rooms of the house. It means providing useful advice on things you may not even sell–like landscaping and home maintenance. Then maybe if you are lucky, people will start their own Twitter feed about your company or your community.
The presenters made it clear that doing social media well requires a big time commitment. Chuck Petersheim, who builds or remodels about 10 homes a year in the Catskills of New York, treats every person who comments on his blog or friends him on Facebook like they were a customer walking in the door. That means regularly responding to their comments and posts and remembering their birthdays.
Petersheim, whose company, The Catskill Farms, often builds with salvaged materials, keeps a blog about the company’s projects. That material is often repurposed on the company’s Facebook page, and there are links to it from the company’s website. “You need to focus on what you do well, and link to it from other social media,” he advised.
Jim Deitch, the COO of Southern Crafted Homes, is deeply into Facebook, which many builders believe is their most effective form of social marketing. He makes it a habit to check his personal page and his company’s page three times daily. He works hard to add new followers, particularly real estate agents, who can make the whole exercise worthwhile.
If this seems like a big time commitment, it is. But the builders agreed that if you going to engage in social media, you can’t go half-way. You need to own the dialogue about your company, if only to prevent negative comments about the company from coming up high in search engine results. That may happen unless you continually post information about your own company.