Home builders are constantly on the hunt for the latest ideas to improve their presence on social media. A quick search for the phrase social media for home builders delivers a slew of tips, tricks and success stories of home builders using social media to drive more leads and sales. The latest research from the 2015-16 Home Buyer Conversion Report helps us look at social media in the home builder industry from the perspective of the home buyer.
New research shows how buyers view social media for home builders
The chart above is from the 2015-16 Home Buyer Conversion Report and shows which stage of the process buyers consider most important for using social media. The study was conducted with buyers that purchased a new home in 2015. The data shows more than half of buyers consider social media most important in the research phase, before they’ve even decided on a builder. So what does this mean?
For home builders social media is often the buyer’s first impression of them.
According to a Harvard Business Review article “consumers are now generating over 25% of content that appears in web searches for specific brand names, and consumers often trust those social media messages more than advertising or news articles about the brand.” So when you think back to the search results for social media home builders, how many of those tips and tactics were focused on encouraging buyers to post their opinions about the buying experience? Not many. Most builders today are looking for fast easy ways to jump on the social media for home buildersbandwagon. They want to treat it like other marketing channels, which they can control with a budget and marketing team. But this will only get you so far.
With social media for home builders, the first impression will come from the last buyer.
Zero Moment of Truth is a phrase coined by Google several years ago, and whether you know it by name or not, you’re likely very familiar with the concept. Today’s shoppers are influenced by yesterday’s buyers – way before they set foot in a store.
HOW ZMOT IS CHANGING SOCIAL MEDIA FOR HOME BUILDERS
Let’s consider a company everyone knows: Amazon. Their business is built around the ZMOT. They use their online reviews to take the uncertainty out of online purchasing. This puts the fate of products they sell in the hands of people buying those products. What would you trust more: a watch manufacturer’s 4 paragraph description of their waterproofing process, or single review where the buyer described the watch failing after getting wet?
This is why social media makes so many home builders nervous. The experience of buying and building a home has so many moving parts. The experience could go wrong at any number of places. And the last thing a builder wants to give an angry buyer is a megaphone and an audience.
But buyers already have a megaphone. They have a voice with social media. And when builders invite them to share their experiences on the builder’s website, blog, Facebook page, etc., it can seem extremely risky.
No risk, no reward
Reviews in social media are most risky for companies that don’t take the customer experience seriously. They don’t want to hear about negative experiences because they have no intention of fixing them. Or more likely they don’t want to fix the process which allowed the bad experience to happen in the first place. They’d rather just pretend the buyer’s a liar, or out to get a free lunch.
These types of people are certainly out there. But a few bad apples don’t spoil the bunch. They actually lend credibility. You’ve likely seen them on Amazon reviews. But you can see right through them (and so can your prospects). Often, a product with nothing but glowing 5-star reviews seems fishy.
But for builders that do aspire to deliver great experiences (in addition to great homes), the reward is far greater than the risk. Buyers are actually much more likely to post positive reviews than negative. But negative comments on social media will come. The most important thing is to have a plan in place to deal with them.
Home builders should treat negative comments on social media as an opportunity to:
- Show the public (on authentic channels) how you resolve issues. This, in turn, instills trust in your company should anything go wrong.
- Gain valuable insight into problem areas, and use it to improve the process.
This is a huge shift for most home builders today. And it’s part of the reason the current home buying and building process is unsustainable. Builders often believe there’s more value investing in marketing and sales than process improvements. And since social media dollars come out of the marketing budget (instead of operations or R&D) we’re left with nothing more than social media tips and tricks for home builders.
So what will the reward be for home builders that embrace this mindset toward social media?
Something all builders should be striving for: a unique position in the industry. Millennials and beyond are now demanding a better home buying experience. And as new home construction becomes commoditized, this unique position as a customer experience leader will certainly be something to tweet about. For you and your buyers.