The Estates of Sunnybrook

The Increasing Importance of Real Estate Social Media

When you think of construction and development companies, you think of cranes, high rises and the physical building of a new area. Now, connecting with the community goes beyond inviting potential clients to model homes. The experience of buying a new property through a development has grown to be engaging from first site visit to move in date and after that.

That’s why award winning builder-developer of low and high rise, Empire Communities hired a Social Media Coordinator. A role that’s responsible for creating content, listening and engaging potential clients and keeping brokers and new home owners up to day.

From posting industry news and events, to community development and neighbourhood facts, Empire Communities is building their brand from the ground to online. Nikki Bettinelli, social media coordinator for Empire Communities, says their goal is “to bridge the gap between purchase and move in date. Timelines in real estate are so long, we want to keep the purchasers engaged and excited. We want them to feel comfortable, but also loyal to us.”

Their online efforts are combined with traditional print campaigns, such as social initiatives like “What’s Your Victory?” where the print campaigns pushed people to their Facebook business page. Involving their clients helps them “understand and listen to what people are looking for in a home/condo and use it to understand what to create next.”

“Since 90% of people start their house hunt online, it’s important for us to be active,” remarks Betinelli. “We can then have our messages shared and stay top of mind. We want someone looking for a condo to think of Empire first. Then five years down the line when they’re looking for a house, they still think of us first. We’re looking to create loyal and trusting relationships, and that begins with social.”

They have a Tumblr page dedicated to exploring the neighbourhood and highlighting key hangouts and restaurants, “we’re really focused on promoting the area online and offline. To translate this social campaign offline, we’ve decorated the presentation gallery with community maps and photos. For those who aren’t online, we do have a published hard copy of our posts.”

Their efforts are giving homeowners and potential purchasers direct access to the company. Having an online presence allows Empire Communities to position themselves as an industry expert and the more people trust the information the better Empire does. 

“It gives us the chance to have a conversation with potential homeowners before they visit the presentation gallery or show room,” Betinelli says. “It gives us the ability to bring people into our construction progress and feel as though they are watching the development being built without ever having to visit the site. They don’t need to wonder if the roof is on the house yet, they’re apart of the progress.”

And these efforts aren’t going unnoticed, tracking conversations helps the sales force and their engaging content is being translated into direct sales. Empire Communities has seen an increase of website visits and registrations from social media campaigns.

“I think developers are really going to have to focus on creating loyalty by engaging with their clients,” Betinelli continues. “You’re promoting a lifestyle and developers will need to start pushing the limits with social to find new and innovative ways to create a buzz around their projects.”

One way Empire Communities created buzz, was by reaching out to a popular online blogger, Zach Bussey, and had him stay at a fully furnished penthouse suite. They invited 20 of Zach’s closets blogger friends and treated them to a special evening of luxe. This had Empire Communities in front of a network they hadn’t been focusing on and in return generated a ton of Tweets, Shares, Instagram photos and Facebook conversation about Zach’s stay. Plus this buzz led to TV spots and front-page coverage in a Toronto newspaper.

Q & A

What is expected of you in your role as social coordinator?

Create content, listen and engage potential purchasers, brokers and homeowners online through social platforms. I identify opportunities and pass them along to our sales team, as well as keep homeowners engaged and up to date with everything going on in our communities. I attend high rise, low rise and industry events and report on industry and community news.

What is your social platform of choice?

To reach homeowners and keep them engaged and up to date I prefer to use Facebook. Our low rise communities are primarily in South West Ontario and I’ve found them to be more engaged through Facebook posts. To reach brokers and the industry, I prefer Twitter. It’s the best way to share news articles, and have ongoing conversations about the market.

How do you use social media to promote the brand?

Before I came to Empire that had little to no online social presence, so my main goal was to start showing up on people’s timelines. I frequently attend industry events (BILD, OHBA etc.) and live-tweet, as well as report on industry news, our community news and what’s going on at Empire’s head office. I want to promote Empire’s external and internal brand. I also work with our marketing team to promote each communities independent brand across our corporate accounts and project specific accounts.

How do you use social media to prospect buyers?

With the real estate industry, it’s tough. I primarily use listening tools to see if anyone is talking about buying a new home and I try to engaged with them in general conversation about what they are looking for. I have found the best way to reach potential purchasers is to promote our communities and what’s going on in them so that we reach our fan’s networks. Referrals are a large part of our sales, so if we are constantly posting about our community events and giving them valuable homeowners’ information and tips we generally see friends of our fans inquiring about the community.

We are also in the process of starting a corporate blog that will be aimed at creating valuable content for all homeowners so that Empire Communities will be known as an industry expert and will create trust with our current homeowners, potential purchasers and anyone in general. We hope that our blog will attract anyone needing questions about homeownership answered.

Do you use social to interact with brokers/ real estate agents?

Yes, brokers are very important to a lot of our sales, especially in high rise, so we reach out and let them know about any events, launches or appreciation lunches we have. My goal with brokers is to ultimately get them to register on our broker form online so that they get all the information about our communities directly in their inbox. I also create conversations with them about the neighbourhoods they are selling in, so that their followers will see them actively engaging with us and will do more research about our company. Ultimately my goal for both brokers and potential homeowners is to create a friendship first, get them to trust us as a developer and get them to feel loyalty to us.

How does your role and marketing work with traditional processes?

I translate our traditional marketing into conversations online. Someone may see one of our ads in the newspaper, on signage or because I’ve posted it on social and I take those ads and create a conversation around them. Right now our ads are promoting our Easy Buy Program. Our print ads give you the basic information, but online I try and explain the program and capture people’s attention so they want to ask more questions and ultimately start a conversation that leads back to our website and registration pages. Essentially through conversations I keep our marketing messages top of mind.

Why is your role crucial for development?

It gives homeowners and potential purchasers direct access to our company. Ultimately they are the ones we need to make happy, so we take their feedback and use it. My role is also helping to position Empire as an industry expert. The more people start to trust the information we are sharing the better our position in the industry.
What success have you had from you online strategies?

We’re starting to see sales being attributed to the first touch points being social. Our content is engaging and relevant and so we’re seeing people going to our website and registering because they want to know more about us and our communities.

What are your top goals with social for Empire?

My top goal is to bridge the gap between purchase and move in date. Because timelines in real estate, (especially in high rise) are so long, we want to keep purchasers engaged and excited, so that they feel comfortable and loyal to us as a builder and so that we eventually reach their network through likes, shares and comments.

How does empire use social success in other marketing?

We’ve created print campaigns based around social initiatives such as our “What’s Your Victory” campaign for our Stoney Creek community Victory. Our print campaigns pushed people to our Facebook page so they could share their life victories with us. We also listen to what people are looking for in a home/condo and use it when creating product.

Why is it important for Empire to use online campaigns?

90% of people start their hunt for a new home online. It’s important for us to be active online so that our messages are being shared and so that people know who we are. We want to stay top of mind so that someone looking for a condo thinks us first, and then maybe 5 years down the line is looking for a house, and still thinks of us first. We want to create loyal, trusting relationships and that beings with social.

How do you bring online campaigns offline?

Our Show Rooms reflect our marketing, so if we have a very social campaign you’ll see it take shape in our Show Rooms/presentation galleries. The Hub’s social campaign is very focused on the gentrification of the neighbourhood and highlighting hidden gems. We have a tumblr page devoted to exploring the neighbourhood and highlighting key restaurants, hang outs, beauty salons etc. We are really focused on promoting the area online and offiline.

How has social media played a new role in marketing a development?

It gives us the chance to have a conversation with potential homeowners before they visit the presentation gallery/show room. We create a loyalty with them so they already feel comfortable and at home when they visit us for the first time. It also allows us to reach out and show potential purchases what our community is like. Our Facebook page has photos of our model homes, our community events, parks, and construction updates. As a potential purchaser coming to our page you can see that we are an active, engaging developer that wants to stay involved with our communities. It’s exciting content as homeowners and potential homeowners watch the community grow offline and online. By sharing this type of media we are able to reach larger networks that ultimately bring people back to our page and makes them interested in our communities.

Did you have to explain the benefits to those above/around you?

Yes. The real estate industry is behind when it comes to digital marketing. Co-workers and superiors know we need to have it, but they don’t always know why, so I find that we have to explain ourselves a few times before an initiative starts to take place. We have to create well though out plans and get everyone on board before we launch any social projects.

What advice do you have for other social managers for development?

1) You’re selling a lifestyle so focus on creating an online community that trusts you. Focus on highlighting the community and what’s important to your homeowners so that they will naturally share the content and bring more people to your pages. 2) Stay up to date with industry news, attend as many industry events as possible. The media talks a lot, and so it’s up to the developers to stay on top of what happening and help stop any rumors or promote what is correct.
How has social impacted a real bricks and mortar business?

It gives us the ability to bring people into our construction progress and feel like they are watching the development being built without every having to actually visit the site. They feel like they are a part of it, instead of sitting back wondering if the roof is on the house yet, or if they’ve starting building the condo.

What do you see as the future of online campaigns and contraction/development?

I think developers are really going to have to focus on creating loyalty and use social to really connect and engage. It’s hard to say where the future our online campaigns for developers will go because there are so many opportunities. You’re promoting a lifestyle so there are a ton of different opportunities. Developers need to start pushing the limits with social and trying new and innovative ways to create buzz around their projects.

By Nataleigh Ballantyne