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March 2019

Consultants ponder merits of social media for homebuilders

March 6, 2019

New Home Insights Podcast logo, and photo of Will DuderstadtIn a recent "New Home Insights" podcast, the senior VP at John Burns Real Estate said he believes most builders are effectively using social media to drive sales, but added, "I believe that social media has become a major reason that buyers are not purchasing a new home."

Will Wehrli, from the Burns firm, framed his comments around statistics showing the new home industry's market share accounts for only about 10 percent of total home sales, down from the historical norm of around 15 percent. He then introduced guest podcaster Will Duderstadt, VP of digital marketing at M/I Homes, the 14th largest homebuilder in the U.S.

Duderstadt said he believes builders can do more to increase sales via effective social media, and then proceeded to outline several strategies that work, ranging from creating awareness and generating referrals to applying knowledge about potential customers to enhance their buying experiences. "The industry has huge opportunities to improve what customers say about them online, which will almost certainly result in increased new home sales."

Effective social media starts with understanding that it is not just a cheaper means of broadcasting a message, according to Duderstadt. It requires actively interacting and engaging with the audience. Stories resonate well on social media, he noted, adding, "Consumers increasingly want to interact instantaneously with local businesses, and social media provides a great platform for that interaction."

The guest podcaster also outlined five major platforms and urged builders to learn from metrics.

While Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are recognized as the three most successful platforms for conveying online information and content, Houzz and Pinterest - "where consumers go for ideas and inspiration" - can yield results over the long term, the speaker suggested.

Metrics can also be beneficial, but the speaker expressed a preference for engagement rate, rather than "likes," saying he monitors messages to identify those with highest engagement rates and replicates those strategies. With regard to platforms with low engagement, he discards those into his "social media graveyard" to avoid wasting time on them in the future.

"Social media can help astute builders get happy customers to generate sales for them," Duderstadt said. "Happy customers also love to share their experiences with their network."

Social media is also clearly where unhappy customers go to destroy new home sales, noted a representative from John Burns Real Estate. Citing data from one of its surveys, they reported 52 percent of home buyers shop for their home extensively online, with 32 percent using search engines, and 15 percent using social media to find the home they want. The consultants recommend builders to a self-search of their business to see what consumers see. "We suspect an even higher percentage do research on the builder before signing a sales contract," JBRE noted.

Guest podcaster Duderstadt oversees online marketing campaigns, lead generation, SEO, PPC, social media and content strategy for M/I Homes and its 16 divisions in 11 states.

The New Homes Insights podcasts, released bi-weekly by John Burns Real Estate Consulting, are available on various platforms. Visit the firm's website to register for notices on new installments.