First published in the Canadian Home Builders Association (CHBA) membership email newsletter, February 2014
Ever tried to do business with an unlisted phone number?
In 2007, I met with a group of Canadian Home Builders Association members to talk about making the most of the Internet. I suggested trying to do business without a website was like trying to do business using an unlisted phone number. Seven years later, the analogy holds true for social media as well.
Think of social media as a channel
Stripped down, social media is simply a channel. Like all the other technologies you’ve adapted to over time – phone, email, web page, blog posts, texts – social media is simply another way to communicate with prospects, customers, suppliers and employees. It’s another way to answer questions people have on their path to conversion:
- What homes do you have available where?
- How much does a bathroom renovation cost?
- How do I get to your sales centre?
- What floor plans are available?
- Can I change them?
- Can you give me some design ideas?
- Is the upfront cost vs. energy efficiency trade off worth it?
Name the home-owning topic and someone is looking for information about it through social media. And yes; as with commercial search engines, you can quantify demand through social networks.
Why do we support different channels?
It’s simple. From a demographic perspective, different prospect and customer segments prefer different channels. We all know that some people are phone people, others are email people, and others are in-person people. Now, some are social people. For now, put aside which kind of person you are and think about what your prospects are. By demographic, how would they prefer to get information?
Different social media networks support different types of people
Similar to preferences by channel, people have preferences by content type. Some are text people, some are picture people, and some are video people. Think about social networks the same way:
Please note that although there are many other social media networks, the first four listed above dominate from a market share perspective (Facebook in particular). Although research indicates Google Plus has low adoption right now, it may have a significant influence on search engine visibility later.
I included LinkedIn as I firmly believe that creating your LinkedIn profile is critical for each of you to test the waters of social media for yourselves: if you’re unwilling to put your own professional history online today, how will you lead the way for your company’s larger presence in social media tomorrow?
Social media excels at the new way to sell: content marketing
Added bonus: every year, more data emerges that social media, in conjunction with your website, can allow you to provide critical information at a much lower cost per conversion than traditional media. Why? Scale. Social media excels at assisting home builders and renovators to shift from traditional sales methods towards ‘content marketing’.
What is content marketing? What your best sales folks have always done: provide educational content at the right point in your prospects’ moment of information need. Only today, social media lets you do it at scale. Find the right combination of content type for the right social media channel for your prospects and customers, and the data will prove an exponential impact on your reach.
Biggest Challenge: Feeding the Machine
Regardless of which social network(s) you choose to participate in, be aware that each one demands ongoing care and feeding. You’ll need to allocate resources to creating content, curating content, responding, replying and measuring the impact of your efforts. Ask yourselves:
– Which types of content could we shine at producing?
– How could we adjust resources to produce that content on an ongoing basis?
– Is it possible, from the start, to produce our content for multi-channel distribution?
For now, don’t let your internal discussions to get tangled up in the “which social media network” question. Instead, talk about whether your prospects and customers might need you via a different channel than you offer today. And always, always, remember the generation coming up behind you. Don’t let them dismiss your expertise at answering their questions as they cross the threshold into becoming home owners themselves.