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edition 3 (198)
March 2015
Human resources

Social climbers

How best to use Facebook, YouTube and other social platforms to reach clients

Ewa Andrzejewska

We can love them or hate them… they can bore us or get on our nerves. But whether you like them or not isn’t the point. You simply can’t afford to ignore them. So it’s better to learn how to use them. Do residential developers know how to get the most out of social networks?

We are now seeing the world through the prism of social media. This is the place that young people now inhabit, but it is not just kids you can find there. Increasingly often we are checking our updates and messages at breakfast time and in the evening before we go to sleep. Even during sex. 12 pct of American mums born between 1977 and 1994 are now using their mobile phones during lovemaking (Meredith’s Parents Network study of 2012). And what are they doing when they log in? They are posting messages, liking posts, sharing links – basically, all the functions you can find on Facebook. Perhaps they are not asking their friends to recommend the coolest place to live or for an evaluation of a developer’s credibility at that very moment, but who knows? Are residential developers getting the most out of Facebook and other social media such as YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest? Is it worth investing time and money on this? And if it is, how should it be done?

Idea for a fanpage

“It seems that developers are not fully exploiting the possibilities of social media. I would describe what they are doing as random dabbling. But it is worth including such media as Facebook, YouTube and even bloggers in the marketing strategy,” believes Szymon Paroszkiewicz, the creative director of the Green Parrot interactive agency. Developers can be divided into three groups: the first are ignorant of the potential of social media, the second group are companies that communicate in a random way, without a well thought-out strategy, while the third group integrates social media into their strategy organically. “Dom Development is an example of a company which in my opinion has an interesting and cohesive strategy. It has created the Live Beautifully [Pięknie mieszkaj] concept and has a good presence on Facebook and Pinterest. Furthermore, it has cooperated with influential internet people, such as bloggers and those who have strong Pinterest accounts. The developer has based its communications on lifestyle, to foster positive associations with the brand. It has also created some interesting Facebook applications,” explains Szymon Paroszkiewicz. The Live Beautifully fanpage has nearly 42,000 fans. However, It has been outdistanced by Budimex Nieruchomości, which has established the Well Settled [Dobrze Urządzeni] brand, the fanpage of which has been liked by over 53,200 people. “We knew we would have to get involved in social media because the method of communication with clients and marketing communication overall has changed after Facebook and other services were established. Our clients are present on Facebook, they have their accounts there, they are not just looking for friends there but also products, and they are asking for recommendations. We started modestly, from Facebook. The idea was of key importance. Entering it with just the company’s name is not the only approach, it is worth thinking about something with an added value for the clients. This is how the Well Settled fanpage was created,” recalls Mariusz Rysicz, the manager of the marketing department at Budimex Nieruchomości. The added value includes consultations about interior design, specific interior decor suggestions, furniture offers, discussions on apartment layouts, as well as lifestyles and ways of spending free time. These are interwoven with notices about open days at the developer’s estates and information about new projects. But are they generating the actual interest of fans – a much better indicator of a page’s success than the number of fans itself? The posts receive a few to several dozen likes, and they are sometimes commented on or shared. The fact that typical company-related posts (open days) generate less interest is unsurprising. The face of the fanpage is Katarzyna Pastuszyńska, an interior design specialist. “Authenticity is an important issue in social media. The days when photos were bought from stock image archives are long gone. We wanted someone from our company to take charge of the communication and Kasia, apart from her substantial preparation, was keen to take up the task. We can see that the closer the person is to the client, the more authentic she is,” explains Mariusz Rysicz.

The key to success is...

We like social media because we like gossiping and we like to look at pictures, but we only read the first few sentences nowadays. We have become lazy. Is this a good or a bad thing? There is no point worrying about this, you just need to learn how to utilise it and choose the most successful format and content. On Facebook, Ghelamco Poland has set up a platform for the integration of people by using design creations. The fanpage of the Qbik Woronicza residential project now has almost 3,200 fans. For this project the challenge for the developer was the promotion of the location (Służew) and not the building itself. Developers stress, however, that it is the content published in the social media that is of key importance. “So far the marketing department has, to put it simply, been perceived as the advertising people, not those responsible for substantive matters. Today the entire organisation should understand what social media is and that everyone needs to get involved in it. In order to create interesting content we need the help of project managers, the sales department and the customer service department or experts from the legal department on other occasions. And here we go back to the issue of authenticity, which apart from the content is the most important on these platforms,” emphasises Mariusz Rysicz of Budimex Nieruchomości. Also, the frequency of announcements is important and even the time of day the posts are published. Developers try to reach fans every day and even a few times a day. Most people go on Facebook in the morning and in the evening (the peak time is 9 to 10 pm), which means that you cannot close the office at 4 or 5 pm. In order to exchange content and engage in a dialogue, which is the essence of social media, you need to react to fans’ posts – and, most of all, the critical ones – as quickly as possible. One developer told us that thanks to social media monitoring, which can be carried out by such firms as Brand24 or Instytut Monitorowania Mediów, they discovered that at the very beginning of a project that a page of dissatisfied people had been set up. Of course, it is possible to report abuse or to try to get it closed down, but this makes no sense because a new one will promptly be opened. And social media is a platform for engaging in a dialogue. According to the experts, the most efficient method is always a calm dialogue based on rational arguments.

When to let it die?

Atal is quite active on Facebook, attracting more than 23,100 fans to its main fanpage. It has focused on the content strictly connected with its operations, such as the start of the sales of various apartments, prizes awarded to the company and interviews with the president of the company. The Cieszyn-based developer, which carries out projects in a number of cities and towns, also has fanpages for selected estates, particularly those that are constructed in several stages over a few years. Some, however, are shut down when the construction process finished or the sales of apartments nears completion. So is it worth maintaining a fanpage? The Qbik Woronicza project was finished a few months ago, but its profile is still active and it still displays information about the opening of new shops and services.

To be like Ward´ga

Facebook is the most familiar social medium for Poles and is used by almost 17 mln people every month. The project, devised by Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard University, is now catching up with YouTube, the second most popular site in the world. In Poland it is used by over 16 mln people per month. So are developers fully exploiting the possibility of publishing footage or video ads? A few out of the twenty companies we looked at did not have such a channel. Most of them, on the crest of the social media wave, created channels but after that only published minimal footage and a few adverts LC Corp did upload an advertisement for an estate in Ząbki that attracted more than 38,500 hits. A few companies, such as the above-mentioned Dom Development and Budimex Nieruchomości, have several dozen subscribers. This falls somewhat short of Sylwester Wardęga, which has almost 3 mln fans. “I do not want to say that there is Facebook and nothing else. The other media we develop, such as YouTube, have other goals, other modes of communication, so we provide other types of content there. This can be focused on the various decision stages people go through when deciding to buy apartment or the period after the deal is done. We will never have as many subscribers as well-known YouTube pages, but we can operate in a different way because we know that our target group is there. We can use a variety of the options available on YouTube in combination with a browser. I’m not going to reveal anything else because a competitive advantage on the internet only lasts for a short time these days. The protection of know-how is extremely important,” says Mariusz Rysicz. YouTube can also be attractive due to the low price of reaching the potential client compared to TV. It is a good alternative to TV spots. “It is easier to control spending money on YouTube. But it is a mistake to publish ads prepared for TV on YouTube. A video message should be adjusted to YouTube both in terms of its content, the storyline and motif as well as in terms of its format – the editing and length. The platform provides a great opportunity for reaching selected target groups with precision, as they are easy to identify and find. The advertising on YouTube corresponds to the expectations of a given target group. Thanks to this a 30-year-old married woman from Kraków will see a different ad than a 21-year-old single man in Warsaw,” explains Szymon Paroszkiewicz. In his opinion there is unutilised potential for developers in bloggers, as the lion’s share of clients are young people who know and take inspiration from blogs on interior design, for example. “When cooperating with bloggers, if the communication is skilfully done, it stops being an intrusive advert and gives it the added value of a blog. Based on our experiences with other industries, such as the FMCG brand Kolastyna, the majority of campaigns that included bloggers were welcomed by the audience as well as the bloggers,” claims Szymon Paroszkiewicz. Meanwhile, the representative of Budimex points out the potential dangers of cooperating with bloggers, such as the lack of control over bloggers’ publications as well as the higher risk to the bloggers of tarnishing their own image than in the case of a traditional medium. In such a case the brands and the blogger promoting it both lose out.

The platforms used by developers to a smaller degree are Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest A few companies such as Marvipol, which operates a profile including its automotive operations, Budimex Nieruchomości, Ronson Development and Złota 44 opted for tweeting. LinkedIn, which was designed for business to business contract as well as building the image of an employer, is almost completely forgotten, even though a virtually empty profile like that of Dom Development is followed by 132 people. The general attitude towards the Pinterest platform, which was established in 2010, is one of reservation. Marvipol, which is present on the site as Marvipol Atelier, enjoys relatively high popularity compared to the rest of the residential market presence on the platform. It is followed by 438 people and has created 23 walls for its Central Park Ursynów, Osiedle Zielona Italia and Apartamenty Mokotów Park estates, as well as for Warsaw and Architecture (221 followers), the Most Famous Buildings (214 followers), Marvipol Atelier (216 followers) and New York (216). Marvipol also operates a blog under the Marvipol Atelier name. Other companies opting to share their knowledge in this way include Archicom of Wrocław and
Budimex Nieruchomości.

White spots

The biggest developers in the country also include those that do not utilise social media, such as Murapol, whose absence from this field has not prevented them from becoming the second largest residential developer in the country. Another leading company, Polnord, only set up its Facebook page in December 2014. “Polnord is planning to increase its activity in social media in 2015. We can see the benefits resulting from having such a presence, so now we are just analysing the potential of individual media as promotional tools. We plan to focus on the development of our own products and to gradually increase our presence in selected media,” insists Tomasz Sznajder, the vice-president of the board at Polnord. BBI Development, which with US fund Amstar acquired the Złota 44 skyscraper last summer, has also declared an intention to increase its activity in the virtual world. “While planning subsequent stages of our campaign we are looking comprehensively at various channels of communication, including social media. These tools make real time communication possible to respond to current events. Thanks to these services we can easily put across the unique character of Złota 44. We already use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but we are also preparing new things for our fans, which we don’t want to reveal just yet. We view all the channels as a complementary platform for communication, which will be a source of information about Złota 44,” explains Rafał Szczepański, the vice-president of the board at BBI Development. What do investors use these platforms for? The new owners emphasise that they are focused on informing people, due the fact a great deal of erroneous information is circulating about the Złota 44 project, such as that the function of the building is to be changed. Rafał Szczepański underlines that the image they wish to project is the main reason for the company’s presence in social media.

Is it worth it or not?

Is it worthwhile engaging with social media? According to surveys Budimex has made of its clients, social media is among the top five sources from which clients obtained their information before they decided to contact the developer. And what percentage of the marketing budget is designated for social media communication “This is difficult to calculate because we use different media in different campaigns. For sure it is not a few per cent, more like a dozen or so. However, it can be clearly seen that the expenditure on the internet versus traditional media has been growing rapidly. We try to be present with our advertising in the key media, such as Facebook and YouTube. However, not all of them offer good tools for developers,” explains the representative of Budimex Nieruchomości. Market players are now pointing to the growing significance of the alternative platforms, such as Pinterest and Instagram, which publish photos and graphics materials, where we see interesting facts from across the world and look for inspiration. But 2015 was recently declared the year of YouTube by social media specialists – but as cynics have remarked, this is not the first time this has been done. Michał Sadowski, the creator of Brand24, in his book entitled ‘Revolution of Social Media’, writes that Google, which has the ambition of becoming the most serious social competitor of Facebook, aims to gradually tighten its integration of YouTube and Google+. The plan is to change the passivity of users of the largest video service in the world into active and social experiences. Property developers have declared a desire to intensify their social media activity in the form of adding more tools and using a language that will activate communities more, as well as to enter into cooperation with local institutions and hand over certain decisions to the community. This will make it possible to promote the developer as a modern company open to their clients’ suggestions and one that looks after them. However, it is worth pointing out that social media rarely helps to sell products directly. Instead, it rather promotes the company’s image and products. And in a sense everywhere on the net is becoming a social platform, including companies’ own websites. ν

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