Category Archives: housing / home building

Ouch! A brand removed from its purchasers’ Facebook fan page community

I just witnessed an social media assassination this week as a real estate developer was forcibly removed from its purchaser formed Facebook fan page – a page formed by and for the buyers of a specific condominium.  [read on for the actual letter below].

To the defense of the developer, their removal was a very difficult decision by the admins.  Although they valued the contributions of the developer, they also recognized that their very presence hindered the community from free speech.  And so the developer got the boot.  And whereas this may  be a tough pill for a developer to swallow – it does not close the door of social media opportunities facing them.

For those who haven’t bought a new condo in Canada, the time from purchase to occupancy can be 2 – 3 years as the developer gains the percentage of sales required to proceed with the build.   Much of the developer communication during that 2-3 year period can be legal – leaving enthused purchasers starved for more information.  They can not wait for ‘meet the neighbour’ night to learn about how to navigate their purchase.    Indeed, having mapped the customer experience for home/condo buying from my recent past, the best areas for engagement go well beyond the actual purchase – which is, unfortunately, the stage where many developers stop spending money on their marketing communications.

Truthfully, lean developers are not easily involved in social technologies and customer engagement.  The process of buying of home – in the sky or on the ground – is woefully complicated and much of the marketing communications is well guarded to protect against unforeseen legalities.  Many companies (indeed some that I’ve consulted with in healthcare) are so afraid of client privacy and regulation that they avoid social networking.   And yet, there is always a route to market.  I’d rather see a well researched, thought out social networking strategy that says ‘do nothing’ then ignore the rising needs and behaviours of the market.

Social networking is wonderful option to bridge the gap but, as many brands have discovered, wading in these waters can be very difficult.   There is a right approach to social media and, as much as I love Facebook corporate fan pages, this isn’t the only place an organization can participate.   Online video, twitter, RSS feeds and the very underestimated corporate blog as plausible options for a developer – and I say this with experience.   Of course, establishing the facebook fan page before your purchasers do is an option that would have to happen well in advance of the first condo sale, I suppose.  But stopping purchasers from forming their own safe haven may be unpreventable.  What is clear – is that the community is alive, wired and engaged and so more marketing engagement would resonate well with this group.

On the side of the community – I do admire the admins below for what must have been a very difficult decision.  The role of the admin is to create a comfortable place for the community to grow.  Usually that means deleting a lot of wall page self promotion but in this case, the stakes were much higher.  And in rejecting the developer, I think the admins send a strong message to their community as well as lessons for the rest of us who manage facebook pages.  A reminder to hold true to the goals of the community and to always keep them in check.

So for those who want to learn more, the assassination went like this… [names removed, page protected]

We wanted to let you know that after much consideration (months) and many messages from group members, we have come to the conclusion that [John Doe] as Sales and Marketing Manager for [noname developer]  and their participation in the group increasingly conflicts with the purpose of the [noname condo development] and Facebook Group by creating a power dynamic, loyalty, and ethical dilemma that is only fixed by their removal.

Many members expressed that they feel the exchange of information is extremely lopsided and that the direct presence of our developer on the Facebook page discourages honest discourse among members for various reasons – including fear of reprisal. With this change we hope all members feel free to contribute to the discussion by posting on the wall and getting involved. In the past week alone, there has been a ton of new information posted on how to save tons on electric bbq’s vs buying from [noname], amenity spaces, group buying of window coverings and of course, discussion about occupancy dates. With pdi’s hopefully starting in x followed by Closing sometime next x, this forum will become even more essential and the ability to discuss issues that are at odds with the developer, in a private group setting, will become extremely important.

We want to stress that this was nothing personal against [noname] and has nothing to do with anything they posted. It is simply a matter of purchaser privacy and the ability to exchange information freely.

We have communicated our thanks and appreciation for all of the information and photos they have contributed to the group and told them would very much like to continue adding their contributions – in the form of photos, updates, upgrades or marketing materials and will gladly post any information they send us on the site.

Sincerely,  The Admins

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Socializing with a social media agency: Coffee with Mark Campbell, VMG Cinematic

I met Mark Campbell, a social media seeding and feeding guru of VMG Cinematic today at Balzac’s in Liberty Village to shoot the breeze on social media, what clients are asking for, what the market is willing to invest in, how to use social media to engender customer loyalty, what is being recommended and various campaign work we’ve both been doing in 2009.   [Mark and I have a mutual friend from Harley Davidson and so we met thru Linkedin – ah the power of social networking.

VMG Cinematic is an edgy, new media shop producing enviable online video distributed socially thru youtube, digital signage, and more.   They sport a client base we’d all love to play ball with including Harley Davidson, DHL, and Motorola.  Their high quality work is leading to very creative customer and employee focused campaigns integrated artfully across social medias.

There were a couple interesting themes in our conversation, beyond integrated social media campaigns.  One in particular focused on improving marketing ROI thru clever use of content assets.

I used to pull my hair out discovering various content assets being unused and not leveraged but easily deployed or strongly desired by customers.   (by content I mean video, photography, copy, etc).    Developing original content is hard enough and so its important to make every content piece that is developed work really hard.   The time to do this is at the creation of the content and not afterward.

A quick example.. in the condo development market, photos are taken throughout the whole construction process (and often live web cams accompany professional photos) and yet these photos/webcam are not made available to the buyers simply because the content did not reside or originate in the marketing department.  Certainly, there are privacy and legalities to consider and yet the sourcing of content does not have to stop with the marketing department because the customer experience does not stop after the purchase.

This is, in part, the beauty of studying the customer experience of buying a home and understanding how people who buy condos are very, very interested [nay emotionally invested]  in seeing the progress of their home during its construction.  Heck – I have friends who scrapbooks of the building of their home.  [okay – now to really digress – wouldn’t it be cool to see these scrapbooks?  Check out moleskine ‘s mymoleskine section for customer contributed content].

Now marry customer experience strategy, content sourcing with new and social media distribution possibilities and the world is your oyster.

Back to Mark.  Mark had some great examples of how he increased the payout of existing efforts by just adding a little bit more upfront investment.  The old “with just a little bit more spend, we can double the return on your efforts” tactic – but an honest approach that is compelling and working for Mark and his clients.

“It doesn’t cost much to add a production team”  Mark said of sending a team to capture a customer event.   At the end of the day, the customer had the event and a mini-documentary to release on youtube [and in my experience, often some significant internal assets – be that e-learning or corporate communications].    Mark also talked about re-using video assets, or “using the b-roll” as he called it, to extract further value from a production for creating more value for a company.

Well.. the day is done.  This isn’t high school.. I don’t need a conclusion to all this.  G’night.

New for me: Contributing writer for the 405 club

The 405 club, New York’s Official Unemployment Network, is a rapidly growing network and clever blog site started by Garrett Dale and Jose Gonzalez.

As you may not know – $405 is the maximium unemployment benefit you can receive in New York State.   So for those who were earning over six figures – its a pretty big fall during a great recession.    The Gotham Gazette, NYC paper, wrote an interesting article about the realities of being unemployed in New York.

I was contacted by Garrett to see if I would be a contributing writer for the blog.   I wrote back asking if he says this to all the blogs but Garrett confessed to liking my writing style and being serious.  AH .. his timing was wonderful and the news brighten my day.

I am pleased as punch to contribute.  The move make more of my volunteer work.

My only professional hesitation is that I really want to be much more than just ‘using social media in job search’ – I want to be about using social media to rock your customer, change the game, create idea jams and engage with customers on levels not yet imagined by most.   [not just me – many of my colleagues in social media pine for this]

The changes that I see that – for the home building industry, for retail, for insurance, for government, for every industry!  And yet – my work in social recruiting 2.0 and job search seems to be hitting a wild nerve – not surprisingly given the market realities.   So as much as I want to talk about how the condo market should be using social media more, or how under utilized youtube is, I continue to talk about jobs.

Now.. if I could just figure out how to get Employment Ontario and the federal government to fund my work…

Twitter 101 – twitter defined and explained in plain english

Need to understand twitter?  How to use it, grow it, what the key features are?  

I don’t know how basic to go in my upcoming course for Tcet, so I’ll briefly address the twitter questions my mother recently asked me.  “What is twitter?”  “What’s the big deal about it?”  “How can you get value from short bits of information?” [all said with some frustration and distain for hyped news coverage]

Def’n:  Twitter is, as twitter says, a free social messaging utility for staying connected in real time

  • Messaging – referred to as “micro-blogging” since all posts/updates [called ‘tweets’] are 140 characters or less.  
  • Connected – in twitter, its pretty simple.  You follow people [following] and people follow you [followers].  Some people get >10,000 people following their tweets.  Oprah, for instance, has over a 1MM followers.  Some aim to follow just as many – how they do it, I don’t know. 
  • Real time – this is a *huge* differentiator for twitter in the social media world and what is driving a key trend and expectation in internet use.  Twitter offers as close to real time as it gets – giving out a constant stream of small information updates as people post them kinda like a ticker tape of valuable post-it notes from people you like to follow. 

Other useful things to know:

  • Your address in twitter starts with an “@” sign.  Mine is “@ldillonschalk”.  When you tweet, to address the tweet to someone specific, you use the “@ldillonschalk” prior to the message.   You can also use “@ldillonschalk” in the middle of the 140 characters too.  The difference  results in who can see your tweet.  The former allows anyone who also follows “ldillonschalk” to see the tweet.  The latter allows all your followers to see the tweet.
  • Retweeting – “RT”.  When you see a tweet message that you like, you can ‘retweet’ it or forward it to your own network by retweeting.
  • Creating a profile – under settings, make it complete!
    • Choose a memorable username to help people remember who the tweet is coming from.  Easiest is your name.   I personally want to follow people not organizations so I tend to look for individuals.   
    • Add a picture.  Dont’ be shy.  But use the same picture across all your social medias so that your ‘brand’ is consistent and recognizable.  Exception can be facebook – where I use a different picture because I don’t mix my facebook with my professioanl life.   Don’t change the picture too often – like once every few years.   Personally – I think the picture should be professional, personable (smile), fairly close cropped head & shoulders and generally represent what you look like today (so no pictures that are over five years old showing a slimmer, more tan, or younger you).   Be real.  No picture of kids – save that for facebook.
    • Add your one line bio and chose your words wisely.  One big way people decide whether or not to follow you is by reading your short blurb that pops up when hovering over your photo.  I like to see topics people tweet about and their roles (e.g. consultant, father of two, banker, etc).

How do you know who to follow?  I started with people that I know, admire and love learning from.  Now I worked at IBM so finding great tweeters was easy for me.  But having come from the home building industry where the vast majority are still not on facebook, linkedin, let alone twitter, I could see the challenge in following.  So from housing, I looked to my ad agencies or interactive partners – again, people I admired.  I also am in a social media group on linkedin – upon which people started sharing their twitter addresses.   I’m not suggesting you sign up to this social media group – on the contrary – look for groups and people that you like to learn from relevant to your sweet spot.  If that’s business great.  or it could be gardening, or golfing or whatever you want to follow.

How do you get followed?  

  • Follow people and they will follow you.   There is a general etiquette around following – most people will follow you back.  Likewise, people who find you first do expect you will return their follow.  There are twitter ratios that highlight your friends vs. followers assuming that closer to 100% is better.   That said – I think its okay to be selective about who you follow.  Like linkedin, I don’t want a whole bunch of crap contacts of people solely interested in gaining a useless metric.   See my twitter stats below from mrretweet.
  • My twitter stats as of June 14 2009

    My twitter stats as of June 14 2009

  • Tweet value.  If you add good information, it will get retweeted.
  • Retweet and engage with people you follow. 
  • Get a #followfriday – which is like getting a recommendation from a twitter friend to its followers that you should be followed.  Better still, use Mrretweet (see reference below)
  • Self promote – add your twitter address to facebook, linkedin, to your website, add to blog posts (e.g. are you following me yet?)   Answer linkedin answers and leave a twitter address. etc..

How can you manage this stream of information?
Its bloody hard work to follow twitter.  When I sit down, its for 1 -2 hours because I’m active.  I click on links, I read blogs, I comment and retweet.   Like many people, I use tweetdeck – which is a separate website (free download application to be precise) that helps to manage all your tweets.  I create groups of people – my close friends, my “a” list of people I really like, my ‘all friends’ category which I watch so I can move people into my “a” list and then some groups based on subject matter.

Is there value in doing all this?
Well yes and no.  Garbage in = garbage out.  Twitter is what you put into it.  It is an investment and the opportunity is to get connect with like minded individuals which can lead to friendship, money, respect, whatever.   Right now I am learning.  I now have about 200 people feeding me on topics that I love reading about.  I’ve always been a very good researcher and my facts and stories were the cornerstone for a lot of my consulting work.  But finding the research, the stats, the case studies was always a lot of work.  Now I get fed this research and what I love about the internet is that there is always someone smarter, early adopting, knowing than me (and I’m also smarter, early adopting, etc than someone else).  The downside is that I get into this mentality of receiving.  and I need to step back and think about my focus, what I want to learn and what I see happening in market.  There is a lot of clutter online including twitter.   Sharon Hayes, see below, talks alot about the value twitter has brought to her.  Check it out.

WANT MORE?
There is a heck of a lot more to learn about twitter.  One person that I really enjoy following & reading blog posts from is Sharon Hayes.  Her posts are incredibly well thought out and well written on a variety of social media topics.  In particular, I read her twitter posts as she really understands how to build and extract value from twitter – which is not easy to get to without some time investment.

Consider reading up her on a recent post “How to avoid the #followfriday problem” so to help identify other people that you should follow.

Hope that helps.  By the way – are you following me?

Laurie

Home Building 2.0

I’m sitting in my Starbucks office, with a globe & mail real estate section.  Hmm… memories of Great Gulf.   Positive memories.

Having worked as a marketing director in the home building industry,  I see so many opportunities for the game changing marketing.

The home building industry feels like the last bastion of old style marketing & communications [and I’m not bashing my former employer here – they were very gracious with my change agent ideas].   In an industry where the majority of ad spending focused on print advertising, websites are merely extensions of phone numbers.   E-mail marketing are mailed pdfs.  Sales agents want to phone prospects and some DON’T EVEN HAVE EMAIL ACCESS.  [i swear].

True, many Canadian home builder sites have added detailed maps and migrated the silly user registration forms online [i can’t believe marketing spend is influenced by these forms] but how many are really mining customer information better yet conversation to change the game?

Anyone in the low-rise industry might look at high-rise marketing for inspiration  – high rise commands more marketing dollars, flashly campaigns and original creative.  But who actually uses social media to create a lasting impression with customers?

I introduced corporate blogging with my past employer (and did – first in low-rise -thank you very much).  But I left on mat leave before it really attained the vision that I had for it.

One blog that I always liked was Riverfront in Denver.  I spent a lot of time in Denver, visiting tons of condo presentation centres, analyzing websites, etc and Riverfront was very interesting.  The writing style is informal.  Still lots of opportunity.   In Toronto, M5V’s blog is commendable – they are showing comments including the age old – ‘when will construction start’.

Blogging for sharing more marketing information e.g. (*&)(*& press releases – is not revolutionary.  The real opportunity is in satisfying customers along the entire customer experience.  Not just prospects but buyers.  Ah.. I have so many ideas.

Measuring for social media

Saw a very interesting discussion on linkedin today.     A project manager asks:  “What are the top 10 metrics for a social media site? I am the project mgr for a company’s new social media platform.”

Great question!  And indicative that social media metrics still need some defining and that common web based metrics (which are still indicators of site success) do not report on the social aspect of a site.  

Within the linkedin responses, Clay Gordon nicely describes the age old need to first define the objectives of the social site – though the goals he described were not ‘social’ in nature, but certainly any site has some kind of end business goal related to revenue and loyalty.

Social goals in my mind can vary – such as improved customer communication, improved customer experience/satisfaction, increased engagement, increased community participation, buzz.    And this can be captured in many ways pending on what type of social media is being used – be that blogs, videocasting, podcasting, uploads, communities, etc.

One metric that would be really neat to track would be the reduced costs by reducing or eliminating high volume, low value customer support [ or conversely – increased customer communication – which could be measured in satisfaction around key moments of truth (mot)].   [a mot is a customer interaction that is very important to a customer] 

This would be very cool to do in the housing /home builder business since there is a very long time between when a house or condo is purchased and when it is delivered.   Most home builders provide ‘legal’ customer communication between purchase, design selection and final occupation.  But these customers are *so* excited to have a new purchase – the opportunity to connect and create an emotional, word of mouth, loyalty is HUGE.    Using social media in the housing section is a great opportunity to continue the emotional bond and excitment from first purchase past the buyers’ remorse stage and into occupation.

So.. here was my response in linkedin:  

“When you say a social media site – I’m assuming there is some kind of community component. Is it internal or external? Blogs? Wikis? Is it a portal with video or podcast downloads? Any uploading? All this would affect which metrics are most important.

Standard web stats – still good for ‘social’ sites:
– unique visitors and watch growth rate over time
– type of visitor (usually limited to new vs. returning)
– source of traffic (direct, referral, paid)
– no. of pages per visit (how much is being consumed)
– time on site (mildly indicative of interaction on site)
– hot pages (top content)
– conversion goals (which can be shopping cart or registration, or something else).
– pathing.

*Social side* Measuring for interaction.
Here, I would be looking for metrics to cover the interaction.
We’ve seen a lot about twitter and its active vs. inactive audiences. [40% who sign on to twitter actually continue]  [okay… add some % for tweetdeck, etc]
I’d want to watch how active the audience is. You define what active is – e.g. return following month after initial month of participation or ‘active in last six months’ vs. total membership. Naturally, the growth in active audience will be important in the success of your platform.
– how much is downloaded and from where if its an internal international social site.
– how much is being uploaded?
– how much is being shared? (noit sure how to track that if not covered in your analytics package).
– for an internal blogs – I’d track bloggers vs. total employee audience e.g. at IBM in 2006, 1% of the company was active bloggers – but that was 3000 people.

Importantly, I’d be interesting in how the business is supporting the success of the platform. In other words, if its an internal tool, how will the business be supporting the adoption and growth of the social platform? Will there be any personal development goals for employees related to the social site? Any mandatory onboarding lessons, etc.

From an international release standpoint (e.g. international social platforms), successful adoption is a bit tricker. The operating systems are different, connection speeds challenged, etc. So your roll-out has to be well planned and social tools robust for multi-language support.

Anyhow – good luck Martha. Sounds very exciting.
Laurie.
laurie@socialwisdom.ca