engagement, Facebook, fans / loyalty, housing / home building, social networks

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

housing / home building, recruiting 2.0, the 405 club, using social media in job search

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…

Blogging, housing / home building, Innovation, web 2.0

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.

housing / home building, How to, metrics

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.