How are the Top 15 House Builders using social media?

Yesterday, I did an analysis on the top 15 construction companies and how they utilised their social media profiles to enhance brand perception, improve customer service, educate and engage with the rest of the construction market.  This analysis follows the same format and criteria but this time focuses on the top 15 house builders within the UK. Again, I used the data produced by The Construction Index.

I analysed the Twitter profile for each house builder and checked to see if they were actually Tweeting and engaging with their followers, LinkedIn profile to see if they had a company page and had set up their own groups to build little online communities and finally Facebook to see if they were targeting and engaging with consumers who were looking to buy a new home. I also viewed their corporate websites to see if they had links to their social media profiles from their homepage, had analytics installed, incorporated a blog within their site and finally if they had an RSS or email feed available for keeping up with the latest news.

Firstly, those of you who are following me on Twitter will know that  I am in the process of buying a new home in Milton Keynes and have tweeted on many occasions about buying a new home, going house hunting, viewing houses, making offers and selling my own property. I was surprised that none of the house builders were listening to me through Twitter. Are they actually monitoring their brand mentions online? How about keywords such as ‘buying a new home’ or even just monitoring conversations which include the keyword ‘new home’? Now, if I was a marketer within a house builder, I would be listening into conversations online and then targeting geographically and directing them to a website where they could then showcase the latest homes in a particular region, offer home buyers special offers and arrange appointments to view show homes. Yet, I got nothing. Maybe I was expecting too much or maybe these multi-million/billion pound turnover businesses could do a little more. What a wasted opportunity to get new buyers in hey?

Analysis:

Twitter – Do they have a presence? Are they Tweeting? Are they engaging? I based engagement on the ratio of outgoing tweets to incoming (mentions) tweets.

LinkedIn – Do they have a company profile? Have they setup any groups?

Facebook – Do they have a fan/like page? How many fans/likes do they have?

Website Links – Do the websites have clear visible links to their social media profiles?

Analytics – Do they have the ability to measure the success of their marketing initiatives and their social media activities?

Blog – Do they have a blog to inform home buyers of any developments or offers?

Outbound Feeds – Do they include RSS or E-Mail feeds for people to subscribe to?

 

Findings (presented in Table at the end):

11 out of 15 top house builders have a Twitter presence.

7 out of 15 on Twitter have only registered the handle.

4 out of 15 top house builders are actually Tweeting. and do nothing more.

1 out of 15 house builders are engaging with their followers.

11 out of 15 house builders have a LinkedIn company page.

None of the top 15 house builders have set up LinkedIn groups for people to join.

10 out of 15 top  house builders have a Facebook fan/like page.

1 out of 15 have more than 4 fans or like for their Facebook fan page.

1 out of 15 top house builders has a blog

2 out of 15 house builders have an RSS feed

 

Twitter Analysis:

Out of the top 15 house builders, 11 have a Twitter profile, of which 7 have only registered the handle and do nothing more to engage with people on Twitter. 4 house builders (Taylor Wimpey, Persimmon, Miller Homes and Cala Homes) are using Twitter to broadcast messages which is encouraging but more could be done, for example taking my story above and doing more listening. It was interesting viewing the Twitter profile for Bovis Homes. They have 136 followers and are on 10 Twitter lists and yet Bovis Homes have not tweeted once. A simple acknowledgment to those who follow or include them within Twitter lisits would not go a miss. It’s a similar situation with Redrow Homes too, they have 132 followers and find themselves on 13 lists and yet again….not one tweet. The most shocking find is only 1 out of the top 15 house builders are actually engaging with their followers and that one house builder is Miller Homes. I was impressed by Miller Homes. Why? Well firstly, what a difference a wonderful corporate Twitter page makes and secondly, their tweets are actually kind of fun too. I like that because it gives a sense of personality behind the brand and I think a lot of other companies should be developing a personality. In my opinion, building a personality is a fundamental element of creating a positive, strong and engaging brand. Hats off to the Marketing chief at Miller Homes. More on them later.

Miller Homes Twitter Page

LinkedIn Analysis:

LinkedIn provided some great insights into how the top 15 house builders are going about targeting their target market. 11 out of the 15 top house builders have a LinkedIn company page with only 1 house builder going the full length and adding a company logo. Yes, 10 of the top house builders have not even added in a company logo on their LinkedIn company profile page. None of the house builders had gone onto creating any groups either but I can probably understand why. A key insight is that LinkedIn is a professional networking site and contains ‘business talk’ with very little conversations on buying new homes or moving home so I can understand on the very little uptake by the top 15 house builders on LinkedIn. 3 of the top 15 house builders do not have a LinkedIn company page and they are Berkeley Homes, Countryside and Miller Homes.

Facebook Analysis:

Out of the 15 top house builders in the UK, 10 have set up a Facebook company profile page and only one of those house builders have more than 4 fans/likes. Miller homes have 200 fans/likes on their company profile page. Miller Homes have taken the time to build a community across two networks, added to the 949 followings on Twitter, and I think we have the sweet smell of success here. Miller Homes carry the same fun, light hearted and engaging personality across from Twitter through to Facebook. Nice bit of integration and I’ll say it again…hats off to the Head of Marketing at Miller Homes.

Miller Homes Facebook Page

All the other Housebuilders who have a Facebook profile failed to even put on a personalised welcome message or a  description for their business and alternatively opted for the ‘standard company description’ from Wikipedia. Lazy.

I wrote a little bit yesterday about ‘comment and discussion moderation’ and the mere lack of it shown by  the top 15 construction companies using social media. I showed you the example of Mitie and the negative discussions employees (yes their own staff!) were having on the Mitie Facebook profile page and how it can be damaging from a brand perspective to have your own employees pointing out negative comments about their employer.

Bellway Homes are ranked as the 4th top house builder in the UK based on turnover in 2009 according to The Construction Index and are well represented across the country. I take this quote from their website “A personal service from reservation to completion”. I checked out the Bellway Homes Facebook page and was greeted by the standard Wikipedia overview of Bellway Homes….I then looked further down the page and staring at me on the page was this:

 

Bellway Homes Angry Customer

Bellway Homes Angry Customer (Source: Bellway Facebook Homepage)

 

As you can see the message was posted on Tuesday and it is now Friday. The fact that 2 other people also ‘like’ that comment is disturbing. Where are the Bellway Homes moderators? Why is there no response by Bellway Homes? Why are they allowing for these comments to stay on their Facebook profile page? Not only is this damaging the brand perception but anyone who was thinking of buying a home from Bellway may now think again. Going back to the quotation “A personal service from reservation to completion” on their website, need I say any more?

Website Analysis:

Right, moving onto their websites. It doesn’t get any better I’m afraid. Only one housebuilder has any form of clear visible links to their social media profile and that one housebuilder is, you guessed it, Miller Homes. I’ll say it again…..hats off to the Head of Marketing at Miller Homes. None of the other housebuilders clearly displayed any form of social media links on their websites. There is only 1 housebuilder who is not represented on any social media channel and that is Countryside Homes so they have an excuse but the others have none. All the others all have some sort of social profile somewhere so why not include it on the homepage of their websites?. The key here is ‘integration’ and I pointed this out as major concern yesterday too with the top 15 construction companies.

Analytics Analysis:

All but one company (Barratt Homes – yet they are running PPC campaigns!) has Google Analytics installed on their websites which is good indication that there is some form of interest in web measurement and effectiveness. I just hope they are making use of the insights analytics can deliver. Housebuilders could gather data on which properties have had the most interest by viewing visits and also how long people stay on the site or segmenting those who view houses in a particular region and see how many went onto book an appointment. If any of the housebuilders are reading this then please call me…I am more than willing to help you on this.

Blog:

Ok, I’ve now run out of hats. Miller Homes were the only housebuilder to have a blog and what a cracking blog it is too. A really nice clean, well presented and informative blog. Again, the personality and light hearted topics made the blog such a pleasant place to be and read the information presented. The blog has been running since February 2009 so it’s not even like they have just started out. Well done Miller Homes!

Outbound Feed Analysis:

3 out of the 15 top housebuilders provided the facility to subscribe to an RSS feed for the latest news. They were Crest Nicholson, Countryside Homes and (yep you guessed it)……Miller Homes. Woo hoo!

Summary:

So to summarise, I could definitely see some patterns from yesterdays post to today’s post. The lack of focus on integration and treating Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as individual channels is just shocking. What marketers must learn is to integrate everything…email, website, social media, print advertising and direct mail to work together. Brands must learn to develop and show the same personality across all channels and if the channel is not appropriate, like Miller Homes and no LinkedIn profile, then just don’t do it. It is better to not do it then do it and do it badly.

I want people to take a note of Miller Homes. Whilst conducting my analysis I was left really pleases with the way Miller Homes had gone about the entire social media process and the personality that had been developed. Some companies can and should take a leaf out of their book. Its not perfect (yet) but its very encouraging. Remember, I also pointed out that Miller Homes did not have a LinkedIn profile page and my opinion is that LinkedIn was not relevant for who they are targeting and the personality was not right for the audience on LinkedIn. How brave!

Below is the table showing the full analysis and I want to point out that by integrating Twitter, Facebook, Website and Blog you can achieve huge success just as long as you integrate, moderate and build a pleasant brand for people to engage with.

Analysis of Top 15 House Builders and Social Media

About Pauley Creative

Pauley Creative is the digital marketing agency for the construction industry. We create, build and manage brand awareness and lead generation strategies for building product manufacturers within the construction industry. You can follow us on Twitter here - click here.

14 Responses to “How are the Top 15 House Builders using social media?”

  1. Moray Newberry

    Hi Pritesh
    Great conclusions which is the hallmark of good research – best wishes Moray

    Reply
  2. Philip Hogg

    Great analysis Pritesh.

    As the ex-Marketing Chief @ Miller of 10 years, I’m pleased to see that they have carried on the good work that was set up whilst I was there; they have a great team. I also know that their PR agency are the key drivers behind many of their SM activities.

    I regularly meet with many housebuilders and discuss these issues, but am met by a mixture of inertia, confusion, misunderstanding and sceptiscism. Remember that the sector is still very traditionalist in its ways and is still run by many ‘old school’ types that are not customer focused.

    In the same way that housebuilders had to change and improve customer satisfaction, they will have to change and adopt these new channels; its just going to be slow and painful for some!

    Reply
  3. Pritesh Patel

    Thanks for your comment Philip.

    Miller Homes can certainly lead by example and well done. As for the ‘traditionalist’ approach, its only a matter of time before the others see the likes of Miller Homes excelling further and faster, gaining more exposure to the next generation of home buyers and therefore will always be playing catch up. Miller Homes, I think, have done really well at engaging with buyers early on and making the ‘house buying’ process a informative, fun and enjoyable one.

    I certainly enjoyed reading the blog and great comments on Twitter and Facebook. Just because of this……if I was to buy a new build….it would be from Miller Homes.

    Reply
  4. Emma Drake

    This is a very insightful piece of research. Thank you. Your observations about engaging not just jumping on the bandwagon are key I think, as is making sure your audience / key customers are actually online in the first place. I think we will see a change/move in the way social media is used now by companies – as PRs we (experts aside) are now starting to work out what works with which audiences rather than it being a minefield or a race to see who can have a portfolio of social media tags displayed on their wesbite. Maybe the housebuilding industry is a little behind the curve, but it’s a step in the right direction.

    Reply
    • Nick Pauley

      Thanks for your comments Emma. You’re right, it is a step in the right direction. ‘Me too’ tactics are unconvincing. I spoke with a branding expert only last week; he made the point that the problem facing a large majority of House Builders is that they suffer from a lack of clear differentiation. If House builders were brave enough to put their finger on exactly what they do that is unique (to their audience) then that would help them distinguish their brand from that of their competitors – much like the switched-on private developers. Clearer differentiation delivers greater relevancy, more opportunity to attract tighter target markets. And with clearer, segmented target markets it’s easier to find and ultimately talk to them through online and offline channels. Maybe it’s time House builders started to segment their prospects into say, those who like cooking or those with small families or those who like gardening and actually become specialist in building homes for those audiences… That would be great wouldn’t it

      Reply
  5. Mark Wilderspin

    Hi Nick,

    Fascinating stuff and very useful background for my current CIM digital marketing assignment which is focused on UK housebuilders and digital marketing!

    I’m originally a chartered surveyor by professional with pre-digital age Plc housebuilding background but I switched to the ICT / digital sector in 1995 just at dawn of t’internet and have worked on all kinds of digital projects in all kinds of sectors ever since – except housebuilding….

    I was at Countryside in mid 80’s as a development surveyor so your related comments are especially interesting. I then ended up as development director at Balfour Beatty Specialist Homes for five years and it was there that I developed my technology interests.

    Like you, I certainly believe that this sector is ripe for digital but appears to have minimal current internal appreciation at marketing / management level. (Ditto estate agents and who in my view often represent the ‘affiliate’ element as housebuilders’ agents etc. ….)

    Have you actually ever had any sector response to this post?

    Mark Wilderspin

    Reply
  6. Mark Wilderspin

    PS:

    Re: Philip Hogg’s comment –

    I can only echo his comments about the sector lagging behind and still often stuffed full of old-style management / not invented here syndrome.

    I have spent quite some time attempting to evanglise and educate at industry CPD level but anything ‘digital’ has largely been met with the same kind of perplexed reaction to which Philip refers.

    I still believe that there is much to be done by the RICS / RIBA / CIOB / NHBF / NAEA etc to make ‘digital’ and ICT a core part of undergrad / psot grad / CPD education but until that happens it largely appears that any current adoption is down to random minimal pockets of enlightened management thinking or the gradual replacement of the old guard with those raised in the digital era.

    (For my early CPD digital stuff see my ProcoTek channel on YT)

    Reply
  7. Jon Hartley

    Great work. I’ll be linking to this from my blog on social media content before visiting the home improvement show in Glasgow next week. Fantastic examples of how to and how not to do social media. Bellway Homes? Ouch!

    Reply
  8. James

    It would be great to see the change if you refreshed this research for 2012. We (www.thebigpropertylist.co.uk) see a huge number of visitors to our website looking for uk property that find us either through social media channels or google searches.

    It still amazes me how little attention the big housebuilders pay to these channels and when they do how ineffective their attention is – usually throwing money at a push marketing campaign rather than engaging their customers in conversation.

    Reply
    • Pritesh Patel

      Thanks James

      We shall try and do a refreshed research for 2012. Notably, Miller Homes continue to be very visible on social channels and their blog is better than ever in terms of content. I’ve also noticed Taylor Wimpey have ramped up their social activities, i think they also redesigned their website recently containing lots of videos and useful, shareable content.

      Reply
  9. Ab Building

    It’s a great research. I’ll be also implement on my blog. Thank you for sharing this useful information with us.

    Reply

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