The role social media plays in corporate communications hasn't been tightly defined in the real estate industry. A lot of companies are still figuring out what works for them and their customers. This is especially true for large residential builders, who need to communicate with current residents and potential new ones, as well as stockholders, stakeholders, partners, and the communities that large planned developments anchor.
It is interesting to compare how certain large companies regularly covered by Millionacres and The Motley Fool run their social media channels. Two companies might be similar in size, target homebuyer demographic, regional focus, and price point but absolutely opposite in their social media practices.
Certainly, the predominating belief of many consumer categories -- that one MUST maintain a presence on social media somewhere in order to really exist -- does not hold true for residential real estate. But if you do nothing, regional offices and individual communities may decide to handle it themselves.
We looked at five of the major homebuilders Millionacres regularly tracks from a stock perspective through a social media lens instead. Here's what we see.
Ranking as the most consistently prolific and engagement-focused of homebuilders, Lennar (NYSE: LEN) ranks at the top of builders on social media for volume and production value of posts. The company's YouTube channel and Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) page contain tutorials, promotional videos, and testimonials. On Facebook, however, design-focused images and generic one-sentence question prompts seem to be the strategy.
Because of how many people follow Lennar -- an industry-leading number at 1.3 million Facebook followers alone -- this does generate a healthy amount of comments and engagement, but it doesn't do much to draw more of an audience.
On its Instagram, there's more of a focus on customer stories and user-generated content, which gives the channel a warmer feeling but doesn't make it particularly useful to investors. Its LinkedIn is slightly more personal, but because of the channel and audience themselves, it can't go all the way into editorial.
Customers don't necessarily expect a homebuilder to turn into PopSugar anyway, so taking that into account, Lennar's strategy is working: It shares the company's brand mission and the work they're doing, introduces homes and properties to a wider audience, and cements the company's strong hold among residential real estate -- very few major builders can afford to compete on Lennar's playing field.
It's been a good year for the Arizona-based builder Taylor Morrison (NYSE: TMHC), which has had two strong quarters and just unveiled a "TM Live Well" campaign. So how does that play out on social media?
A company with a lot of homes to sell is the easiest way to describe Taylor Morrison's Instagram presence. Its Facebook profile is warmer and more conversational, typically with very strong engagement -- its social listening score, according to analytics platform RivalIQ, is just behind category leader Lennar.
The Instagram account, which has just under 100,000 followers as well as 10 sub-accounts, is regularly populated with content that reads like regional glossy magazine ad copy. We like the direction the stories were taking, but unfortunately they haven't been updated in more than a year. The Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) account is used to share press hits, corporate leadership news, customer service conversations, and investor communications. Therefore, Twitter is the best channel to follow if you've got stock in this company.
Meritage Homes (NYSE: MTH) has a pretty basic Instagram, targeted for consumers and a broad, generalized audience. Ditto for Facebook. On Instagram, Meritage seems to have more than doubled its follower count since January 2020 without seeing a commensurate increase in engagement. This is typically a red flag, as it reveals that a lot of followers are not actually engaged customers, current or former.
Interestingly, the company makes up for it in personality over on LinkedIn. Aside from a steady stream of HR posts, the LinkedIn feed posts things like "Prom Cringe: Homebuilder Edition" as a photo series. Meritage's YouTube channel is devoted almost entirely to consumer-facing content, such as how-tos on plumbing, energy-efficient lighting, and money-saving insulation.
Customer/homeowner profiles, current content geared toward maximizing one's living space, design tips, partner/vendor info -- KB Home's (NYSE:KBH) Facebook page has a great mix of content that's informative and entertaining without coming across like advertising. There's even a subtle smattering of corporate responsibility brag posts.
The company has at least a dozen regional Instagram accounts, such as KB Home Phoenix, all with a similar mix of content and updated at least once weekly even if the account has only a couple thousand followers, as well as a main page with more than 15,000 followers. The same content is repurposed diligently for Twitter, even though it's not nearly controversial enough to pull in any engagement on that rough-and-tumble channel. This is definitely one of the better-tended and content-invested of the big-builder social strategies, and it fits KB Home's approachable and ubiquitous brand.
We think this brand could use LinkedIn to post more corporate communications and investor-facing content, as right now it's a rehash of the same customer-friendly stuff found on other channels.
Using Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube for social advertising only, this Ontario-based builder has a professional, glossy profile, but it lacks a human element. If shopping for the sort of home Mattamy builds, you can get an idea of interiors from their social channels -- and even some decor tips and tricks -- but not really any idea of who lives there or what their day-to-day life looks like. Also, we didn't see any topical content geared toward helping people live better around pandemic restrictions or any communications geared to current Mattamy homeowners.
Mattamy's strategy for LinkedIn makes a lot of sense: They post a lot of employee profiles and other content that overlaps between HR and internal communications. There are also a few community posts and some straight HR, but very little is customer-focused, which makes sense.
The bottom line
The real estate industry is famously slow to adapt to a tech-enabled work environment, but the good news is, as of now, there are multiple ways for a real estate company to roll out a robust social media platform. As long as you are respectful about sharing updates and being safe, you can make a confident start with the above strategies or a mix of them on your own social media.