Marketing Insight for Master-Planned Communities

Study: How Master-Planned Communities Are Using Social Media

Study: How Master-Planned Communities Are Using Social Media

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An April 2015 study by PrivateCommunities.com analyzed 152 master-planned communities to understand how communities are using social media, including:

  • Channels used
  • Audience size by channel
  • Posting frequency
  • Content shared

Summary of Findings

Nearly all communities are using Facebook. Most have a Twitter account, a YouTube channel, and a blog as well. Meanwhile, Pinterest, Google+, Flickr, and Instagram are used by only a small percentage of communities.

Communities reach a larger audience on Facebook than on any other social media outlet. Meanwhile, those communities which participate in the less popular social networks have only a small following there – generally, only a few dozen to a few hundred people.

Social-Media-Channels-Master-Planned-CommunitiesSocial-Media-Average-Number-Posts

Facebook

How Master-Planned Communities Are Using Social Media, FacebookOf the 152 communities studied, 97% have a Facebook page, making it nearly universal as a social media platform. The number of page likes, or Facebook fans, ranges from 45 to over 55,000. The average community has 2,725 likes.

A look at types and quantity of Facebook posts revealed that communities post on average 4.5 times per week. Over the course of one week, the average community posts three photos, 1.5 links, and less than one video, text-only, or event post.

Communities post photos of the community itself, photos of recent events and activities, information about the community and upcoming events, and news regarding property listings and real estate sales. Lifestyle articles, community news, clubhouse menus, and holiday-related posts were also commonly shared.

While pages with more “likes” (fans) typically see more audience engagement on their posts, some pages with a large number of fans receive surprisingly few likes, shares, or comments on their posts, indicating either poor organic reach in the news feed, or, perhaps, that the page’s fans are relatively uninterested in the community. In some cases, the engagement is so low that it appears many of the fans were bought (from a service which sells fans just to boost the number of page likes).

St. James Plantation has a large following, posts frequently, and publishes content designed specifically to solicit responses from the audience, such as a photo accompanied by a question. When people “like” a post or comment on it, this causes the Facebook news feed algorithm to push that content out to the friends of those who “liked” or commented, thus giving the community more exposure than if no one had engaged with the initial post.

82% of communities allowed visitors to rate and review the community on Facebook. To enable ratings and reviews, a page must be part of the Local Business category and provide an address.

Twitter

How Master-Planned Communities Are Using Social Media, Twitter77% of communities have Twitter accounts and use them similarly to Facebook, often posting the same content on both platforms or linking to Facebook posts from Twitter.

The average community tweets 8 times per week.

The average community has 780 followers. Of the communities studied, John’s Island Club has the most, at 8,000+. Posts by John’s Island Club include home listings, articles about the community and its location, open houses, and #TBT (“Throwback Thursday”) posts with vintage articles from the community’s magazine.

YouTube

How Master-Planned Communities Are Using Social Media, YouTube56% of communities have YouTube channels. Communities’ YouTube channels range in size from one and 270 videos, with an average of 33 videos.

While the average community has only 69 YouTube channel subscribers, this can partly be explained by the fact that videos are often viewed from an embedded location, such as the community’s website, rather than on YouTube itself, thus the option to subscribe isn’t always available.

Unsurprisingly, channels with high-quality videos—and more of them—have more subscribers. A good example is St. James Plantation.

Pinterest

How Master-Planned Communities Are Using Social Media, PinterestWhile 37% of communities have a Pinterest account, most are inactive or barely active.

The average number of Pinterest followers is 201.

Pinterest is commonly used to display things to do both within the community and in the surrounding area, show home models, décor ideas, food, and weddings celebrated on the community’s premises. Nocatee has one of the higher follower counts, at 447, and actively pins their blog posts, photos of community amenities and events, videos of events, and all things related to the Nocatee lifestyle.

Google+

How Master-Planned Communities Are Using Social Media, Google+28% of the communities studied have a Google+ page.

The average community using Google+ has only 55 followers.

Marina Palms Yacht Club and Residences has 137 followers yet 133,617 page views. The page views number is deceiving: It’s the total number of views on a Google+ user’s profile, posts, photos, and videos. This includes content being seen through reshares, +1s, and posts embedded on other websites.
Communities are using Google+ to display real estate and developer news as well as property listings and awards.

Flickr

How Master-Planned Communities Are Using Social Media, FlickrFlickr is used by 18% of communities.  Communities mainly use this platform to display high-quality photos of home models with interior shots, community amenities, and community events.

We’ve included Flickr as a social media channel, because Flickr is social in the sense that users can comment on photos and follow other Flickr users’ photo streams. However, we observed that communities are not leveraging the social aspects of Flickr or engaging in conversation with Flickr users, but using the site strictly for its photo hosting functionality.

Brunswick Forest displays over 19,000 photos highlighting life in the community.

Instagram

How Master-Planned Communities Are Using Social Media, InstagramOnly 15% of communities are using Instagram, making it the least popular of the social media platforms included in this study. We found this surprising because Instagram is one of the most popular social media outlets in the United States, outpacing Twitter. However, some communities may choose to not use Instagram because it is known to have a fairly young demographic.

The average community using Instagram has 1,116 followers.

And among communities on Instagram, the frequency of posts is low – about 3 times per week.

Instagram is popularly used for its “filtered photo” capabilities. Also, communities often share their Instagram photos simultaneously on Facebook.

Among the communities studied, Palmetto Bluff has the most Instagram followers, at 2,600. Palmetto Bluff shares photos of such things as chef specials, event advertisements, community amenities, and home listings.

Blog

55% of the studied communities have a blog. “Lifestyle” content seems to dominate most communities’ blog posts, including articles related to retirement and health.

Few blogs receive visible interaction from readers. This can be attributed to the fact that readers are often forced to create an account and sign in order to leave a comment, which is a huge barrier. In some cases, no comments are allowed.

Some communities branded their blogs by naming them and creating identifying banners, including Reynolds Plantation’s Reynolds Living Online Magazine and Old Palm Golf Club’s TeeTimes.

Conclusion

While communities show a significant effort to be present in social media, most have few social media followers overall. Also, among the followers, it’s hard to know what share are real estate prospects, residents, people who simply attended an event at the community, or something else.

Overall, it seems that whether by choice or not, few communities are using a broad range of popular social media channels effectively. Most are focusing their efforts on a few channels. It’s worth remembering, too, that social media is just one of many investments communities make to reach an audience online.

In conclusion, it’s clear that some communities do well in one particular social channel or another, but overall, social media has not proven an easy way to connect with thousands of people who could be interested in the community.

Download PDF of study here

What do you think about these findings? Please share your comments in the box below.

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