The Indian real estate market size is expected to touch US $180 billion by 2020. The housing sector alone contributes 5-6 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Real estate has also emerged as the second most active sector, raising US $1.2 billion from private equity (PE) investors in the last 10 months.
Real estate is also a high involvement purchase, for a common man it is one of the biggest investments that he makes in his entire life. The decision-making time isn’t quick but today digital media powered by technology can reduce it and help in better decision-making.
With 243 million active Internet users, 118 million active on social media and 100 million active on social media via mobile, real estate developers have joined the social media revolution in the country to engage with fans and help them buy better.
Realty firm Godrej Properties Ltd (GPL) the real estate development arm of the Godrej Group, has taken steps to keep in touch with its customers and be available at all times. The company aims to fully integrate offline events with social media through apps connected to all its channels.
Community build up on social media
To start with the company is working on building a Facebook community page called ‘Spark of Imagination,’ which will be an interactive platform for customers to discuss various current and relevant topics such as ‘Brighter Living’ and ‘Green Design or Practices’. ” Godrej Properties has carried out several campaigns on social media. Connecting with customers on a real time basis helps in building trust and confidence in our brand. Through this channel we also aim to be more accessible to our customers and reach out to them quickly and effectively,” added Godrej Properties EVP – sales and marketing Girish Shah.
In addition to Facebook, the company has built its presence on YouTube, Flickr, Pinterest and a few more networks. “The videos range from advertisements to project walk-throughs to mock ups of apartments which highlight various amenities and facilities that the project will provide,” Shah said, adding that this gives viewers an opportunity to get a virtual experience of the project.
According to Shah, the social media channels at Godrej Properties is a vehicle to augment the sales process, thus aiding the decision-making process. “There are instances of NRIs and residents from other cities directly booking apartments solely through digital interactions with the brand. The transparency maintained on social media platform has helped enhance our credibility and consequently increased conversion rates to a certain degree,” he said.
But the virtual experience is missing
While Godrej Properties harps that its social media channels are providing a virtual experience and aiding the decision-making process, reality has a different story to tell on this realty company.
Facebook page with less than 200 people is still very young. The page has focused on content around green living, brighter living but the Facebook app #SparkOfImagination built to explore bright ideas fails to work as of now (tested on chrome).
Besides, building engagement over Facebook apps is a dead social media strategy, one that does not reap engagement anymore unless boosted by ads and topped with giveaways. On average, just 6% of fans engage with a brand’s Facebook Page via likes, comments, polls and other means, according to a study from Napkin Labs, a Facebook app developer that works with brands and agencies.
YouTube channel which has been active from 2011 has just 279 subscribers. YouTube has demo video ads of properties along with a series of ads from Godrej Properties. Flickr has the same story and so does Pinterest. The biggest problem with Godrej Properties right now on social media is the misplaced objective.
On Facebook the brand is talking about healthy living as if it were a cooking blog, an activity that could also happen on Twitter. Flickr and YouTube are more about paper cut-outs and demo videos. Why would an online customer like to view print ads on Flickr? Either the brand has no intent for social media spends or has the wrong digital agency to advice.
Competitors on social media
Simplify360 recently did a comprehensive study on the Indian real estate industry and found intense competition in the booming digital space. “With Narendra Modi announcing the allowance of foreign investors to join the Indian Real Estate Industry, the competition among the various players has stiffened and the margins of difference in their popularity are disappearing rapidly.”
According to the report, “Kolte Patil achieved the lead in the share of voice due to the Nest Fest that concluded only recently. This fest exhibited Pune’s biggest Property Expo, and their campaign witnessed over 200 million impressions online, with 5.3 million impressions achieved through Twitter alone.”
Tata Value Homes has been another real estate player that is giving stiff competition to Kolte Patil. Tata Value Homes with a presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube has been promoting #NoMoreExcuses campaign for not buying a home during the national home buying week. The brand has a well defined content strategy compared to its competitors on the online space from posting Facebook updates to uploading interesting videos.
— Tata Value Homes (@Tata_ValueHomes) February 19, 2015
— Tata Value Homes (@Tata_ValueHomes) February 24, 2015
The social media engagement comparison showed that the National Home Buying Week by Tata had the highest social media interactions followed by Kolte Patil and GOSF.
Real estate marketing companies are earmarking around 30 percent of the budget on digital marketing as compared to around five percent some five years ago. “A company without an online presence is a rare and dying breed and social media is changing the way businesses are communicating with their customers. The print and hoarding spent, which was around 80-85 percent, has come down to less than 50 percent in last five years as people in the age group of 30 years-40 years can be targeted easily through digital marketing and advertisements,” said NK Realtors managing director Pawan Agarwal, who is a real estate marketing consultant in West Bengal.
If Godrej Properties intends to connect with its potential buyers via social and digital media channels by providing a virtual experience and aiding their decision-making process, then it will have to streamline its content strategy. At the moment the content strategy is haywire on social media and has no well-defined thought process in how networks should be milked. For now Godrej Properties falls flat when compared to Tata Value Homes, Kolte Patil, among others on social media.