Social Media and the 55+ Homebuyer’s Journey

The 55+ homebuyer is using social media pages, so make sure yours are set up for success

BAy KATHI SCHARF

As our population continues to age, builders need to understand the mind of the 55+ homebuyer and how they look for information if they are going to successfully connect with this population. When it comes to researching home choices, 55+ homebuyers are turning more and more to social media, according to a new survey conducted by Immersion Active.

Conducted online in September and October 2018, the “Online Habits of 55+ Homebuyers Survey” asked 55+ homebuyers questions about how they search for information about homes, communities, and builders(1). Most of the respondents (89 percent) are planning to buy a home within the next five years and 79 percent are retired or plan to retire
within the next four years.

Surprising Findings

While we know this demographic is much more involved in social media than some may expect, the importance of social media in the research phase of a buyers’ journey surprised us.

• General real estate directories such as Zillow, Redfin, and Realtor.com are the preferred source of information in the initial research phase, accounting for 69 percent of responses.

• Specialized 55+ real estate sites such as Ideal Living, 55Places.com, and PrivateCom- munities.com came in second place with 36 percent of the responses.

• For 35 percent of respondents, social media is one of the first places they look for information, while 31 percent of respondents consider websites their first choice of information.

• Interestingly, only 2 percent of respondents rely on direct mail as one of their first sources of information.

This validates that social media plays a much larger role in the homebuyer’s journey than most builders and developers recognize – even bigger than the property’s website and almost as importantly as specialized real estate sites like Ideal Living.

When it comes to which social media channels 55+ homebuyers are using, 88 percent of respondents use Facebook, 32 percent use Instagram, and 31 percent use Pinterest. YouTube was the fourth most popular social media channel with 25 percent of respondents.

Turning Data Into Practice

Often communities and builders doubt that the 55+ population is using social media for research, but the survey findings show that social media – both from an organic and paid perspective – is critical in capturing homebuyers’ attention early in the buying process. When using social media to connect to homebuyers, remember some of these best practices:

• Create a sense of community – Users are coming to your social media pages to learn more about what it’s like to live in your community or homes. They want a “behind- the-scenes” peak into the lifestyle, events, and personality of their potential new residence. Provide information about local events and current residents’ happenings, ask questions to encourage engagement, and then mix in a few posts about your products.

• Build a look-alike audience – When you do paid advertising on social media channels, you’re going to be asked to select the characteristics of the audience you want to target. There’s no better way to determine those characteristics than to upload a list of email addresses for your current residents or leads. Don’t worry, these people won’t get targeted with your ads, unless you select that option; however, the channels like Facebook and Instagram then use this information to create a target audience based on the characteristics they already know about the people on that list. If the list contains people who have already purchased or shown interest, people like them are usually the type of new prospects you want to see your ads.

• Only post 1-3 times per week – Immersion Active’s survey also showed that the majority of users (78 percent) only want to hear from their community or builder 1-3 times per week, with the majority (55 percent) saying they prefer once a week.

• Use video for the greatest engagement – Video content is the most effective type of content to post on your social media channels. By far, videos get the most views, responses and shares. Ideally, keep your videos short; most experts recommend 30-60 seconds, with some saying they get the most engagement with 15 second videos.

• Respond, respond, respond – With the recent changes in Facebook’s algorithms, your page is now evaluated and ranked based on its level of engagement and the number of conversations occurring on the page. In other words, back and forth exchanges of information are now vital, not just comments or followers. In addition, negative feedback or unanswered questions can reflect very poorly on your brand and if prospective 55+ home- buyers are relying this heavily on social media in their buyer journey, you certainly don’t want to ignore any prominent negative experiences.

To read the “Online Habits of 55+ Homebuyers Survey” results in its entirety, visit http://info. immersionactive.com/homebuyer-preferences.

(1)Survey confidence level of 95 percent and an error rate of 5 percent.

Kathi Scharf is the Director of Property Development Solutions at Immersion Active, a digital solutions agency specializing in connecting 55+ consumers with brands that bring value to their lives.