Today, it doesn’t seem all that special for real estate developers to market their projects on social media. Everyone is using Instagram and Facebook these days, but in 2008 it was a rather novel concept.
MMPartners started heavily utilizing Facebook in 2008 and Instagram when it launched in 2010 with the overall goal to drive leases and awareness for the MMP brand and our development projects. In addition, and most importantly, we used it to put the Brewerytown neighborhood on the map.
We were one of the first developers to really embrace these platforms, specifically Instagram, as our primary means of marketing.
It’s been over ten years since the Great Recession so people may forget how difficult times were for real estate. Financing projects was very hard; you had to count every penny to ensure you could maintain occupancy in your portfolio and continue developing projects.
During the recession we were very fortunate to be in a position that we didn’t have any legacy projects that were weighing us down; instead we used the economic downturn to expand our business.
As Warren Buffet said, “buy when others are scared to buy.”
However, we still had to be mindful of costs. So often the marketing budgets on projects would be very small to non-existent, so we had to be creative on how we would stretch our marketing dollars. It seemed logical to us at the time to try using Facebook and then Instagram to see if we could generate leads.
At that time there were very few, if any, real estate developers on these platforms, so we had no guide and we just sort of tried sh*t to see what would work and whatever worked we did again. We utilized these platforms out of necessity at first.However, when we saw over the time that people liked it, it became our primary means of advertising our lofts, apartments, retail and commercial space.
The key for us was consistency, posting multiple times per day.
We focused primarily on images of our projects in various stages of construction, apartments available for rent and interesting content about Brewerytown, the neighborhood we have been developing in since 2001.
We also made sure to follow influencers, or at least who we thought were influencers that our target market followed and made comments on their feeds. Our strategy is a combination of what Gary Vaynerchuck calls “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” and “The 1.80 Instagram Strategy.” Today, Gary V is the marketing voice we tend to listen to the most and we heed his advice. Thank you Gary!
The key for us was (and still is) consistency. We post everyday multiple times, and make sure that we’re posting interesting content with an emphasis on showing “how the sausage was made.” Said another way, we wanted to give people a glimpse into how a real estate project comes together and to do this in a visually compelling and AUTHENTIC manner. Day in and day out.
We would take photos (and later video) of site visits when we would look at buildings/warehouses to buy, images of plans as they progressed on a given project, images of buildings we liked/inspired by, construction progress images throughout the whole project, etc. One of our favorites is the #beforeafter images we do showing a real f*cked building and then the after when it’s done. Other examples include #flashbackfriday and #throwbackthursday, which were also key for us allowing us to post historic content about Brewerytown and our projects, which tend to be adaptive reuse developments of historic buildings.
Bottom line, real estate was and is a natural fit for Instagram because it’s solely visual. A big moment for us was in 2015 when Philadelphia Magazine listed MMPartners as an Instagram account to follow.
It was a long grind to build up a following and get people interested in what we were doing but over time it started to catch on. We saw our engagement and followers incrementally growing, and people really seemed to respond well to what we were doing, which fueled us to do more.
Thinking about our social media success, it seems one of the keys was it was the owners of the company doing the actual posting so it was very authentic. Our enthusiasm and thought process showed through to anyone following us. Authenticity is important to us and it’s why we still continue to be the primary people posting on our social media.
Authenticity is important because you will probably notice a lot of real estate companies outsource their social media and in turn it tends to be very corporate and in turn boring and generic. We deliberately went the other way and we’re less concerned with having 100% perfect images and copy and just gave our audience a window into what we were seeing in real time. We also avoided “buying” followers, we were more concerned with having actual followers who appreciated our content and engaged with us.
We hear from many of tenants that they followed our projects from the beginning before leasing a unit with us and that our social media was a key reason they decided to live in one of our buildings. For instance, our Pyramid Lofts project, nearly 75% of our leads during lease up came via social media.
Fast forward to today and social media is still the centerpiece of our marketing efforts and it’s still primarily done by the owners of the company. You now see every real estate developer on these platforms, a few do it well, most not so much. We are going to keep doing what we do and are looking to integrate more video into our posting and make sure that at the end of the day our content is interesting and compelling. Otherwise, what’s the point?
One last thing that has turned out to be a very unexpected, yet awesome, outgrowth of our Instagram posting is we have made many business contacts with people that followed us and reached out via direct messenger. You can learn a lot about a company (or person) by the content they post day in and day out and to the point of authenticity, you can find other like minded business people on the platform.