Social media marketing is now common practice for B-list celebrities with Instagram accounts, where they spruik everything from almond milk to egg-freezing under newly mandated hashtags such as #ad or #sponsored. But writer, actress and feminist it girl Tavi Gevinson recently took sponsored content to a new level when she posted Instagram photos of herself moving into a luxury apartment in Brooklyn. Her posts sometimes featured her address, 300 Ashland.
A spokesperson for the property told New York Magazine’s The Cut that while Gevinson paid rent on the apartment, she was also paid by the management company to talk about where she lived and to host special events for the building’s residents.
Gevinson’s decision to take compensation for moving into an apartment and willingness to advertise her address online prompted questions about whether she had tapped into a new future for property marketing on social media.
Social media “influencers” – celebrities or non-celebrities with sizeable followings on Instagram, Snapchat and other sites – already hawk relatively inexpensive and disposable items such as lipstick and protein powder. They are a popular and growing component of brand marketing strategies.
But what does it look like when you are selling something as dear and long-term as an apartment building – even one that you live in?
In Australia, some developers have used celebrities as ambassadors for their larger projects. Former cricketer Michael Clarke and model Jennifer Hawkins, who have more than a million Instagram followers between them, have both promoted the $388 million Trinity Point development in Lake Macquarie on their social media accounts.
Hawkins has a contract as a brand ambassador, while Clarke has actually purchased a $1.3 million apartment at the estate.
Trinity Point project director Natalie Habib says celebrity sponsorships raise the profile of the brand, though property is too expensive for people to buy just because they want to live near a famous person.
“People do not spend a million or two million because Jennifer’s there,” Nabib says. “Maybe selling shoes is different but not for a huge investment.”
“But people do follow what other people do,” she adds.
Anthony Svirskis, the chief executive of the social influencer platform Tribe, says influencer marketing is a new form of advertising but one that aligns well with property branding.
“Instagram is very visual. It’s all about the clothes you wear, the food you eat,” he says. “Property is also very visual. People like to show off the food they’ve made in their nice-looking kitchen or the view from their balcony.”
Svirskis says Tribe, which connects brands to influencers, has started to see more interest from developers. And influencers that are not as expensive as Jennifer Hawkins appeal to properties with smaller budgets.
Tribe has yet to see a brand compensate an influencer for living in a specific property, as in Tavi Gevinson’s case, though the company did orchestrate a campaign for Crown Group, which used social media users to distribute renderings of the Waterfall development in Sydney.
“Swooning over this luxe space, how about you?” Daria Varlamova, who has 55,000 followers, wrote of Waterfall in a recent Instagram post.
Crown Group digital marketing manager Harry Solomon says influencers can “humanise” something as inanimate as a building.
“It can be extremely challenging at times to build a personable and relatable brand in property development, when your building is off-the-plan and you only have computer-generated images to work with,” Solomon says.
Though Solomon would not say how much the company spent on the campaign, he says influencers are better value for money than traditional advertising.
“The spend return we get for this … is unbelievable.”
Influencer marketing is still in its infancy, says Svirskis, but it can go a long way to raising awareness of a property or a premium address.
“A lot of industries are just starting to understand the power of influencers,” he says. “Property is just one of those industries which is starting to put their head up and go, ‘hang on a sec, this is working.’”