Socia Media: It’s All a-“Twitter”

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First published online in Atlanta Building News, the official publication of the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association

by Carol M. Flammer, CAPS, MIRM

Celebrities are on Twitter, the newspaper is referencing blogs, and sometimes the only way you can “talk” to your children is on their Facebook wall. So how are builders and others in the industry utilizing these online tools as part of their marketing strategies? Big Builder Magazine recently conducted a survey to find out. Here are the survey highlights, as well as a few comments and thoughts.

Who is using social media?

Sixty percent of respondents said they were active in the social media sphere, and another 34.3 percent of respondents said they were considering it. This is certainly in line with many other national surveys and is supported by the buzz about sites such at Ning, Twitter, Facebook and others. With reduced marketing budgets, many corporations are turning to social media to bridge the gap left by cuts.

What are the most popular platforms?

Facebook and Twitter were the most popular sites among builder respondents (85.7 percent). Other popular platforms included LinkedIn (80 percent), blogs (45.7 percent) and Craigslist (37.1 percent).

Examples of builders in the Atlanta market who have embraced blogging and have created an extensive presence or brand through social media include:

  • Bowen Family Homes
  • Monte Hewett Homes
  • Heron Bay Golf & Country Club

These builders can be found on Twitter and Facebook, as well as multiple other popular sites specific to the real estate industry, including Active Rain and Trulia.

To find other builders engaged in social media, visit www.TopBuilderBlogs.com, and www.AtlantaRealEstateForum.com has started a list of builders with blogs and builders on Twitter.

Why are they using social media?

Almost 83 percent (82.9) of respondents said that their primary reason for using social media was to increase brand recognition. The next two answers were to drive traffic and sales (66.7 percent) and to generate sales leads (66.7 percent).

Yes, brand can be built and/or enhanced online. In fact, the power of 140 characters (or less) to reinforce brand is amazing…Got Milk? Just Do It! Have a Coke and a Smile?

Social media marketing is an extension of a complete strategic Internet marketing, SEO (search engine optimization) and/or public relations campaign. A sound social media program begins with sound strategy and a plan.

Can social media also drive traffic, increase leads and generate sales? With 85 percent of home shoppers starting their new home searches online, social media sites allow home builders to cast a much wider net. It’s important to engage buyers where they spend their time shopping and playing. While your web site will catch that serious home shopper, perhaps your Facebook page will engage the person just starting to think of buying who is online for fun.

What are the biggest issues related to social media?

Fifty-seven percent of respondents said that it was too time-consuming to manage, and 24.2 percent said there is no way to measure ROI.

Expect to spend anywhere from 20 to 40 hours a month (or more) managing a social media campaign once it’s established. Social media marketing requires a significant investment of time and money. A recent BusinessWeek article listed $50,000 as the budget for an effective, 2- to 3-month social media marketing campaign. Of course, an effective campaign can be launched for much less. This is an interesting article that reiterates the point that social media is not free; it is a major investment of time and often requires the skills and knowledge of a social media firm to set up sites and get the SEO just right.

Evaluation of ROI is actually quite easy with a well-built social media program. Key metrics of an effective social media program are:

  • increased keywords-the number of words people use to find the site through search engines
  • increased referring URLs-other web sites that send traffic your way
  • increased traffic to your main web site
  • better SERP-search engine results pages

These metrics can ultimately lead to increased sales and can be measured through analysis of tracking reports, which Internet marketing firms typically create at regular intervals.