Media buzz continues to center on social media and how major American corporations are using it to reach out to broader customer bases, yet I can’t name one big builder with a blog. Corporations such as SouthWest airlines were early adopters and are reaping the benefits of embracing consumers online. While surveys by respected companies such as Cone Research and Marketing Sherpa show that social media will see huge increases in 2009, big builders are nowhere to be found. While it is okay for Courage the Cowardly Dog to live in Nowhere, it is probably not okay for the nation’s biggest builders to live there, too, especially with today’s housing situation.
The Internet has long been a great way to level the playing field for small to midsize builders and developers. Through effective search engine optimization and targeted search engine marketing, local and regional home builders can use targeted budgets to reach consumers just as effectively as big builders.
Big builders can’t realize the same economies of scale they once had with online marketing. All markets are local, and placing your messages before a potentially worldwide audience on the Internet doesn’t change the rules of the game. All efforts need to be targeted locally. Sometimes this can actually be a detriment to a big home builder because SEO can’t always be focused locally when trying to build a national brand.
Why are the nation’s biggest builders nowhere to be found in social media? How can we explain their absence in blogging? Are they missing the boat? Here’s the top three misconceptions we see from these builders.
Big builder blogs are bogged down in the legal department. Attorneys are working to determine the best way to protect the bottom line from lawsuits, worrying about how to respond to unhappy consumers and worrying about what agents might say on behalf of the builder. Big builders want blogs that are highly moderated and require approval for posts to happen. By removing the interactive communication that consumers require, big builders may actually create more for consumers to complain about.
Big builders worry about how to staff the blog. Who will moderate it, write posts or respond to inquiries? Do they need to hire a full time person to do this? Could their marketing department, online sales counselors or agents manage it? What if they post an error for all the world to see? Builders worry too much about what their own staff says online, when they already rely on them to produce sales and act as the ‘front line’ to their company.
Big builders don’t want to add any further expense to the marketing budget in terms of dollars or staff. Actually, Internet marketing and social media is significantly less expensive than advertising and can be much more effective. A lot of what a blog requires is the knowledge to set it up to be effective and time to do it right.
In this case bigger is not proving to be better. Traditional big builders have missed the boat! Many smaller builders and developers have already embraced blogging and are finding that their blog is one of their top five referring sites for their main Web site. Can big builders really afford to stay in Nowhere and miss all of these potential home buyers? Not only are these missed leads, but time on site also affects blog performance. So the sooner you launch a blog, the sooner you start to built time on site.
The failure of the big guys to figure things out presents many small, regional home builders, developments and developers with a huge competitive advantage. The longer the nationals stay in Nowhere, the more time you have to hone your strategy. Make blogging an extension of your search engine optimization and public relations efforts. Hone your strategy, extend your reach, increase your sales.