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A Social Media Marketing Campaign to Sell New Homes Gets Quick Results
March 7, 2011 / Nation's Building News Online Newspaper

S&A Homes, which builds homes in 65 communities throughout Pennsylvania and West Virginia, offers a variety of product types and styles to meet the needs and desires of home buyers in each of its communities.

But because S&A Homes’ prospective buyers and communities are so diverse demographically and geographically, traditional targeted marketing can be expensive.

Instead, S&A Homes sought to stretch its marketing budget by launching a social media marketing campaign to showcase its homes, communities and locations and target specific buyers.

The campaign was also designed to convince tech-savvy home buyers and real estate agents who find their homes online to get to know the builder and, ultimately, to buy.

S&A Homes worked with mRelevance to design and implement the campaign, which was launched last July.

The campaign had three main goals:

  • Increase website traffic
  • Create a place for consumers to converse with the builder
  • Improve the SEO (search engine optimization) of their main website so it would be more visible and easier to find

The social media campaign was created around several elements — online tools or a tool kit that would be used to carry out the social media outreach; and several incentive-based and targeted social media campaigns that encouraged online participation and interaction.

The S&A Homes Tool Kit — a Blog, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

S&A Homes focused on four main social media tools to implement:

  • The S&A Homes Blog — www.sahomesblog.com 

     


    S&A Homes blog

     

    Built on a self-hosted WordPress platform, the blog contains categories for news, events, incentives, videos, testimonials and locations for cities where S&A Homes builds. It also features a video on the home page, which has proven to big hit with visitors. 

    The blog’s editorial calendar is planned several months in advance and its content ranges from energy-efficient homes and tips for first-time buyers to ideas for home organization, community events and community news. A team from S&A Homes and mRelevance updates and maintains the blog. 

  • A Facebook Page — www.facebook.com/sahomes

    Builders want to find themselves in a place where everybody knows their name — and Facebook is definitely the online neighborhood watering hole that fills this need. It’s where everyone shares news and information. 

    S&A Homes utilizes its Facebook page to connect and engage with home owners, home buyers and real estate agents. The site is updated regularly with news from the blog, as well as with posts that are unique to Facebook, because the site works best when it is energized. 

    For instance, S&A Homes currently has information for first-time home buyers on its page, which links to a robust section on the S&A Homes Facebook page that answers many first-time buyer questions. 

    Still in its infancy, the page is approaching 300 fans who “like” it — many of whom are active users and who frequently comment and provide feedback, giving the page the interactive feel of a town hall discussion. 
  • A YouTube Channel — www.youtube.com/SAhomebuilder 

    If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video could be worth a million. The S&A Homes YouTube page showcases communities and home plans. Many of the videos are embedded into blog posts to provide visual information to potential home buyers. 

    The videos also help S&A’s sales agents, who follow up with their prospective buyers by e-mailing them links to the videos. 

  • Twitter — twitter.com/SAhomebuilder 

    S&A Homes uses Twitter to further syndicate blog posts and promote its campaigns. This element of the overall campaign was designed to focus on and interact with agents and influencial people in the industry. 

    Still early in the campaign, S&A Homes is in the process of gearing up its presence on Twitter to promote its net-zero energy Lab Home and its energy-efficient and eco-friendly E-Home, as well as share first-time buying information.

Bolster Great Content With Targeted Campaigns

S&A Homes understood that great content is not always enough to encourage online interaction — much less buyer action — so it bolstered its online presence through several incentive-based targeted social media campaigns that encouraged online participation.

The builder decided that the campaigns would be used to build a smaller, core group of followers who are genuinely interested in S&A Homes, rather than to pursue a larger group who primarily would enter the contests for their prizes and be less interested in the homes.

The initial campaigns included:

  • $1,500 Off Options and Upgrades  

     


    Posting for $1,500 off options

     

    S&A Homes launched the first of its targeted campaigns — a $1,500 off options and upgrades coupon — on July 15. During the 45-day campaign, blog and Facebook posts encouraged potential buyers to “like” the S&A Homes Facebook page and to download a coupon good for $1,500 off  S&A Homes options with the purchase of a new home. Buyers were able to use the coupon in conjunction with other incentives. The campaign was also promoted through an e-mail campaign. 

    By the time the campaign ended, buyers redeemed six coupons. The campaign's success can be read on this blog post

    “We noticed that after these home buyers signed contracts for their new homes, they took time to 'like' us on Facebook,” said Ashleigh Shetler, sales and marketing development manager at S&A Homes. 

    Not only do the contest winners’ actions on Facebook indicate their appreciation of the builder, they serve as referrals for future Facebook users visiting the pages. 

  • Operation Organize Simplify 

     


    The coupon toward organizational upgrades on Facebook

     

    Building on the success of the $1,500-off campaign, in mid-October S&A Homes launched its second campaign, “Operation Organize Simplify,” which targeted potential home buyers and Realtors® through a multifaceted program that included blog posts, Facebook and e-mail blasts. 

    For home buyers, the campaign explained how the right home design and elements can simplify their life. Blog posts were written on kitchen storage, laundry rooms, charging stations, drop zones and even the ultimate man room, the garage. 

    Real estate agents had the opportunity to interact with the blog — while competing for a $150 Home Depot gift card and the opportunity for a $500 bonus at their next S&A Homes closing. 

    The contest called on the agents’ vast experience seeing hundreds, if not thousands of homes, and asked them to name the one organizational element they would incorporate into every home — if they could only choose one. 

    They responded — and made the competition fun — by submitting creative responses on a Christmas tree room, how to organize kitchen electronics, the ultimate mud room, and more. 

  • Life Is Full of Firsts  

     


    A campaign of firsts

     

    Targeting first-time home buyers, S&A Homes launched its current campaign on its blog and Facebook to educate buyers and demystify the home buying process while also evoking how exciting and memorable that first home purchase is — as memorable as a first kiss, a child’s first step and the first day in school. 

    The “Life is Full of Firsts” campaign includes a first-time buyer 101 primer covering topics such as FHA loans, mortgage interest deductions, USDA rural development financing, the benefits of new construction, the tax benefits of owning and other benefits. 

    Companion pages were also created on S&A Homes’ Facebook to encourage potential buyers to get the information they need and make educated decisions when purchasing a home. 

    To view the blog post, click here.

Defining Success

Just eight months into its social media program, S&A Homes reports that the program has exceeded expectations.

“It has brought new visitors to our website, improved the SEO for our main website, created a place where consumers can have conversations and best of all, it has brought us buyers,” Shetler said.

“We had 12 home buyers redeem coupons for options and upgrades that they could have only gotten on our social media sites. There is no doubt that today’s buyers are looking further than just our website,” she added.

Within 45 days of its launch, the blog was a top-five referral source to the builder’s main website, with 75% of the blog traffic representing first-time visitors. Over the past 30 days, Shetler said the blog was the number-two referral site to the website, with first-time visitors from the blog to the website representing 50% of the traffic.”

“We will continue to provide them with ways to interact with us and reward them for their loyalty.”

Carol Flammer, MIRM, managing partner at mRelevance, an Internet and social media marketing firm based in Atlanta and Chicago, is the author of the NAHB BuilderBooks best-selling “Social Media for Home Builders: It’s Easier Than You Think.” She is also the visionary behind the nationally ranked and award-winning blog, www.AtlantaRealEstateForum.com, which led the new-media movement in the Atlanta new-homes market. For more information, visit the mRelevance website at www.mRELEVANCE.com; or e-mail Flammer, or call her at 770-383-3360.

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