Brandywine Homes launched its social media campaign two years ago and has been able to generate traffic spikes drawing as many as 900 visitors at a time, responding to promotions as simple as vote for your favorite flower photo. Professional Builder talked to Doug Barisic, VP sales and marketing, about the ins and outs of incorporating social media in Brandywine Homes’ marketing and advertising activities.
Q: What is the objective of your social media outreach, to sell online or to engage online?
A: The primary objective is to engage but with the ultimate objective of driving interest and traffic to the website. Using social media, if you don’t engage first, you’re really not going to be successful in driving that traffic. As far as houses are concerned, I don’t believe you can sell online. You can create interest online, but the actual sale of a home needs to be in person with personal contact between the sales agent and actually walking through the completed model home. That’s where the emotional connection comes from. But the online portion is a wonderful starting point because it can peak someone’s interest.
Q: Did Brandywine struggle with deciding to put time and energy into a social media campaign, and how much of your company’s resources is dedicated to updating, providing content, and tracking?
A: As far as resources that are dedicated to it, really not a whole lot. What we ended up doing was rather than dedicating our own in-house resources to the updating and tracking of social media, we hired an outside firm to do that. Our Twitter feed is updated two or three times a week. It’s not done by me or by someone sitting in the office doing that. While we certainly have input, it’s done by our PR company with our review first. We decided to use our financial resources rather than our time to do that. What pushed us to dedicating resources to social media? With the exception of my dad, Jim (chairman), the company is run by people in their 30s and 40s, and we all use social media. We all recognize especially with an entry-level buyer profile—younger, just out of college, maybe starting a family—that in the next decade social media is going to be a leading resource to attract that buyer to any sort of product. Really it’s a strategic decision knowing that maybe not today but in a few years, the benefits from engaging in social media will be huge.
Q: Describe your outreach efforts?
A: The main focus is to drive traffic back to the website. One of the best and most effective ways we’ve been able to do that is with our direct-to-consumer press releases. Those press releases are put on our blog on the website and when we do that, we also blast out links to the various social media outlets including Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc. All of those are then linked back to the press releases, which have links to all kinds of things located on the website including other press releases, corporate brochures, and direct links to individual community pages where people can sign up on the interest list.
Q: Which outreach has been your biggest hit so far?
A: People like free stuff. One of the best ways to get people engaged whether its Facebook fans, Twitter followers, or whatever, is to have some kind of a competition or drawing where someone can win free stuff. One of the most successful for us, because it brought us actual buyers for an actual development that was currently selling, was a Facebook contest called, “Eat Well, Live Well.” Every time someone liked our Facebook page, they were entered into a drawing for two VIP “Taste of Orange County” tickets. So we were geographically qualifying everybody that entered around a certain community that we just happened to be selling. I don’t know exactly how much online traffic it generated, but we did get a lot of people walking into the sales office talking about that contest.