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This article first appeared in the PB April 2011 issue of Pro Builder.

Last month, I had the pleasure of spending a day in Seattle speaking to local home builders and remodelers about the growing importance of social media in their overall marketing efforts.

Of the 30 or so people in the room, about 60 percent said they currently use one of the “big four” social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube) on a regular basis for personal use, business, or both. We had a lively discussion on which tools are being used, shared success stories, and talked about the challenges that builders and remodelers face when it comes to creating and executing a social media marketing plan.

Naturally, a large portion of the discussion centered around return on investment on the time and resources put into these tools. Some builders are completely outsourcing their social media work, while others are dedicating a full-time staff member to these efforts. Regardless of the approach, these firms realize the growing importance of social media, and they’re making a significant investment in using these tools — all in an effort to drive sales leads and increase traffic to their Web sites and sales centers. Why invest in social media?

First off, it’s where the majority of your customers and potential clients are. A recent survey by Experian Simmons showed that two-thirds of American adults visit social media sites on a weekly basis, and 43 percent do so more than once a day. Moreover, a Pew Center survey showed that as much as 83 percent of Millennials are regular users of social media sites, while about two-thirds of Gen Xers and half of Baby Boomers use these sites often. And these numbers are expected to grow significantly in the coming years.

Secondly, social media is playing a much larger role in the search engine world. While major providers like Google, Bing, and Yahoo keep their search-engine algorithms a closely guarded secret, these companies are clearly giving favor to Web sites that are socially connected using tools like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. In addition, the search engines themselves are also becoming more focused on social media functionality. For instance, late last month, Google launched its +1 button, which functions much like Facebook’s Like button, allowing users to share and save their recommended search results.

The bottom line is if you care about having your company found on the Internet — especially the first few pages of a Google search — then social media needs to be part of your integrated marketing strategy.