Building online reputations, clients

Four out of five adults are social online, but only 21 percent of business owners say they participate in “social CRM,” or social customer relationship management, as cited in a recent report by Forrester Research. This presents a huge opportunity to reach out and interact with clients and potential clients who are active on social sites.

Degnan Design Builders, DeForest, Wis., and Bensonwood Homes, Walpole, N.H. are two business that are leveraging various online social tools to reach out to clients, and create a bigger online presence. Residential Design + Build magazine spoke with them to understand their online goals.

Degnan Design Builders

Abe Degnan, president, Degnan Design Builders has been blogging for about two years, and using Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube for about a year. The goal: “To have another method of getting information to my clients and potential clients,” Degnan says.

Degnan focuses much of his attention on Facebook. “With Facebook, people don’t need to think about clicking onto our website,” he adds. “Whenever we post something on Facebook, they will see it.”

Facebook also helps Degnan expand his network by friends of friends who are interested in his company. “Twenty-five percent of our fans are people who are not my personal Facebook friends,” Degnan says. In addition, friends of Degnan’s Facebook fans will see when someone “likes” something on Degnan’s Facebook page. To “like” something on Facebook is to become a fan of that page.

Videos are also a large part of Degnan’s marketing plan. “We give video tours of lots we own, or publicize when we get TV coverage,” he says. The videos are then posted on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the company’s website.

Degnan plans to incorporate more YouTube videos and create an actual channel that is customized to represent the Degnan Design Builders brand in a consistent company-wide way. 

For Degnan, LinkedIn is used as a more lateral marketing tool rather than external to clients and potential clients. “I try to generate discussion and be interactive within groups. I want to demonstrate my expertise within the groups,” Degnan says. LinkedIn members can join topic- or company-based “groups” to communicate with colleagues with similar interests. “I hope that by being active in them, my name is recognized and so is my expertise. There are good influencers on LinkedIn.”

Bensonwood Homes

Rick Reynolds, marketing steward, Bensonwood Homes says the company uses its website, blog, e-blasts, Facebook and Twitter to reach out to its community. “We’ve been fortunate to have a large enthusiastic following since the early 1970s. It’s only natural to tap into that large family, and social media gave us the wherewithal to do that,” Reynolds says.

Social media also allows Bensonwood the opportunity to observe consumer communication, which is authentic communication about businesses, Reynolds adds.  “We often use Twitter to distribute new events, but we also follow the tweet stream,” he says. “We like to see what people are saying, learn from it, and comment on it. It’s much more than news – it’s being a part of the conversation.”

These conversations via Twitter also present sales opportunities. “Ultimately, I’d like our sales force to have access to all the social media and drill down to client prospects – to better understand their prospects,” Reynolds says.

Bensonwood makes sure its community knows when it’s received media coverage. Recently, the company was covered in a USA Today article. Bensonwood sent an e-blast about the coverage, linked to it on its website, tweeted about it and put it on Facebook. “We’ve been fortunate to be in the news lately. Oftentimes, our e-blasts parallel news events,” Reynolds says.

For Reynolds, there is more to social media than marketing Bensonwood. “At the end of the day, all social media CRM is about conversation, relationships and connecting with our larger family,” he says.

For those who are waiting to see where social media goes before jumping on board, “they better get on board because the train is leaving the station,” Reynolds says. “In the future, influencers will be shaping our brands rather than our brands shaping them. It’s not about if you’re going to join the social movement, it’s when.”

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