Sunday, August 21, 2011

Maracay Homes taps social media

When Maracay Homes executives decided to use themes such as Disney and Valentine's Day to increase their company's visibility, they didn't settle for someone in a Mickey Mouse costume waving at drivers whizzing past their housing communities or pass out roses to visitors.

Instead, this 20-year-old Scottsdale-based homebuilder used social-media tools to create a hunt for Mickey Mouse in its model homes that culminated in a drawing for a family trip to Disneyland.

In February, Maracay's Love Thy Neighbor photo contest gave its Facebook fans the opportunity to share fun moments captured digitally.

In a time when the housing market is lethargic, Maracay is using the combination of social media and real-life interaction as a way to generate some spark.

"We've all noticed a huge impact from the economy. Everybody does business different now," said Laurie Tarver, vice president of sales and marketing for Maracay. "We have to in order to survive."

Maracay initiated its social-media promotion program this year. Three promotions have tripled its number of Facebook fans. Although it's unlikely that many fans will purchase a Maracay home, it is likely it will amount to sales that otherwise would not take place, Tarver said.

"If people remember you, they'll think of you when they need you," she said.

Chandler homeowner Wrae Duncan-McCabe entered but did not win the trip to Disneyland, but her efforts did garner four free movie tickets. Because that contest utilized Facebook, contest posts that linked her page and Maracay's p

rovided exposure for the company to Duncan-McCabe's Facebook friends.

"Depending on how many people looked on my page, I could have advertised Maracay 30 times or 150 times," said Duncan-McCabe, who owns a home in the Chandler community of Whispering Heights. "Social media is getting so big. . . . I think it's a good way to get their name out there."

Since 1991, Maracay has built more than 7,000 homes in 13 Arizona communities. But the increasing popularity of tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter was a signal that adjustments in marketing strategies were needed.

It started with a Facebook page and escalated from there to include iPhone applications. Some, like Tarver, were already very tech-savvy while others learned how to poke, tweet and like through their children.

Tarver said some homebuyers have purchased homes strictly based on the information they received online through the company's website and via e-mail or social-media interactions.

After studying the options on Maracay's website, Shane Roe was pretty sure he wanted to purchase a home in the Morada at Palm Valley community in Goodyear. Being prepared before taking a look at the model made the final decision easy for Roe and his wife, Mireya.

"We went online and saw this house and knew if it looked anything like (that) in person, it was going to be a slam dunk," said Roe, who recently retired from the military and purchased his home about a month ago. "We walked through and knew in the first 10 minutes."

Technology gives potential buyers flexibility and freedom that traditional home selling experiences lack. Instead of feeling the pressure of dealing with a real estate agent who's on the phone, or getting interrupted during an inopportune time, social media puts the customer in control, Tarver explained.

"Traditionally, you call the person and it's at the sales person's convenience. If I call, I'm interfering with their day. But if I e-mail or post on Twitter, they're choosing when to have me in their life," Tarver said. "When the customer is interested, they're reading more and with social media, it's at the customer's convenience. You can accept it and at anytime you can reject it."

The key to utilizing the benefits of social media and achieving results is balancing virtual interaction with real-life contact, Tarver said. This is why the company will continue to develop promotions that incorporate both and emphasize Maracay's local feel.

"There are a lot of builders who tweet or Facebook. But we're a small builder, and we're homegrown," she said. "We want Phoenix to flourish. We're local, and everything we do focuses on the local economy."

by Georgann Yara Special for the ABG Aug. 14, 2011 03:09 PM

Maracay Homes taps social media

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