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Developer builds business through digital media

Eric Andreasen says Adera’s digital initiatives help create a conversation with its customers.

David Marino/The Globe and Mail

If you're a potential customer of Adera Development Corp. in British Columbia's Lower Mainland, chances are you're reading this on your smartphone or your tablet.

"The demographic of our buyers is largely people in their late 20s to 40s. Everyone's got a mobile device and a computer; many of them don't buy newspapers any more, they read them online," says Eric Andreasen, Adera's vice-president of marketing and sales.

"We're a multidimensional, vertically integrated real estate company in the Greater Vancouver Regional District. But when it comes to communicating, we're investing more and more in digital media."

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Mr. Andreasen's observation, horrifying for print publishers, becomes more of a reality all the time for developers and their marketing departments. Adera is just one of the companies in Vancouver's red hot real estate market, and across Canada, building its own social media networks to reach new customers.

"I think it's getting more and more important, especially as we get into our millennial buyer," says Bob de Wit, chief executive officer of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association. "All of our major builders have social media in their marketing programs."

"As in any industry, some companies do it better than others, and some are engaged more than others," says Anne McMullin, president of the Urban Development Institute, headquartered in Vancouver. But on the whole, "Our industry is very active from a sales and marketing perspective."

As Mr. Andreasen notes, there's little choice. While Adera, in business for 44 years, also develops commercial space, "Our primary business is multifamily residential construction development. We purchase land, have it serviced to build row homes, town homes, stacked townhomes and apartments. Our teams go ahead and build after design and approval."

If this sounds like a conventional depiction of what a home builder does, it is. But the days of simply pounding signs into the dirt are over. Developers' success depends on strong communication – they are selling lifestyles as much as bricks and boards.

Social media makes a difference, Mr. Andreasen says. The company has assigned three of its 70 staff members full time to populate the various platforms it uses to spread its messages.

In addition to its website, Adera is on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Google Plus. It also runs an active blog and produces related video material.

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The company's Web material tends to be fairly straightforward – attractive walk-throughs of its latest projects, or a 30-second spot about how to avoid letting the patio furniture scuff your deck (hint: put pads on the bottoms).

Adera's blog tries to add random, quick information – the best ways to cook a turkey, or why buyers want to be near transit or a photo essay about doghouses with an invitation to bring your dog to an event at one of the firm's buildings.

It's all a matter of starting and maintaining a conversation, Mr. Andreasen says.

"More often than not, our customers start out looking online. Social media is a way of educating them about us and our values, and being transparent about our company."

Adera's three-member social media team blogs at least once a week, tweets twice a day and posts to Facebook on its company page at least every other day, Mr. Andreasen says. Other staff members will also tweet, post and retweet, and there's constant online interaction with customers.

"Our customers tell us they appreciate it," Mr. Andreasen says, and he believes it translates into boosted sales, too. "One of our projects won the sales team award, making 160 sales. We can't say for sure what did it, but they were the ones who used social media the most [in their sales campaign]."

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Adera has also put out its own app, which lets smartphone users scan printed or posted ads and then see three-dimensional floor plans and projections. It's paying for SEO (search engine optimization) tools as well, seeking to track those who go to its website so the company can follow up with additional contact or ads.

But social media and online tools aren't just for making sales, says Curranne Labercane, policy analyst at the Urban Development Institute. Vancouver is more advanced than many cities in using online forums for getting public comment about development proposals, using tools such as one called PlaceSpeak.

"It saves people the time of having to go to City Hall. They can voice their opinions directly. Online media makes it easier for developers to talk directly to the public, you get right to the people," she says.

"Social media is extra work, too, and I suppose you could say that it costs money. But if you don't do it, what does that cost?"

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