Builder Glenn Gleason is trying to learn more about building green production homes, and he would like information about inspection challenges, scheduling issues, and product experiences, among other things.
But Gleason isn’t turning just to books, magazines, or even Web sites for the answers. He’s also looking to Twitter, a free Web-based messaging and networking service that invites users to submit a 140-character answer to one simple question: What are you doing right now?
Builders, architects, and organizations, as well as product manufacturers, journalists, and homeowners, are sharing their knowledge—or at least their latest rant–on Twitter. The green movement, in particular, has found a home on Twitter, where users post and/or link to their thoughts on eco-friendly products, certification programs, President-Elect Obama’s proposed energy policies, and more.
What Is Twitter?
Twitter isn’t easy to classify. It shares qualities with blogging, social networking, instant messaging, and chatting, but is not exactly any of these things. Twitter provides an easy, quick, and cheap way to deliver messages by allowing you to broadcast 140-character “tweets” to your followers from your computer or cell phone -- everything from what you’re doing right now (“at Starbucks having a latte”) to posting links to press releases about your latest projects (“Florida home certified LEED-Platinum”) to interesting links you want to share. Users choose which people, companies, or organizations they want to “follow” through a customized news feed.
“I’ve learned more on Twitter than I have on LEED’s or NAHB’s Web sites,” says Gleason, senior vice president of process excellence for Philadelphia-based real estate developer and production builder Dewey Homes. “Twittering has given me a good way to follow builders and see what they’re talking about and what they’re doing in this area.”
“Excited about the possibility of adding another R10 or so to our roof economically with a spray foam roof - http://is.gd/6Dyk,” reads one of Ludeman’s recent entries. (That funny-looking link is a shortened Web address—various Web sites, such as www.tinyurl.com, will take long url addresses and shorten them so that you can fit it into your Twitter entry.)
“Best find of the day at Greenbuild was Verve wireless and automated lighting system. Money,” reads another.
Gleason, who also searches Twitter for topics like LEED for Homes or to get links for more information, says he likes to read updates on Twitter because they’re less formal than newsletters, blogs, or other social media.
Because of the more informal, conversational approach, “People are more apt to share their struggles on Twitter than they are in other places,” Gleason says. “As I’m building my houses, I’m looking at stuff [Ludeman] is talking about and saying, ‘Huh, did I think about that for my project?’”
Another advantage of Twitter is its ability to integrate into other social media applications. When Ludeman posts a tweet, for instance, it also goes up on the developer’s blog and Facebook page.
Besides gathering information, Twitter also helps building pros demonstrate their expertise, promote their projects, and connect with potential customers. Ludeman, president of development firm Postgreen, says much of the press his $100,000 green home receives comes from his blog and Twitter feed. While he blogs once or twice a day, he often posts messages throughout the day on Twitter.
“A lot of what we’re doing is trying to educate people about green building and prove green building can be affordable,” Ludeman says.
Likewise, Twitter is a cost-effective way for builders to keep their names on the minds of potential customers, even in a declining market, says Jim Tome, director of interactive technologies at Chicago-area marketing firm DC Interactive Group, which counts local, regional, and national builders among its clients.
Tome says builders can tweet several times a day about something educational, such as a link to a story about regional real estate prices, and home buyers will start relying on them for unbiased information. “They know you’re around and trust you when times get better,” he says.
Finally, while so-called Web 2.0 applications are all the rage, Darcie Meihoff, managing director of public relations for CMD, which represents window and door manufacturer Jeld-Wen, urges companies to make sure the content is educational or news rather than promotional. “It’s more about being positioned as an expert in the field,” she contends.