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‘BuzzFeed of Springfield’ propels Murney marketing

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Two years ago, Kyle Drenon pitched an outside-of-the-box marketing idea to leadership at Murney Associates, Realtors.

Not only did the company agree to implement his plan, but they also made the firm’s former marketing coordinator and graphic designer its director of marketing as a bonus. The idea was simple: create a “BuzzFeed of Springfield” that targets local residents emotionally and on a personal, individual level through nostalgia and fun articles that are easy to read. Ultimately, the posts would draw people to Murney’s website.

“I feel like we were uniquely qualified to discuss what makes Springfield a great place to live,” Drenon said.

Today, Drenon posts two to three blog posts a week for the blog. Similar to entertainment website BuzzFeed, the blog uses “listicles,” a type of post popularized by the media outlet that’s presented in whole or in part as a list.

For Murney, that means such posts as “30 Closed Springfield Businesses We Really Miss,” “26 Things Only People Who Lived in SGF in the ’90s Will Remember” and “7 Springfield Power Couples You Need to Meet.” Rarely are posts about real estate or the properties Murney is selling, but Drenon said that’s OK.

“We feel like we’re selling more than just a home. We’re selling the community around a home as well,” he said.

Others are taking note.

Sherry Cook, a senior instructor in Missouri State University’s marketing department and co-owner of “The Quirkles” educational book series for children, credits Murney with following what’s known as the cocktail party rule.

“If you talk about yourself all the time and you do a hardcore marketing come-on, people won’t follow you,” she said. “In a cocktail party, if you talk about yourself all the time, you’re a hopeless bore.”

Cook said a general rule of thumb in online marketing is to have 20 percent branded content, with the remainder being value-added pieces that people want to read as entertainment or edutainment.

Of course, the Murney blog is meant to do more than entertain. The idea is for people to visit other areas of the website after checking out new blog posts. Bridging the gap from watching a video about businessman Doug Pitt’s childhood home to potentially buying a property is important, Drenon said.

Industry statistics posted by Washington, D.C., software and service firm Contactually found that last year 80 percent of all homebuyers searched properties online; 83 percent wanted to see pictures of the property online first; and 52 percent used smartphones in their home search.

“People find the home they’re going to buy on the web, and that number has been growing for many years,” Drenon said.

At Murney.com, the blog helped grow annual online sessions to 1.5 million from 1.1 million before Drenon started posting community-focused entertainment articles. Google Analytics defines sessions as a group of user interactions with a website that take place within a certain period of time. A single session can include multiple page views, events, social interactions and e-commerce transactions, according to Support.Google.com.

Drenon is quick to point to this data, because measuring the return on investment on digital marketing is difficult since the firm isn’t able to match internet protocol addresses — numeric designations indicating locations on the internet — with physical addresses.

“That can be pretty difficult to put a dollar value on,” Drenon said. “So what we do is measure the success of our site.”

From blog content alone, Murney has generated 175,000 sessions so far this year, he said, noting posts typically fetch a few thousand apiece.

Murney’s casual marketing approach also stretches to social media, where Drenon engages with users in a way that’s more appropriate to that medium.

For instance, the Murney Facebook page may publish a post with pictures of four pools at various properties, asking users to comment about their favorite. Each has a link to the home.

“People don’t log into Facebook to search for real estate to buy. If we can show them what we do in a way that is what they came to Facebook for, we think we’re using the medium properly,” Drenon said. “I heard Bob Noble say one time, ‘If you have a URL, you are a publisher.’ I think that’s especially true right now.

“If you’re not putting out fresh content on your site all the time, you’re falling behind in the search rankings.”

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