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How Real Estate Brand BHGRE Became a Publisher Featured on Flipboard

One way to breathe new life into an old brand is to aggressively leverage social media technology, and that's exactly what Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC, a startup launched (at a tech conference) in San Francisco three years ago is doing.

The company, which is headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey, licensed the right to use the household name of the magazine founded in 1922 from media giant Meredith. The license runs for 100 years.

"On the one hand we had to overcome the stigma of 'that's a magazine my grandma used to read,' " explains BHGRE's president and CEO Sherry Chris. "But on the other, it's got 97% brand recognition. Now we're building it out on a social platform to reach out to the next generation of buyers, sellers, agents and brokers."

As of two weeks ago, the company became the only real estate franchise whose content appears on Flipboard, the fast-growing Palo Alto "social magazine" that aggregates content (without ads) on the iPad.

BHGRE provides Flipboard with a mix of content, including its twitter feed, and Chris says that immediately upon integrating with Flipboard, traffic to their company blog spiked 5000%.

For Chris, this is all part of a conscious effort to appeal to the "echo boomers," 18-34 year-olds who "will drive real estate growth for the next 30 years," much as baby boomers drove it over the past 30. The company also is adapting to a changing real estate market, one that stresses lifestyle at its core.

"People don't buy a house so much any longer as they buy a lifestyle and a community," she says. The Flipboard channel really is a way to attract new agents and brokers, while at the same time gaining greater exposure among consumers.

The latest move by BHGRE continues its efforts to find new uses of social media, which included an early app for the iPhone that allows people to share photos and ratings of houses with their friends.

And, in the process, the licensee has become a publisher much like the magazine whose name it shares. "A lot of brands are becoming content providers today," notes Chris. "Brands today have to provide not marketing so much as meaningful content that people find useful."

Meanwhile, among traditional publishers, Meredith has been aggressive is its use of social media in recent years and reports that the fastest-growing audience segment of its 40 million readers of Better Homes & Gardens magazine are the echo boomers.

Which indicates that it may not be your grandma's BHG much longer.