Cover Story: Retain Residents Through Social Media
Social media and social networking are abuzz. It's hard to read the newspaper, go online or turn on the TV without seeing news on a social media channel that's going to revolutionize the way we communicate. Friend, fan or favorite someone or something on Facebook this week? Current on all this morning's Tweets? While the information can become overwhelming and confusing - especially as many industries are still experimenting with this medium - think of it as bringing face-to-face conversations into a new space online.
What is the social media opportunity for the leasing office? Social media can complement existing online marketing and customer service efforts to help establish stronger relationships with residents and retain them as long-term renters. Social media sites also present a unique opportunity to provide apartment communities that may not have the resources to create their own Web site with a venue to communicate and interact with prospects and residents.
It makes sense that residents respond well to social media, which is all about creating - and participating in - conversations. Since we are all social creatures that want to be heard, social media networks provide an online forum where property managers and leasing professionals can seamlessly connect with their residents and talk in real time. Likewise, residents can communicate with one another, strengthening the community lifestyle.
Prior to putting a social media strategy in motion, it's important to understand the basics. In the Helpful Hints section of this newsletter, Apartments.com provides 10 Steps to Social Media Success.
Create a Sense of Community Online
Residents who play together stay together. Creating an online forum where they can congregate, keep informed and interact promotes a stronger sense of community for everyone living at the professionally managed property. By designing apartment community profile pages on popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, leasing professionals create instant access to residents while offering an online community where those living at the property can communicate with one another.
Once the apartment community profile pages have been created, build a resident network. Invite residents and employees to become fans, friends and followers of the apartment community profile pages on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. To find residents on the different social media sites, conduct a search and invite them to become a part of the apartment community network. Remember to promote this social media presence on the property Web site, in monthly newsletters, brochures, email signatures and email communications.
With the social media profiles and resident network complete, start engaging residents through compelling and interactive content. Provide updates on parking availability, new on-site community features and neighborhood hot spots. Create message and discussion boards for babysitting and dog walking services to connect residents with one another. Inspire competition among those living at the community while filling vacancies by announcing resident referral offers and contests. To strengthen the resident community offline, market upcoming events such as happy hours through common social media features like event invitations, status updates and wall postings. These communications notify residents instantly by appearing in their newsfeeds. Don't forget to post photos and videos from these events to continue to engage residents and attract more attendees at the next function.
Join the Conversation and Stay Engaged
Social media is also an effective customer service tool because it enables leasing professionals to respond immediately to resident feedback, concerns, complaints and questions. Those who have conducted moving-in and moving-out surveys have probably observed a direct correlation between high scores on customer service and resident retention. Moving this type of exchange to a public online forum is understandably a little scary as no one wants to receive a negative comment or review. However, a negative situation can be turned into a positive one if the leasing staff is engaged.
While social media sites do not cost anything to create, there is a time and resource investment. The key to success is to be engaged with the conversations as they happen online. Social media management resources such as Tweet Deck help to streamline the monitoring process. By organizing these different dialogues on Twitter and Facebook, the leasing staff can easily manage, monitor and respond.
Happy residents are residents who stay. Social media offers a unique communication platform for cultivating meaningful relationships through ongoing dialogue that give residents a voice. By joining the conversation and responding to the needs of residents, leasing professionals earn confidence, build trust and create a sense of community and security for everyone living at their property. After time, residents may even help fill vacancies through referrals. Don't miss out! Get online, start socializing and reap the rewards!
- Follow Apartments.com on Twitter @Apartmentscom as the go-to resource for the latest news and trends happening at Apartments.com and in the multifamily industry, online advertising and social media. As an additional treat, enjoy a daily dose of expertise from the new Apartments.com Tweet-torial - a daily tip, stat or tidbit of info not to be missed!
- Become a fan and friend of Apartments.com on Facebook and MySpace.
- Prior to putting a social media strategy in place, read 10 Steps to Social Media Success located in the Helpful Hints section.
- Looking for more effective ways to connect with renters and retain residents? Check out the recent launch of MyMedia in the Product Spotlight section.