Helpful Hints: 10 Steps to Social Media Success
Had enough of social media yet? If so, it is understandable. With so many social media channels Twittering and Flickering around us, it's daunting to know where to begin and how to participate. For a lot of marketers, social media is uncharted water, where many are throwing anything up to see what sticks. While we all have a lot to learn about this new media marvel, here are 10 steps to get up and running quickly. Remember that social media is about conversation. Any rules or courtesies that apply to a face-to-face social situation also apply to an online discussion.
Before jumping into social media scene, it's important to know how to respond and react to these conversations. A good first step is to do some due diligence. Become familiar with how others are successfully communicating online before creating a social media presence. These first five tips are focused on how to research, respond and react to social media.
Part I: Research, Respond & React
1. Listen & Observe - Don't forget social graces when embarking on new social media circles. Valuable insight can be gained from simply listening to what others are saying. Similar to any social gathering, there are group dynamics, which need to be understood and respected before jumping into the conversation. Search popular social media sites for interesting topics. Or, unearth what others are saying about the apartment community and leasing staff. BuzzLogic, Technorati, CoTweet and Tweet Deck are great resources for tracking mentions of companies and organizations, individuals and key words and phrases.
2. Join the Conversation - Use a conversational tone when contributing to the discussion. Remember the goal of social media is to engage others in conversation and build relationships. Do not blatantly push personal or business agendas. Social media users come to these sites to get away from people selling to them. If they suspect someone is marketing to them, they will shut that person out. Once a rapport has been established and trust has been earned, discussing products and services specific to one's business now becomes a natural part of the exchange. Social media is a great networking channel.
3. Don't Control the Conversation - Remember that social media is a public, and often, permanent conversation. People are going to say good and bad things about apartment communities and the leasing staff. Do not freak out if someone says something negative. Instead, take advantage of the conversation happening online. Think of social media as an extension of existing customer service efforts. Be responsive and helpful to gain consumer confidence in the apartment community while establishing a relationship of trust with current residents. Over time, resident retention will increase as those living at the apartment community know their leasing staff is listening. In response to this positive exchange, residents may grow to become ambassadors for the apartment community, resulting in new rental prospects to fill vacancies.
4. Respond in a Timely Manner - When participating in a social media conversation, it's critical to stay engaged. Like any face-to-face exchange, social media users expect a timely response to keep the conversation moving. Be responsive. Oftentimes, a negative conversation can be nipped in the bud with a quick reply. To keep a pulse on what's being said, assign a dedicated resource to monitor the conversations happening online. Resources like Tweet Deck help to manage social media activity by organizing searches into columns and groups.
5. Be Transparent - If contributing to a blog or social media conversation, be transparent. It takes years to establish a credible reputation and only a matter of seconds to ruin it. Always identify yourself and the apartment community being represented. Don't pretend to be someone else to either defend the apartment community to disgruntled residents, or to disparage the competition. Those who pretend will be found out. Instead, be honest and address the concerns being discussed. As a result, a deeper connection with residents may be established as well as attract new rental prospects who may be listening.
Now that the rules of the social media game have been established, it's time to create a compelling existence online. To do this well, one must identify the most popular sites, create a social media presence, build a network and produce meaningful content. The following steps are tailored to creating a strong social media presence.
Part II. Create A Strong Social Media Presence
6. Have Fun with Facebook and Mix It Up with MySpace - Facebook and MySpace are two of the most popular social networks right now. This makes them both relevant and valuable tools for connecting with residents where they congregate online. Create an online apartment community page for residents to receive news and updates on upcoming events, new on-site community features, neighborhood hot spots and referral offers. Before building an apartment community page, create a personal Facebook profile. Once the profile is complete, begin building an apartment community page. To design a community page on MySpace, simply click here. Don't just stop there! Leverage popular community features by singling them out with their own dedicated page. Have an amenity residents can't resist? Is the pool the social scene of the summer? If so, create Facebook Fan and MySpace pages for the pool where residents can interact with one another while receiving important announcements from the leasing office such as a notice that the pool has been closed that day for cleaning.
7. Tackle the Twittersphere - Also known as micro blogging, Twitter allows users to create and read messages up to 140 characters in length. These messages, known as tweets, will instantly appear in a user's Twitter newsfeed once a network of followers has been acquired (See tip #9 for building a network). Connect with residents by creating a Twitter community. Not only does Twitter create instant access to residents for important announcements at the apartment community, but it's also a great customer service tool. Gather valuable feedback from residents and rental prospects by listening to conversations as they happen. It's easy. Go to search.twitter.com and type in the name of the apartment community. To build a profile for the apartment community on Twitter, go to Getting Started and then read Best Practices for tips on success with tweets.
8. Leverage LinkedIn - LinkedIn is a professional networking site ideal for recruiting employees, finding a new job, or establishing industry expertise. Many LinkedIn users list their work or business experience and tend not to use this site to post personal updates or photos. Similar to Facebook, users have to set up a profile and have the option of joining groups based on their industries and interests. Participating in groups and answering questions specific to one's expertise helps to build a reputation and authority. The Apartment Buzz Network and Apartments Professionals groups are reliable resources for the latest news in the multifamily industry. These groups also encourage participation in a variety of relevant industry topics.
9. Build a Network - With an online presence on popular social media sites complete, it's time to build a network. Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Twitter allow users to import contacts from a variety of online email address accounts like Gmail and Yahoo! and will send an invitation out to selected contacts. To build a network and receive status updates from others on Twitter, begin following residents and other apartment communities already on the site. Typically the individuals, companies and organizations users choose to follow will reciprocate and thereby grow one's Twitter following. This is a great way to tailor an audience.
Creating a network on Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn is similar. First, search for residents and others that haven't already been imported through email. Once they have been located, request them to join the apartment community profile page. Friend requests can be sent to anyone on MySpace and Facebook. If the resident or individual accepts the request, they become a friend of the apartment community page. Facebook also has fan pages where users can request others to become a fan of the apartment community. Likewise, LinkedIn allows users to search for contacts and send invitations for others to join their network. If some residents aren't on any of these social media sites, send them an invitation to sign up and friend, fan or join the apartment community LinkedIn network. Grow these networks by promoting them and encouraging residents to join. Include links to all the social media profile pages for the apartment community on the property Web site, email signatures and monthly newsletter to residents.
10. Create Social Content - The key to engaging others on social media is to develop social content. Create a sense of community online by bringing people together or giving them a reason to engage with one another. On Facebook and MySpace, there are multiple tabs to customize for exchanging information with friends and fans. Instantly alert residents to new retention specials happening at the apartment community. Invite residents to apartment community events and track RSVPs through Facebook event invitation. Don't forget to post photos and videos from previous events to encourage new residents to attend the next mixer or happy hour. Inspire competition within the apartment community by conducting a resident referral contest on Twitter.