Listen, Learn and Join In: Online

Management companies all across the country are looking to the power of social media to bridge the communications gap with their residents. The cover story in the October issue of UNITS Magazine asks top industry leaders what challenges and opportunities they’re discovering to “track the social media buzz.”

Residents aren’t just discussing apartment communities at the pool or in the clubhouse, they’re chatting online right now. For that reason, Consultant and Author Andy Beal, CEO of social media monitoring tool provider Trackur, recommends that companies should at least listen to what’s being said about their reputation online. “It provides a tremendous opportunity for you to hear what your customers, business partners and employees are saying about your business,” he says. “It’s free market research.”

UNIT’S Jeffrey Lee spoke to a variety of industry leaders, below are excerpts from his findings:

Companies such as Camden, are testing and evaluating results before engaging large-scale at the community level. Camden has set up a handful of communities on Twitter and Facebook and is about to launch another 20, says John Selindh, Vice President of Marketing for the REIT with more than 60,000 apartments. “We’re looking to see what kind of feedback we get and what it does for our prospects and residents,” he says. “It’s easy to create but more difficult to keep up. We’re making sure it’s sustainable and also that there’s value there for our customers. We all need to be careful not getting so caught up in interactions online that we forget our residents live right down the hall from us.”

It’s important for all businesses to take a strong, proactive and open-minded approach on how to engage, says Michael Egan, General Manager of the Home division at Internet Brands, the parent company of ApartmentRatings.com. He suggests apartment companies follow the leads of other businesses, such as restaurants, that do a good job of engaging with online feedback. The site allows property managers to register through a “manager center,” where they can set up a profile and identify themselves as manager of the communities in their profile. The manager center allows them to respond to questions and statements and update information on their community, Egan says. Participating in such ways helps to establish the company as a member of the community, he explains. “When management takes a proactive view, or a set of actions that helps to establish their reputation outside of a confrontational stance, they tend to build a reputation that is respected,” Egan says. “So when people complain, the companies’ responses become much more meaningful rather than reactionary.”

AvalonBay’s Thompson describes his company’s engagement strategy as a three-step process: listen, engage and measure. “Engage” refers to the company’s efforts to engage in the conversation by offering information such as corporate news, coupons, or relevant local events. “That allows the opportunity for us to proactively discuss what’s being said out there,” Thompson says. “Measure” is the final step to determine the impact of the company’s efforts on factors such as generating leads and improving customer satisfaction.

For more on social media insights, responding to rants and protecting your content, see the full article: http://www.naahq.org/memberonly/Pages/LookWhosTalkingManagingYourOnlineReputation.aspx