Social Networking or Social Not Working?

Author: Alecia Pirulis

“Social Networking Revolution”

“Social Networking or Social Not Working? Learn from the Pros” was the title for the Atlanta Apartment Association training seminar held on September 24th. Guest speakers included: Virginia Love, Vice President of Training and Marketing Waterton Residential; Ed Spiegel, Co-founder of RentMineOnline.com; Kimberly Scott, best known as ‘Video Girl” with Capture The Market, and myself. The positive feedback and requests for similar sessions led me to share the best ideas generated with you. You can also view the Tweets from the session by searching #AFSM at twitter.com.

We opened with the “Social Networking Revolution” video which I urge everyone to view. The video presents jaw-dropping statistics choreographed to music after which you feel the urge to friend, follow, and connect.

As a whole, residents have more friends, spend more time on social networking sites, and find its use more beneficial than property management. These were findings from the Research conducted in 2009 initiated by Apartment Finder and written by Josh Gordon. They also agree that they are more likely to renew and refer when they have friends on the property and 53% of residents don’t have any friends onsite. This is the area we have identified as having the most immediate impact on ROI.

Network Residents Managers
Facebook 77.70% 79.40%
MySpace 54.00% 41.80%
Twitter 23.40% 31.40%
Classmates.com 18.80% 13.90%
LinkedIn 14.20% 45.90%
Yahoo Buzz! 5.40% 5.70%
AOL Community 4.30% 3.10%
MyLife.com 4.30% 1.00%
FriendFeed 0.30% 0.00%

Who are the social media users as they pertain to our communities? A common misbelief that college and urban properties are the main users of social networking was diffused; it is universal throughout races, cultures, and ages. The fastest growing segment of Facebook users are between the ages of 55 and 65. Hispanics are spending an average of 5 hours per week utilizing mobile applications on cell phones compared to the median usage of 3 hours per week. Check out additional demographics for each social networking site at Quantcast.com.

The power of marketing has shifted and your resident’s feedback will not contribute to the success of your marketing strategy. Prospective residents now research your community on rating sites, but how do we control the posts? Awareness is the first critical step. Search your community on kudzu.com or check out Yelp.com. Pay your satisfied residents to go online and blog positively about your community. Waterton Residential rewards positive feedback with a five dollar gift card to Starbuck’s. Find negative feedback? Embrace the negative. Virginia’s rule to handle complaints: address, apologize, and move on. One resolution to a problem posted online can have more positive impact than 100 great reviews, it’s always an opportunity!

Taking the leap into social media requires two steadfast rules, per Virginia Love who credits Grace Hill with:

  1. Don’t bother if you aren’t going to communicate actively
  2. Take action on feedback.

Ed Spiegel, founder and CEO of RentMineOnline.com shared a quote from The Facebook Era by Clara Shih, “Social capital is the currency of business interactions and relationships.” With 300 million users on Facebook in mid-September, Facebook has launched new products in support of companies that build on relationships. Thread brings “dating” to facebook by connecting friends and friends of friends for dating purposes. For those looking to carpool, Zimride is your application. Boston based friends can connect through Run My Errand where one user was able to find a trustworthy social connection traveling to New York who was willing to transport the family pet.

Over 80% of consumers prefer to be communicated with via email and any social media strategy requires these at inception. Your first order of business is to collect and audit email addresses on current residents. How do you gather this information? Try a contest where anyone updating their email address is entered into a drawing for a flat screen TV, or make an email address part of the standard information gathered at lease at signing.

The power of video and its positive impact on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was reviewed by Kimberly Scott. In layman’s terms, SEO is the likelihood your property will be displayed in unpaid or natural search results if you have posted it to YouTube. Beyond video of the community itself, use video to literally walk your prospects around neighborhood restaurants, coffee shops, and other establishments that might pique their interest. Video of area retail stores is acceptable as long as the stores are not mentioned by brand name.

Where liability is concerned, Kimberly noted we are video taped as often as 7 times a day without our knowledge at gas stations, ATM machines, and retail stores. As long as the video is not concentrated on an individual, there is no release needed to share on the internet. Capture the Market posts a sign at a conspicuous location near the entrance of a videoed community event stating that video taping is being conducted and may be shared. An addendum to the lease giving the property consent to publish photos and videos is another prudent idea to reduce exposure.

To get your feet wet, ask employees to join a specified platform and connect with you. Experiment with post amongst the team to establish professional guidelines for 30 days and then take it live to your residents. It takes 12 months to move from inception to measurable results. – – – So which social networking platform will you choose? Twitter? Facebook? MySpace? I would love to hear your success stories!