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Apartments to Hot Sauce

Our articles that have garnered national media attention and feature stories in Entrepreneur, Business Week, NY Times, Harvard Business Review, Builder, BizNet and Multifamily Executive. We were named as a Voice of Innovation in Social Media in Business Week magazine,

Do You Believe in this new thing, Social Media

I have been thinking a lot lately about Engagement, and Contests and how we can create much more leverage with partnering and social media. We have all done far too many not so successful Contests, where the effort and investment fall far short of the mark.

Last year we wanted to add furnished apartment photos to our Urbane Apartments web site, and with people in the photos. We tried using hired models, but that was pretty expensive and looked too staged. We ended up doing a photo shoot, where we sent out a photographer for the shoot and traded the pictures for rent. We got some excellent photos and Urbane Resident participation.

 So, all is good right, well sort of, but when we totaled up all the free rent, while it may have been a great deal based on what we got (live models are over the top expensive), we think there is a better way, and how we are approaching Contests and Social Media in 2010.

For instance, What if we would have partnered with say, Kodak for our contest, they get exposure (no pun intended) for their product on our web sites, and with our demographic, and we could have gotten an array of things in exchange for that, including the spread of the photos on their many photography blogs and blogger following; think Link Love.

 Partnership Marketing

One of our most successful Contests and Events at Urbane happened this fall when we partnered with Sharpie Pens for our Sharpie Draw on the Walls Contest. Not only was it a huge hit, we also landed on Sharpie's web site, which gave us a pretty big SEO boost, theres that Link Love again.

When I heard that Erica Campbell from For Rent was our Guest on our weekly Blog Talk Radio Program, Apartment Marketing Gone Digital, I knew what my questions for her would be, Contests and Engagement. For Rent has been a leader in Video Contests , and I was hoping that Erica could share some of those experiences, which she did. 

Accordingly, and although it isn't yet complete, For Rents Viva La Vie Boheme in your apartment and win tickets to RENT: The Broadway Tour may well prove to be pretty effective for a lot of reasons, but mostly because of Partnership Marketing.

Who Can You Partner With

Think about this, Pepsi is Skipping the Superbowl this year in exchange for a Social Media Project. There ARE apartment opertaors out there big enough to partner with a big brand like that, and get mega Google Juice, huge exposure and lower marketing costs, IF you believe in this new thing called Social Media Marketing. 

 Eric has over (30) years in the Multifamily Apartment Business having built and developed over 14,000 apartment units. Eric is Available for Social Media Marketing Projects for your Apartment Community or Property Management Company. You can read more about The Urbane Way of Apartment Marketing from his articles on his blog the ApartmentVeteran.com 


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  • Figuring out what is going to work for an individual company is a work in progress otherwise Pepsi would have just stuck with what they have always done. Energetic creative marketing and willing to experiment is what helps us to find that niche and expand upon what starts as minimal success and will morph into maximum success because of persistence and perseverance. Thanks for the post and continued good example you set Eric. All the best to you and your family this week.

  • Hey Jonathan, Thanks for the kind words,and happy holidays to you too.

    You are right, this is all a work in progress. What is fascinating though is the depth that big brands are immersing themselves in the whole Social Media two way marketing approach.

  • You're on it brotha!

  • Eric- I couldn't agree with you more on partnership marketing. Can online video and user-generated content engage end-users enough to significantly improve Web site traffic? As a well-known name among industry professionals in multi-housing, For Rent Media Solutions wanted to strengthen its relationship with consumers. Partnership marketing is something we would like to experiment with even more. Costs are high when you run a consumer contest and measuring the return on social media as we all know can be rather challenging. My advice for any consumer contest is to make sure that it is an integrated marketing approach with layered marketing. I know that I mentioned a few stats about the ForRent.com video contests on the Apartment Marketing Gone Digital podcast last week but here are some additional stats:

    2008 “If Only Your Apartment Furniture Could Talk” Video Contest
    Contest Concept: The ForRent.com “If Only Your Apartment Furniture Could Talk” consumer video contest encouraged apartment renters to create a short video that told ForRent.com through the eyes and voice of their apartment furniture why they deserve to win $10,000. The grand prize winner received $10,000 to re-furnish their apartment home.

    Results: The winning videos were selected from more than 50 submissions created by ForRent.com enthusiasts from around the country. On average, during the contest period, ForRent.com’s direct navigation increased 57% in 2008 when compared to the same time frame in 2007 and converted into nearly 300 direct contacts. The video contest received more than 49,000 unique visitors and more than 251,000 page views. The average time on site per user was more than 3 minutes. More than 500 consumers created personalized member profiles with pictures and were able to interact with others via commenting, rating, voting and adding to favorites.

    The videos received more than 2,400 votes, more than 500 comments and more than 346,000 video views. The online banner advertising campaign to support the promotion received more than 193 million impressions and more than 128,000 clicks to ForRent.com and the contest Web site. In an effort to generate more exposure, the videos were syndicated to major social networking and video-sharing sites and received more than 3,000 additional views.

    2009 “Ready2Move?” Video Contest
    Contest Concept: Our 2009 consumer promotion was a creative tactic that allowed us to interact directly with potential renters, create brand loyalists and drive more traffic to ForRent.com. This year’s contest asked renters and potential renters alike to tell ForRent.com why they were ready to move. Their plea had to be given through a video, one minute or shorter, and was judged based on the following criteria:
    •Overall quality/appearance
    •Relevance to the contest theme
    •Promotion of the ForRent.com and or For Rent Magazine® brand

    Results: In 2009 we received more than 100 videos which was a 141% increase over 2008. The video contest received more than 79,000 unique visitors, a 61% increase over 2008 and more than 335,000 pageviews, a 40% increase over 2008. The average time on site per users was more than 3 minutes.

    More than 4,800 users created logins for the site to comment, rate and vote, an 807% increase from 2008.
    The videos received more than 24,600 votes, an 897% increase from 2008. In addition, the videos received more than 1,500 comments, a 186% increase from 2008. The online banner advertising campaign to support the promotion received more than 239 million impressions, a 24% increase from 2008.

    It was important for us to create a catchy theme/concept to encourage high response from participants. We chose one that was fun and allowed the end-user to be creative. We also did a sweepstakes this year, which we did not do with our 2008 consumer promotion. The sweepstakes lowered the barrier of entry. As a result, we drew in more than 4,800 registered users. Lastly, you must offer a prize! According to research, the best way to generate a lot of entries for a video contest is to offer a cash prize. More than half of the online video contests reviewed in June 2009 offered a top prize of cash or cash equivalents like gift certificates and college scholarships, ranging from $200 to $22,000. We offered our grand prize winner $10,000. Three finalists each received an iPod Touch and the lucky voter who won our voting sweepstakes took home $1,500.

  • The statistics tell a robust story but a critical additional dimension is the brand affinity ForRent.com was able to build. Becoming top of mind and to be poised effectively in someone’s consideration set when they are in-market for a new apartment is key. Attracting the younger demographic helps secure a consumer as they continue to make housing decisions through the years.

    There is also an inherent level of authenticity that comes from consumer conversations. The interest and leads received are more personal as people are sharing their story and ForRent.com can use these insights to serve up the best solution to meet their unique needs.

    As Eric mentioned, we recently just partnered up with RENT: The Broadway Tour for a Twitter ([url]http://blog.forrent.com/contests/forrentcom-and-rent-the-broadway-tour-contests[/url]) and Facebook ([url]http://blog.forrent.com/contests/viva-la-vie-boheme[/url]) promotion. I will report back in January on the success of those two campaigns.


  • Most excellent brain-share, Erica and Eric. You guys are channeling the same thoughts through different personages; hmmmm...you are 2 different people right? (;

    We've chatted numerous times about the creative channels by which the culture of a community and company, and their respective brands can be distributed. Cleverly crafted, a 60 second bit of video footage can catapult a brand's message all over the world and stay alive for decades.

    Clearly, ILS's and TV commercials alike understand that. Going way back into the cobwebby vault of advertising, when I say, "Where's the Beef?", most of you reading this discussion know exactly what product I'm referencing. That message is memorable, it's informative, it's funny, it starred senior citizens, yet appealed to all ages. It is brilliant and priceless media that while marketing the corporate message, it stimulated the viewer - or hamburger eater - to ask the question, "Hey...where IS the beef?" If you ask me, I think that qualifies as Social Media. Conversation-stimulator.

    Social Networking...now that's a whole different ball of wax to load into your adpit (Rhymes with Brad Pitt).

    2009 has been The Explosion year in official Social Media nomenclature; "Tweeting", "Facebooked", "LinkedIn".... It has certainly been a pivotal year in companies' posturing regarding their decision to the adoption of Social Media as a marketing mouthpiece or to run away from it like someone's hair was on fire.

    Maybe we can all agree that there are disagreements on a unified stance on the 2009 clear value or purpose of Social Media.
    AND I think we can all agree that in 2010 there's gonna be even MORE disagreement.
    One big discussion item I believe will be a differentiator comes in the term "Social Networking".

    It can be duly noted that both business users and consumers have barely scratched the surface of opportunity that the tools surrounding Social Media can provide, but as for me and my RentWiki self, I see Social Networking focus as THE Groundswell in 2010; as "40 is the new 30","Green is the new Black" and "Tweetups" and "#AptChat" are the places to be and be seen.

    Erica's stats of the success behind video messaging are a big "Cha-Ching" with the way people everywhere are communicating their views. They like showing what they know. RentWiki.com's user contributed content about neighborhoods soared in the 4th quarter of 2009.

    People want to share their thoughts, but if it's just a place to vent, where's the "engagement"? Don't they all want to be listened to. Sharing takes two, a giver a taker and a giver back.

    In summation and once again revisiting my fave nostalgic Social Networking Hero, Mr. Rogers, reminded us beating the streets in the multifamily industry that "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood", "It's nice to share" and "Won't you be my neighbor"?

    And for all of you youngsters who don't know what I referenced in "Where's the beef"? Google it.

  • What I see as common denominators for success - the campaign has to deliver unexpectedly and delight the end user enough to engage them and pass it on. Think about the JC Penney Doghouse. Hilarious and spot on. And by the way, did you know you could buy jewelry at JCP?
    I've always thought a "If My Refrigerator Could Talk" campaign could be the ticket.

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