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The Truth About Retention

There's no secret recipe for retaining residents or attracting new ones. In fact, the things that make the biggest impact can often be the most simple. Let me share what we've learned from over a million residents and prospects on what matters most in their rental and renewal decisions.

Resident Retention: Dare I Say It - Don't Believe the Hype

I know I'm dipping my toes into dangerous waters here, but I think it's time we take a good, hard look at the data surrounding social media and the hype associated with it. I fear I may be taking my life into my hands, but we've got some new data to work with that may start some very valuable conversation - so to me, it's worth the risk!

The industry marketplace is filled with seminars, tutorials, podcasts, chat rooms and articles on how to get the most out of your social media marketing strategy. There is no denying that our culture is embracing social media in a variety of aspects of life, however, the data is currently showing it has not gained enough of a foothold in the rental housing market to be an effective leasing or community-building strategy. Based on data from SatisFacts’ 4th Quarter 2009 Annual Resident Satisfaction Surveys, when asked “When you rented at this community, what sources of information did you use to find out about the community?” only 1.24% of residents identified social networking sites, such as Facebook or MySpace…and Twitter was not identified by any respondents.

In addition to being promoted as a way to find new prospects, social media/social networking sites are also receiving a lot of attention and focus as a great way to build visibility and community among residents and prospects, the reality is that residents prefer to be contacted by email or cell phone. Respondents to the SatisFacts Annual Resident Satisfaction Survey were not limited to one method of communication, yet social networking sites were preferred by less than 1%.

 

 

 

 

 

Let me be very clear. I am not saying that there is absolutely no value to having a social media element to your overall marketing strategy. There are several examples of property management companies who have been successful by creating and implementing a very thoughtful, targeted social media marketing campaign. However, for the vast majority we have to carefully examine the question posed by Sean Carton in his article, A Social Media Strategy Checklist (http://ow.ly/pdd2), “What will we do less of if we’re spending resources on social media?”

 

The fear is that our leasing teams are spending less time returning current resident calls and emails. Less time on taking detailed service requests. Less time making it easy for a resident to be...a resident, and therefore making it an easier decision for a resident to be romanced by the great move-in deals down the street where they imagine they might receive better service in addition to a better price.  Likewise, the more time being spent on social media each day also means less time to follow up with prospective residents as well.

 

The message? Yes, it’s important to fill those vacancies, but it’s even more critical to maintain the current resident base to ensure cash flow and protect NOI. Before hanging all hopes on social media strategies, take a serious look at what your teams will be doing “less of” if they are doing more social media.

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  • To answer your question Mark, I had owned BMWs in the past, and wanted to go back to BMWs after owning a different import. When I moved to Baltimore there was only one dealer close to my home...so I went there, test drove several, picked the one I wanted, bought it on the spot and drove it home.

  • @Israel @Lori - Yes! I think it is definitely important to acknowledge that we all are doing what we believe is best in all aspects of our business. And there are a lot of new practices coming into play on a daily basis, so it is important to evaluate them as carefully as we can.

    @Charity - Thank you for reminding us that social media is a "customer service tool," and one of many tools available. Just as individual people have differing strengths and talents, individual properties and portfolios have differing strengths and success with their different customer service tools. It's forums like these that allow us to share these strengths and successes for the good of the industry and our customers!

    @Mike - I'm very interested to see how property management companies, and all industries, eventually define "success" for their social media strategies. Thanks for continuing to stay in this conversation!

  • Thanks for your post Jenn. This has been on my mind alot lately and I am glad you said it. We started implementing Social Media Sites into our communities about 18 months ago and it is very difficult to build a really solid resident following. We have tried very hard. I have been to several big conventions the last 3 years and I have been bombarded with Social Media Sessions. I think it is important to have FB and twitter, but re-designing your advertising plan to accomodate it is a mistake. Lastly, it appears to me that communities that have a SM strategy implemented from the time they start pre-construction marketing seem to have a higher success rate with SM than stabilized communities trying to get tenants to join their pages. I could tell you some properties to look at if you would like tweet me. You get the oppurtunity to get all new prospects and tenants to sign up on your sites when you are leasing to them. Getting tenants to sign up for something that they dont have to do after they have already moved in is very difficult in my experience. Our tenants have lives and they are probably interested in living them rather than browsing throught our facebook pages. Anyway, thats my rant. Get prospects to sign up the first time they come in and you will get more fans. Thanks Jenn

  • @Doug, so how does that BMW dealer (or BMW in general) measure your purchase in marketing metrics? They can't. It was about the experience for you. The experience you had by owning one in the past, the experience you had in owning a different brand of car, the convenient location making your travel/search experience more efficient, the opportunity to experience the vehicle first hand, and the availability of the one you wanted allowing you to experience instant gratification.

    None of that relates back to you doing research online anywhere, talking to people you know that own BMWs, seeing a billboard or commercial, or reading the Sunday ads. Even if those things were to have influenced you it was still about the experience when you made your decision.

    That's what social media allows companies to do, enhance the experience. It's not about "selling" anything or "promoting" anything and pushing a message at someone. It's about enhancing the experience and possibly, just maybe, getting customers to share that experience with others by just clicking their mouse. That of course depends on what kind of online experience you are delivering, and that is tough to measure with "traditional" metrics.

    The way I see it, the goal with social media is not the lead or the sale necessarily (that is ideally an indirect result.) It's about creating more value. Creating more value for a brand or product that a customer currently lumps in a pool of other brands or products as a commodity. Having a unique human voice and maximizing communication channels available to us just makes sense if we're trying to differentiate ourselves beyond location, price, features, and amenities.

    If we can use these tools to build more value then we should experience the ability to charge more for our product, have less pressure to "sell", and see increased demand. All of this by just being better people, and providing better experiences. Thus, putting less pressure on expensive product enhancements, overpriced marketing advertisements, and price.

    The beauty of all this is that it can be copied, but never duplicated. My voice is different than my community managers' voices, and the voices of another company is different than ours. There is no cookie-cutter approach because we're not a society of robots. We have the opportunity to take our product and give it a unique voice vs. canning it up and making it look like all the others. Some may disagree or just not get it. The metrics might not ad up or it may be difficult to measure. But I'm OK with that. To me, it just makes more sense, just like it made more sense for you to buy another BMW.

  • Love the conversation...this is great. I know I have my beliefs, but it is invaluable to be exposed to divergent views on this. Seeing all of the different thoughts is really valuable and thought provoking.

    I failed to mention that the dealership I visited was new and I saw their ad on TV - I hated my other car and the ad got me motivated to visit. I am sure BMW and the dealer want to know which advertising and marketing programs are delivering qualified prospects - so they can get the most return out of their budget.

    I am not against social media. I know there is some value. How much, I don't know. Today is it delivering value? Not sure. I look forward to seeing how this develops. If it can become a really valuable tool, great. I know you can't measure everything. Sure, and not everything needs to be measured. But given limited time and resources, I am sure you would agree that those areas that are known to have an impact warrant priority attention over things that have an unknown value/return (today).

    My biggest concern is the often-time OCB related to social media. Oh, it's sexy. It's a hot topic. And, yea, it's more fun to focus on than submitting detailed work orders and making sure toilets are fixed properly and promptly.

    But there are much bigger fish to fry, like getting leasing associates to follow up with prospects and residents. Getting staffs to have more than 20, 30, 40 or 50% of their resident (correct/current) emails and cell phones in the pm system.

    My concern with SM is that for the typical property it is a distraction to the things that really impact property performance. Fun, sure! Impactful? Who knows? But until we know, until we see residents and prospects showing/sharing their value, I will continue to question where it belongs in the pecking order. Our research shows where attention is needed...today. And it shows this isn't about not focusing more attention on the hum-drum day-to-day basics of customer service. Again, yawn, great/detailed work orders from the leasing staff, returning resident phone calls and emails the same day, fixing broken toilets promptly and properly are boring topics - but that's more important...at least today...than SM is in terms of impacting bottom line financial performance given the "ginormous" NOI hit vacancy/turnover causes.

    And don't forget about property portals which can/should be loaded with online functionality that residents want (online work orders, rent payment, email the manager, property updates, etc.). There is a great deal of money invested in these powerful service delivery tools, tools that are built to help residents when they need it, 24-7. Portals and Facebook pages. Where should our time and resources be spent? What delivers more of what residents really want...today?

    Tag, you're it. I am all ears...love this conversation...Jen thanks for starting this conversation!

  • @Greg - Thanks for sharing your experience and insight! It sounds like you have definitely learned some lessons on what is working (and not working) for your portfolio. I'd love to see examples of what your properties are doing. I'm on Twitter @SFRJen

  • @Doug Yep, you're right. All of those things need to be focused on and those "yawn" services need to be improved. That is all part of social media as well (in a roundabout way). I don't think anyone is saying that social media is the saving grace of apartment communication. It's just another channel people have an opportunity to tap into. The power of it and the Internet in general is bigger than any of us can probably fathom today! There is a smart way to apply the tools and having a strategy is critical. It's not about "hanging out" on facebook or Twitter, and it's not just about facebook and Twitter either. And those property portals you are talking about are, or at least should be, a social media tool themselves.

    As far as time and resources, is 30 minutes a day too much to ask? That's a question for any on site folks that have tolerated this conversation so far. :)

    Great conversation everyone BTW.

  • I am not a site person, but given how many people outsource CL postings, I don't know how realistic it is for people on the property level to spend 30 minutes a day (on something that requires a lot more imagination that CL postings). It can if something else gives or management is really monitoring it.

    Personally, I work 50-55 hours a week, have a lot of flexibility and am committed to social media, but I don't think I'm getting in 30 minutes a day.

    I am having a meeting with a 5000 unit property management company on Monday which is going to start having their property level people do social media. The point of my visit is to try to get them to use a tech tool that will help them track that people are actually posting, what people are writing in comments, Yelp, etc. It's an inexpensive proposition and mgmt is resisting. But I know the site level people. This is a very old school workforce and the overwhelming majority of them will let social media chores slip if no one is watching. So even if mgmt decides a commitment to social media, even 5 minutes a day, is realistic, how do you know site people will follow through?

  • @Mark - I think you do raise an interesting point on how much time is an effective amount of time to commit to social media tools, whether it is Facebook, Twitter or property portals.

    @Ellen - I hear you! You're facing an interesting dichotomy, I think, where your old school clients may not be willing to devote any time to social media, and new school clients may be devoting too much (at the risk of neglecting basic customer service). I once asked Tami Siewruk of Multifamilypro how to possibly balance a social media campaign effectively between blog posts, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. The advice she gave me was to make my plan on what social media avenues were going to be most effective for what I was going to accomplish, and then devote only 5 minutes a day to each. Obviously, blog posts would need a little more time, but on a weekly basis, not a daily basis. It gave me a great starting point, and is the best advice I have gotten on the subject so far.

    So from site experience, what is feasible and effective? 5 minutes a day? 30 minutes a day?

  • This discussion continues to be valuable...new ways of looking at things. A couple of quickies, then I am going to go dark for a bit...I'll explain.

    Don't mistake my questions for not being in favor of expanding communications to residents and prospects. One issue is that since the average leasing associate already does not do a great job of communicating with either, adding another thing to do will not help...and I doubt they will make proper use of the SM too (although I am sure they will love being able to chat with their friends all day online - since its likely acceptable to have FB open all day now - oh, yea, it's for work - lol!).

    I think a FB page, for example, can be valuable as long as it is kept simple, from the staff standpoint:
    - Post/introduce new staff members.
    - As needed service announcements ("Please note the back lot will be inaccessible for the next two days as it is being repaved...").
    - Do regular reminders about the online services available on the property/resident portal (online work orders, online rent payment, etc.).
    - Promote residents communicating with each other - creating a greater sense of community, friendships, etc.
    - Post approved quotes from resident emails and things like your resident survey/feedback programs.
    - Then...get back to work returning resident and prospect voicemail and email messages, following up with residents and prospects, submitting work orders, going on tours, etc.

    It will be intriguing to see how SM like FB and Twitter evolve, although I do question whether this will become a S(ales) Media (not referring to sites like RentWiki however – this is an ILS with an interactive/social component which I find valuable). While this medium evolves over time, there are still $10-$20,000,000,000 (yes billions) of multifamily notes that are at risk of default...today. These assets must focus on how to improve NOI today, and doing that means focusing on things that have been proven to offer validated returns on investment.

    I was so fortunate that early in my career in multifamily, a management company called Gates Hudson invested heavily in having me work with top end strategic and marketing consultants. One of the great lessons I learned was that during a time of challenge, the key starting point is "maximizing the use of existing resources." Said another way, we need to maximize performance using the tools that we have that we know work. There is no magic wand that will cut costly turnover and jack up prospect conversions. The "existing resource" to maximize are the best practices that are known to help reduce turnover and increase rentals. Doing this requires focus and minimizing distraction.

    Lastly, I have talked about the risk of SM being a distraction to doing what matters most. I proved this to myself in the last 24 hours. I have spent well over an hour writing and reading the posts in this discussion. At what expense? I had numerous client and staff emails and other tasks that got put on the back burner. Was it fun to participate? Yes, great, eye opening discussions. Did it divert my attention from things that need to be done...today? Yes. So, I will be signing off for a while so I can take care of business.

  • This article just popped up today. It's not multifamily specific, but I thought it was interesting.

    Twitter users not so social after all http://shar.es/mbu54

  • Doug, I just threw up. Paragraphs 4 and 5 sound like a conversation the local newspaper has had the last few years as they continue to lay off people. Everyone's perception is unique, but this is my interpretation of your last comment.

    You are suggesting that people just "focus" more on things they apparently can't do. To motivate them we should threaten them with loan defaults and the fact that we don't trust them using new tools because no one has given them a script to follow. And to improve NOI we should invest in things that historically are proven to offer returns (and that's worked out so well for the newspapers, the record business, and the airlines.) Sounds like a frustrating dead end path to me, and a really cynical way to view management strategy.

    We can't afford to market or manage things the way we have always done it. The best companies are inventing and creating, not doing more of the same. The Huffington Post is blowing away traditional newspapers, Apple has dominated with iTunes, and Southwest seems to be the only airline people talk about in a positive way. And you'll have to do some serious research to find evidence that any of those companies are successful today (in this economy) because they "focused" more on the same.

    From my perspective, this conversation really isn't about social media or not believing the hype. It's about being brave enough to stand out and not fit in. Jen did an awesome job doing that with this post and inspiring discussion. Whether the metrics, the study, or her analysis is on point is irrelevant. She delivered, she stood out, and she inspired others.

    I would say that right now companies/properties have an opportunity to do the exact same thing Jen has done here. Whether they do it online or offline that doesn't matter. What matters is that they invent, create, deliver, and inspire. They add "More Cowbell".

    [url]http://www.buzzhumor.com/videos/28180/More_Cowbell[/url]

  • Mark, I don't think Doug is suggesting communities focus on anything that should be considered a "dead end". His focus is primarily on maintenance and responding to residents, which he can provide plenty of stats to prove that a significant percent of communities still have a woeful grasp on.

    Doug and I have talked several times about this issue, and I think that you are essentially talking about two different types of communities. Doug works with this massive segment of our industry that still can't seem to get the basics right. You work for a company that has controls/processes/etc in place and actually follows through with the basics. So from your point of view, you need to progress and innovate, which is completely correct. But for a dysfunctional community, I'm with Doug that much of social media should be a plan down the road, not the present.

    That said, I still think there is significant amount of innovation potential with these struggling properties to think of new ways to inspire their teams to get the basics under control. But I'm not sure adding another layer of social media is necessarily the answer for them at this point.

    (Note: I do think that there are some basic levels of social media that are appropriate for any community, such as claiming your page and reputation management, but I'm discussing creating far-reaching social media plans versus focusing on the basics for communities that aren't quite there yet.)

  • Wow! Talk about a lot of views, feelings and opinions...
    What I got out of this is actually quite simple. Social media is something you simply cannot ignore. Why? Because your customers use it!
    Does that mean we need to measure ROI? Not sure and actually not sure you can! As much as I would like to be able to measure everything and cut or enhance marketing based on performance it is not always possible. I think an early point point that Mark brought up is that it is a human network. This makes it challenging to integrate a business in it in many ways.
    When it come to social media there is no question that you have to manage it and it will take time (money). The last thing you want is a fanpage about your community that is not yours... You also need to go in a read what is being said.
    Social media is both an opportunity and a liability in many ways. Suggesting that it is potentially a poor investment could result in having to play catch up later on or have to do damage control.
    An example of that would be the whole URL games that took place in the 90's. Companies that were not in front of the internet revolution found themselves with sites about them that were not theirs. While in the early 90's that may have not been a very important piece of their marketing I can assure you that these lapses are proving very expensive today for those who missed it.
    Everyone will have their own way of managing their social media, that being said not managing it should not be an option!

  • @Brent Good point. Not every company is even meeting "spec". And I understand Doug's position. Focus on meeting spec first and then social media. Where does that end though? Focus on building a better website, then social media. Focus on better follow up, then social media. Focus on better service, then social media. Focus on better policies, and then social media. Focus on better software, and then social media. I could go on and on and on. These are all excuses.

    What I'm saying is that "focus" isn't going to change behavior to surpass "spec". Even if you change focus to meet spec on every process you can think of, you're still just average, meeting spec. It will look like improvement, but you're still leaving so much on the table because you need people to look beyond spec. More systems and controls (focus) just help you meet spec. While a foundation is important, it's more important to inspire people to look past that and look past it now, not later.

    I put the "More Cowbell" link in there not because it's funny, but because it's relevant. I also just made a new post here about looking beyond spec as it relates to American Idol.

    Again, thanks to everyone for a spirited discussion. I really have enjoyed it.

    [url]http://www.multifamilyinsiders.com/home/multifamily-blogs/Episode-42-Are-you-the-next-American-Idol-.html[/url]

  • @Mark – So much for “going dark” for a couple of days – lol! I love that there is so much passion around this topic. And thank you, Brent, for your comments. I could not have said it better myself. I don’t want anyone to walk away from this conversation believing that I think social media is a complete waste of time. We are big supporters of all new technology that helps to improve performance (resident portals, online functionality, leasing call centers, etc.). I know there is value to social media - and I am all ears in the discussion of defining how, when and where it can best be utilized since it is clearly a powerful new medium. I am learning more and more every day, hearing perspectives like yours, and it is exciting. My own thoughts are morphing nearly daily, as I am sure they are for many - discussions like this help. As I have tried to say (and maybe not as clearly as I would have liked), my concern is with burdening staffs when they are already not meeting expectations in critical basic areas. I am confident the typical leasing team member is very capable of being a service super star. Education and setting priorities are critical…keeping eyes focused first on the basics. When the basics are handled well, then time can be directed to new areas. In the meantime, can certain designated people within the organization, maybe at the corporate level, be the ones to look “beyond spec?” I don’t know the answer to that, but I really appreciate the ideas you’ve presented here. Thanks for a great discussion!

  • @Mark - Thanks again for continuing to expand our horizons on such a hot topic!

    @Frederic - I like the way you expressed that social media is both an opportunity and a liability. As with all tools, we must use them responsibly, and for social media, that is being defined almost daily.

    @Brent - Thanks for making the distinction that different properties and portfolios may be at different places when it comes to process, procedure, service delivery, etc. What's good for the goose may not be good for the gander... yet.

    Great stuff!

  • @Doug I think it's everyone's responsibility to look beyond spec. For example, if I want to be a rock star leaser, I'm not going to wait around for someone to show me how. And if someone gives me some tools (training/cowbell) to be a rock star leaser, I'm going to play the hell out of that cowbell and bring my own personality to it. And, yes, if I want to be a rock star manager or regional, I'm not going to wait around for some V.P. or the President to tell me how. I'm going to innovate and reach beyond spec while inspiring my team to do the same and play the hell out of the tools they have been given.

    We're not running factories here punching out widgets. We are operating communities of customers. Customers that require one on one customer relations on many different levels wearing many different hats. Training and "best practices" can be implemented, but we all know (and sometimes have a difficult time admitting) that these programs are just the bare minimum to get the job done to spec. When did spec, or average, become acceptable?

    A couple weeks ago I shared a statement on my facebook page. I think this definitely applies to what you guys do at Satisfacts.

    "The reason I measure performance is not to see if you can meet expectations but if you can exceed them."

  • @mark To touch on some of your points, and clarify where I am coming from...hope this helps. Our focus is on instilling/enhancing "a culture of responsiveness" throughout a client's organization. Every client review session, every client webinar, every educational tool, every article we write focuses on the critical role direct, personal, responsive one-on-one communication has on performance. As Brent pointed out, there are world class service providers in the industry. We are fortunate to work with quite a few of them. And there are those not there...yet; when we speak about best practices and industry needs, we are especially talking about this segment. And then there high scoring operators who desire to get to the next level - our highest scoring portfolios have a significant desire to ever improve, which I think is why they score so well. Note that only 5% of properties achieve "Exceptional" scores, about 50% "Superior" and the balance earn "Average" (a few "Warning" and "Red Flag"). This reminds me of a client. The first year they achieved a strong "Superior" score; the second year they rose to nearly the "Exceptional" level; and turnover dropped a whopping 6 points in that period (5,500 units x 6% = 330 fewer move outs x $4,500 = a $1,485,000 NOI increase and $18,562,500 increase in asset value). Or another client with 15,000 units that saw scores grow from mid-average to superior over several years - and saw turnover drop 9 points. We take on the role of lumberjack, cutting down trees to educate/remind about areas that really matter, areas have the greatest impact on satisfaction and retention.

    My points are based on monitoring results from the more than half a million class A, B and C units we survey yearly. There is a clear, measurable impact...my rantings (lol) are based on our findings from surveying millions of units over the years. We preach a focus on communication and responsiveness. It might be helpful to understand where I have been coming from/what findings are driving my perspective. What impact has focusing on actionable best practices had on the SatisFacts Index (our annual benchmark) and turnover?

    - A greater focus has led to SatisFacts Index scores on staff promptly responding to calls and emails growing from "Average" to “Superior.” This matters as of all of the areas we evaluate, this has the #1 impact on renewal likelihood.
    - Likewise, greater focus has led to staff follow up on “completed” work orders to increase by nearly ten points in just the last year. This matters because this has the #2 impact on renewal likelihood (issue/risk comes when no follow up).
    - Due to the above and other best practice improvements, the overall SatisFacts Index satisfaction score has grown from high "Average" to “Superior”.
    - This matters because of satisfaction's strong correlation with renewal likelihood. The improvements above has led to “very likely” to renew scores to grow and “not likely” to renew to drop.
    - With rare exception, and regardless of past performance, client scores in these areas grow year after year as staffs adjust focus/priorities, with particularly significant improvements when comparing first and second year scores.
    - Our top 15 scoring clients’ scores for “very likely” to renew is 7 points higher than the SatisFacts Index.
    - We work with a diverse collection of firms. All are committed to improving service and monitoring performance from their customer's perspective.
    - Bottom line, clients average over a 9 point lower turnover rate than the NAA Annual Income and Expense Survey reports - they achieve this because regardless of where they were, they continue to try to max out regarding the best practices we espouse. They are so committed...it is exciting to see the impact of their efforts!
    - Given that clients achieve superior turnover results and about 55% of properties win an award, it's reasonable to say properties that have higher turnover are likely not delivering the same level of service.
    - In other words, it's likely a healthy percent of the industry needs to focus more attention on the things we talk about and clients are passionate about.

    I hope this helps to clarify where I am coming from. It will be exciting to see how SM can enhance communication with residents and prospects - and like I've said, I am not yet exactly sure how, but discussions like this help to broaden perspectives and formulate ideas.

  • From my observations and experience, Facebook as a real traffic source for apartment communities has not made any impact. The comments to this point along with Jen's initial remarks seem to echo my opinion. On a different note, Facebook has allowed me access to individuals, even in the evenings, who would never return a call or email during the work day. Interesting....

  • @Mark @Doug - I wish your conversation could be featured as a panel discussion somewhere! Lots of food for thought and interesting perspectives.

    @Rick - Hi there! Thanks for sharing your FB experience. I'm very interested to watch the stats over the next year to see how they change regarding social media being identified as a source for apartment seekers, and also how existing residents shift their communication preferences. Will the stats increase? decrease? stay the same? Will there be a new and better avenue that we haven't even heard about yet? We shall see!

  • Reveling the afterglow of the @MultiFamilyPro Optimization Summit, I'll share some Social Media takeaways.

    First and Foremost: Pokens ROCK. Heh.

    Negative Reviews are on open door to giving you permission to tell people why you don't suck. (Brent, I hope I don't get Gong-ed from the blogosphere because I just said "suck".

    PEOPLE are the Killer App. Nothing beats WOM.
    There's no gray area when it comes to customer service.
    Engage diversity.
    Address negative issues head on.
    Pretending negatives don't exist won't make them go away.
    Put some skin in the game.
    Go where the conversations are happening.
    Any conversation can go Global at any time.
    RockStars have fans and are fans.
    ;D

  • Thanks Tamela! It sounds like there was some incredible learning taking place at the Optimization Summit. I look forward to hearing more.

  • I have NEVER felt that my social media exploits were a value add with regard to landing tenants. I have had multiple offers of private money and joint ventures as a result of my facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/AdventuresInMichiganRealEstate) but have landed only a single new tenant from it even though I have been declared a "RockStar". I can't and won't discuss tenant issues directly with a tenant on my page so it doesn't work for that either. This subset of our society uses the net to research, but there is still too much direct face time necessary to provide service, close a deal and earn trust.

  • @Douglass - I agree that the personal interaction is still a critical component of building and maintaining relationships. Thanks for providing your approach!

  • @Douglass
    There is no doubt that personal interaction stay as a cornerstone of any marketing effort. The way I view social media is simply this: An opportunity to engage and connect. After that you have to absolutely focus on how you will convert these connections into prospects.
    Social Media does not replace interaction but it should be viewed as way to increase your presence and your brand. This is still a new real in marketing strategies and we are starting to figure out how to properly leverage it. At the end of the day good social media strategy should result in increased traffic to your site and most of all give your resident ownership of your brand.
    It is critical to keep our eyes on the ball and provide an exceptional experience when the first live interaction takes place to convert that effort into leases.

  • @Frederic - I am excited that we're now seeing more and more definition on what a 'good' or 'effective' social media strategy should accomplish in our industry. I feel that those definitions or parameters are still being fleshed out - with some outstanding examples in some property management organizations. The more we can define it, even if some of those definitions are different, the better we will all be able to identify what works for us to best support our existing marketing and retention strategies.

  • Greetings followers of this amazing discussion. Mark Juleen and I wanted to provide an update. If you have been following this discussion, you are aware both of us were sharing a great deal about our thoughts and “positions.” After many postings, Mark and I got “old school” and talked on the phone. We found the conversation so valuable; while it appeared we agreed on little, it turns out we agree on much more than we had divergent views about. We wanted to share some of what we got out of the process and also agreed on.

    - While both having strong opinions, we both also have tried to be very open minded as social media is such a work-in-process, evolving daily. As a result of the discussions, we each broadened our perspectives.

    - One thing I learned is that talking about social media is like, say, talking about transportation…a very broad topic! Transportation includes planes, trains and automobiles; likewise it involves topics like speed of travel, ease of travel, cost of travel. Social media is also such a generic term, so one needs to break it down into its many alternatives, components, uses. Some social media has leasing uses, some marketing uses, some retention uses, some service uses…some you control, some you cannot control, some corporate staff should handle, others on-site, etc.

    - For example, think about the social media component of apartmentratings.com…while this permits upset residents to vent, it also helps shoppers make purchase decisions…no differently than hotels.com; of course the key is to satisfy residents so that ratings are as good as can be expected from sites like this. Other social media angles - how RentWiki lets people provide feedback about a community's neighborhood; YouTube videos for prospects; and there are ways to use social media to communicate with residents in a valuable way, whether messaging or trying to have residents connect, such as with Property Solutions' social networking component of their resident portals.

    - One of the biggest issues is to have a strategy and process – one must ask what role the corporate office can/should play versus what the on-site staff has the time and skill sets to handle.

    - I personally reviewed Mark’s resident portals and found them to offer great online services, easily accessed as well as a sound, not overly cumbersome messaging component (loved that he has moved from written eletters to online versions with resident and service focused content). This was a great example for me about the need for strategy, program and process – which Mark has accomplished.

    - Mark shared his appreciation of not assuming staffs industry-wide are consistently communicating at key touchpoints – the need to, and value of, following up with residents and prospects – and that caution must be taken before adding more responsibilities to staffs…versus a program that makes the best use of corporate and on-site associates.

    - That “managing your online reputation” has to do with focusing on the service you deliver to your residents, not by trying to use a Facebook page or combating ratings on apartmentratings.com – deliver world class service and everything else ultimately takes care of itself.

    - That social media today has a variety of purposes, that can deliver value when well planned and executed…and that social media and its uses will continue to evolve and morph over time.

    Mark and I are so glad we talked...communication is a beautiful thing!

  • @Doug and @Mark
    The last line says it all. It is all about communication and interaction.

  • @Doug @Mark @Frederic - I can feel the love!