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Can Apartment Marketers Afford to Disconnect a 24/7 generation?

Apartment employees access to social media

You will hear it again and again in 2010 – what started out as a simple and subtle tap on the window has become a crashing of such proportions that you can not ignore it anymore. Business as we know it has changed and like it or not social mediums are here to stay. The question for the coming year is, will you embrace change [embrace engagement] or will you be comfortable with irrelevance? Harvard Business Publishing posted a story titled: The Uber-Connected Organization: A Mandate for 2010 In it, Jeanne C Meister and Karie Willyerd bring notice to a number of companies embracing business as it relates to social media. They really drill home the point of access and I would like to expand on that in the context of the apartment industry.

Apartment employees access to social media

We have all heard of NetNanny and other Internet site blocking technologies used to cut off access. Meister and Willyerd suggest that, “Firms spend millions on software to block their employees from watching videos on YouTube, using social networking sites like Facebook or shopping online under the pretense that it costs millions in lost productivity, however that’s not always the case.” I suggest, in lieu of the monies dedicated to blocking initiatives, it might be time to re-imagine your culture and spend some of those monies enhancing your employees experiences.

One inexpensive example, image turning your employees loose to use Multifamily Insiders – a social media mecca for great ideas relative to our industry. Imagine your employees trading best practices with some of the industries best and brightest visionaries, consultants, practitioners and idea generators. The site includes people that dream stuff up, people who devise strategies about those dreams, people who get out and try things, fail, fix and try again and their are others who give opinions on it all. And, still more that just quietly observe. Point is that there is a mountain of information out there free of charge and ready to use but not if you block access.

Gen Y apartment talent expects access

The article speaks to the fact that by 2014 1/2 of the workforce will be comprised of Gen Y. Much has been written about the idea of this generation growing up digital. The term, social media, is not used to frame conversations like it is with older generations. It is just what they do. It’s the way they communicate. It makes up, to some degree, who they are. Think about it in terms of the multifamily demand boom coming our way.

We have all either written about or read about the coming [it is here] boom in demand created by Gen Y. Much has been made about the idea of Gen Y propping up the profits of the multifamily market for some time to come, especially in light of the stall in supply. Now if the lion’s share of occupancy is going to come in the way of Gen Y residents and 1/2 of the workforce is going to be Gen Y and Gen Y communicates via social media then why would you block access? Facebook is just what they do – Twitter [not as much] is just what they do – Text messaging is just what they do. Communicating experiences is just what they do. Cut it off and they just won’t work for you. Rather they will work for your competitor who is embracing business are it relates to today’s workforce.

If you don’t embrace change – I encourage you to get comfortable with irrelevance

Why would you not allow access? Why would you cut off the very essence of what defines Gen Y? I’ve tried to think through the downfalls and, there are some that have merit. But there are zero that would keep me up at night – that is provided our organizations guide the conversation. Will there be hiccups? Yes. We have already seen a few in this space. As the article implies in this quote, “Has blocking Facebook today become the equivalent of denying an employee access to a phone at work 40 years ago or email 20 years ago?” I have to believe there were hiccups when we finally gave up control of these communication mediums – I bet we could site some as recent as yesterday.

I trust your 2010 will be filled with massive opportunities for reimagination, innovation, communication and organization reunification. That is to suggest that you marry yourself and your organization around the ideas and opportunities that our new media offers us.

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Mike: I 100% agree with you! More and more employers are embracing social media. Blocking social media sites used to be the norm. Now I laugh when I hear about that!

  Daisy Nguyen
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There is no question that social media is there to stay. If an employer tries to prevent one from accessing social media at work I also would challenge that employer to have their staff not be able to use their cell phones...
Social media is no only a computer based world but largely mobile and if I am a property manager I would rather that my staff look like they are working at a desk (even if they are on facebook) than being on their cell phone typing away.
You should let your staff use social media with some agreement around level of usage and encourage them to leverage their network to market themselves. Those that are involved in social media will have a good sense of what to do to help market in that space. It might as well be encouraged...

  Frederic Guitton
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I am not sure the problem is with companies adopting social media at all; sooner or later all companies will have adopted social media as part of buisness. But it is rather the mixing of personal with professional that companies are so reticient to accept. And rightly so.

The HBR article, and numerous other studies point out that giving employees freedom to take care of personal items while at work increases productivity. But the main push for social media usage and access in companies, isn't to tweet about dinner plans, or converse with a network of friends about last weekend, but rather to increase collaboration and connection inside the organization -- it is to build the network of the organization while building the network of the employee/individual.

This is a real tight rope for employers. If employees access to facebook or twitter is solely for personal use, the organizations are making a mistake -- there is not positive return for the team or organization.

  Patrick Sprouse

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