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Maybe It Should Really Be Called "Social NOTWorking"?

If you had the opportunity to attend the AIM (Apartment Internet Marketing) Conference this spring in Denver, one of the several outstanding sessions presented was "Measuring Market Effectiveness" presented by Todd Katler of Level One and Rick Blair of Equity Residential.

 A few points from Katler's portion of the presentation:

1. Print sources are probably underweighted due to the search nature of their customers.

2. Phone call leads have a higher conversion rate than email leads.

3. Longer leasing calls convert to leases 92% more often.

4. Social Media sources (YouTube, Twitter, MySpace and Facebook) accounted for .05% of all leads for their test properties used in the presentation.

So....should it really be called Social NOTworking as opposed to Social Networking when it comes to multifamily? You tell me.

BTW, if you like what you read here, head over to www.ApartmentMarketingBlog, where I write just about every day.

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LT-
I had to think a while before going with my gut reaction of "Say WHAT?" I don't disagree with the points made in the presentation, not one bit, HOWEVER...

If you had told me in 1994 that in 5 years, I'd be paying out only 1/4 of what I am for print and moving all the rest of my stuff to "on line listings" I would have thought you were crazy. The world's communications are moving more and more rapidly, and I think that it's better to be moving with the train than standing in front of it. I think that being an early mover on platforms like twitter and facebook can be highly advantageous. As communication moves more to the keyboard and less to the phone, early adopters of SM are going to be better positioned to not only catch new residents but also retain them. I think that at the heart of it, Social NETWORKING is a much better tool for resident retention than for resident attraction.

(Also, aside from making an AMAZING network of industry friends and professionals, I've personally gained 3 new clients via Twitter in the last year. It's a low proportion to what I've gained via site visits, phone calls and e-newsletters, BUT I see it as one more avenue to reach my clients. I like to make sure the door is always open. )

  Heather Blume
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Great points, Heather.

I think that while it may be hard to 'credit' an SMedia site directly with a lease, it can definitely have a 'solidifying' effect on a decision someone would make about a property.

I'd like to see actual, 'tracked' data, without the slant put on it by those who are devout SMedia believers (as in, totally tracked by toll free numbers, etc.)by a company or companies other than Level One's service. Not taking anything away from Level One...I'd just like to see a management company weigh in here. Perhaps Allison Crabtree will drop by here with some numbers at some point.

Again,thank you for your thoughtful remarks.

  Lisa Trosien
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I think their data is fairly accurate (or maybe 29% accurate) as most people are not going to call from of a facebook or Myspace page phone number if interested in an apartment. That's not the point and shouldn't be for a property/company's social media page/tool/account. A facebook page, etc. should most likely lead people to a company or property website where they find out more information and then contact the community through that source. People are going to dig deeper and will use multiple online sources when doing their homework.

The interesting statistic shared during that presentation is regarding their data only showing 29% of prospects being sourced correctly. We all know prospects use multiple sources when finding apartments and asking for and recording all sources on a guest card will always be a challenge (until we can read minds or record thoughts). Given that people use multiple sources, I think where the disconnect was for some at AIM was with the purpose of social media. Too many are viewing facebook, myspace, twitter, etc. as new FREE ILS-like sites where they can list their apartments and people will find them like Craigslist. WRONG! Social media sites are tools that are extensions of our websites, our brands, and our services. Just as Mr. Whaling and I discussed here [url]http://www.theapartmentnerd.com/2009/05/apartment-internet-marketing-aim.html[/url], social media should be viewed as a PR, Word-of-mouth, and Google Juice tools.

I could go on and on, but I'll let others voice their thoughts as well. Nice post Lisa!

Mj

  Mark Juleen
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Hey Mark, thanks for the response.

So, why do you think people believe that SMedia has become a substitute for regular, paid search sites such as ILS's? How has that myth propogated throughout the industry? And why is there such a buy in?

Clearly, we have a serious issue with sites getting the correct source because:

a. Some propects simply don't care and give the first source that comes into their minds

b. Some Leasing Professionals simply don't care and record the first thing that comes into their minds

c. Prospects use MULTIPLE sources and most leasing people are not trained to ask for multiple sources

I'd like to hear more weigh in on both the primary discussion point here as well as the secondary ones that are creeping up (and should continue to creep up) throughout our discussion here.

Thanks again for your response, MJ

  Lisa Trosien
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Lisa-

I'm not suggesting that people believe social media sites are substitutes for ILS's, but that they treat them like an ILS or like Craigslist. The misconception is in the approach to using social media tools in general. Companies feel they need to push their message onto consumers. They assume that people are using facebook, Myspace, or Twitter to search for apartments just like they would on Craigslist or an ILS. That's not why people are logging into these sites. They are logging in to enhance their relationships with others. They want to learn and discover news and information on their own terms. Today in marketing, and in using social media, it's not about the push but more about the pull. How does the consumer pull your information via search or word-of-mouth recommendations? How do they discover you?

Social media is about being remarkable and sharing experiences. People update their status or upload photos as they have a story to tell, and it's an ever-changing dynamic story (at least in their eyes). If the most exciting story you have to tell about your company is what your new available apartments are then I don't think that's going to create much word-of-mouth.

This is really just my thoughts and opinion, and while we've made strides at J.C. Hart to utilize these tools I know we can do a much better job. The real challenge is in the time and investment. While the cost to create an account on these sites is $0 there is definitely an investment in time and effort that needs to be made to maximize them. I fully believe that the time dedicated to do so will give a much better ROI than using traditional marketing sources, but it must be done with the right intentions to maximize the results. We all have an opportunity to improve the service we deliver, improve the communication we have with our residents, and improve the experience our residents have with our brand using these tools. If we use them to just try and push our...

Lisa-

I'm not suggesting that people believe social media sites are substitutes for ILS's, but that they treat them like an ILS or like Craigslist. The misconception is in the approach to using social media tools in general. Companies feel they need to push their message onto consumers. They assume that people are using facebook, Myspace, or Twitter to search for apartments just like they would on Craigslist or an ILS. That's not why people are logging into these sites. They are logging in to enhance their relationships with others. They want to learn and discover news and information on their own terms. Today in marketing, and in using social media, it's not about the push but more about the pull. How does the consumer pull your information via search or word-of-mouth recommendations? How do they discover you?

Social media is about being remarkable and sharing experiences. People update their status or upload photos as they have a story to tell, and it's an ever-changing dynamic story (at least in their eyes). If the most exciting story you have to tell about your company is what your new available apartments are then I don't think that's going to create much word-of-mouth.

This is really just my thoughts and opinion, and while we've made strides at J.C. Hart to utilize these tools I know we can do a much better job. The real challenge is in the time and investment. While the cost to create an account on these sites is $0 there is definitely an investment in time and effort that needs to be made to maximize them. I fully believe that the time dedicated to do so will give a much better ROI than using traditional marketing sources, but it must be done with the right intentions to maximize the results. We all have an opportunity to improve the service we deliver, improve the communication we have with our residents, and improve the experience our residents have with our brand using these tools. If we use them to just try and push our apartments on people then in my opinion that is wrong. And in the end, sites like facebook could be ruined with this type of use.

For some reason it's the goal of many to discover the cheapest silver bullet money can buy to market our products and services. Social media is definitely not the silver bullet of marketing, and potentially shouldn't really be considered marketing. Thoughts?

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  Mark Juleen
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What happened to waiting till others chimed in? Couldn't hold back now, could you Mark?

  Lisa Trosien
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From skimming over the comments, let me know if I need to read them more carefully, the best use for social media sites right now is to drive leasing traffic to the community website (which should have more detail and functionality anyway). Also, for the purpose of evauluating ad sources, when dealing wiht so many ILS, social media and free internet listings like craigslist to me it seems the important number to follow is the amount of internet leads as a whole where generated.

In our portfolio, where we encounter the same challenges of accurately tracking ad sources, I can at least with more confidence evaluate our traffic sources as a whole by advertising medium. Having said that, the study reviewed at the aim confernence resembled our results. Interent traffic is by far our largest ad source with roughly 60% of tracked leads being sourced to the internet, print make up around 18%, locater services 2% and other organic traffic like lives in area, resident referal and signage makes up around 20%. My issues occur in the closing percentages. Internet is only capturing 7%, print 9%, locater services 27% and other 31%. Of course "other" includes walk-ins and my challenge has been to get our leasing agents to persue internet traffic just as aggressively as they track and persue people who they've encountered face to face.

As an industry we are great at the face to face relationship, not as good, but better over the phone and need a whole lot of work with building relationships via the internet. Up to now I've tried to solve this internet issue with a self service approach...giving the prospect the information and tools to see availability, make appointments and reserve an apartment on line, but in every scenario there has to be human interaction and service. We are good at tracking the internet activity, but not good at following up.

  Matt Haggerty
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Oh, and please pardon my many typos...I raced through that one while I had fresh thoughts. Oh, initially I said social media's best use was to drive traffic to our community websites...at lease I meant that's pretty much as far as our company and most others seem to have gotten with the medium since we don't have the resources yet to keep it fresh, updated and engaging as we would like.

  Matt Haggerty
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@ Lisa: I'm sure I qualify as one of the "devout SM believers" here, but I think there is a serious error being made by any business that is only applying marketing metrics to measure its success or failure in social media. If -- as Heather, the Nerd and others have referenced -- social media sites are just as useful for communicating with current residents, shouldn't we also be applying customer service and resident retention metrics to our efforts? Focusing on the wrong numbers is no better than ignoring the numbers altogether.

@ Matt: I wouldn't say that the best use for social media sites is to "drive leasing traffic to the community website" ... rather, I think it is to extend the brand message (not sales message; two very different things) beyond the website to other online communities where our current and prospective customers are already participating. I agree with you: we need to find ways to get better at following up, and fast ... the next lease might depend on how we respond to today's customer's (very public) question or complaint.

  Mike Whaling
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Hey Lisa,
I agree with your title, and think that more times than not, it will be deemed Social NotWorking. Property Management Companies will continue doing what they do, and doing it the way they always have, therefore proving out their own metrics. If the only marketing that XYZ Company does are ads in the local gazette, then, that must be what works and what draws traffic. Does it work because that is the most effective method of marketing or does it work because that is the way XYZ markets their product.

Add multiple places that XYZ markets, and each venue then has the need to prove why their marketing venue works best. Listening to metrics from the company asking for your business is similar to letting the Fox in the Hen House.

The other thing too is this, if I am a Regional Marketing Director, it is a heck of a lot easier to pick up the phone and place an order with one or all of the major ILS firms, and they likely will even take me out to lunch too. And, that probably works well enough. Having worked with several fine folks in that position, there are a zillion things pulling at their time, and the last thing they have time for is to implement a Social Media Strategy. And, then there is their Boss and their Bosses Boss standing over them with a machete for Head Whacking as soon as something doesn’t work so well. So, when we need more traffic, do more of what we are doing, lets not try anything new.

Here is another thing too with Social Media Marketing, but not so many folks believe it, you can stop doing a lot of what you are currently doing, and therein lies Huge Savings. Lastly, if I am turning my marketing dollars inward, I have also delighted our existing Resident Base, creating Compound Return.

  Eric Brown
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