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Purchasing feedback: I will pay you vs. I will give you something free

Read the following tweet this morning [RT @[xyz] @[abc] Suggest that you give away a free Flip to every prospect/resident that creates a [management company] Experience Video, Beats  free rent] - it really got me thinking.

I have read both sides of this issue and have taken the position that if you disclose that you are paying for and or giving something away in exchange for an endorsement then frankly it's okay. It really comes down to what is in the eye of the beholder.  And, I think, at the end of the day, if a person really wants a product/experience they will go and get it/have it despite the persons of influence in their lives. They may read and listen but if they want it - they want it, period.

My real point here is that the above tweet implies that it's okay to give away a  Flip in exchange for an endorsement. Moreover it specifically states that it's better than giving away free rent. On that point I ask: What's the difference? - give away free rent or buy 20 Flips to give away - either way you hit the bottom line. Sure buying the Flip is cheaper and brings along a novelty that escaped the free rent give away long ago but it's still an expense. It's just a different form of currency. Marry it with a "you get the Flip free "if" you give me an endorsement and you have really marred the picture but I will leave that for future conversation.

For now - I really wonder what the community thinks - Is the Flip, used in this sense, a form of currency that could be construed as purchasing feedback? If so, is that okay? Would it pass a Yelp sniff test? Do you think the masses really care? Would you give equal stage to people who would speak conversely about your brand experience? Is it better than free rent? If so, why?

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I think we're way too caught up in transparency here. It needs to be an integrated approach. Some of the message needs to be transparent, but what's wrong with controlling the message as well?

For example, if you were to survey your residents and ask them if they would recommend you, would it make more sense to post all the responses on your website or would it make more sense to post just the positives and title them testimonials? After all it is your website and not a reviews site.

Yes, allow sites like ApartmentRatings.com, Yelp.com, and others provide a transparent message, but as a management company shouldn't we be reinforcing the positives? So much online is littered with negatives that reinforcing positives seems like a better marketing approach to me. Go ahead, participate in the review forums, monitor them, use them as a gauge for your brand, share the reviews if you want, but it's only one part of your marketing mix.

  Mark Juleen
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It's a tough point when you think about authenticity in its strictest sense. As you well know there is a SM school of thought that would suggest you give up complete control and allow the community to police the lunatic fringe. Even a strict interpretation of the word integration would suggest that you make something whole by bringing all the parts together. If you introduce any level of control/manipulation into equation then you mar the essence of the concept. At least in my twisted mind.

To speak to the survey point - I think I would rather have them read it on my site no matter the nature. Think about it in the context of creating Google Juice - good, bad or indifferent it all plays well to your positioning. And, if you respond, with class, to the negative you enhance your image.

I don't disagree that we want to reinforce the positive message - I would suggest, however, that we bring the intellect of the community into question when we try to control how we reinforce it. I think anymore it is consumer that reinforces the message - not the organization. Do we participate? As you suggest - absolutely we do. To control or not to control - that is the question.

Thank you for taking the time Mark - you are a class act.


  Mike Brewer
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I guess all I'm suggesting is that we take a step back from strict authenticity and permission based marketing only. I believe it is a component of an overall marketing mix, but there is also a time and place to push a message. It's a blended approach, or all part of your Corporate Mullet. More on that another time.

To answer one of your questions in your post, I don't think the masses really care. For example, I'm an Internet junky and I never use Yelp. Ever.


  Mark Juleen
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Mike, Good Morning,
I think the tweets you refer to were from me to Allison at Bell Partners. A couple comments, which may or may not relate to your point, you can bulk purchase (6) at a time Flip Video Recorders for $89 each. It seems that provides a higher value than Free Rent, which I despise doing. Free Rent is typically at a minimum a half to a full months rent and is forgotten five seconds after the offer. We can buy ten times that amount of Flips, which have our Urbane Logo on them for the life of the product, and get some marketing material to boot, ie the videos produced. Seems like a way to compound your marketing return to me, and not a bottom line burden.

It seems to me that the best approach is to post all comments to a Rating Page as part of your web site, which is what Mike Whaling set up for us as [url]UrbaneTalk.com[/url]

We aggregate all comments from Yelp, Get Satisfaction, AptRatings, facebook and twitter into a single bucket, or place holder. Residents can also post there direct. It is set up as button on our main web site, [url]UrbaneApts.com[/url] as Urbane Reviews.

We all want positive comments, but that is not reality. We all drop the ball from time to time. No one is or expects perfection, and if that is all you show, it does not come across as authentic.

I believe that negative comments have a huge value and opportunity, they show the world, your prospects how you respond and create a great example of what to expect. It also shows you are listening, which tend to ward off completely derogatory comments.

But the biggest value of negative comments are this, It is an Opportunity to Create a Resident Evangelist

  Eric Brown
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E, thanks for the comment. Hope your night is well.

The post is intended to pose questions to the community and the tweet was just a catalyst for them.

It's the exchange, implied here, that got me thinking. One could read this as you paid someone $89 to create content about their experience living at an Urbane community. And, the fact that you gave something of value would by default give the content a positive bent. Have you paid for an endorsement but rationalized it by suggesting that the Flip is different than paying money/concessions to someone for the same result? I mean in some ways you could suggest that the offer be an $89 concession if the person uses their own camera for the content creation. And, in this case you play into people's innate need to feel like a celebrity - a form of currency I believe to be more powerful than Flips or money. The point is that you exchange anything of value for feedback/content creation then you've purchased it. It's not authentic and in my opinion it would not pass the Yelp test. Is that fair to say?

Sidebar on Yelp - I agree with Mark's comment - the masses don't care about Yelp. I, like him, am on the internet an inordinate amount of time and never use Yelp for anything. That being said, I think it is crazy amazing for juicing your PageRank - especially when you use it like you do.

I do agree with your points on aggregation and negatives being opportunities.


  Mike Brewer
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You could always ask for a video review and then tell them they get to keep the flip when they are done. You haven't specifically asked for a positive review, but who is realistically going to give you a bad review after you gave them a Flip? And if one out of 5 ends up being negative, then just use it as feedback, because if they STILL gave a negative review, then they were really upset!

(On a side note, product give-aways are ALWAYS better than free rent, or even cash in their pocket, when you want to give away something. They'll forget about the free rent, but they'll never the product.)

  Brent Williams
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I think there is a best of both worlds situation here - I whole heartedly agree with Mark that your website is not a review site so why not highlight the positives.

My suggestion would be to use the "best of"s directly on your website and in your other marketing campaigns that includes a link to view all (which could include both positive and negative - if you want). Personally I probably would not publicize the negative video reviews. I couldn't image that there would be a large amount of negative reviews if the property was providing the FLIPs.

Also Eric I love your idea of having your logo on the FLIP. You might be surprised how much free advertising you'd get with such a simple move.

Overall I love the idea. I'd be excited as a resident to have the opportunity to play Property PR for a bit.

PS - I have the Yelp iPhone app and I've still yet to use it. But Yelp is great for SEO.

  Elysa Rice

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