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Apartment Ratings, SatisFacts, and How This News Could Change the Multifamily Industry

For a long time, our industry has been in need of a reputational face lift.  From fighting the illusion of the “American Dream” to crime reporting that unfairly compares apartment living relative to single family housing, our industry has been constantly placed in a negative light relative to home ownership.  Adding to that reputational stigma was the always-frustrating Apartment Ratings that historically seemed more than content to let negative reviews flourish and fester, showing not just one community as a bad place to live, but casting a shadow over our entire industry in the process. For a long time, Apartment Ratings has been the dominant force when it comes to reviews of apartment communities, so when the site is overwhelmingly negative, it serves as a giant anti-marketing campaign for multifamily.  Essentially, the largest unbiased source of reviews is telling America that apartment living isn’t all that great.  Even if apartment prospects mentally adjust the reviews in anticipation of it being negatively biased, which I believe they do, it still affects their anticipated satisfaction level with apartment living as a whole.  No matter how much adjusting one does to account for the negative bias, an average score stuck on the south side of 50% harms the industry as a whole. But that was then, and this is now.  Apartment Ratings has recently made some very positive moves to engage with the industry and present a more balanced view within their ratings database.  Within that strategy, the parent company of Apartment Ratings, Internet......
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Google+ Local: What Does It Mean for Apartments?

New Google+ Local PageThis week, Google announced the release of Google+ Local. You may have already seen how this change will affect Google+ users in general, but what does this mean for your apartment community? The change means that all Google Place pages have been replaced by new Google+ Local Pages. Additionally, Google has indicated that you'll soon have the ability to link your new Google+ Local Pages with your existing(?) Google+ Pages, resulting in one combined page that is integrated across multiple Google services (Search, Maps, Google+, etc.). Here's a look at what a Google+ Local page will look like when the transition is completed: A Richer User Experience Notice the strong emphasis on reviews, as well as the ability to "follow" the brand by adding it to your Circles. Also note the new Local search option in the left sidebar. (With a richer experience in terms of the results provided, this update arguably makes Google+ a better local search experience than Google or Google Maps.) Even if the user clicks on the business page from Google Maps, they'll be taken to the Google+ Local page now. So? Like it or not, your Google Place page just got social.  It's probably best to start considering a Google+ strategy (if you haven't already). Businesses have always had the ability to post status updates to Google Places, but the feature was buried and few businesses used it. Now, you'll have the opportunity to have your updates show up on your page, directly in the streams......
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After 1.3 Million Pages of (Mostly) Negative Reviews, ApartmentsRatings.com Turns Over a New Leaf

If you haven’t made your rounds in the PR circuit the last couple weeks, you may have missed the announced partnership between ApartmentRatings.com [AR] and RentAdvisor [RA]. Unfortunately, the details surrounding the new found friendship are a bit lacking. Based on the [search result-dominating] press release issued by the pair, AR and RA are teaming up in an effort to improve our communities’ online image by soliciting positive online reviews from our residents. Their respective roles are succinctly outlined by Wade Hewitt, VP of ApartmentRatings.com: “Our new partnership with RentAdvisor works in conjunction with our Verified Resident Program and offers properties multiple solutions to solicit solid ratings and reviews, which in turn will be displayed on ApartmentRatings.com.” I was a bit taken back by how a single sentence could pack my mind with so many questions and red flags. Let’s start with the most obvious, shall we? Either the copy writer needs a copy writer or I just read a published work with the words “Verified Resident” and “ApartmentRatings.com” working together to complete a sentence. Can we be honest for a second? AR doesn't care about validity. It cares about exploiting free content. This is the site that takes any mixture of letters, numbers, and punctuation, as long as it means it can create another page to shove a dozen text ads into. I mean, can I get a little website with my AdSense? Geez. More on that in a bit. The second and, maybe most audacious of my observations surrounding this pitbull-in-a-chihuahua’s-body of a......
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21 Ways to Show You’re Social [in pics]

Social Media is powerful—that’s pretty much recognized across the board. But a massive social following doesn’t just happen overnight (unless you're like Jeremy Lin or Madonna). Which is why it can be beneficial to promote your community’s virtual presence in the real world.

Here are 21 examples of how businesses create visibility for their social media platforms through means which are offline. Some tactics could clearly translate to the multifamily biz, others would take a bit more creativity. So to get you thinking...

Dillard’s Breezeway Billboard - In a fairly basic attempt, Dillard’s invites shoppers to get updates on special offers and events through their social media platforms, by placing a sign near the store’s entrance. Easy, simple, to the point. 

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Extortion, Hypocrisy, and the Man in the Black Hat - The Big Business of Online Reviews

Chapter 1 of 3: Extortion In the spring of 2010, Yelp Inc., a user review website, was sued for extortion - twice. The lawsuits came shortly after a now infamous blog post by East Bay Express entitled Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0. In her post, Kathleen Richards interviews a San Francisco restaurant owner (Unrelated to the plaintiffs) claiming a sales associate representing Yelp solicited advertising packages in exchange for the removal of negative customer reviews. Yelp has vehemently denied any unethical practices and has since been dismissed of all charges in a court of law. The Multifamily Housing Industry has a Problem Multifamily housing conferences and forums are dominated by the apartment review debate. The feelings of hostility and resentment seem to be a common theme among our onsite managers. Our industry leaders — Vice Presidents, Marketing Directors, and 3rd party consultants — seem to offer a united message of acceptance that can be summarized in one sentence:  Review sites are not going away so, we may as well participate. Right or wrong, I have to ask why do we continue providing the same ‘copy-n-paste’ style of advice for our onsite teams? When can we acknowledge the elephant sitting beside us at panel discussions? No one wants to appear anti-resident, I get that. I find it admirable that so many management companies have a sincere desire to improve resident relations, even if it means paying a fee to have a voice. But there is certainly something icky about it; and it’s hard to put our finger on j......
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