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Roll Out the Welcome Mat!

Roll Out the Welcome Mat!
Nothing conveys hospitality more than a welcome smile and a handshake. Although this has been the tried and true method of displaying your friendly side, in today’s social age, more interaction takes place online via mobile devices than in person. According to Statisfacts, a national apartment-resident survey firm, 53.9% of renters prefer their cell phones as a primary contact method. We interact online more than ever but the opportunity to engage with residents and prospects still remains. Shifting one’s mindset to create a welcoming front online is an approach many brands are adopting in order to be perceived as hospitable and inviting. For leasing professionals and property managers, this is vital to ensure that prospects convert to residents and residents are retained.   What online strategies are you implementing to roll out the welcome mat and make your audience feel at home? How are you humanizing your brand using social media?   Town Hall Meetings via Twitter are a great way to keep your finger on the dial regarding resident sentiment. Not only does this encourage open dialogue, but a Twitter chat with a custom #hashtag is free brand exposure for you. Your social-savvy residents will find this not only refreshing, but also convenient for their lifestyle.   Facebook Updates and Events not only work wonders in keeping your audience engaged, they allow you to share community-related news and events such as repaving the parking lot or the upcoming Social Network Happy Hour.     Moving Tips via Pinterest will take some of the pre......
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Social Media Playground — Time to play foursquare?

Four square was never really a popular game during recess. Tether ball, red rover, and mutilate-other-people’s-snowmen were the playground fads when I was a kid. Several years and many ill-conceived wardrobe choices later, foursquare has finally reached popular acclaim; well, its title at least — I’d be surprised if 3rd graders are fighting over four square courts down at Happy Learning Elementary this afternoon.

The location-based social networking site foursquare has celebrated monumental growth since its launch in 2009 — championing over 15 million users in December. Businesses and organizations around the globe (including those in the multifamily industry) are embracing the limitless opportunities that exist among those 15 million users.
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Social Media means having our residents market for us. Don’t be scared…

It seems like over the past five years or so, an infinite number of marketing channels have emerged. We bought pages on listing sites, then we created our own property websites.  Now web pages are generated for our property just by having a resident “check in” on Facbook or Foursquare.  Seriously!  This makes it extremely challenging for an apartment community to have one coherent brand on the web. So what’s a marketer to do? First, claim your facebook page! This can be as simple as going onto facebook and searching for your property name to see if it has already made its way onto Facebook without your knowledge. If you see your property in the search results, click on it and take a look… It probably says X number of people like this, Y number of people are talking about this, and Z number of people were here (where X, Y, and Z are real numbers). This is because everytime someone adds an interest to their profile, Facebook automatically creates a landing page for that interest. So if they like where they live… Bam, landing page!  The same thing happens if someone checks in somewhere…it will add it to an existing page or create a new one.  While it feels like this is totally out of your control, don’t worry – it’s actually a GOOD thing. It means (a) your residents like you, and (b) they’re telling their friends about your property (by virtue of publically checking in).  So how do y......
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Is All Social Media Engagement Created Equally?

It’s the question every property manager and industry partner wants to figure out: just how much does social media help build our brands, improve services, save money, and create new revenue? I think it’s especially difficult to calculate social media’s rewards because they flow into many different buckets. I’m not implying this means we should shirk the responsibility of measuring ROI—but remember that there are benefits beyond leads, like branding, customer service, and SEO lift to marketing pages with proper social media integration. It can take a long time to see that social media is generating leads, leases and sales, so we naturally try to justify our investment with other data, including increased page views, inbound traffic generation, SEO, and engagement. Some consider engagement to be the key to social media success. But does all engagement lead to equal return? Believe it or not, donuts made me question this. Our strongest post in terms of engagement (measured by likes and comments) was the  question, “What is your favorite donut?,” which we asked on National Donut Day. Now, our CFO loves donuts, so the question reflects our corporate personality—but does it make anyone more likely to buy our products? On the other hand, I’ve crafted many long blog posts that get plenty of page views, but almost no comments or mentions. Judging by comments alone, I’m wasting my time. But my clients and peers let me know they do read them, so the benefit is there, even if I can’t quantify the......
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Budgeting for a Social Strategy

I was chatting with Mike Whaling yesterday, and we both agreed there are definitely some quick wins out there to help optimize your brand, stores, properties, etc. online.  It can be time consuming, but claiming your business's pages on Google, Bing, Yelp!, etc. can be quick ways to get some SEO juice for your websites and help promote your business on those additional channels.  Where I struggle from there is with a content strategy ongoing. Here’s the honest truth, you can’t half-ass it anymore.  Search as we know it today is changing, and if you aren’t trying to be part of or help create conversation then I will predict that drive-by may become your best lead source.  OK, that could be extreme, but the algorithm is changing from a keywords model and more value is being put on conversation and connections with real people to a brand.  Criticize Google+ all you want, but even if that doesn’t do exactly what they hoped it most definitely highlights how Google is giving more credit to social connections. If this really is the case then I believe it’s time to revisit your marketing spend.  Mike and I created an Apartment Marketing Checklist a couple months ago for people to really think about.  It highlights much more than Craigslist and ILSs when it comes to your marketing, and I hope it begins to help you think about the next steps in growing your online presence.  There are plenty of opportunities and strategies to consider, but what I will tell you is ......
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What Can Starbucks Teach Us About Social Media Engagement?

I spend a lot of time thinking about social media engagement. What’s it mean? How do we improve it? How can we use it to help our clients grow? One way to find out is to look at what other companies are doing. I’m currently reading Onward, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s memoir of returning to save the company he founded. Early in the book Schultz says that social media has always been a huge priority for Starbucks. On the face of it, he’s right. No matter what you feel about them, you can’t deny that Starbucks is a killer brand. On September 21, 2011, the company had almost 26 million Facebook likes, over 3 million check-ins and 1.7 million Twitter followers. In the previous 24 hours, Starbucks had logged 236 Facebook comments and 131 Twitter mentions. Perhaps it’s not the storm of chatter you might expect from a powerhouse, but the check-ins tell a different story. This leads me to an educated guess: as we examine other brands, I think we’ll find that small companies—with pages managed by principals at the firm—will have a higher proportion of social media comments. Customers respond to a personal touch, but they won’t cut ties with larger, more “faceless” brands, either. Starbucks has earned their loyalty, and savvy consumers won’t stray far. So what can Starbucks teach us? Likes and comments don’t always measure social media success. Sometimes even the world’s biggest brands have to judge their campaigns by a different standard....
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Foursquare as an Apartment Marketing Tool

Foursquare Logo There are multiple ways to leverage foursquare to advertize your community, flaunt property traffic, and ultimately increase your property’s bottom line.  One of the best parts about foursquare is that little to no managing needs to be done by the location for visitors to check-in and share your community virally.  However, by getting involved and knowing how to maximize your property’s foursquare potential, you can truly get the most out of this valuable social tool.  Listed below are a few simple steps to follow to reach Apartment Marketing bliss on foursquare.   About Foursquare:  Foursquare is an online “Geo-Location Tool” that uses the GPS on users’ smart phones to identify their location and the surrounding area.  The user is then able to virtually “check-in” to locations that are registered on foursquare.  Along with numerous other accolades awarded for the frequency and popularity of check-ins, the member that checks-in most frequently at one place becomes the “Mayor” of that particular location.  Businesses subsequently offer incentives for the Mayor, hoping to promote repeat business.   Since 2009, foursquare’s membership has grown from 200,000 members to nearly 8 million.  Today, foursquare is currently adding an average of 35,000 new members a day and experiencing roughly 2 million “check-ins” per day.    Foursquare, previously considered merely another social media platform can now function as a utility for apartment marketing.  Foursquare offers practical features that can help communities market their vacant units and consequently close more leases at little to no cost.  In addition, with ......
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Foursquare vs. Facebook Places - Which is Better for Marketing Your Apartment Community?

OK, I'll admit it. I'm a Foursquare GEEK, and now, with the launch of Facebook Places, I am TOTALLY CONFUSED. There's so much news out about Facebook Places - what will be the best tool for helping your outreach or marketing efforts at your apartment communities? Which application will help you stay connected to more apartment residents, attract more apartment prospects, give you more positive exposure? Some background: I use facebook as a place to connect with friends and collegues, keep up with the latest news about places/businesses I "like," and connect with other like-minded individuals. I use foursquare to find out about places near me, get tips based on my location, and I hate to admit it, but I secretly covet being "mayor" and earning badges. If I am a typical user, how does this information help YOU market your apartment communities or connect with prospects and residents? Let's put them in the boxing  ring and see who wins: ROUND ONE: First thing I do when I go somewhere is to look on Foursquare to see which businesses near me have tips, read them, and see if I want to try something new, or stick with my tried and true favorites. Currently very easy to do on Foursquare. AND Foursquare has had A LOT more activity - resulting in lots of tips & deals with local businesses. Facebook Places - I have not found a way to leave a tip or find tips others have left. The only way to see......
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Where are you at in Social Media? Serious blog for those seriously interested.

I don't pretend to know everything about social media. But what I do know is sound common sense for a business. So, if you're ready to listen and to learn, then please continue reading. Apartment communities, like the other 79% of corporations (Altimeter 11/04/2010 research) have attempted to deploy social media. They've enlisted social media consultants and/or "hired" internal social media strategists to help them accomplish the following:   Training of teams (and corporate heads): this covers the fundamentals of social media (networks, users, tools), social media and fair housing policies, engagement/outreach skills, development of social media editorial and marketing calendars Monitoring (cymphony, radian6, and others) to see what others were saying about their community, community beats and how that could benefit/hinder their leasing efforts (i.e. burglaries in a community, new company hiring, etc) Tools (i.e. co-tweet, hootsuite, and other similar desktop/smart phone device) to enable community teams to share the workflow involved with social media. Networks set ups (i.e. blogs, Facebook fan page, Twitter/YouTube/Flickr/Picassa etc accounts) arriving at quasi ROI benchmarks...the bottom line, did social media drive a testimonial, referral and/or new lead? Did it help to retain existing residents? So, in a nutshell, 2010 has proven to be the set-up of social media communications and learning social media strategies.  What does 2011 have in store? Well, the fundamental shift will be that we will stop focusing on monitoring and creating a communications-only program to drive social media strategies, but companies will seek to find efficient and effective tools to......
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