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Jul. 25, 2014

Insights on Instagram

_MG_4637 thumbnailBy Erica Rascon, Contributing Editor

Buckingham Companies began this year with a slew of accolades, among them a Prodigy Award for Best Overall Marketing Program, another for Best Color Advertisement, and the Bronze Adrian Award for Complete Campaign and Posting. At the foundation of those achievements stands an innovative marketing department that enhances traditional marketing approaches with a tool that many competitors have kept at arm’s length: Instagram.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is an entirely image-driven social media platform with more than 200 million users worldwide. While Facebook and Twitter usage has hit plateaus, Instagram is one of the fastest growing platforms with a notable international audience, and 65 percent of the community is from outside of the United States. It is the ideal tool for reaching local renters and transplants.

Buckingham Companies’ team dove into Instagram as a major component of their marketing strategy for CityWay in downtown Indianapolis. MHN caught up with Marketing Manager Nicole Crosby to explore the method behind their success.

MHN: Tell me about your Instagram strategy for CityWay and how it enhances your brand.

Crosby: Traditional real estate marketing is often visualized through staged and perfectly edited photography, alongside a carefully crafted list of features and amenities. As marketers, of course we want to show our properties in the best light possible, but today’s customers expect more. They want to understand what it’s really like to live there, to spend every day there. Instagram offers a way for our residents and on site teams to capture the perspective of everyday living and connect with our property, in some cases before they even set foot in our leasing centers. Our prospective customers are craving that connection in their apartment search. Highlighting Instagram on our property websites provides a first step in that connection.

MHN: How have you incorporated Instagram into property marketing and advertising?

Crosby: We use Instagram like any other social media platform: as a way to expose our communities to a wider audience, communicate our brand and the type of lifestyle we offer, and ultimately to drive traffic to our property websites. Instagram, specifically, is a softer approach. We don’t have a hard sell or a call to action. We just showcase imagery that paints a picture of everyday life in our communities.

MHN: What made CityWay the ideal property for heightened social media outreach?

Crosby: CityWay’s location in downtown Indianapolis appeals to an audience who values connectivity and social interaction. We didn’t expect the typical CityWay resident to be one who chose their home using a magazine or online listing. We envisioned that they would be doing most of their research on the Internet—seeking advice from friends and researching what was new, unique, and active in their desired location. Social media was the perfect medium for us to tell CityWay’s story, creating a personal connection and communication line to both existing and future residents.

MHN: Many Instagram posts show CityWay residents and staff participating in community events. Why does this approach appeal to your audience?

Crosby: A big part of the CityWay living experience is delivering a neighborhood vibe to an urban community. According to a recent article published by Indianapolis Downtown Inc., 38 percent of Downtown Indianapolis residents moved downtown from out of state. With so many transplanted dwellers, it is important that we offer our residents an opportunity to not only connect with their neighbors, but also with the Indianapolis neighborhood as a whole. The CityWay brand extends past our building walls, with so many choices at our doorstep. We want to help our residents embrace Indianapolis and all it has to offer—art, social events, sports, great food, culture and the neighborhood. That’s all part of what makes CityWay a great place to be.

MHN: What advice do you have for other multifamily firms that would like to attract more engagement from residents on Instagram?

Crosby: Keep it casual and keep it interesting. Instagram is about celebrating great images. Some residents and prospective residents will embrace it, and others won’t. Don’t be tempted to make it overly promotional—it’s a great visual tool to communicate with your audience, but it’s supposed to be fun, so have fun with it.

MHN: What is the next frontier for Buckingham Company’s social media strategy? Are there new platforms that you all are interested in exploring?

Crosby: While social media is fun, you can’t invest your time and resources unless it has a practical application that can be tied back to measurable results. A lot of companies are guilty of social media overload. Not every social media platform makes sense for our industry. We try to build something solid and authentic with our social media followers and make the relationship last. You’ll go crazy trying to keep up with every platform. We are always looking at new platforms and evaluating whether or not there is a clear application to marketing our properties or company, but it has to make sense.

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