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Sep. 18, 2013

MHN Interview: The Importance of Social Media For Multifamily Team Members

Dean Holmes_final thumbnailBy Jessica Fiur, Senior Editor

Philadelphia—Social media has become a crucial element in the multifamily industry—but not just for interacting with residents. Community employees also benefit from a social media portal because it allows them to communicate easily and efficiently. Madison Apartment Group, a Philadelphia-based company, recently launched a social media platform for their employees called Madison Connect. MHN talks to Dean Holmes, COO of Madison Apartment Group, about this new technology.

MHN: Describe your social media portal. Why was it created for Madison Apartment Group?

Holmes: Over the past several years, technology has brought about significant change in the multifamily industry, particularly in the number of channels we use to interact and communicate with our residents. We felt it logical that we should apply the same approach to the way we interact with our Madison team members.

Madison’s internal social media portal was created using Microsoft Sharepoint and Yammer, an internal social media platform. In coordination with an outside design firm, we designed and created a branded intranet, powered by Sharepoint. Our new intranet, Madison Connect, is the place where our employees can store and retrieve documents, find out about scheduled company trainings and meetings and learn about new company initiatives and policies.

Utilizing Sharepoint’s integration with Yammer, we were able to bring a truly social platform to Madison Connect. We’ve created groups for each of our corporate departments including Human Resources, Training and Marketing and their respective Yammer newsfeeds are embedded in Madison Connect so our employees can access updates on a real time basis. It is truly a 24/7 environment that facilitates communication, collaboration and employee recognition.

MHN: Why is it necessary to have a social media portal for Madison Apartment Group employees? How has it made communication more efficient?

Holmes: Madison Apartment Group is a highly decentralized organization. Currently, we own and operate 70 multifamily communities in 13 states with over 400 employees nationwide. Our challenge is to keep all of our employees feeling connected and engaged while also providing a quick and efficient way of transmitting critical communication about reporting, training and other company announcements.

After conducting a communications assessment, we found that email communication often resulted in frustration, miscommunication or just plain lack of communication. Our employees were getting flooded with emails and important messages were getting lost in the shuffle. Further, we found that we were lacking an essential feedback loop across different levels of the organization. We weren’t effectively sharing knowledge and information across the portfolio and we were missing critical opportunities to recognize and celebrate important individual and team accomplishments.

By creating a centralized portal where our employees can connect, collaborate and share information in real time, we will minimize the amount of time wasted on unnecessary emails while ensuring we maximize opportunities to share and respond to critical internal news.

MHN: Have the employees been receptive to this?

Holmes: Our employees have been extremely receptive to Madison Connect and Yammer. We launched it at our annual company conference this past June, and it was extraordinarily well received. Since the launch, we’ve had more than 200 employees join the Yammer network and nearly 90 percent of the employees are actively engaged in the conversation taking place daily and monthly. Our employees are enjoying the opportunity to share ideas and to celebrate their accomplishments in a much more social forum.

MHN: How has this affected how your employees communicate externally?

Holmes: Our hope is that the new platform will indirectly improve external communications by freeing up time and resources that would typically be spent culling through emails. By improving the way we communicate internally, we will be more responsive and attuned to our resident’s needs.

MHN: What do you have planned in the future to expand your digital media profile?

Holmes: We plan on continually refining our digital and interactive platforms for both our residents and employees. Our goal is to continue to adopt new technology to enhance our accessibility to our residents and prospects. We are placing a heavy emphasis on the use of mobile technology at the site level for both our office and maintenance teams.

MHN: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Holmes: Over the past two years, we’ve worked hard to become social for our residents. We’ve implemented an extensive social media and online reputation program to meet our residents where they are communicating and interacting everyday on places such as Facebook, Twitter and even Yelp. We wanted to bring our social media revolution inside Madison because we know people today expect a more social and collaborative communication, not only in their personal lives but at work, too.

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