Members of Gen Z, or those born between 1996 and 2010, are among the most sophisticated demographic cohorts yet. They are well-educated, extremely tech-savvy, inquisitive and more diverse than previous generations—and are already entering the apartment market.
Seen as the only true digital native generation, who has no memory of life before screens or smartphones, Gen Z members can’t go without Wi-Fi access for more than a few hours. Being connected to the digital world is a huge part of their lives.
In fact, 94 percent of Gen Zers surveyed by the National Apartment Association late last year indicated that internet connection inside the apartment would be a significant factor when searching for a place to call home. Furthermore, youth market research firm YPulse’s recent Social Media Behavior report found that Gen Z members spend an average of 4.5 hours per day on social media. With that in mind, multifamily operators need to know how to engage with this cohort to lure them into their communities.
Social media strategy
Marketing experts agree that all social media platforms Gen Zers use are a highly accessible way to captivate their interest, find out their preferences and, ultimately, cater to their needs.
“From driving prospects to your property or your property’s website, to complementing any sort of paid marketing, a comprehensive social media posting strategy will expand your reach. With so many more people being online during the pandemic, you have direct and unique channels right to prospects,” Jacqueline McGuan, marketing specialist with RENTCafé Reach at Yardi, told Multi-Housing News.
One of the biggest benefits of using social media for multifamily is that it is a two-way communication vehicle. Social media doesn’t only grant you access to a vast audience, but it also allows the audience to share their comments and thoughts with you—with the added benefit that you can immediately see how people react and calibrate your messaging accordingly.
“From a marketing perspective, social media can offer a free, easy-to-use, always-on platform to reach your target customer. Our phones are always in our hands and we’re constantly scrolling during any idle time in our day,” said Yanzel Daskalakis, marketing manager at Downtown Apartment Co., a brokerage company specializing in luxury residential properties in Chicago. “There is no doubt that social media posts generate leads, and we’ve also been able to close a few of them at zero marketing cost, so the ROI is demonstrably there.”
DAC works with more than 200 apartment buildings, placing thousands of people in new homes each year. During the pandemic, the company’s social media channels proved their immense value. FaceTime apartment tours were particularly popular among Gen Z renters, because they can schedule the tours at their convenience and experience them from the comfort of their couch.
“In general, (Gen Z renters) are more comfortable with signing a lease for an apartment that they’ve only seen online,” Daskalakis told MHN.
Are you on TikTok?
Reaching Gen Z members in ways that resonate with them means knowing the ins and outs of their preferred communication channels—and TikTok is undoubtedly the shining star of all online platforms. The app is particularly popular among Gen Zers due to an algorithm that’s based on user interaction.
One of the best features of TikTok is that most branded content is hard to distinguish from content created by average users, which offers brands the opportunity to engage with their audience in fun and creative ways.
TikTok is where companies should be investing most of their efforts to capture the Gen Z market, according to Jimmy Vetrano, senior social media consultant with Taylor Johnson.
The strategy is already paying off for Common, Real estate broker tours, for example, are huge on TikTok these days, Raleigh Norris, manager of content and social media for the company, told MHN.
“We’re able to create our own unique version of these viral broker videos through detailed tours done by our in-house leasing specialists, on the ground, in our 10 cities,” Norris said. Insights from the platform show that this generation is indeed interested in apartment tours, city overviews and more.
READ ALSO: Multifamily Marketing’s New Hot Tool: TikTok
TikTok is about creating videos that have the potential to go viral, so multifamily operators need to make sure they’re not off-brand when posting on this platform. Furthermore, TikTok requires a well-thought-out and executed marketing plan, as content can come off as disingenuous, according to Bekkah Doyle, marketing specialist with RENTCafé Reach at Yardi.
“For properties that don’t have the resource to create these types of videos, I would suggest Instagram. It will still hit the Gen Z target audience while also not being so demanding on the property in terms of content creation,” Doyle said. TikTok dances, for example—if not done well—would have an unintended negative impact.
Gen Z-focused content
Gen Z spends more time on a mobile device than any other generation, so the easiest way to engage with them is through Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook or Twitch. But what should you post about to speak Gen Z renters’ language?
In addition to showcasing the online and virtual options that appeal to younger audiences, some companies use social media to highlight community involvement, such as partnerships with local businesses or charity actions.
“The more informal tone we use on social media is also intended to encourage communication and help develop that personalized feel for our social media followers, showing that we care about them and want to hear from them,” Megan Davidson, marketing analyst with Pangea Properties, told MHN.
Social media posts targeting Gen Zers should feature trendy items in the community or neighborhood such as local art pop-ups or popular eateries. Other posts could focus on resident testimonials, according to Doyle, as younger audiences place great value on online reviews before making a purchase. Last but not least, Gen Z members have an appetite for behind-the-scenes content, Norris added.
Working with well-crafted posting schedules is vital for social media marketing. While the pandemic has altered the time people typically scroll through their phones—it used to be during commutes, lunch breaks or in the evening—you should still make sure you post regularly in order to stay top-of-mind with renters, even when they’re not searching for an apartment.
“We always tell clients to treat their social media profile as if it was a brick-and-mortar store. For example, if your physical store appeared neglected and unkept … customers would walk right past it and go to a competitor’s location that looks inviting, actively maintained and engaging. The same principle applies to social media,” Vetrano said.
In other words, if a potential renter sees you’re not willing to maintain your social media platforms, they’re likely to think: ‘What else are you not maintaining?’, Vetrano explained. “Proactively addressing this point is pivotal when promoting residential units.”
Social media influencers: Yay or Nay?
Constantly posting fresh content on social media means that you need to be creative almost 24/7. Some multifamily operators have taken part of this burden off their shoulders by partnering with social media influencers.
While this can make a dent in the marketing budget, it can also be an important component of your social media strategy. Influencers can encourage and educate their followers while promoting a particular lifestyle, but they will also expect appropriate compensation for the services they provide.
Partnering with micro-influencers in local markets is a different story. Although they might have fewer followers, they can be more relevant. Pangea, for example, is only active in Chicago, Indianapolis and Baltimore, so it wouldn’t make sense for the company to partner with a large influencer with millions of followers who don’t live in these metros.
“I can definitely see more niche influencers becoming a bigger part of multifamily social media strategies over the next few years as the younger Gen Zers start renting and the generation becomes a larger bracket in the overall target audience for multifamily operators,” Davidson said.
The key is to find influencers that have a follower base that’s relevant to your marketing goals and specific geographic market, according to Vetrano. These influencers should be able and willing to produce content that shows your brand in a positive light, all while being able to provide metrics following a campaign to properly assess your ROI.
And while micro-influencers are on the rise because they are considered trustworthy and authentic, it could be difficult for multifamily operators to assess their ROI.
A more effective marketing strategy, according to McGuan, is to lean on residents or people who are organically related to what you’re sharing—but keep in mind that Gen Z prioritizes trusted information sources and they can easily spot marketing ploys.