Influence Matters: How Online Influencers Are Shaking Up Multifamily

Developers and property managers are revamping their marketing techniques with a new generation of ambassadors.

Influencers are making a splash in multifamily, with more and more companies looking to a new generation of social media-savvy communicators to promote their product.

The trend toward relying on influencers has picked up in recent years and shows no signs of slowing down. The market value of influencer marketing, which has tripled since 2019, was recorded as upward of $20 billion, according to data from Statista.

Both multifamily owners and residents are part of this new online reality. In a November 2023 National Multifamily Housing Council survey, 42 percent of respondents said they had viewed a property’s social media profiles. Meanwhile, nearly two in five Americans, and almost one in 10 Gen Z-ers, are more likely to use TikTok than Google to conduct routine searches, according to a recent Adobe report. Those numbers are significant considering that, according to Pew Research, 65 percent of those under 35 are renters.

Small investment, big potential

If you think you don’t have the budget for an influencer campaign, think again.

“People hear ‘influencer’ and they think big-time (marketing spend),” Delany Duke, director of digital services at Landmark Properties, told MHN.  “That is not necessarily what we need.”

In fact, micro-influencers are key to the success of many multifamily lease-ups. These niche audiences have a dedicated, engaged following which is more inclined to heed influencers’ word on local recommendations.

Though Landmark Properties is mostly focused on student housing, Duke points out that many of the strategies utilized on behalf of that asset class can apply to all types of market-rate housing by leveraging a building’s location, amenities or even affordability. For example, a micro-influencer who reviews local restaurants could be brought on to focus on dining options in the vicinity of your building, while a skincare influencer could be tapped to discuss top sunscreens at a property’s rooftop pool.

Consumers are “looking for more authenticity and not (just) a glamorous Instagram lifestyle,” said Sydney Webber, senior director of marketing at Venn, an app that she likens to the Marriot Bonvoy experience, but aimed at residents. “Creators, influencers and micro-influencers are an extremely valuable marketing channel that should not be ignored.”

Webber speaks from experience, having tested an influencer marketing strategy in a new lease-up before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Armed with a limited budget, she engaged a micro-influencer to deliver images and video tours of her new apartment, which drove more traffic to her property’s site.

Engaging with micro-influencers can also shorten the apartment search process, said Duke, allowing for properties to land new residents in a shorter period of time.

Tracking progress

Before launching any influencer campaign, it’s imperative to set realistic expectations, as well as a strong tracking system, including UTM parameters, to track the entire prospect journey. This can be critical, because influencer marketing in a business such as multifamily is usually a long game. Apartment leases are not snapped up in the same quick-hit way as the latest fashion or beauty trend.

Using referral codes to help track where traffic originates is also important, as it allows prospects to self-report how they found a community. This is particularly enticing if the codes offer a free curated gift or some other incentive.

Vetting Influencers

For those just getting their feet wet in the world of influencer marketing, Webber advises companies to add certain clauses to their contracts, particularly ones that ensure influencers don’t say anything negative about the company or property they represent. Other important clauses include those that indicate usage rights and time frames for content.

Engaging existing residents

Influencer marketing can be helpful beyond lead generation, said Webber, who suggested using current renters to market their communities internally. Have a foodie influencer on site? He or she can teach a cooking class at the property’s community room. This sort of outreach can help to build a community program.

One fairly simple way to engage residents, and perhaps even build a more robust content strategy, is to ask them to send user-generated content that’s based on their own lifestyles. If the content is used, a company could offer compensation in the form of a rent credit or a similar incentive.

In running a similar program, Webber engaged with some resident micro-influencers who submitted their content to other blogs, resulting in backlinks that drove increased traffic due to the blog’s domain authority.

Getting buy-in

For those looking for leadership buy-in to launch an influencer campaign, relating the experience to other shopping experiences could be useful. Most people make their purchase decisions based on others’ reviews and experiences, not just what a brand says about itself.

“Meet people where they are,” advised Duke. “If it’s not a rooftop pool, maybe it’s a better location, better pricing, an actual parking spot.” Above all else, it is critical to try to relate to “what people need and want.”

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