MHN INTERVIEW: Taking Control of Your Property’s Online Reputation
- Jan 26, 2012
By Jessica Fiur, News Editor
Chicago—Are you in control of your property’s reputation? Maybe you have a social media page for the apartment community, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a separate, user-generated page—which could be filled with negative reviews.
Matthew Hartman, president, ReferBoost, talks to MHN about Chicago-based ReferBoost, a new service that allows property managers to keep track of all their property reviews, in addition to showing them particular residents to target who would be willing to write positive reviews or refer their friends to lease in the community.
MHN: Describe ReferBoost.
Hartman: What we’re trying to do is help property management companies to manage their brand online, and for us that means managing it in the context of user-generated content. The services we provide include managing for a bunch of different user-generated content sites—from review sites to social media—in the context of an apartment.
Once we help property managers get their heads around what people are saying everywhere, [we let them know] what the different outlets are for them to start to influence that conversation. We have simple steps such targeting review sites where you think there are negative reviews and target people who are within your community who could put some positive reviews out there.
MHN: How is this different than, say, just Googling your own company?
Hartman: I think if you’re a property manager and you have one property, then that’s exactly what you should do. I think they should set up Google alerts and try to keep up with it. We automate a bunch of the processes of identifying “what to do next.” For example, we say there are certain [negative] reviews to “target.” We can target the number of residents, for example on Yelp, that would need to write a review in order to “move the needle.”
MHN: How do you know which resident to target to write a positive review on one of these sites?
Hartman: We start out with residential referral programs—some markets have this, and some markets don’t—where if they refer a friend to move in they get $500, that type of thing. We take that and put it on social media, and that immediately directs people to the Facebook page and starts a conversation about the property manager’s apartment. Then what we’ll do is follow up with people who did share and learn a little more so we can start to get a sense about the level of satisfaction for an individual resident. Our premise on the review side is that we wouldn’t follow up with people who didn’t want to refer their friends, because the assumption is maybe they’re unhappy. Someone who does share with their friends is willing to put their reputation on the line.
It’s always about trying to get your brand out in social media, and it’s about collecting data about whether you did it and how you did it. We also have tracking—which I guess is another thing that individuals couldn’t do themselves—that says, “you have 20 residents post to Facebook, and this person drove 15 clicks to your webpage, and this person drove 25 clicks to your webpage.” So we can start to say, “Here’s who’s driving the most actual traffic that you can turn into leads.”
MHN: And what do you do when you find these people?
Hartman: There are basically three areas [to the website]. There’s the reviews, there’s the referrals [and social media]. For the referrals, what’s cool is for a usual referral, the only time you can actually get feedback is when someone walks into the office and signs a lease and says they were referred by someone, so there’s this big gap in information. What we found is we can tell the number of people that each person drove, so you can reward different behavior. It’s not just rewarding the $300 at the end if the person actually signs up. You can be rewarding 10 people who post, or the people who drive the most clicks, or anything property managers want, but with the goal of saying, “this is actually driving traffic.”
MHN: You mentioned in an earlier conversation that property managers might not even know they’re on Facebook, but they are. What did you mean by this?
Hartman: I think this is interesting, and I don’t think people are aware this is happening. When property managers create a Facebook page and really take control of it, that’s leverage-able. So when people visit that page they can really understand about your building. They’re going to see some content you have control over. If you don’t do that, sites are going to exist, and pages are going to be completed automatically as people “like” things or as people check in.
I think it’s important for the property management companies to understand that even if they say, “We’re not ready for social media,” and even if they’re not ready, someone’s checking in and saying, “Hey, this is my home.” As the owner of the building, you can go to the page and “claim it.” If people say they like [a property], at some point the property management company can say, “Oh, we’re the owner,” and upload some pictures of the property so it’s not a blank page when people go to it. If traffic is going there, it feels like a mistake to overlook it.
MHN: You mentioned the people who “aren’t ready” for social media. If you show them that there are pages anyway, what are their reactions?
Hartman: This first came out because one of the property managers came up to me and said, “I heard we have a Facebook page from one of the residents.” I get that it’s scary. And I think some property managers would rather have the negative stuff out there and not be associated with it, but I think that’s almost as dangerous as not being out there at all, because people see it. You voice is heard