PayLease Webinar Provides Social Media Tips for Piquing Interests of Student Demographic

Having a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account for your student community is great. But the accounts don't necessarily equate to success when trying to reach a student demographic. In a PayLease-hosted webinar on June 12th, social media expert and consultant Casey Van Zandt shared tips on how student-housing communities can use social media.

Having a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account for your student community is great. But the accounts don’t necessarily equate to success when trying to reach a student demographic. In a PayLease-hosted webinar on June 12th, social media expert and consultant Casey Van Zandt shared tips on how student-housing communities can use social media. The discussion focused heavily on Facebook, but also included tips for success using Instagram and Twitter as well.

“What I see a lot of folks do and a lot of properties do is they’ll post the same post on all three platforms,” Van Zandt says. “And what that does is it’s going to eventually decrease your number of likes, it’s going to decrease your engagement activity, it’s also going to decrease your number of followers overall.”

The reason for this, Van Zandt says, is that social media users aren’t going to want to engage a company on all three platforms if the same message is appearing on all three platforms because it is overload of the same message. This style of posting creates a stale social media presence, she said.

Van Zandt says that each platform is unique and should be used according to the type of message the property is trying to relay. For example, she likens Facebook to Google and noted that Facebook should be used as a “one-stop shop” of information for users,  a place where people can come and search for as much information about the property as possible. Instagram, on the other hand, is an “artsy” platform and should be used to convey more visual information rather than verbal, while Twitter should be used for “newsy” information and less for sales campaigns.

“In my opinion, Instagram and Twitter are wide open from a property management standpoint as far as student housing or multifamily,” she says. “Most properties have a Facebook business page and they operate it pretty well. The other two outlets, in the search results, they’re lagging. This is an opportunity for you to really stand out in the business, make a brand and make a presence in the community on these platforms.”

Digging deeper into Facebook, Van Zandt gave examples of successful campaigns. One of the biggest trends in Facebook marketing is narcissism, meaning that businesses are posting content that emphasizes the “me me me” concept through the posting of pictures and updates about events or renewal specials. She says that managers need to balance the “me” by giving pages personality by creating posts that provide relevant information to the target demographic without coming across as being overly sales oriented.

Van Zandt gave examples of types of posts that can help do this. Informative posts provide followers with a tidbit of information that might not necessarily have to do with a sales campaign such as a link to a recipe or an invitation to stop by and check out a new community upgrade. Seasonal posts can help engage student and parents such as reminders about upcoming holidays like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. One more example was the “take action” post, which encourages followers create posts, whether through images or text, that can be accompanied by a unique hashtag that is associated with a current campaign.

Another topic discussed was the use of Facebook to administer contests and sweepstakes. Van Zandt advises to follow Facebook’s guidelines, make the contest as simple as possible, never directly solicit entrants, notify winners individually before announcing them on a status update and to stay in compliance with local, state, national and international laws. She also encourages using third-party applications to administer the contest and to require a “like” in order to be eligible to win. Additionally, she notes that offering a compelling prize geared toward the target audience and making the contest mobile friendly will help increase participation.

“It’s a three-fold piece when you’re running a sweepstakes,” she says. “You’re obviously trying to boost your likes and boost your presence online. But you’re ultimately trying to get an ROI. You’re trying to convert that like into traffic and then you’re obviously trying to convert that traffic into a lease. It’s three pieces. None of all three of those steps could happen, but that’s the goal.”

Van Zandt also presented information about Facebook’s new Graph Search option, which is currently in its beta testing phase.  Graph search allows page administrators to filter through specific sets of information based on posts and shared content. For example, a property manager could use the graph search to search for favorite bands of people that like the page and then potentially use tickets to see that band as a prize for a sweepstakes contest.

“The results are personalized for each company, and for each person,” Van Zandt notes.

With regards to Instagram, Van Zandt provides several examples on how to address the more creative nature of the platform to engage prospects.

One example she uses was to encourage prospects to snap selfies while on a tour and to use a unique property-specific hashtag when posting the images to Instagram. Those photos help to create a photo library of the property through the eyes of potential tenant.  She added that if the budget allows, to offer the option to have those photos printed at the end of the tour and pin or past them to a physical photo wall. She also noted that managers can ask followers to use the unique hashtag method as a way to create sweepstakes.

“So ultimately what you have is a photo library that’s in the eyes of your customers, that’s in the eyes of your prospects,” Van Zandt says. “So it’s not super sales-y … They’re raw, they’re authentic, they’re real pictures. They’re not marketing staged pictures, which again, ties back to our target demographic because they don’t want to be sold to too much.”

While Zandt says that Twitter should be primarily used for updates and need-to-know information about a community, such as scheduled maintenance to common areas or rent notifications, she says it is also a good tool to help build momentum for campaigns.

“You’re thinking current events, you’re thinking newsworthy, you’re thinking minimal, minimal sales,” she says.

Her suggestions were to use Twitter to tease a campaign, such as a rent special, by posting often and to encourage retweeting up to a week out leading up to the campaign event. Effectiveness for Twitter use can be measured by the number of followers that were gained and whether or not the campaign tweets helped to generate a sale or lease.

“The one thing about Twitter, if you’re not on it, is that it’s constant,” she says. “You don’t just post once a day. You’re constantly posting about different information very very often. You’re encouraging your customers to retweet.”