Questions to Ask Before Embarking on a Social Media Plan
- Aug 17, 2011
Anyone who’s spent time on social media marketing knows the process can get very deep very quickly—and hours can slip by like minutes.
Having a dedicated fan page for each property creates a logistical problem: each one requires its own unique log-in information (email address and password), and as any Facebook user with multiple accounts knows, you have to log out and back in any time you want to switch. That means 50-plus email addresses, 50-plus passwords and a whole lot of wasted time.
Barrett & Stokely, an Indianapolis-based firm that manages more than 10,000 apartment units across 50-plus communities, faces these challenges. Every Barrett & Stokely community has a unique Facebook fan page that provides residents and prospects with the latest updates, events and notices—a credit to the company’s progressive approach and ability to adapt and implement new technologies. The fan pages have turned out to be one of the most effective, conversational and personable ways to communicate and build a relationship with community members.
However, Rebecca Collins, marketing director at Barrett & Stokely, is frank about the time needed for a company to participate in social media. “I would spend several hours a week just logging in and out,” says Collins. “I’m not joking when I tell you I had to keep a massive Excel spreadsheet just to manage the log-in information and passwords.”
But there is value, and the potential reach is staggering. “Social media is the closest thing to word-of-mouth,” says Collins. “And we fully believe in the value—it allows our brands to have direct messages with current and future residents.”
What property management marketers—and all marketers for that matter—need to do is take some time before diving in to figure out just how they want to go about social media. Social media marketing comes down to developing a plan that works, is realistic and takes advantage of innovative tools that suit your needs.
1. Identify What’s Right for You
Signing up for every social media tool out there probably doesn’t make sense for everyone. Worse, doing so can often become an overwhelming experience. Start small by identifying where your residents, and potential residents, might be.
Googling yourself can actually be a helpful first step. It may make sense to visit Twitter Search and plug in keywords pertaining to your business (you can do this even if you don’t have a Twitter account yet). If you see your name and keywords pop up, get involved!
Additional “recon” steps can help you figure out what social platforms are right. For example, do you field a lot of questions via email or phone? If so, maybe it’s time to create a blog. Similarly, you can see what your customers are saying about you on Yelp.
2. What Do You Want Out of Social?
This is a question many property managers forget to ask themselves. They may feel forced to dive into social media, but they often don’t know why or how it can help them. Ask yourself what you want to get out of social media. Is it new customers and sales? Community development among current residents? Online reputation management? The ability to keep tabs on competitors?
The point is, take the time to ask these questions both out of the gate and on a regular basis since your social media marketing objectives may change down the road.
3. Make Things Easier
As you get comfortable with your social media marketing efforts, it might make sense to explore Web tools that make the whole process easier. There are Web tools that help small businesses tackle social media marketing by bringing multiple accounts under one umbrella, allowing cross-platform posting and what is referred to as “cutting out the noise.”
“I log in weekly and apply all postings to our 50-plus brands for the week,” says Collins. “I schedule the posts using a delay feature, and it takes me less than an hour a week now. Plus, I get a daily email that lets me monitor what’s going on without having to hunt.”
Another great way to make things easier is Google Alerts, where you can set up free email alerts every time your business name (or whatever keywords you choose to track) is mentioned across the Web. Whatever tools you use, don’t be afraid to explore and find the options that are out there and can make your daily life easier.
Dave Lifson is the CEO of Postling.com, a web service that helps small business owners tackle social media marketing. With Postling, business owners can manage all of their social media accounts under one roof. For more information, visit postling.com.