Social Media Damage Control

Manage your property's social media reputation before it takes a bite out of the bottom line.

Even before social media took the world by storm, changing how we spend our down time and how we do business, a good reputation management consultant was worth his weight in gold. Those public relations wizards could revive an ailing career, but it was much more difficult to repair the damage done to the bottom line of a restaurant when a scathing review was written by an unimpressed critic.

In a relatively short amount of time, social media has changed the playing field dramatically. Now the good reviews (hopefully you have lots more of these) reside right alongside the unflattering ones. Unfortunately, bad reviews will live online forever—especially since experts warn against removing negative comments, as this will only make matters worse and prolong the negative attacks—but they’ll quickly become less visible as new posts take center stage.

And while it might seem preferable to only have good reviews online about a building, according to social media marketing consultant Charity Hisle, “95 percent of people become suspicious when there are only positive reviews.” Don’t ever pay for good reviews, she adds.

“People are using social networking sites to express disappointment about a purchase, brand or retail, and they’re using these sites to get purchasing advice,” said Hisle, who recently shared her tips for “Managing Your Online Reputation” during a webinar produced by Grace Hill and sponsored by Appfolio Property Manager. Therefore, it’s important to have policies and procedures in place for dealing with negative comments as well as glowing ones.

“Reputation management is a critical point given how quickly information moves within our industry,” agrees Alexandra Jaciw, president of Buckingham’s property management arm. “With so many social media and online opportunities for people to make comments about our services and our products, our employees will have to be ever-vigilant about how we monitor those comments and how we respond to them.”

Jaciw adds that negative comments can be used as a teaching tool for associates. “But remember to take the conversation offline. Engaging someone who is making negative comments online through an online discourse is not a good approach to use. The sooner that discussion can be had in person, the better.” This will also facilitate finding a solution to the situation if the complaint is a valid one.

Among’s “Ten Commandments of Online Reputation Management” are “Set up alerts: be the first to know when people are talking about you—on mainstream media as well as social media” and “Take your pulse. Use Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines to regularly check your online reputation.”

Hisle points out that these tools are free. “You can manage your company’s reputation and also see when the reputations of competitors take a hit.“ Hisle suggests using Google Feed Reader for keywords and phrases; Google Alerts for web results, blogs, news, groups and videos; and SocialMention, Kurrently, Twitter Search for social networking mentions. HyperAlerts, she adds, is the best solution for monitoring your Facebook pages and the pages of your competitors.

New solutions are coming to market. RentSentinel, a provider of apartment marketing management software, recently launched Social. The new product gives leasing agents the ability to manage social media sites from the RentSentinel platform. Social provides property management companies control and visibility to their communities’ social media portfolios and delivers detailed reports that gauge social success. Users can monitor results, manage workflow and share content across the most popular social sites from one centralized location. Social also allows property managers the ability to monitor reviews from ApartmentRatings and Yelp.

Since reviews land at the top of search results, Hisle says to respond to positive reviews with the name of your company and repeat the compliment to boost search results. Don’t repeat negative comments or your company name when responding to these comments, and don’t respond to attacking or offensive reviews.

As one attendee pointed out during the Q&A following Hisle’s webcast presentation, “Most of our bad posts result from security deposit disputes. Residents feel they weren’t responsible for the damage that was caused to the unit. How do you suggest we respond to those posts without sounding defensive?”

According to Hisle, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. “Perhaps start with all new and current residents (via flyers, email and the community website). Explain the most common damage that takes place during the normal course of residence and how to prevent the damage,” she suggested. “In the case of reviews already posted, if they are older than 12 months, let them go. If they are current reviews, perhaps explain the common types of damage, why your community needs to recover the costs of repair, and offer to speak with them offline. Provide a name and contact information,” added Hisle, whose blog can be found at

Hisle suggests searching all of these sites for your community name: Google, Google Feed Reader, Google Alerts, SocialMention, Kurrently, Twitter Search, HyperAlerts, Bing, Yahoo, Yahoo local, ApartmentRatings, DoNotRent, Yelp,, etc. An important part of managing an online reputation is to keep track of all mentions and reviews of a building. Set up Google alerts and track everything on a spreadsheet. This way property managers can follow up on reviews and know who to reply to.

A better way to generate positive reviews is through email marketing to residents, signs in the office and requesting prospects (preferably before they even move in) to leave a review. Share these on Facebook, says Hisle, and in testimonials on your website and future email marketing campaigns to build credibility for your community. Consider posting a sign in the office saying, “Like us? Have you reviewed us online yet?”

The best way to defend an apartment community on is by purchasing a membership to the site, responding appropriately to concerns and complaints, and using the site regularly. This will build credibility, visibility and authenticity. Keep in mind that if negative ratings do appear, ApartmentRatings will remove those that violate their terms of service. Yelp also has guidelines that, if violated, may result in the review being removed.

When to engage: positive comments, those that thank your brand for the value or experience. Thank everyone for positive or thoughtful comments left on your social networking sites. Online and real-world reputations are merging. Professional connections begin with search engines and social networking sites. It is equally important to manage the reputations of team members and executives.

Preparing students: tomorrow’s renters

If you’re in student housing, consider offering a reputation management workshop for residents as part of your community-building activities. According to, a Silicon Valley-based company devoted to empowering individuals and businesses to control their privacy and reputations online, “students are some of the most active users of social networking. They spend much of their time creating and fine-tuning their online personas. However, the digital identity that impresses friends may not have the same positive impact on college administrators or potential employers. Recruiters and hiring managers are reviewing candidates’ online reputations; will the information they discover help or hinder?”

Action plan

  • Create a customizable response plan
  • Develop a crisis plan and educate employees on acceptable and unacceptable uses of social media
  • Create a use policy for your company Facebook page
  • Monitor page and remove spam posts immediately