By Jeffrey Steele, Contributing Editor
How important is social media to property management companies? Let’s put it this way: the way a company does or does not respond to comments made on social media sites can have wide-ranging repercussions for the company and its image among the very customers it seeks to attract.
“One really positive social media interaction with one customer can be used by a company in its own communications to highlight its responsiveness and the positive aspect of the story,” says Kemp Edmonds, sales engineer with Vancouver’s HootSuite Media Inc. “The company can use it in its marketing, use it as a case study and then watch as other media outlets pick up the story and provide free public relations, the very best kind of public relations.”
By contrast, inaction by the company can turn into results that are just as powerfully negative as the above scenario is positive, he says.
Eric Broughton, president of Chicago’s Yield Technologies and creator of RentSentinel, which offers a social media-focused module called Reputation Radar, says you want to be engaged in social media for one very good reason.
“That’s where your renters are,” he says, adding there are 53 million renters in the U.S. under the age of 30, at least 90 percent of whom are on social media. “Most important, the conversation is happening whether you appreciate social media or not. It’s going on without your approval. So it’s best to have a part in the conversation. That’s why companies are monitoring social media.”
Property management companies must capture the feedback of their customers in social media in order to improve the customer experience, adds Edmonds. “Many people out there just want to be heard, so listening to them first, then responding to them, is in the best interests of your company,” he says.
Distribution and monitoring
RentSentinel’s Reputation Radar has two major components, Broughton notes. First, to ensure users are engaged in the conversation, it assists in the distribution of messages to Facebook and Twitter—the two biggest social media platforms. Reputation Radar also gives executives within the organization the chance to review and approve posts before they are sent to social media sites.
“You want to ensure what’s being said about your properties—whether by leasing agents, property managers or your social media captain if you have one—is in alignment with your corporation’s social media policies,” Broughton says.
The other component of Reputation Radar is reputation management monitoring of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, RentSocial and ApartmentRatings. That monitoring makes users aware of what’s being said about them, whether it’s a positive remark about wanting to rent at a property or complaints about community maintenance. Reputation Radar shares that insight with appropriate property personnel so they can respond in a timely manner.
“It’s very important to have social media guidelines for your organization and understand how the hierarchy of the response should take place,” he says. “If you have a centralized marketing operation, you can effectively monitor from one central corporate office but with the caveat that you must incorporate localized content for your properties. It has to be relevant to your social base. If it’s not, they will leave your site, or worse, respond negatively to your posts.”
HootSuite offers a free version, a Pro version and, for enterprise-level companies, an Enterprise model with security, analytics, collaboration and other features and services catering to larger corporations, Edmonds says.
Through its app directory and native intelligence, HootSuite allows users to manage 25-plus social sites. The chance to work collaboratively, available on the Pro and Enterprise versions, is one of the product’s greatest strengths.
“You might be on the go and see someone has sent, for instance, a Tweet about some aspect of customer service,” Edmonds says. “You can assign that to someone back at headquarters to respond. It’s also helpful to ensure you don’t take duplicate actions in addressing a social media comment.”
HootSuite can also schedule outbound posts, so personnel don’t have to be present when the posts go out. And it can shorten links and track how many folks click them, what country those people are in and from what sites they click.
“As a centralized tool, it’s a much more scalable solution than to have property managers at all these different properties—all with different levels of tech savvy—responding to comments in social media,” Edmonds says.
One user of HootSuite is Fulton Grace Realty, a Chicago company whose services include apartment leasing and property management for small apartment buildings and single-unit condos.
Says associate Peter Burleson: “We go into HootSuite and keep people updated on new listings we have and introduce them to new neighborhoods and to new communities. Those go on our Facebook business page, so when people like us on Facebook, they can get updates that show up in their news feeds. And they can also get Tweets from us. It’s good for [spurring] word of mouth.”
HootSuite also provides Fulton Grace with analytics regarding which of its messages get re-Tweeted or reposted. “That helps us keep track of which of our posts resonated with people,” Burleson says.
“Ultimately, we want our social media to be a resource for brand awareness. It’s not our primary tool by any means, but another tool in our back pocket to make people aware of our company.”