21st Century word-of-mouth marketing is actionable, trackable and authentic.

By Keith Loria, Contributing Editor

When marketing an apartment in the world of 2012, savvy management companies understand that taking advantage of multifamily marketing tools in the areas of social, mobile and local media can do wonders for increasing rentals and referrals.

Unlike any other advertising and promotional channel, social media provides tools that bring people and information together in a highly personal way, which can affect actions both online and offline.

“It’s really all about residents talking to friends, and the things that can be done to improve and enhance those discussions are fantastic,” says Ed Spiegel, founder & CEO of RentMineOnline, which combines resident referral programs with the power of social networks. “There are proof points in the industry showing causation between promotion on these networks—Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin—and as the industry is maturing, you see more indication of these recommendations that can be tracked and lead to conversion.”

It’s the modern day word of mouth—real-time, actionable, track-able and authentic. In an industry where referrals are the second largest leasing source across the country, the more you propagate the interactions and discussions on social networks, the more it ultimately will lead to leases.

In an effort to produce a high-quality experience and ensure success, Alexis Vance, national marketing director for Alliance Residential Company, engages a number of social media sites.

“Currently, our main focus and participation is with Facebook, and additional channels are added to the mix for communities as they become more sophisticated in their strategy,” Vance explains. “At all times, we are testing and monitoring new social media trends, websites and tactics that would benefit our communities and impact our portfolio positively in the future.”

Vance believes the shift from promotional messaging to advocacy-driven tactics is magnified within social media, and that the future possibilities for social media in the multifamily industry are unlimited. Alliance is actively researching new social sites such as Google+ and Pinterest and will be integrating on video and sharing sites such as YouTube and Vimeo this year.

Mobile marketing

The number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth by the end of 2012. That staggering statistic comes from Cisco’s “Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update,” which marketers can use to forecast the impact of visual networking applications on global networks.

By 2012, over 100 million smartphone users will be using over 1 GB/month of data, and close to 100 million tablet computers will be scooped up in the marketplace over the next 12 months.

“Marketers that integrate mobile notification systems for desired rental profiles can help accelerate the closing process and elevate rental rates by increasing their market size,” says Andy Meadows, CEO of, a technology services firm that provides insights into impactful mobile and social engagement across online and offline consumer touch points. “Once renters are settled, interacting with [them] to up-sell services, report service issues and raise awareness of sharing new property availability will turn the mobile device into an always-on marketing channel.”

It’s no wonder that shrewd property managers are taking advantage of these devices to advertise, market and lease units.

New to the field is G5’s newest DXM platform, which replaces the standalone mobile website with a responsive design feature that can detect the size of the browser, specifically catering to a tablet or smartphone.

“If you’re using a smartphone, it coordinates so it knows where you are located,” says Dan Hobin, CEO of G5, a leading provider of mobile services to the apartment industry.

“If you searched on Google for a company with multiple properties, it shows the properties closest to you based on geographical location and features the best display for the device you’re on.”

The driving force behind the responsive design methodology was the penetration of tablet devices, which Hobin says happened faster than anyone in the industry ever projected.

Local marketing

Geo-fencing awareness involves marketing to consumers by matching up smartphone geographical locations with user-identified browsing and purchasing preferences. This allows multifamily marketers to tailor their messages to a specific demographic or neighborhood and interact in real time to customers based on a locality.

Mainstream marketing is beginning to adopt local marketing techniques through check-in services like Foursquare, and the location-aware loyalty wars are beginning to heat up, but the challenge is that most systems are proprietary, and mainstream adoption is limited.

“There are some leading-edge marketers experimenting with geo-fencing and location-aware native mobile apps; however, these are truly experimental and aren’t even close to mainstream adoption,” Meadows says. “When a ubiquitous global standard begins to debut, the mainstream marketer will move quickly to integrate and adopt this technology.”

As these tools gain prominence, using platforms such as Foursquare, locally targeted geo-mobile coupons with leasing incentives can be triggered to generate additional interest and social buzz.

By using the right online marketing tools, one can create a digital experience that engages renters at every touch point and turns them into advocates for your property.

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