Michael Ivey: Unlocking Your Apartments’ Five-Star Potential

by Scott Reid

Did you know that nearly four out of five residents, on average, have a favorable opinion of their current apartment home? For the apartment industry, this may be surprising as it runs counter to conventional wisdom about resident satisfaction. Perhaps most interesting of all is that these residents also report that they would also be willing to promote their apartment community online.

There is just one problem. Fewer than 10 percent actually take this desired action. With 89 percent of residents and prospects now trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations, it makes sense for this to be a top concern for property managers. If such a large percentage of these tech-savvy residents are willing to share, why aren’t they?

To answer this question, Modern Message surveyed more than 1,100 residents from across the United States to learn what it takes to turn residents into an apartment community’s personal marketing army, or as we call them, resident advocates.

Unlock Your Five-Star Potential

Could every apartment community come close to a five star rating? For the majority of apartments it’s possible. Our survey revealed 78 percent of residents have a positive view of their current apartment home, and more than 70 percent would be willing to promote their apartment community online through their social networks.

Who Are Resident Advocates and Why Do They Matter? 

Resident advocates represent the percentage of current residents that have a favorable opinion of their community and would be willing to promote their opinion to family, friends and peers both on and offline. These residents are passionate about their experience at their current apartment home and represent the best hope for an apartment community’s “word of mouth” marketing efforts.

Currently, renters rely less on the way you market your benefits and amenities, and give more weight to how residents describe them to their personal social networks. Potential residents view these opinions, both positive and negative, as honest and objective information that can no longer be hidden from today’s renters.

How to Create an Army of Resident Advocates?

Turning an apartment community into an army of online resident advocates can seem like a daunting task, perhaps even an absolute impossibility. While rent specials, resident events and community promotions are viewed as newsworthy to industry marketers, the nature of this content traditionally yields very low social sharing by residents. However, an army of resident advocates is critical and now is the time to start recruiting.

Define Your Mission

Determining a property’s needs and knowing what goals they want to achieve is a crucial first step.

Whether your focus is on reputation, generating more referral traffic to a property’s website, or something else, highlighting what needs to be accomplished will make a difference once your army of advocates have been recruited and will keep everyone on track.

Make It About Your Residents

Apartment marketers often forget that the ultimate question for any successful campaign is, “What’s in it for me?” This is a question that must be answered from the resident’s or the prospect’s perspective, not the apartment manager.

Questions such as, “Why would I really want to share content from my apartment?” are running through resident’s heads and will typically prevent them from engaging with you online.

When you focus on improving the lives of your current residents, the results will come across as authentic and yield a level of engagement that will put a smile on every apartment manager and owner’s face.

Send Them To Battle

Now that residents are engaged in generating social content online that relates to the service and experience at your apartment, the resident advocate army you’ve created will go to battle for you online.  The natural result of engaging your community this way will yield the desired online activity.

How Do Resident Advocates Benefit Apartment Communities

Apartment communities are all vying for the attention of both residents and prospects alike. While most marketing strategies are designed to help businesses be discovered, our survey revealed that 94 percent of renters actually report that a friend’s recommendation would influence their leasing decision.

Recent updates, on certain platforms like Facebook, however, have made this virtually impossible by slashing organic reach to below 7 percent. In other words, no one is seeing your posts. While there are options to market a community through paid advertising, the benefit of leveraging the cumulative voice of your collective residents to drive reach is critical to success. Continuing to encourage residents to post and share information about your property will in turn increase your social presence, engagement and reach.

Start Recruiting

If a goal is provided, people are empowered to talk and share, and if residents feel empowered, they will take action. When a positive environment is created and an innovative platform is provided to make it easy for residents to share their experiences, it inevitably creates online resident advocates. Creating this advocate army may take time, but once they start talking, you’ll win the battle for new leases.

— Michael Ivey is co-founder and head of product for Modern Message.

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