I have had a number of people ask me how I use social media for my business. Mastering social media is much more intricate than simply building a Facebook presence with lots of followers or having a blog with lots of posts. Instead, it's about making sure the right message are reaching the right people in the right ways.
To make sure that our company is getting the most out of social media, I have developed a two-pronged approach to social media strategy. Perhaps it might give you some ideas for your own approach...
Social Media to Build Our Business.
Without focusing internally at building my own business, I would never have the resources to help others build theirs. And the only way that I can grow 407apartments.com is through a successful business-to-business sales approach. As someone who detests unannounced "cold calls," I very well couldn't base our company's sales approach around them. Instead, I've developed an extensive professional network based on referrals, networking at AAGO events, and volunteering through AAGO committees – all of this is supported and extended through a strong personal social media presence.
I maintain an active personal Facebook account with over 900 friends, a significant portion of whom are in the apartment industry. This doesn't start online. I have found that the key to great social networking is great in-person networking. In the last year, I have attended every AAGO dinner event and most of the special events like the annual trade show and Summer Party. I've been an active participant on the Membership and Education committees, and I have even sponsored and attended a number of education classes. After connecting with folks in person, I'll connect with them online to continue our conversations!
Whenever possible, I check into AAGO events and other industry related places through FourSquare. This practice has helped to multiply my in-person efforts. By checking into an event like Lease-a-Palooza or a committee meeting at AAGO, industry friends who weren't able to make it will reach out to me to learn what happened. Providing this information helps me add value to the relationships that I continue to build.
I have built a strong professional network of 440 connections on Linkedin. Linkedin is effective for two different things. First, when it's important for business that I meet a particular person, I'm able to check Linkedin to see our shared connections. This helps me to avoid the dreaded "cold call" that no one wants to make… and no apartment industry professional wants to receive. Linkedin is also a great way for me to follow apartment industry news. I belong to a number of professional groups that send me everything from national industry news to best practices from individual property managers.
Twitter keeps me connected with random snippets of information about the multifamily housing industry. Personally, I have decided not to actively tweet – there are lots of other ways that I contribute content to social media sites. But I have found Twitter to be littered with snippets of information that I can pass along to my clients.
- I publish a Wordpress blog at theleaseupexpert.com that is dedicated to spreading ideas for marketing apartment communities. In addition to being hosted on Wordpress, my posts are pulled into the admin section of 407apartments.com to hopefully share a few ideas each time one of our clients logs in to update his or her listing. My clients don't even have to leave the site! I've shared everything from lessons I learned while attending the NAA Student Housing convention to detailed research that I had a group of interns from the University of Florida conduct into the science behind leasing apartments.
Social Media to Connect Renters with Apartment Communities.
At the end of the day, my job as the owner of an ILS (Internet Listing Service) is to connect renters with the apartment community that best matches their need. I have found social media to be an invaluable tool to both draw traffic to our site and to help those renters get a good feel for the apartment communities that we list.
At the end of the day, social media is just like any other medium… you should have a strategic, customized approach to how you use it inside your business. Don't be afraid to take your own road if your approach is well thought out and exactly what your business and your customers & clients need and expect
Renters can share any page and any listing on 407apartments.com with their friends via over 330 different social media platforms. I learned early on that Facebook ads don't rent apartments. They get a lot of window shoppers, but none of them lease. Referrals on Facebook and other social media sites definitely lease apartments. Visitors who are referred to our site by their friends spend more time browsing our listings and are much more likely to contact the communities that list with us.
407apartments.com only links to our clients' social media presence – we never link to our own. My goal isn't to bounce renters around through a network of my own sites. My goal is to refer them out to apartments. Because of this belief, I have never linked to our own social media. You won't even find a "407apartments" facebook page, only my personal page. Instead, the social media links on our listings will only take you to our clients' social media pages.
We embed our clients' social media directly into their listing. Instead of simply linking to Facebook, apartments can opt to embed their entire Facebook feed into their listing. They can do the same with YouTube videos and even Flickr photo streams. Renters trust social media, so why not incorporate this content? The best part… our clients are already updating their social media, so their listings on 407apartments.com are always kept fresh.
There's one place where social media has absolutely let down the apartment industry… I have never seen a website with fair, unbiased apartment reviews.Instead of letting renters who sneak pit pulls into their apartment and fail to pay three months of rent before being evicted by the sheriff write reviews, we take an old school approach – We write our own! While we certainly don't lie or misrepresent the apartment communities we cover, our reviews don't have the biased rants that litter traditional apartment review sites.