Stay Connected Through Social Media
By Camila Cal
Social media is an integral part of daily life for many Americans. We constantly share, retweet, or like posts because it makes us feel connected to the rest of the world. As of 2020, Americans spend an average of two hours and 24 minutes per day using social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, according to GlobalWebIndex, a market research company focused on technology.
In the multifamily housing industry, social media has become less of a marketing tool and more of an avenue to cultivate a sense of community among residents and the on-site teams, said Lia Nichole Smith, vice president of education and performance for ApartmentRatings and SatisFacts, a resident satisfaction and reputation management company.
Social media is currently one of the top five drivers for the perception of a community’s value among current residents, Smith said, as well as a high contributor to their decision to renew and recommend their community. That’s why she advises communities to establish a presence on both Facebook and Instagram, the most popular platforms. Other platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok can also be beneficial to communities looking to expand their reach online.
It is also a useful tool to stay connected, especially now as communities are dealing with limited in-person contact due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many residents have taken to social media to interact with management teams because offices are closed, Smith said, and communities that embrace social media during this time will be rewarded with higher levels of resident satisfaction and greater likelihood of renewals.
Southgate Towers in Miami Beach has learned that engaging with social media platforms through posting contests, giveaways, or photos is key to building a sense of community even while socially distanced. Southgate’s community manager, Saide Mlayes, is known as the “social media guru” in her community, reaching about 900 followers on Southgate’s platforms.
Prior to COVID-19, Southgate Towers shared photos and videos of residents interacting during community events and often received messages from residents that were excited for future events. Though circumstances have changed, Southgate remains focused on posting positive content like online yoga classes, maintenance tips, virtual tours, and a video where staff working remotely reassured residents that they would get through this challenge together.
“We really wanted to support our local businesses during this time, so we promoted them on our platforms and offered exclusive discounts for our residents,” Mlayes said. Southgate also showed their support to first responders and frontline workers by organizing and posting a “thank you hour” every Friday. Residents stood on their balconies and clapped for five minutes to show their gratitude for essential workers.
Student-housing communities are also active on social media, though most are focusing on Instagram and its stories feature. This feature allows the user to share 15 seconds worth of photos and videos in a slideshow format. Stories are increasingly popular with the millennial and Gen Z demographics, which include many students.
“Social media is a window into every student’s world. It influences their fashion, their ideas, what they want to do, where they want to go, and so much more. It is only natural that we realized social media could influence where they wanted to live, too,” said Erica Washington, a leasing professional at Player’s Club Apartments in Tallahassee.
Because of COVID-19, universities moved to online learning and many residents traveled back to their hometowns to finish the semester. Player’s Club relied on using their social media presence as an additional communication tool in order to stay in touch with residents.
“Instagram is the main place that Gen Z goes to for communication and information. They know they can call or email us if there is anything they need, but being active on a platform they use daily helps build their trust in us,” Washington said. “Our emails are read about 40 percent of the time, but our social media posts are viewed by almost every resident.”
Using the Instagram live video feature that allows users to broadcast a livestream, Player’s Club held a virtual open house showcasing amenities, answering questions in real time, and touring their model. After the livestream, viewers who sent a direct message mentioning their favorite part of the tour were entered into a drawing to win a gift card or Apple AirPods.
Other student-housing communities like University Park in Boca Raton have also taken advantage of Instagram’s unique features to keep residents informed while limiting in-person contact. Stories are only visible for 24 hours, but users can choose to keep a story on their profile permanently using Instagram’s highlights option. University Park’s followers can easily access information on promotional items, virtual tours, reviews, events, and amenities through the community’s saved stories. And if they have any questions, an answer is a click away.
“We've found that our residents and even new prospects have been using direct messaging as a way to contact us rather than coming into the office or calling in. This has been helpful to minimize foot traffic in our office while still answering questions efficiently,” said Allison Canning, University Park’s leasing and marketing manager.
COVID-19 has caused adjustments in policies and procedures such as closures of amenities, face mask requirements, and different office hours. It has also pushed property managers to find creative ways to bring their communities together remotely. Communities that are active on social media have an additional method to effectively update residents of changes and virtual events.
“The fear of missing out is real among apartment renters — everyone wants to be a part of something great and social media is the platform that should be used to communicate how great it is to live at a community,” Smith said.
She also shared advice on using social media. Just because a community may not have a large number of followers or likes, it doesn’t mean that residents and prospects aren’t looking. Make the content about them. Think of the types of posts that grab your attention as you’re scrolling and transfer that to your community efforts. Play to the resident's E-G-O: entertainment (photos of events, contests, fun facts), gratification (resident kudos, awards, positive reviews), and openness (what's going on at the community, new team members, promotions).
“Everyone is on social media. As a community, we want our residents and prospects to know that we’re here, too, and that we offer great customer service. It’s an easy way to be in contact with the entire world,” Mlayes said.