“The leasing staff are a bunch of uneducated idiots who can never answer my questions. And now they want to raise my rent. I’m outta here.” (Real Review on ApartmentRatings.com)
Ouch. If you’re cringing right now, it’s probably because you’ve read a similar review about one of your properties – or, because you’re dreading the day you wake up and read it. Where did it come from? How can you get rid of it? And why does it seem like the disgruntled angry people are the only ones reviewing your properties? You know that you have happy residents.
Don’t worry – you’re not the only one cringing.
This month, we hosted a webinar on managing your online reputation. It’s not an easy task, and at the risk of sounding cliché, there isn’t a silver bullet solution. But there are some critical and important steps every apartment community should take to start changing the conversation and taking control of their online reputation.
1. Set yourself up for success.
Claim your online profiles. If you’re not taking care of the basics, you’re not taking care of business. Have you claimed all of your online profiles for your properties? That includes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Yelp, Google+ and any other website where your brand is being discussed. You already have a presence on these websites, good or bad. To the extent that you can control any content on these websites and contribute to the conversation happening about your properties, you should.
Optimize and maintain your Google Place pages. Every property should have a Google Place page populated with rich information, including photos and videos that you’re monitoring and maintaining on a regular basis. Why? Because Google is driving users to their Place Pages en masse – Google Place Pages are viewed millions of times a day, and Google has logged more than 5 million listings. Their recent Search Engine Results Page (SERP) changes have made Place Page listings even more prominent. For businesses and properties taking advantage of their Google presence, a Place Page can serve as a second website and drive quality leads to your property’s door. Be aware, however, there are also competitive paid ads on your Place Page competing for your business. If the user sees anything that is either confusing or negative, they might end up on your competitors’ website. Ignore Google Places at your own risk.
2. Monitor the conversation.
Set up Google alerts and accounts on all major review sites so you’re being updated regularly when your properties are mentioned online. This isn’t a full-proof way to monitor every word that’s being said, but it definitely captures some key online conversations that you may miss otherwise. And don’t forget to check social media sites, review sites, your Google Place Pages and your Google+ page for any conversations or reviews happening there.
Remember – monitoring is more than just “hearing” what’s being said. It’s critical that you “listen.” Look for trends in the conversation. If negative reviews or comments are common, do you see a trend? Are you finding any areas where the resident experience can be improved?
3. Engage in the conversation.
Listening is the first step. Engaging is important…and tricky. You can’t (and shouldn’t) respond to every single review. How do you choose which reviews to respond to and which to ignore?
Here are just a few guidelines:
Respond when it’s on a channel your brand controls, when it’s a positive review, and when you can answer it concisely and with a solution.
Don’t respond if it’s overtly abusive or profane language. In fact, in many cases you can report the review as abuse to the host website, and if it violates their guidelines, they may have it removed.
4. Take ownership.
Create an online reputation management strategy that includes systematic and regular monitoring, a response plan, an approach and method for engagement and active participation in social media sites.
Above all – ask for positive reviews. According to a recent report by StatisFacts, 60% of residents said they would give a positive review if asked, but only 8% were actually asked (“Getting Inside the Head of Today’s Online Renter”).
5. Create AMAZING experiences.
Marketing has changed. The customer has a very loud digital voice, and in many cases, it’s louder than yours. You can’t mask what is broken in your organization. If your residents are consistently complaining about a bad experience with your website portals, your office staff, or any other touchpoint they have with you along the way, no amount of marketing or clever messaging will help you change the conversation.
The only way to change the conversation is to change the experience.
You need to create amazing experiences at every digital touchpoint that will turn prospects into applicants, applicants into residents and residents into your digital brand advocates.
Listening, and even responding, to reviews isn’t enough. Do you have a strategy in place to manage the customer experience at every digital touchpoint, wowing them and ultimately transforming them into advocates for your brand? We call this process Digital Experience Management, or DXM – and creating a DXM strategy is the first step to building a powerful online reputation. To get started with your own DXM strategy, request a Digital Experience Assessment today. Your residents – and your online reputation – will thank you.
For more detailed advice on how to manage your online reputation, watch our On-Demand Webinar: Beyond Ratings and Reviews: 5 Steps to Successfully Manage Your Online Reputation.