By Amy Belasen
The debate continues as to whether social media is an effective marketing tool for apartment housing communities. While social media sites can drive traffic back to your website, is that enough? Is it worth the time?
What can a Facebook page do for my community?
In addition to driving traffic, sites such as Twitter and Facebook increase brand loyalty by creating user-friendly profiles, making friends and interacting with potential residents. Social media is also a virtual way to gain referrals—modern day “word of mouth” technology. With one-click “share” button technology, Facebook users post links that are shared with hundreds of their closest friends.
Nielson calls these shares “organic advertising” for a company, derived from a consumer instead of from traditional advertising methods. The April 2010 Nielson study proves that what Facebook friends say matters. Organic ads are better recalled, read with greater awareness and with more purchase intent than nonorganic ads. According to Nielson, “70% of people trust consumer opinions posted online.”
For the apartment leasing company ForRent.com, adding a “share” button to listings greatly improved their visibility with 58,000 new listings shared on Facebook in less than one year (Eyeballs and Purse Strings).
We helped North 38, a student housing community, develop a measurable direct marketing campaign tied to their social efforts online. A “Refer a Friend” widget allows North 38 to collect leads directly from their Facebook page.
It’s about community involvement.
For other multifamily communities, social media is used to engage current residents as an online extension of the offline community. While referrals may be encouraged, there is no easy way to refer apartment pages or to track the success of social referrals with a minimal time investment. For this reason, most multifamily social media sites seem to be rather simple, offering an online bulletin board listing upcoming events and other announcements within their communities.
Simple isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
A community page allows residents to become just that—more of a community. Sharing photos, invites and events strengthens ties between community members in an otherwise busy world. In just a few minutes, residents are able to find out what’s happening in and around their community by viewing Facebook status updates and Twitter feeds.
With the sense of community cultivated within cyber walls, and the ability to shrink or stretch the time investment in these sites, perhaps social media usage isn’t just about the bottom line. Whether or not sites like Facebook and Twitter generate measurable results, they build a sense of community for residents, making them feel better about the place they’ve chosen to live – which could result in more referrals and longer occupancy periods. It might even help them remember to get the rent paid on time.