In addition to continued interest in cloud computing strategies, multifamily apartment firms are again becoming interested in the up shot of engaging in social media, said a panel on apartment technologies at the MFE Conference last week in Las Vegas. After an initial buzz in the apartment industry, the excitement of leveraging social media had recently lulled as operators struggled with monetization, tracking, and policy issues related to use of the technology.

According to Houston-based Camden Property Trust chief information officer and panel moderator Kristy Simonette, Facebook is now the third-largest generator of guest card volume at her firm. “It has turned out to be a powerful tool,” said Simonette, who joined Greensboro, North Carolina-based Bell Partners chief information officer Dhrubo Sircar; Englewood, Colo.-based Archstone group vice president of strategic systems Donald Davidoff; and Lincoln Property chief information officer Jay Kenney on the panel. Camden currently has one full time employee managing the firm’s Facebook and social media presence, with another 18 staff members working part time on the initiative. 

Lincoln is also finding particular success leveraging Facebook and Twitter for improved search engine optimization rates. “We have a list of keywords that we use within blog functions that have been very successful,” Kelley said, adding that Lincoln outsources blog-writing for social media networks to a professional firm that consults with individual property managers for site-tailored content.

Beyond social networking, most apartment operators are currently evaluating their tech platforms on an application to application basis with an eye towards systems improvement, which might include moving certain applications to Software as a Service (SaaS), managed service, and cloud computing models. “I’m working with my CIO on an application to application evaluation to determine where self-hosting still provides a competitive advantage to where it is duplicating a commodity service available elsewhere,” said Davidoff.

Panelists were unanimous in their support for mobile-based system applications for both customer facing and back-end systems operations. “The nature of work and the use of technologies has become self-directed,” said Sircar. “Mobile is essential to the emerging technologies in our business. Ninety-five percent of other systems are likely to move into the cloud, and as a result the CIO needs to move from a role of chief information officer to chief innovation officer in order to remain relevant.”