Far and away, Gen Y is the most technologically plugged-in generation of any demographic.
A recent survey from Houston-based J Turner Research found that Gen Y residents have the highest percentage of laptops and smart phones, at 89 percent and 88 percent, respectively. And the same report, Trends in Resident Technology & Communication Preferences, shows they’re using these devices to research neighborhood restaurants and events, perhaps even on your property’s Facebook page.
But when it comes to managing your company’s online reputation, there’s a lot more to manage than just social media if you want to attract Gen Y renters.
“The renting game has changed,” says Kerry Kirby, founder of New Orleans–based online service provider 365 Connect. “These kids now will look at your ... website and decide if they even want to show up [to look]. So you have to market from that standpoint of having a great website and a great public face on the Internet so there’s a reason for them to come.”
“We see social media as a tool we can leverage to achieve a [marketing] cost below our target level of $250 per lease,” says Sara Dixon, Village Green’s social-media manager. “Our goal is to engage users with great content and increase our overall reach. The effect may not translate into a prospective resident visiting the property immediately, or someone signing a lease that same week, but we’re looking to be a part of the larger conversation.”
As the president of Royal Oak, Mich.–based Urbane Apartments, Eric Brown uses a creative, targeted online presence to draw in new residents. And younger renters are flocking to Brown’s properties, thanks in large part to the company’s social media campaigns. He’s turned his portfolio of 15 communities into the hottest ticket in town by building an online community and making his site a hub for what’s hip in Detroit.
Here are five of Brown’s top social-media strategies:
1. Manage Social Media Yourself
All social-media initiatives for Urbane are done in-house, which makes a big difference. “Outside consultants can’t manage social media,” Brown says. “That’s like saying you want someone to manage your phone calls or leasing office.” All Urbane leasing agents are required to compose six to eight tweets per day, plus two to three updates on Facebook, to engage residents and potential renters.
2. Start a Blog
This is the easiest way for anyone developing a social-media strategy to engage with the local community and drive traffic back to the main rental website. Brown relies heavily on his blog, which he calls an online magazine, to post information about local events and happenings.
3. Embrace Partnership Marketing
Urbane Apartments is a major media sponsor of concerts and other events happening all around Michigan. Brown says that gives tons of content to post on blogs and all other social-media outlets. He even hires writers to post about events, like major music festivals, that are of particular interest to potential renters.
4. Focus on the Hyper-local
Brown knows the number of followers on his Twitter and Facebook accounts matters for getting potential renters in the door. But it’s not all about quantity; he’d rather have the right followers. “Do I want people from Kansas City as followers? Unless they’re moving in from out of state, not really,” he says. “But I know who’s young, local, and going to events, and [engaging them] is almost like trying to talk to prospects one-on-one.”
5. provide great Content
Most owners want to start with Facebook and Twitter, but it’s more important to provide great content first. “That’s what we use our online magazine for, because over time, you start to create hundreds of articles,” Brown says. “When someone is moving to Royal Oak, Mich., guess who comes up on a Google search first? We do. And it might not be about an apartment, it might be about a neighborhood, or where to find the best sushi. But whatever their interest, we try to provide that kind of content and link all the articles back to our website.”
Additional reporting by Joe Bousquin.