In a six-month survey of nearly 16,000 apartment residents, Houston-based multifamily market research firm J Turner finds that a whopping 93 percent of renters have never visited an apartment community's page on a social networking site. Results of the survey, released June 24 at the National Apartment Association Conference and Expo in New Orleans, further found that 25 percent of residents did not even think communication with the multifamily social networking realm was important, casting serious doubt on the efforts of hundreds of companies nationally that have been pouring time, personnel, and dollars into social media platforms that are largely being ignored.

"At this time, it seems that consumers are not really using social media to engage apartment companies," says J Turner Research principal Joseph Batdorf, who commented on a preview of the findings in an exclusive interview with Multifamily Executive earlier this week. "I think there are two primary questions that come out of the survey for apartment owners: Are the resources that I am putting into social media congruent with what is going on out there? And is there going to be an increase and eventual tipping point in these numbers, and how do I prepare for that?"

While use of social networking more than doubled—from 6 percent to 13 percent—for apartment firms who are actively attempting to engage consumers with social media, the audience size is still comparatively low and appears to be focused on social media as a tool for making a final rental decision.

Among those residents who identified themselves as socially networked to their property, most used social websites to see what other people were saying about the community (62%); conduct preliminary research about the apartments, floor plans, or unit availability (57%); or find discounts or deals related to signing a lease (37%). It seems interest dies when the shopping process concludes: Only 8 percent of social networking fans of apartment communities say they went onto a site to initiate a leasing process.

Batdorf says the survey—conducted January 1 through June 10 of this year and including results thus far from five major apartment companies—will be ongoing, and he’s interested in adding additional apartment companies into the mix to help refine the data. "My vision is that we have this consortium of companies interested in where social media is going," he says. "While we didn’t anticipate the current results at all, there is clearly a thirst for knowledge on the social media stuff: The resident has not yet been really asked what their thoughts are, and there is a great opportunity to do that through this project."

To view the full results of J Turner's social media research, or for more information on becoming a participating partner in the project, visit