Move over, HootSuite.

For on-site property managers and multifamily marketing pros, Chicago-based RentSentinel just launched Social, an application to give leasing agents the ability to manage an entire portfolio’s worth of social media sites directly from the RentSentinel platform. Intended to provide property management companies with greater control and visibility to their communities’ social media portfolios, RentSentinel Social delivers detailed reports and analytics while allowing users to monitor results, manage workflow, and share content across the most popular social sites from one centralized location.

RentSentinel president Eric Broughton says the product should help apartment firms regain control of their presence on social media sites, and emphasizes the role that real-life multifamily social media mangers played in developing the system. Broughton stopped by Multifamily Executive this week to give senior editor Chris Wood an exclusive look at the RentSentinel Social rollout.

MFE: What can you tell us about the development of the RentSentinel Social platform?
We wanted apartment firms to be able to jump right into social media. We did a lot of interviewing with different companies, and the more progressive companies had a very effective social media campaign, but in order to be effective, they had to train every one of their on-site employees to be social media “captains.” Then, they had to have someone at corporate go in and review all of their posts, observe what they are doing, making sure that they are active—a real manual process. We’re taking those concepts but making it more of an automated, enterprise process and also developing systems so they can have the analytics and reporting behind it as well.

MFE: How is the system implemented and what social media sites can it manage?
Broughton: RentSentinel Social is a Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery, so it’s implemented directly through the RentSentinel platform. Facebook and Twitter were our first iterations. We plan to move into and Yelp soon as well, but through a quick dashboard you can already see your Facebook, Twitter accounts, how many posts you have, how many likes, your feedback, how many followers, and a ton of back-end reporting analytics. You can control the date and time scheduling of any post and schedule posts for administrative approval before publishing. 

MFE: Where do you get your reporting data? Is that like the data that Facebook generates and sends out in weekly reports to users?
Broughton: Yes, it’s very similar. There is Facebook Insights, which is delivered as an API, and they also have Facebook Query Language called FQL where you can query the Facebook database directly. That is what we’re doing for more advanced analytics. As we develop it further, we even want to know if you post certain content or pictures or graphics—how many followers and activity and likes and re-tweets are associated with each individual post and piece of content.

MFE: So, did a lot of property managers gave direct input into the R&D of the system?
Broughton: Absolutely. Take security: There are two different levels of security. We have regular log-ons and then log-on with admin privileges. A regular user can go on and write content, but an administrator approval is required before the post goes live. That feature came out of some discussions we had with Peggy Hale over at Morgan Properties. A lot of the really good functionality ideas like that came directly from our client partners. Another example is how credentials are mapped to different communities: Within RentSentinel, you can automatically move from community to community without having to change your Facebook log-on or admin credentials.

MFE: How can social media help apartment firms boost leases or renewals?
Broughton: Lead metrics don’t really seem to apply as much in social media. What seems to be much more beneficial is to create a link between customer retention and renewal and the positive commenting and reputation management that can be gained through active use of social media and taking part in the conversations that happen there. You can absolutely use it for renewals, in terms of determining what percentage of your residents are fans of your Facebook page or are Twitter followers compared to your strategy regarding how many residents you want to have engaged in your social media strategy. Once residents have engagement with that site, is that resident less likely to move out? We think so. 

MFE: Would this be a similar product to HootSuite, just customized for the apartment industry?
Exactly. HootSuite is more in line for when you have five or six Facebook or Twitter pages. If you have 50 or 60, or even 400 or 500, you are going to be overburdened. So we designed this interface with that in mind, with the idea that the user is going to want to interact with an entire portfolio of communities. We’ve just begun to crack the nut here.

MFE: How much does it cost?
Broughton: We just launched a big marketing campaign. The cost is $35 per month per community on top of the existing RentSentinel platform. Our intent is low cost, quick ROI for the client.