Holli Beckman knows a thing or two about how best to leverage social media.
As vice president of marketing at WC Smith, Beckman is often tasked with outmaneuvering much larger competitors in one of the nation's most competitive metro areas, Washington, D.C. And over her 15-year career, she has distinguished herself as one of the industry's leading social media luminaries.

Multifamily Executive’s Cha’Mia Holloman recently spoke with Beckman to get her insights on content marketing, ratings and reviews, lead-to-lease conversions, and the benefits of using social media to attract and retain residents--and how it can level the playing field between the Davids and Goliaths of the apartment world. 

MFE: Is social media more about engaging with current residents, or attracting new ones? 
Beckman: Both. Social media is where your customers are every single day and multiple times a day. People are checking their Facebook or Twitter while doing daily activities. You also have to connect with your renters, and in order to stay relevant we have to post on social media every day. So, when they do need us we will be the first people on their minds. 

MFE: What would you say is the most popular social media channel to attract future renters? 
Beckman: It will always depend on who your customers are. If your target customer for your building is a millennial, you may want to focus more on Snapchat or Instagram. But say your target customer is a little bit older, Facebook is still prominent. Others with family homes may even want to use Pinterest to search for apartments, designs, and trends. The channel you choose doesn't matter if you don’t have a solid blog or solid landing page set up. People don’t think of these things as being social media, but they absolutely are necessary to capturing the traffic you are generating via your social media efforts. 

MFE: What are the most effective content marketing strategies you have seen in the multifamily industry? 
Beckman: Always provide useful information, but it should always link back to your company. People make the mistake of linking information for their customers through other company's media or websites. That might be useful for the customer; however, this isn't marketing. Social media is the bait to bring people to your website, blog, or landing page. Your landing page will be your trap to get people involved. It’s a way to get people on your mailing list ... Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t do that. It’s good to be helpful to people, but you need to help yourself as well.

MFE: How often would you say an owner and/or manger should monitor reviews on their website? 
Beckman: Every second of every day. I use an app called Mention that will tell me any time someone leaves a review whenever my property or company’s name is mentioned. If the reviewer has a problem, we want to solve it, or even when we are being praised, we want to say thank you. Reviews matter, it’s important for people to see that you as a company are responsive to them and their needs. 

MFE: What strategies do you think smaller companies can use to compete with larger companies? 
Beckman: It’s all about leveraging your strengths. We are a small company, and we’re only located in D.C. We spend our time focusing only on D.C. neighborhoods, and that’s what we talk about on our blogs. We highlight local D.C. businesses; because any time you highlight another business, you’ll get a return of love and referral. The more you can show you’re an expert in the area, people will know and start to trust you with information. They will want to come to you when they are looking for a place to live. 

MFE: Where do you see the biggest lead-to-lease conversions coming from? 
Beckman: The review sites would be No. 1. The more focus you put into responding to reviews and encouraging them from your customers, the higher the lead-to-lease conversion. Last year, we began a resident survey program. The results speak for themselves: Year-over-year, the lead-to-lease conversion rates went up 300%. No. 2 will be Facebook; plenty of people still use this platform. It’s the easiest way to share all types of media, such as pictures and videos. It’s a great place to curate the info that is on your landing page or blog into a post.

MFE: In terms of maximizing social media and the web in general, which multifamily firms would you hold up as particular successes? And what do they do that others can learn from?
Beckman: SheaApartments.com, they have Instagram, Pinterest, and a YouTube channel. They have great photography, lifestyle photos, and useful information on their Pinterest boards. A lot of people forget that social media information needs to be useful. Shea has great pieces on how to keep your dining room under $350 or apartment organization. Everything is useful to someone living in an apartment. Corcoran Group is another one, they use the “ifttt” recipes and everything is automated. Everything is a formula; it links back to their group, although it seems personal for the customers. 

MFE: Tell me about your website Apartminty and how it differentiates from other apartment listing websites?
Beckman: The biggest complaints I get from hunters are they have to go through so many listings and call multiple places to find what they need. The easiest way to describe Apartminty, I would say it’s the eHarmony of apartment hunting. What makes us different from other listing sites is the renter doesn’t sort through hundreds of listings; we do the matches for them and deliver them straight to their inbox. It’s more of a hybrid apartment locator and ILS ... we like to think of Apartminty as the next breed in the evolution of apartment hunting.