With the proliferation of ways customers can comment online on your property’s appearance, staff, amenities, appliances—and anything else they can think of—the need to stay on top of these comments is as important as ever. It seems there’s no one way to do this, though. Some owners use software to do the job; others rely on their staff.
Greg Benson, senior director of marketing at Charleston, SC-based Greystar, thinks a “tech piece” is needed before the apartment business can fully monitor and respond to online feedback efficiently.
“There are a thousand social media outlets where potential customers are going to find reviews.” he says. “The tricky piece is finding the technology that can funnel that information into a single interface so our manager can access and do that work without logging into ten different sites every single day.”
Benson says all of his advertising partners are trying to develop a reputation management tool, but he’s hadn’t found one that can work along various platforms. One might work on Google and Yelp, , but not ApartmentRatings.com, for instance. Recently though, he discovered a system that may be able to solve his problem, though he didn’t want to disclose the provider.
Some people have found software solutions they like, however. Melintha Ogle, vice president and director of marketing at MAA, says her company uses Radian6 from salesforce.com to monitor all public mentions of MAA’s properties based on specific keywords. If a comment appears on a public Twitter account or Facebook page, the site will catch it, according to Ogle. “When it happens, we forward it on to the property to let them know they’ve been reviewed,” Ogle says.
Houston-based multifamily market research firm J Turner Research has made inroads in reputation management by offering an online assessment tool that it recommends using every six months, along with a service that feeds positive survey responses to Facebook. President Joseph Batdorf acknowledges that apartment owners may want more frequent assessments, but he contends that six-month intervals are enough.
Not everyone relies on technology for reputation monitoring, though. Julie Brawn-Whitesides, executive vice president of Folsom, Calif.–based FPI Management, says the company has a couple of staffers who monitor Google alerts and handle reputation management. “If something is being said, we want to know what’s being said, and then we can make a decision to reach out to that person or leave it alone,” she says.
Ultimately, the riddle of managing one’s reputation may not be solvable online at all. Instead, the answer probably lies at the property level. Happy customers are a lot less likely to fire off electronic missiles from their laptops than are dissatisfied residents. “If the residents are happy, a lot of things will take care of themselves,” Batdorf says.