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Even with 2019 demand pushing rents up an average of 3% nationally, more than 82% of renters agree, “renting is more affordable than owning,” according to a recent Freddie Mac survey. Developers continue to push new product into the pipeline, while property managers and marketers are watching several new digital marketing trends and preparing as Gen Z, the first “digitally native” generation, enters the workforce and finds apartment homes. Here are four major digital trends to watch for in property management right now:

1. Updates to Facebook’s New Ad System

After multiple lawsuits, several settlements and years of controversy, Facebook made changes to its ad platform late last year with added functionality to limit discriminatory audience targeting in ads. According to Facebook and Social Media Today, “you’ll be able to search for and view all active housing opportunity ads targeted in the U.S. that started running—or were edited—on or after Dec. 4, 2019, regardless of whether you’re in the advertiser’s intended audience. You’ll be able to search the housing ad section by the name of the page running an ad or the city or state to which the ad is targeted."

While Fair Housing compliance is not new to Fogelman Properties and most multifamily property managers, the industry is now required to take an extra step with Facebook ads in using the “Special Ad Category” in Ads Manager. Facebook no longer allows targeting by age, gender, ZIP code, multicultural affinity, or any detailed options describing or appearing to relate to protected characteristics.

The bottom line? Multifamily marketers attempting to reach renters on Facebook should be specially trained on Fair Housing within the context of social media.

2. Focus on the User, and All Else Will Follow

Google doesn’t expect perfection when it comes to websites, but it does reward quality, relevant content and usability. As the ultimate connector between your apartment community and the residents you want to attract, consider a few new avenues for optimizing your search presence on Google:

Focus on floor plans: Add depth to the traditional photo tour and include 360-degree floor plans on Google Photos to show rather than tell the user about your apartment homes.

Talk is cheap as is video these days. Video is an invaluable avenue for multifamily marketers looking to boost SEO. Why? Google absolutely loves video. According to insiders, “a video is 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of search results than a traditional web page. Google’s recent algorithm has transformed the search landscape, prioritizing rich, blended search results with unique content, and multimedia content is definitely such.”

  • Pro tip 1: Record all videos horizontally—platforms are attempting to optimize for vertical, but it’s best practice to shoot horizontal.
  • Pro tip 2: Even if you don’t post frequently, create a YouTube channel. The data from the Google-owned platform is unfounded, the insights are robust, and video tours are known to drive conversions.

Be the expert. Google Q&A for Google My Business was introduced in 2017 as a consumer-facing, crowdsourced FAQ feature, similar to the Ask the Community feature on Yelp or the Q&A feature on Amazon products. Property managers and marketers are advised to take charge of the platform now and start controlling the conversation by posting some frequently asked resident questions and answers.

3. Seeing Stars

While customer satisfaction is a metric for ultimate long-term success in a community, it often goes unchecked when occupancy is high, properties are stabilized, and investors are enjoying ROI. Even with last year’s high demand, property managers can leave money on the table when resident satisfaction dips. Pay special attention to approval ratings across the community and the overall portfolio. In recent internal studies, a one-star increase in reviews led to an estimated 5% to 7% revenue increase. Looking ahead, reputation teams should focus on securing at least four to six positive reviews on the top search sites each month. In 2020, marketers want to ask, “does our online approval rating accurately reflect the on-site customer service experience?” We can’t ignore other review sites, but we can prioritize the top three—Google, Facebook, and Yelp.

4. Automation, Oh My

2020 is the year of automation, and property managers are making room for digital relations. With online payments, property-specific applications, and appointment-based resident visits (a la Apple Genius Bar), automation is designed to free up your team, change efficiencies, exceed customer expectations, and add more time for personalized property management.For example, chatbots are more common across communities and can alleviate some of the frequently asked questions that are often missed after business hours. The automated chatbots are loaded with predetermined questions and responses to minimize phone calls and next day emails. While not all requests can be answered by automation, the immediacy will assist in the long run.

Algorithms aside, property management professionals and multifamily marketers will need to plan their work and work their plans to avoid distraction for 2020. In the business of caring for and managing the homes of countless individuals, prioritizing is key to “eating the elephant one bite at a time.”