Checking social media is a daily activity for most of today's renters—and they're using it to do more than just see what their friends are up to. For many, social media tells a story, an idea that property managers can use to showcase the lifestyle at their communities, and in return, attract, engage, and retain residents.

Cindy Wick, Regional Vice President at Irvine, Calif.-based Western National Property Management
Photo Courtesy of Western National Property Management Cindy Wick, Regional Vice President at Irvine, Calif.-based Western National Property Management

Cindy Wick, regional vice president at Irvine, Calif.-based Western National Property Management gave MFE exclusive insight on the most successful ways to connect with your residents through social media and use the platforms to your best advantage. Wick also discussed how to implement technologies in apartment buildings and units that today's tech-savvy renter will want.

MFE: How can property managers leverage social media to increase resident satisfaction?
Wick: Today, more than ever, younger residents are heavily basing their rental decisions on a property’s social media presence. They are looking to these platforms to determine what type of lifestyle they might have living at this community, whether or not it has the latest amenities, or if it places an emphasis on sustainability and environmentally conscious features. By using social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, property managers have an opportunity to market their properties to prospective residents at relatively no cost.

A property’s social media presence also plays a powerful role in retention. Property managers are able to instantly connect and engage with residents on a larger scale than ever before. At Western National Property Management, our property managers are able share community updates, information, contests or details regarding community events, among other items residents might deem useful. This aids in building stronger social ties among residents and management, which ultimately results in stronger brand loyalty and retention.

MFE: How are social media platforms being used to create a sense of community in apartment communities?
Wick: Property managers can leverage social media platforms to create an authentic sense of community for residents. By sharing reviews on nearby restaurants, apartment decorating ideas, or other important community updates, property managers can create an online environment that encourages engagement and interaction among residents, building a stronger sense of place and community. Property managers can further aid in creating a sense of community by offering real-time content on platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and Facebook Live. In doing so, managers are able to reach residents on a much more personal level and develop authentic experiences and relationships through these virtual communications.

MFE: What are some of the challenges to utilizing social media technologies in your communities, and how can managers combat those?
Wick: Social media users are constantly inundated with endless amounts of information on a daily basis. This means that capturing the attention of these social media users and standing out amongst the competition can often be a challenging task. With only a few seconds to engage a user, property managers need to ensure that they are creating original, unique, informative and visually stimulating content to grab the attention of current and prospective residents. This includes creating content that specifically appeals to a property’s core target audience, utilizing images, infographics and even video. In fact, social media posts that utilize visual content tend to get more engagement than those that don’t. For example, much of our millennial target audience is environmentally conscience. Therefore, in order to engage with this core target audience, we’ve created a “Green Living” blog that provides tips and strategies for going green in apartment living. These blogs combine both informative details and visual content that appeals to a very large demographic of potential renters.

Another challenge when utilizing social media within an apartment community is identifying what social media platform to use to reach what target audience, and adjusting content accordingly. For instance, the younger generations are much more active on Instagram and Snapchat compared to baby boomers. One study found that 72 percent of boomers are active on Facebook, with only 18 percent active on Instagram. This makes it extremely crucial for property managers to ensure they have a thorough understanding of the specific demographics and where they are most active in order to ensure they are reaching their core target audience.

MFE: Let's talk about technology in general. What kinds of technologies are residents most interested in?
Wick: Different technologies will appeal to different demographics. Younger residents, who tend to be a part of the “social media generation,” demand tech amenities that provide them with convenience and flexibility such as high-speed Wi-Fi, keyless entry, Wi-Fi operated fitness equipment, USB charging ports, and digital property management processes. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers place significant value on technology that elevates their everyday living experiences. These residents demand high-tech home furnishings such as smart-appliances and state-of-the-art security systems, among others.

MFE: What benefit does having technology in a community provide to both residents and managers?
Wick: Technology plays a key role in streamlining processes and optimizing efficiency for both residents and property managers. For example, we’ve integrated software systems that allow residents to pay rent, submit maintenance requests, and contact their mangers all through an online portal. This provides residents with the convenience of addressing items with the touch of a button, and provides a simpler process for property managers to address items more quickly, reduce costs, and provide elevated customer service.

New technology will certainly be a key differentiator in attracting new residents. It’s no secret that the multifamily market has seen a steep rise in new development and competition in many markets across the U.S. Property managers will need to ensure that their properties are integrating the latest tech amenities that residents are demanding in order to remain competitive in the years to come. By implementing a variety of tech apps or amenities that elevate a property’s customer service and provide residents with unparalleled living experiences, property managers can ensure that they are investing in technology that will generate substantial value for both residents and owners over the long-term.