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RENT SODA Welcomes Jim Baumgartner!

It’s July, and RENT SODA is shaking it up once again – with groundbreaking news: (drum roll please!)

WELCOME JIM BAUMGARTNER to team RENT SODA!

With the addition of Jim, we are adding more texture to the RENT SODA landscape through rich experience & ideas. Our end result will remain the same: striving to help RENT SODA clients achieve excellence and success in the evolving marketplace.

And now, a note from JIM:

The Year of the Tiger!

Last February several friends commented that this year—the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese calendar—was my year.  They predicted a year of change!  I had my doubts but they were right.

My last day as Vice President of Operations for Bigos Management was June 25th.  After over four amazing years it was time to move on to new challenges—the urge to shake it up struck!  I am thankful for the amazing people and experiences I have enjoyed.  During my time at Bigos we built several new projects—including the amazing Lowertown Lofts in Downtown St. Paul, The Gables at Park Pointe in St. Louis Park and a new office building in Golden Valley.  We also started a new quarterly training/personnel development program, maintenance zone restructure, implemented energy-saving measures and came through the recession several percentage points better than industry average.  It has been good!

Now for the change—I have joined Daisy Nguyen at Rent Soda where I will be developing training programs, assessing the feasibility of new developments, creating marketing programs and assisting clients in achieving excellence amongst many other exciting things. 

Please take a moment to update my contact information:

Cell:  612-710-0546

Email: Jim {at} RentSoda(.)com

Web:  Http://rentsoda.com

Look for me on Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter: JimWBaumgartner

Watch for exciting new updates and announcements over the next couple of weeks.  If you have any questions or would like to learn more about Rent Soda please feel free to contact Daisy or me.

Don’t GET IT? RENT SODA! GET IT!

-Cheers!

Jim Baumgartner in Minneapolis, MN

Senior Vice President, RENT SODA

 RENTSODA-small

Business, Operations & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com   Email: Jim {at} RentSoda(.)com

DON’T GET IT? RENT SODA!GET IT!

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Your Apartment Community’s Facebook Page Needs a Vanity URL

Your community’s facebook page should have a facebook username, also known as a vanity URL.

Why? Being able to choose the URL for your facebook page is like a vanity license plate – it not only makes it easy to remember (and hence share with others), but helps you claim a little piece of facebook space as your own. Why let someone else (facebook) randomly set your URL, when you can control how people find you, remember you AND how google ranks you?

(Photo provided by aprilzosia on flickr through creative commons license.)

What am I talking about?

Most facebook URL’s are something like http://facebook.com/profile.php?id=123456789  – that’s hard to remember!

Now take for example, RENT SODA’s facebook URL: http://facebook.com/rentsoda – WAY easier!

In terms of SEO, having a facebook vanity url will help your facebook page rank higher in google searches than pages without a vanity url.

Follow these steps to claim your facebook vanity URL for your apartment community:

1.) First, carefully think of a username you want to use. Once it’s been selected, you won’t be able to change or transfer it. Usernames need to be at least 5 characters made of only alphanumeric characters. A period (.) is also allowed.

2.) Go to http://facebook.com/username  . Follow the prompts for your profiles and each fan page administered by your profile. For fanpages, facebook requires that your page have a minimum of 25 fans.

Don’t get it? RENT SODA. GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota MN

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Business & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com   Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

Become a fan of RENTSODA on facebook.  Connect with RENTSODA on LinkedIn!

Follow RENTSODA on Twitter!

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“Professionally Managed by…” What does THAT mean?

Recently, a close friend of mine asked me, “what does professionalism mean to you & how does it pertain to our apartment industry? I want our company to be more ‘professional’ and I want to better understand what that means.” THIS – from one of the smartest most professional people I know? I took the question seriously.

My first attempt: Duh! Professional is… you know, someone who conducts business in a professional manner – you know – a professional!! It’s one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot, but what does it REALLY mean?

I pondered some more and I realized it was a VERY relevant question to our apartment/property management/real estate development industry. There are numerous property management companies out there:  from the biggest of big – the HUGE REITS, to the smallest of small – the “mom & pop” duplexes managed by (you guessed it,) ”mom & pop.” How do we define “professional” and “professionalism” in an industry that is so wide? And, maybe more importantly, you are wondering – why would we want to? And who cares?

YOU SHOULD care. It matters to your customer. It matters to your clients. It matters to your existing and prospective employees. It is your reputation. It matters to the industry as a whole, as it is those few “unprofessional” landlords that make the rest of us look like ogres. If you claim to be “Professionally managed by ABC Management Company,“ what exactly does THAT mean?

The first image that popped into my mind when the word “professional” is mentioned is men and women in suits. But just wearing a suit doesn’t mean you are professional. There are plenty of unprofessional things done in suits these days! 

Then I thought about professional athletes – these guys do NOT wear suits at all! YET, they are definitely professional athletes nonetheless. So maybe, being “professional” means your talent is worth a lot. Then my thoughts wandered to McDonald’s – they serve burgers. The burgers are cheap. It doesn’t take talent to make cheap burgers. BUT, McDonald’s is definitely a professional organization – and a very successful one too! Not only do they sell cheap burgers where no talent is required to make the burgers, they don’t wear suits. Suits. NFL. McDonald’s.

 What did these have in common that could help me to define professionalism and how does it pertain to the apartment industry?

 It finally dawned on me, what all these had in common, and why it should matter to you:

 1.) Professionalism is all about expectations and standards. As an organization, one of the best things you can do for yourself, your clients, your employees, AND your reputation, is to set a standard. The NFL has standards for their athletes – and each team has its own standards. Everyone is expected to play at or above those standards. For McDonald’s, the standard is a very small narrow window of what the customer can expect from the restaurant, the food, and the service. Customers expect their experience to be the same or very similar at every McDonald’s whether it is a McDonald’s in downtown LA or in suburbia: It’s a McDonald’s burger. Having standards can contribute positively to your customer experience. If customers know what to expect, and they receive it (whatever THAT standard is that you’ve set) this results in a positive experience. McDonald’s has a standard, and their customers know what to expect from them. A person wanting a gourmet steak burger is not going to wander into McDonald’s and then become disappointed at the burger experience.

 What is the standard at your property or management company? Do you customers, vendors, and employees know what to expect? You have the ability to set those expectations – and more importantly increase the likelihood that the customer experience is positive – by setting realistic expectations that you have specifically trained your employees to attain.

 2.) So then, what’s up with the suits? I realized that it wasn’t about the SUITS as much as what the suits represent – it represents an image. In the NFL, each team has a uniform – which they all wear proudly. At McDonald’s – there is a uniform that serves a dual purpose – to project a consistent image of McDonald’s as well as to provide clothing that can be abused in a restaurant setting and still fit into the McDonald’s image. Does your image project “Professionally managed by ABC Apartments?” or does it say, “the uniform stinks, I hate this job, and I don’t care enough about my job to care how I look?” What image are you portraying, and does it fit into the standards that you set in #1 above?

 3.) Lastly, for an organization or a site to be “professional,” the standards of conduct and the “professional” image need to apply to everyone. – Whether it is consistency in behavior, or consistency in image, or consistency in the treatment of staff, or consistency of how residents are treated, – professional in an organization is as much about consistency as it is about standards and image. I’m not advocating that you require your maintenance staff to wear suits. What I AM advocating is there is consistency in the messages that you send. Everyone on your team needs to have the same consistent (hopefully high) level of customer service that your residents can come to expect out of their “professionally managed” apartment building.

 Is your apartment community “Professionally managed by … ” What does this mean to you?

 Don’t get it? RENT SODA. GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota MN

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Business & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com   Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

Become a fan of RENTSODA on facebook.  Connect with RENTSODA on LinkedIn!

Follow RENTSODA on Twitter!

Image provided by Jesse Draper on Flickr through creative commons license.

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TWEET TWEET: Twitter for Business Users and Apartment Marketers

I’ve been following the whole TWITTER phenomenon very closely. At first, I was VERY confused. Who would use twitter and why? More importantly, why would I use twitter, and what would I tweet? After months of following tweeters, tweeting, searching tweets, reading tweets, re-tweeting, something dawned on me: Not all twitter users are created equal! In order to best understand and utilize twitter, I had to decide what kind of twitter user I was or wanted to be.

Most twitter users fell in the following 4 categories:

Tweeters – These guys have something to say, and they are out there sharing IT with the world, or at least, the twitterverse. In the real world, these would be your authors, writers, politicians, radio personalities, teachers, educators, speakers, advocates, socialites, personalities, class clowns, etc. Instead of a book, magazine, stage, forum, class, radio, soapbox, etc. – they use twitter to get their message out.

Followers – are exactly that. They follow the tweeters. They are the audience. In the real world, these would be readers, subscribers, students, supporters, etc. In the twitterverse, there is more opportunity to INTERACT with their tweeters than in the real world. AND, almost more importantly, that INTERACTION is shared with all fellow followers AND the twitterverse.

These are the TOP 2 types of twitter users. In the business world, and in our multi-family apartment industry, the following 2 lesser known types are KEY to marketing and sales:

Listeners – these are not just followers – these twitter users are out there listening for very specific topics or trends. In the apartment industry, we must learn to listen on twitter. Find out what our customers, clients, competitors are saying – especially what they are saying about our apartment communities, our markets, and our competitors! That’s a LOT of listening! Listening is one of the KEY components to effective communication, and as an interactive communication tool, it PAYS to listen on twitter. Listening is akin to being in a busy restaurant and overhearing someone at the next table talking about your apartment community! Except on twitter, the next table is the entire twitterverse. Listeners who are active and respond to the needs of their customers can help in strengthening an apartment community’s brand, image or message and extending the customer service arm. You listen, you respond = YOU CARE. Now THAT’s something to tweet about!

Miners – these are the most diligent and proactive business users. These guys, not only listen for specific topics or trends, they are mining the twitterverse to FIND prospects and leads! In the real world, this would be similar to standing in a busy restaurant and hoping to hear someone mention they are looking for an apartment – being the diligent manager/leasing agent you are, you quip in and let them know that you work for an apartment community down the road and give them your card and contact info. On twitter, you don’t have to be anywhere and wait for the stars to aline to catch this conversation. You can use twitter search engines to mine for prospects and leads by searching for key words such as “apartment hunting new york,” – and then sending those prospects a direct message with a link to your property’s website.

I should mention: I don’t think mining for prospects should be an apartment community’s only marketing plan – however, there probably aren’t that many prospects out there who just happen to mention your key words “apartment hunting new youk,” but if your traffic is slow or nonexistent, being proactive and mining instead of waiting for propsects to walk in the door, might not be a bad option.

I’m still learning more and more about twitter every day, and have learned to LOVE it. Love how fast it moves, LOVE all the random and not so random things I have learned following others, listening for trends, and when it DOES happen, finding those leads.

The most active twitter users participate in all 4 categories. Everyone is focused on tweeting and following. For apartment marketers & leasors (or any business’ marketing/sales personnel for that matter!) the biggest opportunities are in listening & mining.

How have you used twitter for marketing your business, apartment community or services? What type of twitter user are you?

tweet tweet? RENT SODA. GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Business & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com   Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

Become a fan of RENTSODA on facebook.  Connect with RENTSODA on LinkedIn!

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What should we be "facebooking?" in the Multi-Family industry?

OK, so now that we’ve established that facebook does have a positive ROI, that we SHOULD be “doing it,” the question naturally becomes, how/what should we be “doing” on facebook?

This is PART III of a 3-part series. You can read the intro here:

Intro: 3 facebook questions everyone asks when starting out… 

OR Part I: The ROI of Facebook – the Value of Creating Community

OR Part II: Facebook-itis: Addressing the Fear of Facebook head-on!

This is a loaded question, as many times, in our industy, we are focused on leasing apartments. We naturally want to tout our advatanges and post our specials – the way our traditional marketing avenues with print advertising and ILS’s have allowed us to do. Please keep in mind that for our industry (as we have now discussed on the ROI of facebook – the Value of Creating Community), facebook CAN be a marketing tool, however, it is first and foremost a connecting and communications tool to creating and fostering community. Facebook is NOT traditional, so to be able to use it as a marketing tool, we will need to think about it non-traditionally. Throw away those ideas of just blasting what your community is about, “advertising” specials, or listing prices. To better help you determine what you should be “doing” on facebook, let’s address a couple of basic questions:

  1. Who do you think your community’s “friend” or “fan” is?
  2. Why do you think they are would accept a “friend” or “fan” request from you?
  3. What do you think your “friends” or “fans” are there to see/hear?

These are the questions you SHOULD be asking and answering to determine what SHOULD go on your facebook page. IF your facebook page consists of 100 eager prospects just waiting for a rent special so that they can finally sign a lease with you, than by all means, advertise your rent specials.

I don’t think this will be the case for 99% of sites out there!

I’d like to open this up for discussion. Please leave a comment that answers the 3 questions noted above. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving a public comment, email me! (Daisy {at} rentsoda(.)com) My next article will compile all your private and public comments to share with all. (If you email me privately, I will leave include your comment, but won’t quote you. If you leave a public comment, I may quote you & link to your company. – OR tell me how you want it handled!)

Don’t Get it? RENT SODA. GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Business & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com   Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

Become a fan of RENTSODA on facebook.  Connect with RENTSODA on LinkedIn!

Follow RENTSODA on Twitter!

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Facebook-itis: Addressing the fear of facebook head on!

Part II: Facebook-itis: Addressing the fear of facebook head on! AKA Should my site(s)/apartment community(s) ”do” facebook? - This is usually asked by someone who realizes that they NEED to be on Facebook – because everyone ELSE is thinking about it or already “DOING IT.” Heard the buzz, now wondering…

This is PART II of a 3-part series. You can read the intro here:

3 facebook questions everyone asks when starting out… 

OR Part I: The ROI of Facebook – the Value of Creating Community

This is a great question. And the answer is as simple as YES.

KNOW THIS: In the Multi-family residential industry, we know who our typical renter demographic is - the biggest group of renters is ages 18-30. (Demographic information from NMHC - to see more demographic information, click here.) Our second biggest group, ages 30 – 44, and then 3rd largest demographic age group is 45-64, and then 4th is 65+.

KNOW THIS: Facebook demographics, as reported by istrategylabs.com as of 07/04/09, reported that the largest demographic of facebook users, ages 18 – 34 years old, totalled over 36MILLION users. The 2nd biggest demographic age group reported was 35-54 years old - totalled over 20MILLION users. The 55+years old user group totaled over 6MILLION users. The 55+ group was growing at a rate of 513% from the first half of 2009. (For complete istrategylabs.com statistics on facebook-click here. To see facebook’s statistics click here.) If your renter or prospect isn’t already on facebook, they WILL be. Will you be there to welcome them?

Technology continues to change, and with change comes new technology. Stay current with the new technologies – that’s how today’s business is done. (And for the most part, they can make life easier!)

If you think facebook maybe a fad – so what? A fad that has the attention of over 62MILLION U.S. users. WOW. GET IT while the gettin’s good. And if something else comes along, you can get GET THAT too.

And what about fear? Let’s address those fears quickly: Fear that you maybe exposing yourselves to liability? Fear that you may project the wrong image? Or fear that you may say the wrong things? Or fear that this might be too much work?

Well, to quote one of John Mayer’s recent tweets, ” …life may continue to be hard for you.” (For John Mayer’s full tweet/quote in its original context, click here and look at November 7th, 2009′s tweet.)

-Hey, I’m just being real. Agree? Disagree? LOVE IT? HATE IT? Still undecided? Want to chat? Leave me a comment!

Don’t Get it? RENT SODA. GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen in Minneapolis, Minnesota

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Business & Marketing Consulting to the Apartment Industry

Web: RentSoda.com   Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

Become a fan of RENTSODA on facebook.  Connect with RENTSODA on LinkedIn!

Follow RENTSODA on Twitter!

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The ROI of facebook – the value of creating community

OK, so the million dollar question is:

What is the ROI (Return on Investment) of facebook for my site? Usually followed up by – how many leases can I get from facebook? Serious questions, and just like an owner/investor/upper management to get to the point – eh?

Well, short answer is your ROI is either 0% (yes you read it right, ZERO) or 100% depending on how you look at it. Intrigued? Read on…

This is PART I of a 3-part series. You can read the intro here:

3 facebook questions everyone asks when starting out… 

Facebook is all about creating community.  It’s all about people connecting with other people because they have at least one thing in common. There is a group for just about anything and everything, from politics, to sports, to music. Some as broad as “I Love Music” fan page which has over 2.4million fans, to the more specific, like “Sting” fan page that has over 300,000 fans, to your local band, who may have 100 fans.

Your apartment/site IS a community – whether you are 30 units or 300 units or 968 units, your apartment IS a community. Your #1 person on site – their title is “COMMUNITY MANAGER.” hmmmm….

Before facebook, and it wasn’t so long ago, most sites had a bulletin board of some sort. The community manager &  staff would decorate this board, organize it, and make sure it fit within the guidelines of your community in appearance and postings. You allowed residents to post random things on there, like “looking for roommate,” or “need a pet sitter from Jan 1 – Jan 8th, willing to trade services,” to “Lost Camera – gray, please contact Jon,” to “Superbowl Party - come join us in Apt#101!” Does anyone know what the ROI of this bulletin board was?

Before facebook, the savvy community manager created that sense of community with their interactions, their presence, their personality. What is the ROI on creating a sense of community?

Today, FACEBOOK. And its not just a little bulletin board. It’s BIG, in a BIG BIG way. Instead of that physical board, or the need to be physically AT a site or physically interacting with a community manager to get that sense of community, facebook helps you streamline that process. With a few clicks, your site has a central communication tool for your residents. Who better to control that tool than YOU? As before, you control what it looks like, what is said, and what is allowed. YOU get to set that example of community, nourish it, encourage it. You create that sense of community, you ARE that personality. Unlike that bulletin board, this online community can reach more than just your current residents. It’s out there in cyberspace – and guess what? Your prospects are going to check out what kind of community you allow, encourage and nourish. Sure, your prospects will visit your website. AND, they’ll also visit apartmentratings.com. But more importantly, they WILL look for your facebook page. What will they see?

So now, all the sudden the online community that you’ve been nourishing, encouraging, allowing, is not just a communications tool for your current residents. It is a marketing tool that you can use to reinforce your community image. People want to see who you (ABC Apartments) are and how you interact. They’ve already seen your website, they’ve already read the reviews on apartmentratings.com (and still interested!) and now they are serious. They want to know you, your apartment community. They are ready, eager, and willing to learn. This is your prospect who is ready to make a decision. And this is the best time to capture them. Are you ready?

So then the questions become: Why facebook? If I’m not really getting hard leasing numbers from using facebook, why do it at all? Why can’t I just direct people to my website? Its better designed, it looks great, it has a lot of information, THAT’s the image we want to project!

Because your residents/prospects are ALREADY on facebook. YOU want to connect with THEM, in a way that they prefer, are already used to, and feel safest. If you’re not already doing it, who’s to say, they won’t go ahead and create their own group? What if someone created a group called “The residents of ABC Apartments,” and you weren’t a part of that? Worse than not a part being a part of that – you would have no control over the group if someone else sets it up.

GET THIS: Today, you may not be able to measure exactly how may leases you will get from facebook. How do you measure all the leases you are missing out on? How many times did you miss an opportunity when your prospect was, ready, eager & willing?

GET THIS: You should already be using facebook as a communications tool for your current residents. If it also serves a marketing purpose … well then the ROI just doubled. (This is truly killing 2 birds with 1 stone…)

The ROI of facebook is all about the value of creating community. Emphasize the “community” in “apartment community.” Emphasize the “community” in “community manager.” Create that community. That community suddenly doubles as a marketing tool.

So, what’s the ROI on facebook for your community?

Don’t Get it? RENT SODA. GET IT!

-Daisy Nguyen

CEO

RENTSODA-small

Web: RentSoda.com

Email: Daisy {at} RentSoda(.)com

Blog: RentSoda.Wordpress.com

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