Online Reputation Management for Your Apartments: Do’s and Don’ts
Do you know what people are saying about your apartment properties or on-site staff online? You should.
When your prospects check out your apartment community, odds are they’ll start with an online search, and then ask their friends (probably on Facebook). They’ll have opinions about you before ever hitting your website or visiting your property.
How can you monitor and influence information about you online? Here are a few do’s and don’ts for monitoring and managing your online reputation:
Don’t: Be an Ostrich
You can’t limit yourself just to seeing what’s convenient to you—the information that comes directly your way. If you stick your head in the sand, you’ll miss too much.
Do: Be Proactive
Find out what people are saying about you. I’m not even talking yet about how to respond to what you find. This first step is too important to gloss over. You simply have to know the kind of information your prospects might encounter online. Here’s a quick punch list of places to check frequently:
- Search engines. Plan frequent searches for your property name on popular search engines. Google, Yahoo! and Bing are the top three. Google has recently launched a new tool, called “Me on the Web,” to help with this, but it’s also had highly useful alerts available for years. Look into setting Google alerts that let you know when people start talking about you online. Bonus tip: Don’t just search for your exact name. Try common misspellings, the property’s address instead of its name, or the intersection where your property is located. Think of different ways people might try to find you.
- Twitter. Perform regular Twitter searches to see when people are tweeting about your property and company. Be sure to include variations, particularly abbreviations people might use to stay under the 140-character limit.
- Apartment Ratings. Maybe this is obvious to people in the industry, but you should still make sure you’re checking it frequently—not just the comments, but the responses to the comments, too.
- Yelp and other review sites. You might not get as many reviews on Yelp as you do at Apartment Ratings (your mileage may vary), but remember that fewer reviews means that the existing reviews can carry more weight for readers. Both Apartment Ratings and Yelp come up in Google searches for your properties and even in Google Maps searches.
- Check-in sites. Some of your residents are likely checking in at your apartment properties with social tools like Foursquare, Gowalla, and others. Find out what they’re saying.
If somebody’s negative comments seem to be spreading, you don’t want to wait so long to respond that they gain momentum.
A few weeks ago, Urban Outfitters got in hot water when a designer accused the company of stealing one of her designs. Her complaint went on Twitter and spread: Urban Outfitters was trending worldwide and even Miley Cyrus weighed in. Urban Outfitters was slow to respond and that tide of messages rolled right over the company.
Do: Respond Quickly
Respond to a situation as soon as your company has a solid grasp on the issue and how you want to address it. Even a “we’re looking into it and will respond quickly” message is better than no response at all. It’s possible that your best choice, particularly for something minor, is to decide “we’re not going to respond to that.” But let that be an actual decision rather than inaction because you haven’t gotten around to responding yet.
In part two, I’ll look at some of the ways to respond to what you see online. In the meantime, how up-to-date are you on your online reputation? Have you Googled your apartment communities lately? Let me know in the comments below.