Instagram highlights are an awesome tool that all communities need to be utilizing. As we know students are steadily heading home for the Summer but one thing that isn’t changing is the fact that they are always on their phones. Making sure our social media outlets are up to date and engaging is a great way to continue to connect with prospects and residents even when they aren’t in town. If you are an avid Instagram user then you are aware that Instagram Stories are one of the most popular social media tools right now, slowly edging out Snapchat.
People enjoy watching live short video content and this is a great way to reach people that wouldn’t typically see your posts. Instagram works on an algorithm that shows your content to those who are engaging in your feed. So your community may have 1000 followers, but only a small percentage (less than 100 people) will actually see what you are posting based on how many users are liking and commenting on your posts. This is where it’s important to keep your stories active to expand this reach. The perks in using stories is that they play continuously. While users may skip posted content in the feed, your content will absolutely pop up in their stories stream. They can click past it if they want, but since it’s taking up the full screen, they’ll at least get a quick glance before they click away.
Now let’s talk about Instagram Highlights and how this all ties together. Like snapchat your stories will delete after 24 hrs, but now with the Highlight tool you are able to save videos and categorize them for users to see anytime they want. We can tie this feature into our industry by posting and saving things like Specials, Tours of the Community, Resident Events, and Photos and Videos of our Amenities.
So how do you get started? Check out the two communities below to get some ideas on how they are utilizing this tool.
Decide on what you want to highlight for your community. After you have decided, you can put in an RFC for custom Instagram highlight icons based on your communities branding.
When your icons are ready email them to yourself and save them to your phone or ipads camera roll. (whatever device your community posts from)
In order to add covers to your Instagram Stories Highlights, you first have to post them as part of your Instagram Stories. Your new covers must be active in your Instagram Stories for a full 24 hours (you can’t post and delete them!) and then remain in your Instagram Stories Archive. See instructions below.
Next up, after you’ve added your cover into your Instagram Stories, select the ‘Highlights’ heart icon on the bottom right.
After clicking the highlight icon you will then be prompted to add a title (ex: Tour, Specials, Amenities, Events, etc)
Once these highlights are created start posting photos and videos of your community and add them to the specific highlight. Check out Coronado’s Tour icon where we filmed a leasing team member giving us a tour of the community. After filming then save each individual video to your highlights and point these out to prospects. This is a great tool they can take back to their parents and show them a look inside the community. Using an energetic leasing agent and adding some fun to these videos makes them much more engaging and creates a realness aspect that some professional community videos can lack.
If you guys have any questions about getting started or how this process works please reach out to your GMM (myself or Ryan) and we are happy to walk you through the process.
At our student housing assets, classes are ending and students are beginning to filter out of the market. This leaves many areas looking like ghost towns; making outreach marketing much harder and less effective. During the summer months, we should begin to shift our outreach efforts online. “But Ryan, how can I use my Tshirt Cannon 3000 on the internet machines?”
You might not be able to use your swag bazooka, but thinking strategically and using channels our target demographic frequent you can drum up some valuable leads. Check out these digital outreach ideas below.
Reddit University Pages
Most, if not all, Universities have subReddit pages. Students discuss everything from course recommendations to housing suggestions on these pages. By filtering posts with certain keywords such as “apartment” or “housing” you’ll be able to dig up instant prospects. Simply google “___Insert Name____ University Reddit” (make sure to put your target University’s name) and you should be able to find the subReddit you’re looking for. Once you’re in the subReddit click the “search” bar in the right-hand side and type in your desired keyword (such as apartment) and search. You can then sort posts by “new” to bring up the most recent posts to the top. You just struck gold. Reach out to prospects on any relevant posts and give them information about your community and any current specials!
Many students are active on University-related Facebook groups. These groups offer a forum for students to sell items, ask questions, and interact with each other. One particular set of groups that sees a lot of activity are incoming freshman groups. These groups are often names XYZ University Class of 1234 (i.e. Florida State University Class of 2022). Freshmen generally know less about university-related topics and are often more curious about these topics. If your community can house freshmen this could be a fantastic source for mining leads.
Simply search for a group on Facebook, click “join group”, wait for approval of your access request, and then look for opportunities in posts that you can offer up your community as a housing resource!
Hashtags can be a marketer’s best friend. When users use hashtags in their social media posts it gives marketers a backdoor into finding prospects. Many students will use hashtags that relate to their university which gives you an opportunity to engage in their conversation. For example, incoming freshmen at Florida State University are using #NowANole to declare that they are headed to FSU! There are many different hashtags that students might use that relate to the university. Do a little research about the top hashtags you should target and then get to mining!
Social Media Location Mining
What if I told you there was a way to interact with residents that live at your comps? Would you send me a million bucks? Great, you can make the check out to Ryan Sundling. Residents at your comps are likely taking photos at their apartment community and tagging their photos at that location. Simply look up the location on Instagram and have instant access to residents at your comps.
Influencers are people that use their large social media presences to subtly advertise products. For example, you may follow someone on Instagram that is a fitness guru. They may partner with a running shoe company and post a photo of them lacing up their new shoes. Those shoes happen to be from the company the influencer partnered with in exchange for money and/or free product. We can do the same thing but on a smaller level. Look for micro influencers at your target universities. This might be a popular frat president, fashion blogger, or other minor “celebrity”. Offer them a gift card if they post a story about them touring your apartment community.
Calling user-generated content (UGC) outreach marketing may be a stretch but it can be a great digital marketing weapon. UGC is when a social media user posts content on their profile about your brand. This could be a user attending one of your events, touring the community, a resident showing off their apartment, etc. Our goal is to encourage this content by offering contests and other incentives. One strong example is holding a contest with current residents where you ask them to create an Instagram story giving a Cribs-style tour of their apartment. In their story they need to include a certain hashtag and tag your community. At the end of the contest choose a winner and give them a prize like a smart home package. Additionally, ask the resident to download the story and email it to you in exchange for a $20 gift card and rights to use it for marketing purposes. Now you’ve had residents evangelize your community to their friends, many of whom are prospects, and you have tours of different unit types you can use to show future prospects each unit type!
Email Student Groups, Orgs, and Athletic Teams
If you can capture big groups of residents you’ll increase your chances of hitting 100% greatly. Student groups, organizations (i.e. greek life), and athletic teams all offer the opportunity to capture groups of leases. Reach our via email to these groups and offer your community as a living option. Personalize each email and offer something unique to that group. For example, if you’re reaching out to the swim team tell them about your great lap pool and that you’d reserve the pool for practice during a certain day and time just for them. Another approach is to offer tiered incentives based on the number of people that sign from that group. For example, if 4 people from the same Greek organization sign you give $200 to their philanthropy. If 8 people sign you’ll donate $800. If 12 or more sign you’ll donate $150 for each lease.
Outreach marketing can’t stop just because your market has fewer people physically in it. Hopefully, this post gives you a few more arrows in your quiver when marketing your community this summer.
Have a short and sweet message you need delivered to prospects or residents on the fly? Maybe you have a renewal deadline, new special, or awesome event you want everyone to attend. Or maybe even planning to send an e-blast and schedule a post on social media. Consider a custom GIF! This is a creative, out of the box idea to not only deliver your message to your target audience, but ensure it catches a lot of attention. Who doesn’t love a good GIF? And creating a custom GIF really is as easy as 1, 2, 3!
Head over to Giphy.com and search for the perfect clip that fits your message. For example, if you are running a limited time gift card special, search “money” and you can choose your favorite image.
To the right of the image you will click “Copy Link”. Select the GIF Link and copy.
At the top of the page in a blue box you will then select “Create”. Paste your GIF in the URL box and it will revert you to the next page. Here you can type a caption, change the color or make the caption animated. There are a lot of editing options available to make your GIF special!
When complete scroll to the bottom, select continue to upload. You will then select upload to Giphy. Here you will have options to save the GIF for social media posts or you can simply drag the GIF into an email in your Cardinal Gmail Account.
At the end of every year, social media feeds become inundated with people’s top memories from the past 365 days. These memories are often highlights from the most memorable experiences that vary from life-changing events like a wedding to a small concert with their best friend.
Our industry has the unique ability to become an integral part of a person’s yearly story. Think about it, we are providing people’s homes where they spend between 46% of their daily lives. Remarkable experiences happen every day in our residents’ homes but rarely are apartment management companies the catalysts of these experiences. Sure, we may provide good customer service, keep grounds clean, and fix maintenance requests quickly but these things won’t make a year-end social media highlight reel.
So, why should you care about your community being featured on somebody’s Instagram Best Nine? Why does it matter if you create some epic experience when you already provide a great apartment home? Because these remarkable experiences will lead to a stronger more loveable brand, your community will stand for much more than a simple shelter, and ultimately you’ll sign more new leases and renewals.
When a resident is deciding on whether they will renew or not they will assess your community based on what psychologists call the “peak-end rule”. The peak-end rule states that a person will “judge an experience largely based on how they felt at its peak (i.e., its most intense point) and at its end, rather than based on the total sum or average of every moment of the experience.” The peak could be a good experience like a fantastic resident event or a poor experience like a flood. By crafting remarkable experiences throughout the year you have a better shot at creating a fantastic peak moment and thus a renewal.
Remarkable experiences can also help you attract new leases. When a prospect is thinking about where to live next they will only recall three to seven options. Creating remarkable experiences while marketing to prospects will help your community carve out a spot in the prospects consideration set. Not only will remarkable experiences help you stay top of mind but they’ll also help strengthen your brand story and provide an offering your competitors can’t match. You may not have the ability to alter price,layout, or location, but you do have the ability to create remarkable experiences at your community
OK, so you’re ready to craft some epic experiences. Where do you start? Remarkable experiences should take place in as many touch points as possible including customer service, lease signings, and resident events. Having said this, events are probably the easiest place to start. When thinking through the events that you hold for residents and prospects follow the simple MISS rule. By integrating each part of MISS you’re sure to be on your way to crafting a remarkable experience.
In order for an experience to become remarkable it must be memorable. There isn’t a single formula to crafting a memorable experience but implementing one or more of the tactics below will help lead to one.
Manufacture something that is 100% unique. Unique experiences are more memorable because they easily stand above the noise. For example, your community could hold a Zombie Laser Tag tournament. This is a unique event that likely no one has experienced and thus makes it more memorable than an average event.
Elevate a normal experience. Elevating a standard experience to the next level can which makes it more memorable. For example, most people have been bowling before but have never gone human-sized cosmic bowling. Combining some human-sized inflatable orbs, giant bowling pins, black lights, and some glow tape/paint creates an epic and memorable event. Check out some inspiration below.
Surprise your audience. Surprises are unexpected and thus become more memorable. For example, many apartment communities hold casino nights with various casino type games. If you hold this type of event surprise attendees by telling them the person at the end of the night with the most chips wins a free weekend in Las Vegas AND they leave that night! This event instantly becomes more memorable because of this surprise.
A great experience is interactive. Many events apartment communities hold are very passive. Breakfast on the go, movie nights, Waffle Wednesday, and National Ice Cream Day are all very passive in nature. Residents come down, grab a bite, maybe chat with another resident for a minute and then are gone. These events don’t encourage or require attendees to become part of the event itself. Interactive events make better experiences because the attendee is engulfed in the experience instead of a wall fly.
A great example of an interactive experience is Paint Dodgeball. Find a grassy area (or other area that won’t be permanently affected by paint), dip dodgeballs in paint, and play dodgeball in white clothing. Elevate the experience with some black lights and glow paint! This event requires people to become part of the action and thus is much more memorable than a more passive event.
Develop experiences that involve as many senses as possible. Experiences that are sensory rich become more interesting because of these stimuli. The elements that play into each sense also play a big part in the overall execution of the event. For example, on-site concerts often only focus on sound. Of course, sound is extremely important but implementing sight, touch, taste, and smell can turn a run-of-the-mill concert into a much better experience. Think of all of the concerts that now include color powder cannons, light shows, themed food, and beach balls floating in the crowd.
Just as the music industry has embraced all five senses so should we. Think about the pool parties most apartment communities hold. Think through how elements of the event can affect the senses. A hot local DJ or band can provide a pleasant listening experience. A frozen slushie machine in a custom branded flavor can amplify the tastes at the event. The smell of BBQ wafts through the air. Misting stations fulfill the touch sense by keeping attendees cool. Oh, and if you move the entire party to a lake or river and float everything you have an unexpected visual.
Last but not least, the experience you develop should tell a story about your brand. Holding an event that doesn’t tie into your brand’s core offering or story won’t help amplify what your community stands for. Instead, it injects brand confusion and doesn’t help separate you from your competitors. For example, if your community’s brand story is to offer a luxury VIP lifestyle it doesn’t make sense to offer free doughnuts for a Breakfast on the Go event. Doughnuts in no way tie into either a luxury or VIP lifestyle. Instead t, is community should offer an invite/RSVP only brunch on the rooftop featuring a cooking class from a hot local chef, champagne, and someone playing guitar. This event adds a chapter to their brand story further illustrating the brand’s purpose.
While it may seem difficult to shake away from the lifeless experiences our industry typically offers, it is imperative we do so. We have a unique opportunity to craft remarkable experiences that meld into our core offering, their home. In 2018 I challenge each team to think strategically about the experiences they offer their residents and prospects. Experiences that are so good that at the end of 2018 your residents and prospects are posting an experience from your community in their Instagram best nine. Start by creating remarkable event experiences. I promise putting in the time to these experience will create real value at your community. If you have any questions or examples of remarkable experiences you’ve created please comment below or send me an email!
You’ve heard how important reviews are. 86.3% of renters use online reviews as a factor when looking to rent an apartment. But did you know these reviews can also help improve your community’s SEO? Better SEO can ultimately lead to more website traffic and eventually leases.
Reviews are a very important ranking factor in local search results. In fact, Chatmeter says that reviews make up 13% of the local search algorithm. This means if someone is searching for an apartment in your area via local search and you have a lot of positive reviews your community is more likely to show up. Many things play into your review ranking on local search such as review volume, recency, quality of review (i.e. length), and if you respond to reviews. If you stick with Cardinal Group’s goals of 2% of reviews of your total resident base and all reviews replied to within 48 hours you’ll be well on your way to giving your SEO a boost!
The single most beneficial thing you can do for your community on social media is to get others to post about your community. Sure, posting photos of last night’s event or advertising your latest special on your community’s social channels is important, but it is not nearly as valuable as user-generated content. When a user posts a photo of your community, raves about an event, or simply shows their home in the background they are exposing their followers to your brand. By encouraging user-generated content you’ll expand your social reach way beyond your current fan base. If that wasn’t enough consumers are much more likely to make a purchase if a friend posts something positive about a brand on social media.
So how do you encourage more user-generated content? There are many many ways but a fun and easy one is through a Hashtag printer. Simply program the printer to print our a photo anytime someone uses a certain hashtag. For example, if you have a pool party and tell guests to use #BlissPoolParty the printer would automatically print out a photo of their post on social media using this hashtag. You can even design the background to match your branding!
Below is a list of the equipment you’ll need to create this Hashtag Printer come true!
Did you know there is an easy way you can call all of your leads in about 60 seconds? Just hire the Jimmy John’s radio voice and he’ll call everyone in under 60 seconds! Actually, there is an even easier way. It’s called “scheduled calls” and it’s a little-known feature in Entrata.
Scheduled calls allows you to pre-record an audio recording and automatically send it via a telephone call to any filtered group in Entrata. RentCafe has caught up and has recently introduced a similar feature. This allows you to send one call quickly to any lead or resident. This is a great feature for things like:
Singing happy birthday to your residents on their birthdays.
Quickly calling all of your prospects about a super limited time special.
Calling all residents about an emergency.
Inviting residents or prospects to an event.
While this is a very cool feature that lets you get in touch with a lot of people quickly it should not be overused. Nothing can take away the personal feel of a one on one phone call.
Ready to use “scheduled calls”? Talk to your PSM and they’ll get you the right resources!
Your online reputation is a huge factor when prospects compare you against the competition. A recent JTurner Research study shows that 78% of renters utilize ratings and reviews in their apartment search. This means you could have a fantastic website, great marketing, a perfect CWoL tour, and still lose a lease because of your online reputation. In order to figure out how to increase your community’s online reputation we talked with Elise Barber who has helped Denizen become the #1 ranked community at Cardinal Group, top 5 ranked communities in Denver, and top 100 ranked communities in the nation.
Question: What is Denizen’s secret for keeping residents so happy? Answer: The answer to this is very complex. There is no silver bullet to making residents happy. Ultimately, their feelings toward our community is the sum of every single interaction they have with our community. These interactions include things we have control over such as handling issues appropriately, keeping the grounds clean, and resident events as well as things we don’t have control over such as traffic, mail delivery, and interactions with other residents. If the sum of their interactions is overwhelmingly positive then they will have a positive view of our community. We think about how we can turn each interaction into a positive point. By doing so we believe the sum of all of our residents’ interactions end up in the positive.
Question: What are some of the things you do to create positive impressions with your community?Answer: There are tons of different things, I’m so passionate about this, I could go on forever. I’ll keep in short to a few of my favorites. One simple yet powerful thing we do is getting residents to interact with each other. We do this in several ways such as creating a Facebook Group that differs from a typical page in that it allows residents to interact with each other instead of just the business. We have residents ask if anyone wants to go hiking on the weekend, residents have started weekly poker games, others have started a residents only book club, things for sale, etc. An apartment community is much more of a “community” when residents get to know each other and become friends. This Facebook group has helped tremendously with that.
Another favorite way to create a positive impression is genuinely caring about our residents. We had a resident that was extremely sick and we wanted to help her. Her mother was flying in to take care of her but couldn’t get to Denver for 48 hours. Before she arrived we went out and bought some food, medicine, movies, and other comfort items. The resident and her mother were unbelievably grateful for our support. The key here is that we didn’t do it for Denizen we did it for her.
Question: If you could give your peers one tip on keeping residents happy what would it be? Answer: Woof. That’s a tough one. I would say treat your residents as your friends. This is probably a bit controversial and some people say you need to maintain a professional boundary but I think removing that boundary leads to deeper relationships and ultimately happier residents. Our entire team gets to know residents on a personal level, just as we do with our own friends. We know about our residents’ triumphs, the issues going on in their life, and even the mundane day to day.
Getting to know our residents on a more personal level means that when we have to give them tough answers they are received with a much more positive reaction.
Again, we just try and treat them all as we would treat friends or people we care for on a personal level. By doing so we actually forge and create those personal relationships. This has produced some extremely powerful brand advocates.
Question: People are quick to post their negative experience online but a lot less to share their positive experience. How have you been able to get so many residents to post positive reviews online? Answer: Well it all sort of starts with the relationship building mentality. Once we solidify those relationships with residents it becomes quite easy, we just ask them to review us. It sounds too simple to work but it does. Because we talk to our residents every day we know who loves us and who doesn’t (yes not everyone loves us). During our conversation we just tell them that it would help us out if they reviewed us online. Because we help them out on a daily basis they are willing to do the same for us. Often times we will send out emails as well giving them quick links to our review sites.
Question: You mentioned sending out an email to residents asking them to review you. What sort of program do you use for this? Answer: We don’t want these emails to come off as a marketing function or spammy so we don’t use any software. We just use our Google emails to send personalized emails. By doing this we feel that the residents don’t think we are just using them but rather just asking for their support. We also add links in the emails to our review sites so they can quickly and easily find them.
Question: What sort of response rate do you get from these emails? Answer: We see about 60-70% of residents leaving reviews after we send them a personalized email. The key is we only send this email out to people we know love living here. By targeting these emails to only those we know love living at our community and that we have a good relationship with we know the probability of getting a 5-star review is much higher than if we just sent it to every resident.
Craigslist is an important marketing avenue for the apartment industry. Unfortunately, it can take a long time to post an ad. An innovative tool called “Rooof” can save you and your team a ton of time by posting your Craigslist ads for you.
After installing an extension to your Chrome web browser you and your team can post Craigslist ads in as little as 2 clicks. Don’t believe me? Check out how easy it is to post in the video below.
In addition to saving a ton of time it offers the following benefits:
*Email reminders to post ads.
*Auto-renewed ads. This means your ads get top posted for you without you having to do a thing.
*Easy reporting giving you credit for your ads.
Cardinal Group completed a small beta test with the product in the last month. Every on-site team involved in the beta test LOVED the ease of use and time saved with this product. It also increased the amount of leads produced for Craigslist at all communities.
What does it cost? $110 a month. How do you sign your community up? Contact your PSM! Have questions? Comment below or contact your PSM.