You know who is managing your apartments; but who is managing your apartments’ online reputation?
In Part One of this two-part series we’ll talk about how to find out what is being said about your apartments online. In Part Two of this series, we’ll discuss steps you can take when the comments you find are less than flattering, deservedly or undeservedly so, as well as how to proactively manage your rental properties’ online reputation.
The Importance of Managing Your Online Reputation
A recent RentBits.com survey found that 72 percent of prospective tenants begin their apartment search online. You want to make sure that all of those prospective tenants in your market find you, and that they read positive, accurate information.
If you are not proactively marketing your properties online, you are leaving it up to tenants to do it for you at apartment rating websites, on community forums and in social media chats. This sort of passive marketing is fine if you have — and have always had — a 100-percent satisfaction rate among all of your tenants, not to mention your former employees and the contractors you’ve hired.
It is the rare landlord, however, who has never raised a rent, evicted someone for non-payment, withheld security deposit funds or prioritized a minor maintenance request below a major one. Actions that are reasonable from a management point of view can sometimes raise the ire of tenants, and the anonymity of the Internet provides a satisfying venting place for tenants who feel they’ve been wronged.
Assess Your Online Reputation: Monitor the Internet for Comments
Some negative comments about your apartment community are easier to find than others. In fact the Internet, being the gracious host that it is, is home to several sites specifically for comments about apartment communities.
One such site is Apartment Reviews.net, the very first Google search result for “apartment reviews and ratings,” where one recent anonymous comment about a San Antonio apartment complex reads, “I have fire ants in my apartment. The ceiling in the bathroom is moldy, the faucets leak, the A/C doesn’t work and oh yeah … they shut the water off once a month for HOURS at a time and don’t let residents know.”
There is also the popular Apartment Ratings.com, the second Google search result for “apartment reviews and ratings.” On this site, one anonymous Seattle resident complains of his apartment: “Common areas, like hallways and the laundry room, are often filthy and I am unsure if cleaning is ever done. There are always problems with machines in the laundry room. …”
If you are a landlord or a property manager, you might want to bookmark these websites and check them frequently to see what is being said about your apartments.
Automate the Reputation Monitoring Process: Use Google Alerts
The problem with merely bookmarking apartment ratings websites, though, is that these sites are not the only places online where dissatisfied tenants might badmouth your apartments. In fact, the number of arenas where anonymous posters may choose to air their grievances online rather than face-to-face in your office is as limitless as the Internet itself.
Rather than spend too much time scouring the Internet for comments about your company and your properties, let Google Alerts do the searching for you and send reports right to your inbox.
It is easy to set up multiple Google Alerts and get new search results about your rental company, your apartment community and you as a landlord or property manager. Simply visit Google Alerts online and enter the same terms you’d use to perform a regular Google search along with the e-mail address you’d like alerts sent to.
For example, say your name is John Donaldson, and you own Donaldson Rental and Realty and you operate two apartment communities: Donaldson Square Apartments and Donaldson Garden Apartments. When you set up your Google Alerts, choose each of these search terms for a separate alert, making sure to put each term in quotation marks, like this: “Donaldson Garden Apartments.”
To best manage your time and to keep your e-mail inbox as uncluttered as possible, choose weekly, comprehensive alerts when setting your alert options. If you find that you are getting too many unrelated results in your weekly alerts, edit your settings to be even more specific. Consider adding your city name to your search terms, or the word “landlord” to your name search. That way, if someone posts “John Donaldson is the worst landlord in Memphis,” it’ll be sure to turn up in your inbox and not be lost among all the other web pages that mention all the other John Donaldsons out there.
What to Do About Negative Online Comments
By now you’re probably wondering, “OK, so how do I deal with negative online comments about my property?” Part Two of this series will answer this question and give you other tips for managing your apartment community’s online reputation.