In Part One of this series, you read about the importance of your apartment community’s online reputation and the damage that can be caused if you passively allow its management to fall to tenants, some of whom may be dissatisfied with your company. You also learned how to find out what is being said about your rental properties online.
In Part Two, below, we’ll talk about damage control and reactive online reputation management, as well as proactive online reputation management strategies.
Reactive Reputation Management for Your Apartments: Damage Control
Whether by an Internet search, a Google Alert or a visit to a bookmarked apartment ratings site, you will eventually find true or untrue negative comments about your apartments or your management style posted online.
You can choose to ignore or respond to negative feedback, but many marketing experts agree that if you’re going to respond, you should do it in much the same manner as you’d respond to someone making a complaint in your office: professionally, succinctly and positively.
Marketing Pilgrim.com advises that an online management or landlord response to a complaint should do the following: thank the complainant for his feedback, express surprise at a dissatisfactory experience, apologize, explain how the complaint will be addressed and provide an offline channel to continue the conversation.
In “Landlords, Who Is Managing Your Apartments’ Online Reputation? Part One,” we cited one online apartment complaint in which the tenant expressed that common areas of the apartment building, such as laundry rooms and hallways, were always dirty. A property management response, in following Marketing Pilgrim’s advice, would look something like this:
“Thank you for bringing the issue of dirty hallways and laundry rooms to our attention. We apologize for the inconvenience you’ve experienced. Please know that our cleaning staff visits each of our buildings once a week to clean the common areas, and we will increase our on-site inspections to make sure the job is being done properly. Feel free to contact our office at 555-5555 if we can further assist you.”
It doesn’t matter so much if the person who complained sees your response. What matters is that prospective tenants who are researching your apartment buildings see it. The response conveys more about you than the most expensive advertising money can buy and it boosts your online reputation as a landlord or property manager who promptly and effectively addresses complaints.
There are two caveats to responding to online complaints in this manner, though. First, make sure you are telling the truth. If you have no intention of increasing on-site inspections, for example, your online reputation will plummet when another complaint about dirty common areas appears and it’s dated only weeks or months after your response
The second caveat is this: If you find yourself spending too much time responding to complaints about your property, your priorities are not straight. You will need to reassess your management policies and spend more time preventing complaints in the first place.
Proactive Reputation Management for Your Apartments: Your Own URL
If you don’t already have a proactive Internet presence, this is something that needs to be remedied immediately.
Managing only a few apartments or operating a very small business no longer is an excuse to completely ignore the Internet. Not only are your competitors online, but prospective tenants are going to go looking for information about you before they sign a lease. Let the information they find come from you.
A properly key-worded and modestly marketed company website, social network page or blog will usually turn up on the first page of Google’s results when a searcher types in the name of your apartments or company. You can hire a skilled website designer to build a professional-looking site, or if you’d like to try it yourself, there are many resources online about establishing a first-time business website.
Another idea is to upgrade your property management software to a web-based platform like Propertyware, which includes user-friendly, fully functional, apartment-themed website templates and hosting for a monthly fee. Or, you can simply let a free blog, updated weekly with building announcements, maintenance news and current lease specials, suffice as your main company voice online.
Last, and perhaps easiest, don’t forget about social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Google Buzz. You certainly don’t need to have accounts at each of them, but one or two will go a long way toward managing your apartments’ online reputation by engaging with current and prospective tenants on a regular basis.
Once you’ve created an Internet presence, begin marketing its URL right away. Include the link to your website, blog or social networking page on every advertisement you place, every statement and tenant letter you send, and every business card you hand out. And, very importantly, don’t forget to include your link in every response you post to negative feedback online!
Update your URL content no less frequently than once per week and you’ll soon be on your way to managing your apartments’ online reputation rather than letting others do it for you.