The Dollars & Sense of Social Media

The Dollars and Sense of Social Media
    By: Nicholas A. Dunlap, CPM
Social Media has become an integral part of our daily lives.  As friends, family members, consumers or professionals, there is an aspect of Social Media that appeals to each of our interests.  At the forefront of these interests is the ability to communicate and connect with others.  Viewing photos, understanding the daily (sometimes hourly) happenings of our friends’ lives, finding new places to shop or dine based on peer ratings and reviews, has never been easier, or for that matter more popular. 
 According to official statistics, Facebook now has over 500 million users worldwide with over 150 million in the United States alone.  Twitter has over 190 million users sending 50 million plus Tweets per day, while Youtube has 139 million official users with a video being shown almost every second of the day.  Newcomer Foursquare has approximately
3.5 million people checking in daily and Yelp receives over 31 million unique views each month.  While you might be more aware of Social Media giants such as Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, Yelp and Foursquare might very well be the future of your Social Media platform.
 While all five of these sites can potentially work wonders for your business, absent the right message or the right campaign, Social Media is nothing more than a waste of time. 
Consider the 3 Cs of Social Media Marketing when developing your campaign. 
1.      Content- In addition to property/unit photos, pricing and specials, exclusive
deals and other such promotional items are demonstrated in a clever, unique
manner that encourages people to continue reading.  
2.      Creativity- Be creative.  This is online advertising and marketing.  The people reading these ads or posts are looking to be amused.  Social Media viewers look for stimulation and motivation.  Lure them to your business. 
3.      Consistency- Ensure that your Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Blog, Foursquare, Myspace and other such pages are updated frequently and consistently.  With Social Media, more is better.   
Knowing the three c’s and the statistics behind these Social Media outlets helps us to better understand their significance.  With a cleverly crafted campaign, you can strategically reach the masses.  While there is both free and paid advertising available on these sites, there is a growing debate not just amongst the apartment industry but the business industry at large over who should be the voice of a Social Media platform.  Of course it is this “who” that incurs the cost. 
 Rather than create new positions, combining the brand-familiar savvy of a marketing department with the localized personalities within a Leasing office will suffice.  Having your Marketing Department create an expansive array of templates that Leasing Agents or Resident Managers can customize to fit their properties will not only save money, but save time as well.  Your Marketing Department is the expert in this arena, but the Leasing Office can facilitate the work.  Establishing these policies up front can be one of the best ways to ensure the most professional representation in all of your Social Media efforts. Costs will vary based on the personnel involved, but the Social Media outlets themselves offer free advertising. 
Having reviewed the statistics, the costs and the personnel involved, let’s now review some additional Social Media sites that will help you maximize your marketing efforts without maximizing your costs. Foursquare is one of the newest and possibly the most beneficial Social Media sites for Property Owners and Managers.  Location based, Foursquare offers it’s users the ability to check-in from their smart phone and earn points or win prizes as they compete with friends.  When someone checks in at a location, a list of all nearby check-in points appears.  Consider waiving the application fee, offering a Starbucks card or even a free rent special for someone who finds you and checks into your Leasing Office on Foursquare. 
Using a similar “check-in” format is Yelp! Yelp is a hip and highly interactive, consumer review site where patrons of business publish their own reviews.  If you haven’t already, you should check now.  Your properties are probably on Yelp.  Use it to your advantage.  Business owners can establish accounts to market directly to the consumer using specials and promotions. 
Advertising in Social Media is the new and the now.  Growing your Marketing campaigns to create and manage such Social Media platforms will not only ensure you maximum exposure, but allow you the ability to reach thousands of new prospects based on interest and on location, potentially bringing you qualified leads.  But before you prepare for the influx of new leads, be sure you have effectively prepared your advertising to attract them.