By Dan Steward
RISMEDIA, February 10, 2011—It’s a good time to buy, but not everyone in every market is doing it. As home prices are rising again in some areas like San Francisco, Manhattan and some parts of Southern California (along with interest rates), and the act of qualifying for a home loan is still tough for many (especially the self-employed), a number of would-be buyers are staying put in the rental market in order to stay liquid. This is a more sophisticated demographic than ever—renters are far from second-class citizens, and luxury rental properties are sprouting up as proof.
Time-tested methods of advertising a rental apartment or home—a well-written, thorough description and great photography—are as critical to success as they always were. And in today’s technological world, the Internet is the best place to display all of these methods. But a website isn’t enough anymore. Today, a multi-tiered Internet presence is critical—and key to that is the use of social media like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. But doing this entails a lot more than logging on and “friending” a bunch of people. When navigating the world of social media, the effectiveness of the end result is proportional to the care put forth both cultivating and maintaining your message. To that end, follow these tips for successfully using social media, not only to attract renters in your target audience, but to keep them interested.
1. Emphasize any features that promote a healthier, happier lifestyle. Rather than just rattling off features of the apartment, go one step further and connect to people who want to live a better life. For instance, if your building has a gym with state-of-the-art equipment, link on Facebook to a fitness story about staying fit, or do a fitness-based Twitter post. If the rooms are particularly light-filled with floor-to-ceiling windows, link to a story about the importance of light to a healthy lifestyle. This will allow folks to associate your property with a high quality of life.
2. Connect to the community. Show your property’s connection with the world outside. If it’s in an urban area with lots of younger professionals, do a post on five great coffee bars to visit before work, or wine bars to check out after quitting time. If a standout new vintage shop opens nearby, do a post on that. Remember, people will be renting not just an apartment, but a neighborhood. Highlighting the best and brightest places in that neighborhood will enhance your value proposition big-time.
3. Show that inventory. Is an apartment available? Show it via a quick link on your wall or social media page. The statement can be simple: “Check out the view from a sunny one-bedroom that just opened up on the 20th floor.” But don’t opt for one of those spinning 360-degree views with a fixed camera and no sound, where it looks like the walls are caving in. In those types of videos, a large bedroom is virtually indistinguishable from a closet-sized one. Instead, consider a video featuring a quick tour, with well-focused zooms on all the important details, from a marble shower to a well-lit breakfast nook. It doesn’t have to be dramatic and Broadway-lit, but it should look professional. You don’t need multi-thousand-dollar equipment—the new Flip video camera is a good pick.
4. Appeal to the tech-savvy crowd. If a potential renter is accessing your content on Facebook and Twitter, chances are he or she does a lot online, both business and personal—including paying bills, ordering lunch and joining a variety of communities and interest groups. It’s a given that you should emphasize tech-savvy features in the rentals, from free Wi-Fi to high-security intercoms. But, more importantly, consider using social media to organize social meet-ups for residents, and even issue friendly reminders to residents like “Don’t forget, you can pay your rent online!”—even offering to enter those who do in a competition. You might ask: How does this benefit those who haven’t rented there yet? The answer is simple: They can see that there’s a community there, and if it looks enticing enough, they’ll want to join.
5. Keep your messaging true to your brand. Entertaining is one thing, “cutesy” is another. Avoid the need to be excessively jokey or colloquial; don’t fall into the trap that some marketers do, thinking all renters are twenty-something’s who are all about partying. And don’t abandon your larger marketing strategy: Though social media posts should obviously be more conversational than the tone of the building’s website or other marketing materials, they shouldn’t sound as though they’re written by an entirely different entity. If it’s an affordable property, it’s silly to mention a just-opened store nearby that sells $2,000 handbags or a great nearby restaurant that offers $28 eggs Benedict at brunch. And finally, don’t overpost. Less is more. Five weather updates a day are best left to the weatherman.
Dan Steward is president of Pillar To Post Professional Home Inspections.
For more information, visit www.pillartopost.com.
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