Using Social Media to Market Apartments Redux

Assiduity – constant or close attention to what one is doing.

Back in 2009 I penned a post about using social media to market apartments. Back then the groundswell was happening and everyone had an opinion about it. And, over the past three years, I think we have all learned a lot. Some of it good. Some of it bad. Some have taken the lessons and left the conversation. Others have bet the farm. While others dipped their toe in, listened, learned, participated, grew and are now providing real value. And, while we were all quietly churning away in our social media bull pens another more than mentionable groundswell was taking place. Fewer multifamily starts and a generation ripe with numbers that we have not seen since the baby boomers hit the scene.

Fast-forward to the second half of 2012, the coastal markets are booming again while the somewhat insulated Midwest lays in wait. In St. Louis specifically, most sub-markets that have hit bottom and are now bouncing along. Some city central, mid-city and west county properties are sporting occupancy gains and rent growth they have not seen in three years plus.

Get these two things (marketing apartments using social media and the near perfect storm of fundamental metrics) in a room together and you have the makings of a home run. At least in my opinion.

Not Using Social Media to Market Apartments?

Now might be a good time to rethink that position. Don’t take my word for it. Take a look at this recent post over at Business Grow (a great blog by the way – subscribe and read every word). I pulled out a quote that I think speaks to my real point.

If you think about, using social media at the university level is the perfect test case for what all our organizations may be seeing just a few years from now:

  • Its primary audience uses the social web as its primary tool for communication.
  • It is an essential strategy for connecting with, and nurturing, its “customers.”
  • The relatively low-cost effectiveness of social media fits with programs under constant budget pressures.

Assiduity and The Why Behind the What

How many of you knew what that word meant? Me either. But, I fell in love when I looked it up. Assiduity – constant or close attention to what one is doing. As I read the word then the definition and then the word again it made me think – get off your ass-n-do-it.

To the point: your near now, now and future residents are growing up digital. Miss the point and miss some real opportunity.

Your big believer in using social media to market apartments,



Fill Your Marketing Balloons With More Than Air

marketingI was recently given the privelege to co-moderate a brainstorming session on the topic of marketing. The session was held for members of the apartment management industry at various stages in their careers, from leasing agents who have been in the industry for 2 months to  property managers with 10 years of experience. My topic was old school marketing. Old school referring to anything not social media. More specifically, tools such as resident retention, outreach marketing, Craigslist, etc. The idea was to get creative juices flowing, discuss what’s working, what’s not working and maybe learn a few things to take back to the rest of the team.

I was surprised by the lack of marketing knowledge…and for that matter, the lack of creativity. I heard the same 3 “best practices” from a majority of the groups: Generic signs and balloons for drive by traffic, generic Craiglist ads and monetary resident referral incentives. I heard questions like: “What do you say when you’re marketing to a business?” and “It’s ok to send thank you cards and gift baskets to businesses who refer someone to you?” Leasing agents and PMs who had no knowledge of free additional ILS marketing template tools like VFlyer and Postlets, who had never thought past posting a flyer with a resident referral rent credit in terms of using residents as a marketing tool, and those are just building blocks. It’s as if they were told that marketing is something only a rocket scientist can figure out.

First let me say I’m not exactly saying the 3 best practice items listed above are crap, I’m simply saying that they shouldn’t be IT.  Also, I’m in love with social media and believe it’s an insanely valuable tool, however 1. It was not my topic to discuss and 2. I also think that personal touch and those face to face human interactions through outreach marketing and resident appreciation events are valuable, and combining the 2 forms is fabulous! (Read Urbane Media’s QR Codes blog). But I’m not sure I believe you can be effective with social media if you don’t even know the basics of effective old school marketing tools. And if no one is teaching or motivating their team on the basics of marketing, then I doubt that there is any social media marketing in place anyway.

So I guess what I’d like to learn from this eye opening experience is: Am I way off base in believing that some old school marketing techniques are still a valuable tool in the industry? Is someone teaching your staff about marketing? Do you believe that one can effectively use social media tools without ever having learned/practiced old school marketing strategies?

Title courtesy of Melissa DeCicco

Photo credit bloggingoutloud

#Apartmentmarketing: Attention Economy

Instead of one-way interruption, Web marketing is about delivering useful content at just the precise moment that a buyer needs it. – David

Where's the disconnect?

Meerman Scott

Seth Godin quipped that engagement is hitting people with the right message at the right time so as to have them take action [engage]. I think we have to take that word engage and thus precise moment further. To truly engage, at least in my head, you have to be enchanted, you have to be moved, you have to yearn for more so much so that you have no choice but to act on your desires. It the deepest throes of emotion. Words like love, anger and the many nuances of each come to mind. It’s not just a like, unlike, +1 or the such. It’s deeper.

Mr. Apartment Manager Man; “I am done.”

It’s not unlike the gentleman I met with last Friday evening. He, unfortunately, was moving out of our Central West End Community. Reason? In his words, “I am done.”

You see about three weeks ago, the entire roof of his five story building blew off and landed in the parking lot beside and the street in front. Thank the one that governs it all that no one was hurt as it could have been really bad.

In response to the situation; our team entered every apartment in the building and place plastic over beds, electronics and the such. Most were thankful. Not the gentleman I met on Friday. His beef? We did not leave him a note to let him know we had been in his apartment.


Somewhere in the wake of the roof being pulled off the building by straight lined winds; his attention got engaged. The premise aside; he was moved by an aggressive deep seated emotion. He engaged with some ill language and barbed personal remarks for the onsite team and the rest of our Mills management team. He got so engaged that he ended up leaving the property.

The Point

I think we are headed toward true engagement – we are not there yet. We use the word but in it’s loosest of senses. We are in the early innings of a very long ball game that is frankly destined for infinite extra innings. Think in terms of singularity. Think in terms of love, hate and other extremes. That’s engagement. For now we are just courting. Or, at best out on a blind date and liking our mate because our friends suggested we should. Now it’s up to us and the million other people out there participating with brands to fall in love or fall in hate.

What do you think?



Photo tip to: Online Ninja Blog

#Apartmentmarketing: Blog for Juice

No matter what, the very first piece of social media real estate I’d start with is a blog. – Chris Brogan

Blog About Everything Unrelated

United Blogs of Benetton is one of my very favorite blogs. It was one of my early inspirations when I started writing a multifamily industry related one back in 2005. The thing that struck me most about the blog is that it had absolutely nothing to do with their core business of fashion. In fact, I remember reading a post they wrote back around that time that suggested their reason for doing so.

I can’t find the post so I am doing my best to recall here. The gist was that they thought that the real value of blogging was to give the people that read it the essence of what they valued as an organization. In other words, they wanted to translate the values of their organization by way of compelling and worldly content.

Our First Company Related Blog

When we started our first company blog in 05′ we did just that. But in lieu of a forward facing, community gathering effort; we brought out the personality of EQRs Portland Portfolio. We called the blog: Portland Rocks Newsletter and the content consisted of stories about our teams. Be it work related or a personal experience we allowed just about everything.

Everything that is except for content about EQR or any specifically related to our apartment communities. Our chief aim back then was to invite people into relationship. Whether they bought from us or not was not the point of the blog. If they did, we considered it icing on the cake.

And, fathom this for a minute. It had nothing to do with SEO or SEM back then. Whoa!

It’s All About the Juice

Fast forward to today – everyone has a blog and everyone is jockeying for the first page of Google search. And, we all do it for Google Juice. We wrap it in 800 count Egyptian cotton [Read: adding value or enhancing experience].

All that being said, I agree 100% with Chris B.

AI: Start a blog today – if you have not already!


#Apartmentmarketing: Waiting

Today’s call to action – wait.

“If you wait until there is another case study in your industry, you will be to late.” Seth Godin

Girl in wait
What to do?

It goes against the old axiom, ‘good things come to those who wait.’ Anymore you get cooked in the squat if you wait too long. With the advent of the Internet came an accelerating pace of change. Moore’s Law even exists, to some extent, in the world of property management. We are seeing newer, bigger, better and flashier ways of attracting new people and keeping relationship with them over a long bit of time. It’s nuts out there.

Oh, and we have a blog…

Multifamily: Second Mover’s Advantage

At Mills Properties, we like to think that we are exercising the second mover advantage. While we did have our company [internal] blog in place nearly three years ago now; we were a bit delayed in getting our forward facing blog out to pasture. It did put us behind the eight ball and in the same respect, it allowed us to make observation of several other industry movers and shakers. That time and those observations gave us the ability to design a strategy that has yielded some very good results for us.

At just six months in we have achieved the following with our blog:

Mills Blog












It’s been the result of some hard work and dedication on the part of many people, first and foremost. Beyond that I would suggest that it’s been the result of setting back and making some observations, learning from others experiments and applying as much as we could.

Today’s call to action – wait. Sometimes, it is okay to wait, watch, learn, strategize, act and fail fast. We did!

What have you gained by waiting?


Apartment Marketing: Friendslist

Could a platform like friendlist make For Rent’s likely crazy expensive quasi-distribution point irrelevant? Likely not but I secretly hope so…

Friendslist might be something to keep an eye on. Especially in light of the shrewd move by in creating an exclusive, carve their client marketing partners right out of an avenue of advertising platform, relationship on FBs Marketplace.  Could a platform like friendlist make the likely crazy expensive quasi-distribution point irrelevant? Likely not but I secretly hope so…

Friendslist offers a cleaner interface to start, but that’s nothing new. What it does is connect buyers and sellers, or people who are looking for jobs and people who are hiring, through the people they know. Yes, Oodle does this to some extent on Facebook Marketplace, but Friendslist takes a slightly different approach.

No offense FR. But, please know whether it was you, AF, AG or any other provider, I would feel the same. The move gave me every cause to expedite the reallocation of near $550,000 of FR specific marketing spend over the last 18 months. Not a complete departure but a semi-massive one.  Stay tuned…

QR Codes in Apartment Magazines


The jury is still out in my mind as it relates to the use of QR codes. I wrote about them three or four years ago and at the time I thought they were cool but today I have a very different opinion. Back then there was no real mass use commercial or otherwise and in the same respect there was a neat kind of novelty about them. It was cool that I could make my own but really confusing in that that I had no way to read it after I made it. That was before that proliferation of smart phones and the apps that make them so powerful. For now I classify QR codes under the “just because you can, does not mean you should” category.

Waste of Time

For example, I am reading The NOW Revolution by Bear and Naslund and it is full of QR codes. I give them high points for novelty. I give them high points in quantity. And, if it mattered, I give them high points in placement as it relates to aesthetics. They really packed a ton of information into 200 pages or less. But, I would never, in a million years, take the time to pull out my phone, take a picture and wait for the page to load. It’s too much work. Don’t make me pay [in the way of my time and in my money] twice for information.

Think Twice

As a result of The Now Revolution, I will never buy another book without flipping through it more thoroughly. If I see QR codes; I see that money more well spent in my bank account.

QR codes in Apartment Magazines

QR codes are pasted all over the pages of ForRent Magazine and others like it. I wonder, outside or AEs presenting a WOW moment, if people actually use them in a meaningful way. I hear the echos of “value add” but I think “what a waste of space.” Tell me what the value is and reduce my bill accordingly and keep the crazy things off my page.

The Making of an Apartment Company Mascot

We are always looking for new and creative ways to start conversation at Mills and we think our latest adventure is sure to be a hit. While we understand this will not resonate with everyone; we are certain there is a niche that will appreciate it and be moved by it. Some people just love to have fun!

Millsy Becomes a Real Boy

Our newly appointed Marketing Director & Communication Strategist, Melissa Preusser (we have an interview lined up – stay tuned to learn more about her) borrowed from the world of athletic mascots to come up with Millsy! Millsy is our Apartment Company Mascot. Millsy will accompany our media teams to any and all company and community functions, festivals, sporting events, partnership gathering and networking events. His chief aim? Give people a reason to talk about Mills. And, what better event could there be for his coming to life party than the annual St. Louis Mardi Gras Parade. Millsy becomes a real boy on Saturday March 5th 2011. We will be sharing a lot of the highlights and pics in future posts.

For now, I thought it would be fun to share some pics of Millsy in the early stages of coming to life…

Using Facebook to Rent More Apartments

A ton has been written on the topic of Facebook as it relates to renting apartments and I don’t intend to belabor the point.

Rather, I am curious to hear from our readers; What is/are your biggest struggle with it? What are your biggest successes? What would you tell someone who is thinking about starting a like page?

I appreciate any discussion we get going here – even the brief ones.

Apartment Marketing: Mills Social Media Principles

Mills Properties is making a thoughtful integration of social media principles into their Get Social with Mills Initiative. And, in doing so we decided to craft a document of social media principles for our apartment management company as a whole using thoughts, ideas and original works from in and outside of the industry.

Social Media Principles for Apartments

The four companies we have elected to draw from are:

JC Hart




There are hundreds of examples out there to choose from if you are thinking of writing your own. I can’t tell you that we used some magic formula to pick the companies we did. That is with the exception of JC Hart – we know Mark Juleen and admire the efforts he and his team have put together in executing a great strategy.  With that, we also look forward to feedback along the way as we believe that there is no perfect science to the process.

If you have a set of Social Media Principles for your organization and wish to share – link it up down in the comments. We would love to read them.

Have a great weekend –