We’re Onto Your Game, Mona Lisa

When a picture of an apartment community that’s advertised on the Internet is blurry or taken from far away, I don’t assume a poorly trained photographer is to blame. I assume this is a place, if seen in person, that would haunt my dreams. Coincidentally, the same logic can be applied to online dating profiles.

To improve your community’s image, hire a good photographer who will take stunning, in-focus close-ups of your property. Otherwise, people are going to think your community is a Mona Lisa—decent looking from afar, a little worse for wear when you view it up close.

Spending money for great photography is just one of six internet marketing tips Stephen Lefkovits discusses in his article “Google and Beyond” in the April issue of units. Following are two more:

1. Be Wary of “Free.” Smaller owners who don’t have the budget to hire graphic designers and website gurus to set up property sites often seek out free design services. However, something that’s technically free could still cost more than it’s worth in the way of time and frustration. (Case in point—when I was five, I gave my younger brother a complimentary haircut. It did him no favors, and my mother had to salvage what little remained of his bangs).

If you want to save time, Lefkovits suggests skipping over the majority of free design services and trying Posterous.com. It’s a great way to quickly create an easy-to-customize, general purpose Web page for free. Users simply sign in, pick out one of 32 themes and start posting content. Your site can be up and running in five minutes.

The same could not be said for my brother.

2. Embrace Resident Reviews. I once read a review on hostelworld.com that said, “If you like staying in a place that has prostitutes hanging out by the entrance and you want to get knifed, you’ll love this hotel!”

Everyone knows I would do a lot for a good story, but even I was turned off by this. And I’m going to go out on a limb and say most people would be, too. I don’t know anyone who’s hankering for a good knifing.

Whether you own a hotel or an apartment community, it’s hard to embrace rating sites when reviews such as the one above could destroy your entire reputation, but Lefkovits says it’s important to remember that the content on these sites is often integrated into search-engine results.

Pick one review site, such as Yelp.com, Apartmentratings.com or DoNotRent.com, and leverage it for your own good by paying to participate and taking 20 minutes a week to actively respond to reviews, Lefkovits says. You can even encourage satisfied residents to post a review in exchange for a gift card.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about…I’ve never seen a prostitute around here” is an example.

For more internet marketing strategies, check out Steve’s article in the March issue of units, which mailed March 8. The e-version is now available.