How Operators Tackle Reputation and Social Media
Responding to bad reviews can be a nuisance, but there are ways to use social media to build a stronger connection with residents.
At CampusConnex, student housing operators provided a template for not only how to handle online reviews, but to also employ social media as a tool to connect with residents. Here were the key takeaways from their comments:
- There are different routes to success:
EDR takes a team approach to responding to reviews. “We rely heavily on our onsite teams to monitor our key review platforms and we also have a dedicated digital support team at the home office to assist when needed,” says Jennifer Worsham, Vice President of Operations, EDR Management.
CA Student Living assigns one person at each community – the leasing manager -- to handle review responses “right away,” Scott Manning, Regional Manager, says.
Regardless of how a company handles reviews, it shouldn’t be selective about which ones deserve replies.
“The team should be responding to all reviews—whether positive or negative,” Worsham says.
- It is Okay to Ask for Reviews:
Research shows that 68 percent of residents have not been asked to provide a review, according to Joseph Batdorf, President of J Turner Research.
Not only is it okay to ask for reviews, but it is encouraged at some places. Manning say that its even good practice to give a small gift to those who do leave good reviews.
EDR stimulates reviews with a Community Rewards program that has generated approximately 6,000 to 8,000 reviews. CA Student Living will try certain tactics to incentive reviews. For instance, the onsite teams may take all of the packages received out of the supply closet and deliver them to the student’s door. “By creating resident interaction, we are able to ask them how we are doing,” Manning says.
- Show Real Life:
When it comes to Facebook and other forms of social media, simple is better. “We want to share the lifestyle at our communities through imagery and quick videos. It is important to post authentic material and photoshopped images are not always the answer,” Worsham says.
At one community in Tempe, Ariz., Worsham says analytics revealed Instagram drove 70 percent of the traffic.
“Our Instagram account helps us to portray the lifestyle—we need to paint what it’s like to live there—through images,” she says.
Manning says Snapchat is becoming more popular. No matter the channel, he says authenticity is critical.
“I like our teams to post based on real-life situations,” he says. “The goal is trying to build a story for the property through that picture.”
- Make Lemonade out of Lemons:
Even under adverse circumstances, it is possible to use social media to create a good impression. At one new community that was delayed, CA Student Living used social media “events” to keep residents engaged as they waited for their homes to be completed.
“When it came time for the residents to move in, we ended up with more positive than negative comments from them because we kept them engaged throughout the process,” Manning says.
- Fight Trolls:
Everyone has stories about residents who complain and post negative reviews. Manning encourages his staff to take the high road and thank respondents for their feedback. If the complaints are legitimate, he says staff should know who was behind the complaint.
The people who come to the office or who call to complain are usually on the onsite team’s radar.
“If you know who is behind the complaint, take the initiative to get in contact with them so they can be heard,” Manning says.