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Live Streaming Drives Leasing Success

Live Streaming

Property tours for prospective residents through live video streaming is a great tool for apartment leasing professionals.

There’s nothing like bringing along 74 interested prospective residents on one property tour. It might sound like a stressful, logistical onsite nightmare, but Wood Residential Services did just that when it hosted an online tour of its Atlanta community Alta Brookhaven through live video streaming apps. The leasing manager used her smartphone to shoot the 20-minute tour.

Stacey Schlessinger, learning and development director at Wood Residential Services, called the effort a success and has used the new technology to host more tours this past summer.

Two apps — Periscope, which is exclusive to Twitter, and Meerkat — make free real-time, live video streaming available using iOS and Android smartphones. Both apps took social media by storm this past spring, spurring the retail, corporate and media worlds to look for ways to leverage live video streaming to promote products, announce news and drive brand engagement.

Wood Residential Services’ debut was managed through its social media marketing company, GoToMyApartment (GTMA). Joshua Swanson, GTMA CEO, envisioned the opportunity this way:

A prospect calls an apartment community to inquire about a specific unit that he or she saw in a retargeted ad, on the community website or on a social network. In the past, the leasing agent’s phone sales skills, along with price and location, would be the deciding factors in whether that prospect came in for a tour.

Now, through this new technology, leasing agents no longer have to use buzzwords or the promise of an amazing view to book that tour. Agents can immediately “take the prospect for a tour” by logging into the Meerkat or Periscope apps, and live streaming the actual apartment home that’s available. In other words, the leasing agents are letting the product sell itself.

And because the apartment community has built up an audience on several social networks, each time the leasing agent streams a live tour, a tweet goes out notifying other potential future residents who can then tune in and watch.

Multichannel Marketing Best Practices

Mike Whaling, president of 30 Lines, a digital marketing firm, says that communities should use a variety of marketing channels to promote the broadcasts.

“Because you can’t schedule Periscope broadcasts in advance, you won’t have a direct link you can send people to other than your Periscope profile,” he says. “Once you have your time set, promote it on your website and social channels early. Use opt-in forms and pop-ups on your website to capture email addresses of interested prospects, then drop them a reminder to tune in at the scheduled time. Run time-based ads on Google and Facebook to capture those apartment hunters who are searching around the same times when you are giving the tour. If you start offering regular tours, mention it in the copy on your ILS [internet listing service] listings.”

Wood Residential Services promoted its event for seven weeks prior by posting notices on the community’s website, social media pages, apartment listing services and other online sources such as Craigslist.

How to Handle Questions During Tours

Whaling says communities must have a follow-up plan in place well before the tour.

“People tend to dip in and out of Periscope/Meerkat broadcasts,” he says. “It’s the mobile version of channel surfing. Make sure you give them a way to come back to you. Include your website link in your bio. Mention where people can go for more info — preferably a targeted landing page with a link that’s easy to remember. You won’t have a direct way to share that link in the broadcast, so remember to explain what happens next and where you want interested prospects to go to contact you.

“Periscope broadcasts can be viewed through any [web] browser, but we try to push people to the app, because that’s the only platform where viewers can ask questions directly during the event. For some, viewing via a browser is easier overall, especially for those who don’t have Twitter accounts.”

Examples of questions asked during the Wood Residential tour are:

  • What kind of hardwood floors are those?
  • What is the pet policy, and is there a pet deposit?
  • What is the weight limit for dogs?

Schlessinger compared live video streaming to doing a tour with FaceTime, another video app that enables a one-on-one tour via an iPhone or iPad.

“This works better though,” she says. “With FaceTime, we were getting the feeling from prospective residents that asking them to do FaceTime with us was too personal. They weren’t eager to give us their FaceTime account phone number. They felt that their privacy was a bit too invaded.”

Go Behind-the-Scenes at New Communities

Live streaming works for tours of new developments, too. WC Smith delivered a series of Periscope “hard hat” tours of Park Chelsea, a new project in Washington, D.C., and they were able to showcase apartment views and layouts for prospective residents.

The tours brought targeted traffic to the project’s website, helping drive 97 new sign-ups to the property’s wait-list during the course of the month.

“[With the hard-hat tours,] it’s like they are getting a VIP, behind-the-scenes first look at the property,” says Holli Beckman, vice president of marketing and leasing operations at WC Smith. “It’s a great way to keep them interested!”

There are a few considerations to help ensure a successful tour when streaming live. Strong, consistent Wi-Fi is critical when offering these tours. Schlessinger says she encountered a few dead spots during the tour when the agent could be heard, but the video was choppy or frozen.

And Beckman suggests walking through the space in advance to make sure it’s ready and to let those who are there know that the filming will take place. “Once you are live, it’s game time. ... There’s nothing more embarrassing than finding that a door is locked and you can’t get into an apartment, or a construction guy, unaware the scene is being shot, is yelling something down the hall while you’re recording.”