Three Technology Lessons from Student Housing
By Bryan Shelangoski
Apartment managers need to be on top of the latest social media trends, but face-to-face interaction is still important.
Being in the student housing business often means you are in the emerging technology business. College-aged students are the early adopters, willing to try new devices and platforms, which can be a challenge for a community manager to keep up.
While the medium might change, the need to keep in touch with your residents never does. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about technology and apartment living.
- Products are getting smarter (and we may be getting dumber): Did you know that college-aged people own an average of five Internet-ready devices? That’s a lot of screens demanding attention from their users, and you need to get your message on one of those screens to make sure your safety alert, renewal special or resident mixer gets seen. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenge. If you aren’t using pictures on every social media post, you are way behind the times. How much video do you make? Even a 30-second Instagram video will get a lot more eyes on it, especially if you are working with the generation that gets most of its entertainment from YouTube or a streaming service. That said, the average attention span for these social media blurbs is less than 30 seconds. So keep things concise!
- Know how your residents communicate: Quick: What’s the dominant social media platform your residents use? Is it a Twitter community or do they gravitate toward Instagram? What about SnapChat? We’ve advanced far beyond the old note on the door method as a way to get messages out quickly and efficiently. If you haven’t updated your applications or move-in forms in a few years, it might be a good time to refresh those to include spots for your residents’ various social media handles (and ask to rank the frequency of use). First, it’s a great way to determine the dominant form of communication at your community. Second, it’s a great way to help streamline your social media for current and future media engagement and marketing.
- Tech is not always the answer: Today’s smartphones have more raw computing power than all of NASA had during its moon-landing program. So, you don’t need cutting-edge technology to accomplish big things. The power of face-to-face interaction cannot be underestimated, especially now when it seems like everybody’s nose is buried in a screen of some kind. A face-to-face sit-down between quarreling roommates or neighbors is an effective way to get the problem solved without so much of the back-biting that can crop up when you use the Internet as a shield. Also, a personal touch is still appreciated. Think of quick ways you can engage with your residents. You never know, it might lead to a renewal or referral.
With a bit of legwork and dash of common sense, technology can go back to being an effective communication and marketing tool, instead of something to be afraid of.
Bryan Shelangoski is a regional director at EDR.