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Snapchat Dominates Student Housing Conversation

January 2017

Marketing sages from some of student housing’s most successful companies explore tactics for fostering awareness and demand in increasingly competitive markets, such as geo-targeting, customer relationship management and lead nurturing. This panel will speak about how they find, analyze and use marketing effectiveness data at strategic levels.

In a session presented at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15, at the 2017 NAA Student Housing Conference & Exhibition at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago, the panel will discuss what’s trending in student housing social media.

Snapchat’s popularity continues to rise among student housing marketers.

Rob Dinwiddie, Landmark Properties, and Barrie Nichols, University Student Living are effectively driving their brands and select community messages through timely images on Snapchat based on paid geo-targeting filters being deployed during key campus dates such as move-ins and social events.

“We created Snapchat filters with custom graphics for each of our communities,” Nichols says. “Coupled with geo-targeting that is based on popular events such as housing fairs, orientations and libraries during exam finals weeks, the results were phenomenal. Popular among students and cost effective, this form of digital marketing proved to be extremely successful. We will continue to build brand awareness and provide interaction opportunities with our target market during key times and events.”

Nichols says these also were used to launch new developments through table tents on campus, local businesses and at events.

“The evolution of this platform has been incredible,” she says. “When we started using Snapchat to communicate with students three years ago, companies were hesitant to see this as an engagement source. Now, there are more people who added us to their Snapchat accounts during targeted events than any other form of social media.”

Landmark began utilizing paid geo-filters on Snapchat in the prior lease-up season, Dinwiddie says.

“Snapchat made paid geo-targeted filters available to businesses early in the spring of 2016 and we went heavy into it for the remainder of the leasing season,” he says. “We have continued to use the filters in the current leasing season and have found them to be a good way to get our message out to areas where we sometimes had difficulty marketing in person or with guerrilla marketing efforts.”

Dinwiddie says initial efforts with paid filters on Snapchat were “a little ‘spammy.’ We didn’t create filters that people really wanted to use, but we’ve since tweaked that and results have improved through more relevant content, even at the expense of reduced branding in these filters.”

Dinwiddie says his company has tested numerous emerging social media platforms at some level during the past 12 months.

“We streamed video on Periscope (which never gained much popularity), live-streamed on Facebook, basically taking advantage of all the new avenues,” he says. “I don’t know that any of these were game-changers, but we’ve found value in various markets by being the student housing brand that is known for communicating on the newest media.”

Kim Cory, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, EdR, is using emojis during her communities’ renewal campaign.

“We believe that emojis help us to provide a single, unified language that everyone relates to,” Cory says. “This campaign utilized tried-and-true methods such as door hangers, social media, e-blast, signage and posters, etc. It was impactful as each month the various emoji elements were rolled out into phases to keep things fresh. This is a proven way to effectively create a strong call to action and has been a great success for our communities. You can convey to them that it is time to renew their lease without actually saying it!”

Laurie Lyons, Partner, The Cardinal Group, says her company always experiments with new marketing tools to find what works the best and remain on the cutting edge.

“This lease-up season we have employed virtual reality tours at several of our lease-ups,” Lyons says. “One of the hardest things to do with a brand-new community is selling the vision of what it will look like and feel like it when the product doesn’t yet actually exist. We think virtual reality can help bridge this gap.”

Prospects can experience what an apartment’s amenity spaces will look like and feel like through immersive virtual reality headsets.

“They are able to look around in 360 degrees as if they were standing in that apartment or amenity,” Lyons says. “The prospect is able to navigate to other rooms and unlock extra content just by looking around the room. Because this tool is easily portable on campus, we can use it at the leasing trailer, at housing fairs or anywhere else our team travels. It has fantastic versatility and is a real wow factor with a lot of prospects.

Lyons says her prospective residents have embraced the tool.

“It is a fun new technology that helps prospects get a sense of their new home and differentiates us from the competitors,” Lyons says. “We will continue to use this tool on a larger scale going forward. We now have the tools to allow onsite teams to take 360 virtual tours and 360 videos of every single floor plan type. If a floor plan type is available to be leased but not available to be physically toured, they can take a virtual reality tour. We are also looking at the possibility of doing away with traditional paper brochures and giving prospects virtual reality ‘brochures’ that they can take home with them for less cost than a normal paper brochure!”

The Cardinal Group also is beginning to utilize Facebook Live to a small degree.

“This new social media tool has been around for a few months and has started to gain a lot of traction in the past month or so. It is a unique way to distribute content and gives a community the bonus of better placement within the newsfeed, which has become more costly in recent years.”

Nichols has scored well with her communities’ use of online reviews as a marketing tool, leveraging a platform created by Modern Message.

University Student Living has used it for gift card delivery, improving ratings, customer engagement and to conduct move-in surveys.

On average, its communities have seen 85 percent of its residents refer the property to their friends; an increase in two stars on its overall ratings; and a 20 percent increase in clicks to its websites and leads year-over-year through the dashboard.

The Panel

Kim Cory, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, EdR

Rob Dinwiddie, Vice President-Leasing & Marketing, Landmark Properties

Alie Hrabe, Vice President, Marketing & Leasing, Trinitas

Michael Huereque, Director of Agency, Fifty3

Barrie Nichols, Vice President Marketing and Leasing, University Student Living

Laurie Lyons, Partner, Cardinal Group Management (moderator)

 

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