Online Reputation Speaks for Itself, Delivers ROI

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Considering that 70% of online reviews are positive, communities should encourage residents to share their experience.

What is the ROI of a positive online reputation? And what impact does it have on leasing and renewal? The 2021 Apartmentalize session, “Your Online Reputation: Trends, Strategy and ROI in Multifamily” delved into those questions, as well as strategies for improving online reputation.

Joseph Batdorf, President of J Turner Research, opened the session with some eye-opening statistics: In 2014, apartment communities received 1.7 million online reviews. Through just the second quarter of 2021, apartment communities had already received 11.7 million reviews. And those reviews are factoring into prospect decisions, with 64% of prospects reading all reviews, regardless of their rating. Also, during their apartment search, prospects actively research 14.3 properties but only visit 4.22 properties prior to leasing.

“Residents are now looking at more sites to gather more information, and physically visiting fewer sites,” said John Hinckley, Senior Vice President of Living Suite at RealPage and founder of Modern Message. “Decisions are being made based on information found online.”

So, what does that mean for leasing teams? Online reputation needs to mirror the actual resident experience.

“It starts with service,” said Kelly Shannon, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Customer Engagement for The Bozzuto Group. “Are you doing the things you need to be able to do, just to deliver on service? My reputation online needs to reflect the level of service residents are receiving in person.”

Shannon noted that the right online response from the property team also has a positive impact.

“We want to make sure we have the best response out there, and sometimes that takes a little bit of time,” she said.

While traditional schools of thought suggest that a rapid response to online feedback is essential, research shows that responses that also offer a solution to a stated issue can be even more beneficial. In cases of negative reviews, 58% of prospects prefer a response within 72 hours that offers a solution and contact info, compared to 42% who prefer a reply from the community within 24 hours with a simple acknowledgement of the issue.

Property managers can look at review trends and data to boost resident satisfaction by figuring out what the hot button items are for the community and working to address those issues for residents.

“People are happy when you’re delivering or even overdelivering,” Shannon said. “When residents are happy with your service, that’s a good time to ask them for their online feedback.”

Encouraging residents to create online content, take pictures, post and share their resident experience and what it’s like to live at the community creates an opportunity for resident engagement. And resident engagement generally results in a spike in positive reviews.

When resident satisfaction is high, and online ratings reflect that, operators can even reduce their marketing budgets.

“We don’t have to market as hard because our online reputation speaks for itself,” Shannon said.

Hinckley said online reviews and responses from the property team can be used to tell the community’s story. Considering that 70% of online reviews are positive, teams should encourage residents to share their experience.

“Review sites are not a liability anymore,” Hinckley said. “They’re selling your community online and telling your story. The more people you can get to share their feedback, the more positive the story is likely to be.”

Doug Pike is a Content Manager at LinnellTaylor Marketing.