Apartment Reputation Management is Alive and Well: Getting the Most Out of Review Sites in Late 2017
Online reputation management certainly isn’t the newest or sleekest thing in apartment marketing. If you’re like most multifamily professionals, online reviews have played a role in your branding strategy for quite some time.
But age is no indicator of strength.
We should never doubt the power of a strategy simply because it’s no longer new or exciting. Furthermore, we should never assume that what worked in the past will continue to work now or in the future.
And thanks to a J Turner Research study on multifamily reputation management, we can prove it.
Here’s a look at the current state of online reputation management for apartments, including what has changed and what those changes mean.
Takeaway #1: Google Reviews Matter Most
Apartment hunters rated Google reviews as the most influential reviews in search, according to the study.
Survey participants were given a mockup of a search engine page that displayed numerous review site listings for the same property. All of the listings had the same star rating, but participants claimed that they trusted Google reviews the most.
Although Google has always been a trusted source for reviews, it’s current status as the most trusted source is relatively new. It’s not a jump to conclude this change can be attributed to the new sidebar display, which helps Google reviews stand out from other listings.
Takeaway #2: More Than Half of US Apartment Communities Suffer From a Bad Reputation
Roughly 52 percent of multifamily communities have less than a 3-star rating.
This is an extremely alarming statistic. Previous studies have shown that consumers don’t trust products/services with a star rating below this threshold. In fact, properties with a 1-star or 2-star review will be completely ignored by 87 percent of consumers!
Takeaway #3: The Average Property Has Nearly 79 Reviews
The average multifamily community had 78.55 reviews.
This number drops to 64.5 reviews when you adjust for outlying properties in the study that had more than 500 reviews each. It’s also worth noting this number represents the cumulative number of reviews across all sites. On average, these reviews were spread out across 4.21 different websites.
This average is higher than in previous years, though that’s to be expected given that many reviews are never removed.
Takeaway #4: Reviews Matter Just As Much As Personal Recommendations
People are almost just as likely to trust the opinions of strangers as they are to trust the opinions of friends.
When asked how likely they’d be to rent an apartment that was recommended by a friend but has negative reviews on a scale of 1-10 (where 10 is very likely and 1 is very unlikely) people gave an average score of just 5.54.
This revelation is a strong departure from the long held wisdom that personal recommendations from residents are a property manager’s best marketing tool. It seems to suggest that real world word-of-mouth has little effect on a prospect’s decision if said prospect is also looking at reviews.
Takeaway #5: People Read Reviews Throughout Their Apartment Search
Approximately 75 percent of apartment hunters look at reviews multiple times during their search for a new home.
That said, people tend to look at review sites more at certain stages of the rental cycle. For instance, 62 percent of surveyors said they primarily looked at reviews in the beginning of their apartment search.
Online review influence remains just as strong (if not stronger) today as it was in previous years. And while things have definitely changed, many online reputation management strategies remain the same.
Maintaining a positive online reputation is largely about two things. The first is monitoring all review sites so that you know what’s being said about your community online. The second is responding to every review – positive or negative – in a professional manner so that prospective renters can see how you handle compliments/criticisms, and also hear your side of the story when a review is negative.
As always, if you need help monitoring review site activity or responding to reviews, our online reputation management services are here to assist.