As some parts of our economy begin to reopen, others are pushing back their reopening plans in response to new clusters of COVID-19 infections. Apartment communities are having to balance the needs of their residents with the need to maintain a strong bottom line during a time when the future is unclear.
Just as the physical spaces we’re used to occupying might look different, the online world is undergoing its own shifts. Google’s temporary hold on the publishing of new reviews has lifted, and social media use during quarantine has surged and continues to do so.
In fact, Respage’s reputation management team reports a 130% increase in apartment reviews from May to June, bringing the volume back to pre-pandemic levels.
So, in light of these changes, now would be a good time to examine your apartment reputation management strategy and social media game as we move through summer and into fall.
Examine Your Apartment Reputation Management Strategy
Google temporarily disabled the publishing of new reviews, business owner review replies, and new Q&A posts in mid-March. In early April, it gradually began posting some of the backlogged reviews according to country and business category. Currently, apartment reviews appear to have returned to normal levels.
However, that doesn’t mean that your apartment review responses should go back to normal. Not only are you replying to the person who left the review, you’re doing so in a public forum, and prospects are paying attention. Take this opportunity to strengthen your apartment reputation, and keep these tips in mind:
Keep your customer service impeccable.
An excellent apartment reputation starts with excellent customer service, so do all you can to go the extra mile. This means communicating regularly and clearly with residents, being transparent, and asking for feedback. When it comes to prospects, take all necessary steps to keep tours and visits safe, but also continue allowing virtual tours for the foreseeable future.
Stress your apartment community’s commitment to health and safety.
For reviews that mention the pandemic and your community’s response, weave in the steps you’ve taken to ensure that everyone is safe in your responses. This gives prospects an idea as to your responsiveness as well as your concern for everyone’s well-being.
Don’t ignore older reviews.
Some Google apartment reviews written months ago are now pulling in. You should still respond, even though the content of these reviews might be stale. Acknowledge and explain the delay in replying, then if the situation calls for it, either ask them to contact you directly, or let the reviewer know that you will contact them (if they reside in your community and their first and last name was used in the review) in order to get an update on the issue.
Ditch your canned responses.
Prospects and residents can spot review responses that are based on templates. If this is your method for replying to apartment reviews, it’s time to get genuine. People are nervous and looking for signs of trustworthiness, so write original responses from the heart.
Re-Evaluate Your Apartment Social Media Game
The use of social media, particularly Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, has increased since the pandemic began. In fact, Facebook saw a 70% increase in usage in March alone. It’s important to meet your residents and prospects where they are and communicate with them in a meaningful yet strategic way on social media, but now is not the time to return to your pre-pandemic approach to Facebook and other platforms. Doing so might appear tone deaf and out of touch.
COVID-19 has sharpened consumers’ evaluation of apartment communities, so don’t take your apartment social media strategy lightly as it ramps back up. Here are some tips:
Create a FAQ sheet and share it.
This is an easy and effective way to summarize all you’re doing to keep residents, visitors and employees safe. Whether you post the entire thing in a Facebook post or link to it, an FAQ is one way to keep everyone informed and show that you care. Update your FAQ as needed and share these changes, too.
Pause the hard sell.
It would be smart to change your approach to sales on social media during this time. If your normal apartment marketing messaging reflected urgency, such as asking prospects to come in and sign an apartment lease as soon as possible, think about softening it or expanding the window for any special deals.
Meet prospects where they are.
Leverage this uptick in social media usage by doing virtual tours on Facebook Live and Instagram Live. Take the opportunity to touch upon everything the apartment community is doing to keep residents, prospects and employees safe.
Local and state guidelines on reopening vary from place to place and they’re subject to change. Keep your residents and prospects in the loop by announcing on social media how your apartment community is responding. If you are taking a more conservative approach while your wider community is easing restrictions, make sure this is clear.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to how to manage your apartment reputation and social media presence during COVID-19. One thing is sure, though: As things ramp back up, you can’t simply return to your pre-pandemic apartment marketing strategy. Until we have a safe and widely available vaccine, your strategy could remain a moving target. So, be flexible, stay current on local, state and national conditions, communicate clearly, and keep the health and safety of your residents, prospects and employees as your top priority. Respage offers comprehensive apartment social media and reputation management packages. Talk to us to learn more.