“Just a few years ago, the internet was very different,” explains Kissmetrics. A passive audience was content to simply listen to company claims, and customer grievances rarely made it past the dinner table.
But in today’s digital media climate, your customers have an online megaphone to air their complaints or their compliments. From a tweet about the service in their apartment building to a Yelp review about your community pool, your residents are sharing their opinions online.
In order to continue the success of your community, it’s critical to actively maintain your digital identity. Here are our top 10 tips for managing your online reputation.
Why Online Reputation Matters
Whether or not you are paying attention to your online reputation, your customers are paying attention. In fact, 82% of consumers read online reviews, and on top of that, 93% say they ultimately impact their purchase decision. The majority of people do a Google search, at minimum, and only 9% of consumers never search for businesses online. For apartment rentals in particular, renters reported that a community’s ratings and reviews is the third most important factor influencing their apartment decision behind price and location, respectively.
While you have control over what your company says online and the materials that you share, the collaborative nature of today’s information sharing means that reviews and comments left by current and former residents can have as much impact on prospective renters as the new information sheet that you just produced.
Online ratings directly impact businesses. The higher your star rating in online reviews, the more likely that potential renters will engage with your company. Based on online ratings, 4-star companies see customer use at 94%. For a 3-star company, this drops to 57%, and a 2-star company sees just 14% customer use.
Not only does online rating affect engagement, but real dollars are at stake. According to the Harvard Business Review, a difference of 1 star in a company’s average rating can lead to a 5-9% difference in revenues.
Because online reputation can have such an impact on your business, it’s essential to actively engage in reputation management. Follow these guidelines to be sure that you’re establishing a strong first impression online as well as when people walk up to the front door.
Tip #1: Stay Aware of Your Reputation
When getting started in managing the online reputation of your apartment community, the first step is to stay aware of your reputation. Even if you haven’t seen the reviews and comments that are out there, they are being seen by many potential residents who are researching your company.
An easy way to stay aware of new things that are said about your company is to use Google Alerts or a reputation management software to notify you when your business is mentioned online. Not only can you customize the notification schedule, but you can also set alerts for several keywords that residents may use, such as the apartment community, address, or building name. Using these alert functions, you can also monitor what’s being said about your competition so that you can stay aware of your position in the field.
Tip #2: Build Connections
To create connection, trust and loyalty with your residents (both current and potential), you need to get social.
Currently, 74% of consumers rely on social networks to guide purchase decisions. With social platforms having such a large audience, it’s important to engage on networks like Facebook (2.1 billion users), YouTube (1.5 billion users), Instagram (800 million users), Twitter (328 million users), Snapchat (255 million users) and Pinterest (200 million users).
Maintain a consistent message across your channels, and stay active. Use visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest to share inspirational and informative pictures of apartment life. On platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat, use the current trend of video content to capture and build your audience.
In addition to producing content, social media should also be a tool for engagement. Have two-way conversations with your audience. Ask for their opinions. And especially engage with the users who leave you reviews.
Tip #3: Tell Your Story
Telling your story is a memorable way to build connections. Whereas only 5% of your audience will remember statistics, 63% remember story elements. This means that a simple, clear and compelling narrative has a big impact.
The Wall Street Journal describes the “growing fervor for TED talks” where stories are increasingly used to make a powerful connection. “What’s the story that goes with this product? How do we tell consumers?” asked one Chief Marketing Officer in the article. For apartment managers, a compelling and visual story reinforces the residents’ choice to live there and intrigues prospective renters.
Tip #4: Getting Found Online
Online business directories are an important aspect of helping your business get discovered. Make sure that your apartment community is listed in all of the directories, including Yahoo! Local, Google My Business, Bing Local, Yelp, Citysearch, MerchantCircle, Ziplocal, 411.com and more.
Additionally, be sure to follow good SEO principles so that your business performs well in organic ranking and local ranking. According to Moz, specific factors like keywords, links and proximity categories can have a big impact on the search rankings of your business.
Tip #5: Empower Your Audience
To improve your online reputation, your apartment community needs to have reviews on the top sites, including Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, YellowPages.com and ApartmentRatings.com.
While of course the numbers of stars you receive is important, the quantity of reviews also matters. Businesses with 50 or more reviews per product can see a 4.6% increase in conversion rates.
If you don’t have enough reviews or if you have critical reviews, empower your residents to speak out by asking them to review your apartment community. Research has shown that 68% of consumers left a review when asked – with 74% having been asked for their feedback.
Tip #6: Authenticity
While the frequent desire is to create an online persona that’s a perfect and shiny image, your business can have much more impact by being real.
Authenticity builds trust and loyalty, and one study on corporate authenticity classified authenticity as a business opportunity. They found that about 90% of consumers would reward a brand for its authenticity, and 52% would recommend the brand to others.
Don’t be afraid to admit your faults and make changes. Change your approach so that instead of striving for perfection, you are willing to be flawsome. “Consumers will forgive the occasional corporate misstep if a company is upfront, and addresses the issue head-on,” said Donna Imperato, CEO of communications agency, Cohn Wolfe.
Tip #7: When Things Go Wrong
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it,” said Warren Buffett.
When things go wrong online, it has the potential for a viral impact. This is why you should never ignore a bad review.
No matter what type of comment or review you have received, start by listening to your consumers. While it’s very important to respond quickly, be sure that you don’t respond while angry. Take responsibility for any problems, and offer a solution. Be sure that you keep it professional. And don’t respond with snarkiness or engage in comment wars.
Lastly, follow up on a more personal platform. Invite the commenter to call you or drop by your office. If you have their contact information, initiate a direct message, email or text thread so that you can be sure their grievances are aired out and properly addressed. In short, do what you can to make it right.
Tip #8: Don’t Neglect Your Social Media Accounts
The right posting frequency is critical to maintaining online reputation. While your social media accounts need to be active, each platform has different guidelines as to how often you should be posting.
For Facebook, your posting frequency will differ based on the number of followers you have. If you have more than 10,000 followers, post two times per day. For businesses with less than 10,000 followers, post daily.
For Twitter, the ideal posting frequency is determined based on the goal that you are trying to achieve. To optimize engagement, tweet one to five times per day. To maximize clicks, tweet as much you want.
For Instagram, the posting frequency is less important than consistency. Whether it’s once a week or 20 times a day, stick with your schedule to achieve positive results.
For Pinterest, the ideal posting frequency is between four and ten pins per day.
Tip #9: Create a Task Force
Managing your apartment community’s online reputation is important, but the task does not have to be solely the responsibility of one person. Instead, identify key players on your team to be your task force in managing online activity.
After establishing your task force, start by auditing online reputation, including social channels, review sites and other sources where the property is visible online. Next, establish goals and policies for online activity, and create a crisis plan as to what employees should do when there is a problem. For example, consider the impact that could be had by having a top official from your company respond within 72 hours to an online resident complaint.
Plan to actively monitor, measure and manage your reputation. And lastly, assess the impact that you have had through reputation management. Is there a growth in prospective renters indicating that they saw the positive reviews online? Are current residents more connected and engaged to their apartment community? Do your financial statements reflect the increased rating in online user reviews?
Tip #10: Partner with Experts
Partners can help you manage your online reputation and stay social. With their services, you can optimize your reputation and protect your most powerful marketing asset.
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