We've all heard the stories about crazy things that property managers deal with on a daily basis. Whether it's a resident's ant farm falling over, a deer falling in the community pool, or a disgruntled resident hiding raw meat in the vents before moving out - not so fun when it happens, but at least we can chuckle after the fact.
It's no laughing matter, however, when a disgruntled resident posts a nasty comment on ratings websites like ApartmentRatings.com. Unlike meat in the vents, there's no easy way to clean up disparaging remarks. What happens on the internet stays on the internet. Forever. What can you do about it? We've got a few suggestions:
The first thing you need to do is find out exactly what renters are saying about you. There are a number of ways to keep your finger on the pulse of what's being said about your property. Start by simply asking your residents. Solicit feedback when someone stops by to pay rent or report a maintenance issue. A simple, "How are we doing?" can generate surprising results.
Assign a staff member to scan popular ratings sites on a regular basis and set up Google Alerts for your community name to inform you of conversations that may be taking place elsewhere. Take advantage of social media aggregators like TweetDeck or HootSuite to monitor mentions of specific search terms on sites like Twitter. Sound time-consuming? It can be. Property Solutions is developing a tool that can scrape comments posted about your property and send them to you in an email. Remember: Knowing is at least half the battle when it comes to social media marketing.
The best way to combat negative sentiments is to dilute it with good. Unfortunately, retaliation and revenge can be stronger motivators than goodwill. Ratings sites like ApartmentRatings.com are notorious for negative reviews, a phenomenon explained by James Nail of RentWiki in a recent MHN Article. "They're sampling people already in the moving process, and the fact that they're moving indicates they're not happy," he explains. RentWiki's president, Robert Turnbull, recommends soliciting reviews from current residents as well as those who are already moving. When current residents participate, RentWiki finds 75-80% of reviews are positive.*
Noticing more bad comments than good? It's your job to promote good reviews and to provide perspective on bad ratings. Your "Reputation Management" strategy should include ways to encourage residents to post positive reviews. This will help rebut much of the negative information that's permeating the net.
So, how do you find content to dilute the negative? Don't try buying reviews. Offering bonuses or rewards for positive reviews is not only ethically-challenged, it's likely to backfire. But don't be afraid to ask. When a resident gives you positive feedback, encourage them to share their experience online. You can direct them to your Facebook page, popular ratings sites, or even your own resident portal. Property Solutions is introducing a free "Ratings and Reviews" plug-in for ResidentPortal™ that allows residents to provide authentic ratings and reviews each month when they log in to pay rent.
The benefits are three-fold. Soliciting genuine resident feedback allows you to respond quickly to situations you may not otherwise be aware of. Additionally, you can select and approve reviews which will then automatically post to your ProspectPortal website and your property's Vacancy.com listing. Finally, this type of dynamically generated user content creates a feeding frenzy for the Google bot and helps boost your organic search-engine ranking.
Now that you know what's being said about you, it's time to join in the conversation. Just remember to mind your manners. Getting into a flame war with negative reviewers is not likely to improve your standing with potential renters. Many sites allow you to respond to user comments (sometimes for a fee). Whenever you can, make sure to post what you have done to address the issues raised and extend an invitation for the reviewer to contact you directly. Trolls will still be trolls, but you and your property will only look better by comparison. Defending yourself against unfair allegations is a delicate business, but it's an essential element in the social media world.
Property Solutions is on track to activate the "Ratings and Reviews" plug-in for all ResidentPortal users as part of our October 21st system update. This will allow residents to submit property ratings when they log in to ResidentPortal. Site managers will receive an approval request email whenever a rating is submitted. The ratings you approve will automatically post to your community website and Vacancy.com listing. If you do not want this functionality, please contact your account manager before the 28th of October, and we'll deactivate the plug-in for your property. For more information about these social media marketing tools, please talk to your Property Solutions account manager.
*Steele, Jeffrey. "Defending Your Virtual Reputation." Multi-Housing News. October 2010: 36-37.