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National Study:
Inside The Mind Of The Online Renter (Webinar Recap)

We hosted a great webinar with Grace Hill where presenters Doug Miller (Founder & President of SatisFacts) and Mike Whaling (30Lines) shared results from the national survey: Inside the Mind of the Online Renter.

Download the survey summary here: http://www.appfolio.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/SatisFacts-Getting–Inside-the-Head-of-the-Online-Renter-Handout.pdf

Doug and Mike discussed what the top priorities are for today’s online renters and how property managers can best position themselves against their competition and manage their online reputation. One of our favorite slides highlighted how the ability to pay rent online if there is no convenience fee was the #1 factor that impacted what apartment applicants will rent in the future. Here’s the recorded webinar.

Many participants submitted great questions during the Webinar and we wanted to follow up with Doug and Mike’s answers below.

Is it legal to offer a gift in exchange for a positive review on apartmentratings.com?
It is legal, but the gift must be disclosed by the person leaving the review. If it’s not disclosed, you can be subject to a $25,000 fine from the FTC.

Should I ask residents to comment on apartmentratings.com or is that asking for trouble?
DM – It’s only asking for trouble if you are not consistently delivering superior service in the areas that matter most to residents…tied into the work order process, the related team effort required (driven by the office staff performance as they are the beginning and end of the work order process), communication, and what we at SatisFacts call a “culture of responsiveness.”

MW – You should absolutely ask your residents to leave reviews for you on Apartment Ratings. That said, each site has different terms, so be careful about this … for example, Yelp discourages asking for reviews, but they’re not opposed to you promoting the fact that you have a Yelp page for your business.

Is texting another way to have things in writing?
You should ask your attorney whether this is sufficient. Personally, I would prefer to have anything you need in writing confirmed through an email, not a text message.

What is the difference between Google Ratings and apartmentratings.com?
Google ratings are the star ratings and reviews that are found on your property’s Google Place page. Google sometimes pulls in the reviews that have been left on Apartment Ratings, but these are definitely two separate locations where people can leave feedback about your business.

How can I best use Facebook to rent units?
DM – By not spending time trying to rent units via Facebook. How many times have you gone to Facebook to buy merchandise, rent a hotel room or the like? It is not a primary source of traffic and there is no functionality such as found on an ILS or your property portal. Use it primarily as an online newsletter that focuses on community news (projects, new staff members, service related items) and events. Let the relatively small percent of people who go to a Facebook page to help with a buying decision see who you are and what you are about…a feel-good to validate what kind of community you are.

MW – I agree with Doug about not trying to sell, although I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to list your properties there through a custom tab. Use Facebook as an opportunity to get residents, local business partners and other interested people to talk about you, either between friends or directly with your company. Give them interesting thoughts/links/things to share, and use tools like RentMineOnline to take your resident referral program online and get people recommending you to their friends.

How much are properties investing on average for SEO?
It really depends on your current situation, internal resources and what you’re ultimately trying to achieve. If you want to rank first for a highly-competitive term like “apartments,” expect to make a huge investment. Also, most apartment marketers are trying to optimize their website, when they really should be trying to build a broad online presence that positions them positively in a number of different places where prospects might be searching. Some other reports indicate that as much as 80-90% of prospects are starting their apartment search from a search engine like Google, so the more you can invest in optimizing your presence, the better. Educate yourself first about the SEO services that you’ll need (on-page optimization, link-building on external sites, incorporating social ranking factors, in-depth keyword research and Web analytics), then find a partner that can best address your specific needs.