It Might Be Goofy, But It’s for a Good Cause

On July 12, 2018 WFMY News 2 stopped by the PTAA office to interview Jon Lowder about some of the stunts he’s pulled to support PTAA’s food drive. Despite Jon having a face for radio, it turned out pretty well. Take a look:

 Want to get in on the game? You can support Jon’s latest stunt by donating here.

Snapchat for Marketing Student Housing

For those of us of a certain age the whole Snapchat thing is a bit confusing. We try it and…we don’t get it. On the other hand there are lots of people, usually younger than yours truly, who DO get Snapchat and property managers, especially in the student housing space, are taking notice.

The most recent issue of Units Magazine has an article about marketers using Snapchat. Here’s an excerpt:

Rob Dinwiddie, Landmark Properties, and Barrie Nichols, University Student Living are effectively driving their brands and select community messages through timely images on Snapchat based on paid geo-targeting filters being deployed during key campus dates such as move-ins and social events.

“We created Snapchat filters with custom graphics for each of our communities,” Nichols says. “Coupled with geo-targeting that is based on popular events such as housing fairs, orientations and libraries during exam finals weeks, the results were phenomenal. Popular among students and cost effective, this form of digital marketing proved to be extremely successful. We will continue to build brand awareness and provide interaction opportunities with our target market during key times and events.”

Nichols says these also were used to launch new developments through table tents on campus, local businesses and at events.

“The evolution of this platform has been incredible,” she says. “When we started using Snapchat to communicate with students three years ago, companies were hesitant to see this as an engagement source. Now, there are more people who added us to their Snapchat accounts during targeted events than any other form of social media.”

You really should read the full article as it’s full of great info about the use of Snapchat and other evolving technologies in the student housing sector.

CoStar Purchasing Apartment Finder

Hot on the heels of its acquisition of Apartments.com, CoStar Group has announced it is also purchasing Apartment Finder. From the press announcement:

CoStar Group, Inc. (Nasdaq:CSGP), the leading provider of commercial real estate information, analytics and online marketplaces, today announced that it plans to acquire Apartment Finder pursuant to a definitive agreement and plan of merger with Network Communications, Inc. for $170.0 million in cash which is subject to customary post-closing purchase price adjustments. This amounts to approximately seven times Apartment Finder’s EBITDA for the fiscal year ended March 2015. The Company expects the acquisition to close within 90 days, subject to customary closing conditions, and expects the acquisition to be accretive in 2016 and to achieve run-rate synergies of $20 million within 18 months after the acquisition closes…

“Over the past year we have transformed Apartments.com into one of the fastest growing industry websites, and we are excited to do the same for Apartment Finder,” stated CoStar Group Founder and Chief Executive Officer Andrew C. Florance…

Apartment Finder will remain a distinct, complementary brand to Apartments.com with a unique user interface, but will also be powered by CoStar’s information.  By offering two online marketing solutions, the Company believes property managers and owners will get more exposure for their listings and more effective and precise targeting of leads. CoStar expects by the end of the year it will have integrated the back ends of Apartments.com and Apartment Finder thereby leveraging the same research, systems, support, and sales platform to power both Apartments.com and ApartmentFinder.com. CoStar anticipates that this will create tremendous cost synergies and greater operating efficiencies.

Apartment Finder has approximately 400 employees, including approximately 120 field sales representatives located across the United States. CoStar plans to combine the sales forces and eventually all sales representatives will cross-sell multiple marketing and information solutions. CoStar believes this will further increase sales force production.

Florance continued, “I am looking forward to working with the great team at Apartment Finder and welcoming them to the CoStar family. We are all dedicated to building and growing commercial real estate’s premier online apartment platform and strengthening CoStar’s leadership position in the $2 trillion U.S. multifamily asset class.”

Asking for Bad Reviews

Tired of feeling like you’re being held hostage by ApartmentRatings.com and other ratings sites? You’re not alone, but do you have the guts to do what this pizza joint in California is doing?

Botto Bistro in Richmond is not very concerned about its Yelp rating. In fact, in an effort to undermine the reliability of its Yelp page, the five-year-old Italian restaurant is on a mission to be the worst-rated restaurant in the Bay Area.

To achieve this end, Botto Bistro is encouraging all of its customers to leave one-star Yelp reviews; it is even offering deals for anyone who pens a crummy review: 25% off any pizza and a chance to win a cooking class. (Hat-tip toRichmond Standard.)

Chefs and co-owners Davide Cerretini and Michele Massimo are veterans of the local dining scene, and say that their food is excellent and they run a busy restaurant. According to Cerretini, they simply grew tired of the constant advertising inquiries from Yelp and what he dubs “blackmailing” and review manipulation. (Sidenote: A judge recently ruled that Yelp has the power to manipulate reviews.)..

Cerretini says that business has increased since he began waging this campaign against Yelp, though he notes that it’s also attracted better customers who are more loyal and end up spending more. “We are getting not just customers, but new friends who they like this.”

This is pretty gutsy, but it also goes to show how important it is to build and maintain a strong relationship with your customers. Those efforts will do more to build your business than a bunch of five star ratings online ever will.

How is Tech Changing Your Customer Interaction Experience?

There’s an interesting piece making the social media rounds right now. It’s about a Craigslist post by the management of a New York City restaurant who were trying to determine why their service was so much slower in 2014 than it was in 2004 despite a simplified menu and increased staff. They were able to find security tapes from 2004 and compare them to their current security recordings and here’s part of what they found:

26 out of 45 customers spend an average of 3 minutes taking photos of the food.

14 out of 45 customers take pictures of each other with the food in front of them or as they are eating the food. This takes on average another 4 minutes as they must review and sometimes retake the photo.

9 out of 45 customers sent their food back to reheat. Obviously if they didn’t pause to do whatever on their phone the food wouldn’t have gotten cold.

27 out of 45 customers asked their waiter to take a group photo. 14 of those requested the waiter retake the photo as they were not pleased with the first photo. On average this entire process between the chit chatting and reviewing the photo taken added another 5 minutes and obviously caused the waiter not to be able to take care of other tables he/she was serving.

Given in most cases the customers are constantly busy on their phones it took an average of 20 minutes more from when they were done eating until they requested a check. Furthermore once the check was delivered it took 15 minutes longer than 10 years ago for them to pay and leave.

8 out of 45 customers bumped into other customers or in one case a waiter (texting while walking) as they were either walking in or out of the Restaurant. 

In the end the restaurant’s management found that in 2004 the average customer was with them for 1 hour and 5 minutes. In 2014 that time had increased to 1 hour and 55 minutes, an increase of about 77%. No wonder they were seeing slower service times and an increase in complaints about slow service.

In the apartment industry we spend a lot of time talking about how technology has changed many aspects of the business – the impact of mobile on the leasing process, how to respond to online reviews, etc. – but we haven’t talked a lot about how these new technologies are changing how we interact with customers on a daily basis. I’d love to hear from you about changes you’ve noticed in your daily interaction with your customers and prospects, and how that’s impacted how you do business. Feel free to email me with any stories or observations you have about the changes you’ve seen as a result of the boom in mobile tech.

Is a Text Legally Binding?

AOL Real Estate has an interesting piece on the use of text messaging in landlord-tenant communications. Here’s an interesting tidbit:

Q: What if tenants notify a landlord via text that they plan to move out. Is that considered “written notice?”

A: Yes, Saint Louis attorney Leonard Komen wrote on Avvo.com in response to the question. “Electronic communications in most commercial situations are now considered the equivalent of written communications. You will be hard-pressed to argue you did not get written notice.”

Read the full post for questions related to benefits offered by text, notifying tenants via text of lease changes, etc.

How to Manage Your Twitter Firehose

Here’s a nice post at SmallBusiness.com on how you can use Twitter’s list function to drink out of the Twitter firehose without drowning.

Here’s the hype: Get a Twitter account and you can follow what is being said by all your favorite friends, companies, organizations, news sources, etc.

Here’s the reality: Once you follow more than a few other users of Twitter, you will see only a fraction of what they have to say.

There are two reasons for this: (1) You will ignore lots of what you receive when you aren’t actively monitoring Twitter and (2) When your Twitter timeline reaches a certain (and mysterious) velocity of incoming tweets (you either follow too many or the ones you follow tweet a lot), Twitter’s New Orleans-based department of voodoo technologies, will start filtering your incoming tweets to keep you from melting down like the Wicked Witch of the West.

The rest of the post is a quick step-by-step tutorial that will help make Twitter an effective tool for you and your business.

 

Years of Reviews Disappearing from Yahoo

Yahoo is an afterthought in many business’ online marketing mix, but it still generates a ton of traffic and Yahoo Local still wields a lot of influence on consumers. That’s why some small businesses are up in arms about developments since Yelp and Yahoo got together. From the Wall Street Journal:

A recent deal by Yelp Inc.  to provide business listings for Internet searches on Yahoo Inc. is getting bad reviews from some small-business owners, who say years of positive feedback from customers have vanished from Yahoo.

Colonial Hardwood Flooring of Lexington, Mass., amassed six years of mostly positive feedback on its Yahoo Local listing, says owner Dan Tringale. But several weeks ago, after Yahoo began posting reviews from Yelp, nearly 50 Yahoo reviews disappeared, he says.

Potential customers searching Yahoo won’t see a 2012 recommendation that Carla Fortmann confirms she and her husband wrote: “This floor is beautiful and it was very carefully done.” Nor will Yahoo searchers find a June 2012 review from Regina Sasso, of Wilmington, Mass., who says Colonial “provided a competitive quote and delivered meticulous service and work.”

Such praise has been replaced by a single, punctuation-challenged Yelp review, from the “Paul M” screen name, “Respected budget got difficult stain taken care of very attentive and house got an offer opening weekend.”…

Since mid-March, new reviews about a business posted on Yelp replace reviews that had been posted on Yahoo Local, the Web portal’s own consumer-review tool. Until a new Yelp review is posted, the Yahoo reviews remain. The listing changes apply for desktop, smartphone and tablet users, as well as for search results on Yahoo Maps.

 

Is Facebook About to Kill Your Page’s Reach?

So you’ve spent countless hours working on building up the “Likes” for your company’s Facebook page in an effort to engage customers and projects. You’ve reached some magic number you set as your goal – 100 or 100,000 or 1 million – and you’re excited about all the products and services you can tell them about. What if instead of reaching 100, 0r 100,000 or 1 million you’re actually reaching one or 1,000 or 10,000? That’s what might be happening unless you’re willing to pay Facebook to reach more according to this piece at Valleywag:

A source professionally familiar with Facebook’s marketing strategy, who requested to remain anonymous, tells Valleywag that the social network is “in the process of” slashing “organic page reach” down to 1 or 2 percent. This would affect “all brands”—meaning an advertising giant likeNike, which has spent a great deal of internet effort collecting over 16 million Facebook likes, would only be able to affect of around a 160,000 of them when it pushes out a post. Companies like Gawker, too, rely on gratis Facebook propagation for a huge amount of their audience. Companies on Facebook will have to pay or be pointless.

That 160,000 still sounds like a lot of people, sure. But how about my favorite restaurant here in New York, Pies ‘n’ Thighs, which has only 3,281 likes—most likely locals who actually care about updates from a nearby restaurant? They would reach only a few dozen customers. A smaller business might only reach one. This also assumes the people “reached” bother to even look at the post.

The alternative is of course to pay for more attention. If you want an audience beyond a measly one or two percent, you’ll have to pay money—perhaps a lot of money, if you’re a big business.

Here at PTAA we use Facebook to let our members and other “likers” know about upcoming events, changes to schedules, new job postings on our website, etc. It would truly stink to learn that only 1-2% of them were seeing what we put out there. We’d love to hear from our social media expert friends about what they’re seeing with their clients’ Facebook pages, and if anyone is seeing a serious drop in engagement on their company/community pages we’d like to hear about that too.