4 Ways to Boost Resident Generated Content

While owning The Retreat at Tampa, a student housing community, Landmark Properties used user-generated content, such as videos, to enhance the property’s reputation and improve rental speed.. Image courtesy of Landmark Properties

Think about the last time you bought something online. Did you give more weight to ad copy describing the product or user reviews to see what other customers were saying?

Online reviews are a form of user-generated content (UGC) and are an important part of the consumer decision-making process. According to a 2020 study by cloud media experience company Cloudinary, 70% of Gen X and Gen Z respondents, and 78% of Millennials, said they were “very” or “extremely useful to know how other users of the product feel when evaluating a purchase. Older shoppers are less dependent on UGC, the study found.

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UGC is powerful because consumers view it as authentic and credible. So if you’re not harnessing the power of UGC, you’re missing a major opportunity to drive engagement, increase rental and renewal speed, create a sense of community, and even improve your capacity. to hire talented employees.

“UCG helps residents contribute to the growth of a community, builds brand loyalty, improves conversion rates and builds customer trust,” said Dalma Murg, SEO Engineer for Reach by RentCafe. “It’s economical and it has a positive impact on local rankings.”

Here are four strategies used by apartment operators to solicit and use UGC from residents and staff.

Encourage residents and staff to contribute content

Contests are a great way for apartment owners and managers to encourage residents and staff to contribute content that can be used for social media, blogging or posting on a community’s website. apartments.

Mark propertieswho acquires, develops and manages residential communities, including off-campus housing, discovered that one of the best ways to get content from residents was through contests.

“We’ve had decorating your room contests and cooking contests, where you make a video of what you’re cooking in your apartment,” said Delany Duke, the company’s director of digital services. “We collect the content, publish it, give a gift card to the winner, and then share that content as part of our marketing strategy.”

Duke said gift cards are a great motivator, especially for students, so Landmark gets at least 30-40% of residents participating in the competitions they run. “They already take photos and share content daily, so it’s really easy for them to participate,” she said.

WC Smith, which has a portfolio of 10,000 affordable and market-priced apartments, recently held a contest at The Collective, a three-building community in Washington, D.C., where it invited residents to write an essay explaining why they love it there. live. The incentive to participate: a professional photo shoot.

“We had a great response,” said Holli Beckman, chief marketing officer. “We’ve had people write about using the rooftop, fitness equipment, and different spaces.”

After hiring a professional photographer to photograph the winner, the company used the photos – after obtaining residents’ consent – ​​on the community’s website, in social media and in advertising. “Instead of having stock photos, we now have real photos of real individuals living in our community,” Beckman said.

While many operators ask their rental and management staff to provide photos, videos and other content as part of their job responsibilities, others encourage staff in different ways. “We try to incentivize them with little perks — things like wearing jeans on Fridays if they can garner a certain number of reviews or get photos of residents using the amenities,” said KrisAnn Baker Kizer, vice president. leasing and marketing at Properties of Pierce Educationowner and manager of student residences.

Always ask for content

Most managers ask for reviews from prospects and residents whenever there is a positive interaction. For example, Meg Evans, Marketing Coordinator at Bristol Development Groupsaid the company routinely asks prospects to post reviews at various stages of the rental process, on sites including Facebook, Google, Apartments.com, ApartmentRatings and Apartment List.

Be sure to request content at other times as well.

Morgan Properties, which owns The Villas at Bryn Mawr, located near Villanova University, encourages residents to share photos on Instagram. Animal photos are particularly popular with residents. Image courtesy of Morgan Properties

“Don’t be afraid to ask your residents, employees or the surrounding community to share their experiences on social sites,” said Jillian Fikkert, director of real estate marketing at Morgan Properties. “It can be daunting for some to start the conversation about sharing content or experiences. We provide teams with QR code cards to help residents go directly to sites to share their experiences.”

At Morgan’s Villas in the community of Bryn Mawr in Pennsylvania, the team asked residents attending on-site events to post photos to Instagram. They also recently asked residents to share photos of their pets.

“Many residents share their experiences at events through Instagram stories, and we share those stories as well,” Fikkert said. “This is the pinnacle of resident-generated content, where we can share their story and show exactly what it was like through their eyes.”

Consider creating events or other opportunities that residents will want to share with their peers. “It could be anything from creating a beautiful mural on your building that people want to take pictures of, to setting up your moving-in gifts in a beautiful thumbnail,” Beckman said.

Choose the right platform

Once you’ve solicited the content from residents and staff, what’s the best way to use it to achieve your goals?

Pierce Education uses UGC on social media – TikTok, Facebook and Instagram – but also shares it on community websites, creating a scrolling feed of Instagram posts. They also use photos provided by residents in brochures and flyers.

Pierce uses a platform called RentGrata, which offers potential tenants the ability to connect with current residents, improving conversion rates through personal interactions.

“It’s been extremely successful for us,” Kizer said. After launching the platform at one property, the company signed 90 leases in three months, she said.

Be sure to leverage the content to appeal to your target audience, which in most cases will be potential tenants.

“If I’m shopping for an apartment, the first place I’m probably going to go is not a property’s Instagram account,” said Mike Whaling, president of 30 linesa marketing technology studio.

Instead, use this content in prospect-targeted marketing, whether on your website or in email marketing.

Remember that content provided by your staff can be used to engage more than just residents and prospects. “If staff share content, it makes it more accessible and feels more accessible,” Whaling said. “He’s also a great communicator of culture for hiring purposes. In today’s market, talent is everything, so if you are able to show that your employees love working there and enjoy sharing their experiences, it will go a long way in showing the next recruit that it is a where they might consider working. ”

Don’t forget to ask permission

Most apartment leases include wording that allows the community to post photos of residents. But managers often get separate endorsements from residents at events, in contests, or when sharing photos taken by residents.

“Be sure to get the proper resident approvals to share content,” Fikkert said. “Keep in mind the photo posting forms, as well as the rules and regulations, for contests to best protect everyone.”

And don’t forget the basics. Duke suggests providing good customer service to Residents at all times, as well as building meaningful relationships with Residents and prospects, to encourage content sharing.

“If you provide a good customer service experience, your residents will be more likely to want to participate and look good in your community because they’ll feel like they’re part of it,” she said. “But if we don’t make those connections, when we ask permission, they can say no.”

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