When it Comes to ROI, Online Reputation Management Might Beat a New Gym


“Reputation management” is rarely a hot item on the agenda when multifamily property managers meet to explore ways of tweaking their portfolios to extract more revenue.

Typically it’s only the largest operators who have formalized the management of online reputation to boost rents and occupancy. In most cases, if there’s a reputation management effort at all, it’s disjointed and sporadic.

The underlying assumption is that if you improve the property itself and the way it’s run, reputation will improve accordingly. And of course, this is true. If you build a new gym, renovate units, offer free yoga lessons or hire more seasoned onsite managers, resident satisfaction will improve incrementally, and this could translate to better online reviews. Which means more prospects and leases at higher rent prices.

But these things cost money. Sometimes a lot of it. And when you approach owners with proposals to increase capital and operating expenses, you either go armed with concrete projections for ROI or you can expect to be turned down. Particularly in tight times like these.

An untapped enhancer of financial performance

There’s a more direct and affordable way to improve online reputation than making big changes. And that’s to tap into a resource that’s already there and waiting at your properties: happy residents who simply have never taken the time to post about where they live and give it a rating.

Consumers are inclined to post reviews about, say, restaurants. They’ve had a wonderful meal – or a terrible one – and with a bit of phone texting they can let the world know. But when it comes to apartments, it’s just not typical for people to review and post. They may live in an apartment for years. At what point – on what particular day – will it occur to them to stop what they’re doing and go to a review site to post? Unfortunately, when they do, it’s likely to be following an unhappy event than simply out of the blue.

The problem of fostering reviews is exacerbated by the fact that there just aren’t that many customers to give reviews in the first place. A popular restaurant might have tens of thousands of patrons in a single year. An apartment complex might have 200. Every review becomes precious.

The secret to getting property reviews

The secret to garnering those apartment reviews, so critical to marketing success, is engagement: getting residents involved in their communities, communicating with one another and with staff, and participating in polls, events, contests and other communal activities. Gently asking for reviews and social posts can be interwoven as a natural part of this engagement. Platforms such as RealPage’s Community Rewards formalize all of this and are proven to make it happen, creating a sense of community where residents are connected and inclined to share their living experiences with the world.

And the beauty of a program such as Community Rewards is that it’s dramatically less expensive than those high-ticket items you might consider as ways of boosting rent, occupancy and retention. 

Proof that multifamily reputation management pays

Recently, the first solid numbers came in tying online reputation to financial performance.

These numbers were generated through the cooperative efforts of RealPage, multifamily’s chief aggregator of industry data, and J Turner, creator of the “ORA Score,” a measure of online reputation based on huge surveys covering over 110,000 properties on all the popular review sites.

RealPage’s Rich Hughes says the research shows that that for every one point of ORA improvement, properties will typically experience an outperformance-to-market of three basis points. “That might not seem like a lot,” he comments, “but the average year-over-year revenue return for the study was 3.34%.”

The upshot is that next time you gather to talk performance, you’d be smart to add a likely-neglected item to your agenda: the low-hanging fruit called reputation management.

For more information on improving financial performance by boosting engagement and your online reputation, click here.

Have a question about our products or services?