The Do’s and Don’ts of Multifamily Reputation Management
In recent articles, we’ve documented why it’s so critical that your properties maintain a good online reputation. These days, nearly everyone checks online reviews and ratings before choosing a product or service. Particularly when they’re making a decision about something as important as a place to live.
In fact, we published an article about the first data-backed documentation of the correlation between online reputation and bottom-line financial performance of multifamily rental properties. It’s real: garnering good reviews pays.
While we have written quite a bit about things you can do to boost your online reputation, we haven’t covered the things you shouldn’t do. So we’ll take this opportunity to review both the “do’s” and the “don’ts,” all in one convenient place.
As our expert we turn to RealPage’s John Hinckley, former co-founder of Modern Message, whose reputation management platform Community Rewards is helping properties across America nudge their online reputations steadily upwards.
- Boost engagement. Properties where residents are engaged with one another, with staff and with the life of the community are likelier to generate more reviews and ratings. And fortunately, there are proven, effective programs for boosting engagement, such as Community Rewards by Modern Message. Polls, contests, fun events, sharing of photos and information about apartments – all these touchpoints can increase the sense of community and connection you’re seeking. A property that’s just a serviceable “place to live” for its residents is less likely to yield reviews that can improve your online reputation. When residents feel like they’re part of something outside the walls of their apartment, it’s natural to want to tell friends on social media (and review sites) about it.
- Encourage sharing. In general, sharing on social media is a natural result of achieving more positive engagement at your apartment properties. Consistent gentle nudges and reminders can be highly effective: perhaps something as simple as “Will you share your experiences while living at Forest Park? Please let the world know!”, with links to your top social media sites. Fun parties, contests or other occasions where residents are “feeling the love” are great occasions to have them post.
- Respond to reviews. You can’t avoid some bad reviews. That’s okay – nobody believes it when all the reviews are “5 stars” anyway, and in fact, a negative review is a great opportunity to win over a resident by showing them you are listening. Be sure to respond to each and every review in a sensitive, concerned way, publicly. If the reviewer is a current resident, reach out to them to see how you might be able to address the situation. Use poor reviews as valuable input for improving operations. Naturally you should be responding to your good reviews as well, to see what’s working so you can maintain those strengths. And a quick “thanks” in response to good reviews is always a good idea.
- Monitor your ORATM The ORA (Online Reputation Assessment) score was developed by J Turner Research as an objective score of your reputation as gleaned from reviews and ratings across all major review sites. You can use your score as a gauge of how well you’re doing in managing your reputation, and as a measure of where you stand in the marketplace vs. peer properties.
- Don’t incentivize positive reviews on third-party review sites. This is the #1 “no-no” in reputation management. Attempting to control the sentiments expressed in reviews of your property is where the line is drawn. Google and other review and rating sites will nail you for this. Incentivizing positive reviews means offering money, gift cards, free meals, discounts on rent or other tangible incentives in exchange for writing good reviews and publishing them to third-party review sites. Let improved engagement drive the reviews naturally; there’s no benefit to trying to manipulate the outcome.
- Never “review gate.” Review gating is where companies route poor reviews back through an internal feedback loop, while the good ones go out for publication to review websites. This is another tactic by which companies try to skew reviews towards the positive and manipulate the outcome. Google and Yelp! are both wise to this – so don’t do it.
- Don’t ignore bad reviews. As mentioned above – respond caringly to each and every one, and reach out personally where possible. This is a great way to turn a negative into a positive for all parties.
- Don’t fear bad reviews, either. Some properties have the mistaken impression that it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie; that if they encourage reviews, they’ll end up with bad ones that offset the good ones. Yes, you’ll get a few bad ones, but again, people who are really upset with a product or service are the most likely to have posted already, anyway. Those “sleeping dogs” are mostly people who are perfectly happy, but never really thought about posting a review of their apartment building. The occasional mediocre or even poor review will appear, but that’s true of any product, and it’s expected. The outliers aren’t enough to substantially bring down a good overall rating.
The numbers are in, and managing your reputation is one of the most cost-effective things you can do to improve your rental properties’ financial performance. But there are wrong ways and right ways to go about it. Follow the tips above and you should do just fine.
To find out more about improving engagement and, reputation at your properties, click here.