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October 19, 2010

posted by: Carissa Drohan-Jennings

Social Media and Blogging for Landlords - what are people saying about you?

Social MediaEvery day, millions of consumers converse in online communities, discussion boards, blogs and social networks. They turned to the Internet to share opinions, advice, grievances and recommendations. This behaviour drastically changes the game for all landlords.

Years ago, upset consumers would only be able to share their frustrations with their immediate social networks.  It was estimated that one angry consumer could only tell approximately  20 people about their bad experience, but in today's world that number has drastically changed.  With the proliferation of social media, that same consumer has the ability to instantaneously tell the whole world about their experience, making it a dangerous senario for apartment landlords.

Online reviews have the ability to help or harm your company. Already, there are some well-known reports of companies who have suffered the brunt of disgruntled customers. One of the most popular stories of the consumer’s ability to spread negative buzz about a company is that of a Dell customer named Jarvis who began a blog called Buzz Machine after purchasing a faulty computer. Dell’s poor customer service and the inability to fix his computer malfunctions fueled his anger and he expressed that anger in a blog. All of a sudden Jarvis had an audience, and wouldn’t you know it, there were others like him ready to fuel the fire and to share their bad experiences. Does it surprise you to know that his blog gets over 10,000 visits per day?

I know what you may be thinking - this can’t happen to me. What are the chances that someone will be that angry with my company and that their blog will become that popular? I too was skeptical about the impact that social media could really have in our industry. After a quick scan of the Internet, I discovered that some customers are already online sharing their frustration with a few companies in our industry.

Just in the short time I spent surfing the web while doing some background research for this article I stumbled upon blogs, Facebook pages and tweets created by angry customers. It surprised me to see that there were even a few property management companies that are already facing the social slander. It made me wonder just how much awareness there is of the power of the Internet as a feedback tool.  It may be only a matter of time until a blogger strikes a cord and gains a large enough following to have a real impact on our industry.

It may be well worth your while to devote a few resources to occasional scans of the Internet looking for any negative (or positive) feedback about your company’s customer service.  Even well-known and well-established companies like Ebay, Amazon, and Dell now have people scanning the web looking for any angry remarks by customers.  My suggestion is that every company should at least search the Internet once a month for any comments, blogs, Facebook pages or tweets.  Being on top of this indirect form of customer feedback may provide you an opportunity to begin having dialogue with the angry customer, or at least an opportunity to address the complaint if indirectly by taking action to rectify or group situation that is garnering negative attention from your customs. In other words, you have the opportunity to put out fires before they spread any further.

It may sound daunting to attempt to search every social media website, blog and Internet page out of their looking for your company. However, there are some tools available that can help save you time and effort when looking for content – such as your company’s name – on the Web.

 

Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a tool that allows you to be alerted if certain keywords appear in any blog, news items or groups on the Internet. You simply type in whatever keywords you’d like to watch and Google will automatically e-mail you when they appear. If you have a unique company name you may wish to set up an alert. Although this is a nice tool and number of alerts you receive can become overwhelming if your company name is similar to other names, or is a term that might be used in other contexts.

 

Overheard

Overheard provides another option for monitoring online posts about your company. This product, which is a service that was launched by the company Get Satisfaction, uses the Twitter search engine Summize to find out when people are talking about your company on Twitter. Again, you set the keywords you want to track and you’ll see all the messages, or “tweets,” that match your search terms. You can then turn that “tweet” into a topic and quickly bring the rest of the Get Satisfaction network into the conversation and thereby address the problem and potentially reduce the negative impact on your company.

These are just two examples of tools that can help you monitor social media. If you’d like more options, feel free to email me at carissa@landlordwebsolutions.com and I’d be happy to provide you with a list of additional free tools.

Something else to keep in mind as you search the Internet for posts about your company is protecting your intellectual property, such as your company logo. Social media websites and blogging websites generally have copyright infringement policies that provide you with recourse in the event that someone has misused your logo or other intellectual property in their posts. To get information on a particular website’s policy look for their privacy policy either listed as a link on the footer of any page or in the websites site map. Typically there will be forms or instructions about how to go about informing them of the violation so they can take appropriate action.

Constantly monitoring the Internet for any negative posts may be a good short-term solution for addressing customer dissatisfaction, however, it may not be the most productive long-term solution. Rather, the prevention of negative sentiment by providing your residence with good customer service is the way to go. Creating a positive experience for customers while they are still residents is a more proactive approach.

Customers in this day and age simply want good service and respect. I’ve come to think that most customer complaints simply originate because they feel that their experience is not measuring up to their expectation. So we must ask ourselves, “What do our customers expect from us?”

It’s also worth noting that those customers “… using negative word-of-mouth are much more likely to produce positive word-of-mouth. So firm’s may turn complainers into satisfied customers,”  states Robert East, Professor of Consumer Behaviour at Kingston Business School in London, England.   In other words, your disgruntled customers may make your best advocates if their experience simply lives up to their expectations.  It's worth taking the opportunity to resolve customer complaints, besides, you may just receive a positive result from it. 

 

 

Originally published in Canadian Apartment Magazine’s Feb-March 2010 Edition.