During SOCi’s recent webinar – A Localized Marketing Response Plan to Address COVID-19 Outbreak, we got a lot of great questions from multi-family marketers on how they should be communicating to residents through COVID-19. We’ve compiled all of the questions and their answers, in case you have similar thoughts throughout this pandemic. Over the next few weeks, SOCi will be hosting other webinars around the COVID-19 outbreak and how it affects your localized marketing strategy. As we get more questions, we will continue to add them to this Q&A blog so you can stay up to date with the latest information.
If you’re interested in joining one of our upcoming webinars, check out our schedule here. While we’re all in this time of crisis, it’s important to come together and learn how we can best serve the community and your residents. These questions may answer some of your most burning questions.
1. Do you find that most leasing offices are closing, or are they staying open by appointments only?
Most are doing some type of blend. They are closing the offices for a few days and are doing as much remote work as possible. There’s not a one size fits all approach. It’s based on the size of the community and location. Are you in a big city, or out in the suburbs? Consider what is best for your business. However, amenities are being shut down across the board. Also, communicate cleaning. Are you shutting down your laundry facilities? How are you cleaning your mail facilities? This is the time that you need to ease your residents’ concerns.
2. What would you recommend that leasing offices list as their office hours on Google’s local listings?
List what is true to your staffing support. Many are working remotely during the usual office hours but think about a blended approach where questions can be answered via email or phone outside of normal office hours. The use of chatbots is key for automated responses to common questions that can run 24/7.
3. Should I focus all of my business’s social media posts around COVID-19, or can I post about other things as well? For example, the first day of Spring is coming up. Should I stray away from this?
The focus does not have to be COVID-19, but it is the elephant in the room and needs to be addressed. If it isn’t, you run the risk of sounding either tone-deaf, oblivious, or out-of-touch. All marketing can be amended in light of what is happening, not scuttled, but edited to reflect the new reality we are all facing.
4. Are there any ideas to keep senior residents that are not on social media engaged?
Make sure that you are still posting the kind of signage you need around your community. You want to make sure you keep any confusion to a minimum. Make sure you provide updates in other more traditional ways, versus just social. You can deliver a note to their door providing them with new updates and regulations, and also include additional signage throughout the property. To help increase your visibility among seniors, let them know where your business is also visible online, whether it’s an email address or social media page.
5. What kind of content should we be posting on social media?
As mentioned previously, it’s crucial to stay active on social media through this time – we’re in the land of unknown. Many consumers have a lot of extra time on their hands right now, and will be spending it on social media. Your property can connect with the residents by providing tips on how to stay active during quarantine, or how to keep their kids entertained. Not all of the social media content has to be directly related to your property at this time – be a helpful resource. As long as you are connecting with residents and making them feel secure, you are doing your job for the time being.
6. How can we differentiate ourselves from our competitors at this time? Many of our competitors are all doing virtual tours, etc.
Differentiators during this time are those properties that are really leaning into the community connection and being a “helper”. What co-op partnerships can you create in the community to add value to your residents, support local business and bring people together in a time of need?
7. We are offering residents in a drawing for a $500 gift card if they pay their rent by Friday. How do you feel about this?
I would consult with your ownership and local laws around this. It seems like a sensitive topic to use incentives for a contractual obligation.
8. If we are only open virtually, phone, email and chat during office hours… should we show our office being closed on Google?
You should show your office is open virtually on Google My Business. There are added features for special circumstances in addition to utilizing Google Posts with more direct information. See this article for more info.
9. How can you make the note about virtual office hours?
Being direct in your social posts that leasing has moved to virtual appointments and providing contact info to book that virtual appointment. Do you have an email/phone to set that up or a website booking appointment? Google My Business listings have a special COVID-19 announcement that you can do to your post announcing the leasing office hour changes, too.
10. What’s the biggest mistake that you find clients making during times like these?
The biggest mistakes would be stopping to post to social altogether. You must continue to post but appropriately so.
11. Since we’ve had amenity spaces closed, what are your thoughts about still highlighting these spaces on social media and in marketing?
Be mindful of the copy used to highlight them. It might make sense to do so every so often perhaps in a throwback post or to say we are looking forward to enjoying our time by the pool in a few months but be direct in saying they are not open now and will be when things settle down.
12. We’re still trying to fill spaces at our properties. How do you suggest making a post with a sales messages while being sensitive to the circumstances?
Virtual Tours are a great way to keep momentum with leasing. Remember that housing is an essential need and so that type of content is still needed and wanted.
13. How have companies modified the maintenance responses?
We have seen maintenance requests digitally and for emergencies only. When the technician arrives, maintain social distancing rules and sanitation recommendations.
14. We are getting negative comments on all our posts no matter the content so we are nervous to post anything. Do you have any tips for that? Our community is offering payment plans but we are primarily students so they are upset they cannot get out of the lease altogether
We do not recommend stopping your posting strategy. You should continue to post inspiring, and influential content. On the negative engagement, acknowledge their frustrations and ask to take the conversation off social via email or phone to talk it our further. Follow the same principles you would with negative reviews. For more tips, check out our blog on the topic.
15. When we take the conversation offline do you think we should delete the bad comments on the posts or does that make it look like we are avoiding it?
We do not recommend deleting negative comments but responding to their comment with empathy and an ask to take the conversation offline to come to an agreeable solution.
Check back in soon for more questions that other multi-family marketers are having during COVID-19! You’re not alone. At SOCi, we are here to help you and provide you with the most up to date information!
Additionally, to serve as a resource for our multi-family business audience, we wanted to share some other relevant industry blogs that we’ve found through our research. We’ll continue to update this list.
- Bisnow: Best Practices: Property Management in the Time of Coronavirus.
- NMHC: Coronavirus Preparedness for Apartment Firms
- Current: How to prepare for COVID-19 as a social media manager
- Gartner: CMOs must shift strategies amid coronavirus threat