Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have been getting a lot of buzz recently, but some people would argue that apartment operators would get more bang for their buck focusing on a blog for their property. We decided to pose the question to the #AptChat group.

This was one of our most active chats ever — people are clearly passionate about this subject. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get right to it:

Do I need a blog for my apartment community? What are the potential benefits? Potential downside?

  • Ann Padgett: Blogs are a great way to increase your digital footprint.
  • Charity Hisle: Do you need a blog? Maybe. Depends on what your goals are.
  • Judy Bellack: Blog benefits . . . connections with and among residents, enhanced retention, great communication platform, SEO opportunities.
  • Jill Corya: Blogs build stronger relationships and brand loyalty.
  • Resite Online: Blogs are a good way to handle FAQs and related topics for your residents.
  • Ryan VanDenabeele: I wouldn’t say you “need” one but they are an added value for your clients, team members and prospects.
  • Eric at Buildium: It depends on the community & its size. Blogs have both direct & indirect benefits. Need to weigh them.
  • Justin Dunckel: View a blog as an amenity, especially if content is local, relevant, and interesting.
  • Elysa Rice: Benefits: increase content for search engines & local involvement; Downside: must keep current, no blog is better than ignored blog.
  • Jill Corya: Blogs, in an intranet environment, can be an excellent way of sharing knowledge within the organization.
  • Gillian Luce: Blogs: Gr8t way 2 get content in virtual space, increase brand awareness & engage current residents (& prospects) providing value!
  • Mark Juleen: A blog can and should be the social media hub for your community.
  • Eric Brown: Community Blogs can be Outreach on Steroids.
  • Judy Bellack: Blogs not done well (lack of response to comments, stale content, etc.) can hurt rather than help.
  • Trevor Henson: A blog also helps us keep ambient contact with the owners and investors of the building.

Where do you get the content? Who decides on ‘the voice?’

  • Christian: The community, the employees, the company, qualified voices from your corner of the market.
  • Ryan VanDenabeele: Content depends on your audience. Can be links from new papers, free article data bases, your people.
  • Joe Foster: The great thing about multifamily blogging is that this bidness is already so incredibly personality-driven.
  • Judy Bellack: Content has to be relevant, unique, fresh, interesting; and should utilize writers who know your stuff!
  • Judy Bellack: You can use linked content, original content, content from residents, employees.
  • Meredith Mobley: Talk to your residents. What are their FAQ? Start there…
  • Charity Hisle: Ultimately, audience should become the voice. To start, anyone that cares, understands the audience can be the voice.
  • Jonathan Saar: How about community site improvements, schedule of curb appeal updates, photos of changes?
  • Elysa Rice: The great thing about blogging is content can be inspired from life, other blogs, movies, ads, emails, pretty much anywhere.
  • Erica Campbell: Most communities already have content. Start with your newsletters, testimonials, interns, videos, photos, events etc.
  • Nessel Inc.: Lists do very well. “Top 5 Places for Lunch”
  • Erica Campbell: never replace your newsletter with a blog. Newsletter are so powerful and email drip marketing has so much to offer.
  • Mark Juleen: Property teams can create the content. No excuses. Hire better people if you don’t think they can handle it.
  • Meredith Mobley: Multiple voices can definitely be helpful. You dont have one type of renter, so its okay to have more than one voice.
  • Elysa Rice: There’s a property that posts local business of the month — doctors, restaurants, all nominated by residents.

(Jason Falls also asked a great question about how social media sites like Twitter are impacting blogging. Are you focused more on blogging or social media? Are they two unique audiences? Tell us in the comments.)

Who should be the target audience for an apartment community’s blog? Residents? Prospects? Investors?

  • Ann Padgett: I would think the investors would be a target audience at the PMC level, not the community.
  • Judy Bellack: All of the above!
  • Eric at Buildium: All of the above because information targeting one is indirectly pertinent to others.
  • Mike Whaling: Have a blogger relations strategy. Who else is writing about the neighborhood? Link to them first.

Lisa Trosien asked about the goal of a community blog — is it to improve rankings in search engines or to increase engagement with your target audience? Here were some of the responses:

  • Jennifer Kennedy: Our goal is both!
  • Erica Campbell: Our focus is the on the user first then SEO second. Our SEO is other initiatives that are behind the scenes.
  • Jason Falls: It depends. If SEO drives business, prioritize it. If engagement drives customer satisfaction, etc.
  • Mike Whaling: Keywords & other on-site tweaks now account for less than 25% of SEO (per SEOMoz). Focus on creating great content.
  • Charity Hisle: It is cheaper to keep residents, there should be a lead/retention balance in the strategy.

I’ve seen “fake blogs,” where a staffer pretends to be a resident. Is this a good idea?

  • Eric at Buildium: Horrible idea. It’s usually pretty easy to tell. Bad image.
  • Jason Falls: Never.
  • Erica Campbell: This is a bad idea. That is not begin transparent and can come back to haunt you in the long run.
  • It’s all about transparency. No need to jeopardize your company’s reputation.
  • Ryan VanDenabeele: If you get caught doing something unethical these days, the consumer will spread it on social media and kill your reputation.

What about buying blog content from one of the content providers out there? Is there a transparency issue there?

  • Ellen Thompson: How is posting local events and restaurant reviews from a third party unethical if blended in with messages from the property mgrs?
  • Bob Gura: The bought content of newsletters doesn’t get read.
  • Dylan Schleppe: Hard to be “your message” if you bought it, eh?
  • Duncan Alney: Do you like canned newsletters? If not, why would you like a canned blog? No one like artificially anything (OK, well Nutrasweet maybe).
  • Tami Siewruk: Buy content all you want as long as it’s appropriate for your target audience.
  • Judy Bellack: Its all about balance; you can buy great content occasionally, and combined with hyper-local and original content, a great formula.
  • Tami Siewruk: You have to mix the content with your own but buying is fine as a supplement as long as it focused.
  • Erica Campbell: There is a huge difference between canned content and quality re-purposed content.
  • Realty Data Trust: Rather than canned content, try or similar resource for copywriters.
  • Elysa Rice: I much prefer [Urbane Apartment’s] route of having residents create content than repurposing other stuff.

When it comes to blogging, what’s the biggest challenge facing your organization? Scalability? Motivation? Buy-in?

  • Ellen Thompson: The biggest reasons customer say they are looking is lack of time and writing skills a the property level.
  • Erica Campbell: Finding appropriate ways to monetize it.
  • Eric at Buildium: Blogs are not scalable… if you are writing original content then they take time. Biggest challenge is time.
  • Tamela Coval: Answer may be “Trust” in the blogger.

There really were TOO MANY great comments and side conversations this week (we had 572 tweets from 62 different contributors!) — ranging from measuring success, to search engine optimization, to your favorite blogging tools. For all the good stuff, check out the full transcript.

Some example apartment community blogs submitted by #AptChatters:

Finally, there were a couple links to studies about the benefits of blogging that were shared during the conversation:

So what do you think? Are you blogging for your apartment community? Are the example blogs provided getting the job done? Got a link to another great apartment community blog? Share your thoughts in the comments!