If there’s one apartment company that’s been recognized for its success using social media to reach it residents and prospects in the community, it’s Urbane Apartments in Royal Oak, Michigan. The founder of Urbane, Eric Brown, is a regular participant here on the Apartment Chat, but this time, we aimed the spotlight on him to learn more about how they’ve done it and where they’re going next. It was quite a chaotic discussion with a LOT of great questions from the group. Here are some of the highlights:

Urbane runs a successful, active company blog. What’s the secret sauce, and how do you keep it going?

  • Eric Brown (EB): Participation and support to and at the community at large.
  • EB: We use our Digital Reach to promote local businesses, restaurants, bars, and any other places our Residents hang out.
  • EB: Think about your Community of Interest, (followers, friends) and its size and correlation to your apartment community.
  • EB: SM Marketing is Word of Mouth on steroids, and when it works, your friends rent the apts for you.
  • Erica Campbell: So true! “91% say consumer reviews are the #1 aid to buying decisions” (JC Williams Group)
  • EB: Provide content that folks want/need, or find interest in.

With the myriad of other duties the property has, how do you prioritize their blog participation?

(Submitted by Jon Harrington)

  • EB: I think the time constraints of a Social Media Program is overrated.
  • EB: Bottom line, we still need/must rent apartments, but we also carve out the req time for effective SM marketing.
  • EB: One thing we cut out were “Tours”, We use a Go Solo Program, (lots of folks don’t agree with this angle) I love it.
  • Mike Brewer: I think the really successful companies will resign themselves to the idea that it requires more than 9 to 5.
  • Lisa Trosien: Have seen properties been able to cut their ‘out of office’ outreach marketing time by investing in SM.
  • Gillian Luce: Social Media shouldn’t replace but rather act as a complement in your marketing mix.

You talk a lot about the benefits of partnership marketing? Can you explain this & provide an example?

  • EB: We just partnered with Coke, and their Vitamin Water brand, Partner with like demographics to your brand.
  • EB: The Big Red Machine (Coke) drops off product to use every week for Move In Packages, plus stocks a branded fridge in Urbane.
  • EB: We partnered with Chevy on a project, and were included in thousands of targeted tweets and word of mouth chatter.
  • Lisa Trosien: It would make sense to me for them to go with a major player, larger bldgs, more residents, etc.
  • EB: You would be surprised what Big Brands will do if you just ask.
  • EB: Remember, Local Brands can and are very effective to partner with, too.
  • Leigh Curry: Eric’s ex-employer at Village Green has done a very good job of co branding.

I’m sure you hear that you can do what you do because Urbane is small/niche. How can we scale it? Can it scale?

(Submitted by Doug Chasick)

  • EB: We have LESS resources, not more, that is a myth.
  • EB: If I had a large portfolio to work with, it would be intoxicating the things you could craft.
  • EB: Large portfolios are still segmented by region, there are just more of them.
  • EB: People, Training and Culture, but mostly Culture.
  • EB: All regions should be operating under the same premise.

What are the top things you would recommend to a company that wants to use social media to reach their audience?

  • EB: Start with a Community/Company blog, That is by far and away our biggest lever.
  • EB: Next would be tossing out your own dumb rules that some desk jockey originated.

What do you think of outsourcing blogging and/or SM efforts?

(Submitted by Sara Graham)

  • EB: I think in most cases you must outsource blogging and SM Marketing.
  • EB: I also think when you outsource blogging and SM, the focus is lead generation.
  • EB: All of our bloggers are profiled on the blog, and 98% of the comments are answered by the blog writer.

Check the transcript for more details on the Go Solo program and other topics discussed throughout this week’s chat. Thanks to Eric for giving us some insight into his operation, and thanks to everyone else who participated.

What tips can you share from your own experience about successfully building buzz and incorporating social media into your efforts? Who else should we interview for a future #AptChat?

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