“Craigslist is not for everyone. And it doesn’t work well in all markets. Not a ‘one size fits all’.” ~ Lisa Trosien

For our first chat of 2010, we decided to jump right into the deep end. We recruited the help of Eva Panagiotopoulos and Eric Broughton from RentSentinel to help us understand how to get more out of Craigslist and other free classifieds sites like Google Base, Kijiji and BackPage.

After a few technical difficulties with Twitter, we finally got things going. (Thanks to everyone who stayed with us through the fail whales!) Here are the questions, and a few of the highlights from the discussion:

How often should a community post to Craigslist?

  • RentSentinel: Every community is different but we have seen 2 – 3 times per day spaced out at key posting times to be best.
  • Tara Smiley: We post on average 15-20 CL a day.
  • Trevor Henson: We post our individual vacancies Mon Wed and Fridays on C-list.
  • Lisa Trosien: Many of the REITS have been blacklisted this year and have had to retool their strategy. They were overposting.
  • Eva Pana: Key posting times vary by community, this is why we use analytics to track each community’s specific times.
  • Eric Broughton: At most we have seen some of our customers post up to 8 times per day spaced out at 1 per hour. No more than that.
  • Lorena Fikes: We ask our properties to post 3-4 a day is possible, spread out throughout the day as well…
  • (Re: key posting times)RentSentinel: It often correlates to the work day and how people will surf the net, early a.m. and toward end of working hours.
  • Erica Campbell: I notice the more people use it in a metro, the worse your results, because their listings are over-saturated with all the postings.
  • Eva Pana: Spreading posting times throughout the day is a great way to test your ad’s effectiveness for various times.

What types of ads are most effective? Templates or text only?

  • Tara Smiley: We try to keep the ads simple. It works for us.
  • Eric Brown: We have the best CL traffic from organic looking ads. (Justin Dunckel and Mike Brewer agreed.)
  • Eva Pana: No perfect answer, depends on the portfolio but we recommend you post using both methods and measure effectiveness of both.
  • Trevor Henson: We find that we get more phone calls from the template listings and more emails from linear CL posts.
  • Elysa Rice: The html ads generate a lot more traffic to websites because of the SEO benefits of being able to include more text.
  • Eva Pana: With that said, we have a contest in RentSentinel & the last 3 winners in the lead generation category were all simple ads.
  • Joe Foster: There’s no reason not to use both. I think organic caters to the core Craigslist userbase while templates are for the casual user.
  • Mike Whaling: Regardless of template or plain text, always upload the photos. 3rd-party sites (like PadMapper) filter ads to feature those w/ pics.
  • Erica Campbell: Craigslist only takes plain HTML and nothing dynamic so If you have video, be sure to include a URL to it in your listing.

What is a good way to engage your leasing professionals to post more/better ads?

  • Paulette Barrette: I think education is the first step.
  • Eva Pana: A great way to engage your leasing pros to post is to hold a competition. RentSentinel has received great results from our contest.
  • Tara Smiley: I love the CL battles in our office – 5 minutes, as many as possible… ready, set, go!
  • Tami Siewruk: If you give Leasing prewritten ads they will find time to post. They feel uncomfortable, training is the key.
  • Trevor Henson: We combine both aspects: Encourage our onsites to post & also have office staff post up regularly.

What do I do if I get blocked by Craigslist?

  • Jeff Sandell: Change IP Address.
  • Erica Campbell: Start up a new email address and possibly switch IPs.
  • Buildium: Easiest thing is to create a new email address, but you should try not to get blocked in the first place.
  • RentSentinel: We believe and encourage being a good CL citizen. Don’t overpost, keep your ads concise, and most importantly, have an open and honest dialogue/relationship with Craigslist.

There were a LOT of great side conversations and comments throughout this week’s chat — including topics from Craigslist spam to posting tools like Vflyer & Postlets to postings by third-party apartment locators — so make sure you take the time to read through the full transcript. (For your reference, we think you should also know the Craiglist Terms of Service.) Thanks again to RentSentinel for their help with all the supporting data!

What do you think? How is Craigslist working for you? Have you discovered “best practices” that have made your efforts more effective? Leave your thoughts in the comments!