For Apartment Chat #21, our topic was Using Photos and Videos to Market Apartments. Here are some of the questions and highlights from the chat:

Question 1: What are you doing to take advantage of photos and/or videos in your online marketing efforts?

  • Carrie at Roscoe: I love using video tours, both on YouTube and our site. Editing and commentary has been a challenge. Most (people) don’t want overproduced videos … and I agree. Ours are pretty plain … you can hear my footsteps. I do them myself with a Flip camera. Vendors we have gotten bids from are VERY pricey.
  • Rory Ellis: Editing is key in any video. Focus on key points and a professional style to keep their attention. In my personal experience, music is great for an intro, but I like to hear information if I’m gonna keep watching.
  • Sara Goberdhansingh: Animated tours where people can add “furniture” in the style they like in different spots in the floor plan is a great way to ensure you don’t count anyone out if you “stage” a unit & do a video tour
  • Joe Foster: Our stats show more time is spent on the virtual move-in tool than any other area of our clients’ sites. It’s a floorplan of a given unit with furniture sprites and a drag/drop interface.
  • Capture The Market: Our focus groups have found that all residents are diffent and variety is good.
  • Sara Goberdhansingh: If you’re using video, you should definitely allow viewers to pan up and down in each room so they can get a better perspective
  • Joe Foster: One of our clients has made a viral parody of “Real Housewives” set in their community starring the on-site team – the Real Housewives of Wesley Village.

A great side discussion broke out when the question was asked about using people (staff, current residents or paid models) in photos and videos. Here are a couple of the responses that were part of that discussion:

  • Heather Blume: Gotta be careful with people in any kind of ad. Make sure you’re meeting the diversity standard under Fair Housing. If you don’t know exactly how to walk that ad line, it’s better to not try it than to end up in court over it. It’s not about intent, it’s about interpretation. Not to say using your residents or “friends” would be bad, but usually you hedge the Fair Housing bets with actors.
  • Carrie at Roscoe: No people in ads or videos … trying to avoid a Fair Housing conflict.
  • Capture The Market: Some yes, some no. Our focus groups show the viewer would rather have activity going on.
  • Janet Settle: Just conducted a focus group with college students and they said having people in the video is a must.
  • Erica Campbell: Check out Nadeen Green’s article, “Social Media – Know Your Risks.” Great Fair Housing info. We avoid people & we also don’t include name brand stores (i.e. Starbucks, Best Buy) up close … has to be from a distance.
  • Sara Graham: Though we don’t use people in videos, we DO use people (stock photos) in brochures, fliers, etc. to convey lifestyle, etc.

Question 2: What unique things are you doing with photos?

  • Joe Foster: Photos are always going to allow you to make specific choices that highlight your best.
  • Sara Goberdhansingh: If you’re using photos on your website, I like to see something dynamic. Slide shows or something similar.
  • Kim Cory: We usually take photos & videos at our events. Good mix of diversity … residents love being part of it.
  • Kristi Faris Fickert: Lifestyle can be shown when you include the surrounding community too – stores, restaurants, parks, etc.
  • Eric K.: We are taking pictures of our residents dressed up today (Halloween) and posting them on Facebook.

Question 3: Have you had success with photo or video contests? What worked? What didn’t?

There was a really interesting side conversation about photos posted to Facebook pages and whether or not apartment companies should even allow fans to share anything on a community’s business page.

  • Sara Graham: When I was at Northland, we had a “terms of use for residents” posted right on the community’s Facebook page. (Keep it PG.) Seems like deleting/preventing is sort of defeating the purpose of having a “community” on FB?
  • Joe Foster: I can’t fathom a community not blocking wall photos.
  • Charity Hisle: Do you really want to block any kind of opportunity for engagement from residents? Some are struggling to attain it.

Question 4: How are you tracking leads/leases from multimedia sites across the web?

  • Erica Campbell: We have tracking numbers, vanity URLs and we look at views & referring traffic into site which converts into a guest card.
  • Ryan VanDenabeele: We have vanity URLs and photos on Flickr. You can track views and click then click throughs from Google Analytics.
  • Sara Goberdhansingh: ReachLocal is great! Option to record phone calls that come in so you can listen back & catch missed information.

Question 5: How are you using photos & videos to increase your visibility online?

  • Mike Whaling: Try geo-tagging your YouTube videos. Post photos to Panoramio and place them on the map there, too. Flickr also offers a geo-tagging option. Make your media as relevant as possible to your location.
  • Erica Campbell: Optimizing your media assets is KING! Tags, keywords, urls, also i’ve written an article 8 ways to maximize your video its coming out in a few days & i’ll share
  • Mike Whaling: Make sure your photos are posted to your listings on Yelp, Google Local, InsiderPages, etc. Take advantage of tags and opportunities to get links back to your site. (But don’t abuse it.)

Now it’s your turn … are you using photos and/or videos in unique ways to promote your properties? What has worked well for you? How would you answer the questions highlighted above? Let us know what you think in the comments.

You can view the transcript for the full discussion here.