Reliance on Google My Business emerges while AI stalls and videos keep on rolling.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is slowly making its way into apartment marketing, social media ads still work, Google My Business is becoming the low-budget mobile website for communities and marketers continue to rely more on video to lease apartments.
These were among the comments shared Monday by panelists at the session, “Fearless Factor: Marketers Who Are Driving Innovation” at the Apartment Innovation and Marketing Conference in Huntington Beach, Calif.
AI is on everyone’s minds, and bots are helping leasing professionals with time management, but, as The Lincoln Property Company’s VP of Marketing and Communications Sheri Killingsworth said, “We’re working on an AI tool, but it’s more for operations and not for marketing. But check back with us next year. I can see AI being more of a tool for resident communication in the future.”
Michelle Moriello, Director Digital Marketing for WinnResidential, said, “Our social media ads went through the roof during the pandemic, when everyone was stuck at home. We’ve stayed the course with them and they are still doing well. Not all of the leads are totally qualified, but it’s been an effective channel for us.”
Meanwhile, Google My Business has been the industry’s hottest trend/best friend lately.
“Google My Business (GMB) is now a low-budget or even no-budget way to have your own miniature Internet Listing Service (ILS) on Google,” Moriello said. “Google is promoting new tools for it, so it’s a great way for communities to build it out to be even better. For new ideas, we look at what hotels are doing with their GMB sites and borrow from that.”
Moriello said that there are companies who offer paid services to monitor and populate a community’s GMB sites.
“It’s worth working into your SEM budget to help your community place high on map-search Google results,” she said. “GMB is a huge focus for us. It’s your mobile website, whether you like it or not.”
A New Look at Videos
Lincoln Property Company has combined social media with video for its “Tell Your Story” campaign for its residents, who are asked to record a two or three minute video about their favorite charity. Lincoln Property Company then chooses winners and donates $7,500 to that resident’s charity and the resident also wins $5,000. Killingsworth then flies out to that charity and then produce a professional video about the charity and promotes it.
“This campaign is designed to help us connect with our residents aside from their apartment living,” Killingsworth said.
With a limited budget, Moriello has been creating videos with images WinnResidential receives from its residents along with some stock art.
“The videos are only still images produced into a video,” she said. “But we find that videos will increase our website visitors’ time on site and it helps to show prospects what it’s like to live at our community.”
Joe Coleman, COO, Decron Properties Corporation, said his company is encouraging its staff to create videos that highlight the community.
“Some are better than others, but we’re trying to make it easy and fun by letting them shoot them the way they want to,” Coleman said. “We’re not telling them exactly what to do, and that goes over better. We encourage and support them and make sure they know it’s going to be okay, so that helps to get rid of the stage fright.”
By doing these indie-style videos, Coleman said, “We avoid having to use one big budget to do one major community video that might end up being out of date a few months later. But then we keep using it because management feels like, ‘Well, we spend all that money, better keep it up there.’ ”
Self-Guided Tours Begin to Fizzle
Touring technology has slowed a bit since the pandemic, at least for The Lincoln Property Company.
Killingsworth said she had hoped the self-guided tours buzz from the pandemic would continue, “but really, it’s not something our prospects want, except for in certain markets, and mostly just for after-hours tours. Our 360 tours are doing well; they really help to extend the time-on-site data for visitors.”
Moriello added, “The youngest generation of prospects will use self-guided tours because they want to tour and sign their lease and never have to talk to anyone. Matterport, on the other hand, is becoming both necessary and expected.”
Coleman said that data coming from CRMs, Google Analytics and resident surveys is driving conversations with senior leadership in many directions.
“Marketers will say, ‘We need to do more about X,’ he said. “But then that turns into more costs and that shuts down the conversation. Data is getting better and it helps to drive decisions and to set goals and prioritization; have very focused conversations. It’s a good validator.”