I was recently invited to speak on a panel, Online Communities, by Steve Lefkovitz, president of Joshua Tree Consulting and the AIM Conference (a very well organized and progressive conference).  The panel included Ben Zimmer of Property Solutions and Israel Caranungan of Bozzuto Properties.

The conference had a diverse group of attendees from vendors to developers, but the show room seemed to have more remodeling/rehabbing companies than usual.  Our audience for our panel was a room comprised of vendors, property managers, and developers.   Here are the main highlights from our panel:

1)  Online Communities, soical networks and social media provide for very targeted advertising channels. There is a niche online community for every imaginable person, from MMOs to Pet Lovers. Furthermore, online communities are not limited to just younger tech-savvy individuals.  The majority (80%+) of internet users are either reading blogs, watching online videos, or in a social network.  Last, certain online communities segment the market for you through their common interest groups.

2)  If you can identify your value proposition and audience, you can reach prospective renters more effectively. All apartments are not created equal.  Some properties have different competitive advantages over others, whether it is location, price, amenities, environment, or marketing.  If you can identify which characteristics satisfy your target market, you will be able to more efficiently advertise online.  Israel provided an example of one of his properties that is near the subway station, which is convenient for young professionals.  So Bozzuto is able to more effectively advertisement to young professionals via Facebook and emphasize the properties convenient proximity to the subway.

3)  Retention and customer service are increasingly more important with social media forcing transparency. By joining the conversation or being available to address issues, property managers are able to build trust, receive feedback in real-time, increase retention rates, build brand, and become the sounding board as oppose to other social media websites.  Using social media outlets is not for everyone, but those who can effectively execute and consistently interact will reach more renters.

Overall, the audience was very reception and interactive.  Though a great deal of the information did not apply (because most of the attendees were either builders or our competition), the message was well received.  Here are my slides from the panel: