The Power of Word of Mouth Marketing
If Facebook was a country it would be the third largest in the world. But it’s not merely a country in the traditional sense… rather more like the one of the largest extended families ever known – where trust is shared openly and friends and other social network users are proponents for each other and often serve as virtual ‘neighborhood watchdogs’.
Social networks like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter extend the reach of residents and apartment renters to an exponential range in comparison to five years ago. You are no longer the loudest and most powerful voice being heard – the voice of the customer reigns supreme today.
Whether you are participating or not, word of mouth marketing is impacting your resident retention and apartment marketing efforts – good or bad. A valuable presence in social media is not simply forming communities and pushing information at your followers; it involves a two way dialogue with residents and potential apartment renters. If you are planning to do business with the Social generation a.k.a. Gen Y, then you MUST know what they want. See Gen Y characteristics.
Your online reputation is vital to your organization’s success and the negative word of mouth marketing being posted can severely impact your business in today’s social circles swarming the internet.
Apartment ratings and reviews websites may be the first place your residents turn when things go wrong – letting their voices be heard. These may be where your prospective residents also get their first taste of what living in your apartment community is like.
Are they going to like what they find?
Are you aware of the positive and negative word of mouth being broadcast across the Internet about the customer experience you are providing residents?
According to research, these online conversations account for a larger share to influence the customer’s decision to lease than any traditional marketing you can do – and in fact it could account for up to 50% of all purchase decisions. Seeking out, listening to, and responding to customer feedback about your apartment community is essential. The ROI on social media is not easily defined, but one thing is clear. It cannot be a good thing to have negative word of mouth conversations and bad ratings floating around the web with no visible effort to resolve or refute the complaint.
In late 2011, Mckinsey revealed study results that 39 % of companies already employ social media as their primary digital tool to reach customers, and they anticipate that rising to 47% over the next four years (Mckinsey Quarterly November 2011). There is no question this medium is here to stay, is a legitimate channel to sell to, service, and grow your customer base.
While you are investing time and money in a social media management platform, the cost of this is greatly offset by the simple premise of Word of mouth marketing, wherein your current residents and prospective renters are providing an unpaid form of promotion of your apartment community. At no cost to you, they tell other people how much they like your apartments, community and onsite staff.
These loyal customers are one of the most credible sources of ‘advertising’, too, because their friends, family, and social networks know they are staking their personal reputation when they recommend you.
Social media is a big part of the customer’s journey to leasing with you, making monitoring what people say about your brand important – you must respond to resident and prospect comments, reinforce the positive customer sentiment where it exists and demonstrate empathy and effort to improve where you fall short in the perception of the resident and customer.
Amplification of voice is the greatest benefit of social media as a way to spread word of mouth marketing. When one resident speaks to you, they also speak to many more people at the same time. When you speak to one resident’s concerns, you may also be resolving the concerns of many.
At the very least – when you respond, your customer knows they have been heard and that you value their input. Those who initially post negative online reviews typically either post a positive review when their concern is resolved or they remove the negative post altogether – and increased positive word of mouth means more apartment leases.