The Chosen Ones

I don’t get a newspaper anymore.  My news comes online and it’s based on my interests.  A great deal of my news comes from Facebook.  For purposes of this discussion, I’m going to use USA Today and local newspapers as examples.  USA Today is a national newspaper that gives readers a broad idea of what’s going on in the nation and the world and your local newspaper gives you a broad idea of what’s going on in your county, city and local area.  Their websites, of course, do the same.  Is this what people truly care about though?  Of course.  On some level, we all care about what’s going on in the world, in our cities and in our towns.

What do we care about most, however?  We care about our family and friends most.  When you ask most people to list their priorities the top three will likely be their family and friends, their job and their religion or spirituality in no particular order.  So where do we all go to get news on our family and friends???  Why, Facebook of course.  My new Sunday morning routine isn’t reading the “funnies”, Sports section and Entertainment section of the Detroit News anymore.  It’s getting a cup of coffee, opening my laptop up and seeing what my family and friends did this weekend.  Who had babies?  Who lost a loved one?  Who had a great time in Las Vegas?  That’s what I care about most.  I know that’s what I care about most because that’s the first thing I “research”.  Then I’ll go to my favorite news outlets and look up how the Detroit Tigers did last night and see if they are still in first place and of course see what’s going on in the nation and the world.

What’s my point?  What am I getting at here?  Well, another thing that I can choose on Facebook is what “advertisers” I allow to appear on my news feed.  I can’t choose that at all with a printed newspaper and websites, including Facebook, are getting a little smarter with the targeted advertising they feed me, but to be honest, it’s never really what I want to see.  I mean, how many times can they suggest I like “Mayhem” on Facebook before I can make it go away.  I can’t.  I can control that I “LIKE” Pepsi and I can see what Pepsi is posting on Facebook in my newsfeed.  I chose that.  So did 4.5 Million other Facebook users.  31.5 Million users chose to allow Coca~Cola to advertise on their newsfeed.

This is the equivalent of telling USA Today or the Detroit News what advertising you want printed in the paper they deliver to your doorstep.  Pretty powerful when you think about it.  So if you don’t have a fan page on Facebook, I suggest you get one now.  If you do have a fan page, but you really don’t have a strategy, I suggest you work on it.  You need to create enough interest on Facebook that people choose to allow you to advertise to them.


Want to Increase Your SEO and Cut Your Advertising Dollars???

I have been saving this post for a long time.  I’ve tried to figure out a way to “monetize” it and earn some revenue from it, but it’s more of a concept than a product or service.  The bottom line is I can’t really keep it to myself anymore and it’s time to burst.  So here it is….


If you are an apartment community and you advertise on, or  For Rent or Apartment Guide’s websites, you’re already paying thousands of dollars a year to list your information side by side with your competition.  So why not add them all to your own website, increase your content exponentially and get the Google juice as a result?!  The bigger the company, the better the results should be.  Allow your prospects to shop and compare your communities with your competition on your own site.  Make it even easier for them than the websites you pay to advertise with and create a shop and compare chart with  all the amenities and services you offer right next to what your competition offers.

This will work for almost any website really.  Do you own a hair salon?  List your competitors, their services and rates and compare them with your own.  Run a local coffee shop with a few locations?  List your competitors and their menus and pricing.  Own a landscaping service?  List your competitors and tell the consumer why you are better.

DO NOT:  List their phone numbers.

DO:  Put photos of your competition.

DO NOT:  Bad mouth your competition.

DO:  Share reviews about yourself and your competition.

DO:  Add as many competitors as possible.  The average consumer will find it anyway.

DO NOT:  Be afraid!  The average consumer already knows your competition anyway!  If they don’t then don’t listen to me.

I’m not going to tell you every little detail of this concept and how to make it really work.  If you want a great plan of execution then you’ll find me.  I’ve given you enough information to be dangerous.  If you really are better than your competition, offer complete transparency and crush your competition online and in your bottom line.

Interesting Article – Five Best Apartment Search Tools

Just wanted to share this article. It seems interesting. A friend of mine just forwarded me this article from, “Five Best Apartment Search Tools”. With the exception of, these websites seem to be geared more toward micromanagement companies and individual owners rather than tradititional property management companies.  Obvioulsy, Craigslist has become a standard advertising source for many of us, however, I’m not sure the others have or will.  Each seems to offer it’s own unique perspective and features.

Conducting a Google search for “Detroit Apartments”, was number one in the organic search, followed by Craigslist at listing number 7, at listing number 16, while the others were not in the top 50 organic search results.  A search for “Chicago Apartments” put at number 2, Craigslist at 4 and Myapartmentmap did not appear until page 5.  Results varied from city to city, however the only two that remained consistently on the first page were and Craigslist.

There seem to be a lot of companies popping up trying to win the share of apartment traffic to their websites and likely taking up a lot of our time with sales calls.  Until they are proven, I would stick with putting any extra money into your own website and making sure it is optimized.  Some companies out there are doing this and they happen to be ranking much higher on the organic search results than 3 out of 5 of the “5 Best Apartment Search Tools”.

If You Can’t Measure the Results, Then Don’t Do It

There’s an old saying that goes something like this, “We know that half of our advertising is effective, we’re just not sure which half.”  If you are saying that today, then you need to reevaluate your marketing and advertising strategies.  If you can’t specifically measure the results of a marketing initiative or advertising campaign, you probably shouldn’t do it.

So here are  some thoughts to consider:

Don’t just put your home page in print/billboard advertising. These leads cannot be measured specific to that advertising.  They will just get lumped into your overall traffic.  Create an alternative landing page specific to that advertisement and only use it for that particular advertisement.  That page may then be directed to your home page or a community page.

Do imbed google analytics into every page on your website. It’s a simple process with tremendous value.  It will also help you  measure the hits to those alternative landing pages mentioned above.  You can also see how deep into your site prospects are going.

Don’t use your local phone number in ANY advertising. Even in your Craigslist ads use a call tracking number.  You might discover that certain properties don’t get any leads from Craigslist or it might be sending unqualified traffic.  Even though it’s free, you could determine by tracking the calls, or lack thereof, that you don’t want to waste time posting or dealing with unqualified traffic.

Do record your leasing calls. This is a subjective form of measurement, but probably one of the most important.  We all know the difference between a good leasing call and a poor one.  After only a day of listening to phone calls at a particular property, I discovered they weren’t asking for the prospects name, taking control of the conversation or even asking the caller to come tour the property.  The calls were long and awkward.  Now the leasing staff at that community is doing all of those things and more.  They are even getting email addresses to confirm appointments and listening to each others calls and providing feed back.

There’s another old saying to “inspect what you expect“.  This is hard to do without consitently measuring results.

Apartment Prospects on Twitter

Twitter users like to tell everyone what they are doing and some of them are looking for apartments.  I typed “apartment Chicago” into the search box and a slew of Tweets came up.  As I read through them there was one that really caught my attention.  A young lady tweeted, “Still apartment hunting. Can’t wait to fly to Chicago and just GET THIS DONE! Goodness gracious.”  I tweeted her a link to an apartment community where I used to stay when I traveled to Chicago all the time.  I then went to her Twitter home page and noticed that she had posted “one bedroom downtown. Any ideas??” to a local apartment search leasing agent from  I presume this leasing agent found her Tweet the same way I did and reached out to her to offer assistance, so obviously this isn’t a new concept, but it did confirm my theory and substantiated that Twitter may be an excellent prospect list and that Twitter users may be open to a  sales Tweet (especially if they are announcing their frustration in finding a place to live).

There are several approaches I would take to mining prospects on Twitter, and they would all really depend on what the Tweet said.   One way would be the soft approach. Conduct your search and begin sifting through the results.  When you come across a possible prospect, simply follow them.  Typically if you follow someone, they will likely review who you are and decide to follow you or not.  With that said, it needs to be very clear who you are.  Your Twitter home page needs to show that you have apartments for rent in their area, have a link to your website and a creative bio that offers referral rewards for Twitter referrals or a discount for Twitter users.

Another approach is to send a Tweet directly to the prospect and follow them.  Send them a link to a property in their area.  Don’t send them a link to your main page and make them do a search.  Be as helpful as you can with 140 characters.  If they are interested they will respond.  A different approach would be to engage them in a conversation. Why not?  If they are interested they will respond.  This is a huge experiment so test different approaches.

Here are some examples of Tweets from the last 24 hours I found with a search for “Chicago apartment” and the approach or Tweet I would send them is in bold:

schuyler22: Planning my apartment shopping in Chicago tomorrow! Got some good ones lined up…hopefully one will work out!”

This is a hot prospect.  Act fast and offer an incentive.

@schuyler22 Got time for one more appointment? We are offering Twitter users no app fee and a reduced sec deposit. (link to community page)

afg1988: workin workin workin. Chicago apartment next year, here i come!”

I would simply follow this person and send him a link to your Chicago communities.

AmyJulia: Preparing for apartment hunting in Chicago– measuring furniture, looking up apartments we want to see, getting stuff together!! So excited!!”

She already told you something about herself.

@AmyJulia We are in Lakeview. Here are our floor plans with measurements so you can see if your furniture fits! (link)

joshlurie: I’m on my way to Chicago! Finding an apartment and signing a lease tomorrow”

Start a conversation ASAP.  Be direct!

@joshlurie What part of Chicago interests you?  We have great deals in the South Loop.  Call us (312) 555.5555.

summerbeth0519: in a blah mood. i need some @willhoge in my life l…off toChicago tomorrow in search of an apartment. im not leaving w/o signing a lease!”

@summerbeth0519 Cheer up! Are you looking in the city or the burbs?  We have both!

SandersonPR: Looking for small apartment in Chicago‘s Wicker Park/Bucktown area that will take a dog-under $1000-anyone know?”

If you have apartments in Wicker Park or Bucktown and allow dogs you MUST reply to this Tweet.  Seriously.  Fill out a guest card via Twitter.

@SandersonPR Bucktown – check! Studios – check!  Under $1000 – check!  Dogs allowed – check!  When can u stop by for a tour? (312) 555.5555

LorenRenner: Sold my car on Friday!!! Apartment shopping in preparation for the move to Chicago. Like Andersonville, Wrigleyville, Lakeview…”

@LorenRenner we have apartments in Wrigelyville right next to the L.  Call us at (312) 555.5555.  Reduced security deposit for Twitter users!

It took me all of two minutes to find about 30  prospects from the last 24 hours in Chicago and I didn’t even get through all of them.  Additionally, it took me all of 8 minutes to prepare the responses I’ve demonstrated above and only because I had to take two phone calls while I was writing.  If you don’t do this you are missing out on a great opportunity to increase your traffic.  Consider it Twitter outreach.

Where It’s App


AG iPhone application

AG iPhone application

So the numbers are in for the Apartment Guide iPhone application and on paper it looks pretty good, according to Primedia’s press release earlier today.  Over 230,000 downloads.  Like most of you, I’d like to dig a little deeper and find out how many of those downloads resulted in email or phone inquiries.  I’m sure my account rep will be in this month to tell me.  

Without that information available, I’d like to draw a picture of how truly remarkable this could be.  This is  the equivalent of 230,000 Apartment Guides being added to their distribution.  That’s 28,750 books per month since they started in October.  I would imagine it’s probably closer to 40 – 50,000 per month since they launched their advertising campaign in March.  40 to 50,000 additional users of the Apartment Guide without adding a single page of print.  At that rate they will approach 600,000 downloads by the end of the year.

There are a million and one questions that need to be asked and answered, but at first blush, this seems to be a successful first step in the right direction to improve the consumer experience and potentially increase traffic to communities advertising on Apartment Guide.  Win-win.

Think Outside the Rack

It is no longer just enough to drop books off at the local grocery and pharmacy and claim you have distribution that is relevant.  Distribution is not simply related to the number of books flying off racks.  Distribution is so much more than that.  Distribution is google ad words.   Distribution is search engine optimization.  As of this week, distribution is an iPhone application.

Congratulations to Apartment Guide for their recent television commercial partnership with Apple and the iPhone.  I thought it was pretty cool to see a company from our industry partnering with such an iconic advertising campaign.  I saw it last night during American Idol.  (Yes, I was watching American Idol, but just for the ads!)  It is also very encouraging to see a company like Apartment Guide investing outside of print.  I know from an insider perspective that they have been doing this for a long time now, however this to me sends a clear message that they truly are thinking outside the rack.

You can see it tonight during Scrubs on ABC or The Office on NBC.  It  will also air on Leno tomorrow night,  Saturday Night Live on April 11 and Extreme Makeover on April 12.  It’s cool to watch on YouTube, but it’s even better to see it during your favorite programming.

Forget the racks at 7-11. Now distribution is Saturday Night Live and American Idol.