Let's be honest. Very few in our industry like online review websites. They are a constant struggle. Very rarely do they provide a sound mechanism to generate leads and more often than not, they lead to bad reputations, decreased lead generation, and fewer renewals.
However, we still need to deal with them. Online review sites are here to stay and should not be ignored. Hoping they go away won't solve the problem. However, if you have the right plan, you can make sure you are setup for success.
Reputation Management Plan
It's essential, if not vital that every community today develops a plan on how to deal with online reviews. The goal of any good Reputation Management plan is to minimize the impact of adverse reviews while improving the number of positive reviews left by renters and tenants.
STEP #1 - Respond to Negative Reviews
A Reputation Management plan starts with responding to reviews in a timely, understanding and mature manner.
- React Quickly and Politely - Not responding to negative reviews can be the worst thing a community can do. Ignoring it doesn't make it better. Respond to every review quickly and politely.
- Address Criticism - When responding to a review, acknowledge the criticism if it is valid. You must address the issue "head-on." Making excuses or passing-the-buck can only lead to more criticism and worse reviews.
- Empathize with Complaints - What would you write if you had the same experience? Empathizing with a renter or tenant about their issues shows you understand them and can sympathize with their problems.
STEP #2 - Ask for Positive Reviews
One way to use review sites to your advantage is to ASK for reviews from residents. There are several software systems available to do this such as BirdEye (birdeye.com) , Reputation Loop (www.reputationloop.com), Podium (www.podium.com) etc. You can also use online resident surveys to ask for positive feedback as well as direct solicitation of your residents through flyers and snail mail.
Always remember to direct residents (or potential tenants) to leave positive reviews for you on sites like Yelp and Google Local Search!
STEP #3 - Negative Review Minimization
To mitigate negative reviews, you can use something called Negative Review Minimization. This process centers around the creation and optimization of strategic content across all web and social media channels to increase rankings of "positive review pages" thereby minimizing the impact of sites with negative reviews.
This is accomplished by building and maintaining SEO friendly web pages and content that will (over time) rank higher than sites with negative reviews posted to them.
While the Negative Review Minimization process of building and maintaining a positive online presence is time-consuming, it a necessary component of any long-term Reputation Management program.
Whether you decide to handle your Reputation Management in-house or use a 3rd party firm like BreadBox (shameless plug), it is an essential step in the long-term success of your communities leasing efforts!
Author: Justin Cleary is an almost 20 year veteran of the Multifamily Industry. He has owned and operated several multifamily focused businesses and startups including The Philly Apartment Company, The DC Apartment Company, BlueSquare Real Estate & Property Management, LeaseUp and his latest venture, BreadBox (http://breadbox.consulting)