How much do you know about marketing apartments with social networks?

We’ve put together two different cases of different companies successfully using Facebook and MySpace to market apartments. After you’re done reading, please tell us what you think by adding your comment.

CASE #1:
UDR, Inc., the 50,000-unit owner, recently launched a rental search page on MySpace.  The page includes portfolio-wide apartment search, Google maps, real-time availability, videos and a photo feed from Flickr — in addition to the usual MySpace social functions for engagement for sharing page information.

Yet, in the three weeks since launch, their page has only 1 friend and the views of photos are in the single-digits. Despite this, the effort is probably considered a big success at UDR.

QUESTION: Why is UDR’s MySpace project successful?

CASE #2:
A single San Francisco AvalonBay community has two Facebook groups. One was created by two popular residents and has 40 members, while the other, started by an AvalonBay associate, has only 2 members.  Both have a handful of photos, and little other content.  However, another company-created Facebook page for Avalon Riverview has a good level of engagement with 22 members, and some actual resident conversation on it.

Second example: Stephen D. Bell & Co. appears to have created a Facebook and MySpace page for every one of their approximately 200 properties.

QUESTION: How can a Facebook group be used as part of a strategy to attract renters?

Here are the facts:

MySpace is the largest social network in the United States, with 72% market share versus Facebook’s 17%.  UDR’s MySpace page serves several functions unrelated to allowing renters to search for a unit on MySpace.  (In fact, the page doesn’t even mention its function in bold type anwhere – you kind of have to know what it is to use it.) 
Here’s what they are:

  • It can serve as a MySpace landing page that allows UDR to direct renter prospects who have a strong MySpace affiliation to search “within their community” and not have to leave MySpace to get the information they want.
  • It provides search engine optimization (SEO) by linking to (and increasing the relevance of) other UDR online assets.
  • It’s an easy page to save and return to.  With long searches being the norm, a page on a social media site is an easy way to bookmark a company of interest.
  • It provies easy ways to share and distribute photos and video to large numbers of people without incurring the bandwith cost at UDR.

Facebook is a user-generated media site in which people share information about their lives and their interests with friends.  According to Compete.com, Facebook visits account for almost 3% of all web browsing in the US.  Facebook averages 21 minutes and 49 pages of browsing per unique visitor per day (Source: ComScore Media Metrix and internal Facebook data.)  In other words, engagement is high.  Anyone can create a group or a company page which Facebook members can join.  According to M:Metrics, mobile Facebook users spend an average of one hour and 24 minutes on the site per month from their smart phones – despite the inconvenience.

Facebook may be leveraged for marketing purposes in a number of ways including:

  • Near 100% deliverability of messages;
  • Free web pages that support photos and videos within a heavily-trafficed social context;
  • SEO assistance from linking;
  • Landing pages that allow prospects to find traditional community information inside familiar navigation in addition to insights as to who the residents in that community are and how those searching would interact in the neighborhood.

Avalon Riverview seems to be a naturally-occurring Facebook community.  Its members are just out of college, and are extremely active on Facebook, some with more than 500 Facebook friends.  Since they are showing their communication preferences clearly, it seems worthwhile to experiment with communicating with them in their natural environment.  Should AvalonBay’s Mission Bay property use the resident-generated Facebook page for its marketing?  You decide. Please have a look and send us your comments.  We’ll follow up on this story in future notes.

…And since we’re on the topic of Internet marketing:
Register now for the AIM 2009 Conference to learn more about social network marketing, and much, much more.

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