It has been an extremely busy time at RD2, and thus the blog has been a little quiet for the past few days. Part of that busy-ness for me has been moving. I have moved to Houston, am continuing to work for RD2 remotely, and will be in town frequently for client meetings and such.
I had lived in the same house for my entire life until I went to college. And I have moved every single year since then.
Social Media has been a part of my life for a long time, but I made this move using Social Media tools almost exclusively. Maybe it’s because I’m moving to a town I’ve never lived in before (the last time I moved further than across town I conveniently had the limited options of Texas A&M dorms)… but whatever the reason, here is a catalog of the tools I used and how.
As I will be working remotely and won’t be commuting every day, proximity to the boyfriend’s work is must. I searched for the location in Google Maps and then used the “search nearby” feature to search for “apartment.” I found what felt like hundreds within just a few miles.
At first I looked through every single option’s reviews, and then I quickly got tired of reading bad review after bad review. I know that dissatisfied customers are infinitely (actually, some argue it’s up to 1,000) more likely to post reviews online than satisfied ones, but all of the events they were detailing did happen. Someone did get mugged in the parking lot, there was a pest issue in someone’s apartment in March and no one did anything about it. These accounts may be slightly overblown, but they are based on fact.
Slightly disheartened, I begin only looking at options that have 4 or 5 star ratings. And it’s a plus if they have a website. A good website overcomes many ills when I’m trying to find information. I’m honestly amazed at how low the bar is in this industry, especially as I would assume people moving from city to city spend lots of time looking up information online before they make a trip to search in person.
If an apartment doesn’t have a website listed in their Google Maps listing (for more on that check out our RD2 blog post on the subject), I almost immediately rule them out. Maybe it’s because I’m in the industry, but I feel having at least a simple brochure website is a basic pillar of a marketing strategy.
I make a list of the ones I like and check the reviews on Apartmentratings.com for good measure. I narrow down my choices.
I look for listings on Craigslist and stumble across many that are posted by an apartment locator named Liza. I check out her website, decide she’s legit, and shoot her an e-mail. Within an hour we’re on the phone talking about what I’m looking for. The next day she sends me 50 more listings to consider.
I do well with fewer options, and the list Liza sends me seems to go on forever. I check the Google Maps and ApartmentRatings.com ratings for the first few pages to qualify and then choose my top 10 based on floor plans and amenities. Liza (who was absolutely fantastic) takes us around to our top few choices and we fall in love with one in a great location, with great amenities, at a great price.
Once all the details are ironed out, I announce my news to the world on my blog, which feeds into my facebook profile as a Note. I get several comments from excited friends with recommendations on where to live, where to eat, etc. I search my friends by network and send a message to the ones who live in Houston announcing my arrival.
The next step is actually moving. I ask for advice for moving the cat (and the four hour car ride) from my Twitter followers and it turns out BJ moved his cat from Austin to Dallas recently. Per his and a few other suggestions, I get some inexpensive sedatives from the vet, put her in a carrier, and enjoy the trip down 45.
The lesson here is that you have to meet people where they are.
I realize that I am not every single company’s target audience (those weird and creepy Australia commercials are a clear indication of that), but an increasing number of people are looking to social media tools like Social Networks, user generated ratings, and tools like Twitter… so you have to be sure you’re prepared. Tips:
- Participate: Sites like Apartmentratings.com allow management to “claim” a listing as their own and then respond to negative comments to clear up confusion or explain the situation.
- Monitor your brand: Tools like Search.twitter.com allow you to subscribe to an RSS feed of any search term (including your products, company name, etc.)
- Set the bar: If you’re in an industry (like real estate) that has an extremely low expectation when it comes to web, you are actually at an advantage because any kind of innovation (in functionality or design) will be a BIG win for your customers.
- Think like your customers: At RD2 we put together very detailed personas of our clients’ audiences before we start designing any website. Think about who they are, what they want online, what they are doing already, why they are compelled to find you, etc. It goes a long way in ensuring the finished product is relevant to your customers.