Why You Need to Cultivate Real Community, Not Just Online Community

There’s a lot of chatter around current multifamily blogs and magazines questioning the value of investing time in a Facebook presence for apartment communities. My personal opinion is that it does have real value (beyond simply the obvious corresponding SEO boost) as long as you can streamline the time commitment and have a real strategy so you’re not just floundering about letting time slip away in the black hole that social media can be.

However, even more important than having a slick social media strategy is having a consistent plan to enable your residents to connect in person with their neighbors and on-site staff. You can’t make people be friends. But you can create environments that allow them the opportunity to build connections with other people in their apartment community.

As with most things that are win/win for everyone, it’s bound to benefit your NOI, ROI, and bottom line. I bet there’s a study somewhere that would confirm what you already know: if people feel connected to their neighbors, they are more likely to renew their lease and become the kind of long-term residents who don’t drop trash on the stairwell. The kind of resident who takes ownership of where they live and contributes to sustaining an environment that benefits residents and the owner. When neighbors connect it’s good for business and simply just good for people.

Although I think Facebook and Twitter are worthwhile endeavors for apartment communities, they should never be more important than planning and implementing activities that help residents connect with each other in real life. It’s not just the millennial generation that experiences social media over-saturation. I remember my first experience in a chat room. That was circa 1994, I think. Remember the dial up sound? Well, the novelty is over. People are seriously craving meaningful face-to-face interactions with other humans. You can give them what they want. And the benefit goes both ways.

If you see the value and you’re motivated to help your residents genuinely connect, I suggest a strategy similar to my point in my post about Craigslist titles. Make sure you’re not planning  only the kinds of resident events that require someone to be an outgoing-lover-of-small-talk.

Not everyone will be inclined to join a potluck or “meet and greet.” Obviously, it’s not your job to be everyone’s friend or treat a resident activity like an extreme networking event or cater to every interest and preference. You can lead the horse to water, no need to force them to drink. But, make sure there’s more than one avenue to offer them the water if they are thirsty.

Consider finding one resident interested in leading a Walking Club. They could meet every other Saturday with no need for a staff member to even be involved. If you have a clubhouse with a television, host a monthly movie night or game night. Events that have an actual activity (instead of just standing around and chatting) can be less threatening for new people or certain personality types.

Is your community near a walking trail or public park? Organize a quarterly volunteer day and pick up trash. Find out if there’s an “Adopt a Park” program in your area. It could be a great way to show (and actually have!) a commitment to the local community. Once again, not only is this good PR for your multifamily image, but it’s a genuine benefit for the area.

For me, there’s a whole other element that has nothing to do with business. I just like the idea of people being a little less lonely and having a few more meaningful friendships in their life even if it didn’t happen to have a side effect like boosting resident retention. Being able to influence the environment where people live in a positive way is just a good thing. Period.

Plan some great events. Use social media to spread the word, remind residents and follow-up with pictures or other comments after the event. But don’t put all your energy into cultivating an online community if your in-person community is where you efforts are really needed.     (Photo Credit)

What kinds of activities have been successful in your community? How have you seen social media engagement affect resident connections in real life?

3 Comments

  • “But don’t put all your energy into cultivating an online community if your in-person community is where you efforts are really needed.”

    I landed here by accident but the title of your post caught my attention and I thought of dropping a few lines for appreciation for your thoughtful writing. I agree with this theme and I think it’s very vital aspect of building real communities, real platform for success in today’s world.

    Thanks,
    Kumar

  • Hello Apartment Marketing Blog!
    I really enjoyed your blog and would like permission to possibly have a link on our site (www.apartmentcareers.com) linking people to your blog. I would like to invite you to check out our blog page and see if you might consider doing the same on your site from time to time. Please send me a note at info@apartmentcareers.com to answer both questions.Thanks so much and keep up the great job! jbenner@apartmentcareers.com

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