Managing Your Apartment Community’s Online Reputation During COVID-19

Jenessa Stark

Considering the curveballs that COVID-19 is throwing us, it may seem inevitable that your property’s star rating will drop on review platforms. After all, 95% of the country is currently under stay-at-home orders. For multifamily communities, more people at home means that minor issues such as noise, closed amenities and changes in staff availability have a greater potential to develop into resident concerns that may end up amplified in the form of online reviews.

It also means that people are spending more time online than ever before. Enter the rise of 360˚ Virtual Tours and remote apartment tours

While the seasonal uptick we typically see in the rental economy will take longer to present than usual, the fact is that people still need somewhere to live. With social distancing recommendations not letting up anytime soon, the leasing process will continue to be mostly or entirely virtual. This makes filling your marketing funnel with quality leads crucial. Part of that is speaking to the 86% or more of potential residents who will read online reviews—and your responses to them—before they decide to sign a lease. Each review response addresses one resident’s concern, but collectively, effective review responses benefit your ranking on search engines, helping those who are searching for a new home find you more easily.

Learn how to adjust your marketing strategy given the  COVID-19 crisis HERE.

Reputation Marketing is Your Partner in Preventing Financial Distress

The National Multifamily Housing Council reported a 12% decrease in rental payments for April 2020. We understand that this is an unsettling figure. If this trend continues and residents are permitted to skip payments, it’s really simple math to figure out what comes next. 

Multihousing News recently shared some advice about handling residents’ inability to pay rent due to coronavirus-related hardship. They recommend “communicating to residents that it’s a priority for the industry to partner with them to help them retain their housing,” among other ideas.

Preserving existing leases and relationships you’ve already cultivated is undoubtedly an essential piece of your strategy during this pandemic crisis. Letters to residents can communicate what options are available, but your efforts shouldn’t end there. When executed correctly, review responses encourage collaboration between residents and management. They also help you take advantage of a massive opportunity—showing prospective residents how you handle a crisis.

Reputation Marketing Best Practices for COVID-19

In this uncertain time, well-crafted review responses are more important than ever. While empathy is always employed as a best practice in GTMA Reputation Marketing, our team is taking special consideration for COVID-19 related concerns. Regardless of the information a resident discloses, we approach each response with the understanding that, like many individuals at this time, they are likely experiencing personal challenges. 

You don’t have to have a surefire solution to the resident’s concern today, and you don’t have to publish your coronavirus-related policies online. The human element of empathy can help encourage the resident to take the conversation offline where a resolution can be found. 

Here are some other best practices for responding to online reviews:

  • Take an unbiased approach, and never be defensive.
  • Avoid sharing personal details about the reviewer’s life, finances, etc.
  • Use the reviewer’s name, if it is available.
  • Encourage the reviewer to take the conversation offline.
  • Respond to positive and negative reviews in a timely manner.

Yes, it’s also important to respond to positive reviews! Here are some examples of positive feedback we’ve responded to during the COVID-19 pandemic.

5-star review on Yelp for a Palm Desert, CA condo community from user “B.H.”

I wanted to thank the office staff they have done a great job during this pandemic. I can only imagine how most of my neighbors have been reacting. I have heard them complaining just coming from my parking spot, they can’t use the pool or the fitness center. So sad that they only think of themselves. I would like everyone to survive this pandemic even my grouchy neighbors.” 

5-star review on Yelp for a Coconut Creek, FL apartment community from user “Grace C.”

“I’m updating this review because I think they deserve it. They may have issues here and there but I think they’ve been nothing but amazing on what they can control. The service is great and everyone is so kind. They keep up with maintaining the property (in my opinion at least) and I’ve had nothing but a great experience living here. I will be moving since we decided to purchase a house however I’d recommend [Apartment Name] to anyone. I think their prices are more than fair considering I’ve seen much higher.”

Read a Reputation Marketing case study HERE

Let’s Stay Connected Online

The coronavirus is impacting lives and communities around the world. With a majority of people home around-the-clock, it’s important to meet people where they are: online. By keeping the lines of communication open in online review platforms, you’re able to remain aware of your residents’ experiences and continue to serve them, all the while improving your SEO ranking and filling your marketing funnel. 

Additionally, listening and acting on the feedback you read in those reviews will score major points with current residents and can clue you into opportunities to differentiate your community from the one across the street.

Given the changes your on-site team is likely to navigate, it can be increasingly difficult to respond to reviews in a timely manner. When we partner together, our team monitors your reviews on multiple platforms daily and communicates with your on-site team with the goal of providing an empathetic and unbiased response within 24-48 hours. This approach improves the likelihood of a positive outcome. 

Want to learn more about how Reputation Marketing can help your evolving marketing strategy? Start with a quick email to our Partnerships Team so they can walk you through our dashboards and explain our premium reputation management and SEO services. 

Jenessa Stark

COVID-19 Curveballs Keep Digital Marketing & Communications a Priority for Apartment Owners

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