I live in a funky old house subdivided into six apartment units and I’ve lived there for almost three years. I live in a college town, so the other units see a lot of turnover and every time I see a moving truck in the driveway, I sniff around outside waiting to meet my new neighbor. Many of these people are unaccustomed to an easy display of neighborly kindness, and look horrified from the moment they realize I‘m about to try and talk to them. But this kind of neighborly communication does more than make sharing a house easier, it keeps us from asking our landlord about the same concern multiple times. While you can’t force your neighbors to start a weekly potluck, building an online space for them to interact with you and each other is beneficial for everyone.
Choose the right platform
In order to have an online community where residents regularly share information, you must choose a hosting platform that your resident demographic is comfortable with and willing to use. If your property management business already has a strong online presence that utilizes a social media site regularly, consider building a resident page using that same platform. Your ideal renter is already online. About half of people who use social media sites are between the ages of 24-44, and users over 65 are the fastest growing group of new users. Choosing between a Facebook group page, a neighborhood email listserv, a company Twitter account, or another social media site depends on your resident demographics, your comfort level with different kinds of social media, and your existing web presence.
Regular updates keep an online community alive
Encourage your tenants to use the online community by posting regular updates about the space they share. If your property management company website includes a regularly updated blog, share links to each new post for your residents to read. Include photos of the complex and the surrounding neighborhood, and post links about community events. Post any pertinent information tenants need to know about their complex such as maintenance schedules, changes in garbage pickups, or other scheduled work that could interfere with residents day to day movements. Post these noticed online even if you also send written or emailed notifications. Ask for feedback from residents, and consider hosting a giveaway or writing resident profiles to keep people attentive to the page. Make sure your residents know you welcome their participation in the community by encouraging them to post personal updates about their homes.
Who benefits from an online community?
Establishing open dialogue between you and your residents, and resident to resident, is beneficial to everyone. A regularly updated online community alerts you to problems and concerns before they grow out of control. Giving neighbors a neutral space to interact helps build stronger bonds between strangers, and a tight knit community encourages people to stay in place and continue to rent from you. Managing an online community gives your company more legitimacy and web literacy, qualities that people expect from modern businesses. Providing an online space dedicated to current residents shows your commitment to retaining good tenants, rather than only using the web to find new ones.