DALLAS – It’s no surprise that digital marketing – and primarily social media marketing – is one of the best ways to reach potential new tenants in student housing. Students spend much of their downtime browsing various social media platforms, from TikTok to Instagram.
And while the focus has been on digital marketing in the industry for some time, the COVID-19 pandemic has put even more emphasis on the space by eliminating opportunities for traditional marketing methods such as events and in-person visits.
In December, a panel of marketers discussed what’s hot and what’s not for social media marketing at InterFace Conference Group’s Third Annual LeaseCon/TurnCon in Dallas.
According to a 2021 survey noted by panel moderator Alison Slager, national business development manager for LeaseLabs by RealPage, 79% of marketers have used paid ads on social media platforms. With marketing budgets tightening, it’s important to know what resonates with today’s students to ensure that all marketing dollars are well spent.
Panelists agreed that the most dominant social media marketing platform right now is Instagram, especially with its recent addition of Reels, a tool that allows users to post short videos.
“Instagram will likely be the most dominant platform for the foreseeable future, so it’s important for owners and operators to understand how the platform is changing while formulating their marketing strategy,” said Michael Newton, CEO of Swarm.
Instagram is planning several changes over the next year, one of which is a transition in how the platform displays content. “There’s a huge shift coming where society is going back to a chronological flow,” Newton said. “It shakes up your marketing strategy if you work with Instagram now, and it will be the biggest change in marketing for the rental year ahead.”
As it stands, the platform uses a written algorithm to delete your posts unless you pay money, according to Newton. With a chronological timeline, the best way to get noticed will be to post as much as possible – three to five times a day in order to really create impressions. “This return to a chronological flow is going to allow companies to jostle each other and get noticed with huge reach just by putting in the work,” he said.
Another recent change is that Instagram will now allow any user to post a link to their story, whereas in previous years links could only be included if you had more than 10,000 followers. Matt Pavlick, President of GRO Marketing, recently used this tool when launching the company’s new website and was able to garner 380 website visits in a short time.
“It stands to reason that if any of your properties publish something, you should include links,” Pavlick said. “Instagram has also rolled out a tool where you can collaborate with another account for posts. If your property has 3,000 followers and an influencer has 5,000 followers, the potential reach is 8,000 followers for a collaborative post, you so you can more than double your views.Both are eye-catching free tools.
TikTok, a social media platform where viewers can watch abridged home videos, was named by the panel as the most promising marketing platform.
“It’s really changed the way we consume content, especially for Gen Z,” Newton noted. “That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to create TikToks on your property, but short, quick videos are how students want to consume your content. Anything that takes too long or requires any effort is going to hurt you.
During the social media post, Leslie Cole-Gallant, vice president of strategic initiatives at The Pivotal Cos., noted that transparency, creating a real connection, and having a face behind your brand are the most important considerations.
“Let residents and potential future residents know that you are their resource and that they can really connect with you when they walk into the rental office,” she said. “If residents have seen members of your rental office in funny TikTok videos, they will immediately flock to these people because they know them and have an established connection. Rental and marketing efforts must have a connection.
Newton agreed, noting that content personalization has a huge impact when looking to connect with today’s generation of students through social media. “There’s a strategy that we’ve deployed in almost every property we’ve worked with that was willing to try it and 100% of the time it works really well,” he said.
“If you do some sort of outbound organic social media marketing where you find students and send them direct messages, try asking one of your team members who has a happy, outgoing personality to send a video 10 seconds instead by mentioning his name,” Newton continued.
“For example, ‘Hi Ashley, I saw you’re a student at UTK. We’re having a pool party. You should drop by. That’s how Gen Z wants to communicate. When we sent this kind of message , it’s very rarely seen and ignored, it’s often loved, or sometimes the students respond with a video message, and then it’s a very warm and organic contact.
And while the conversation regarding marketing often focuses on digital, GRO’s Pavlick noted that he expects the incorporation of in-person events to be very successful this upcoming rental season.
“People are absolutely tired of Zoom calls and still appreciate the personal touch,” he said. “I believe in-person events are going to work for this coming fall. In a sea of everyone throwing and clasping for your attention and purchase consideration, reaching out personally, such as through a video or in-person event, is going to stand out from the crowd. .