What Can Landlords Learn From Social Media?

As we resoundingly hear from every possible news outlet, social media is among the newest and (perhaps) one of the most effective ways of reaching out to people – both personally and professionally. On the surface, it looks great – a way to market your brand under a veneer of well-manicured content. However, social media can be a double-edged sword because now your fans followers and foes can discuss you both positively and negatively in a forum as wide as the Internet itself. Even if you are doing everything right, there are always sour apples who talk trash for the purpose of talking trash (some days most of us can probably identify with this behavior). And if you make a mistake – and most of us do time and again – beware! Due to re-tweets, re-posts, and bookmarking sites two or three angry voices can resound around the Web with the power of a thousand. Here are some shocking examples of companies failing to understand the power of Social Media until it was too late.

Justin Kurtz vs T&J Towing

Justin Kurtz, was sleeping near his Kalamazoo College campus when his car was towed from the street in front of his house. As somebody who habitually tinkered with his car in his spare time, he noticed several strange things when he went to pick it up from T&J Towing. The alarm had been re-set, the window had been broken, and his parking pass had been all but scraped off of the inside windshield. All of these signs led Kurtz, 19, to conclude that the T&J Towing had intentionally vandalized his car so that they could then tow it away and subsequently charge him an impound fee.

Kurtz protested his bill and filed a police report, but nothing came of it – and so he turned to what felt like his last resource – the Internet. He created a Facebook fan page called Kalamazoo Residents Against T&J Towing, shared his story, and encouraged others to do the same. The group caught on – apparently Kurtz was not the first person to feel wronged by T&J. Over 10,000 negative reviews poured in! By the time the national news media caught wind of Kurtz’s Facebook phenomenon, T&J’s local business was crippled. Ultimately, T&J filed a $750,000 libel suit against Kurtz – a suit it is extremely unlikely that they will win.

Dave Caroll vs. United Airlines: United Breaks Guitars

United Breaks Guitars (music video)

Dave Caroll, a musician from Canada, was traveling on United Airlines with his band The Sons of Maxwell when a fellow passenger observed that airline employees were carelessly throwing guitars around on the tarmac. Caroll and his band were immediately horrified as they had checked several expensive Taylor guitars with the airline (it is very difficult to carry a guitar on board). When they retrieved their luggage, Caroll found that indeed, the neck of his $3,500 had been snapped in two.

Caroll immediately filed a complaint with the airline and demanded reimbursement for their rough handling. After 9 months of exhausting every avenue, the dejected singer turned to YouTube with a little music video called “United Breaks Guitars”. The song went viral and received at least 150,000 hits in the first day it was up. Within four days United was calling and offering to make things right – but Caroll was too angry with them to accept their 9-month-late apology. United shifted its strategy and requested to use the video as a training tool – but little could help to salvage their mistake. Some analysts even recorded a 10% drop in United’s stock following the release of the song – costing investors roughly $180 million. Whether the drop in stock was due to Caroll or not, lasting damage to United’s image had been done.

You vs. Them (or Them vs. You!)

Question: Sure these viral Social Media stories are interesting to read – but what do they have to do with you?

Answer: They have a lot to do with you.

Landlords, property managers, and multifamily executives can look at Social Media in one of two ways:

1) Your current and former tenants have an efficient and potentially very loud way to voice their grievances using Social Media outlets.

2)Social Media Outlets provide you an efficient, personal, and potentially very effective way of listening and responding to your tenants’ problems.

While the chances that a Dave Caroll-esque viral video will eclipse the Internet and paint your blackened image all over the national news media are slim – a Justin Kurtz-type example is not out of the question. I am not suggesting that you are currently practicing business similar to that of T&J Towing – not at all. I am merely pointing out that in any human relationship problems can occur. Rather than ignoring issues raised by tenants and essentially forcing them onto an online public forum – why not create your own public forum and encourage a mutual discussion of problems and solutions? Facebook would be a great place to directly address tenant and property groups – and demonstrate your appropriate and timely responses. Twitter could serve to give people consistent updates as to the status of their concerns. By effectively using Social Media, you can give your tenants the attention they need while assuring others that if and when they have an issue, it will be adequately addressed.

Are you a property manager or landlord using Social Media to help you in your day-to-day interaction with occupants? Tell us your stories!


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