As Gen Z continues to dominate the student housing market and transitions into first-time renters within the multifamily market, it is increasingly important to understand their social media habits. We’ve compiled some of the key social media trends and patterns among Gen Z that student housing and multifamily property management companies should use to better connect with their Gen Z target audience.
Short-Form Video Content
Gen Z is well-known for their love of short-form video content, like TikTok and Instagram Reels. Short, digestible content that they can consume on the go will resonate best with this demographic. We recommend incorporating short-form videos on your social channels, and if you haven’t created a TikTok for your community, what are you waiting for? Showcasing a tour of your community, highlighting your amenities, or walk-throughs of your models in a quick, engaging video can help capture the attention of your Gen Z prospects.
If you’re not convinced, look at what the data is telling us. YouTube (88%), Instagram (76%), TikTok (68%), and Snapchat (67%) dominate Gen Z’s social media usage.
Gen Z values authenticity and transparency in the content they consume. They want to see real people and real experiences, rather than overly polished and curated posts. Posting user-generated content from current residents highlighting real-life experiences or testimonials is an authentic way to showcase the diversity and unique personalities of not only your residents, but of your community.
Don’t think that authenticity is enough, Gen Z expects a personalized experience from the brands they interact and engage with. They crave content that is tailored to their interests and needs. Think of it this way. You’re not selling just an apartment, you’re selling a lifestyle.
You’re selling the place where a first-time Gen Z renter is coming into adulthood for the first time. Highlight the community where your property is located that will give them the lifestyle they’re looking for.
For the adventurer, talk about proximity to hiking and biking trails. For the health nut, showcase healthy eateries and wellness amenities (like yoga & meditation studios). For the foodie, recommend restaurants with instagrammable moments.
Gen Z is not the generation to sit quietly. They are actively involved in social causes and they value companies and brands that align with their values. Sustainability ranks highest among social causes most important to Gen Z. If your apartment is LEED certified, you offer a recycling program, have a bike share program, or other initiatives, showcase your commitment to sustainability by highlighting these features in your socials or through short-form video content.
Have you thought about organizing a community-wide clean-up or some other volunteer event to encourage resident engagement while also promoting a social cause?
The days of phone calls are long gone. Gen Z prefers direct communication through messaging apps as opposed to traditional communication methods. If you want to reach this audience, make sure that you have someone on your team monitoring social comments and messages through the social apps you use.
If those messages go unanswered, you may have just lost a lead. If those public comments go unanswered, your perception to others is that you don’t value this direct communication with your prospects and residents.
Local Micro Influencers
Last, but not least, Gen Z is highly influenced by their peers and social media influencers. However, influencers with a large national or global reach may not resonate as well with Gen Z like a local micro-influencer. These influencers have smaller but highly engaged followings with a specific region which makes them more relatable and trustworthy (or authentic!) to Gen Z.
We recommend leveraging the power of a micro-influencer in your markets by partnering with them to showcase and promote your property. Student housing communities could consider partnering with a well-known student athlete that may already be living at your property. Multi family communities could consider lifestyle influencers. Whichever micro-local influencer is the right fit for your community and your residents/prospects, your collaboration with them for social content is necessary.
Host events or meet-and-greets, offer exclusive discounts of promotions. Tapping into the influence of local micro-influencers will help you increase brand awareness and attract new residents.
By understanding these social media trends and patterns among Gen Z, you can better connect with and engage your Gen Z prospects. Incorporating these trends into your social media strategy can help you build a strong, authentic relationship with your target audience, resulting in increased resident satisfaction and retention.
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About the author
Zac is the Digital Client Success Manager at Threshold. His role is vital to our operation as he helps our clients to develop and launch paid digital strategies, and strategize for short and long term success. When he’s not on the clock, you can catch him at the gym… pretty much always.
Written by Emily Barker, Graphic Designer
In the midst of the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests around the U.S., the design community revived discussions of anti-racism and activism and how it fits into the field of Graphic Design. Just what exactly does designing for social change look like? Specifically in the field of marketing and advertising, the topic of social justice can often feel at odds with the day-to-day worklife in an agency. That’s especially true in the field of real estate–centered design, where the emphasis is often ‘heads-in-beds’ and being 100% leased up, without much room for discussions on equity. However, this sort of all-or-nothing thinking, especially in fields that are complicated, nuanced, and related to issues of housing and equity, can stymie conversations on race and equity before they even get started. The truth is that there are many avenues toward anti-racist marketing while also meeting the needs of clients whose focus is on leads and leases, and real estate designers have a unique position in advocating for those anti-racist strategies.
Creating Historically-Informed Real Estate Design
Anoushka Khandwala in her article entitled “What Does it Mean To Decolonize Design” talks about understanding the schema of one’s own history as a way to re-examine motivations and find new and better modalities of design for the future. She argues that, “With every design choice we make, there’s the potential to not just exclude but to oppress; every design subtly persuades its audience one way or another and every design vocabulary has history and context.”
What can that mean for us as real estate designers? At Threshold we delved into the history of redlining and the Fair Housing Act as a way to better understand the industry and its numerous failures and shortcomings. This meant a combined team of creative and digital staff researched the history of the Fair Housing Act and redlining to create an agency-wide presentation of the history of the Fair Housing Act and red-lining. The creative team made social posts outlining the history of redlining and the creation of the Fair Housing Act during the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. For more information on redlining and how it denied Black American’s housing and generational wealth in the U.S. please click here.
What this revealed to us was that, as real estate marketers, we had an obligation to help our clients adhere to the FHA rules and regulations. Strictly speaking this meant using photos of diverse individuals in the marketing materials, ensuring that websites were ADA compliant, and using FHA and ADA icons. But it also revealed holes in the system or gray areas where we could advocate for our clients to choose inclusive marketing and branding strategies and also choose to go above and beyond in their digital marketing strategies to prioritize inclusivity.
How Designers Can Be Advocates for Social Change
In Jarrett Fuller’s article on Isometric Studios he describes the studio as one that is “rethinking the way in which designers build a better world”. The founders Andy Chen and Waqas Jawaid describe their clientele as broad: “We’ll take on any kind of client who demonstrates a desire to think about what authentic inclusion looks like, what foregrounding marginalized narratives looks like.” The article goes on to describe the work of Isometric as that of advocates as well as designers.
This is a familiar role for designers as we are already advocating for good design as we talk to our clients about our work and advise them on the best choices for their brand. Isometric Studios would take that same advocacy a step further and challenge the client’s perspective on social issues when needed and advocate for development of brands that support the greater social good. Sometimes this advocacy can look like recommending that a client incorporate people of diverse races in their lifestyle photography or choosing a logo that celebrates the existing community culture where their new development will be built.
One important way to have these conversations with clients is to directly addressing the elephant that is so often in the room: gentrification. By addressing this openly we are better able to advocate for our clients to help them maintain a positive reputation and resident satisfaction. These types of conversations present the opportunity for us to simultaneously advocate for our client and the greater community’s needs by encouraging our clients to create positive connections with their communities.
How do we ask our clients to connect with the communities they will exist in? Here are a few suggestions:
- Hosting events for the neighborhood at the property
- Striking mutually advantageous partnerships with local businesses
- Resident appreciation events that feature goods and services from the local community
- Hiring local instructors to teach fitness, art, or meditation classes
- Hiring local artists to design artwork for the property
- Host a concert of local musicians
- Offer communal spaces to local groups for weekly meetings
- Organize volunteer days with residents or staff in the local community
The point of these conversations and ongoing partnerships with the community isn’t to whitewash the real estate industry, but to offer real-world pathways for community engagement for our clients.
Isometric Studios, in their interview with Jarrett Fuller describes their name’s origin as “a floor plan drawn at a thirty degree angle where the same scale is used for every axis, creating a non-distorted image. ‘It’s an ideal that isn’t really possible,’ Jawaid said. ‘But we’re interested in that ideal. We’re designing for that ideal.'”
In the same way, we can also struggle towards a more ideal design practice in real estate design. We can become advocates for creative work that will be better suited for this current, complex, and multicultural world and our clients will benefit from the nuance that design will bring to their brands.
Written by Chelsea Friel, Graphic Designer
Designing with accessibility at the forefront has never been more important, but it can be daunting to determine whether or not your website is in compliance with regulations. In 2020 alone, over 3500 digital accessibility lawsuits were filed, including federal and state ADA lawsuits, and an estimated 56 million people in the U.S. are currently living with a disability. As we look to expand our services in the real estate and housing market, it’s paramount that we keep accessibility top of mind in our work. The goal is to improve our practices to make our designs as accessible as possible for the widest audience, and to make usability as high a priority as visual appeal.
What Does Web Accessibility Look Like?
To be frank, the word “compliance” doesn’t exactly bring to mind a font of creative flights of fancy. It usually summons images of black Arial text neatly organized on a white background, which is fine for doing your taxes but less than ideal for promoting your sparkling new multifamily property. In truth, adhering to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG, from here on out) is pretty easy to incorporate alongside our existing design practices. WCAG ratings are ranked from A to AAA, in a sort of “good, better, best” system. If A is the rank for a solidly usable website, then AAA is the gold standard of accessibility.
Similarly to how we build successful brands that thrive in the wild, the process of establishing an accessible web presence requires some collaboration between designers, copywriters, and developers. By keeping a few helpful guidelines in mind, each team’s work contributes to a fully accessible real estate website that anyone can (and will want to) use, regardless of their level of ability.
A Helpful Guide for Accessible Design
When establishing a color palette, high contrast is critical for usability. When considering moderate to severe visual impairment, the ideal contrast ratio is between 1 to 3 and 1 to 4.5, depending on the size and the boldness of the text. The larger and thicker the characters, the lower the ratio can be while maintaining legibility to the eye, or to a screen reader. Any important copy should be designed with the highest contrast possible to ensure greater visibility for users.
Chrome extensions such as Spectrum can help you determine how user-friendly your website is by showing you alternate versions of your website based on various visual abilities.
On the topic of visual acuity, consider using alternate methods of establishing a hierarchy of content apart from color changes. If a piece of text changes color when a user hovers, the addition of a line under the text serves as an additional cue that the copy can be clicked or is interactive in some way. Other visual indicators can be icons, boxes, or typeface changes (such as semibold to bold or black) to indicate to the user that they’re on the right track.
Charts and graphs can also present a challenge. Apart from using distinct colors to designate a data set, one solution is to incorporate texture or patterns into the design to further differentiate the information presented to the user. Trello has a plugin that can convert graphs using color blindness–friendly patterns to help aid legibility for all users, while maintaining the overall look and feel of the design.
Alt Text & ARIA Labels
Used to describe an image when it is unavailable to the user, alt text and ARIA labels should provide as much detail as possible. Describe what’s happening in the image instead of opting for the file name or a bland categorization of the subject like “man” or “house.” For folks who use screen readers to navigate websites, this attention to image descriptions provides a much clearer idea of what is in the design and what the website is trying to convey. This can be a key factor in whether or not they pursue your property further, depending on how well you describe the photo of the premises or the neighborhood using these tags and labels.
Content and Type Hierarchy
When writing copy for a website, simpler is better. Important messages should be short and to the point, while conveying all of the essential information a user needs to know right off the bat. WCAG recommends limiting a line of text to 80 characters or fewer, and to avoid writing overly complicated or lengthy sentences. Designers and copywriters should work in tandem to draft copy that looks beautiful in the design, excites the user with its content, and can be read by as many people as possible, regardless of the tools they use to view the website.
UI and Navigation
Users of varying abilities frequently use keyboard navigation to explore websites, and care should be taken to establish a logical flow of information. Good design is obvious, and a user shouldn’t have to spend time deciphering how to move through a website to find what they need. Clean focus states, clear and easy-to-remedy error states, and concise links makes a site more accessible to all, and provides a better user experience across the board.
Designing for Everyone
Accessibility should always be as high a priority as creating a beautiful design. A visually stunning website that can only be accessed by half of our users is ultimately a design failure, and our goal should be to be as inclusive as possible in our work. As we continue to go above and beyond for our clients and our audience, normalizing accessibility practices deepens our understanding of who we serve, and provides a more inclusive space where all are welcome.
Believe it or not, email is still one of the most effective ways to nurture leads. Though the digital landscape has evolved dramatically, folks across all age groups still use email every single day—for many, it’s the first thing they do after waking up.
Not only is email marketing a reliable way to reach your audience, it’s also a powerful strategy for relationship building with prospects and current residents alike. It particularly excels as a retargeting strategy, keeping your property top-of-mind at various stages of a prospect’s housing search or reminding a current resident of all the reasons to renew. But the best part of all is that it’s one of the most cost-effective strategies you can incorporate into your real estate marketing plan. That’s why the right email marketing strategy can make a major impact on your real estate marketing goals. Let’s talk about some of the top strategies you can employ to get better email marketing results.
Always Begin With “WIIFM”
In other words, “What’s in it for me?” Especially in our busy day-to-day lives, people need to feel confident that your email has something to offer them. If it’s a waste of their time and attention, it could do more harm than good as they form their impression of your brand. So avoid waxing poetical about your brand or providing unnecessary information. All the info you include, every link to another page, and every element of the design should provide some clear value to the user on the other end. Remember, it’s not about you, the brand, it’s about the bridge you create between your brand and the user.
Personalize Emails Whenever Possible
People appreciate a personal touch, especially when they get so many emails every day that are sent to a mass audience. Where you choose to live is one of the most personal decisions you can make, so prospects and residents shouldn’t feel like they’re just a faceless number in your leasing pipeline. When you can, personalize emails with a salutation using their first name or, if applicable, a reference to content from their previous email. Touches like these show your audience that they’re seen as individuals, even in cases where you don’t know anything about them yet.
Send Regularly, But Not Too Often
Whether you’re following up with prospects or communicating with current tenants, you need to show you care without becoming a nuisance. Bear in mind that most people get many emails every day and are likely to ignore, archive, or delete emails that arrive so often they become spammy. Sending an email once a week is typically the maximum you should aim for, while once per month is about the minimum.
There are exceptions, of course. When communicating about a time-sensitive issue like community-wide repairs and renovations or following up on a prospect’s email, don’t worry about the frequency of your sends. These should be considered ad hoc emails rather than a part of your regular email marketing cadence.
When it comes to your marketing-focused emails, planning ahead will help you ensure you’re getting the message out without sending emails so often that it becomes spammy. It will also help you plan ahead to for marketing campaigns appropriate to your seasonality. For example, you might plan a renewal campaign in the months leading up to what’s traditionally your slow season, or you might plan an email advertising holiday deals for new leases to go out in mid December.
Improve Open Rates with Better Subject Lines
Even a stellar email design can be useless if the email is never opened. The most influential factor determining whether a user opens your email is the subject line. In order to encourage email opens, it’s essential that you provide compelling info toward the beginning so that the important stuff isn’t cut off based on the size of your user’s screen and inbox layout. Other tried-and-true strategies include using a number (Save $500 By Referring a Friend), including an emoji (Immediate move-ins available on 1-bedrooms😲), including a first name (Hi, Chad, thanks for reaching out!) or posing a question (Have you seen our pet-friendly amenities?).
Improve Click-Through-Rates By Leaving Room for Curiosity
When your goal is to get users to visit a web page, it’s best to leave them guessing. Provide just enough information to entice them without providing the whole story. This way you’ll have convinced them there’s something they want on the other side, but they have to click through to get it.
For example, say you’re running a special on certain floor plans and you want to direct users to your floor plan page where they can see specials, explore floor plans, and hopefully begin an application. You might leave room for curiosity by saying something like, “Get 4 weeks FREE on select 1-Bedrooms! This and other great incentives are available for a limited time. Visit our website to learn more and see if you can snag the perfect deal for you.”
Improve Click-Through-Rates With a Clear CTA
Since the point of email marketing is typically to drive your audience toward specific actions (visiting a webpage, starting the renewal process, completing an application, scheduling a tour, etc.), it’s important to make that desired action clear. The clearest way to signal this information to your audience is through the use of Call-To-Action (CTA) buttons that stand out from the rest of the email.
Keep the copy on your CTA buttons short and to-the-point; it should be clear, when clicking, what the outcome will be (no one appreciates a bait-and-switch). For example, “Apply Now” should take users to a page where they can start an application. “See Floor Plans” should take users to your floor plans page. A “Learn More” button beneath a headline about specials should take a user to a page that contains more information about your specials. It’s pretty straightforward; just bear in mind that the goal is to match up a user’s motivation when clicking to the outcome they actually get on the other side. Otherwise, they’re likely to bounce without ever completing the desired action. And that experience may even sour them to your brand moving forward.
Make Copy Easier to Skim
Even when you have a lot to say, keeping things brief is the best way to ensure your audience actually digests the information you provide. So keep things short, whether it’s your subject line, headers, paragraphs, or CTA copy. The easier an email is to scan, the more likely your audience is to interact with that email and ultimately take the desired action instead of becoming bored or frustrated and moving on with their busy day. Other elements that can make copy more scannable is the selective use of font weight, color, and size to emphasize which parts are most important. We’ve done that in this blog post, for example.
Use Simple, Branded Email Designs
An email doesn’t have to be stunningly designed to be effective, but it should follow the basic principles of UX. That means a design that provides a clear hierarchy of information, appears legibly on all devices (more on that below), and uses a color palette that’s easy on the eyes. Your emails should also consistently use elements of your branding, including your logo, brand colors, and brand voice so that users know exactly what sort of email they’re looking at as soon as they open it, and any users who receive multiple emails from you begin constructing a consistent impression of your brand, building familiarity and hopefully even loyalty.
Since creating excellent email designs can be time-consuming, creating a number of templates can be especially useful. This way you empower your team to do more with email marketing without an exorbitant amount of work needed to make it happen day-to-day.
Use Mobile-Friendly Designs
Bear in mind that, these days, most users will be checking their email on their phone. That’s especially true during the morning and evening hours. So designing an email that looks great on desktop but terrible on a mobile device will likely result in poor click-through-rates and conversions. That’s why we recommend designing emails for mobile first instead of designing for desktop, then trying to translate that design into a mobile version.
The day of the week and time of day can have a significant impact on open rates and CTR. Understand your target audience’s typical day-to-day, then schedule your email sends to go out when folks are most likely to open and click through.
There are a number of philosophies regarding the best time to send out an email. Some like to reach audiences right when they’re waking up in the morning so that their email is at the top of their inbox when they start checking emails. Others find that sending over the lunch hour or as work is wrapping up for the day to be the best time to command the attention of otherwise busy prospects. And different audiences will have different daily routines; for example, consider the different lifestyles of student versus multifamily versus senior housing residents.
The best way to select your time of send is to test the waters. A/B testing is a particularly powerful option to determine what the best time of send may be for your overall audience. Over time, you can learn what times of day result in the most opens and clicks among your audience and then send at those times moving forward.
Build Email Lists With Lead Gen Campaigns and Contact Us Forms
Collecting the email addresses of current residents is easy enough, but building an email list of prospects is harder. While it may be tempting to buy a contact list to expand your email marketing reach, this is a particularly poor strategy for apartment marketers because it mostly results in a list full of unqualified prospects who will ignore or unsubscribe from your emails. They’ll also likely report your emails as spam, which can impact the performance of your email marketing down the road.
So we recommend gathering your contacts list the old fashioned way. The primary way that apartment communities tend to collect email addresses is through contact form fills on their website, but that strategy tends to capture folks later in their buyer journey, when they’ve already entered the consideration phase. Adding other strategies that can collect email addresses from folks earlier in their journey can help bring more prospects into your lead nurturing funnel, where you really have the ability to wow them. Facebook Lead Gen campaigns are one way to capture email addresses from people who have visited your website or searched for housing, but wouldn’t necessarily have reached out to contact you.
Just don’t forget, people are used to getting lots of spam in their inbox, and may feel hesitant to give out their email address. Clearly demonstrating what’s in it for them (i.e. providing clear value) will make them more likely to go through with handing over the keys to their inbox.
Internet Listing Services (ILSs) have long been a major part of the marketing strategies of real estate brands, and it’s not hard to see why. These online listing sites like Apartments.com, Apartment Finder, and Zillow help real estate brands ensure their properties show up in Google search results, driving clicks and conversions while freeing up the property management to focus on concerns beyond digital marketing strategy.
However, ILSs may not be the best marketing option for real estate brands today, and a shift away from these services is already beginning within the real estate industry. There are a few key reasons for this, which we’ll discuss, but the main takeaway is this: internet listing services simply aren’t worth the money real estate brands spend on them—at least, not when relied on as heavily as they traditionally have been.
So what should real estate brands be doing instead? Well, the answer is complex, and we’ll get into it, but the short version is that these brands should be diversifying their digital marketing mix. Let’s talk about why and how.
Internet Listing Services Are Easy But Not Efficient
We’ve already touched on why real estate brands have been putting their marketing dollars into ILSs: it makes things simple. It is a truth universally acknowledged that most property managers have enough on their plate without worrying about how to optimize their digital marketing strategy. Many real estate brands choose to let ILSs worry about that stuff for them, knowing they can benefit from the strong SEO and SEM of established ILSs that prospects already recognize and use.
However, real estate brands are beginning to understand that they’re not getting as much bang for their buck this way. While ILSs do bring in leads, brands are likely to pay a much higher cost per lead than they would on other digital marketing strategies like paid search or retargeting ads. Not only that, but ILSs could be delivering less qualified leads, resulting in fewer lead conversions, which brings us to our next point….
Internet Listing Services Can’t Verify Conversions
In other words, ILSs can’t prove their worth or provide you with analytics that help you make smart decisions about your marketing spend. That’s because when a user lands on an ILS after searching for housing, your property appears along with competing properties in the area, and users often click through several listings as they peruse their options. That means that ILSs attempting to track conversion rates by either a first-click or last-click attribution model can easily provide an inaccurate or incomplete report of your conversions from their site.
So, unless these prospects take a tour, start an application, or otherwise reach out to property staff, you may never get a chance to verify where that lead came from and how much value ILSs are really adding to your marketing strategy. And with unclear analytics, you miss out on the opportunity to evaluate and optimize your strategy along the way.
Relying Solely on ILSs Means Missing A Big Opportunity for Growth
In addition to missing out on the opportunity for continuous optimization, relying solely on an ILS for your digital marketing means limiting your brand’s marketing potential in other ways.
One of the shortcomings of ILSs is that they don’t do a good job of making your property stand out from the competition. Instead, they lump you in with your competitors and provide easy opportunities for your prospects to shift their attention to properties other than your own as they search. Other digital marketing strategies like PPC ads and SEO give you more opportunity to stand out from your competition and make a strong first (or second, or third) impression.
Speaking of making more than one impression, another shortcoming of ILSs is that they only allow you to intervene at one step of your audience’s buyer journey. Every prospect goes through a number of different stages as they search for housing, and using an ILS tends to be one of the earlier stages in the digital buyer journey. Being able to reach your audience early in their journey is great, but reaching them more than once is better. If you limit your digital marketing to just ILSs, you’ll miss out on opportunities to stay top-of-mind and catch your prospects at later stages of their journey when they might be more likely to convert.
Another way ILSs fall short is that they tend not to create strongly qualified leads when used alone. Again, that’s because the ILS user experience places your property alongside your competitors’ and limits your opportunity to wow your audience. Spending your marketing dollars to instead create a website experience that is both conversion- and search-optimized allows you the opportunity to connect with your prospects through compelling branding, provide your audience with reasons to trust, and deliver all the information a prospect needs to convert.
So What’s the Answer?
We actually don’t recommend that you stop using ILSs entirely. ILSs are currently a useful way to reach prospects at a key part of their housing search. However, there’s a lot more you could be doing.
That’s why we recommend diversifying your marketing mix. Keep ILSs in that mix if they’re helping you, but consider allocating some of the spend you’d normally put toward an ILS to other digital strategies that are cost-effective and provide more opportunities to reach your prospects and stand out from the competition.
Creating a conversion-optimized website with strong SEO is a fantastic start. Consider also launching search ads through Google Ads as well as retargeting display ads that help you stay top-of-mind for prospects who have already encountered your property through their online housing search.
If this is sounding like a lot, we get it. You can’t become a digital marketing expert overnight, and many folks in the real estate world simply don’t have the time to devote to it. Still, there’s a cost-effective way to incorporate better marketing strategies into your budget. Can you guess what we’re going to say?
If you guessed, “work with a marketing agency,” you’d be correct. Better yet, work with Threshold! We specialize in the real estate industry and we have experience working within your budget to create great marketing results. Best of all, we’ve got a team of expert digital strategists who can help you launch effective marketing strategies and optimize them as you go, so you’re always getting the most effective marketing for your spend.
If you want to learn more about digital marketing with Threshold, chat with a team member today! We’d love to get you started.