Industries are many, but all share a commonality: their reputation with those they serve. In 2023, brands — specifically, real estate communities — are faced with several factors their potential customers and consumers will take into consideration. What sort of mission is your community devoted to? Is there a philanthropic angle to the way you lead your teams? Are you giving back? But, above all, what do other people think?
Reviews have been around for a long time, in varying formats. From verbal critics to newspaper articles to modern-day online engagements, word of mouth is the easiest way for the general public to validate a product or a brand as being worth their time. In the housing industry, there are five primary platforms most managers and marketers keep tabs on: Google, Facebook, Yelp, Apartments.com, and ApartmentRatings.com (and likely in that very order). As all of these platforms have seen updates, changes, and adjustments over the years, it seems high time to determine the value that each platform brings to you and your community’s reputation in 2023.
The one that started it all still reigns supreme and is likely the first word people think of when it comes to reviews, campaigns, incentives, and engagements with residents. In fact, in 2021, 71% of all online reviews were on Google (Source: https://birdeye.com/blog/top-google-review-trends-in-2022/). Google is the most popular search engine in the world, so it makes sense that the integrated reviews on your Google Business Profile are a major factor in determining your outward-facing reputation. Key features, such as different sorting features, area-specific questions to validate an experience, and natural language processing highlights, make this the easiest platform to use for both internal and external experiences. When it comes to user engagement, don’t remain dormant for long — your prospects (and your competitors) are here, and you should be, too.
This platform was quite prominent pre-pandemic but has slowly become a source for spam/off-topic recommendations than anything redeemable for your reputation. Facebook pages allow brands to toggle the review tabs on and off, which creates a major variable for online presence. While we always recommend keeping the doors open for any type of feedback, Facebook recommendations — as we’ve experienced firsthand — are often a mix of genuine reviews and spam comments from false or duplicate accounts. If you’re going to utilize Facebook as a review platform, be sure to vet your brand’s presence and interactions first to make sure you’re meeting people where they’re at.
If you’ve ever had a conversation about Yelp with a brand or business owner, they’ve likely expressed their frustrations with the platform’s inner workings. Maybe they’ve even uttered the phrase, “Yelp plays in its own sandbox.” It’s true; Yelp is a very different animal. But rather than make excuses for the business model, you need to have a plan to tackle it head-on. Apple recently revamped its Apple Maps listings to further compete with Google. And while Yelp is now integrated into a larger platform, it’s also still utilized by potential customers every day. In addition, Yelp is a household name (and often a verb) whenever folks are looking for a place to eat, drink, or stay. Yelp can tend to favor specific regions, as well; we tend to see the coastal businesses boom with reviews more than inland ones, so keep in mind that this isn’t an even playing field like other platforms. The “Yelp Graveyard” of non-recommended reviews still brings a headache to any business pushing for Yelp reviews en masse, so we strongly recommend a slower, more strategic outlook to garner more insight here. This is a “marathon, not a sprint” platform in every sense.
Unlike Google, Facebook, and Yelp, the review element of Apartments.com is just a component of a community rather than its foundation. Apartments.com is a major listing tool for the real estate industry because it can illustrate (arguably better than anywhere else) exactly what you’d want to know about living somewhere. From floor plan pricing and detailed photo galleries to nearby schools and mileage markers for businesses/restaurants close to you, there is so much opportunity with your community’s listing on this site. Reviews tend to be lower in count on this platform, likely because users don’t utilize it as frequently as community operators do, but that doesn’t mean it should be neglected. If your listings on Apartments.com are as robust as they can be, a twice-a-year push for some up-to-date and healthy review content is a great place to begin.
This is a platform that many monitor but few tend to engage with. With the introduction of the epIQ Index Score, ApartmentRatings.com has begun to diversify its qualifying review system from Google’s star ratings, Meta’s recommendations scale, J Turner’s ORA scores, and other benchmarks. Like the ORA score, epIQ is a composite of the factors that make up not just the feedback you receive in reviews, but also the neighborhood, walkability, branding, and more. ApartmentRatings.com has continued to put forth a pay-to-play business model, creating a dilemma for owners and operators when it comes to engaging any reviews on this platform. Regardless, this site will still show up in your community’s Google search results quite prominently. Be sure to prioritize customer service, professionalism, and positive reinforcement when handling reviews. You may have to pay to use ApartmentRatings.com, but you don’t have to pay for a quality review from your customer to end up there.
Knowledge about these different review platforms is a great tool for agencies, businesses, brands, owners, and operators. But remember: A person leaving feedback isn’t concerned with posting it where you want to see it. They simply want to have it said, have it seen, and make an impression on your community’s reputation — for better or worse. It is our job to meet them where they’re at, especially if one of the platforms mentioned here or otherwise drives a lot of traffic for your residents and prospects. If you’re looking to improve the standing of your communities or brands, consider looking at an agency or devoted customer experience member of your team that can efficiently report on the trends, ratings, and content that come from platforms like these.
Learn more about our comprehensive reputation management services or contact us today.