Tuesday, June 29, 2010

NAA Wrap-Up

I'm back from New Orleans. The NAA Conference made for an extremely busy but wonderful four days away...and I am pleased to report that my husband and daughter did just fine on the homefront, too.

Though I'm the first to admit that it's hard not to feel charged up about a conference when 64 of your coworkers are also in attendance, the overall quality of most of the presentations and general sessions was extremely strong. However, I do wish that there had been a few more educational sessions—when you add it up, there were only five "slots" for those types of offerings over the two and a half days that the conference was officially in session. Also, in contrast to other conferences that I've been to recently, NAA is much, much bigger: close to 5,000 people attended this year, and hundreds of sponsors participated in the exposition. And while I know the conference would not be what it is without those sponsors' generous support, the sheer number of attendees made it somewhat difficult to network. (If it weren't for Twitter and texting, I'm not sure that I would have been able to meet as many people as I did!)

In any case, all in all, I thought the conference was excellent. Without further ado, here are my top three takeaways from #NAA10:

1. Opening the social media doors doesn't mean that people will automatically provide negative feedback. J Turner Research presented some interesting statistics during a panel on strategies to evaluate your online presence. Though 69% of nearly 16,000 repondents indicated that they regularly use Facebook, just 7% of those surveyed have ever visited any apartment community's Facebook page. That's not to say that social media (and Facebook, specifically) isn't worth the effort: of the 7% that had visited FB pages, 62% wanted to see what others were saying about a community, 52% were looking for info on community events and activities, and 20% provided positive feedback about a community. Just 6% provided negative feedback about a community.

2. When it comes to keeping social media in-house or outsourcing, the jury is still out. Some companies outsource their efforts, some do everything in-house, and some have found that using both internal and external resources works most effectively. For those of us who have yet to jump into the fray, the good news (assuming you're a glass-half-full kind of person) is there is no "one size fits all" solution. That might make it a bit more challenging to get started, but having the flexibility to try and test different options is very attractive, if you ask me.

3. Mobile is going to be HUGE. By 2014, more people will access the internet via a mobile device than via a computer—even today, a solid 40% of people go online using a smartphone or other mobile device. Understanding how mobile works, and how mobile tools work, is going to be essential for effectively marketing products and services. One speaker in the Titans of Technology panel noted that the renter of tomorrow could most likely walk down the street, wave their smartphone at an apartment community, and be taken straight to that community's website, where they might see a special exclusively for smartphone users—or even specifically for them as an individual. Amazing? Most definitely. Improbable? Nope.

I could write so much more about this year's conference, but in the interest of keeping things manageable, I'm sticking to just those three points. If you attended, too, please share your experiences. See you in Vegas for #NAA11!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Off to NAA!

Tomorrow morning, I'm leaving for the NAA Conference in New Orleans. I am SO looking forward to this trip: it will include some great educational sessions, time with coworkers and friends, and a chance to see a new city. My one concern is that this will be the longest that I've been away from home since C was born. Granted, she's now 18 months old and can (most of the time) verbalize what she needs and wants, but I still can't help feeling a tiny bit anxious. Fortunately, my husband is more than capable, and my parents will be available to help, too.

I'll be tweeting with the #NAA10 hashtag throughout the conference, and will check in on Foursquare, too. If you're going to be at the conference, please look me up. I'll try to put together a wrap-up post next week.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Four things I like about Foursquare.

A little more than a year ago, I was just starting to figure out Twitter. And, now...I'm 100% hooked. So now that I'm just starting to use Foursquare, I can't help whether it'll be deja vu all over again. It may be too soon to tell whether my love affair will pan out, but as a new user, here are four things that I really like about Foursquare.

1. It gives you another way to connect with people, especially if you also share your Foursquare updates via Twitter and/or Facebook. Example: I go to a gym near my office. When I checked in there on Foursquare earlier this week and then posted that to my Twitter feed, the "Mayor" of the gym suddenly started following me on Twitter. And when I said I wanted to oust him as the Mayor of the BSC, we connected on Foursquare as well. I have no idea whether I'll ever meet Tommy in person, but it's fun to think that maybe we'll bump into each other at some point. (Plus the possibility of stealing the Mayorship gives me an extra incentive to go the gym a little more often.)

2. It shows you fun things to do, find and explore. Depending on who you follow on Foursquare and the places they frequent, you might learn that a restaurant will give you a free dessert if you ask about a certain entree, or that a particular retail shop has an outstanding associate - or anything else under the sun. In this way, Foursquare reminds me of a virtual scavenger hunt.

3. You earn badges for doing certain things. Full disclosure: a zillion years ago, I was a Girl Scout. Perhaps that's where my fascination with this aspect of Foursquare comes into play? Anyway, I don't know that I'll ever earn half of the badges that are out there (Crunked is not high on my list!), but it's fun to see what badges other people have "earned" as they check in at different locations and do different things. I also think that badges have some pretty interesting marketing potential: for example, if you check in at five Starbucks, you earn a Barista badge, which comes with perks - aka free coffee.

And that leads me to my fourth point: Foursquare for business.

4. Businesses can create some serious buzz when using Foursquare as a way to connect with customers. If never you've read any of my previous posts, I work in the world of multifamily marketing. One of the hot topics of discussion at the recent AIM Conference was how mobile and social media is rapidly changing the way that we as apartment marketers do business. I am very intrigued to see how the industry uses Foursquare and other similar platforms to engage with residents and prospective residents.

Are you using Foursquare personally, professionally, or both? I'd love to hear your take...and if you have any tips for a newbie, I hope you'll share.