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!