Networking on the net
Sharing ideas with other property managers around the country is a great way to improve the way your company does business. Online communities do just this, and some of them are beginning to build momentum
THE AUSTRALIAN PROPERTY MANAGER COMMUNITY
A fairly new and thriving online community for property managers is, unsurprisingly, hosted on the world’s largest social media platform, Facebook.
The Australian Property Manager Community, which has recently celebrated its 1,100th member, is moderated by recruiter Clare Verrall from Design & Build Recruitment, Hayley Mitchell of Mitchell Property Management and Lyndsey Clarke, senior consultant at Design & Build Recruitment.
“We formed it at the beginning of December last year, and we’re now approaching 1,200 members,” Ms Verrall says.
“As a property manager specialised recruiter, I was speaking to lots of clients who kept saying they wish they had a way of talking to each other. So I got to thinking that I should create a group for all my clients and their staff so they can all help each other out on Facebook.”
After creating the group, Ms Verrall promoted it to her own professional Facebook page with 2,500 friends.
“From that alone, about 200 people joined in the first few hours. When I speak to my clients I tell them about the page and they tell their staff, and that’s basically how it’s grown. It’s been quite organic,” she says.
Ms Mitchell conducts training sessions and also promotes the page, which according to Ms Verrall, yields a flurry of new members every time she presents.
The closely monitored page vets anyone wishing to join to make sure only legitimate property managers can access the content.
“We make sure there’s no bullying or negativity. We make sure we don’t have any full names of tenants or landlords posted or any other personal information. We haven’t had to remove many posts to be honest,” she continues.
“One of the great things is the amazing community spirit – everyone just wants to help each other out.
Someone goes on there and asks a question and people don’t jump down their throats for asking a dumb question. People are sharing everything from forms to tips. It’s just such a lovely community.”
However, Ms Verrall says the highlight of the page would be the stories shared by the users.
“The stories and things that only other property managers would get are the crowd favourites. A post not that long ago was about a tenant who’d put a horse in their apartment because ‘you would have seen it if it was outside’,” she explains
“It’s just ridiculous things like that which we can all have a bit of a laugh at because property management can be quite a thankless job, especially if you’re the only one in your office.”
Ben White, a board member at Ray White, recognises that the person at the bottom of the ladder could have an equally valid idea as someone at the top, and he realised that there needed to be a way for these people to communicate with the higher authorities in order to ensure new innovations and ideas made it to the fore.
“It began a couple of years ago and started with the recognition that a lot of the ideas in property management come from the bottom up,” Mr White says.
So he founded apmasphere, an online networking site which has been growing ever since.
“It’s the idea of people coming together in a platform where they can share ideas regardless of who they are and in an environment where it’s not ‘teacher and student’, but more ‘here’s an idea, let’s debate it’,” he explains.
apmashere has recently achieved a milestone of 5,000 members and according to Mr White, it’s still growing.
“We get around five new members a day … we grow just by word of mouth mainly. One of the interesting things about our industry is it’s very hard to get a message across to the entire industry. So one of the attractions for people out there in agencies is that opportunity to receive and make those messages,” he says.
apmasphere is unlike any other online property management community as it’s hosted on its own site, not a major social networking platform like Facebook.
“We’ve always resisted using those open platforms because we wanted a forum where people didn’t need to feel like they had to talk themselves up and where they felt comfortable asking a ‘dumb’ question,” he continues.
“The other thing it lets us do is to offer more than service because it’s not just a forum, we also have resources on the site.
“There are some downsides of course – you have to invest in your own technology, so there’s more work.”
But for Mr White, the most rewarding part of apmasphere is seeing it grow into a thriving community.
“Someone asked the question along the lines of rent payments and reversals and we had the CEO of one of the payment systems come in and answer the question,” he says. “He didn’t push his product; he didn’t say, ‘I’ll call you offline’; he just shared his knowledge. And there was a great discussion where people started asking him additional questions.
“That was when we realised that apmasphere had legs. The day experts come in and share their knowledge for the benefit of the community, you’re not just a marketing list, you’re a community.”
THE INTERNATIONAL GIANT
WITH OVER 300,000 members, The Real Estate Networking Group is a hugely popular page on professional networking site LinkedIn.
Jake Little from Los Angeles started the group in June 2008 to build his online presence.
“My background is in finance – I was a CMBS banker at GE Capital when I started the group in 2008. Transaction volume was extremely slow at the time, so I figured I would try using social media to increase my presence in the market,” he says.
“It grew purely through word of mouth. Initially I grew the group through friends; I would simply ask them to join and contribute to the group.
“Eventually it caught on and the group started growing. It’s currently the largest real estate group on LinkedIn.”
But with size comes a cost. The group is too large to effectively moderate, but Mr Little remains certain LinkedIn is the best platform to run the network.
“In my experience, LinkedIn groups are more functional than groups on other social networking platforms,” he says. “With LinkedIn, group members can contact each other and the group manager can send emails to the members.”
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