Students are the name of the game. They’re who your complex is built for, what brings it to life with school spirit or quiets it down on those sleepy, homework-filled Sundays. The trick: getting them to become a part of your student housing community. How do you connect with them? Where are they? Why should they choose to live with you?
There are several different keys to target your potential residents.
#1 – Define your ideal resident
We’ve determined that students are your people, but which ones? ‘Student’ encompasses a variety of different age groups, experiences and types of potential residents. A few examples of students you could have in your complex:
First time out-of-the-nesters
Incoming students across the country embark on their first year of school with mini fridge and futon in tow in their first away-from-mom-and-dad dorm room. The campus food court offers endless options and the freshman fifteen, but that freedom of their own place tiptoes to mind early as they make friends and talk about how great their set up will be the next year.
While they have housing worked out before arriving for year one, now is the time to get in front of them (and their parents). Oftentimes that opportunity arises before they step foot on campus or pack the car for move in day.
Social Media Opportunity Here: Using tools like TweetDeck, HootSuite or Buffer, you can follow hashtags, handles, and keywords to join student conversations.
When a student tweets “just got accepted to XYZ university,” use it as an opportunity to celebrate with them. “Congratulations, @Name. We can’t wait to see you around campus!” From there, you have made an impression. Use it.
By the end of the first or second year, returning students have learned the ropes. They’ll probably be itching to get back to school to reconnect with friends after being home, away at an internship and back to the fun – for the studies too, maybe.
Social Media and On-Campus Opportunity Here: Using hashtags, handles, what’s trending in the area and keywords, find out what students of all ages are coming to campus excited about. Whether it is sports, on-campus activities, tossing a Frisbee on the quad or meeting new people at a student welcome event, follow those conversations and be there – physically and on social media.
Bottom line: these students know people. If you’ve convinced them that you have the best student housing around, they’re likely to share with their friends, incoming students and anyone they can tell about their awesome abode. Better yet, if there’s an incentive for referrals, you’re sure to see potential residents walk through the door. Whatever that incentive looks like for your business, it’s a bonus for the student. They’re your gateway to word-of-mouth marketing and unofficial walkthroughs more often called movie nights.
Students heading off to graduate school may have spent a few years on your campus or they’ve come from a campus far far away (whatever that means). In that way, they could be like the fresh-faced freshman or the upper classmen in terms of knowing their options. The key with the older students is to cater to their needs. What are they looking for that a younger student may not notice? A quiet study space they can reserve for hours in preparation for the upcoming exam, studio apartments for the peace and quiet they want or a complex with like-minded graduate level students.
This group is likely to pan their options before arriving to campus to make sure they’re ready to tackle the year ahead. Having an online presence with an image driven website that allows them to picture themselves in the space may be the ticket. Whether on your website or on social media, this student wants the information.
Social Media Opportunity Here: Have an Instagram account that showcases your space. Share photos of the super friendly staff hosting lunches for residents or the sun-drenched, pristinely decorated model unit that everyone wants to move into. Connecting the visual cues with what their space and experience can look like just might be the ticket.
Now, having determined which group makes the most sense for your complex, it’s time to tailor your content.
#2 – Tout what you have to offer
Yes, we all know your housing is the best around. Search student housing on Google and nearly every listing starts with ‘the best housing at XYZ school.’ However, regardless of how great you think your complex is or the number of superlatives listed on your website, your competition is probably thinking and listing those things too. Whatever channel you’re using to get in touch with students – housing fairs, Instagram, Twitter – what do you really have and what are you hyping that sets you apart from the other options?
Determine which ‘perks’ are important to your target demographic. Depending on where you are going to reach that group, tailor the message to their specific desires.
A few things that could sway students your way include:
– Location: Your complex is the closest to campus, so students can roll out of bed or grab a quick ride to make it to class on time.
– Shuttle: Though you are a bit further from campus, you offer quiet space for students to get away from the bustle, but have a shuttle to take them to campus or downtown all hours of the day.
– Perks of your place: The gym in the clubhouse next to the pool with a grill and a tanning bed for spring break goers, events scheduled every month to give residents a chance to mingle, free tee shirts and other promotional products – what are you offering your people?
– Options: Offering flexible lease terms may be the attractive point that brings students your way. With their eye on an internship or job out of state following the last day of classes, imagine the relief they’ll have not having to worry about the extra three months of a lease or the option to sublet.
Social Media Opportunity Here: Make your complex a destination. Using tools like FourSquare, have residents and guests check in at your location. Whether at the pool, the office or that homework-filled Sunday, give people a reason to be talking about you. Perhaps the short term reward is to become Mayor of the location or a waive of renewal fee, but the long term is the activity associated with your complex.
#3 – Timing and engagement
Like any group, attracting and maintaining attention are the two most difficult steps of a relationship. You know better than anyone where and when students are looking for housing. The school year is coming up, maybe a few months to go and the buzz is all about who will live with who and how close to campus they’ll be. They attend the housing fair, follow the handle they saw on a bus whizzing through the streets of campus or got together with a group of friends to tour all of their options.
TIP: Not only is timing of the year key in getting in touch with your potential residents, but timing down to the minute makes an impact too. Create a strategy and a content calendar to map out when and where your messages will make it in front of your audience.
In addition to sharing information, another crucial factor in the student housing world is your engagement. From emails from potential residents to follows on social media, it is extremely important that your team is ready to respond. Generally speaking, students sign early. The more information you’re able to give them early, the better.
Remember: You are the best. Who should become part of your community, why and when and how are you getting in touch with them. Create a strategy for each and your complex is sure to boast ‘no vacancy’ until the next round of students start their search.