A Property Manager’s Guide to Instagram

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You’ve probably heard before that social media is the way of the future. But as social media evolves and slims down to just a few platforms, it’s becoming more and more important, especially for such a time-sensitive job like property management, to be using the right social media platforms.

Enter Instagram, the photo-sharing social media platform that’s brought in over a billion monthly active users, has become the network of choice for millennials, and is built to make even the most amateur photos look professional. It’s no wonder so many property managers are turning to Instagram to promote their properties, generate leads, and building community for existing residents. Whether you’re an Instagram afficionado or are a social media newbie, use these tips to develop a successful Instagram content strategy.

Know What Kind of Residents You’ll Find on Instagram

Unlike Facebook, you’re unlikely to find your grandmother on Instagram. Over 60% of the platform’s users are age 18-35–meaning you’ll find plenty of millennials and young families, and your content should be tailored accordingly. These are mostly millennials and few late gen x-ers, a generation that’s outsmarted traditional marketing tactics, which is one of the reasons marketing through Instagram works so well with them: it’s all about lifestyle. Which brings us to…

Show Off Your Property’s Lifestyle, Not Its Stats

When you’re selling a potential tenant on a property, you’re not just selling them on the space, but on the lifestyle. Your Instagram presence should reflect that. Instead of just posting empty rooms and available units, showcase what it looks like once someone’s all moved in. A few ideas for shots could include photos of the interior units once they’re decorated, the community amenities in action, or snaps of the neighborhood.

Utilize User-Generated Content for a Lifestyle Feel

One of the best ways to find genuine lifestyle-type photos of your property and its surrounding neighborhood is to source them from your tenants themselves. A hands-off strategy is to gather them by using a hashtag for your building, but that doesn’t always generate a high enough volume of results. Hosting specific contests with a prize may garner more submissions, especially if the prize is related to your neighborhood (like a gift card to the local bar) or would be a cool addition to their unit (think cool and unique housewares).

Aim for Authenticity When Using Filters, Angling, or Retouching

With a housing complex, it’s easy to find yourself searching for just the right angles to make the pool look oversized, or the right filter to make the lobby look like the lighting is all-natural. While Instagram certainly can make your photos look better, you won’t be able to retouch or filter when a potential renter comes in to view the unit. A bit of embellishing is generally expected on Instagram, but don’t push it so it becomes unrealistic.

Make Use of Stories to Show Off Open Units

You’ve already discovered that photos of empty units aren’t the best way to spice up your Instagram feed, but that may leave you wondering how exactly you’re meant to advertise your open units. This is where Instagram stories become essential. Story videos are easy to make, and can be a great medium for unit walkthroughs, unloading a large amount of content in a limited way that won’t permanently clog your feed. If you’re running a short-term special, this is also a great place to advertise it. And because stories disappear after 24 hours, you can post every day while it lasts (but do use new content alongside it) without being intrusive.

Then Turn the Best Stories into Highlights

Think of highlights as the featured posts of Instagram. They’re a way to show off your best stories without letting them disappear (if you’re new to highlights, get a primer on them before you play around). A few ideas for highlights you could cultivate: units, amenities, events, and the neighborhood.

Stories are Great for Communicating with Residents, Too

Got planned maintenance on the fire alarms? For the residents who never check their email and are too engaged on their phone to see the signs in the hallway, post an Instagram story announcing the inconvenience the day before. It will disappear after 24 hours, so it won’t permanently mar your profile, but it will help get the word out.

Sponsor Your Posts to Generate New Leads

Instagram’s chronological timeline was phased out a few years ago, and while rumors are floating that it may come back in some form, you’ll likely still need to invest in sponsored content to have your posts spotted beyond just your followers. Despite what agencies or consultants might say, there’s no blanket way to do this that drives engagement through the roof and costs no money. It takes time to optimize your Instagram ads for peak performance, just like with Facebook, AdWords, or any other paid marketing platform. Start small, experiment often, and take note of the results to learn what works, when, and on whom.

Once You Have the Content, Use It and Reuse It

Once you’ve compiled a beautiful feed featuring your property and your neighborhood, you can use it for more than just Instagram. You can use the photos in other marketing materials, but one particularly great way to show them off is through a carousel on your website. This will give potential renters a realistic taste of what living in your community is all about, and give them a sense of how they’d fit into the community there.

Instagram is a learned skill, so don’t be discouraged if it takes some time to build up a following or see profitable results. Watch what other property managers (and just other Instagrammers) are doing, keep experimenting, and you’ll find that Instagram is both an enjoyable and useful way to generate interesting leads.

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