Apartment Living BlogApartment Living › Lessons Learned From Horizon

By Erica Campbell & Gillian Luce

Social media is proving that free speech has extended its reach to new media platforms where conversations are being held between private individuals. Social media is all about people sharing opinions, insights, experiences and perspectives with each other through online media channels. So you would think that one should not be sued in court for simply sharing a thought online, right? Last week’s big Twitter story revolved around a pending libel suit brought by Horizon Realty Group, a Chicago real estate management company, against one of its former tenants, Amanda Bonnen, in Cook County Circuit Court. This case has received extensive publicity and touches on issues such as consumer protection, limits of libel, free speech, and strategic lawsuits against public participation.

Amanda Bonnen complained via Twitter to about 20 followers that her landlord was apparently allowing her to live in mold-infested filth: “Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks its okay.” The response from Horizon was a lawsuit! A short complaint filed in Cook County court last week accused Bonnen of libeling Horizon in 140 characters or less, and sought $50,000 in damages. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Horizon’s spokesperson responded to the situation with a quote, “We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization.”
Let’s take a look at some of the lessons we can learn from this:

  • Consumers are the new media and they know it
  • Embrace consumer criticism as opposed to overreacting
  • Ask questions first, then maybe don’t sue at all
  • Consult with your PR team or agency before the spokesman offers a statement
  • Play nice in the sand box
  • Use social media as a customer service tool and listen for product insights and feedback
  • Build resident retention through sites such as Facebook and Twitter

As we’ve stated before in a recent blog post, Attention Property Managers: Customer Service is Still #1, companies should not fear the social media landscape. We understand that apartment communities are concerned about negative community reviews which could potentially give you a negative image or possibly deter prospective residents away. However, as advertisers we need to understand that consumers are talking about our brands on these social media platforms weather we like it or not. Did you know that according to a JC Williams Group study, 91% say consumer reviews are the #1 aid to buying decisions and Marketing Sherpa states that 87% trust a friend’s recommendation over critic’s review. Customer service is undoubtedly one of the most exciting, measurable and effective uses of social media.

Being involved on social media platforms will give you the capability to build relationships with consumers and will also give you a chance to talk to consumers about your brand. When negative comments are made about your community, instead of ignoring them or overacting, think about how you should to respond to them. Reach out to the individual and seek out more information about their complaint. Think of ways to resolve the issue and make them happy. There is no better way to get a consumer singing your praises then providing them with a positive customer service experience.

It was best stated by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.” Don’t miss an opportunity to speak to 6,000+ people by not responding or responding improperly.

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  1. Terry Marosites says:
    Well said! With social media the impact of a misspoken statement can have devastating repercussions. It’s like being on a first date with a thousand prospects; it can be fun and rewarding as long as you behave yourself and put your best foot forward.

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