Is Social Media the Right Tool for Resident Engagement?
Digital transformation has always been slow in housing. This has recently been highlighted in all matters of resident engagement. Traditionally, telephony and face-to-face interactions have been the norm. But the digital era has brought about awareness of the modern, and now Facebook pages, WhatsApp chats, and informative Tweets appear as worthwhile methods of communication. However, the effectiveness of these methods in their current use seem questionable. The likes-to-residents ratio for Housing Associations (HAs) seem underwhelming, and the engagement with the contents of the posts highlight a mismatch in what resident and HAs use the platforms for. In other words, the vast majority of residents do not see these posts. Even fewer engage with them.
For example, one of the G15 has approximately 120,000 properties, and so a conservative estimate gives them 300,000 residents. Yet their Facebook page has less than 4,000 followers; just over 1% of their residents. This is not unique – most G15 HAs face a similar problem. Moreover, in this example, each of their posts would receive less than 10 likes and less than 100 comments. This demonstrates only a minority are actively engaging, and of the 100 comments, 95% were about matters unrelated to the content. This bring into question the adequacy of social media platforms as the most effective method of resident engagement.
Recently, several housing associations and local authorities attended a webinar, organised by TPAS, HQN and sponsored by Gridizen, on the future of resident engagement. We discovered that resident-landlord relations are shifting. Whilst social media has become a commonly used tool, the lack of engagement suggests that it may not be the most appropriate. The webinar highlighted a few detailed reasons for this:
Firstly, posts are too general. They are often updates about customer services, or news pieces. The universal updates are meant to reach the entire resident base, which ensures that the content is not targeted. Consequently, the posts become too impersonal and not relevant to most residents. They do not tackle the issues unique to each resident and this leads to poor engagement.
Secondly, social media is used as the single channel for all HA-resident communications. This means one Facebook account will have at least three different uses, including:
- General updates
- Resident forums
- A channel for complaints
This causes confusion as specific information is more difficult to find, which further leads to disillusionment and a decrease in engagement.
Effective multi-channel communications can seldom be found in the format of social media platforms. Improving resident engagement requires thinking outside the social media box. Information needs to be purposeful and clear. Lacking these qualities is what leads to the aforementioned mismatch in why HAs and residents engage with the platform. Both parties value the platform for different reasons, which can make resident engagement a more complex issue. Social media is only one tool which is part of the solution. Something more is needed.
Fortunately, PropTech may have the solution. Gridizen functions as a cutting-edge property management system (PMS) that can target communications using multiple channels. It allows HAs and landlords to categorise communications for complaints, updates and forums. By creating unique virtual ‘communities’, HAs can organise communications on a per-block basis, on a demographic, age or sex basis, and more. Having multiple channels to allow specific communication between relevant parties on common issues such as Covid support, community events, down to communal maintenance and noise complaints. This bypasses the need for using social media. The future of resident engagement is indeed digital, and services that ease the most pressing issues lessen the load on HAs.
Gridizen recognise this and its importance, hence have ensured this tool is free of charge for all HAs. If interested, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.