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May 13, 2014

We’ve come a long way in a short time with social media. Just a few years ago, highly regulated banks and healthcare organizations wouldn’t touch “The Twitter.” Today we are seeing healthcare CEOs, big pharma companies, top financial institutions and even The Holy Father using social media to connect with worldwide audiences.

While residential home listings clutter my Facebook news feed on a daily basis, one area that has been timid to adopt social is the commercial real estate sector, specifically REITsor Real Estate Investment Trusts. These complex, publicly owned financial investment organizations are often conservative, calculated and successful at making real estate pay dividends to their investors (you learn more about how REITs work here). Where they have traditionally stayed behind has been the areas of marketing, communications and digital media efforts. Our longtime relationship with Brandywine Realty Trust has afforded us the opportunity to learn more about these special real estate mavens and the opportunities for social media integration.

Recently, I traveled to Boca Raton for the REITWise 2014 conference hosted by the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts. After my session on social media, facilitated by the super sustainable Brad Molotsky, I shared insights into the wild world of social media REITness in a video interview and full article on REIT News. See the full video below, along with five social media tips for REITS and real estate companies who are thinking abut taking the plunge.

  1. Buy in or get out. As a REIT, you don’t have to be on social media. But if you choose to be, ensure you have full company-wide support. Don’t just have the IT department setup Twitter and Facebook and add the icons to your website. You need buy-in from the top on down with a strong level of organizational inclusion increasing your success. A strong strategy and employee buy-in will ensure your efforts aren’t a bad investment.
  2. Choose wisely from the menu. Social media isn’t a magic fix. It is a “first-person” manifestation of your brand identity. Decide if you want to use social for customer/tenant relations, community outreach, employee retention/recruitment, sales and leasing, investor relations or thought leadership (design excellence or sustainability, for example). You can’t do it all, so choose wisely.
  3. Have a social media crisis plan. There will be another natural disaster, weather emergency, infrastructure disruption or tragic accident. Make sure social media is part of a full crisis communications plan. Have clarity on how information is flowing and who is controlling it.
  4. To disclose or not to disclose… You can choose if you want to use social media as an investor relations disclosure mechanism (per SEC REG FD). If you do, plan accordingly and ensure your investor relations team is on speaking terms with your marketing/communications/social media specialists.
  5. Foster the experience. For many REITs, the customer experience (in malls, for example) or the “lifestyle” of the brand (for Class A office space) is becoming more and more important. Use social media as an integrated tool for your brand efforts and don’t discount the value of bi-directional customer conversations. Your tenants and customers are the key to your success as a REIT. Use social media to ensure they are satisfied, valued and entertained.

Social media isn’t going away. Luckily, social is only a new channel to transmit the information and brand values that your organization is already exhibiting. Use it wisely and integrate it into your current communications efforts. The next generation of tenants, investors and decision-makers are already there.

UPDATE: See the full article: “Consultant Says Social Media Growing Among REITs.”

Image courtesy of NAREIT’s YouTube channel.

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About the Author

Evan Urbania

Evan Urbania is the CEO and Co-Founder of ChatterBlast Media. He can often be found cycling, reading obscure tech blogs, teasing the office dog or getting bored with new social media apps.

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