Published in the July/August 2014 issue of REIT magazine.
We’re starting to read commentary in the media along the lines of “Twitter is dead” and other dismal prognoses for the various social media platforms. Are they right?
Not yet. Social media is not going away, even though we may see platforms move in and out of popularity. We are just starting to see some of the best business opportunities for social, and that’s disrupting the traditional marketing approach. Social was never designed to be a silver bullet, but it is now part of the communications mix and can’t be ignored.
What is happening is that social is becoming more integrated and people are learning that it is really more of a manifestation of your company brand, values and communications practices.
Which sectors in the REIT industry tend to have the most active presence in the social media world?
REITs that own malls or shopping centers are definitely starting to look at the customer experience and are finding new ways to integrate social media, experiential marketing and creative campaigns into the mix. Th e mall experience is changing, consumers are demanding more, buying patterns continue to move online and the only way to gain more customers is to meet them where the physical and digital experiences intersect. Consumers want personalization, interactivity, convenience, entertainment and the ability to share all that with their world. The best way to attract consumers to brick-and-mortar locations is through incredible moments that they can share on their social accounts.
Is there a standard objective across sectors, or do you see different companies pursuing different goals through their social media presences?
I always view social as having the potential for a large variety of objectives, but you can only use it successfully for a few of these goals at a time. Social media is about focused strategy, not a shotgun method.
Some organizations are using social for community outreach, philanthropic efforts and customer service. This is a great way to get a lot of value, growth and attention for the things you are already doing as a company. The opportunities for collaboration, earned media and partnerships are endless.
Social can be aimed at employee retention or recruitment. A content marketing plan and a strong Facebook strategy can be a great place to showcase your talent and reveal your company culture for the next generation of team members. Our interns often remind us that they do in fact judge a company by their social media and by how well a company’s website shows up on their phone. I think that says it all.
Social can also support sales, leasing and all other integrated marketing efforts to drive business growth. The list goes on and on.
Given that social media is intended as a rapid-fire, informal means of communication, should this raise regulatory concerns for publicly traded companies?
It doesn't need to be complicated. If large regulated financial institutions and CEOs of health care organizations like Aetna can be on social media, then so can REITs.
REITs need to decide if they want to use social as a disclosure mechanism to their investors. If they do, there is a simple set of procedures to ensure that social is used correctly and the wrong information is not released (SEC Regulation FD). The choice should be based on the investor relations process and internal resources of the REIT. Right now, we are not seeing a ton of value to using social for investor communications in this sector.
However, whether using social for investor relations or not, the same rules of clear communication and common sense should apply. If you wouldn't say it to a room full of your clients, competitors and employees, don’t post it on social media.