Sunday, August 12, 2007

Social Networking Comes to Apartments

Resident portals are a hot industry trend, and social networks are a hot consumer trend... so it was only a matter of time before someone decided to combine the two, right?

AptConnect is a new resident portal that adds social networking and a host of other features for apartment management and residents. The site builds on the portal with an online network that keeps residents involved in their community, potentially improving resident retention.

The site offers all the usual tools for property management: an online newsletter, online rent payments, maintenance requests. Unique features include an events calendar, a "meet the staff" page, community photo galleries, an FAQ section, community polls, and move out surveys.

The portal's messaging system allows residents to send messages to each other or to the office. There is also a mass messaging tool that allows management to contact all residents at once.

AptConnectGetting Involved
Many features of AptConnect focus on communication and resident interaction within the community. Residents are encouraged to create, publish, and contribute, using the site as a place to meet others and get involved.

Resident can search other user profiles, create their own events, add photo galleries, chat in community forums, and post classified ads. They can set up their own clubs and volunteer committees, and even post their own content, such as recipes, jokes, or poetry.

The site includes a statistical analysis package that features real-time reporting of site usage and activity, but does not yet comply to the MITS data-transfer standards.

Pricing for the entire package is a subscription fee based on the size of your community.

The Right Site for You?
As a portal, AptConnect is as functional as most others.

However, the site faces a major obstacle in achieving a critical mass of users and fresh content that online communities thrive on. Because the site is built to reinforce resident retention, most of the site is currently designed to give residents access to information and user profiles exclusively from their apartment community. It would seem that the network could be much more useful if residents could also connect with other local people and businesses. Partnering with other locally-focused social networks like Meetro and Insider Pages, or sites focused on local businesses, such as MerchantCircle or Judy's Book, could make it a very handy tool for getting to know the neighborhood.

AptConnect has the potential to become an interesting tool for property managers, although it leaves many new questions, and it remains to be seen if it actually has any effect on resident retention. Considering the trends in online communities, it is a step in the right direction for portals, but leaves much to be desired in comparison to many of the robust functions available through more mainstream social sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, or even LinkedIn. Pay attention though... what you see here could be the future of resident communications.

Have you tried social networks or other online tools in your community? Let us know what works and which sites you like best!

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