Monday, December 10, 2012

The Second Screen Effect: Some Thoughts for Multifamily

If you own a tablet or a smartphone, there's a good chance you break it out while you're watching TV. Maybe you glance at your email or update an app, but it's also very likely that you're checking your favorite social networking sites, often to see what others are saying about the same show you're watching. And you're not alone ... your residents are doing this, too.

Whether it's a football game, The Voice, Scandal or Dexter, people are supplementing their viewing experience by connecting with their friends and other fans of these shows to discuss what's happening in real time -- on sites like Facebook and Twitter, and on apps like GetGlue, IntoNow and Miso. It's called the "second screen" effect, and it has a lot of interesting implications for media companies, social networks ... and yes, even your property.

Watching tv, listening to musac from NYS's live stream on the laptop, while scanning twitter on the iPad. So po-mo.

But why would this affect multifamily?

Exponentially more connected devices.

It's simple math. Instead of one device (the home computer) using a data connection, we now regularly see as many as ten or more connected devices in each apartment home -- multiple laptops, smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, smart TVs, streaming boxes (think AppleTV or Roku) and more ... in each apartment. All of these devices are trying to connect, and almost all of them rely on wireless connections (either Wi-Fi or cellular).

Now, this might work fine in your home, when the closest neighbor is yards away or more. But in the densities we see in apartment buildings of all shapes and sizes, we're talking about hundreds of devices competing for bandwidth and wireless spectrum.

If you don't have the ability to deliver the increased throughput needed, or if your building's Wi-Fi isn't robust enough to handle this many devices, or if your agreement with your property's Internet service provider only requires them to allow a small number of devices per user, there's a really good chance your residents won't be able to connect. And they're more than willing to voice their frustrations ... just take a look:

The Positive Side?

If you are able to handle the connections that residents expect, promote it. It may seem trivial, but we're hearing more anecdotal stories that prospects are testing cellular and Wi-Fi connections as they are touring new properties ... so take the opportunity to promote the fact that you have fiber at the property or a choice of Internet providers. (And if your property network can't support the expected level of connectivity, address it. Sooner rather than later.)

And as a side note, I think there may be an opportunity to leverage this trend to help connect residents with each other, too. If you see that a number of residents are sharing posts about a certain show, that may be just the signal you need to organize some kind of viewing party in the clubhouse lounge or theater room. Have some fun with it by asking trivia questions on your community's Facebook page; give away small prizes to the winners. (You'd be amazed what people will do for a Starbucks gift card.)

Media companies and social networks are looking for any way they can to leverage the second screen effect to keep audiences more engaged, so don't expect this to go away anytime soon. Residents will continue to expect to be ever-connected, from multiple devices at the same time, and they don't want to hear excuses about why their service isn't up to par.

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