There is a product that has launched recently, which is aimed currently at the multifamily, apartment owner/operator space, but may well also extend into additional industries, such as Travel, Hotels, Wine and the like, that is worth taking a look at. I expect that some of the readers and following of this blog may be skeptical, and I am interested in hearing your feedback.

Community Sherpa a Turn Key Social Media Solution
The general premise of the product, which is named Community Sherpa is a Turn Key Social Media Solution, that produces content creation for apartment communities via blogs, a facebook and twitter site. This is not your average start up, and has a powerhouse media organization behind it.

How Many Blogs Can You Manage a Day
I have been fascinated with the idea since first learning about it a few months ago, in that how do you manage and scale potentially hundreds or thousands of blogs each day, for a minimal monthly fee. Not for the faint of heart. I recently visited their operation in Atlanta Georgia and was pretty impressed. 

What Is It
Community Sherpa, a new Internet marketing service for the multi-family industry from Network Communications, Inc., the parent company of Apartment Finder.

Community Sherpa provides a turn key solution to building and managing a social media marketing program for apartment communities, residents and prospects. Community Sherpa takes the risk and complexity out of social media marketing, creating a new kind of Internet Marketing presence for your property management company. They will improve your visibility on Google, increase your web traffic, enhance your resident retention and turbo-charge your referral programs.

The explosion of social media tools and networks, like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, create a unique opportunity for apartment communities to get active on the web, by providing interesting content relevant to their residents and getting involved in the fabric of their residents' lives, creating an active and engaged online community..

Community Sherpa is a monthly subscription service that provides a turn-key solution to create active, engaged and effective virtual networks for your community.

What Do You Think

So, What do you think? Can a third party create daily blog content that will create a following? Can they sustain producing hundreds or thousands of blog posts each day, with controlled content and still remain interesting. I would love to hear your feedback and comments,




September 19, 2009





Eric Brown has (30) years in the Multi-Family Apartment Business having built and developed over 17,000 apartment units, both market rate, luxury and tax credit apartments. Having started Urbane Apartments in 2003 after leaving a lengthy stint as a Senior Vice President at Village Green Companies, a national apartment developer, Eric decided he wanted to create wealth, and set out from Corporate America on his own and created Urbane Apartments in Royal Oak, MI.






Comments(24)

"Can You Manage 5000 Blogs a Day?" - Absolutely NOT.

I am not in this industry. However I do know that currently posting to social media networks and also various blogs does help with rankings. And, as we all know - higher rankings translates into higher traffic, and more conversions. The subscription service is essentially outsourcing the posting efforts. It is probably just a matter of time before the posting service will have to change because auto-posting to social media networks will not be allowed - it will likely require capta's or similar. Plus, there are sooooooo many different social media networks that there will likely be consolidation coming which will impact the actual number of posts as well. Just my 2-cents worth. Smiles for a great day!

@Atanas, Good Morning, Thanks for weighing in, your comment is pretty clear, just curious to what you are thinking.

Newspapers all over the land figured out how to publish and distribute content all over the land, why couldn't a similair model play out with blog content?

We woud love to hear your thoughts,

@Royal, Thanks for stopping by and taking teh time to comment.

This will be fun to watch how it plays out, and i am sure thye will face many challenges, however I think part of the issue is understanding how do you manufacture blog posts, and can you do that and still maintain a strong folowing, and more create conversations and engagement,

Eric interesting idea. But I don't see how anyone can mange 5000 blogs a day. Can your post be reached in 5000 different ways? Certainly. But surely posting to 5000 blogs would generate duplicate content? Something that simply adds to the cesspool that is the internet? ;)

I liked your idea on how newspapers figured out how to publish and distribute all over the land. But for the most part, the news paper runs that same print all over.

Call me a skeptic, but, I'm interested to know more. :)

Robert, Thank you for the comment.
Your comment is similar to what a lot of folks we talk to about this product gravitate too, in that Community Sherpa is Re-Posting content, While they may have some of that, it is my understanding that the content is differnt on most of the blog posts, meaning they will not have 500 or 5000 posts with the same content.

That brings me to the next question, What is the number for re-posts, meaning on the 27th repost, you get a bad mark from Google, or is it on the 7th one, or the 107th one. Folks are pretty quick to throw that out, and I just wonder what the real number is, IF there even is one.

I see what Community Sherpa and what Seth Godin just released as some pretty ground breaking stuff in this space, that the whole blogger world will have a tough time adjusting too.

Eric if I am reading you correctly, this service will create the content for you, and publish it to your blog?

That's fine, but the question I have is, will Community Sherpa be able to tailor that content based on the UNIQUE READERSHIP of each blog? Because that's a key to creating interesting and valuable content, having an intimate knowledge of who is reading your blog. Knowing frequent commenters by name. Reading their blogs. Seeing the emails you get from readers.

If Community Sherpa can do that, then it might could work. But my guess is it won't. My guess is it will blast the same posts to hundreds/thousands of blogs, maybe making minor keyword changes, but essentially pushing the same content to all the blogs.

That's not a viable solution. Creating good content is only half (if that) of the battle. Creating keyword-rich content is one thing, anyone can work a list of keywords into a blog post. But that's not how you create an effective business blog.

Mack, Thank you for stopping by and commenting. My understanding is that each blog post is different and unique to that site, although it may or likely is a re-post of something else locally. Community Sherpa is not doing a single post and aggregating that same post to 500 or 5000 different blog sites.

A reason this is so dear to me is Community Sherpa has developed a packaged Social Media Product, targeted at our apartment industry. The buyers of the product are so hungry for it, thye want to be in the space, but have no idea what to do or how to do it.

What are, are Content Providers and what they are doing is production blogging, which will have SEO benefit and I believe will change the space.

I received the below listed comment form one Josh, of the folks at Apartment Finder, one of the companies owned by NCI, who owns Community Sherpa

Hey guys,
Just thought I would chime in and give my input. I've also been
impressed with this product. I work for Apartment Finder. At first I
was also concerned about duplication of content and such. The idea of
managing so many blogs seems overwhelming. But I have to say that the
team at NCI working on the product is top notch. And they have worked
hard to make this product have lasting value. You can get more info at
www.community-sherpa.com. Just to give you a sample, here are 3 blogs
that are live right now. Note: there is very little duplication. Also
take a look at the blog categories at the top (Apartment Living, Around
Town, Community Notices, etc). Posts are generated that are specific
to the local area, and to the community. And the community/management
company also have freedom to post and manage aspects of the blog.
http://blog.westsideinthevillage.lincolnapts.com/
http://blog.woodbridge.lincolnapts.com/
http://blog.lorenzocommons.vasonamanagement.com/

Commenter name: Josh O.
Commenter email address: jormond@nci.com
Commenter URL: http://www.community-sherpa.com

Yes, you can manage 5000 blogs a day. You would hire an editor to manage and source content for a certain number of blogs and then automate the entire posting process using something like postling.com which even lets you schedule posts. To scale, all you would need is more editors.

And no, original content is not critical (though the purist in me says it should be!). We just did a press release and with just one search, I was able to find 10 different sites in the first 3 pages of Google search results that had it verbatim.

Adding content to sites to boost SEO is nothing new. The difference is we are using a new content management tool (a blog, like WordPress) and all of a sudden it's SMO (social marketing optimization).

More content = inbound traffic, but a post entitled "Meet Some Ghosts and See Some Haunts" is not going to bring in people looking for apartments in San Lorenzo, CA.

Will this inbound traffic generally lift all site traffic? I'm not sure-only time will tell, and it will take some time to track the results. But what I have consistently observed for the past 7 years is we have great search rankings for keywords that relate to the parts of our site that have great content and have trouble building traffic where we don't.

I think property managers should blog, and I applaud Apartment Finder for doing something new, but I'd rather see it be used for what it is intended - to communicate meaningfully and improve resident engagement.

@Mack: I share some of the same concerns about duplicated content, but I think it will really depend on the execution.

I think the idea could be a good way to get businesses started with blogging, but the success will ultimately be determined by that business's ability to keep the conversation going and turn it into something meaningful for their customers and their business objectives.

Being involved with your customers is probably one of the easiest ways to understand their interests, develop relevant content that they care about and keep people coming back for more. If Community Sherpa -- or any other similar third party service -- can understand what each unique audience will respond to, they could become a nice (affordable) piece of the social media puzzle. I'm looking forward to seeing how they do.

@Ellen, Hi, We appreciate you weighing in here on the conversation, and I know you have a lot of experience with this.

It seems that what Community Sherpa has done with this product is the "Heavy Lifting" by getting the platforms set up, and creating a forum for the average apartment community to start some dialog with residents and the blog followers.

I think a valuable point for the apartment community to recognize is that your following, Your Larger Community, is much larger that how many residents you have, and once that begins to build, if it does, then there has been real and rich value provided.

In our own experience, we have a Times Fifty Multiple, meaning we have 15,000 monthly visitors to our Urbane Web Sites per 300 apartment units, and a big piece of that was through our blogging efforts

@Mike, Thanks for joining in here, we appreciate your input and expertise. I think to your point and to what Ellen has stated, no third party service can do this alone, meaning to get conversations started and an ongoing following, the property management company must be engaged.

Many folks feel this should be pushed to the Property Manager, which it may well be, but I see it more as a marketing function, and if harnessed correctly, allows a marketing and leasing person to do electronic outreach on streoilds

Wow, there certainly has been some very interesting discussion around CommunitySherpa here! In the interest of full disclosure, I'm Judy Bellack, VP of Ops for Apartment Finder and also Executive Director of our new CommunitySherpa service. I think some valid and thoughtful points have been raised by all, and I couldn't agree more with many of you who have expressed concern about levels of engagement and duplicate content. Here are the facts: yes, some content will be repurposed, but not as much as has been widely speculated -- as long-time content managers and marketers of apartment communities, we know that constantly duplicated content would be counter to our efforts toward this end. Additionally, engagement is absolutely key to the program's success, and Eric Brown hit the nail on the head: we propose to do the "heavy lifting" (thus the name Sherpa), thereby better enabling the community or company to focus on the engagement piece. Sherpa is definitely a launching pad for the multi-family industry to get started in leveraging social media for a variety of purposes, but does not replace the need for the actual operators to be involved. We can't wait to see how it plays out, and just as with our other products, we'll constantly be seeking feedback, researching our customer's customer, and gauging effectiveness across a wide variety of metrics to determine where we should take this service over the long haul. Those of you who know Apartment Finder and NCI know that we aren't in this for the quick hit -- we value our long-term relationships in the industry far too much -- but we are always interested in finding ways to expand the value we can bring to the table. So we'll be watching and listening and learning very closely, as will many, to ensure the value is there.

Hi Judy, Thanks for joining the conversation, and providing additional background and information on the Sherpa Product.

It is pretty facilitating to hear and see the various points of view on this topic, and lots of folks have lots of opinions.

Having seen your product, your operations in Atlanta and my recent trip to NYC, NCI has a lot of horsepower and resource behind this launch, that should not be under estimated.

I received the below post over on facebook from Mark Juleen, that I have aggregated here to keep the comments all in one place

Mark Juleen
interesting comments Eric. I believe most are right in saying that it won't work in the long run. there will be some seo benefits, but this is no silver bullet to online marketing. it will be interesting to see how they evolve as time goes on. they will have to adjust as i don't think people will get back the results they are expecting for the price they pay.

I received the below listed comment from Tami McCarthy on facebook regarding this post, and have aggregated it here to keep all comment in one place

Tami McCarthy
Hi Mark, thanks for weighing in, but not sure which conversation you are referring to, as no one has said this type of service is a silver bullet. Specifically, CommunitySherpa answers the needs of NCI's, and in this case, Apartment Finder's, customers who all said they would like help in establishing their social media presence and utilizing soc ... Read Moremed tools like blogs, FB, and Twitter. It's important to understand that this service is a natural extension to the relationship Apartment Finder already has with its customers. In addition, research was first conducted, and then based on the needs of the industry, NCI's DigitalSherpa division began to develop a turn-key service for those that needed it and based on what they needed help with. Suffice it to say, the company will also be rolling out similar services to other industries in the housing space it services as well: real estate, design, etc. The benefits are well known, particularly as these are launching as we speak with great success, and the process will continue to evolve for sure.

I received the below post over on facebook from Mark Juleen, that I have aggregated here to keep the comments all in one place

Mark Juleen
Hi Tami, I'm not saying that anyone has claimed this to be a silver bullet. I'm just pointing out that it is not. Those are my words, no one else's. I think that is pretty obvious to someone with experience, but many just getting into the online social media marketing space may think this is an ultimate solution for them. Is it a powerful tool... Read More, sure. Will it give a property immediate gratification, absolutely. Will it provide the results a company is expecting, I say the jury is still out. I just think $250/mo. per property seems pretty salty for what it is. An online brand is built with more than a blog, a facebook page, a twitter account, and some content. I wish you guys success, but I'm a skeptic.

Wow, look at the Sherpa conversation! How exciting!

Clearly the multi-family industry is behind in the social media game (speaking in general of course). I think it's great that there is a reputable company within the industry willing to invest the money and the manpower into finding a solution for their customers. Sherpa is a much-needed starting point.

When I first started reading about Sherpa, I had the same concerns as Mack, Mike and Mark. I am, after all, a bit of a purist. Initially I was put off by the price. However, after digging a little deeper into their program I understand now that the content is not necessarily recycled. This made all the difference to me. Unique content is critical.

I've browsed a few of the blogs and sites and find them refreshing. The content appears to be well written, timely and frequently posted. I also appreciate the usefulness of the polls, the gallery, and the event calendars. I am less concerned with the SEO of it all since the properties are already getting great SEO traffic through their placement with the ILS's. I'm more concerned with engaging the residents, and using the social tools to increase resident retention and improve lead conversion. I think the concept is scalable, which is an amazing achievement by Sherpa. This will require the involvement of current residents and staff.

There is room for improvement, but it will take time. While the blogs, the Facebook pages, and the Twitter accounts look great, there appears to be a disconnect. There isn't much participation at the property-level from the management staff or the residents. Is the connection the responsibility of the onsite staff? Are there solutions in place for promoting at the property-level?

Again, these solutions will come with a little more time. From what I can see, Sherpa is on the right track. I, for one, am paying close attention.

@Mark and Tami, Thank you for your comments and contributing to the conversation.

@Charity, You have brought up some great points, and will be interesting to watch this play out. Thank you for the detailed comment.

One thing I would challenge you on though, is that apartment communities that utilize the various ILS Services do not get any SEO value, because the ILS Services keep the prospect on their site, and do not allow links back to the property community site.

@Charity
The Community Sherpa team at NCI agrees..."There is room for improvement, but it will take time...There isn't much participation at the property-level from the management staff or the residents."

What we have to remember is that this is a brand new product. The blogs that are live, have only been live for a couple of weeks. The development team and Customer Service reps are working with the communities to get them trained on the services. It should only be a matter of time before you see more engagement from the communities.

@Eric
Thanks for the nod. You definitely seem to get what the product is about. It will be interesting to see how this product grows over the next few months and years.

Nice idea. But why should someone manage 5000 blogs a day?

This is so incredible, 5000 blogs a day? Does anyone have done this?

I have a concern with the Facebook element of this service. Community Sherpa builds a community page under the community name and prospects/residents 'like' thinking they are connecting to the community. Wonder how they would feel if they realized that suddenly their personal information could be accessed by a company they had not necessarily intended to 'like'?

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