WANT TO END UP IN THE NY TIMES
If you think your customers aren't talking about you, better rethink your position. You can no longer bury your head in the sand without suffering the consequences. The story reported in the New York Times last week is a classic example of what Not To Do. It outraged folks and drew over eighty comments. Every company, small medium or large should be listening, and taking action. The world is different today, take heed, grasp and embrace this space we call Social Media, It IS Her to Stay.

THE CUSTOMER IS NOT ALWAYS RIGHT
This story "Tenants Encouraged to Socialize, but Not Criticize by Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times is particularly dear to me because it is about Apartment Operations, my livelihood and about Social Media, my passion. I DO NOT deny the apartment operator, Rockrose Development the right to not renew a lease, as I have NEVER subscribed to the theory "The Customer is Always Right", because they aren't.

WHAT WENT WRONG
The story starts here; "When a luxury tower in Queens would not renew their lease, Katy and David Griffiths moved into a walkup in Brooklyn. Rockrose Development Corporation markets itself as something of a cruise director, fostering a sense of fun and neighborhood spirit in its luxury rental buildings fitted with pools, barbecue grills and party rooms.

But one former tenant, David Griffiths, now thinks of the real estate developer as more akin to Big Brother. Mr. Griffiths, an information technology consultant, and his wife, Katy -- who is pregnant -- had to move in November when Rockrose declined to renew their lease at its EastCoast waterfront development in Long Island City, Queens. A Rockrose employee, he said, told him it was because he had posted critical comments about the building on the Internet. That surprised Mr. Griffiths, who indeed had posted complaints, but on a Google Groups forum that he created -- a tenants' group accessible only to members whom he approved.

"Dave, we understand that you're not happy living here, so we made the decision for you," the employee said, according to Mr. Griffiths."It's very '1984,' " said Mr. Griffiths, 38, a Briton who seems mystified to find himself part of the turbulent annals of New York landlord-tenant relations.

Sofia Estevez, the company's senior vice president for marketing, said she approved the decision to part ways with the Griffiths. Ms. Estevez said that in Rockrose's holdings across the city, some 6,000 units, there are about 10 tenants a year whom she deems more trouble than their rent money is worth. "In these times, I try to renew everybody -- unless somebody's a real hothead and a troublemaker," she said. "You could speak to any staff members in the building who would say that he was abusive, that he was unhappy from the time that he moved in." Rockrose's treatment of Mr. Griffiths was "obnoxious," but legal, said Maddy Tarnofsky, a tenants' lawyer who tangled with the company over a resident's dog.

What most irks some EastCoast tenants is that Rockrose markets its luxury apartments as part of a community -- but then seems to limit open debate in that community.
An article about EastCoast in The New York Times last fall, however, prompted another tenant to call the newspaper about the Griffiths' experience. In the article, Ms. Estevez joked that while most landlords might discourage socializing among tenants, to avoid any organized uprisings, Rockrose was bucking tradition by encouraging tenant networking. That was a sentiment hardly shared by the Griffiths, and some other tenants. Asked on Wednesday about Mr. Griffiths, Ms. Estevez said that she would detail his "abusive" history, and that if he had said anything untrue about Rockrose, "I will retaliate." Later, in an e-mail message to the paper, Ms. Estevez said a lawyer had advised no further comment.

WHAT WENT WRONG
This is not about WHO Was Right and WHO Was Wrong; It is about the absolute lack of Conversation. There was no open, transparent Conversation. Social Media is about Participating in the Conversation. If that had happened, via a company blog, via a company facebook entry, via a company forum or any of the other many excellent venues and conduits that Social Media offers, we, any of us could simply read them and make a pretty quick determination as to right and wrong. A chronic complainer never survives long term in the Social Media space, the community will self police that for the most part. Likewise, the company doesn't get to filter what they want folks to read and comment on, that doesn't work either.
 


February 1, 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(18)

Hello,
Eric

I read your article. But, I can not understand about what you say for social media. Please give me clear idea about it. Is it good for seo or not?

Because, I am also seo and running one campaign for my client.

I think Eric's point hits on SEO in a tangential way. Doing a search on any terms related to this company will eventually contain blog postings,discussions, and other social media conversations that will likely be negative. If this company doesn't smarten up, they'll be in a situation where their "official" web site and "official" take on this whole incident is pushed to the fourth, fifth or sixth page of search engine results.

In other words, these conversations affect SEO very much.

And in fact, it looks like some of the "big brother" blog posts about Rockrose are already creeping up the results, to #3 and #4 on some search variants of "rockrose" and "eastcoast". Previously, this development company had done a lot of work getting positive media mentions about their properties listed on Google...and it's about to get wiped out over carelessness.

Anand, Good Morning, Thanks for stopping by,
I apologize if the points I was trying to articulate were not clear, and I will try here to simplify it. The apartment management company started a Social Media program, and started to receive some favorable press, however, they really DID NOT have a Social Media Program at all.

Although different folks have different definitions of Social Media, I think most agree, It is an Opportunity to Participate in the Conversation. That is what was missing here, an open source, transparent conversation.

I hope that helps, -Eric

Tom, Good Morning
Your comments are spot on, and this is such a great example of how your social media strategy can eat your lunch if not executed properly.

This post was not about slamming the apartment operator, that is happening enough now without one more blogger. Frankly, I have a haunch that in this case, the resident may have been wrong, this is only speculation, and IF there had been an Open Dialog, based on our own use of Using and Practicing Social Media, the Community at Larger would have self policed the situation.

Chronic complainers are quickly shut down by their peers. In this case, the resident was far better at the game and the apartment operator fell into the typical trap of filtering, which is teh death of a Social Media plan.

You don't subscribe to the notion "the customer is always right", what does that mean to you?

Judging by your comment, "because they aren't" reply I don't think you get it at all.

You basically went on to bolster the idea that the customer is or should have been right with your attack on the management company.

Your thoughts are are very unclear.

Take this as constructive critisim

Hi Craig, Thank you for the feedback,
There are a lot of things being mixed around in this post, and I apologize for not being clear.

There are some schools of thought that "The Customer is Always Right" I do not agree with that or subscribe to that notion, but that really isn't what the post is about. I believe that the customer gets to sound off, and articulate their position on a problem or matter, and that Social Media, when approached with complete transparency is an excellent venue for that. Social Media allows a two way conversation, it allows participation in the conversation.

The apartment operator received recognition for there Social Media efforts, which is one of the reasons cited that the resident choose to live there. However, Whatever Social Media fanfare the apartment operator recieved, they lost it all, as there is no two way conversation happening.

Hope that helps,

Hi Craig, Thank you for the feedback,
There are a lot of things being mixed around in this post, and I apologize for not being clear.

There are some schools of thought that "The Customer is Always Right" I do not agree with that or subscribe to that notion, but that really isn't what the post is about. I believe that the customer gets to sound off, and articulate their position on a problem or matter, and that Social Media, when approached with complete transparency is an excellent venue for that. Social Media allows a two way conversation, it allows participation in the conversation.

The apartment operator received recognition for there Social Media efforts, which is one of the reasons cited that the resident choose to live there. However, Whatever Social Media fanfare the apartment operator received, they lost it all, as there is no two way conversation happening.

Hope that helps,

Eric,

Great thoughts, I think you are spot on. I'm normally a consumer advocate but I can relate the property owner, who may have just cause to refuse to renew. I think it stems the misunderstanding of how to combat negative reviews, and you are right about joining the conversation. I would have contacted and gather my evangelists, people that enjoy the property, it give their opinions and viewpoints of the situation.

Eric Wu, Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.
I think a significant missed opportunity here is embracing the complaining customer, who when handled correctly can be converted to one of your best customers, OR, if they are one of those rare chronic complainers, they could be flushed out and you can part ways, but either way it goes, Open Source Conversation is a must, otherwise there is no Social Media

well, I'm confused about your post as well; first you state that the costumers are not always right and then you tell a story that not following this golden rule is harmful for a company ...

in other words; the conclusion of this story is in fact that the costumer is always right !

it's very strange that you don't seem to notice this contradiction.

Michiel Good Morning, and thank you for taking the time to comment,

I apologize for creating confusion, and perhaps the comment about the customer is not always right should have been left out, because it is diluting the point of the blog post.

The apartment operator claimed to be practicing Social Media, but they were not. If they were there would be open threads of a conversation, but there are not. Therefore, no one knows who is right.

If there had been open, respectable threads of a participating conversation between the apt co and the resident and the community, there likely would have been a much different result.

I've learned a HUGE lesson about social media. Trust me; your customers will talk about you. We have a high-ranking website that sells software. We weren't able to handle the inquiry volume. We also didn't have an effective way of training our customers on how to use our new software. The tutorials that came along with the software were very confusing. We had a lot of returns because most people couldn't even use the product. We decided to incorporate phone conferencing and web conferencing to help keep in touch with our clients and to train them on our software. I was just browsing one day and came across http://www.24conference.com and decided to check it out. When I came across your site on today, this reminded me of our social media faux paw. Great article!

Stacie, Thanks for the comment and sharing your experience. We need less Social Media and Marketing folks talking to each other and more businesses talking to businesses as we all traverse this economy and figure our way through this Social Media space,

Thanks for your post, Eric.

I think that social media is confounding to a lot of people, some of whom having been charged with managing social media programs. It's in its infancy, really, so you can expect a lot of mistakes. The problem is that by its very nature, these mistakes are often pretty high-profile ones.

In this case it seems to me that a social media program has been mistaken for a public relations program. Often, those two worlds interconnect, but they're not the same. There is no spin in social media as there is in PR. There is no hook. It's just people talking through the use of technology. It seems too simple to many, I think, which is ironically why it becomes so difficult to grasp and easy to mess up.

In my view, no matter what the details were, it was a mistake to penalize a participant in that conversation for giving away a real opinion, whether that opinion was justified or not. It is especially wrong to monitor a participant in that conversation, not publicly address the issues raised, and respond offline unseen by other participants who also may have opinions to contribute. That's not social media. That's just surveillance.

Thanks again for the post!

Rob, Your Comment is well articulated and spot on, Thank You

You know, I agree with you there will be mistakes, and that's OK, that is how we all learn BUT, the most fundamental piece of Social Media is Participating in the Conversation, and you don't get to choose which one. If your organization is not ready for that, that's OK too, just don't purport Social Media for its market awareness and then be surprised when it blows up in your face.

Erick,
Your article is great on many fronts. It is the wise whom thinks, three times before speaking.
This social media is not a forum for small circumstances in life to be broad cast into a public eye. Social media is just that "social".
A simple private letter or even better face to face conversation would suffice a resolution of differences - unless one wants an audience.
I love "New York" and New Yorkers. When I lived there many years ago it was obvious that living one on top of another in small spaces creates a stressed life. A life better suited to some folks than others. Knowing how to pick the seeds of benefit from the situation could give peace to all involved. "Lawsuits are seldom peaceful."
Let us all keep in mind everything we say in this kind of forum is read by "all," with many different agenda's.
I appreciated your caution and insight on the article.

P.S. I live on top of a mountain only crowded by the sky . . .

The use of social media may be an interesting way to market thoughts and products, but we need to remember that this should be used responsibly.

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