Just before Wade Hewitt, Vice President of Apartmentratings.com spoke at the Apartment Internet Marketing Conference back in April, I was the guy in the back of the room, holding a bag of rotten tomatoes, with my hand fully loaded, ready to toss.
"Apartmentratings.com in this very room! Can you believe our luck? As an industry, we've been waiting for a chance to sling our own mud (or tomatoes) at them! How dare they cause us undue stress because of their ugly website with angry rants!"
As Wade, he with his egregious wit and broken razor, began speaking, I slowly lowered my arm, came to my senses, and dropped the tomato I was holding back into the bag. "Wait", I said to myself, "myself..... the climate against Apartmentratings.com has changed. That's good. What he's saying up there is the same thing I've been saying. There is an underlying truth to these posts. We should embrace them." Then, just before Wade stepped down, he leaked information about an upcoming Resident Verification Program. Resident Verification program? What in the holy ugly website is that? Unfortunately for us conference goers, Apartmentratings.com was tight lipped and any further clarifications went unanswered.
Fast forward to June 28th 2012, just before NAA was due to kick off, and the Resident Verification question was answered. Internet Brands who owns ApartmentRatings.com went ahead and purchased Satisfacts Research. On one hand you have a company that has made its mark giving anonymous people the freedom to talk about their living experiences. Satisfacts has made its mark giving verified residents the chance to voice their opinion about their living experiences and provide excellent analytics to management companies.
So what's the skinny on these two companies?
First, they are going to remain separate. There will be no name changes, like for instance ApartmentFacts. What will be happening is a deeper integration with Apartmentratings.com than any company has been able to do before. If desired/approved by the property management company, resident surveys completed with Satisfacts will have the ratings and comments pushed to the property's ApartmentRatings.com page as a review.
There's an important caveat to note here. Anonymous posts will still be allowed even if you're in the program and will function the same. The added benefit this program gives, of course, is including verified resident reviews.
Why is this development so important?
For the first time ever, Apartmentratings.com is extending an olive branch to the industry. The decision to try to change the industry's perception of Apartmentratings.com is commendable, if not overdue. It seems that finally, they do understand a little about how a site like this can damage the reputation of a property - often times unfairly. It seems they are trying to be our friend. Until more times passes, I think I'll keep the friend request queued.
So everyone gets to reap the benefits of the Resident Verification program?
No. You will have to be a customer of Satisfacts or purchase the program through RentAdvisor to take advantage. For those of you who are not customers of either yet, it will be the same old Apartmentratings.com you currently deal with now. Regardless of the additional sign ups and cost, it could be the next evolution in reputation management for the industry. Adding verified residents to your review mix gives your overall property score more credibility. Just as long as the lines between resident and "paid advertiser" are clear and your product isn't terrible, I believe it will really help boost those ratings.
I would love to hear your opinion on this.
What do you think? Good or bad for the industry? Feel free to leave a comment behind.