The Marketing Strategy of Horizon Realty Group VS Reality

Apparently a Chicago Rental Management company, Horizon Realty Group, thinks that using social media is best used to find customers that are paying you money and unhappy with your service, and then sue their pants off.  To Horizon Realty, one bad tweet should cost a customer $50,ooo.  That’s $357.14 per character.

Here’s the tweet that caused the fuss.

“You should just come anyway. Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s okay.”

Just so we’re clear Horizon Group Management, let”s give a run down to your marketing thought process vs the reality of the situation:

1.  Social Media is About Brand Monitoring Only:

Reality: Social media is about communities and conversations.  While brand monitoring is a vital part of social media, it enables a way to join a conversation and get a perspective on the health of your brand.  A simple response would have been to tweet that you’re concerned about the statement and would love to talk ASAP because mold is an issue you take seriously and want to resolve immediately.

2.  Conversations Can Be Controlled:

Reality: Control over your brand and message is difficult. Then again, in reality, did you ever really ever have control? As Chris Brogan has stated, “You never had control of your message.”  People have always talked about businesses, and brands are merely perceptions and emotions individuals feel toward your company or product.  The control you once felt, was merely a closed communication bubble lacking the ability for feedback.  People are still talking, but now those conversations are posted online and available for the world to see and join in. This is in fact, a good thing.

3.    Social Media is Popular, Therefore Lots of People Will See The Comment:
Reality: Mashable reports through a simple Google search that the accused twitter account “has around 20 followers. While the numbers could have dropped since the deletion, it doesn’t appear the message would have traveled far. @abonnen wasn’t a particularly heavy Twitter user, either – she posted somewhere between 1 and 5 tweets per day and often didn’t post for 2 or 3 days.”  Translation, no one saw the tweet and no one cared.  Until today.

4.    We Must Defend All Untrue Statements:
Reality: Even giving you the assumption that it was an untrue statement.  It’s generally going to take more than one bad tweet to hurt business.  A simple response would have been sufficient.  However, several thousand tweets are potentially devastating.  Mashable alone, has 2200 RT’s and I found the article on DrudgeReport, the 6th most popular news site on the internet.  The one negative tweet was no biggie, the 2200 tweets and potentially ten’s of thousands who read the article and look at you as a bully and anti-free speech is another story.

5.    It Was an Untrue Statement:
Reality: I have never lived in an apartment from Horizon Realty.  However, there are 15 comments on Yelp with an average under 2 stars.  With statements like “horrible maintenance”, “cockroach infestation”, and “health code violations abound-mold” inserted into comments…you either have actual issues to look at, or maybe just unlucky that the only 16 unhappy renters all have active social network profiles.

6.    We’re “a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization”
Reality: I’m not really sure how to respond to that, it’s an actual quote…I didn’t even need to add anything here.

7.    Our Twitter Brand Is Important To Us:
Reality: While although you may actually think that, it’s not important to anyone else.  A Twitter search of all mentions of “Horizon Realty” as of yesterday was ZERO.  Yep, zip.  Today a search of “Horizon Realty” pulls several thousand.  There has been 611 added since I started writing this post alone.  I’m assuming it’s not because you have an unbelievable corner unit everyone is tweeting about.

8.    This is an issue between us and Amanda Bonnen;
Reality: It’s not anymore.  The social media universe is passionate about freedom of speech and openness.  Any attempt that remotely looks like an organization is trying to mute that will soon experience the viral wrath.

9.    Our Good rep is worth $50,000
Reality: At a very modest average price of $700 per month per unit, you’ll only need to lose 6 customers to lose more than 50k in just one year.  I’m just guessing that the way the Twitterverse has reacted and Chicago being the 3rd most active Twitter city…6 people may rethink doing business with you.

10.    No such thing as bad publicity
Reality: Sorry, that only applies to Paris Hilton and Michael Jackson

I hate to kick a dead horse, that’s not the point of this post.  The point is that social media has the potential to be a key point to your organization, for good or for bad.  Today, we’ve seen what can happen when used incorrectly.  It’s valuable to have an understanding of how social media works…maybe someone could have mentioned that to the legal team.

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Scott S Bishop
Scott S. Bishop is editor for Real Time Marketer and a marketing strategist with a specialty in social media. He is an avid blogger and active across the net. He is @thescottbishop on Twitter
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