Posting to Craigslist is, theoretically, a relatively easy task for most leasing agents and property managers. But what we have seen as we have analyzed hundreds of communities' marketing strategies over the past several years is that many communities are not utilizing Craigslist as effectively as they could.
Part of the issue is that sometimes we rush through posting and end up making mistakes that we wouldn't make if we were a bit more careful. In other cases, it's a consequence of not understanding how Craigslist works or how prospects use Craigslist.
In this post we want to lay out a fairly simple, step-by-step strategy for Craigslist apartment marketing.
Step One: Figure out what city to post in.
It might be better to call this Step Zero because for most communities this will be a super easy step. You just post in whatever city's listings you're located in. So if you are in Omaha, NE you post on omaha.craigslist.org.
But for communities in small towns, it's not always clear what city they should be using. For those communities, the first thing to do is to find a list of all the cities that have a Craigslist site in their state and figure out which one they are closest to.
In some cases, there may be some ambiguity if two cities are both about the same distance. In that case, the best thing to do is do a search for their town on both city's pages. So if you're in Denison IA, for example, you might want to search on both Ames and Sioux City's Craigslist pages, because both are between 90 minutes and two hours away.
To do that, you would just navigate to ames.craigslist.org and siouxcity.craigslist.org, go to apartment listings, and search "denison." We would recommend posting to whichever page appears to have other listings for your town.
Step Two: Set up a posting schedule.
We aren't going to talk about the best times to post to Craigslist in this post, but if you're curious about that we have done some extensive work on that question.
For now, we simply want to make the point that you should have a posting schedule. There are several benefits to creating a schedule for posting.
- Avoid over-posting
- Avoid green ghosting
- Test what post times are most effective
- Vary which floorplans are shared and at what frequency
The schedule is a great tool for guaranteeing that you do not overpost, thereby violating Craigslist's terms of abuse and getting your community green ghosted. If you vary the times you post within the schedule--so you post floorplan A during late morning hours one day and then during early evening hours two days later—you can also get a sense of what times might get the best response in your area.
Step three: Shoot photos.
Lately we've seen more communities posting ads that don't have any photos in them. This is a huge mistake. Due to the changes implemented a number of years ago, all Craigslist posts now basically look the same. Communities are no longer able to add unique HTML templates to their posts to make their ads stand out.
What this means is that it is harder than ever to differentiate your community from your competitors on Craigslist. That, in turn, means that you cannot afford to neglect photography when posting to Craigslist.
Also, make sure that the photos you're posting are the sort that will help a prospect move down the sales funnel. A photo of your sign out front or of the clubhouse probably won't do that because they aren't leasing because of the sign or even because of the clubhouse. If they sign a lease, it will be because they like the specific apartment you're offering--so show that to them front-and-center.
Step four: Edit photos.
This is a related point, but an important one. In a day when there are all sorts of free image editors out there (and all kinds of great cameras), there's no reason to be posting blurry photos or dark photos or washed out photos as part of your online listing.
Making basic color corrections and retouches is extremely easy in most image editing applications, so please don't think you need to splash the cash on Photoshop or some similar high-end image editor. A free, basic image editor should serve your purposes 99% of the time. Tools like PicMonkey, iPhoto, or Google Photos could all be viable options for your community.
Step five: Write marketing copy and format the post.
The main thing with the copy is to keep it focused, concise, and peppered with information that is useful rather than marketing fluff. Number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, square footage, location, pet policy, parking, etc. Those are the things people want to know. So make sure you share that information in the copy. The other big thing is to make sure that you include the phone number of your community. Yes, the new changes on Craigslist mean that users have to click the "click for more info" box to see it, but you should still include the phone number.
One other point to consider: You might want to slightly increase the point size of the phone number or website (on which more in a moment) or use a bulleted list to make the information stand out more. You can find instructions online for creating a bulleted list and adjusting font size.
Step six: Link to the page on your site that provides the most information about the floorplan being advertised.
This is a really key point and, unfortunately, is not a common practice in our industry. When Craigslist started removing clickable links from their posts, we saw a lot of communities stop posting links entirely.
But this is a mistake because even if the link is not clickable, prospects can still copy and paste the link into their URL bar and get to your site that way. And as our own experience with our clients demonstrates, a lot of Craigslist users will do precisely that.
The key point is to make sure you're sending Craigslist users to a site that is relevant to their needs and provides them with the information they're looking for. Ideally, this will be a floorplan-specific landing page. But in the absence of that, find the page on your site that gives them the best information about the specific floorplan you're posting about and send them there.
If you follow these steps, then you should be on your way to a more successful marketing experience with Craigslist.