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The Apartment Leader's Guide to Helping Communities Use Craigslist

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There are two ways marketing projects can fail:

  • The strategy was executed and it just didn't produce the desired result.
  • The strategy wasn't successfully implemented in the first place.

Most of the time we focus on the first problem. But in today's blog we're looking at the second: What do you do when you have a great idea you want to try and... well, it's not being tried?

In particular we want to talk about execution on Craigslist. Much of what we're going to say would apply in some way to other marketing channels too, but Craigslist is still a viable channel and is one of the easiest marketing channels in the industry. So we're going to focus in this post specifically on Craigslist.

First, let's talk about one Craigslist strategy you should not use.

To begin, we need to first talk about why one common workaround for this problem is actually a horrible strategy that will backfire on you.

We occasionally talk to larger companies that have had the problem we're describing above. They know Craigslist is valuable but can't get property managers and leasing staff to post. To resolve the problem, they keep a few people in the corporate office whose primary job is to post to Craigslist for all their properties.

Unfortunately, this sort of strategy will almost certainly backfire. Because Craigslist is designed primarily for private users to buy and sell goods and services, they have a number of built-in features meant to discourage mass posting from larger businesses. One of those is a spam protection strategy of theirs called "green ghosting" in which posts they deem suspicious are blocked.

One trigger for green ghosting is if Craigslist sees an unusually high number of posts coming from a single IP address. Craigslist frequently sees this posting behavior and assumes that it is coming from a spammer. As a result, Craigslist's automated anti-spam protections will kick in and start blocking all posts coming from that IP address.

In other words, the corporate office may be posting and think their posts are going up, but in reality the only people who see the posts are those people signed into the posting account.

This is called "green ghosting" and it's a classic Craigslist apartment marketing problem.

What this means is that you can't simply solve this problem by doing everything out of the corporate office. Craigslist doesn't allow it and if you do it you'll actually make things worse for yourself long-term.

Simplifying the process is essential for changing the culture at your properties as well as the habits of individual employees.

We now need to turn our attention to how a regional manager, marketing director, or C-suite executive can implement a Craigslist posting strategy in their company.

The first thing we need to establish is that you need to make sure that you don't simply toss in "Implement Craigslist strategy" into a goal list alongside a dozen other things.

Instead, you need to say something like, "I have one or two things I want to do in the next few weeks. One is implementing a Craigslist strategy." That can sound odd at first—can you really afford to focus so much on only a couple things? But the reality is that if you do not make this a priority, it will continually get kicked down the road as something to do next week, next month, next quarter. And then you continue to have the problems and never get closer to solving them.

Of course, there's another reason to prioritize Craigslist training: There is no other service like Craigslist that is both free and reaches such a huge audience of targeted individuals. So if you get Craigslist right, the rewards are significant. 

Thus your first step needs to be making Craigslist a top priority for your staff. If for some reason you cannot do that at the moment, then you should just bracket Craigslist until you are able to prioritize it.

Once you have made that decision, the first thing you need to do is build a system for posting to Craigslist that makes the process as easy as possible.

There are a few keys to building such a system:

  • Build a posting schedule for each community to use.
  • Set up folders on the main computer at each property's leasing office that stores all of the information necessary to post on Craigslist.

When you are building a posting schedule, there are a few things you need to consider:

  • Look at the traffic data provided here to help determine the best times during the day to post.
  • Craigslist only allows the same post to be published once every 48 hours. That being said, we recommend waiting three days before reposting simply to avoid missing a day if you try to post before the 48 hours are up. Once every 72 hours is sufficient and is easier to do.
  • Make sure the posting schedule is easily accessible to everyone who needs to have it.

With regard to setting up folders on your computer, we recommend a hierarchy like this:

  • Start with a desktop folder labeled "Craigslist Posts." Inside this folder, you'll have folders for each individual floorplan. Those files will be organized this way:
    • Floorplan A
      • Floorplan A Bedroom 1 Photo
      • Floorplan A Bedroom 2 Photo
      • Floorplan A Bathroom 1 Photo
      • Floorplan A Living Room Photo
      • Floorplan A Kitchen Photo
      • Community Photo 1
      • Community Photo 2 
      • Community Photo 3
      • Marketing Comments (stored in a .txt file or .doc file—whatever works best for you)

Repeat that system for each floorplan in your community. (If you have a large number of floorplans, either create one for each floorplan or create one for each group of generally similar floorplans.)

The big idea here is that everything a leasing agent or property manager needs to create a Craigslist post should be in this folder. If you need to create a new Craigslist post for the three bedroom floorplan, all the content needed should be found in this folder.

We recommend including the community photos in every floorplan folder even if they are the same photos in each folder. It takes up fractionally more space on the hard drive, but it makes it easy for employees to find all the photos quickly.

Finally, if you are a RentVision client, you will not need to create this folder system because our posting tool will manage that for you.

You can access the posting tool in your Rentstream Dashboard by clicking the icon indicated below:


Once you have the system set up, it's time to start implementing it with leasing staff and property managers.

Keep in mind here is that this is going to be a situation where putting in a lot of dedicated time up front has long-term rewards. In our experience, the best way to do this is with personalized, on-site training.

Take a few weeks and just make those Craigslist weeks. Don't pile on other priorities. Don't send out a memo to your property managers and expect that to be enough. Take the time to do on-site training and to answer any questions your staff has about Craigslist.

Suppose you're a regional manager who has five properties you want to do this with scattered throughout the Twin Cities metro. The best strategy will be to take a few weeks and just plan on doing on-site Craigslist training with property managers and leasing staff at each community.

If the properties are close enough, you can maybe do the whole thing in one week—you just break the training out into four days and do the training at each property. If the properties are scattered over a larger distance, you may need to take two weeks to do it. Perhaps you do the three properties in the eastern Twin Cities metro in the first week and you hit the two properties in the western metro the second week.

This is the training model we recommend.

The model we recommend using works this way:

  1. Day 1: I do; you watch.
  2. Day 2: I do; you help.
  3. Day 3: You do; I help.
  4. Day 4: You do; I watch.

The first day you are at the property, you need to just show the staff every step of what you're doing. Show them the calendar, show them how the folders are set up, create the post, etc.

On day 2 of the training, you do it again with different floorplans that need to be posted but you ask them to help you.

On day 3, the roles reverse. You ask them to create the new posts for whatever floorplan you're advertising that day and they can ask you for help.

Finally, on day 4 you can renew the posts from day 1, post any floorplans that you haven't advertised yet, and have them do all the work while you watch.

Another benefit to this strategy is that it gives you plenty of time to coach staff and address objections before they are raised. In some cases, the process itself will even deal with some of the concerns.

For example, one common concern with staff is how long it can take to post on Craigslist. But once you get to day four and all the staff has to do is sign in to the Craigslist account, navigate to posts and click "Renew" they'll start to see that Craigslist posting is actually really easy once you lay the proper foundation.

Also, if you use a tracking number on all your Craigslist posts (and you absolutely should) it will be easy long-term to deal with another common objection: that Craigslist doesn't produce leads.

If you have a tracking number on all your Craigslist posts that is only used on Craigslist, then you can see exactly how many leads you're getting from Craigslist every month.

So when a property manager or leasing agent says they don't want to post on Craigslist because it doesn't work, you can have actual data to use in your response.

Once the posting strategy is in place at your properties, monitor progress and check in as needed.

The week after you get the program up and running, you'll want to keep a copy of the calendar for each property close at hand and check every day to make sure the staff at each property is posting according to the schedule and renewing posts that need to be renewed.

If you're able to visit the property as well, that can also be beneficial. If the staff at a property is not posting according to the schedule, check in with them and find out why they aren't posting.

Once the property has followed the schedule consistently for a week or two, you can scale back a little bit in your own monitoring of the property. Go to Craigslist and check to make sure they're posting every other day or even just twice a week. Once the system is in place, the goal is that the property's staff will maintain things and you will not need to be nearly as active there. 


It's essential that you set yourself up for success by focusing on mastering one task at a time. Getting your community leasing staff posting consistently to Craigslist can be a huge lift to a community, but creating the systems needed to make that happen takes a bit of work up front. That initial investment in time will more than pay for itself long-term, but it does mean taking the time to say "we're going to prioritize Craigslist."

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