I recently read an article from Cal Newport on the pitfalls of social media. It is an interesting read that I summarize here in this article, but I think it is instructive to pair his thoughts on social media with the property management industry. Property management, unlike most other businesses, has remained a belly to belly business in every way.

Many of our customers at Latchel do most of their business at networking events, through referral partners, or through word of mouth referrals. Happy customers standing belly to belly, talking to other happy customers. The majority of Latchel’s business comes from referrals. Make customer’s happy, and the benefits will be huge.

Don’t get me wrong, there has been a gradual shift in property management to create more virtual process. This helps to free you up to do more of the meaningful in-person work. Our customers understand that. They choose Latchel in order to build a 24/7 virtual maintenance department so they can focus on in-person growth oriented activities. In many ways, it keeps property managers and real estate professionals sharp in a trend crazed, chaotic online environment.

Cal starts by discussing the unease that social media has created among users:

“When you take an activity like social media, for example, and zoom in close, you isolate behaviors like commenting on a friend’s picture, or encountering an interesting link, that seem mildly positive. What harm could there possibly be in clicking a heart icon?

When you zoom out, however, the cumulative effect of all this swiping and tapping seems to add up to something distinctly negative. Few are happy, for example, after allowing yet another movie night to devolve into side-by-side iPad idling.

The dynamic at play here is that digital activities that are mildly positive in isolation, combine to crowd out other real world activities that are potentially much more satisfying. This is what allows you to love Twitter in the moment when you discover a hilarious tweet, but at the end of the day fear that the app is degrading your soul.”

— Cal Newport

He doesn’t paint a very loving picture of social media, but he nails what we’re all feeling. These isolated moments of joy don’t add up to a fulfilling day. At the risk of stretching, we can even compare this feeling to business productivity. Isolated moments of feeling productive don’t necessarily add up to a productive day. Here’s what I mean: Posting on your company’s Facebook page feels very productive when you do it. Getting views and likes makes it feel even more productive. But is it? Did those likes turn into signed contracts.

How many of you ACTUALLY track which social media followers are converting to paying customers? I’d guess very few, mostly because it is really really hard to even track that. At Latchel, we can only track that when we pay for ads – which we almost NEVER do. Why? Because paid traffic doesn’t pay off for us. We know this. We get better results when we TALK to our customers, not when we push online ads in their face.

 Is it a distraction or the ultimate marketing tool?! Is it a distraction or the ultimate marketing tool?!

So Cal takes his hypothesis to make a resolution:

It is with this in mind, and in the spirit of the New Year, that I suggest you make a simple resolution: join analog social media.

As I’ve discussed beforeanalog social media describes organizations, activities and traditions that require you to interact with interesting people and encounter interesting things in the real world.

Sounds beautiful. In the property management industry, this is norm for the course. If you’ve ever been to a NARPM chapter meeting, sat in on a landlord meetup, had coffee with a local real estate agent… then you’re handling social media analog style. Good job! So you probably don’t need a new year resolution, but it helps to know that the customers you’re looking to serve are caught in a tornado of social media trash. So yes, you should still have a social media presence, but know that it is not as productive as the face to face work you could be doing.

Equally important, as I learned during last year’s big digital declutter experiment (summarized here; detailed here), the more analog social media you introduce into your life, the more bulwarks you establish against the creeping demands of the digital.

With nothing else in place to fill your time, your phone will become increasingly irresistible, regardless of your intentions to spend more time disconnected. When you instead introduce meaningful analog activity into your regular routine, the appeal of the screen suddenly diminishes.

To summarize: if you’re vaguely unhappy with your digital life, respond by introducing much more positive real world activity. If you embrace analog social media, you’ll soon be wondering how you ever dedicated so much time to its inferior digital equivalent.

So let’s wrap by talking about disconnecting because this is where most of your problems are. Don’t hide from it. When was the last time you truly tuned out? When was the last time you could turn your phone off with ZERO worry that you may get an emergency call about a flood at a property? If you’re a Latchel customer, then your answer was yesterday. If you’re not a Latchel customer, then I’m guessing it has been a long time since you truly disconnected.

Magical things happen when we have the headspace and can focus while in a disconnected mindset. The social media analog (i.e. actually talking to people) happens with a greater intensity and a focus. You create an atmosphere of genuine attention to someone else which is the most seductive and charming act in the world. So if you really want to connect with prospective customers, make the effort to actually disconnect. Completely focus on them and be the most seductive, most charming, most genuinely caring property manager to ever set foot in your neighborhood.

Did you like this thought piece? Let me know and we’ll do more posts like this on the Latchel blog.

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