Ratings and reviews are becoming increasingly important to apartment communities, especially those with an online presence. But negative comments posted on Google, Yelp, and the like can derail marketing and management’s efforts to appeal to prospective residents and cater to existing ones.

For a long time, people in the multi-family rental industry tended to sort of brush-off negative reviews and believed that, “They don’t really hold that much weight.” However, when it comes to online reviews, things are changing, people have started to take them much more seriously. These reviews are actually impacting search engine optimization rankings and where communities are actually placing on Google, Yahoo, and so forth. These Yelp reviews, Google reviews, or social media reviews might be some of the first things people are seeing when searching for apartments. Because of this, it’s changed the landscape. Even more importantly, where there once was social media and review sites, those two entities are now combined. Reviews are everywhere. You can’t hide from them.”

In the past, communities were so afraid of acknowledging reviews and avoided responding, without consequence. Now, they are starting to embrace reviews and realize that they can make a positive impact on both the reputation and the marketing of their properties. In today’s competitive markets there is no longer an option for multi-family housing rental communities to ignore online reviews.

Apartment communities should be proactive in monitoring and responding to online reviews about their properties in order to manage their online reputation. When responding to online reviews the response should be for the reader, not just the reviewer. It is also critical to avoid disclosing anything private about the reviewer in any response.

The Internet can breed a lot of negativity because it is anonymous. It is important to establish a best practices policy for your properties when it comes to dealing with online reviews and your responses. “Don’t get defensive! Step back from the situation, read what the resident is saying, and look at it as an opportunity to make the situation right.” It’s no different than addressing a complaint that comes into the office via phone or e-mail. They’re all just as important. With online reviews, it’s just much more public. You have to be more transparent and diplomatic with your response.

At a recent Education Conference, Veronica Romney of Entrata noted, “Today’s society represents the most opinionated group of consumers in the history of the planet.” Any response you make to online reviews should be solution-oriented and make the resident feel heard and appreciated. It’s important to remember that resident reviews are posted by “people” and you have to understand that and appreciate it, and not make it feel like you are condescending when responding.

Responding to online reviews is only half of the equation; you also have to learn from them in order to better manage your online reputation. Today, no matter the business, there’s no escaping the impact of online reviews.