Leveraging technology for effective communication within estate communities11th Feb 2019
The word ‘community’ has many definitions; however, within the context of the residential estate communities, the following seems an ideal fit: ‘an interacting group of people with similar characteristics and interests, residing in a common geographic location’.
Where you have an organised group of people, such as a residential estate community, co-existing within a common environment according to certain agreed guidelines, effective and efficient communication is essential.
New technologies and digital innovations are, at breakneck speed, disrupting many of our old ways of doing things. However, the desired outcome or end result usually remains the same – we want to get from A to B, or purchase a particular item, or in this case communicate with individuals or groups within our community.
A thriving estate community consists of many different stakeholders and role players, including Homeowner Associations (HOAs), residents, managing agents and service providers, to name but a few. Generally speaking, an estate community needs to consider two broad channels of communication – internal and external communications.
We are more connected now than ever before in our history, with a wide variety of digital communication mechanisms at our disposal – the question is how estates can best leverage and take advantage of these technologies to maximise their effectiveness across these two broad communication channels.
Here are two options to consider.
These include daily or weekly communications from, to and between HOAs, managing agents and residents (owners and tenants), as well as with estate service providers such as security, maintenance, registered estate agents and the various facilities and amenities offered within the estate community, such as restaurants, the clubhouse and the gym.
Usually these communications happen through a combination of an internal database and some form of email service and, while this is a convenient and widely accepted means of communication, it also has several inherent limitations.
A better option is to create an official estate communication channel in the form of a dedicated online community portal. This mechanism provides estate administrators, residents and other stakeholders with a secure, easily accessible communication environment as well as a host of other benefits, which may include the following:
- Real-time estate communications
- Direct notifications via SMS or mobile app
- General interest group forums
- Polls to measure interest on estate related topics and issues
- Ability to publish and distribute estate relevant content, such as from Estate Living
- Estate calendar providing details of events and activities
- Access to relevant information and documentation
- Updated user profiles – owners, residents, non-residents and tenants
- Booking of estate facilities and amenities
- Access to various estate service providers
- The ability for users to set their own notification preferences
- A secure online environment to engage with the various role players
Taking things a step further, there are mobile app version of the estate community portal’s available, which can be downloaded from the App Store (for iOS devices) or from Google Play Store (for Android devices), can provide registered users with greater convenience and even further benefits, in that it allows them to access information in a familiar environment via their mobile device and communicate in real time while on the move.
This involves the presentation and communication of the estate’s unique brand and lifestyle message to the rest of the world. Make no mistake, an estate is a valuable brand and intentional emphasis should be given to continually growing its value, to the benefit of all stakeholders.
The starting point for this communication channel is the estate website. This is an incredibly valuable digital resource and communication mechanism, which, unfortunately, in many instances is extremely underutilised.
Consider the following when developing an estates web presence.
Go responsive – create a responsively designed user interface that adapts its display to suit the size of the device being used (desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile) to ensure a great user experience.
SEO – search engine optimisation is not a black art; it simply boils down to having meaningful content contained in a well-coded website that adheres to fundamental best practices.
Digital mapping – get visual by showcasing properties that are available for sale or rent within the estate and providing interested parties with the ability to search and explore these options.
Social media – – make sure that your website integrates well with your social channels. These mediums are good at providing communication channels for your brand, and the key to maximizing engagement is to deliver consistent, interesting and valuable content, as a part of an integrated strategy.
While technology certainly offers huge advantages to estates when it comes to effective communication, it is also true that most estates employ multiple systems and databases, as no one system can fulfill all the ongoing operational requirements of an estate community.
The challenge with this is that too many independent systems and databases create a level of complexity that needs to be managed. This in turn increases administrative costs, and in many cases hinders communication rather than enhancing it.
The solution therefore is to create an integrated digital environment that allows users (administrators, residents and others) to leverage the benefits and advantages of these various systems into one seamless way.
By automating and streamlining the administrative processes, functions and communications of an estate within this digitally integrated environment, HOAs and their management teams can expect to see a marked improvement in communication, productivity and profitability..