Suppose you're trying to sell someone a product. If I told you about a completely free service that would allow you to advertise to 60 million unique visitors a month... would you be interested? Of course you would. Well, I have good news for you: That's precisely what Craigslist is.
Craigslist, the popular San Francisco-based online classifieds service, boasts an average of 50 billion page views per month as well as 60 million unique viewers in the United States alone. As far as cost-effective marketing strategies go, "get on Craigslist," ranks pretty near the top of the list.
Craigslist Gets Higher Rent Rates
But that's not all: There is good reason to think Craigslist leads typically pay higher rent rates.
A 2012 study from J Turner Research found that the average rent price per lead from Craigslist is $119 higher than the national average rent from other sources. (Unfortunately, they have not updated this study since that time.)
In fact, Craigslist generally drew higher rental prices than any other major source, $18/month better than an apartment community's own website, $53/month better than a generic online search, $115/month better than apartments.com, and $181/month better than apartmentfinder.com:
To recap, Craigslist offers your apartment community free advertising to an enormous pool of users and has a track record of getting higher rental prices from the leads it generates. So, in other words, Craigslist gets you more leads that, when they sign a lease, pay more in rent. Given all those truths, you'd be mad not to advertise apartments on Craigslist.
Advertising Apartments on Craigslist Takes Some Skill
Unfortunately, using Craigslist effectively isn't as simple as typing up an apartment description, sticking it on Craigslist, and waiting for the phone to ring. Performing well on Craigslist requires work. You need high-quality content. You need a good posting schedule. You need to know how to write professional, engaging marketing copy. The list goes on. We're going to talk about just a few of the requirements for people who want to do well on Craigslist below.
What is "high-quality content" on Craigslist?
The biggest problem you'll run into on Craigslist is the problem you run into on every ILS: Because you are working on a platform you share with tons of other competitors, it naturally becomes quite difficult to distinguish your property from another property because everything looks the same on every listing.
That being said, there is one major difference between Craigslist and other listing services. Most listing services will shoot some kind of basic set of photos for your property. As a result, all the listings on their site even have the same kind of photos. It's no surprise, then, that ILS leads generally pay less in rent; the only thing you can compete on with those sites is price. So price naturally gets driven down.
But on Craigslist you provide the photos for your listing. So if you have high-quality professional photos that are lit well, in focus, show the room at its best, etc. that puts you at a major advantage relative to your competitors who sent a leasing agent into the room armed with nothing but a smart phone and vague directions.
You need a good posting schedule.
You probably won't be too surprised to find out that some times (and days) are better for posting on Craigslist than others. Some of this is just common sense, of course: Posts that go up at 2pm on a Monday figure to do better than posts at 11pm on a Friday. But there's more we can say beyond that. Here are the high points from our fairly extensive research on the topic:
- Monday is the biggest day with traffic dropping slightly every day after.
- There is about a 25% drop in traffic from Monday to Friday, but then an additional 25% drop for weekends.
- So Mondays and Tuesdays are the best days to post, but any weekday is going to be a decent day to post.
- It's the weekends that are really poor, posting only half the amount of traffic that is generated on Monday.
If you want to know more about the best times to post, read our post What is the Best Time to Post on Craigslist?
There is a second benefit to using a posting schedule as well. If you post on a set schedule, you will not over-post, which means you will not be green ghosted.
What is green ghosting? Green ghosting is when Craigslist displays a post as "live" (green) in the poster's account but blocks the post from being displayed to their users. Craigslist does this when they observe an account that has posting behavior that appears to have been automated. To discourage such posting, Craigslist blocks the accounts guilty of such posting habits so that their posts are not actually seen by Craigslist users.
Posting schedules, therefore, can help you on both sides of the marketing equation—they increase your visibility with users and help you avoid things like green ghosting that would drastically decrease your visibility.
How do you write good marketing copy on Craigslist?
Though it is harder to stand out with your marketing copy on Craigslist, it is still worth trying. Here are a few good rules to keep in mind:
- Avoid jargony, salesy language that will feel manipulative and dishonest to readers.
- Give accurate, objective descriptions of the property.
- Include your pet policy.
- Write copy for the floorplan you're advertising, not just the community in general.
What you're trying to do with the marketing copy is provide language that informs readers about the floorplan, complements what they are seeing in the photos, and helps them figure out if this floorplan could be their new home. Even if they decide it's not a good option, that's not necessarily bad—they were going to disqualify themselves at some point. It's better that they do it before they call your leasing office and waste your staff's time.
This is a good system for handling Craigslist as an apartment marketer. That said, implementing such a system is another question entirely. We have written on that as well. So if you need help getting your team on board with a winning marketing strategy on Craigslist, check out our post The Apartment Leader's Guide to Helping Communities Use Craigslist.