UNL House Hunters
Mercedes Olderbak, Rachel Hupp, Leighton Chicoine
Finding housing arrangements can very easily become over-complicated, extremely stressful and painstakingly tedious. With so many housing options and all of their representatives acting as constraints and barking at students about why renting with them is the best (whether they know anything about the student or not), we knew it was time to give students an unbiased source of information. The exigence of our campaign is that it is seeming more often than not students are uninformed house hunters and renters. This is seen in various ways. Students neglect to shift through their future living arrangement possibilities as it can be seen as too cumbersome. This is also evident that many renters completely bypass reading the lengthy terms of the lease and trust that everything will go how they imagine it should be.
Our goal is to help guide UNL students in their housing quest and provide them a multitude of information about every detail they should be thinking about throughout the process. Our approach is an inventive solution to the problem and different from other approaches for several reasons – first, we will be providing unbiased,real-time information. We won’t benefit from students choosing to rent or live in certain locations, so we have no incentives to try and persuade them one way or another. We simply just want to inform them of all of their options and give them accurate information. Additionally, we are bringing the facts straight to them. Think of our approach as a one-stop shop to better living. The only real chance the students get to interact directly with these property management companies is once a semester during the UNL Housing Fair, which in our opinion is already under-advertised so students usually only go to it when they happen upon it in the Union. We will be providing them information through a multi-platform campaign over a series of weeks, not just for one day.
One of the key rhetorical factors in our campaign is logos. The hashtags we will be incorporating in most of our posts are #BeInformed and #LiveSmart. The objective of these hashtags and our campaign is to persuade students to explore their options, become informed renters and after they have compared all their options to chose the one that most suits their needs. So often students say “I wish I would have done ‘this or that’,” in regards to housing. Most of the time this is the result of failure to explore available options as students may have jumped on board with the first living arrangement they were presented with either by their friends or from housing representatives.
The multi platform concept we are referring to is the use of not only social media (facebook, twitter, instagram) but also a paper campaign (posters, flyers, table tents). These two fronts are the key to executing our goal of encouraging the UNL student body to act as smart and informed renters. We will do this for a few reasons. The first being that we believe presenting our campaign through many different avenues would reach the most people and more importantly a diverse group of students. The reason we want to attain a diversified audience is because we do not have a specific targeted sector within student body we are aiming to reach. The reason being that there is no one-track road to the perfect home that fits everyone. The second reason is repetition. This rhetorical strategy is effective for us in that the more sources our audiences sees regarding our campaign, the more likely they will become intrigued and engage. And in addition to that, the more something is seen by an individual, the more likely they are to remember it when their need arises.
As we mentioned, this was a multiplatform campaign. However, before we could launch this multitude of information at the student body, we had to do some critical research. This was our phase one. During this phase we hit the ground running by first creating a survey for students to fill out that asked them about things like: what their current living situation was, what they wish they would have known before moving, and what their plan is for the upcoming year. We had a decent turnout with this survey and received good feedback from all types of renters. The feedback from the survey, most specifically the responses to the question “what do you wish you would have known or had more information about prior to moving?”, started the foundation of what we were going to bring to the students. The next step in our research phase was to gain permission to post our paper campaign on campus. First we reached out to the dorm personnel to see if it was even possible to post our fliers on their bulletin boards. We were told to bring in the fliers and upon approval from upper management we could hang them up. We had to contact Student Affairs and Student Involvement on how to go about posting our fliers in the Union and in the different buildings and halls around campus to get the word out for our project. We were told we may need to contact the different business offices in these buildings to receive permission to post on their bulletin boards. The last step of research was to speak to the property management themselves to get information at the source. This essentially was somewhat of a free advertising opportunity for them so we were shocked when most major management companies (CIP, Century, HIP, etc.) declined to participate or even meet with a representative from our group. Lucky for us, all of the information we needed was located across all of their community websites. However tedious it was to comb through dozens of sites, we were able to get what we needed. This turned out to be a good thing, as the companies were not in control of the narrative and therefore the campaign remained unbiased.
Our second, and final phase, was to take action. The paper campaign was our first priority, one to start our housing awareness, but also to spread the word about our social media accounts and drive traffic there! After getting flier approval through the appropriate channels we started posting. Some of the various buildings we placed our fliers in were the Union, Burnett, Love Library, and Oldfather Hall. We mainly placed the fliers on the main levels of these buildings to try and gain the most traction as possible. Not only did we try to post these fliers in the most central places around campus, we also would make a new flier each week with new and interesting information. On these fliers that we posted weekly, we included pros and cons to the living situation that the flier indicated. By doing this, we kept people more informed on the living situations around campus, provided facts that might catch the eye of someone interested in changing their living situation, and we were able to consistently keep people informed, in brief, on the options that are available to them, and how they could check out our social media accounts to seek out more information on housing. By committing to a classic paper flier angle for our project, we could direct more people to our social media accounts that would increase the number of people we could reach that are in need of housing information, or that would like the explore other options than their current living situation. See graphics A & B for two fliers from the paper campaign.
Graphics A & B: two fliers posted inside campus buildings.
Once we got the word out about UNL House Hunters we launched the social media accounts. We wanted the main focus to be on our Facebook page, as that would be able to have the most information in one easily accessible place. We were able to connect several apartment complex websites to the tabs on on our Facebook page through the Facebook Developer site. Before doing so we had some concerns with the legality of displaying content that was not originally ours. After consulting Kathy Buller, long time attorney and current Inspector General of the US Peace Corp, we were told any information that is accessible to the public and photos that are not copyrighted, are fair game. The reason for adding these various tabs to the page was to create that “one stop shop” we were hoping for in our proposal. These tabs allow users to browse several different options available all while staying on one page. Convenience is key when it comes to keeping the attention of millennials. Not only do the students are direct access to the rental sites themselves but we also had daily posts providing information we saw a need for based on our survey from earlier in the campaign. These topics include, but are not limited to: how to contact utility companies, what is a cosigner/guarantor and when one is necessary, renting furniture, UNL parking passes (for off campus living), and cost saving information. Periodically, we would also post listings we saw on Craigslist for great housing deals all over Lincoln. There also was an option to message us directly on the page and ask questions. During the weeks of our campaign we had a few people reach out and were able to answer their questions or put them in contact with someone that could (see graphics C, D below).
Graphic C&D: Facebook conversation with interested user.
The Instagram account for UNL House Hunters was place for us to post current and past tenant reviews of different properties. We created easy to read social media graphics depicting good and bad things residents had to say. We posted negative reviews to contribute to the transparency we are trying to bring to the student body. Now they could easily google any of these properties and find this information, but we wanted to add that layer of convenience by having all of the information in one place. We also plan to put all of these reviews in a facebook album. Our last social media piece was our twitter account. With the Twitter, we posted several tips for deciphering between housing options. We also uploaded links to current listings that are available on the market. Finally, we informed renters of questions to ask, and housing hacks for their next home (see Graphic E).
Graphic E: Interaction with interested twitter user.
Looking back we think we had a lot of success overall. Within our group, we identified a few things we could have done better. The main issue being communication. Specifically we had issues understanding each other because we primarily communicated through text message. It is much harder to explain what you want/get your point across over text than in person, so looking back we wished we had planned more in person meets up to clear up confusion. The project, we feel, went amazing. The ultimate goal was to bring the information to the people, and we were able to do that. Our research phase went better than we expected, we thought we would hit a lot of red tape with the UNL in regards to posting on campus. Luckily they were very cooperative with us and we were able to get the message out. An unexpected hiccup was the uncooperative property management companies, which ended up working in our favor and letting us control the narrative for UNL House Hunters. We had the most success with the Facebook page, we were also to drive traffic to it and even had the opportunity to interact with a few interest parties. We had some traffic on the twitter and less on the Instagram. We should have posted more on campus to bring awareness of the accounts, even something as simple as putting slips are cars saying “Looking for a new home? Check out @UNLHouseHunters!” Another way we could have reached more people would have been to introduce the campaign in all of our classes, urging interested students to check it out. This project has the ability to not only last, but also stay relevant. In the beginning we don't think we understood how much time it was going to take to adhere to out posting schedule, and create all the graphics we wanted. We wished that we would have started the launch of the campaign towards the end of March, rather than April 1st, so we would have less conflicts with the end of out semesters. At times it felt as if we had bitten off more than we could chew managing all the social media accounts and keeping up with the paper campaign. Even with those bumps in the road, we were all able to put in the hours we committed to during the proposal phase, and we are very proud of what we have created. Because we connected the facebook page with tabs to the websites themselves, the information will be accurate and up-to-date as things change over time. The same goes for most of the links provided, the UNL Parking link will update every year, and the cost comparison link will continue to update with every school year. The contact info for the local utility districts can change, but we think that is unlikely at least in the near future. It is our hope that not only the UNL student body, but any future house hunter can utilize this page for months or even years to come.
UNL House Hunters Online