How To Go From Craigslist Rule-Breaker To Expert Marketer

So – you want your property to be on Craigslist.  And potential renters want to find your property on Craigslist.  Sounds like an easy enough equation.

Ha!  Yeah, right.

If you work at a large apartment community, you probably have a love-hate relationship with Craigslist.  We feel your pain.  But trust us – it doesn’t have to be painful.

First, let’s take a step back.  Why are you posting on Craigslist?  Because you want to get your vacancies in front of renters, right?   So, those renters are your target market.  And you need your advertising to appeal to your target market, and get found by your target market.

Now, what does your target market want to see when they do a search on Craigslist?  A variety of advertisements fitting their criteria.  What DON’T they want to see?  The same ad over and over and over again.  If they don’t like it once, will they like it the third or sixth time they see it?  No.  Your risks from over-posting are:

  • You frustrate your target market and lose that person as a renter
  • You get flagged as spam and your ads go down
  • You get ghosted and can’t use Craigslist at all anymore

Why do those things happen?  Because Craigslist is built for your target market – the renters.  They want them to enjoy their experience so they’ll keep using Craigslist for everything they need.  If renters see Craigslist as a site full of spammers without unique content, they’ll stop using them.  So Craigslist wants to put a stop to crappy renter experiences.

So – you most certainly don’t want to make your target market AND Craigslist angry.  What do you need to do differently?  Follow Craigslist’s Terms of Use religiously .  We say ‘religiously’ because over at Reachwerks, the Craigslist Terms are kind of our bible.  And here is the Term that we see being violated most often:

“A user may post the same or substantially similar content no more than once every 48 hours.”

The same or *substantially similar* content.  Think about that.  If you post more often than every 48 hours, are all of your Craigslist ads substantially different from each other?  No?  Then you’re violating the Terms and are just waiting to get flagged or ghosted.

This means that you need to have unique content in each ad.  Those ads don’t just need to LOOK different, they need to actually have different content.  You can’t just copy and paste your generic property description over and over again, even if it’s laid out in a few different pretty designs.

Yes, it takes some leg work to create unique ads.  But it’s what you have to do – both to abide by Craigslist’s rules, and to avoid frustrating renters who see you as a spammer.  Here are some examples of unique ads to get your creative juices flowing:

  • An ad geared towards a specific target market, such as commuters, that describes your 1 bedroom + den vacancies and explains your ZipCar, bike storage racks and bus routes
  • A unique description of a particular 2 bedroom floorplan at your property that sits along the south side of the building and gets great light from the large balconies
  • A summary of your vacant ground floor units with details about what pet breeds you accept, any pet fees, a description of the dog run you have on-site and a list of nearby off-leash parks
  • An ad about your 3 bedroom vacancies that talks about your great new kitchens, the rooftop pea patch, and nearby farmers markets

So – now it’s time to silence your cell phone, close your email program, and start writing cool, unique, descriptive ads.  Think of who lives at your property currently.  What do they love about your building?  If you don’t know, ask them.  Can’t write well?  Have someone else in your office write for you.  Or hire a savvy resident to help you out.

Once you have a bunch of great, unique ads written up, you’re sitting on a marketing gold mine – you don’t just have to reserve those creative masterpieces solely for Craigslist.  Use them on flyers that you drop off at corporate HR departments.  Add some pages to your website to help you creep up the search engines.  Pop it on your Facebook page with links to the local stores you mentioned.

Congrats!  You’ve officially graduated to Expert Marketer (Reachwerks certified!).  Now go forth and advertise those vacancies – without breaking the rules.

Reachwerks’ web-based solutions for the multi-family housing and real estate industry simplify your marketing and daily operations so that your day runs more efficiently – without breaking the bank. We help you tackle your online advertising, document management, appointment and to do list, and more.  Contact us at