Just a short time ago, we participated in a group chat on Twitter covering the broad topic of “CRE, mobile apps, and the future” (#CRETechChat for those who are curious) featuring Scott Sidman, SVP at Building Engines; Mariel Ebrahimi, Co-Founder/CEO of DisruptCRE; Earnest Sweat, startup advisor and PM at Bank of America; and Ryan Dennis, an associate at Genea.

A whole bunch of really great topics emerged during the course of the chat, but ultimately one question really stood out in my mind: “When will CRE pros start seeing consumer apps like Snapchat as a useful tool?

The reason: it sounds ridiculous…at least at first.

Let’s break it down in the realm of commercial property management:

  1. Snapchat is a free-to-download video messaging app for iOS (iPhone, iPad) and Android, designed to allow users to take photos, record videos, add text/drawings, and then send them to specified recipients. People like free.
  2. Numerous studies have shown that people are using their phones more and more to do work, as well as play. In fact, there has been a 61% increase in mobile usage in CRE based on a 2012 YOY survey from AgBeat.
  3. More than 60% of U.S. 13 to 34 year-old smartphone users are Snapchatters.” What is even more staggering, is that the number of millennials in the workforce has surpassed the number of Gen X’ers as of May of just last year. – via Snapchat’s advertising page, and a PewResearch report
  4. Tenant satisfaction levels generally rely on regular property management team communication with tenants, and lease renewals generally rely on tenants feeling satisfied.
  5. Property managers and teams are always looking for a better way to reach tenants (particularly “millennials”) via social media. An app like Snapchat is a form of social media, and it can be a tool for providing long-term engagement…with the right content.

A communication app like Snapchat really relies on providing valuable content to the right people in the right way, and great communication is essential in CRE. But with that being said, what works for one group may not work across the board. Just because there is a potential application for a Snapchat-like app for tenant communication, doesn’t mean it would necessarily work elsewhere. Even so, property management teams need a multi-channel communication strategy to succeed in reaching their tenants.

I think Ryan Dennis (@RyanDennisLive) summed up the CRE adoption requirements best: “Snapchat will be utilized when the first significant CRE firm makes a company account and does it well.” And that requires some thought.

CRE organizations will have to sit down and re-evaluate the trouble areas for their clients, including what they hope to get out of a tool like Snapchat, and whether they can develop relevant content on a regular basis.

Snapchat for CRE isn’t such a bad idea…given that the people who use it properly investigate the tactical and strategic implications for adoption.