Are you looking for an easy way for prospects and residents to engage your staff when they are on your website?

Try chatting with them with web-based chat tools.

One very easy chat application that can be embedded on any website is MeeboMe by Meebo. Anytime a user visits your site, a small window (called a “widget”) will let the user know if you’re online — they then can start chatting with you at anytime as long as they’re on the site. I use this application every day on another site, and it works remarkably well. For examples of Meebo in action, check out Multifamily Technology or DocStoc.

If you have a Facebook Page for your community (you should…), then you can always use the popular Facebook Chat function on that site. This may be the easiest way to connect with users on a site that they already know. Here’s what Facebook chat looks like if you haven’t seen it yet:

Facebook Chat

Taking it even further, If you like the Facebook chat client and want this same functionality on other sites, you can combine tools from Userplane and ConVerdge. (Userplane provides communications software for online communities, and ConVerdge offers a white-label social network platform.) This ends up looking very similar to the design of the Facebook instant message client, and it actually offers more features, including video chat, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calling, and games. (Although it’s probably not a good idea for staffers to be playing chat games with the residents on the clock!)

While the chat function for websites is not really a new thing, these newer implementations of chat applications lood good and are easy to use. I’m guessing that we’ll see more of this type of chat interface in the near future.

Have you found chats that are integrated into other websites to be of use? Would it be useful for apartment communities to integrate chat into their marketing websites or resident portals? Let me know what you think.

Tools mentioned in this post:
Facebook Pages
Facebook Chat