It’s Happening With Or Without You
When Cindy (who asked us not to use her last name) placed many of her belongings in a self-storage facility near her small town, she never imagined her lock would be cut and she would be robbed. Many of the items stolen were family heirloom antiques she was storing after selling her bed and breakfast. To add insult to injury, the thieves left worthless junk in its place.
After the initial shock wore off and Cindy didn’t feel she received any support from the owner/operator of the facility, she decided to write an online review. The facility didn’t have any active social media accounts, but that didn’t matter. Cindy wrote a review on Yelp, a site that allows reviews for any business online, regardless of whether your business is active online.
The moral of this story is that even if you’re not participating in social media, the chance that social media is participating without you is highly likely.
Social media is a fast and ever-changing online world that allows you to interact with your customers. It can be a form of advertising, but it really is more than that. “People really need to have a mental shift about social media,” says Kit Yarrow, an industry expert and author of Decoding the New Consumer Mind. “It really is about getting away from broadcasting messages to encouraging dialogue.”
There are many social media platforms including having your own blog or video blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube, LinkedIn, and the list goes on.
One quandary business owners might have is trying to figure out which one to use. “You don’t have to do all of the platforms; pick one or two you like the best and ones it seems your customers like most,” says Yarrow.
“Self-storage is a concept everyone understands, and the truth is that self-storage owners really need to grab the attention of consumers if they really want to boost their bottom line,” says Tabitha Jean Naylor, a Virginia-based social media consultant with clients in the U.S. and across the globe.
We asked some industry and social media experts to weigh in on how they are using social media within the industry.
If you weren’t aware of Twitter before the presidential campaign, you’re probably aware of it now. No one has been as successful in building his brand through Twitter and communicating directly with his audience than the current POTUS.
“Twitter is an outstanding platform to stay engaged with your customers, to respond immediately to any issues, and to promote discounts and new services,” says Naylor.
Easystore Self Storage, a facility in South Wales, U.K., uses Twitter to talk to its followers about its amenities, which include 24/7 access and great security, as well as other things customers and potential customers should know. “We tweet links to specific pages on the different types of storage offered,” says Simon Collins, public relations and social media specialist for Compass Media Relations, which manages the facility’s accounts. “However, we don’t want to be just 100 percent self-promotional with tweets, so we also share useful resources and guides, including links to blog posts and guest blog posts.”
Jeanne Dotson, director of Internet marketing strategy for The Storage Group in Maitland, Fla., states that not making your social media interaction all about promotion is what makes a successful campaign. “You want to have an ongoing conversation with your tenants, give them useful information, and, every once in a while, throw in marketing,” says Dotson.
That information might include writing a blog post (or hiring someone to do it) about how to pack while moving or how to store appliances and linking back to the post from your Twitter or Facebook pages. The more unique the topic the better. Dotson notes one of their posts was directed at parents during the holidays, advising them that their storage facility was a great place to store presents so the kids are sure not to find them.
Nevertheless, Twitter has a limited number of characters. Therefore, if you want longer interactions, the next best place to interact is Facebook.
Facebook Is Still Relevant
While many social media experts have predicted each year that Facebook will lose its relevancy, Mark Zuckerberg isn’t giving up the number one slot for social media. According to The Next Web, Facebook has 1.23 billion monthly active users, 945 million mobile users, and 757 million daily users.
With those kinds of numbers, you’re likely one of them; and, if you are, you can undoubtedly set up a business page within minutes.
“Facebook is another really good social media platform, because you can keep your existing customers informed while also promoting your business to prospective customers,” Naylor says. “You can also post videos that humanize your business and employees to connect with your customers.”
You can do many of the same things with your customers on Facebook as you do on Twitter such as linking to blogs and articles, but you can also write longer posts (although not too long). Facebook allows you to highlight longer (positive) customer reviews as well.
The Storage Group uses its Facebook pages to highlight charity events, post photos and videos, and, most importantly, ask questions of the customers. “You ask questions about your facility and services and prompt them to respond,” says Dotson. “You might be able to identify issues with the facility that you weren’t aware of.” In addition to asking questions, encourage your customers to leave a review on your Facebook page.
Instagram Or Snapchat
“Instagram is a great resource for self-storage centers to promote their centers, especially with the new story and live features,” says Joselin L. Estevez, social media director for X Factor Media in Cleveland, Ohio.
With these more visual forms of social media, creativity is king. For example, you can show photos of interesting items customers have put in storage (with their permission, of course) as well as post any specials on a weekly basis.
The story feature allows you to post a 15 second video, so you can post a short of a new customer moving in (again, with their permission), last minute deals, or interesting and fun facts about your facility.
The live feature allows you to post any live events such as auctions, amenities at your center, or a tour of a unit or rental truck that you offer.
Snapchat also has many of the same benefits; which one you choose really depends on which you prefer.
The Prospects Of LinkedIn
While many business owners simply think as LinkedIn as a place to network with others in their industry (Minico is present on LinkedIn), it can also be a great resource for self-storage managers to find new customers.
“There are thousands of business owners on LinkedIn you can target as potential customers,” says Naylor. “LinkedIn offers a sponsored email service that identifies businesses that are geographically appropriate to your business, which allows you to compose emails targeting each company.”
The sponsored email service is a pay service, but it might be worth it given the marketing opportunities present on the platform.
The Bottom Line
Social media is here to stay. There aren’t as many new platforms being developed as there was a few years ago, but the key is to pick one or two you like, get on, and keep your message consistent.
Dos and Don’ts of Social Media
- Don’t think that you have to post two to three times a day or even every single day. “No one wants to hear from you two to three times a day,” says Dotson. “Two times a week likely won’t overwhelm your followers. Any more than that and you risk them unfollowing you.”
- Use photos and short videos. “People like visuals,” says Yarrow.
- Limit the “Live” function. “You don’t want to do anything intrusive,” says Yarrow. “Live might feel too much like advertising.” If you use “Live” on Facebook or other platforms, she advises to really limit its use.
- Figure out where people are reviewing your facility. “People will talk about you online whether you play or not,” says Yarrow. Therefore, make sure you’re monitoring Yelp and Google reviews and anyplace else locals might be talking about your facility.
- Keep it positive. “A lot of research shows that consumers understand there will be some negative reviews for a business and it shows that people trust reviews more when there is a mix,” says Dotson. “The most important thing is to respond to show you’re paying attention, that you take the complaint seriously, and offer a solution.”
Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell is a freelance journalist based in the Ozark Mountains. She is a regular contributor to MiniCo’s publications. Her business articles have also appeared in Entrepreneur, Aol.com, MSN.com, and The Kansas City Star.