In general, self-storage operators have been slow to embrace social media. But that tide is turning as operators realize they need to go where their customers are these days—online.
LinkedIn, a platform for professional networking, is one of many social media tools that people can tap to promote themselves and their businesses. Many people consider LinkedIn their go-to place for posting a résumé and hunting for a job. Users also are mining LinkedIn for potential customers.
“I think LinkedIn has a lot more potential than what people are using it for,” said Holly Ritchie-Fiorello, director of marketing for The Storage Group, an Internet marketing firm for self-storage operators.
Every social media outlet displays its own personality. LinkedIn is geared much more toward networking-driven business professionals than social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter.
“If you can build a relationship with those people, you have the potential of them referring for you, even if they are not using your services,” Ritchie-Fiorello said.
LinkedIn lets registered members create, manage and share their professional profiles online, build professional networks, share knowledge and insights, and pursue business opportunities. LinkedIn says it has more than 332 million members around the world, including 187 million who visit the site each month.
Most people join LinkedIn for one or more of three key reasons: hunting for jobs, prospecting for new business or gaining visibility into a business market. Self-storage operators can certainly benefit from all three of those, said Tron Jordheim, vice president of marketing at Columbia, MO-based storage operator StorageMart.
“Social media is pretty important to us to reach out to our customers and reach out to the localities where we do business,” Jordheim said.
Turning the page for your business
Aside from setting up a personal profile, someone can create a page promoting a business. LinkedIn currently hosts about 4 million business pages. A user can set up a LinkedIn page for a business as long as he or she has an email that includes the business’ domain name.
For more information about establishing a business page on LinkedIn, visit http://linkd.in/1yblYi3.
Once a user has his or her LinkedIn pages in place, the first step is to start making connections. Similar to Facebook friends or Twitter followers, these connections are people in your circle who can see and access your information and posts.
The key is to engage that online community by posting or sharing information or by joining special-interest groups. Posts can be anything that’s interesting or new in your industry or business, such as a facility expansion or renovation. The trick is to share news without making it sound like a sales pitch, Ritchie-Fiorello said. For example, a post might say, “I’m excited that we installed our new doors and the facility is looking great” rather than “Come rent a unit, because we have new doors.”
Users also can grab more attention by commenting on or sharing posts from their connections. That online dialogue can strengthen relationships, and those people will be more likely to comment on or share your posts, according to Ritchie-Fiorello. When that happens, those comments can be seen by all of the connections for both users.
Another way to leverage LinkedIn is by joining special-interest groups. LinkedIn reportedly has more than 2 million active groups. For example, Ritchie-Fiorello belongs to about 30 LinkedIn groups. Before joining a group, a user can look at its stats to see how many members there are and what types of content are posted.
“If there is only one person posting in the group and it is sales-y and spammy, don’t join the group,” Ritchie-Fiorello said.
Once you do join a group, find those people who are influencers and try to connect with them, she said.
To check out The Storage Facilitator’s LinkedIn group, visit linkd.in/1vXiMeH.
‘Virtual chamber of commerce’
A self-storage operator also can start a small business group on LinkedIn and invite others to join.
“You can create your own virtual chamber of commerce,” Jordheim said. “And as long as what you are posting has some real value, people will keep coming back and people will join and get to know you.”
For example, StorageMart recently shared news of a deal it signed to lease space at its California facilities to a company that will install energy-generating solar panels on the roofs.
“That is an example of something where we might go to LinkedIn and create an ad campaign that is directed to business owners in those specific towns in California or perhaps target local businesses that specialize in green energy to get a little bit of attention,” Jordheim said.
One of the differences on LinkedIn compared with other social media sites is its filter tools. That feature lets user search for certain types of companies or professionals, based on things like geography and industry. For example, a user could hunt for a general contractor within a 35-mile radius of a ZIP code. The filters also help users who want to do targeted marketing or advertising.
Investing your time
Although busy storage operators might worry about the extra effort required to manage social media, LinkedIn doesn’t chew up that much time. Once a user creates a profile, he or she might spend 15 minutes a day checking posts, visiting groups or adding posts, according to Ritchie-Fiorello. If a connection request, for instance, demands attention, LinkedIn notifies a user by email.
“Users can read other people’s posts, add their own comments or posts, and then move on with the rest of their day,” she said.