This is a guest post by Brian Barwig, Marketing Executive at Self Storage Finders.
The storage industry as a whole has been slow to adapt to changes in the ways consumers research, analyze and reserve storage units. Nearly five years ago, when we first entered the self-storage industry, many owners/operators did not know what Search Engine Optimization, pay-per-click, Facebook, Twitter or blogging was. Now SEO and PPC are well known acronyms, and social media and blogging are the norm. The Internet and social media explosion was slowly integrated into the industry, and now more and more owners are taking advantage of the ease and effectiveness of online marketing tactics.
Many self-storage companies are now using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogging on a regular basis, but why? Are your tweets and status updates really that important? If you are not a big company, an expert in the industry or someone who consistently posts relevant, high-quality articles, how are you going to be found, followed and more importantly, taken seriously? This post is not meant to demean social media, but is intended to provoke thought about the intention of social media and its relevancy to the storage industry.
Thousands of storage companies have embraced Twitter and Facebook in recent years, but for what purpose? Social media is notoriously difficult to track in terms of conversions and ROI, so how do you know if you are getting anything out of your campaign? Is there a method behind the madness of those constant 140 character Twitter posts and Facebook status updates, or are companies simply doing it because social is the newest craze?
How often do you sit at your computer or look at your phone to check another company’s updates and tweets, or even update your own information? If you don’t check other updates much, do you think others are checking yours? If you aren’t consistently updating your own information, how do you expect to become respected and trusted in the industry?
The reality of the social situation is that storage owners are busy trying to run their own businesses on a day-to-day basis. If your company is not a large operation, and thus probably does not have someone solely dedicated to social media, do you have enough time to sit around looking through the constant influx of tweets and status updates you missed? You’re probably missing some good stuff… or maybe not. We all know the people and companies who use social as if it were spam advertising, or post “pointless” updates. Do we really need to know you’re going to lunch, or that you rode your bike to work today because it’s sunny outside? People tend to get annoyed and pay little attention to those updates. They may be skimming over other good information while trying to get past all of the other stuff.
There are companies in the industry who do excellent work with social media. Storage West, SpareFoot and Extra Space are three companies that come to mind immediately. Storage West does great work in the communities where their facilities are located, and have become the expert for all things happening in those communities. Cochrane Storage does a great job on Twitter, getting companies and individuals involved in storage conversations. Extra Space has a great blog and consistently posts quality articles related to all things storage.
These companies are essentially using social media as a form of branding and are not focusing, at the onset, on attracting more customers. By being an authority on self-storage, they will attract customers in the long run. Aside from a handful of others, can you think of any storage company that consistently produces in social media?
Do you really know your audience? Who are you tweeting and updating for? Is it for customers, other owners, the community? Have you reached out to them? This does not mean tweeting at them. This means actually reaching out and asking them what you can improve, or asking others what you can do to get them to rent again. Social shouldn’t be about tweeting “50% off next month’s rent!!!” 20 times per day. Social should be about generating revenue through solid marketing and great customer service, as business has always been. Social media should be another facet of marketing and customer service because social by itself will not help you.
The self-storage social media experience should be used to connect with your peers in the storage industry, learn from them and share ideas together. The great thing about social media is that all of this can happen in real time. It’s important to be able to engage with relevant people in the industry, or consumers in your city who are tweeting that they need storage NOW. Storage owners should attempt to use the tools available to engage in meaningful conversations, instead of spewing spammy messages to others.
One example that launched this week is the weekly Twitter conversation #StorChat hosted by Kenny Pratt and SpareFoot. This is a unique way to make social media work for self-storage, and is initiated by two prominent leaders in the storage industry. Time will tell if it catches on and becomes a hit, but again, storage professionals are the ones who can help make it happen.
Aside from the “everybody’s doing it” attitude, is there a real reason and relevancy to social media in the storage industry?
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