By Sheryl Connelly
One of the top questions asked by today's business owners is, “Why do I need to be on social media?” It’s usually followed closely by, “Can I really make money using it?”
Allow me to dispel the myth: You are not required to use social media to promote your business. No matter what that well-meaning marketing person or business coach says, there’s no hard and fast rule in business saying you absolutely need to use social media to properly advertise your self-storage facility. So go ahead and kick the peer pressure to the curb.
To address the second question, I’ll ask one back: From where does most of your new business come? If you said word-of-mouth or referrals, then you’re among the lucky population who has the potential to really make money using social media. How? Social media is the new word-of-mouth.
Before you get too excited, understand that to garner sales leads from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any of the social-networking websites, it takes healthy doses of patience and strategy. If you’re a business owner who's withstood the recession, you probably have patience in spades, but it’s putting together a strategy for social media that seems a bit daunting. You may question which networks you should use or what you should say.
Think of social media in terms of a tennis match. You’re using human engagement and dialog to drive preference and loyalty. Think back to the tennis greats. Sure, their talent was exceptional, but it was the way they engaged everyone in the game. In particular, John McEnroe, with his brash comments and passion, kept us on our seats and talking.
Social media is a lot like that. We want to watch some action going back and forth, while being invested in a passionate conversation about something in which we believe. Always keep in mind that social media isn’t the conversation, it’s simply the hypothetical tennis court where the conversation takes place.
There are hundreds of social-media tools out there where conversations are happening. Which ones should you use? None of them ... at least not yet. Don’t concern yourself with the tools or platforms available on social media in the beginning. Develop your strategy first, then decide which tools fit best into it. To get you started, I’ve outlined seven simple steps to help you develop that elusive social-media strategy.
Step 1: Develop Your Pitch
For non-writers, this may be a tough exercise, but try to determine what you’d say to someone to succinctly convey what your company does—in 120 characters or less. Think of this as your social-media elevator speech or commercial. If you were stuck in a room full of cell-phone users with only Twitter to communicate, what would you post? Yes, I know you’re allowed to use 140 characters on Twitter, but you want to leave 20 characters for followers to re-tweet your message with a little message of their own or @mention back to you that their own followers can see.
Step 2: Evaluate Your Current Relationship With the Online Community at Large
What does the online community already know about you? On a scale of one to five, with one being not aware and five being that you have an active community of advocates for your business, where do you stand?
If online consumers know nothing about your self-storage business, it’s probably best to start by developing your social-media community through online brand awareness. If you have a somewhat active community of people who rent from you once, you may want to work on increasing customer loyalty. Active community of advocates? Increase sales. You get the picture.
Step 3: Decide What Kind of Campaign This Will Be
At the end of the day, you have to be able to measure outcomes, so exactly what do you want that result to be? Now that you know where you stand with your current online community, it makes this step easier to determine.
Warning: Strengthening brand awareness, deepening customer loyalty and increasing sales are all worthy outcomes, but don’t try to do all of them at once. Pick one and stick with it for a pre-determined amount of time. I recommend a three-month campaign strategy, meaning you will be developing your online community messages and content to support that one strategic objective for a full 90 days.