|The Inside Scoop|
Self-Storage Talk and Your Competitors: Is the Forum an Advantage or Liability?
Most people within the self-storage industry support the idea of a large online forum and community, which exists at Self-Storage Talk. Once they start posting, they make friends and love the interaction. But every once in a while, someone poses a reservation about getting involved on the forum that gets me thinking. I recently received an e-mail where the writer asked me, "What incentive do I have to post my good ideas or business information when my competitor down the street could easily take what I post and use it against me?" It's a fair question, and it ties into a recent poll on SST, posted by moderator MisterJim444, who asks, "How Many Competitors Do You Have Within a 3-Mile Radius of Your Facility?"
Obviously, the self-storage industry is especially competitive these days, and competition is location-driven. Because tenants want to store near where they live or do business, your facility and the ones nearby are competing for the same tenants. Therefore, given the challenges of local competition, here are three things to think about when deciding whether to jump in on the forum.
1. Forums are give and take.
A community only works when people are willing to offer their own experiences, not just read others'. If everyone read and no one posted, or if only a few posted, the discussions would be non-existent or stale. The diversity of viewpoints and voices make the threads worth reading.
2. Your next-door competitor may or may not be active on SST. Either way, you need to be.
First of all, SST has about 4,100 registered members. Even if you are one of the poll respondents who has more than 10 competitors within three miles (three to five competitors within that distance is average, according to the poll), there are still far more members who are not competitors with you than those who are. Those non-competitors are interested only in helping you and learning from you, not in stealing your ideas and using them against you. Of those 10 competitors (at most), the odds even one of them will stalk your forum posts, hoping to steal information, are very slim.
By contrast, suppose the facility next door is represented on the site and someone there is an active reader or poster. It's all the more reason for you to do the same. If he is willing to engage in the forum, perhaps sharing information, he obviously isn't afraid of what you think, so you shouldn't be afraid, either. Not to mention that now your competitor is drawing on the wealth of information on the site, connecting with experts, and generally making his or her enterprise more successful. The better reaction in this case is not to withdraw but to become active on the site yourself and get as much out of it as you can.
3. There's nothing wrong with being anonymous.
If you feel the need to protect yourself, SST is a place where you can reveal your real-life identity and organization or choose not to. Either is completely fine. That's why many choose anonymous usernames when they sign up and are careful in their posts and signatures not to divulge exactly where they're coming from.
In short, I look at SST participation as a competitive edge, not a liability, and as you start posting, I think you'll find many managers and operators agree. Speaking of starting to post, to do so you must register a free account at http://www.selfstoragetalk.com/register.php. It's easy and takes only a few minutes.