Does Social Media Matter in the Self-Storage Industry?
By Brian Barwig
The storage industry as a whole has been slow to adapt to changes in the way consumers research, analyze and reserve storage units. Nearly five years ago when StorageFinders.com first entered the industry many owners and operators didn’t know about search-engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, Facebook, Twitter or blogging. Now SEO and PPC are well-known acronyms and social media and blogging are the norm. The Internet and the social-media explosion were slowly integrated into the industry. More owners are taking advantage of the ease and effectiveness of online marketing tactics.
Many self-storage companies are now using social-media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and blogging on a regular basis, but why? Are your tweets and status updates really that important? If you’re 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 important, taken seriously? This blog is not meant to demean social media but is intended to provoke thought about the intention of the popular medium 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 return on investment, so how do you know if you’re 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 storage owners are busy running their businesses. If your company is not a large operation it’s unlikely you have an employee 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 media similar to 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, pay little attention to those updates and may be skimming over other good information while trying to get past all the other stuff.
There are companies in the industry who do excellent work with social media. Self-storage operators Storage West and Extra Space Storage and online directory Sparefoot.com are three companies which come to mind immediately. Storage West does great work within the community where their facilities are located and have become the expert for all things happening in those communities. Cochrane Road Self Storage also does a great job on Twitter, getting companies and people involved in storage conversations. Extra Space has a great blog and consistently posts articles related to all things storage.
These companies are essentially using social media as a form of branding and are not worried, at the onset, of attracting more customers. But by being an authority on storage, they’ll attract customers in the long run.
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 doesn’t 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 the next months rent!!” 20 times a day. It 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 media 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 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 is the 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 leaders in the storage industry. Time will tell if it catches on and becomes a hit. 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?
Brian Barwig is a marketing executive with StorageFinders.com, which provides location and contact information for self-storage facilities nationwide. SelfStorageFinders.com generates exposure for its facility clients by offering visibility on major search engines. For more information, e-mail email@example.com ; visit www.selfstoragefinders.com.