By Krista Diamond
Coming up with a marketing strategy for your self-storage business isn’t as simple as it used to be. After all, the industry has come a long way since the days of Yellow Pages and newspaper ads. The modern facility owner is expected to reach new customers through a growing number of channels, all of which are rapidly evolving. If you feel like you can’t keep up, it’s tempting to stick with what you know and dismiss new social media outlets as trends. Doing so, however, could cost you. Instead, why not grow your business by taking them seriously?
One of the most compelling—and confounding—new forms of social media is Snapchat, an app that allows users to share photos and videos that disappear after being viewed. Unlike the impermanent nature of its content, Snapchat has real staying power. Here’s how to wrap your head around it and use it as a tool to promote your storage operation.
What Is Snapchat?
Snapchat was launched in September 2011 as a mobile-photo and video-messaging app. It allows users to take photos or videos—called snaps—and send them to specific people or allow anyone to see them. Once someone opens a snap, they can view it for a maximum of 10 seconds, after which it’s deleted forever. Check out these statistics:
- There are an estimated 150 million individuals who use Snapchat every day, which is about 10 million more than Twitter (Source: Bloomberg Technology)
- Snapchat reaches 41 percent of 18 to 34 year olds in the United States every day, and that number is steadily climbing. (Source: Business Insider)
- From February to June 2016, Snapchat’s user base grew by 35 percent while other social media outlets merely remained stable. (Source: “Fortune”)
If you’ve been wondering how to target the younger millennial market (think college students rather than young professionals), consider that more than half of new Snapchat users are under 25. If these figures have inspired you to take out your smartphone and start downloading the app, you’re going to need to know what to do once it’s installed.
How to Use It
If you’re only familiar with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Snapchat can feel overwhelming. This is partly because it’s less user-friendly than older forms of social media. Let’s go over the basics.
Once you’ve downloaded the app, the first thing you’ll want to do is pick a username. Choose carefully, as you won’t be able to change this without getting a new account. You’ll then choose a password and enter some basic information such as your e-mail, birthday and phone number. Once you’ve completed these steps, you’ll receive a verification code you’ll need to enter so the app knows you’re a human being and not a robot.
From there, you’ll be able to find friends based on your contacts who have Snapchat. When deciding who to connect with on the app, remember that you’re using it for business.
To attract followers, familiarize yourself with your snapcode. This might sound like a foreign concept, but it’s actually quite similar to something with which you’re already familiar: a barcode. To see what it looks like, go to the ghost icon at the top of the app screen.
Your snapcode is unique to your account; no two users have the same one. You’ll be able to share it, and people will be able to scan it by taking a screenshot with the Snapchat app and start seeing your snaps. You can personalize your snapcode so it displays your company logo or desired image. To share it, go to the Snapchat website from your computer and log in; then you’ll be able to download the image and share it on your own website and other existing social media channels.
Your Cheat Sheet
Before taking your first snap, familiarize yourself with the app and learn how different features work. The best way to do this is by playing around with it. You need to learn the key terms and their meanings. Doing so will get you over the learning curve much faster than going in blind. Consider this your cheat sheet:
- Snap: The picture or video you send or receive in the app. In short, the main content that drives Snapchat.
- Snapcode: Your virtual fingerprint on Snapchat. Share this to encourage people to view your snaps.
- Stories: This section of Snapchat shows the photos and videos you’d like to share with your friends. Snaps that you post to Snapchat Stories remain visible for 24 hours. You can view your friends’ stories by swiping left from the camera screen.
- Snapchat score: This number is visible under your profile name and indicates how many snaps you’ve sent and received.
- Filter: This is an overlay you can add to your snaps. A filter can include a graphic depiction of where you are, time of day, temperature, how fast you’re driving and more.
- Geofilter: This is a special filter that can be accessed by allowing Snapchat to see your location. Geofilters can show your city, a special event you’re attending or even a business location.
- Snap lenses: These are animated special effects that you can add to video-based snaps by pressing and holding on a face while your camera is in selfie-mode.
- Chat: This is Snapchat’s messaging service. If you’re familiar with how messaging works on Facebook, you’ll pick up on this easily.
- Memories: This camera roll backs up your snaps. You can make this public or private.
- Inbox: This is where you’ll see messages, including text and snaps that have been sent to you. If a message is marked purple, it’s a video. Red means it’s a photo and blue means it’s text.
As soon as you feel like you’ve got the hang of the basics, it’s time to send your first snap. Take advantage of the filters, snap lenses and additional options that allow you to add text or draw on your snaps. Once you’re happy with your snap, you can add it to your story or send it to specific friends. If it’s a photo, you’ll be able to choose the amount of time (up to 10 seconds) that someone can look at it.
Snapchat as a Marketing Tool
Promoting your self-storage business with Snapchat is different than endorsing it through other social media channels. Unlike Facebook posts, tweets and Instagram pictures, the content you create on Snapchat doesn’t necessarily hang around forever.
Business owners often underestimate the marketing power of Snapchat based solely on the fact that snaps are brief and designed to disappear. While this seems like a disadvantage on the surface, in reality, it’s one of the things that makes Snapchat great for business.
Compare the simplicity of it to your Facebook feed, which is often cluttered with advertisements and sponsored content. Ask yourself: Would you rather have a Facebook post that potential new customers half-heartedly glance at for a second, or a snap that they actually look at and think about for 10 seconds? Because there’s nothing else on the viewer’s screen when they’re engaging with your snaps, you have their full attention. No amount of boosted Facebook posts can accomplish that for your business.
Putting It to Work
Now that you know how to use this remarkable promotional tool, it’s time to put it to work for your self-storage business. Decide on the tone of your content and make sure your snaps are cohesive. If you’re not sure what tone to strike, keep in mind that Snapchat is meant to be casual rather than professional, so feel free to have fun. Think about the customer you’re trying to attract. What kind of content do you think he would enjoy seeing?
Use a mix of photos and videos, and remember to keep them simple. Snapchat isn’t the place for advertising that viewers need to mull over. You have 10 seconds or less to make an impression, so err on the side of doing too little rather than too much.
Use Snapchat as a storytelling device with the stories feature. Customers are drawn to narrative-based advertising, so even just a series of snaps that create a virtual, narrated tour of the facility will be engaging. When doing this, highlight the basics, like what the inside of a storage unit looks like and security features you offer, but also use it as an opportunity to highlight something of which you’re especially proud. Did you just add RV storage to your facility? Do you offer a large selection of moving supplies? Show off what makes your business special.
You can also use Snapchat to offer specials, run contests or share coupons. Because snaps only last for 24 hours, doing this will create an urgent call to action that’ll prompt new customers to act fast.
Lastly, consider using a mix of paid and unpaid Snapchat marketing. Paid options include sponsored geofilters and lenses that allow your customers to post their own snaps, with your logo featured, when they’re at your facility. These typically start at around $5, making them a fairly inexpensive option you can easily tie to a contest or social media promotion.
If you’re willing to spend a little more, you can purchase a Snap Ad, which is a full-screen vertical video advertisement that users will see in between stories. This can also serve as a way to prompt customers to visit your website or go to an article you’ve written on a storage-related topic.
Whatever you decide to do, be creative. Ask other members of your staff to get involved by contributing ideas or starring in snaps in which they share self-storage tips with your customers. By highlighting your great facility along with your knowledge, you’ll teach Snapchat users that you’re an authority on the industry. Think of it as a way to demonstrate not just your expertise but also your excellent customer service. Before you know it, those Snapchat users will become your customers.
Krista Diamond is a staff writer for StorageFront, which allows self-storage customers to custom search and compare thousands of facilities. She’s a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and lives in Las Vegas. When she isn't writing about storage, she’s climbing mountains in the desert. For more information, visit www.storagefront.com.