By Natalie Henley
Investing in marketing campaigns can be nerve-wracking for self-storage operators. When you have limited resources, you must be strategic with your budget, and every marketing investment has to pay off. This is why social media campaigns tend to be the first thing that gets cut. Although free to set up, they take valuable staff resources to manage, and the return on investment (ROI) is not always apparent.
While launching a social media campaign for your self-storage business likely wont bring leads and sales pouring in your door tomorrow, when you implement a few strategies, youll find it much easier to drive a positive ROI that benefits your organization for years to come. Here are seven ways self-storage operators can leverage their social media efforts so they translate into real sales.
1. Reframe Your Outlook
Many businesses fail at social media because they think it means Facebook or Twitter when it's actually much more than that. Rather than putting labels on it, think of social media as a concept. Its actually about engaging with your audience in a broader way.
Traditional media has always been one directionalyou place an ad, the customer calls, and you have an offline private conversation. Social media allows businesses to interact with their community in a public online forum. That openness and transparency is scary to many business owners, but its exactly what customers crave.
2. Start Small
As you delve into social media, begin with the platforms that can make the biggest difference for you. Usually, this means starting with the three main platforms that can drive results and interaction: Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. Depending on your business model, there may be others. However, if youre just getting started, this is a great set in which to begin.
- Facebook has highest adoption rate, and people of all ages spend time on this social media platform, thus giving you great exposure.
- While LinkedIn is not consumer-focused like Facebook, it can help with business-to-business sales, vendor connections, recruiting and other business needs.
- Although YouTube is a bigger investment than the others, consumers resonate with different types of content, and YouTube videos tend to pay off in the long term.
3. Dont Be Boring
Guess what Your brand, services, mission statement and corporate values are boring. Although they may represent you as a company, they dont represent the human element and personality of your team. Social media is not about only building a community but engaging your customers. Doing that requires you to show some serious personality.
For example, if youre located in a city that has an NFL football team, you can support the local team as part of your companys personality. Or, if youre a family-oriented company, you can post updates about your Take Your Kids to Work Day and include photos of the event.
In essence, its about strategically deciding what your companys culture or persona will be and then posting interesting content that relates to that. This means getting outside your comfort zone and talking about things that interest you as a company, not about your industry, products and services.
4. Dont Over-Invest
As you delve into social media, dont rush out and hire a full-time person to manage it. Instead, start by looking around your company and finding someone interested in the additional responsibility. Chances are you have someone personally involved in social media who would love to have this as part of his job description. As your social media presence grows and becomes successful, you can see the business case for growing the department.
5. Look Beyond the 'Likes'
Judging a social media campaign solely by the size of your Facebook likes is a bit backward. Although likes can be a good indicator of success, a new Facebook like wont feed your family. To measure a successful campaign, here are a few of the major metrics that social media can influence and you can measure:
- Reach, likes and shares: These soft metrics of social lets you know youre keeping your audience engaged.
- Social referral traffic and goal completions: Measured through Google Analytics. You can figure out whos coming from social media and either buying something or filling in a lead form on your website.
- Social media leads: Yes, you can drive business leads from prospects straight from social media.
- Increased search engine rankings and new inbound links: Having a presence on social media can have a huge effect on any other organic or search engine optimization (SEO) programs youre running. Social media can be a key component of driving search engine traffic to your website.
- Increases in branded traffic: Also measured by Google Analytics. If youre keeping your audience engaged and getting prospects warmed up on social, you should see an increase of consumers searching for your brand in search engines.
6. Measure Your Results Based on Goals
Now that you know results are more than just likes, decide how youre going to measure results before you start any social media activity, as well as the specific metrics youll use to determine success. Social media is just like any other marketing initiative, which means you have to answer some key questions, such as Why are we doing this? and What are we hoping to get from it?
Each business will have its own definition of social media success. For one business, a metric like sales or leads is vital. Other businesses focus more on market share. Decide before you start whats important to you. For a free measurement tool, use Google Analytics. For standardized reports, consider using an out-of-the box report suite such as Sprout Social or Raven Tools.
Too often, a small or medium-sized business sets up a Facebook page, goes gung-ho with it for a few weeks, then gets busy and forgets about it. That sends a negative message about the business. To avoid this scenario, start small with activity you can handle and stick with it. Post something daily, or at the very least weekly, so your self-storage company can stay relevant.
Additionally, make sure what youre doing looks professional by getting custom banners to match your website. If youre pinching pennies and dont have a designer in-house for custom designs, you can get something that looks reasonable on sites like Fiverr, or something that looks very professional on sites like 99designs. Both are better than just winging it.
Social media can be one of the best investments your company makes. The key is to be smart about it and treat it like any other business activity. If youve attempted it in the past but let it go by the wayside, or if you havent embarked on this journey yet, nows the time to take the plunge and get on the social media platforms. By following these strategies, youll find it to be a rewarding, enjoyable and profitable endeavor.
Natalie Henley is the vice president of client services at Volume 9 Inc., which creates custom search-marketing campaigns for clients, including a mix of SEO, paid-search management, social media, local-search marketing and website development for more than 100 clients and 200 managed websites. The Volume 9 team was recently honored on Inc. magazines 5000 list and by the Denver Business Journal as one of the fastest growing companies in Denver. For more information, visit www.volume9inc.com .