Lately, there’s a mountain of hype surrounding social media, services like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Digg and MySpace. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you’ve no doubt heard of them and probably even used one or more. Do they live up to the buzz? How do they affect self-storage operators, and can you use them to benefit your business?
It all started with MySpace, a way for people to connect and share thoughts on just about anything via blogs, videos or text updates. MySpace has been particularly popular with the younger generations who use it as an outlet for emotional rants and to show who they like and don’t like, adding or removing people as “friends.” From a business-building perspective, MySpace gained huge credibility when comedian Dane Cook created a cult-like following, selling out concerts and products almost instantly through his network of online connections.
Then along came YouTube, a free online portal for users to upload all sorts of video. In the beginning, users were mostly young, artsy types that had creative energy and time to spend. The self-proclaimed geeks who founded the site had no idea what they started. The first video was uploaded in April 2005, and by October 2006, they sold to Google for an astonishing $1.65 billion. If it wasn’t already evident, the transaction proved to the business world that this social-media thing might have real power.
As of this writing, Facebook and Twitter are all the rage. Facebook is like MySpace but with a cleaner, more wholesome image. Twitter is a way for people to tell their “followers” what they’re up to or where they’re at by “tweeting” short text messages of less than 140 characters.
Making Money From the Madness
When Google purchased YouTube, what it was really buying was access to prospective customers. Realizing that traffic is king, the company followed the model that made it the success it is today. Google knows that if you can find a captive audience, such as person who sits in front of a computer all day, you can sell him something (or try to anyway).
All these social sites have a captive audience for businesses to target. They make their money by selling advertising to business owners like you and me. But the real question is can you, as a self-storage manager or owner, make money by participating in this madness?
There are three basic opportunities for you to participate in the social-media world:
- Buy advertising on one of the platforms.
- Create a following of “friends” and hope they buy from you or refer their friends to you.
- Network with customers, prospects and other local businesses.
Whether a self-storage operation can make money by using social media is yet to be seen. There are plenty of operators jumping on the bandwagon, and the feedback is mixed. Time will tell. But here’s a fundamental consideration: Nobody logs on to any social-media website actively looking for self-storage. Any business that does result from your participation will be a side effect.