The self-storage industry is doing well, and facility operators have a lot on their plates! In fact, many of you reading this likely wear multiple hats: accountant, maintenance person, marketer, customer-service representative and many others.
When it comes to marketing, you want to prioritize and spend your time, energy and money where you’ll receive the greatest benefit. Otherwise, you might waste valuable resources on initiatives that are unlikely to drive meaningful results.
Social media platforms can be a cost-effective, efficient way to attract new customers to your business. Before you invest, however, it’s vital to understand which will garner the best results.
First and foremost, it’s important to set your goals as they pertain to social media. Are you interested in driving more leads, or do you want to increase your trust factor so you close more potential sales that already come through your website? Perhaps you want to leverage social media for business development and new-deal sourcing. It’s OK if you have multiple goals; just understand that each requires a different approach.
Bonus tip: Does your company already have corporate objectives for the year? If so, tie your social media initiatives into your overall that overall strategy.
Next, look at your online-marketing data. Leverage Google Analytics, a free Web-analytics platform that’s super easy to use. You simply insert a little bit of HTML code on your website, and Google opens a world of data you can use to improve your marketing! For example, I like to regularly examine my company’s user-acquisition report, which makes it easy to drill down into social media. Google Analytics tells me the percentage of traffic we’re driving from each platform.
Before beginning any new social media initiatives, I always look at this information to understand what’s working for us right now. If I’m already getting a ton of traffic from a particular network, I know where our strengths are; and I’m a tremendous fan of doubling down on strengths. If something is already working in my social media campaigns, I’ll find ways to focus on and build that traffic source.
Each self-storage operation is different. One operator might have a great presence on Yelp, while another may truly thrive on Twitter. Rather than focus too much on competition, focus on what makes your business unique.
Bonus tip: If you don’t have a lot of marketing data for your business during a specific date range, simply expand it. It’s even acceptable to look at historical data to help draw conclusions.
Facebook, Twitter and Yelp
After looking at your marketing data, you’ll likely discover that Facebook, Twitter and Yelp are driving the bulk of your social media traffic. From a user-acquisition standpoint, these are the big ones. I like having a presence for our parent brand, Smart Self Storage, and for each individual property in the portfolio across all three networks. I also make sure our profiles are well-optimized and include:
- Photo galleries with at least 20 images that express the look and feel of our facilities.
- Descriptive text that clearly outlines what our business is all about and how it’s unique. Make sure you define your unique value proposition. It’s should be different than others in the marketplace and leverage your distinctive offering.
- Regular, almost daily updates. On Yelp, we respond to reviews as they come in (positive and negative). On Facebook and Twitter, we leverage an application called “Buffer” to queue up and deploy content. Social media is real-time and must be managed that way.
Of course, you’ll want to factor in your own data. If your business is super strong on Twitter, by all means double down there!
Bonus tip: Yelp is incredible because it not only drives qualified leads but can increase your website conversion rate. These days, consumers are researching many competitors before making a purchase decision. Your prospects are checking your reviews before making their final choice, and great ones will help you close more sales.
Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat
If you work for a larger self-storage company—say, a real estate investment trust or regional operator with 50-plus facilities—or you just love marketing and testing new concepts, it may be worthwhile to build a presence across Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. It really comes down to resources and passion. If you have a dedicated marketing team or social media staff, these platforms can totally make sense.
From my experience, they drive fewer leads but are growing rapidly. We’ve created Instagram and Pinterest profiles for some of our properties. That said, we’re lean on resources, so we don’t spend too much time on these platforms.
Bonus tip: Social media can increase employee morale. The main reason we have a presence on Instagram is one of our staff members has a true passion and expert-level knowledge on this platform. We let him run with his ideas and build our strategy, which works out wonderfully. Sometimes, to truly empower, motivate and leverage your best employees, you’ll want to venture into networks that offer a bit less upside. It’s a great long-term marketing investment.
At my company, we’ve created a drone video for each of our facilities so prospective customers can get a feel for our properties. We host these on YouTube for two reasons:
- It’s the second-largest search engine behind Google. We get discovered via our videos!
- YouTube offers a cost-effective (free) way to embed video. Including videos on your own website is an amazing way to leverage social media while increasing your customer conversion rate.
Think about it from a consumer’s point of view. If he’s trying to decide between two self-storage facilities, the one with the helpful video may likely win!
Bonus tip: When you upload videos to YouTube, craft a detailed description that contains all your facility contact information. Leverage YouTube’s tags and custom thumbnails, too!
Let’s say you’re more on the business development side of things. You’re interested in networking, finding land to build self-storage and doing deals. LinkedIn is the network for you.
Throughout my career, I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time on my LinkedIn profile. I keep it up-to-date and upload items from my work portfolio. I’ve even written blog posts native to the platform. My hard work has always paid off handsomely. By marketing myself on this website, I’m more connected to the entire self-storage industry.
Bonus tip: Only ask to connect with people you actually know. Be thoughtful and craft custom messages. That way, the recipients are more likely to remember who you are and accept your invitation.
Bring It All Together
When it comes to social media, there are so many opportunities—even more than I was able to include in this article. I imagine some of you are already feeling a bit overwhelmed, so I want to conclude with a note on efficiency. If you have limited marketing resources, I suggest focusing on LinkedIn, Yelp and YouTube. With these three, you can cover user acquisitions, conversions and business development. I wish you tremendous success with your social media this year and beyond!
Ian Lopuch is a business and marketing executive and a general manager with deep roots in technology. He’s also an investor with a lifelong obsession with cash flow. As a partner at Carlo Development LLC, the company behind Smart Self Storage, Lopuch handles responsibilities that include marketing and growth, commercial real estate development, technology, and executive leadership. He previously held leadership positions at some of Silicon Valley’s fastest growing startups. To reach him, call 650.241.9124; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.smartselfstorage.com.