While most self-storage operators invest time in planning and executing a search engine marketing strategy (both paid search and free traffic), many are still on the sidelines when it comes to social media. They don’t know where to start or understand how to measure the value. The following framework will help you get started and accurately measure results, no matter how lean your team may be.
Start With Your Profiles
The core of your effort is the actual profiles on the social media platforms. Initially, focus on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. If you have a little extra time, you may want to invest in Instagram as well.
From a structure standpoint, it’s best to have social profiles for your parent brand as well as for each individual storage facility. At our company, we manage profiles for our parent brand, Smart Self Storage; however, we also have individual profiles for each of our nine properties. For example, Los Angeles Self Storage has its own Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram profiles.
You may be thinking, why do I need all these? Can’t it be overwhelming if I have a large portfolio? Today, digital marketing is more local than ever. My strategy is hyper-local and content-driven. I like to have a very local persona online, with content that’s indigenous in nature. Our customers greatly benefit from our local presence.
Put another way, self-storage is about as local of a business as one can find. Our typical customer radius is three to five miles. Digital marketing is simply an online extension of our brand. We need to be just as locally minded online as we are in person, adding exceptional value for our customers.
When you craft your social media profiles, think of them as distributed versions of your website. Each should be just as beautiful and built out. Upload a variety of photos. Truly explain your business, including selling points and contact details. More than anything, make sure your profiles are “on brand” and consistent with the look and feel of your website.
Here’s a bonus tip: Include video. For example, we use a local drone video from our Mount Hermon Road Self Storage facility on the property’s website and Facebook page.
Crafting great profiles can be time-consuming, and it’s an iterative process. I like to have a team member focus on improving the look and feel of one or two profiles each week. I’m not talking about the actual content being posted, just the “bones,” which includes the photos, videos, business facts and calls to action.
Deliver Valuable Content
Now that your profiles have been carefully crafted, the fun begins! What’s the purpose of social media in the self-storage industry? It’s about building lasting connections with your community, and driving people to your amazing facility while bringing value to people’s lives. Value can come in a variety of fashions: helpful news, a funny picture that puts a smile on someone’s face, tangible storage tips, coupons and discounts, and other relevant content.
As you start deploying posts to your profiles, always ask yourself if the information you’re sharing adds value for readers. Remember, these are an extension of your business. The content and tone should mirror your live operation.
Here are some great ideas for social media content:
- Photos of your facility and local community
- Fun facts about your business (what makes you special)
- Videos showcasing your property
- Helpful tips related to storage, such as packing guides
- Seasonal wishes, ideas and tips related to major holidays
- Links to articles, blogs and helpful pages on your website
- Links to other businesses in the area, particularly ones you love
- Links to helpful blogs posts and videos about organized living
- Infographics that describe how to get the most from self-storage
- Coupons and discounts (possibly exclusives for your social media audience)
You’ll be producing a lot of content. We manage more than 30 social media profiles for our portfolio, and all are updated daily. How do we consistently share valuable information at such scale? It comes down to a combination of human insight—brainstorming and planning an in-depth content calendar—paired with smart technology.
Bolster Your Marketing Team
Let’s say you’re like me and you have a lean team. Time and resources are limited, but you don’t want to compromise on your marketing. In fact, you want world-class, category-leading results. Following are my two strategies for driving incredible success.
First, tap into the global freelance community. Crafting social media updates, especially good ones, takes time and focus. Greatness starts within, since you and your employees know your business the best. However, once you have your program running, it’s time to look for help, to delegate. Did you know there are platforms out there, such as Upwork, through which you can hire freelancers from around the world? Consider finding one who can write on your behalf.
When choosing a freelancer, keep these tips in mind:
- If your facility is in Canada or the United States, prioritize candidates who are native English speakers. While they may be more expensive, the investment is often worthwhile.
- Ask for writing samples.
- Find candidates who’ve used self-storage and understand your business at a fundamental level. Those with a passion for moving, packing and organizing are great.
- Check reviews to see if others have had a positive experience with your candidates.
- Determine how much you’re willing to pay before starting conversations.
- Find freelancers who are comfortable uploading their content to an online platform.
- Make sure your freelancer is writing original content solely for your use.
Second, leverage platforms to queue up content. Self-storage operators are sometimes intimidated by social media due to the challenges of scale and time prioritization. It’s difficult to log into dozens of accounts daily.
However, there are platforms to solve these challenges. For example, Buffer, a software application designed to manage social media use, allows you to upload all your content to a central location—no more logging into multiple accounts. And you can queue up posts for deployment over time. You can literally invest a single day’s work and line up an entire month of updates, which the platform will automatically deploy on a set schedule.
Here are some important tips for leveraging platforms:
- If you have a freelancer upload his content directly into your social media management platform, make sure he uploads it in “review mode.” That way, you can approve and edit each post before it goes live.
- Chunk your time. Working on social media every day can be distracting. I like to allocate one or two days per month. While my freelancer is working on updates regularly, I’ll only review and approve them every few weeks.
- Consistently give your freelancer feedback. Make it collaborative so you’re always raising the bar.
- If you have managers who are particularly great social media, loop them into your process. Allow them to post updates in your platform, and give them the opportunity to share feedback with your freelancer.
Build Your Audience
You now have a thriving, hyper-local, content-driven social media program. You’re deploying local updates across your profiles every day. Often, this is enough to build an audience, especially if your updates include relevant hash tags, which are keywords that help consumers find your content on social media networks. If you build great content, they’ll come.
That said, let’s say you want to grow your audience even more. Here are a few simple tips:
- Link to your social media profiles from your website. For example, consider featuring badges in your footer. In addition to driving a larger fan base, they can add credibility to your business. Your website visitors will notice your incredible social media presence and follow you!
- Mention your social media presence to customers. Ask them to follow you for the latest updates, coupons and information.
- Follow and engage local businesses. The purpose of social media is to support your community. Is there a specific restaurant you love? Then support it on social media. Most of the time, the business will thank you and reciprocate. (Note: This type of work is manual and typically performed in the social media accounts themselves, so I leverage this strategy less frequently.)
Now you have beautifully crafted social media profiles, a thriving content strategy, and a growing base of fans and followers. You’ve likely invested your own time, your team’s time and money. It’s time to measure your results!
For small and mid-sized self-storage operators, measuring the value of social media campaigns is often an intimidating and confusing part of the process. Here are some methodologies that’ll quickly get you across the finish line.
First and foremost, you need to understand how much traffic you’re generating from your social media efforts. There are two easy ways to do this:
- Use Google Analytics. If you have Google’s free Web-analytics platform installed on your website, you can easily see dashboards that display your traffic from social media.
- Use Buffer. This software comes with an analytics suite that shows the specific clicks being generated from every social media post.
Second, you want to understand the value of each click. Do you advertise on Google AdWords, Google’s paid advertising platform? If not, I suggest running some small, test campaigns. You’ll quickly see the cost of driving clicks to your website.
Third, you want to multiply net incremental traffic from social media by the average cost per-click. Once you’ve done so, you’ve backed into the dollar value created! Does this amount surpass the cost of your time, your team’s time and platform/freelancing cost? In my experience, it typically does.
It’s my hope that everyone reading this article finds encouragement. While social media is a process and takes time to unfold, it’s such a scrappy way for self-storage operators of all sizes to generate incremental website traffic that turns into business, all while adding great value to the community!
Over time, as your social media practice becomes really polished, you’ll even start noticing your profiles ranking in search engines for queries related to your facility. This is the ultimate measurement of a successful campaign, and the tipping point when even more business will be generated via your new channels. It’s this moment that search engines themselves have decided that your social media provides incredible value to others.
Ian Lopuch is a business and marketing executive and general manager with deep roots in technology. He’s also an investor with a lifelong obsession for cash flow. As a partner at Carlo Development LLC, the company behind Smart Self Storage, Lopuch’s responsibilities span marketing and growth, commercial real estate development, technology, and executive leadership. Prior to joining Carlo, he held leadership positions at some of Silicon Valley’s fastest growing startups. To reach him, call 650.241.9124; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.smartselfstorage.com.