By: James Appleton

We all remember a time without the Internet. Things seemed less rushed and more personal. Business interactions were more face-to-face and less touch and go. Those were the days … emphasis on “were.” Faced with the reality of real usage data on the topic of online marketing–specifically social media and social marketing–some of you may still not be convinced of the permanence of this form of communication or the need to integrate it into your daily marketing activities.

Let’s assume you’re a self-storage operator today looking to increase occupancy. You have a website that is up to date and your goal is to use it as an effective way to reach the ever-increasing online shopping population. You run through the standard list of marketing options, but they are only marginally successful, they cost you money, their ROI isn’t particularly great, and they’re hard to track.

Now, enter the world of social media. Our society puts heavy emphasis on word of mouth. It’s been high on the list in terms of increasing customers because it usually comes from experience, and people tend to trust the personal experience of others when making decisions. People talk about their experiences, both good and bad. When we are treated well by a business or when we find a good deal, we want to tell our friends. Such is the case with social media, but on a much grander and permanent scale; it is the online equivalent to the spoken word of mouth with a potentially infinite audience.

Here To Stay

An October 2011 study reported by comScore showed that social networking accounted for nearly one in every five minutes spent online globally and reached 82 percent of the world’s Internet population age 15 and older. Further, Facebook reached 55 percent of the world’s audience, accounting for three of every four social networking minutes. Not only is Facebook the leading social media website; it’s the third largest online resource in the world and has become an integral part of modern communication.

Getting Started

From a business standpoint, the goal of your social media sites is to increase brand awareness of your company or facility and to drive traffic to your website. An easy place to start is to create accounts on three of the most prominent social media websites: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. It costs nothing to sign up, and soon you’re off to the races!

Once you have established your accounts, post updates, press releases, or articles featuring your company which might find worth sharing. Post facility photos, referral program info, recent community involvement, awards, etc. Ask current tenants, friends, and family to “like” or otherwise follow your page or account. Engage your network in conversation by starting a dialog to create positive activity. If your network/friends find your posts to be interesting and like what they see, they, in turn, can share it on their own pages.

Social media is here to stay. It may take a little time to get over the learning curve, but once you have the ball rolling, it becomes second nature. Your competition uses it too.

From “Getting Started with Social Media” by James Appleton, owner of Barking Tuna Web Design in Phoenix, Arizona. This article is provided courtesy of Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk with the permission of Mini-Storage Messenger Magazine.© MiniCo, Inc. All Rights Reserved. It is not intended for further reproduction/distribution without the exclusive permission of MiniCo, Inc.