Social media is a complex topic, but the use of it can definitely help your self storage brand thrive. Rather than seeing it as a place to spam up the Internet with information about your facility, think of it as an online dialogue happening in real-time. If there’s conversation about your facility (whether it’s positive comments from the community or negative feedback that needs resolving), you may want to consider engaging in the interactions.

Above all, don’t jump on the social media bandwagon just because you think you should. If you do it for the sole purpose of boosting your SEO or because a speaker at a tradeshow said you should, it won’t be long before you resent the fact that you ever started the account.

Think about your reasons for branching out into the domain and then consider my six (very) basic steps for becoming successful in the arena.

1. Determine your target audience

Before you simply jump into the pit, take a moment to identify the type of people you’d like to reach with social media. Think about the community in which you live and what the people find important. Consider what kinds of people typically rent at your storage facility, whether they are students, businesses, families, military, or a diverse mix of lifestyles.

2. Be intentional with your platform choice

Now that you’ve considered your target audience and the community around you, use that information to make an informed decision regarding which social media platforms you use. As you do this, think about the amount of time you want to dedicate to the project. Some options are more time consuming than others, but they may deliver better results.

Here’s a brief rundown of some popular choices:

  • LinkedIn. You could think of this as the Facebook of the professional world. It’s one of the more formal domains out there, and it can help you build business-to-business partnerships (though you may not get much customer exposure here).

  • Google+. You’ll post much of the same content you’d post on Facebook, but you’ll tag people and brands as well as find communities to connect with. As a fairly recent social media platform, the amount of local users may vary greatly, depending on where you are.

  • Facebook. This is one of the most popular social media outlets for businesses. Content is casual and, ideally, visual. You’ll gain great exposure to customers of all different types.

  • Pinterest. The customers you’ll attract through this site are likely women. You’ll post photographs with clever taglines to draw users to an article or website. Southern Self Storage provides a pretty solid example of a successful storage-related Pinterest account.

  • Youtube. This is one of the more time consuming projects, but it provides the opportunity to attract many viewers. Your content will be limited to videos, but you have the freedom to be creative and show off your brand’s personality. StorageLiving’s video about living in a storage unit is a more gutsy example of how you can engage your audience.

  • Twitter. Though it is often lumped together with Facebook, your content on Twitter should be quite different. Posts are limited to 140 characters, so information has to be concise. Popular content includes questions, facts, and figures. You’ll also do better if you “retweet” relevant posts to your followers.

  • Blogs. With blogs, you’re allowed the wonderful opportunity to write longer posts that you can use to link build. Your audience may include customers as well as other storage-related blogs. To be most effective, however, blog posts need to be shared on other social media accounts.

Consider how these platforms interact with one another. For example, your Pinterest posts should link back to something meaningful for the user. Will that be a promotion on Facebook, a blog post on your website, a video on Youtube, or a different interaction?

Natalie Henley of Inside Self-Storage recommends starting small with a common trifecta: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Youtube. Whichever combination you choose, remember that each social media account needs time and maintenance. Choose a few options that make the most sense and then give yourself the freedom to expand in the future – after evaluating the success of your slower start.

3. Make a (realistic) plan of action

While the prospect of gaining likes and followers online is an exciting one, it’s important that you make a plan that you can stick to. Inside Self-Storage’s article about leveraging social media marketing outlines the fact that customers are turned off by a business that sets up a page and then fails to keep active. Again, don’t get too overzealous in the beginning only to become unnecessarily overwhelmed. The last thing you want to do is hire a full-time social media manager when you don’t need one or when the funds don’t allow for one.

Consider the staff that you have now and determine who will be in charge of handling particular accounts. No matter what you hear about the “proper” intervals for posting on your accounts, it’s best to determine what schedule can realistically fit into the life of your storage facility. Make a concrete goal, like two tweets per week, and be consistent. Once you’re in the habit, you can go back and make changes. Just remember: baby steps.

4. Post content that your audience wants to see

Remember all that thought you put into determining your target audience? This step in particular will need to build off that. It isn’t enough to simply plop your hours and mission statement onto your account. You also don’t want to scare away your customers by posting purely promotional content, or make them think less of you by trying to shoot up your SEO rankings with keywords.

Social media is designed for conversation above all. Think about your community and get involved by posting about it. Whether it’s the local state college or your area’s NFL team, trending topics for your city probably stretch beyond self storage. Try to find a balance between your urge to sell vacant storage units and the necessity to involve the diverse interests and events of your audience. Don’t be afraid to post fun images or let your company culture shine.

Ultimately, before you post anything, ask yourself: “Is this interesting?” If you regularly post irrelevant or boring content, chances are that it won’t take long for your online followers to tune you out.

5. Protect and enhance your brand

Please, for the sake of your facility’s well being, don’t use your accounts to scare away your customers. It may seem like common sense to be nice to your customers, but you must remember to treat everyone kindly and to remember that real people, just like you, are writing these comments. Don’t post ill intentioned words about your local competition or get in an argument when someone makes a remark that irks you. It’s one of the cardinal rules of good customer service: keep a level head, no matter how emotional a conversation may become.

And if it’s hard for you to empathize with people that you don’t actually see in front of you, remember this scary little thought: everything you post has the potential to be shared with the entire world – permanently. If you think that the “delete” button is your friend in case of a faux pas, run a quick Google search on social media mistakes, like these business disasters, and remember that anyone can capture your online activity and share it beyond your control.

Pro tip: Before you push out a post, ask someone to take a second glance at it. Make sure your tone isn’t misinterpreted as hostile or harsh – and please, if you’re feeling upset, take some time before addressing difficult comments.

6. Set a date to re-evaluate

Give yourself some time to test out the waters with your social media accounts. You set concrete goals for how frequently you would post, and you had an idea of what sort of content you would put out there. Whether you mark the calendar for one month from now or six months down the road, make sure you analyze the success of your accounts.

Success doesn’t necessarily mean the number of followers or likes you can acquire. Work with whoever is running your social media and take a look at the kinds of feedback you get from people, and check whether or not any of your content has been shared. Take the time to make sure your current frequency goals are still realistic – you don’t want your media guru to burn out!

Are these platforms working for you? If you feel like your facility could truly do better by expanding to more accounts, determine which ones you’d like to shoot for. As time goes by, you’ll learn more tricks of the trade and you’ll develop a better understanding of what your customers want to see. If you play your cards right and always aim to be both interesting and relevant, it may not take long before your storage facility becomes the most well known in the city!