<< Continued from Part 4: What’s Your Story?

Can you really market storage space with tweets?

Why not? Lots of different people use Twitter in lots of different ways, and the medium is still evolving. Anyway, it’s not about marketing so much as connecting. Twitter gives people the opportunity to converse, to know and like each other, to build trust—quickly and succinctly. So let’s get started… What should you tweet?

Twitter purists cling to the classic question that unleashed the phenomenon in 2006, “What are you doing right now?” But Twitter has since changed its singular question to be more versatile: “What’s happening?” I take this to mean you can tweet just about anything. So find things that interest you and your customers –things that fit your story – and tweet away. Because it’s so simple, most users have no trouble tweeting.

Be strategic. Be spontaneous. Twitter not only suits both, but it wants both.

But what’s engaging about self storage?

You are, that’s what.

That is—you can be. Studies show that there are two different types of users on Twitter: the “informers” who share information and reply to other users, and the “meformers” who mostly send out information about themselves. “Informers” tend to have larger social networks, perhaps because they pass on more interesting things and aren’t talking about themselves all the time.

Get the hint? Good. Here are self storage related “informer”-type topics, with a few “meformer” materials thrown in for good measure.

Share seasonal storage tips__ @storagefront tweets new tips daily at 5 p.m., you can just retweet them!

Highlight new property developments Got a new kiosk, automatic gate, awesome espresso machine? I’m comin’ over!

Ask people for feedback on new policies__ “Should we offer live security video feeds online?”

Remind of payment due dates__ “Friendly reminder: rent is due Monday. Pay early and save $5.”

Send notices of upcoming auctions__ Include links to helpful tips & interesting tales.

Introduce a new property manager__ Share name, interests, and invite Q & A.

Have fun with trivia “How many stuffed squirrels will fit into a 5′ x 8′ storage unit?”

Link to further reading Don’t have a blog? Link to our Storage Tips or The Renter’s Bent.

Appeal to the senses “I just brewed a fresh pot of coffee. Passing by on your way to work? Take a cup.” …This would probably work on me.

Appeal to the stomach “I picked up a box of Krispy Kremes this a.m. Want one? I ate 2, 10 left. Stop by!” …This would probably work on me too.

Post testimonials and brags Like when StorageFront sent Terry Gavin in Tallahassee 24 renters in one week! (Yeah yeah, this is a “meformer” tweet, couldn’t help myself.)

Neighborhood topics

Tune in to the local community and highlight events and happenings in your immediate area. Add a personal touch. Did the latest thunderstorm render the streets impassable? Did the parade block your access to Starbucks this morning? Man, that’s seriously annoying. I sympathize with you, brother.

Report local news “I heard the city is planning to tear up 9th street next month.”

Provide business referrals & co-op “Starving Artists up the street – great service!”

Share local announcements Announce or retweet garage sales, flea markets, beer fests, park concerts…

You can find and sort through these things easily by following local news outlets, businesses and social groups on Twitter. Imagine that!

Promotional ideas

Probably the most common way marketers want to use Twitter is to get immediate results. That’s kind of short-sighted, but with a little cleverness or an artificial sense of the scarcity, you can certainly create tweets that drive people to rent now rather than later. But you want to be careful. If you treat your followers like dollar-signs, they’ll see through it and grow weary. I have personally unfollowed more than a dozen self storage facilities on Twitter who promote-promote-promote all day long.

Reward for “I saw it on Twitter” “Free half day use of our truck if you mention this tweet.”

Reward for “Tweet our name to your followers” “Get a pile of boxes if you tweet our name.”

Reward for “Retweets” “Retweet this message and you’ll be entered for a free iPad.”

Reward referrals “Send a friend and you’ll get a month’s rent free!”

Announce popular vacancies “20′ x 48′ boat space open, hurry before the winter rush, sailors!”

Mention your latest coupon deals “We just uploaded a new coupon to StorageFront!”

Customer support

Let your renters know that Twitter is an open-access help desk. It’s your free renter-support system—no installation costs, no monthly fees. When they sign their contracts, say that you’re active on Twitter and that they can get property updates by checking your page. Put your Twitter address on your business card or put a sticker with your address on the rental contract.

Share your expertise willingly. Are you a boat storage facility near the Gulf of Mexico? Are you an urban facility in a high crime area? Are you a civilian storage facility that serves a lot of military families? Are you a specialist facility with small spaces for students? Offer relevant advice regularly. When people get used to good guidance, they’ll come back for more. If you see someone else comment on a topic where you’re well versed, hey, jump in and share your wisdom.

What if renters complain on Twitter? These situations provide you an opportunity to show your responsiveness. If handled well, you might even turn your complainers into evangelists. Find out the issue and offer a fix or an explanation. If the situation can’t be fixed because, say, a renter’s payment is late, most silent observers will understand. Use the brief exchange to educate others and win evangelists.

Public relations

Twitter’s real-time nature enables businesses to get ahead of the press—who seem to love digging their claws into negative stories despite the damage to a small business.

I remember last month when P!nk (@Pink) fell from her acrobatic harnesses during a concert. Online news outlets immediately began to spout about concert carnage; meanwhile P!ink simply tweeted short and sweet updates that she was relatively fine. “Ok all my lovers… nothing broken, no fluid in the lungs, just seriously sore. I made that barricade my b*tch!”

Let’s squeeze this example into a self storage box. Was your facility the target of thieves? An electrical fire? Growers of not-so-medicinal marijuana? An ex-Illinois governor’s overdue rent and life-size Elvis? The real-life persona of Hannibal Lecter? Use Twitter for first-response communication. Talk about the problem and share your solution before the local reporters get a hold of it. Build a positive out of a negative.

In another example, I recently spotted an article online about a self storage fire. What I remember from that article wasn’t the losses; it was the fact that only one unit in the row was damaged and no smoke carried next door. The fire was extremely well contained thanks to the high quality firewalls. Were I the owner of that facility, I would have tweeted all over the place, “Whew, good thing we spent the extra money on firewalls; our other tenants’ stuff was safe from both smoke and flame.”

As for positive news and commentary, always encourage those who are saying nice things about you.

Industry networking

Be a marketing or management partner to your industry. Share ideas, challenges, solutions and perspectives. I find the self storage industry to be unique and rather cool in that it feels like a fraternity. Use it.

Shout out to like-minds Share an issue, challenge or task Ask for or provide advice Relate an anecdote Report on a conference or event Speculate about trends

Internal networking

If you own multiple self storage facilities, Twitter can be a handy, free way to connect your employees—kind of like a micro-forum… That is, if you’re one of those operators that trusts your people to be online. Maybe they’ll feel like they’re working alongside each other (collaborating and problem solving) rather than alone in remote offices—and you’ll be able to see what their work and attitude is like. However, you might want them to use private, locked profiles (not the company profile). And remember to warn them not to vent about moron renters!

Integrated marketing

Do you post blogs or offer tips on your website? Invite your followers to click to those pages. But remember: If you set expectations in a tweet with a hyperlink, you’d better fulfill those expectations. Otherwise you’ll look like a spammer. People prefer to stay in the world of the simple 140-character tweet unless something is really worthy of a click. If you hoodwink your followers, they’ll unfollow. You won’t see them leave; you’ll just see your list shrink.

Drive followers to a page of value on your website Promote a blog or self storage tips Invite followers to visit your facility Suggest followers attend an event or meet you at a local meetup Invite followers to register for a newsletter Ask followers to take a survey Track your tweets (see Part 6: Techniques and Tools, coming soon)

Tweet timing: when and how often?

Let me tell you another little tale: One of the first people I eagerly followed on Twitter was Guy Kawasaki (@GuyKawasaki), a globally-known entrepreneur and tech guru. His page boasts over 250,000 followers and his bio states, “Firehose that answers the question: What’s interesting?” I should have paid closer attention to that “firehose” part. My timeline was inundated with broadcast tweets every few minutes, half of them inane. I unfollowed him a day later. Which was a bummerific decision for me.

On the other hand, Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs.com (@MarketingProfs) has a gift for Twitter mixing & timing that earns her almost 70,000 followers and national recognition. I see her tweets two or three times an hour. I really enjoy them and I have come to equate her smiling avatar to current marketing insight.

If you tweet too often and most of your tweets offer little value, people will unfollow you—even if you’re uber-cool like Guy. In the same vein, multiple tweets in a row make you look like you’re trying to dominate the conversation—even if you’ve innocently saved up your thoughts for one quick Twitter session. Pay attention to what the people you follow are doing. What do you like? What don’t you like? Emulate best practices.

As for hours and days of the week, over time you’ll figure out what works best and grabs the attention of your core network. Nonetheless, there are a few interesting “sentiment” studies out there that suggest adapting your timing to community moods. Early in the week, people are geared up to think, but generally less happy. Later in the week, people appear ready for more entertainment and happier topics, even goofy stuff like our Ninja Monkey sample project (“Monkey see, monkey do, you follow him, he follow you” RT @ninjaselfstore).

Check out this fascinating time-lapse sentiment-tracking on Twitter which shows a mood slump mid-day and mid-week when we’re at work. http://mashable.com/2010/07/21/twitter-moods-map/

Guidelines of Twitter Etiquette

Good tweets are fun, entertaining, informative, valuable… and SHORT. While the guidelines of Twitter etiquette are still evolving, here are today’s standards:

Do’s Do treat others with respect Do participate in the community Do more than promote your own agenda Do connect with customers, colleagues, neighbors, vendors, friends Do mix up your messages (suggestions, deals, fun, conversation, advice, etc.) Do try to use complete words and thoughts as much as possible Do check your links if you shorten them via bit.ly, tiny.url etc. (see Part 6) Do retweet to give credit (example, RT @storagefront SEO Tip—see Part 6) Do ask your followers to retweet key comments Do reply, and someone is likely to reply back Do spellcheck

Don’ts Don’t spam; it’s bad manners, bad marketing, and reportable to Twitter Don’t billboard your tweets (i.e. tweet the same comment numerous times) Don’t firehose your tweets (i.e. tweet a ton of ideas at once; be choosy) Don’t treat Twitter like an ad space, you have to build interest and trust Don’t treat Twitter like a sales page, you’ll be lonely Don’t make special offers too often—they become white noise Don’t use SMS (text messaging) lingo, e.g. 2 for too, 4 for for, B for be, U for you, etc. Don’t use all caps, IT’S VIRTUAL YELLING Don’t tweet what you eat, ew (I added that one) Don’t tweet politically incorrect or charged topics unless you want to lose customers

Finally: Don’t let Twitter distract you. It should enhance your marketing and branding efforts, not dominate them. Use it in a way that fits your lifestyle and your workload. For more ideas, or just to engage me in conversation, I invite you to follow me and my marketing colleagues at Twitter. I promise not to tell you what I had for lunch, in all caps, five times in a row.

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