View social media through 'friends & family' lens

Some time back, I learned that grasping complex concepts often can become much easier by reframing the focus. Mention "social media," and many businesspeople will go deer-in-the-headlights. Most of us know the basics, but when it comes to developing and deploying a social media process, we get stuck.

Where do we start? What social media should be considered? How do we synthesize and coordinate everything? How much time will we have to spend on a regular basis?

To start getting your head around social media, first re-title it to "friends and family network." In essence, social media is friends and family networking on steroids. Think about how you would approach your friends, family, colleagues, associates, partners-in other words your immediate network-with hot news as well as routine announcements. And, you can quickly create the basics of a social media plan that will help you manage and build your self-storage business.

Here are some basics to start with:

1. Inform those closest to you first, then work outward. Start with social media you already are most familiar with, ranging from emails to Facebook. (Don't forget your "captive" social media-website, blog, email and the like.) Then, gradually work outward into new venues. As you explore previously unfamiliar social media, take a playful exploratory view-check it out as something fun to try; you're not stuck with anything. However, just be sure not to do anything in your exploration that will needlessly compromise your privacy. Social media, first and foremost, is just that-social...and public; so don't post anything you don't want others to see.

2. Ask for reviews, referrals, recommendations, spreading the word. Those who know and like you are much more likely to act as your "goodwill ambassador" corps. Properly handled, your closer-in network can share your information with their respective networks, substantially enhancing reach and influence.

3. Prioritize the types of social media you want to pursue, then proceed accordingly. Some social media work best for outgoing messaging (e.g., marketing). Others focus on information-sharing and collaboration, as communities where people can go to learn more about specific issues, developments, trends, and the like.

Today, chief categories include blogs, social networks such as Facebook, microblogs such as Twitter, wiki information sharing (e.g., Wikipedia), video, podcasts, discussion forums, RSS feeds, and photo sharing. Some of these are familiar; others may be less so. To get more informed about the social media types that might be best for you, Google some entries in categories you want to learn more about (e.g., "self-storage discussion forums").

4. Send out press releases via online wire distribution. These can build traction in the SEO/social media world-provided that the story is noteworthy and/or compelling. That said, even routine announcements-if seen as beneficial by prospects, tenants, employees or other stakeholders-can prove valuable.

5. Find guest column/article opportunities (just like this venue). Establish rapport with bloggers and online media who will publish/republish your articles. Start researching possible venues simply by Googling "self-storage blogs." If you think you can make a contribution that will strengthen their offering, reach out via email or phone. Be sure to offer story angles that might be of interest. See if there's any connection.

6. Once networks are established and entrenched, hire/find someone to serve as the ongoing coordinator. Otherwise, you could find yourself overwhelmed and under-manned. Once you start the process of regular social media exposure, you're likely to see it work for you only if you stay consistent with it.

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