Let’s face it. Despite the inherent sex appeal of each and every SpareFooter (see above), self-storage can be a decidedly non-sexy industry. Just look at Darrell on Storage Wars. So how does SpareFoot get our fans and followers as excited as we are about all things storage? As SpareFoot’s Social Media Dude, I’ll answer that question with the four tenets of social media sexiness.

Knowing Me, Knowing You
There’s a lot more to SpareFoot than finding your perfect storage unit, even though we’re awesome at that. Perhaps you’ll remember our tales of victory at the Austin Startup Games, or that time we did some community gardening for Earth Day? When we think creatively about our company, we find we have a lot more to talk about with our fans. But it doesn’t cut it just to know our own strengths–we also have to take a look at the people we’ll be engaging with day-to-day.

Therefore, the next step is to understand the audiences that are most compatible with our message. In addition to folks in the storage industry, we speak to college movers, home stagers, elite organizers and pro hoarders, to name a few. And don’t forget the vibrant startup community here in Austin who wants to hear what 2013’s Best Place to Work is up to! Sometimes, it’s easy to learn where your fans come from. Other times, it takes a skillful ear to the ground.

Listening Skills
Even if we know who our audience is, how do we know what content will get the most positive reactions? The best way is to keep track of our successes and failures using analytics tools like Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter insights, owl.ly, or Tweetreach. These tools provide clear, up-to-date metrics to show how far a given post has traveled across the social network, and how many views, clicks, shares and reactions it got along the way. Using these numbers, we can decide what types of posts are most successful with which audiences, and even determine the time of day when we get the most traffic.

It’s also useful to create Google Alerts for relevant keywords–we receive alerts for a range of topics, from “foosball” to “Storage Wars,” which help our social media content stay current and unique. It’s also another way to see who in the World Wide Web might share some common interests with our brand.

After all those metrics, alerts and analytics, we can start to get methodical about our relationship with our fans. Taking a look at the numbers behind each post might illuminate some interesting trends behind our content.

The Posts with the Most
Collin Bass, social media expert at uShip, says the content his team creates takes on a variety of forms.

“The posts with the greatest reach aren’t about uShip at all,” he noted about uShip’s approach to Facebook content. From moving tips to cool truck videos to adorable puppy pics, Collin’s content strategy is all about “simple, shareable pieces of content that resonate with people.”

Though it’s fun and easy to share our countless SparePup pictures, it’s also important that our fans know us as an authority on our industry. Whether we’re talking rental insurance, hiring a mover, or weighing in on a national self-storage study, we use our wealth of data to provide reliable information to our customers. In balancing between entertainment and thought leadership, we build trust that our brand will deliver the content our audience is looking for.

In newspapers, the articles with the snappiest headlines will get the most attention. We operate on the same principle with our social media content–the way we package and advertise each post has a drastic effect on its performance. We’ve found that including numbers, superlatives, questions, and even punctuation like hyphens and colons in your headlines will make your posts more eye-catching and enticing to the reader.

Just because our photo or video is out there doesn’t mean fans will automatically flock to see it. We take care to remind our fans that we love them and we want to hear from them by frequently asking questions and inviting comments, likes and retweets on their favorite posts. We also build relationships with social influencers who can carry our content and extend the reach of our brand. Participating in online communities and forums is a great way to check in on our fans and deliver content to the right people. Our weekly hashtag chat #Storchat keeps SpareFoot in touch with many self-storage owners and operators in the Twitterverse. Google+ Communities are gaining users by the day, and many of these are the early adopters and influencers we want to engage with online.

Whether we’re growing our brand or encouraging fans to interact, social media giveaways yield demonstrably positive results. But before launching into a sweepstakes or contest, we first define our goals. Looking to boost our follower count? We’ll need something with minimal entry effort and plenty of sharing potential, like a Rafflecopter sweepstakes. Upping our engagement rate? A photo contest or opinion poll allows fans to contribute and see the variety of interesting content they’ll find on our page.

Final Thoughts
Sometimes it feels like just when it all starts to make sense, Facebook rolls out another update or Google changes its search algorithm. The truth is: social media is always changing, and it’s doing so with blinding speed. I like to stay informed reading blogs like the Social Media Examiner, Socially Stacked and Mashable. They provide news, updates and creative tips for getting the most out of social media. I also have some Google Alerts for “social media,” “facebook,” “edgerank” (Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm), et al. for our various social media platforms.

The Social Network is a loud, fast-paced world, and it may seem daunting to those industries lacking a certain social media sex appeal. Luckily, as fellow Social Media Dudes and Dudettes, you have the power to overcome. Know your company, build trust with your fans, and if you believe your industry can be sexy, your fans will too. But it won’t hurt to keep a few cat pictures around, just in case.