We are sorry to say that if you aren’t using social media in your marketing plan, you are behind the times. And if you are using social media, we are sorry to say that you are probably doing it wrong. Although social media use is an extremely powerful tool in a marketing arsenal, it is not a cure-all and won’t be a viable source for direct bookings that you can measure. But it is vital to your brand and your online reputation.
For some reason, over the past several years social media has morphed from a fun, interactive tool to a trendy sales tool in the eyes of page owners and businesses—this is where the danger begins.
First, let’s think back to the birthplace of modern social media, Facebook.
Facebook was spawned from an invention of Mark Zuckerberg called Facemash, which was originally designed to rate fellow college students on their physical attractiveness (Yes, really). Over the years, Facebook has become an extremely engaging platform, even with the ability to market to users. But let’s not forget why Facebook was made in the first place—so people could engage online with one another on a personal level.
If you aren’t engaging your audience, you’re doing it wrong.
Think about this for a moment. You probably have 150 to 700 “friends” on Facebook. (Don’t worry about the business side, I’m speaking merely about your personal friends.) You’re popular, right?! However, do you have friends who hardly ever post? Maybe someone you didn’t really know, but who hit that “accept” button anyway? It’s not that they aren’t posting anything. It’s that you don’t hit their like button or comment on their stuff—ever. Facebook realizes this (through its algorithm) and filters out their content from your wall because you are clearly not interested in it.
Now apply that to your business page. If you have fans who never click “like” or comment on your posts, Facebook is going to show less and less of your content to them. It’s the algorithm!
If you post only promotional stuff and do not understand the algorithm, you’re doing it wrong.
People engage in social media for several reasons, and one of those is to maintain relationships. When we approach our fans with the mind-set of a relationship rather than a sale or a booking, we see more engagement, better reviews, and overall happier fans, both now and long term.
Here Is the ROI Issue….
What kind of ROI can you expect from social media? That is a question that really should not exist. Yes, you can see the ROI in your social platforms; it does exist. However, asking this question means that you are expecting all your social touchpoints to result in bookings; it just doesn’t work that way. Social media bookings come from good branding, and good branding comes from patience and a well-organized plan.
If you are wondering where to start, ask yourself the following: “What sort of content do my fans like?” You can publish various types of content and measure the results—count your likes and engagement. Facebook lays it all out for you in your admin panel. By promoting your brand in that fun, non-salesman way, you are giving your fans what they like. This leads to more engagement, which leads to much better brand recognition in the long run!
If you post more content about your company and products than destination-related info, you’re doing it wrong.
The Visual Experience
A popular saying is, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Actually, Fred R. Barnard said, “A picture is worth ten thousand words.” Either way, social media is a visual experience and visual content is at least forty times more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content (HubSpot). When you think about it, every social platform centers on visual content.
This is your opportunity to publish the funniest, coolest visual content you can, whether that’s photos, videos, GIFs, memes, and so on. Start producing content that amuses your audience, but remember, there might be a difference between what you like and what your audience likes. Again, test and measure.
If you don’t support your message with a nice visual, you’re doing it wrong.
One of the most overlooked aspects of social media is reviews. If there is one thing we know about the Internet, it’s that everyone has a loud virtual mouth. Reviews are a powerful tool and have the potential to help or hurt your brand image in a heartbeat!
So how do we use reviews? Actually, republishing reviews could have a great impact on your audience and makes for some fantastic content. This is what we call user-generated content and is considered by some to be the holy grail of the content world because, well, it’s real and from a trusted source—a reviewer.
There is no better way to build trust than to let your audience tell others how much they love you. A great strategy is to post reviews about a rental AND photos of that rental. You could even use this as a remarketing tactic with paid campaigns.
Speaking of Paid Campaigns
Yes, Facebook is a business. It enjoys collecting our money, too. But do the ads work in the vacation rental industry? Of course they do, but again, more for brand recognition than anything else. We won’t get into the differences in “like” campaigns and “audience” campaigns here, but your ads normally get many more impressions than they do clicks, which is why they’re great for promoting your brand.
Remarketing is probably the best tactic you can use on paid Facebook. It’s simple but effective. Remarketing ads on Facebook are ads that display on their Facebook feed after they have visited your website, attempting to hook them again. Again, think of engaging information here as well, such as reviews, or bringing them back to a page they may have missed.
Does Social Media Help with SEO?
To make a long story short, yes. A strong social media presence with interactions from users does help with search engine optimization. Search engines use “social signals” in their algorithms—yet another reason to have a good audience following. Of course, it’s difficult and time-consuming to be present on ALL social media channels, so at least make sure you keep up with the competition. If you and a competitor are running from a bear, you don’t have to be faster than the bear, just faster than your competitor.
So now you know that social media for the vacation rental industry, whether on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram, is about building a trusted brand, not making a sale. It’s about winning over an audience, not pushing them to book. We admit, there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to planning and executing content through your social channels. Writing all those steps down would turn this article into a book.
And don’t get us wrong—there is a place on social media for promoting your rental units, but do it in the paid channel portions, not the regular wall posts.
Just remember, if you use social media as a tool to build your brand as a whole instead of booking units, you’re doing it right.
What You Should Be Doing for Social Media—The Bare Minimum
- Post three to four times a week to your Facebook Page.
- Post something fun 80 percent of the time and post something promotional 20 percent of the time to increase engagement and reach.
- Respond to your reviews (good and bad) and private messages on Facebook within an hour (a badge on your page displays your response time).
- Spend money either remarketing on Facebook or boosting posts.
Great Ideas for Facebook Remarketing Ads
- Drive users to a page on your website that they may not have seen before, or one that is normally hidden, such as “New Rentals” or “Why we rock as a rental company.”
- Create ads that are guest reviews and rotate them to reaffirm customers’ choice in you. Link to more testimonials.
- Use a special Facebook-only coupon code and tease it in the ad to get visitors back to a page that has the coupon (you could also ask them to enter their email address to get the coupon code). Track the code so you know how many bookings you get.