In our last post, we spoke to Thibault Masson about how to generate leads from your social media followers. Now, we’re talking to Nancy McAleer of Anna Maria Island Beach Life about how to build a loyal following that’s interested in what you have to say.
Anna Maria Island Beach Life’s social followers are ever expanding, but even more importantly, they’re constantly engaged. Nancy’s posts gain a steady stream of likes, shares and comments from past guests and potential leads alike, helping to raise awareness of, and trust in, her brand. Here’s what she had to say about her success.
Q: How can you create organic growth for your vacation rental on social media?
Create a Brand.
Maximize your position by focusing on your vacation rental niche: whatever differentiates you from others. For example, if you are located next to vineyards in Italy, your focus could be on wine and cooking excursions. You want to sell a lifestyle, so your profile’s name and collateral should match it. Remember: you are building a social lifestyle community.
Here are a few unique selling points that could help you zone in on what your brand should be focused on.
- Offering of amenities
- The spirit of your location
- Rare features like endangered animals or unique natural landscapes
- Unusual history
- Specific travel experiences
Find Your Community.
Social media is, at its core, a digital community. In order for your channels to succeed, you need to get involved.
- Get connected. Make a list or start searching for all like-minded pages, boards and communities that may be interested in your niche. For example: the state or county’s tourism board, television shows, magazines, local stores, restaurants, amusement parks, state parks, etc. Like and follow these pages and stay active by commenting on them and posting your own photos when they’re relevant. Ask them to like you back or to join their community.
- Share events and discounts. Not just your own – reach out and ask local vendors if they would like to offer your guests and followers a special deal or discount. You can also use this information to create blog posts.
- Offer perks. Create social media posts that direct people to join your e-mail newsletter list, include a special perk or bonus, like receiving a free insiders guide. Giving a reward or something beneficial to travellers will attract a loyal following to both your vacation rental and your social platform.
- Add a Sniply to timely news articles. Sniply is a free service designed to add a call to action comment button on your shared article. For example, a Thrillist article about the best beaches in America had my little town listed. I used Sniply to add a comment bubble with a call to action to the article. Anywhere I post this link, that comment will show up to drive traffic to my website.
- Follow the calendar year for holiday traction. A gorgeous, relevant photo that evokes a feeling can be incredibly successful. A few of my social media photos have been picked up and showcased by major news publications and my state tourism board. When a page with a huge amount of followers shares your content, it can be a big win. The Florida State Tourist Board page shared an Easter photo I posted of painted sand dollars from a local vendor, and it reached over 38,000 people, received 3,500 likes and comments, and most importantly garnered 2,800 clicks to my website because I included my link in the description.
- Be unique and plan content in association with your blog and website. The idea is to cast your unique articles out into the social media world to attract your client profile back to your website. In order to get the clicks back to your website, it’s best to publish your content directly onto your website and then share it. It’s much easier for viewers to click on a photo to be directed to your website than to take the time to find a link. For example, my insider guide on Pinterest (see below) links directly to my website when clicked.
- Cross promote your social media platforms. Tell your Facebook followers to re-pin a gorgeous photo linked from your Pinterest account. Tell your Twitter and Pinterest followers about your Facebook Page. Use your website to include a live feed of your most popular social media platform. There are a ton of services out there that you can use to accomplish this, like TintUp.
- Make your website and social media platforms easy to find. For each inquiry, I send a follow-up email that includes extra information and links to all of my social media platforms. Each link is associated with a photo that best represents that platform. It’s visually appealing and guests are surprised and delighted to be given this type of reward for inquiring with me. For example, my insider guide for families has gained a lot of traction on Pinterest. Simply click the below picture.
Q: How do you define successful social media?
This question leads me back to identifying goals. In order to analyze your results you have to ask yourself why you’re spending time on social media.
I started my social media platforms to improve guest experiences and to gain new client trust. I didn’t really measure my analytics back then, but my goals have changed significantly. Now, I primarily use social media as a way to generate traffic to my website.
Last year 41% of my traffic was driven to my website via my social media platforms. I want this traffic not only to gain new clientele, but also to help increase my website’s Google rankings. Currently, I rank on page 2 for the Google keyword search “Anna Maria Island vacation rentals.” A high ranking helps put my website in front of people who are what I call my direct clients.
Simply put, successful social media is defined by your goals. Here’s how to measure your results and see if you’re on the right path:
- If your goal is an improved guest experience, and you consistently get feedback from your guests that they love your extra information and links and as a result they share your information and refer you to other friends, then you are successful.
- If your goal is to increase your website traffic, then that can be statistically measured through your analytics.
- If your goal is to gain bookings, you can ask guests how they found you or use a social media Ad campaign to understand how many people are booking via your paid social media advertising. Don’t forget to use your Google Analytics to understand who is your ideal client and use these demographics in your paid campaigns.
Q: What’s the end goal of social media exposure for VR owners?
There are many benefits for using social media with vacation rentals. Take a look at the list below and decide which benefits work best for you. Keep them in mind when setting your social media goals.
- as an increased guest experience (i.e. by posting travel experiences, news, events and discounts, etc.)
- to gain trust and loyalty of new guests
- to generate traffic to your website – a factor in Google’s ranking algorithm
- to get bookings
- to have a communication tool with your guests and followers (i.e. crowd sourcing information and feedback)
- to cross promote your other social media platforms
- to network and promote local area vendors (for referral fees, etc.)
Engagement is the end goal.
Once you prioritize your benefits and decide on your end goal, your focus should be on engagement. This is successful social media for any business. It’s not the number of likes or followers you have, it really boils down to the number of clicks your website is getting through your social media efforts.
- Watermark your original photos with your website. In the event the link gets lost, others who are reading it will be able to find you
- Post directly from your website to create the path of least resistance for your followers.
- Reply with your website link whenever anyone hints about visiting.
- Ensure your social media profiles have all contact details and website links verified and shown in your profile section.
- Create posts that invite comments or tagging of other people to increase engagement and followers.
Q: How can you determine whether you’re meeting these goals?
I use both the analytics tools within the social media platforms as well as Google analytics to gauge the success of my posts.
I like using my Google Analytics when I am looking at my global website traffic, where it is coming from (acquisition), what my client profile is (audience), and how the visitor is interacting with my website (behavior). Within Google Analytics, I can see how each social media platform is performing and what posts have worked best.
For advanced analytics, you can set up a campaign in Google Analytics to follow the success of selected efforts.
Social Platform View
The Social Media Analytic tools are used in a similar manner. I can see how each post/pin performed and what kind of reach it received. I can also see how many people clicked my ‘Book Now’ button on Facebook.
Q: How do you convert followers or visitors into leads?
Converting followers into leads takes focus, consistency, and creating opportunities. You must always be diligent about attracting the right followers. Here’s how:
- When a client makes a comment wishing they were staying nearby or a comment in relation to accommodations, always reply with your website link or a way to easily contact you.
- Make yourself accessible by posting your website links and telephone information in both of the about you sections on Facebook, as well as in photos, photo albums and photo descriptions.
- Always tag your photos, with your website, keywords and relevant tag lines.
Guest Hook closing thoughts: Like Thibault Masson, Nancy has a very clear goal in mind when using social media. But note that her goal has evolved over time as she’s become more experienced. That very fact demonstrates that social media is not (usually) an instant ROI activity. It takes time to find your feet and figure out what works for your vacation rental business. That might not be the magic pill answer that many are hoping for, but it’s the reality! However, as Nancy demonstrates, there is significant upside if you stay the course. In her case that’s making social the #1 contributor to her website traffic!
Looking for more social media content from Guest Hook? Here’s a recap of our social media series:
Part 1: Introducing social media for vacation rentals.
Part 2: Defining your social media goal.
Part 3: Hear how vacation rental owner Thibault Masson is succeeding with social media.
Part 4: That’s this post you’ve just read!
Part 5: Some industry pros explain how they’re managing the big-4 platforms.