In our last post, we asked you to think about how social media could benefit your vacation rental business. Now, we’re taking a look at a success story to inspire and demonstrate just how attainable social media mastery is!
Thibault Masson has built a social media following of thousands for his luxury villas in Bali and St Barths. In a conversation with GuestHook, he explained how he did it, what his following means for his business, and why all rental vacation business owners should be paying attention to social media.
Q: Why is social media useful for vacation rental owners?
Grab your smartphone. Open Facebook. What do you see? Probably friends of yours have just posted a sweet photo of their youngest kids playing by the pool while on vacation. As you can see, people (your friends, you, your guests, and your prospects) love posting cool photos of the places where they are spending their hard-earned money.
According to a 2015 study, people in the U.S. check their Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts 17 times a day on average. The majority of these compulsive social media checkers are adults, with the highest usage observed in those between the ages of 25 and 54. So your customers and your leads are on social media.
Yet, social media can be a huge waste of time and money for vacation rental owners. If your goal is just to get more likes and more followers on Facebook, with no business goals behind them – don’t do it. Stop posting on Facebook and instead sit down for 1 hour to send an email to your past guests. This is time and money better spent to get actual bookings.
Now, by using Facebook and Instagram, you can dig into user profiles to target and reach out to the people who are the most likely to convert. For instance, you can take your list of email addresses of past guests and upload it into Facebook, so that you can promote your Facebook page or a special deal. As they know you already, there is a big chance that they will like your page, click on the link to your site, or even take you up on the offer.
It’s up to you to reach out to your past guests or to prospects with similar profiles. Build or reactivate your relationship with them, capture their email addresses, and stay on their mind when they are thinking about their next vacations and are ready to make an inquiry.
Q: How can you use social media to build trust with your audience?
“Trust, but verify” is one of Ronald Reagan’s signature quotes. Social media is a great way to do just that. Again, let’s use our own experiences. When you are in the process of selecting a new hire, most of you will check her/his profile on LinkedIn. I’m pretty sure that a few of you will even Google the name of this new hire and find her/his profile on Facebook. Like it or not, people do it.
Your vacation rental leads will do the same. Help them check on your company, on your properties, even on your team, by maintaining active profiles in places like Facebook and Instagram.
Here’s 3 reasons why having a social media profile is a useful investment for your leads.
- Preventing scams: As a vacation rental owner with luxury properties, I’ve had scammers copy my property photos and descriptions, and then pose as me on some listing sites. Unsuspecting guests were about to book with these scammers, but had a bad feeling. They Googled my property name, found my Facebook page, then my real website, and then contacted me. I was able to stop the scam before it was too late and to actually get the booking from these guests. Thanks to my social media profiles, I can better prove that I do exist and that my properties are real.
- Providing service: Using social media, I also build trust by showing photos of my team. For instance, when I feature De’Dung (my butler) making up a bedroom at my beach retreat in Bali in a video posted on my YouTube, I show off both the property and the level of service that guests can expect. It helps the customer relate to what it’s like to be at my rental.
- Establishing authority: By regularly posting travel tips to Bali and to St Barths on my blogs and social media profiles, I’ve become a local authority. For instance, my Instagram account for my St Barths properties has 12,000+ followers, which is great for a luxury destination that is a tiny island of 8,000 inhabitants! I share local tips that matter to my target. It also helps me land interviews with the press as I am one of the easiest locals to find online.
Q: How do you use social media to connect with previous customers?
First, as soon as guests book with me, I send them a welcome video by email. In the body of this email, I also give them the links to my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages and ask them to follow the pages to get fresh travel tips about the destination. It’s all about them, not about me: I explain why they should care and why it’s going to make their vacations better.
In a similar way, in the automated email that my guests get when they leave the house, I invite them to stay in touch via social media, so that they can get special deals, for instance.
Now, I also use tools like Facebook’s Custom Audiences to reach out to my past guests. For instance, I simply put their email addresses in a spreadsheet and upload it into Facebook. Then, I am able to create an ad that shows up in their feeds. This is a great way to reach out to past guests on Facebook, even if they have not liked your page yet! You can, for instance, offer them special discounts that you would not show to prospects.
Q: How do you convert new followers or visitors into leads?
Every week, I measure the success of my social media profiles by looking at several metrics. One of them is the number of new email subscribers that I get from each channel, such as Facebook and Instagram.
Why? Because the money is in the list: I want people who follow me on social media to give me their email address, so that they fall into a conversion funnel (e.g. a series of automated emails introducing my team, the properties and the destination, before making an offer).
For instance, I have turned my Instagram profiles into funnels to capture email addresses of people who could be my ideal guests. Look at my St Barths profile on Instagram: the profile’s job is to get people to click on a link to download a free insider’s guide to the destination, in exchange for their email address. In most of the photos that I post on Instagram, there’s a call to action that tells people to check out the account profile and get the guide. This way, even if I cannot get direct traffic from Instagram, I can still get qualified leads.
Note that I am not posting random photos on Instagram, but rather visuals that talk to my target. It’s ok if my account is not the biggest. What I want is to attract the right people and give them a compelling reason to give me their email address.
Guest Hook closing thoughts: Thibault is a clear example of someone who has thought carefully about why he’s using social media. Having invested valuable time in setting his goals he’s created a framework that directs all of his social media posts. Without that framework, social media actions risk becoming random, sporadic acts. In short, they become a waste of your time and energy!
Thibault Masson has 16 years of experience in marketing and is the founder of RentalPreneurs.com, which helps vacation rental owners by providing tips, tricks and strategies for attaining marketing goals.
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: That’s this post you’ve just read!
Part 4: How another owner, Nancy McAleer, is using social media.
Part 5: Some industry pros explain how they’re managing the big-4 platforms.