So you’ve decided you want to use social media as part of your vacation rental marketing strategy, and you’ve done your due diligence on how it can effectively create leads and attract guests. But here’s the hard part: getting started.
In a world where we turn to social media for everything from family photos to recipes to news, tackling it for your vacation rental can seem daunting. Here are some tips to get you started on four major platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
- Share local content. Listicles about the area, fun local features and news about events are not only shareable, they’re also a great way to educate your audience about why your destination is great to visit.
- Post photos of your product. When you post professional photos of your properties on Facebook, you give your viewers the chance to immediately engage with what you’re offering. If their interest is piqued, they can ask questions right in the platform – and when you respond, their attention will inevitably turn to you again.
- Feature your guests. If your latest customer is a raving fan after their recent stay, ask them if you can share their testimonial along with a photo of their great time.
- Push your product, but sparingly. If you try to push your product too hard, you’re going to lose your followers. But in moderation, well-written posts about your properties paired with elegant photos could garner you valuable leads.
- Brag, but in moderation. There’s no shame in using your Facebook as a platform to show off your company’s accomplishments, especially if they’re relevant to potential travelers. Acquire a new property? Shout it out. Hit your hundredth 5-star review? Let the people know. Just keep it humble and keep it relevant.
- Utilize Facebook’s advertising. Facebook allows you to target your demographic by age, location, interests and more. Take the time to learn more about Facebook’s advertising services for super-targeted marketing that brings in leads.
Pro Voice: Wes Melton, SmokyMountains.com
SmokyMountains.com, a Tennessee-based vacation rental company, has an engaged Facebook following of over 40,000 users.
Here’s how Wes explained their approach to Facebook:
“Our strategy is primarily about defining the ‘who’ through advanced Facebook audience segmentation by filtering on interest, demographic, geolocation, employment, income, and various other attributes available on the platform to make sure that we’re pushing content that is custom tailored for our core buyer demographic.
From there it’s about setting defined, quantitative goals and tracking post/ad engagement along with defined conversions (clicks to our site, bookings on our site, etc.) to continually hone and improve our marketing creative to optimize our Facebook campaigns to maximize the campaign goals we’ve set.”
- Invest in your photos. Stunning images are the lifeblood of Instagram. If you want to succeed on this platform, you need to have access to pro quality photos of your rentals and of the surrounding area. Make it your priority.
- Hashtags are your friend. Hashtags offer travelers an easy way to look at a destination before heading there, and you need to be part of that research. Find out what hashtags are popular in your area by looking at the Instagram accounts of local businesses and attractions, then contribute to those hashtags yourself.
- So are geo-tags. Want a simple way to increase your engagement by 79 percent? Add a location. When potential travelers use Instagram to research where they’ll be heading to on their trip to your area, you’ll be supplying some of the photos that will help them make their decision. From there, it only takes one click on your profile, and they’ll be looking right at your rentals.
- Ask your guests to tag you. Vacationers love sharing their happy memories on social media. Whether it’s with a custom hashtag or by @mention, invite your customers to tag your business in their posts. And if you’re finding engagement is low, you can sweeten the deal with giveaways or contests.
- Showcase your rentals. Anytime someone discovers your beautiful area photos and visits your profile because of them, be sure they’re able to also feast their eyes on photos of your rental. You may receive more engagement on photos of stunning sunsets or picture-perfect cityscapes, but that doesn’t mean your Instagram isn’t working to book your property (we recommend tracking links to see how much traffic is coming to your website from Instagram – Google Link Shortener is a great tool for this).
Pro Voice: Mairin Heard, HomeAway
Mairin Heard is the Social Media Content Manager for HomeAway, an industry giant with tens of thousands of followers on Instagram.
Here’s more on Mairin’s approach to Instagram:
“For HomeAway’s Instagram account, we see the best engagement on imagery with aspirational types of properties combined with vibrant colors that evoke strong, positive feelings. We want people to daydream about their next vacation! Beach and cabin properties tend to be the best performing.
Our hashtag strategy is fairly simple. We try to include one that is unique, one identifying the location and destination, and a few in the travel space. There are never more than 5 so it doesn’t overwhelm the copy or look too busy.
It was such a funny turning point when we decided to start incorporating emojis.
Content that we’ve learned that doesn’t perform well: contest promotions with copy on the image, company culture photos (so we created @LifeatHomeAway), and campaign photos with people. Our audience wants look at beautiful and colorful property pics!”
- Stay on top of trends. Using relevant hashtags is a way to keep your tweets traveling longer and farther. Keep an eye on what’s trending, both in the VR industry and worldwide, and contribute to the conversation when it’s relevant for you to do so.
- Find good content. Got an abundance of great content to share? Here’s your chance. Unlike on Facebook, you can post multiple times a day on Twitter without annoying your followers, so long as your tweets offer information that’s useful and pertinent.
- Use photos. Twitter said it themselves: adding a photo (or video) to your tweet gives you a better shot at being re-tweeted. While you should save most of your photo sharing for a platform like Instagram that’s built around image content, there’s certainly no harm in tweeting out an appealing photo of your location or property.
- Ask questions or invite responses. Twitter’s forte lies in conversation, so start a good one! If you have a decent following of past guests, ask them to share their favorite memories at your property. If you don’t, reach out and ask the community to tweet their favorite local destinations at you. Either way, the @mentions and re-tweets can help garner you exposure.
- Re-tweet. You can use Twitter to do more than rack up followers – it can also serve as a real-time resource for guests (and a preview of what’s going on in the area for guests-to-be). Re-tweet the latest information from local restaurants, businesses or the Chamber of Commerce to give your guests the scoop on what’s up in the area.
Pro Voice: Heather Bayer, CottageBlogger.com
The host of the Vacation Rental Success podcast, Heather Bayer (@cottageguru) has over 11,000 tweets and over 6,000 followers on Twitter.
Here’s how Heather explained her approach to Twitter:
“Our primary approach is to create engagement so we use a combination of organic and automated posts. We have around 50 tweets set up in Meet Edgar with around 5 per day being posted. We add and remove these frequently so they don’t become stale and use a variety of types – questions, quotes, insights, but keep promotion to a minimum with the main goal to create engagement.
I also spend at least 15 minutes per day checking current posts from my lists to see what my target groups are posting. In this way, I can see what journalists and media are looking for.
Over the past few years Twitter has been my main source of media exposure, simply by pitching ideas to bloggers, travel writers and general media outlets such as local and national newspapers and TV channels. Do this regularly with topical suggestions.”
- Create an interactive insider’s guide. Make one board for area restaurants, one for outdoor activities, one for rainy day options, one for local events…you get the point. If you do it well, you’ll create a priceless guide for your guests, and show prospects just how much there is to do.
- Embody the lifestyle. What will guests spend time doing at your vacation rental? If you’re offering a sprawling yard, create a board with games the kids can play in it. If your wet bar is the center attraction, make a collection of drink recipes your guests must try.
- Feature your visitors. Ask permission to pin photos that your guests have shared to create an easily accessible collection of the great times had at your properties.
Pro Voice: Afton Negrea, AftonNegrea.com
Afton Negrea is a social media strategist who has worked with many companies around the world to create dynamic marketing strategies.
Here’s Afton’s perspective on Pinterest for vacation rentals:
“Pinterest is a fantastic way to gain visibility and drive organic traffic to your website again and again. It’s also great to offer additional resources that will help your guests to get the best experience from your property. Consider pinning local restaurants, must-see attractions, and even reviews from past guests.
My best Pinterest tip: Add a “Pin it for later” call to action on Facebook posts with a link to a pin. Pinterest is a great way for potential guests to keep your property in mind for later when they’re ready to book.”
Hopefully these social media ideas have your gears turning! Check out the rest of the posts in our social media series:
Part 1: Introducing social media for vacation rentals.
Part 2: Defining your social media goal.
Part 3: How Thibault Masson, a VR owner, is using social media.
Part 4: How another owner, Nancy McAleer, is using social media.