We conducted a few interviews with community members regarding social media marketing and what tips they may have for vacation rental owners. Following is a discussions with community member webchalet (Sarah Brubaker), who shares her thoughts on how social media can benefit owners.
What social media outlets have you used for marketing your vacation rental? Which of these do you think have been successful in terms of marketing your vacation rental?
- Each social media outlet has its own strengths, and the ultimate goal is to create a healthy marketing mixture that allows you to take advantage of these different strengths.
- Facebook allows you to build and engage an active community around your vacation rental business. A recent study by a large advertising company showed that 84% of a typical brand's Facebook fans are existing customers. This means the goal of marketing to your Facebook fan base could be driving repeat guests, rather than acquiring new business.
- YouTube gives owners a platform to showcase videos of their vacation rentals to a large audience and can be used for customer acquisition. In addition to posting on YouTube, you can embed these videos on your personal website.
- Twitter is great for learning about the latest vacation rental news (for example, HomeAway’s announcements about new features) and expanding your knowledge base. Plus, you can share your own news and “tweet” blog posts, driving users back to your website.
- The vacation rental website is the hub of these activities because ultimately you are looking to drive users back to your website so they can easily inquire or book your vacation rental.
What criteria do you use to determine if social media marketing is beneficial for your vacation rental business?
- One of the challenges of social media is the difficulty in measuring the exact ROI (return on investment). You can spend hours posting on Facebook or tweeting, but is it actually affecting your business and driving bookings? There are a few ways to obtain data and measure your success.
- Using Google Analytics, you can look at how much traffic is driven to your website from websites like www.facebook.com, www.youtube.com and www.twitter.com.
- Secondly, you can look at each marketing channel individually and set goals. Facebook provides weekly reporting the number of posts/likes made by fans on your business page. If your goal is to create an engaging audience and drive repeat business, you can monitor the rise or fall in activity.
What are three tips for success that you’d give to other owners, based on your experiences with social media marketing?
- Test, test, test. Facebook may work for some vacation rental owners while YouTube may work better for others. You will not know what works for you until you try it. Continue to experiment until you find the right mix for you.
- Be patient. Do not expect instant success. It takes time to build a community of fans or followers.
- Leverage your personal website to act as a central hub for your social media marketing. When you promote a deal on Facebook or Twitter, you can link to your personal website and provide more info on the special offer. It is important to have clear and consistent messaging in order to get the most out of your marketing campaign.
What types of content drive the most engagement?
- Photos and videos are very important. When you are “selling” your vacation rental, you are not only selling your home but the entire experience of the location. Images and visuals help to create a compelling experience that make users want to go on vacation.
- With arrival of Groupon and other flash sale sites, consumers are becoming seasoned to seeing special deals and acting on these deals. A special offer is a great way to create a sense of urgency to book now and also gets guests’ attention. During the low season, one of our clients offers a special “private chef for dinner” when guests book her villa for a week.
Have you tried running Facebook ads? If yes, have you seen good results from Facebook advertising?
- Facebook ads are a good way to reach new eyeballs. With Facebook ads, you can choose your audience by locations and interests. It is all about trial and error and figuring out what works for you.
- While Facebook ads may work for some vacation rental owners, and they may not work for others. You have to try out different channels to see what works for your business.
Should properties have a place page for renters to “check-in” via FourSquare or Gowalla?
- The “check-in” is becoming increasingly popular. For the vacation rental business, it may not be as relevant because you do not have the foot traffic of a restaurant coming in and out. But if a guest wants to check-in and share this with friends, why not let him or her? As always, test it out and see if you gain any traction.
Do you allow renters to post photos of your properties on their social profiles?
- We would recommend this strategy. Facebook is all about sharing and recommending content to friends. If a Facebook user posts photos, this will show up on their own Facebook feed so their friends can see the photos as well, expanding the reach of your Facebook page.
- Remember, you can always monitor and remove inappropriate photos.
Sarah Brubacker co-founded WebChalet (www.webchalet.com), a leading vacation rental website design and hosting company. Sarah has been working in online marketing and sales development for the past 8 years and worked with several premiere media clients, including Fox Networks, BravoTV, the Weinstein Company and CBS.