The social internet provides unprecedented opportunities to connect with potential guests and market your vacation property. Vacation rental owner, author, and blogger Heather Bayer shares some great advice on taking advantage of social media to help promote your property online.
Driving Vacation Rental Traffic with Social Media Strategies
by Heather Bayer
Listing your property with good, traffic-rich sites such as FlipKey is important, and this should be at the top of every vacation rental owner’s marketing plan. What is not as obvious are the huge opportunities available to drive traffic to your listing or website with free or low-cost social media strategies. The strength of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for reaching a mass audience has never been greater. Continuing growth in all of these markets points to them sticking around a long time, so if you haven’t leaped in yet, now is the time to do it.
Before you begin, research what your competition is doing with social networking. Look at how they are interacting with clients; what they are posting and the responses they are getting. This research gives great insight into where you can position yourself in the social media scene. Here are four networking opportunities to get you started:
Despite the growth in Facebook and Twitter, a well-designed blog remains the strong foundation of a robust social media strategy. The key to success with a blog is to post regularly, allow comments and reply to them personally, and post on a range of topics to appeal to your audience. Many vacation rental owners are now using a blog platform such as WordPress to power their web site, and featuring a blog on it gives it great value overall. It’s possible to do all this for free with a site hosted on WordPress and a free theme, but for a relatively small outlay (less than $100 per year) for a hosting service and a paid theme, you can create an elegant and well-optimized site that will generate a good amount of traffic.
It’s very likely you already have a personal account on Facebook. For a professional approach to your vacation rental, you’ll need to create a Facebook Page. Here, you simply promote your property and the area, and connect with potential guests without them seeing your personal interactions. Mari Smith’s Facebook 101 for Business is a great place to start. There are a lot of companies offering Page design services - Custom Fan Page Designs do a great job at reasonable rates.
Twitter gets bad press from people who are not using it for business purposes. For vacation rental owners who want to connect with the people that really matter such as travel writers and potential guests, it is a terrific social medium. It takes some time to create a group of followers on Twitter but it’s worth persevering. As with any other social network, be careful not to use it for straight promotion of your property – it’s about making a connection, starting and maintaining a conversation, and sharing your expertise on your area. When you set up your Twitter account, follow me @cottageguru and send me a direct message with the word FlipKey in it. I’ll follow you back and add you to my list of FlipKey Tweeters.
In 2006 I wrote a short article called Travel Insurance for Vacation Rentals and posted it on Ezine Articles, the giant of article marketing sites. In 2011 that article still ranks in the top three on Google for those key words and is consistently republished on other blogs and websites. Publishing articles is a simple and effective way to create buzz about a topic you are interested in, with the opportunity to create a signature block that includes your bio and a link to your listing or site. What better way to market your property for free?
It’s not necessary to tackle all these platforms at once – take one at a time and give it a week or two of concerted effort, and then move onto the next. Just remember that having a successful social media strategy is like spinning plates: they all need consistent attention to keep them going.
Heather Bayer is author of Renting Your Recreational Property for Profit (Self-Counsel Press) and is passionate about raising standards in the vacation rental industry. She regularly blogs at www.cottageblogger.com and runs a successful membership site at Renting For Profit – The Complete Resource for Vacation Rental Owners.