This post by Nancy McAleer of Anna Maria Island Home Rental is the first of a new VRMB guest post series designed to cover innovative subjects and give greater texture to the world of listing site independence. If you enjoy it, feel free to leave Nancy a note in the comments area.
I have next to zero marketing budget for my VR in Anna Maria Island (Florida)...I mean really ZERO. I manage my vacation rentals myself and try to keep operation costs at a minimum.
But through my thriftiness I was able to find a way to make a transition a little over a year ago, to drive traffic to my little owner-operated website.
It’s free, but cost me some time, planning and continuous dedication all with the use of social media platforms.
My focus has been to spend as little money as possible while maxing out my bookings. Although it works wonders for others, I choose not to spend a red cent on social media “boosts” or “ads.”
For me that means spending money on a platform that doesn’t guarantee bookings. The way I look at my social media platforms is that they are not the main “actor” to garner bookings, but really the “supporting cast”.
The main “actor” is my website and my VR listings. My “supporting cast” of social media platforms helps drive traffic to my website, helping it rank higher on Google, so I can nab my true client. You know: the client looking to book NOW.
When I think about it, this focus could also be beneficial to the vacation rental owner just starting out, with a rental listing on a hosted site like Homeaway or Airbnb. The focus is the same: to drive more quality traffic to your vacation rental.
Sorry for the crude graphic below, but it gives you an idea of what I’m talking about:
Does it really work? I’m no expert but let’s take a “Lookie Loo” at my Google Analytics. They don’t lie right?
You can see from my 2015 website analytics that I’m very social! Most of the traffic generated to my site is arriving via social platforms. A whopping 39% to be exact. Currently I fall on Google Page 2 for the popular keyword search “Anna Maria Island Vacation Rentals”
Here’s a breakdown of where my website traffic is coming from.
Now let’s take a look at my social media platform transition and what I did in a nutshell. Don’t be scared it looks long, but it’s super easy to implement. You can accomplish it bit by bit when you have time.
In looking back at how I acquired so many followers so fast, I will point to 5 factors that define great presence on social media.
Firstly, let me mention that you need to pay attention to what you are posting. Every post represents who you are, your brand, what you stand for and is your voice!
Google and all social media platforms love new content. Focus on providing helpful, insightful information for both your travellers and residents of your community.
This is where your Blog comes in and is VERY IMPORTANT!!! You must, must, must, post your Blog articles on social media. They drive the traffic to your website. Your content must point towards your website or listing via links. Never forget who the “star” is and always support it, whether that be your website or vacation rental listing. If you don’t have enough savvy or frankly the time to put into a Blog, then use your social media platforms as a replacement for a Blog to increase trust and guest experience.
You should hashtag the relevant detail of your post and only relevant keywords to grab people that are searching using that method (ie: #travel #curacao)
Create your own hashtag so your followers can easily search for you (ie: #visitcuracao )
There are several types of Facebook posts Videos, Photos, Links and Status, use your Insights for your Posts to see what type of post your followers respond to.
Post about subjects that your follower looks forward to, for me that’s quotes on beautiful photos. But the sky is the limit in this area, info about travel experiences, events, wildlife, history, local vendors and deals are some other examples. There is a difference between LIKES and CLICKS toward your website. Use both your Google & Social Page analytics and insights to understand what your audience is interested in AND clicking on to head to your website.
Create posts that invite conversation. More engagement invites a larger audience and builds loyalty.
Add ‘Pages to Watch’ , under your ‘Insights section’, that are your competitors and mentor to keep track of their analytics, what they are doing and what’s working for them.
Important note about the competition. It’s not the Size that Matters, it’s the CLICK…. Don’t get attracted to the competition for the number of followers they have. Check their ‘engagement’ versus their total ‘Page Likes’. Last week,my mentor’s page had a 9% engagement rate, my competitors have an average rate of 6%. My page is 21%. (More about this and why it’s important in Part 2)
Decide who you are and what you will be focusing on. My social brand is called “Anna Maria Island Beach Life.” It has everything to do with Beach Life information and is really community focused. (ie: I post community events and other vendors deals to improve my guest experience as well as for local residents). This would be a good brand for any VR with a beach destination.
This branding gives me organic followers that are interested in my geographical area & loyal to me.
On my social media platforms, my lifestyle brand is at the forefront and my business is at the back, using the "help don’t sell" mantra that Matt has taught us. Nobody wants to join a page that is constantly advertising their business. Remember it’s SOCIAL MEDIA not Business Media.
My voice is kind, friendly and caring...much unlike other companies. I sign off each post like signature of a letter, including my social brand name and website link. This may not work for you, you need to find your voice and consistently follow it to hone your brand. Use your “People analytics to find out who are your followers (sex, age, location, etc.) and tailor your voice to them.
I watermark my own material or that which I have been given permission with my logo, social brand name and website to avoid my work getting lost in the shares. A great example for me occurred when one of my Pinterest posts was picked up by USA Travel Today, if the watermark wasn’t there the viewer would never have a visual link to my website.
Focus on scheduling posts on your social media platform, the best post up to 3 times a day, but let’s face it, if you only have about an hour to coordinate posts for the week then do 1 per day. Use your analytics to track your audience, find out when they are online. When posting content in the 'Write Something" section, use the schedule button on each post, for this task, it makes it easier to manage.
Example: I have to mention fellow VRMB Inner Circle member Kim Bergstrom, in this section. Kim re-focused her social media efforts in April 2015, with a following of 1,000 on her Facebook Page. She used multiple strategies including boosts and the occasional ad, but I think her biggest success has been her re-branding, frequency, and dedication. Now she has a following of over 6,000 people less than a year later. That’s an incredible accomplishment!
Always post with a visual effect, photo, artwork, etc...ALWAYS!
The quality of visuals that you post affect your brand image, so try for only the highest quality possible. If you don’t have enough of your own, ask for your followers to submit, or use free stock photos from websites like unsplash.com
Stunning photos will stop viewers from scrolling on their “home page/wall” to click and engage. Only the very best visuals can do this.
I try to treat my social media platforms like a magazine. Setting up my Facebook Photo albums similar to my Pinterest boards (restaurants, things to do, shopping, each vr property, etc..)
This way it is easy for my real guests to find what they need on their own.
I like to call this section "Love Thy Followers." It's important to make sure you are helping them (and not yourself).
We like to host a giveaway once a year. I have found the most popular giveaways are ones where you put a vacation package together. (ie: 4 night stay for free, restaurant, sports equipment rental, gift certificates, etc..)
Doing a large giveaway with the help of Bloggers is a big plus to reach a much higher following, but be careful not to do so too often, as it will re-brand you as a discount vacation rental.
I started my transition towards the beginning of 2014. Looking solely at my Facebook stats, I’ve increased my followers from a little under 1,000 to over 6,000. This is all organic, meaning no boosts or ads were paid for, just people who like and want to be a part of my social community.
I like this approach because my followers are people who could be my potential guests. I have a higher interaction from my followers compared to a lot of other larger rental agencies on my island. But as I have learned, having a huge following doesn’t mean that they are the right people for your brand!
This part may sound technical but it is not. Check your Facebook analytics to find out who your people are, what they like and what they react to. This is the beauty of Facebook and its targeting power.
Your “followers” are different from the people that your posts have reached, which is also different from the people that have engaged with your posts.
Example: My Facebook Page has a little over 6,000 followers but in the past 30 days, my posts were served to 29,000 people. Out of those 29,000 people, 9,198 engaged with my posts with a post click, like, comment, share, etc..
The key here is not to gain as many followers as possible, but to generate traffic. The main way to get traffic generation is through viewer engagement. My "call to action" is to get the viewers to engage with a CLICK to my website / VR listing.
To give you some perspective, check out SEO Guru - Yoast’s Insights Dashboard. They have an unbelievable 137,663 Facebook Followers and an engagement of 2,033. That’s only 1.5% of their total following!
Once I figured out "who was who," I began doing old-fashioned outreach. Here’s the breakdown of how I got relevant people to begin following my work:
Using your own personal page, share your business page posts with relevant friends who have ideal clients. (ie: post on your parents page if you have an article/post directed at snowbirds)
I also use the Facebook Invite feature to invite people who like a post to join my page (this can be found in the page administration).
In order to generate what I call ‘Quality Traffic' to my website (the whole point of this process) I post all of my Blog articles on Facebook and Pinterest, to engage my traveler profile. I don’t just do this once, I will post the same articles for newbies to my pages every 6 months or so as well. And the order is important: don't post your content on social media first...post it on your own website first, then use social media as the way to capture new eyeballs.
Cross promote social media sites. (i.e.: Post Pinterest posts on Facebook and ask to Re-Pin)
Place a streaming “ticker” on your website of your social platforms. I have one on my homepage using “Tintup” for my Facebook stream. I have another one for Pinterest deeper in my website.… (Please note my website/videos/photos are under construction… no judgement please!)
This one I forget often, tag your photos before you post them! Google reads the context of an image through it’s tags.
LINKS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT mechanism that converts presence to traffic. It makes your ‘supporting cast’ the traffic generator to your ‘star’ (website / VR listing).
And actually, this idea pretty much applies to all vacation rental marketing: use as many resources as possible to capture potential guests' attention, then use a link to get them back to your home base. Ideally this home base is your website where you can capture their email address, generate an inquiry, or simply educate them on your area without the fear of another property "stealing the show."
Here are my tried and true methods for linking opportunities on Facebook. It may take an hour or two to set them up to start, but once you do, it makes it super easy for the viewer to engage with your product
Hoping this has given you some insight into what type of steps that I have taken to generate traffic. I’m not an expert and invite others to chime in and give your thoughts on other ideas that are used on social media platforms to increase traffic to their website, in turn increasing your search engine ranking and as a result getting you to the top of Google keyword searches (ie: Curacao Vacation Rentals) where your real customer is booking.
Thank you to Inner Circle members Donna Martinez for sharing Yoast’s article and Kim Bergstrom for sharing her 2015 Facebook Page success - Manzanita Beach Life.
P.S. If you enjoyed this post, I would highly recommend you check out this post about 3 normal owners doing very unusually great marketing tactics.
Nancy is an entrepreneur and business executive with a focus on digital marketing and the application of innovative techniques managing her vacation rental properties at AMI Home Rental. She is also co-founder of Florida Rental By Owners (FLARBO.com) a leading regional listing site in the vacation rental industry. https://www.annamariaislandhomerental.com/
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