Developing a Stellar Social Media Strategy – Part Four: Pinterest

Social Media Series: Part Four

There was a wall in my childhood bedroom filled with photos of the exotic destinations I would someday visit, fashion trends I was meaning to try, and the recipes I would (probably never) make. I called it my “inspiration wall”.

Pinterest is the new-and-improved version of my “inspiration wall”. Not only does it store all of those travel and food photos, it organizes them into categories and provides links to the companies behind the image. So rather than pinning up that glossy photo of the Eiffel Tower on my bedroom wall, Pinterest can help me actually plan my dream Paris vacation.

Think Pinterest Isn’t For You? Think Again.

If you think your vacation rental company has no reason to be on Pinterest, you’re missing out on an untapped market of potential guests! Here are three big reasons you should reconsider Pinterest as part of your overall social strategy:

1. Ideal User Demographics

The segment of people using Pinterest aligns well with the typical person who books vacation rentals. Here’s what we know about Pinterest’s demographics1:

  • More than 150 million people a month use Pinterest.
  • Nearly half of online women use Pinterest.
  • 66% of users make more than $50k per year.
  • More than half of users fall in the 30-54 age bracket.
  • Travel is one of the top 10 categories.
2. Get in front of the undecided traveler

Pinterest Examples

One of the unique things about Pinterest is that it puts your brand in front of potential guests very early in their vacation planning process – possibly before they’ve even decided where they want to go. This opportunity to get in front of the undecided traveler gives you the chance turn your city from a place they’ve maybe never heard of to a bucket-list destination.

3. Pin Now, Travel Later

Picture this: You’re scrolling through Pinterest and come across a gorgeous photo of the lush, green Smoky Mountains. You had no idea Tennessee was so gorgeous in the springtime! So, you pin the picture to your “Must Visit Destinations” board and go on your way. Months later, when you go to plan your spring break trip, you scroll through that Pinterest board, remember how excited you were about heading to Tennessee, click the pin and boom! You’re taken to a vacation rental company’s website to start your travel plans.

Unlike other social media channels, Pinterest content sticks around. In fact, 30% of clicks happen 30 days or more from the time something was pinned.

Setting Yourself Up For Success

If (and when) you’re ready to add Pinterest to your social media mix, be sure to keep these tips in mind as you’re setting up your new account.

Pinterest for Business. You’ll want to set up a Pinterest business account. If you already have a personal account you’d like to use, you can easily convert it into a business account. This will give you access to analytics data, advertising and a few other goodies.

PRO TIP: Look even more professional by adding your logo to all of your pins. You’ll just need to confirm your website by adding some code to the head section of your website. (LiveRez partners can email our Support team to make this happen.) This will also improve your ranking in Pinterest’s search results.

Learn the lingo. Pinterest uses some different terminology than other social channels, but you’ll get the hang of it. Brush up on your Pinterest vocab below:

Pinterest Lingo Explained

Understand the Pinterest algorithm. If you want anyone to see your boards and pins, you’ll need to first understand how Pinterest works. Really, it functions like a search engine. And, just like you would for a search engine, you’ll need to use strong keywords if you want to rank at the top of the results. This article does a great job outlining the best way to utilize keywords to rank at the top of the Pinterest results.

Do some recon. Look at what other vacation rental and travel companies are doing. Note what accounts they repin content from, what types of boards they have and what pins are performing best for them (most likes and comments). This will help you understand what types of images your audience is most likely to respond to.

Start creating new boards. Before you start sending people to your Pinterest account, you’ll want to make sure you have compelling content for them to look at when they arrive. Users will give your page just a quick glance before deciding whether to follow you, so make sure you’re featuring boards with great photos and keyword-rich titles! You want to have enough that users find value, but not so many that you can’t fill them properly. We give you some ideas in the next section.

Fill your boards with relevant, eye-catching pins. Your boards are like a blank inspiration wall, just waiting for some captivating images to be pinned to it. Fill them with a mix of pins you create and repins of other’s relevant content. For example, your “San Diego Beaches” board could contain a mix of pins you create that link to your website’s local area guide and pins that you’ve found in the Pinterest world about restaurants in San Diego.

PRO TIP: Vertical pins tend to perform best, as they take up more space in people’s news feeds. It’s best to use an aspect ration of 2:3 (note that pins must be at least 600 pixels wide).

Pinterest Inspo

So, you’re ready to get started? Let’s get a little inspiration from some companies who are killing it on Pinterest. It’s helpful to do a little recon on companies similar to you (note which accounts they repin content from, what types of boards they have and what pins are performing best for them) to better understand what your audience is most likely to respond to.

Check out some of our favorite vacation-focused Pinterest boards:

WandershareTravel Cheat Sheets
Conde Naste TravelerCharleston Black Book
Cannon Beach Vacation RentalsTravel Necessities
Eastern Shore Vacation RentalsMaryland Eats
Travel ChannelEast Coast Beach Crawl
AllEars.netHolidays at Disney
Seaside Vacations, LLCBeachy Crafts
All Star Vacation HomesThemed Rooms
Wallowa Lake Vacation RentalsWeddings in Wallowa Lake
Tybee Vacation RentalsSavannah Activities

Your Feedback

What did you think? Did we miss an important tip? Have you had success using Pinterest to market your properties, and guest and owner services? Let us know in the comments below.      

Learn More About LiveRez

LiveRez is the most widely used software platform for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation and property management, websites with online bookings, trust accounting, CRM, housekeeping and maintenance, reporting, reviews and more. LiveRez is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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Developing a Stellar Social Media Strategy – Part Three: Twitter

Social Media Strategy - Twitter

In 2015, a Canadian study determined that humans in the “smartphone” era now have shorter attention spans than goldfish. That’s right, nowadays you get only eight seconds with the average person before they get distracted.

goldfish

Maybe that’s why Twitter is so popular. The speed limit on Twitter is 140 characters. It’s the sports car of social media platforms, and is used by everyone from celebrities to internet trolls to some of the world’s foremost thought leaders (but probably not goldfish; they lack the thumbs for tweeting).   

How much is 140 characters? Not much. So, if you want to master Twitter, you’re going to have to learn to spit out those Tweets (and keep ‘em brief).

In this post, we’ll show you how to master Twitter and leverage it to promote your vacation rental properties.

If you’re a goldfish, high school teenager or busy executive, you can just read the Tweet-sized summaries at the top of each section (i.e. the TL;DR route).

If you’re a bookworm, speed reader or straight up old school homie, you can read the detailed version; it’s approximately 79 tweets long.

Ready to get Twitterpated? Let’s get started. 

twitterpated

Setting up Twitter

“The first step to be successful on Twitter is setting up a Twitter profile.” – via Captain Obvious.

Creating a Twitter profile is pretty simple. Just set up an account, enter in your business info and upload a profile and header photo. We could go through all the steps here, but we think this video does a pretty great job of explaining it:

How Twitter Works

140 characters or less. Tag others with @. Use # to tag topics (and to be clever). Shorten those links. #HowTwitterWorks

There are a few things you’ll need to know about how Twitter works before you start sending tweets out into the Twittersphere.

  • It all starts with your tweets, which need to be 140 characters or less. This means you’ll need to be pretty creative in how you craft your message. Try to get rid of unnecessary pronouns, find shorter synonyms or use abbreviations.
  • Want to tag one of your followers in a post? Use the @ symbol followed by their username.
  • Help other users find your tweets by using hashtags. They’re sort of like labels for your tweets. You can use existing hashtags to join a conversation. Often, events, products or even whole cities will have official hashtags you can use to talk about them (i.e. PartnerConference2017). But, don’t let that hold you back. Creating your own hashtag is a fun way to punctuate your tweets. #WroteThisMyself
  • URLs can be long, and they take up precious characters in your tweet. Never fear! We have a solution for you. Link shortening tools like bit.ly,  goo.gl and Ow.ly will take your super long URL and turn it into a short link that’s just a handful of characters. Most of these tools also have tracking abilities so you can monitor the number of people clicking your fancy shortened link.

Growing Your Following

Follow other people (they follow back), 2. Use hashtags, 3. Interact with others, 4. Advertise #GrowYourFlock

What good are those perfectly crafted tweets if no one sees them? Start building your Twitter following by using these four tried and true methods:

  1. Follow other users. In the Twitter world, it’s pretty common for people to follow you back. Consider following users who interact with your posts, accounts you admire, industry thought leaders, potential customers, competitors, or followers of your competitors. The sky’s the limit.
  2. Using hashtags will help you get your tweets in front of users who may not follow you. Not sure which hashtag to use? There’s a few ways to figure out which one(s) fit best. Check out the trending topics and hashtags on your Twitter dashboard and determine if you can contribute to one of those conversations. You can also use a tool like Hashtagify to search for hashtags trending in your industry.
  3. Be a part of the conversation by interacting with other users. Consider thanking anyone who shares your content, responding to questions people tweet about, or retweeting great content you come across that might fit into your Twitter strategy. Creating connections with other people on Twitter makes it more likely that they’ll follow you and could, in turn, start interacting with your tweets, as well.
  4. Advertise right within Twitter to help grow your following and increase engagement. Like many other online advertising platforms, Twitter allows you to target custom audiences to ensure you’re getting the most qualified new traffic. Learn more on Twitter’s business page.

Twitter Strategery

Establish a schedule. Track. Reuse your best tweets. Leverage hashtags and automation. #TwitterStrategy

So, we’ve started building your audience. Now it’s time to get your message out to the right people and leverage the power of Twitter to amplify it.

The Speed of Social Networks

One of the most important things to understand about Twitter is that it’s a super fast moving network. Think about online marketing as a journey. You’re in your car and you’re driving. As you continue down the road, you see a bunch of billboards on the side of the road. Some of them catch your attention; other don’t. But, a big factor in which signs catch your attention (and which of those messages you remember) is the speed of the car.

Social networks like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+ move at a slower pace. Imagine the car is going like 20 miles per hour and the signs are bigger and farther apart. That’s these networks in a nutshell.

With Twitter, imagine the car is going about 65 miles per hour. The signs are smaller and you have less time to read them. Needless to say, you’re going to miss a lot of the signs and remember less of the messages. So to be successful, you need to amplify the reach and frequency of your messages.

So, while posting once a day (or maybe even 3-5 times a week) is enough on the slower networks, you need to be posting on Twitter multiple times a day. You also need the help of other Twitter users to amplify your message, in the form of retweets, mentions and likes.

But, unless you’re getting out and about (and doing a bunch of interesting things), you probably won’t have the time or the content to post on Twitter multiple times a day.

So how do you get around that? Automation.

Twitter Automation and Tracking  

There are tons of great tools for automating and tracking your social media efforts (and we’re going to be talking about them in an upcoming post in this series). But today we’re going to narrow it down to just our favorite Twitter management tool here at LiveRez, and that’s Buffer.

Buffer is a free tool (with great paid versions) that allows you to queue up and schedule tweets and other social media messages, as well as track the engagement level of those posts. The two big benefits of Buffer are that it can save you time and improve your performance.

With that said, here are a few steps for leveraging Buffer:

  • Create multiple versions of your tweets. These are tweets all on the same topic or sharing the same piece of content. You just need to write multiple variations of them. Change up the wording. Change up the images. Change up the hashtags.
  • Schedule all the different versions of these tweets, and schedule each multiple times. You’ll want to do this for a wide range of tweets, too. This will give you a huge bank of tweets to draw from.
  • Put all these tweets in your Buffer queue. One of the great things about Buffer is you can set up how many times you want to post a day, at which times (Buffer can even pick the best times for you), and then you can just add a huge list of tweets to your bank and Buffer will post them in order, at the pre-determined times. When you’re scheduling multiple posts, this makes life so much easier. Imagine if you had to go and manually set a scheduled time for each post?
  • See what performs and use it again. Buffer will keep track of all the engagement on your posts. You’ll see potential reach, likes, retweets and clicks. You’ll easily be able to identify which versions of which tweets are getting more engagement than others. Now, all you have to do is pick the winners and re-buffer them (you can do that right from the Buffer analytics interface). Now you have a data-driven way to increase your engagement. And, as an added bonus, when you’re armed with this data, you can use Twitter as a testing ground to forecast what content will perform well on some of the slower networks (like Facebook), where you don’t have as many opportunities to post and are limited algorithmically by how frequently you can repost the same content.  
Pro Tip: IFTTT

Advanced users might want to look into a program called IFTT (IF Then Then That). This service hooks in with a number of other online services and lets you automate actions based on conditions (it’s a lot like the email automation and trust accounting automation we have set up in LiveRez).  

IFTTT let’s you create recipes. Here are a two related to Twitter you might want to check out.

1. If you post something to your Facebook page, then post the same thing to Twitter (appended with a link back to the Facebook post). This is a great time saver and the link back to Facebook can help you cross promote your Facebook page.

2. If you publish a new WordPress blog, then post it to your Twitter account. Another great time saver. Just make sure your blog post is really ready before you hit publish.

One of the primary reasons to use Twitter is to promote your content. So, it’s important to have a schedule for promoting that content. With Twitter, a great formula is:

  • Post about your content as soon as it is published.
  • Post about it again later that day.
  • Post about it the following day.
  • Post about once more later in the week.
  • And, then (if the content is more evergreen than time sensitive), you can run it through the Buffer strategy we outline earlier in this section.

A big part of making this strategy work well and take off quicker is understanding what types of tweets perform well. That way you aren’t starting from scratch and learning the hard way.

Content That Performs

To get a head start of writing successful tweets, let’s take a look at a study conducted by Buffer on what elements of posts add to engagement. Here’s what they discovered:

  • Using photos increases retweets by 35%
  • Using videos gives you a 28% boost
  • Using quotes yields a 19% boost
  • Including a number gives you a 17% increase
  • And leveraging hashtags, gives you a 16% boost.

This is some powerful information to have in your back pocket when you are starting to compose different variations of your tweets. But, just remember, the real proof is in the pudding. Make sure you are engaged in a constant process of testing, tracking and refining. That’s the secret sauce that separates top-tier marketers from low-level noise makers.

Your Feedback

What did you think? Did we miss an important tip? Have you had success using Twitter to market your properties, and guest and owner services? Let us know in the comments below.      

Learn More About LiveRez

LiveRez is the most widely used software platform for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation and property management, websites with online bookings, trust accounting, CRM, housekeeping and maintenance, reporting, reviews and more. LiveRez is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

Did you like this post?

Please consider “liking” it and sharing it on your social media channels via the buttons below. You can also follow us and get notifications of all new posts via the “Follow” button Follow Us in the bottom right-hand part of the screen.

Developing a Stellar Social Media Strategy – Part Two: Instagram

Social Media Series - Instagram

Instagram is much more than just that app your daughter uses to post artsy pictures of her dinner. It can actually be a super powerful tool for your business! And with 600 million users and counting, the opportunity to get in front of its audience can’t be ignored. That’s why we picked it as the second featured social media platform in our Stellar Social Media blog series! Miss part one about Facebook? Check it out here.  

First Things First

First and foremost, you’ll need to set up an Instagram for Business account. It’s pretty easy! Just download the app to your smartphone and while setting up your profile, consider these four things:

Instagram Account Examples

  1. Account name: Your account name will typically be your brand name. If that’s unavailable, play around with adding additional keywords like “rentals” or “vacations”. Remember, this account name will appear above all your photos, so make sure it’s quickly recognizable, professional, and easy to understand.
  1. Profile photo: This photo will display in a tiny circle (only about 150 pixels) next to your account name on all your posts. Use your logo if it fits, or consider using another graphic that represents your brand.
  1. Bio: In your bio section, be sure to add your website and a quick blurb about your company that’s both engaging and informative. Remember, Instagram is pretty informal, so this is a great place to show your brand’s personality!
  1. Connect other social accounts: Instagram allows you to connect your other social media accounts, like Facebook and Twitter. If you already have those channels set up, go ahead and link them up. This doesn’t mean all of your Instagram photos will automatically post to those accounts, but it gives you the opportunity to quickly post on multiple platforms and take advantage of the cross-promotion on a post-by-post basis when it makes sense.  

Creating Content for Instagram

Instagram is a bit of a different beast than other social media platforms in that it relies almost completely on visual content and there are no clickable links in posts. However, armed with a good cell phone camera, a bit of creativity, and the knowledge you’ll gain from this blog post, you’ll be on your way to becoming an Instagram master.

Need some inspiration to get started? Here are our favorite ways to generate Instagram content:

Post eye-catching photos. Dive into the library of photos from your website, blog, or Facebook page, or snap a new one right from the Instagram app. Choose photos that are high-quality, have interesting content, and stand out against the millions of photos posted each month.

Become a resource for your area. Travelers are increasingly using Instagram as a resource for vacation planning. While posting property photos or videos is a great way to share the story of your company, consider broadening your content to also include tips about traveling in your town or features of your favorite landmarks.

Utilize your blog. If you have existing blog posts that guests love, consider taking a quote or image from those posts and repurposing them for your Instagram audience.

Put a face to the brand. Guests love getting to know who they’re renting from. Share behind-the-scenes photos of your team, photos of your family travels… anything that gives an inside look at the people behind your brand.

 

Highlight your properties. Give your followers a taste of your inventory by sharing property photos. The best part? You probably already have a great bank of property photos to choose from! When deciding which photos to feature, consider what your target audience would like to see. For example, if you’re hoping to appeal to families, feature kid-friendly amenities like bunk beds and a pool. Or, target couples by featuring a cozy fireplace.

Post fun quotes. Use an online tool like Canva to turn funny, relevant quotes (or even guest reviews) into beautiful, shareable graphics.

2017 🌏

A post shared by Travel Quotes&Inspirations 🌏✈️ (@travel_qotd) on

 

Test out videos. Instagram videos are super easy to produce – just shoot them right there within the app! When your followers come across a video in their feed, it automatically starts playing, likely capturing their attention more than a standard photo. This is a great way to highlight properties, employees, cool events in the area, and whatever else your imagination can dream up!

Build connections by reposting other people’s content. Explore Instagram accounts that feature unique posts about your town and consider reaching out to them to see if you can share their photos on your feed. Not only does this help you build connections with users in your area, but also adds to the variety of your posts. And who knows, they may be willing to share one of your photos in return! You could also consider reaching out to past guests to see if you can share photos they took during their stay; just be sure to tag them in your post. Currently, there’s no way to re-post other users’ photos within the app, but third-party tools like Regram can help you make it happen.

Experiment with filters. Instagram filters can take your phone camera photos and turn them into professional-looking pieces of art! If you find one you love, consider making it your signature filter and using it on any photos that makes sense.

Increase engagement with #hashtags

Unlike other social media channels, the only way to search for posts on Instagram is by using hashtags. (For example, I’d have to search for #laketahoe rather than “Lake Tahoe”.) So, to get your posts in front of more users, you’ll definitely want to start using hashtags. The trick is to use the right ones! Unfortunately, it won’t do you much good to make up your own. Your best bet is to use hashtags that are already popular, helping you get the best visibility  on your posts. A tool like Websta can help you discover top trending hashtags in your category.

Hashtags

It’s not unusual to have as many as ten hashtags in an Instagram post. In fact, it’s been shown that there is a positive correlation between the number of hashtags you use and the number of likes you receive. Testing out a variety of hashtags to see which ones help your posts perform better will build you an arsenal of hashtags to strategically use in future posts.

Build your following

In addition to using the right hashtags, there are a few other strategies you can use to increase your Instagram following.

  1. Target your competitor’s followers. These users are likely already interested in vacation rentals in your area, so they’ll be a great audience to get in front of. At the top of your competitors’ Instagram profiles, click the “# followers” link to see who is following their account. From there, you can choose to follow anyone on that list. When you follow them, they’ll receive a notification from you and can follow you back. And with all that great content on your page…who wouldn’t? Increase the chances of them following you back by liking or commenting on their photos.
  1. Connect with influencers in your area. Use hashtags to search for Instagram users in your area that have a lot of followers. Instagram is unique in that it’s not always the big name companies that have the biggest accounts. While your local tourism group may be a great account to connect with, there may also be a local person who posts about the town and has a strong following. It’s fun to dig around and see who you can find!
  1. Share your Instagram photos on other channels. Instagram makes it easy to share any of your posts to your other connected social media channels. When your Instagram photos pop up on your other social channels, not only does it allow users to like and comment on the posts, but it also alerts them to the fact that you have an Instagram account that they may want to follow.
  1. Add a link to Instagram on your website. You likely already have links to your other social media accounts on your website, so be sure to add your Instagram account!
  1. Tag your location. Any time you post on Instagram, you can add a location. Before people travel to your destination, they may search Instagram for cool pictures of that area to help them plan. If you add your city or neighborhood, people are more likely to see your photos when they’re searching for that area.  

Instagram Stories

The newest Instagram feature, Instagram Stories allows you to post a collection of photos and videos that tell a story in real time. They don’t appear in your regular collection of photos, but instead show at the top of your followers feeds and play in succession. After 24 hours, anything you’ve posted to your story disappears.

Consider using this feature to highlight local events, current rental specials, events around your office, or other timely happenings. Once you’ve snapped your photo or video, use Instagram’s editing tools to add text, tag other users, or swipe to add filters. You can also swipe right within the Stories feature to post a live video. Your followers will get an alert and can watch your video in real time.

Instagram advertising

Outside of posting awesome content that your followers can find organically, Instagram’s advertising platform offers a paid way to get in front of a targeted audience. They are also the only posts on Instagram that allow for a call-to-action button, so people can be taken directly from your ad to your website – all within the Instagram platform.

There are two different ways you can pay to get in front of users. Either create an ad from scratch within Facebook’s Business Manager (Facebook owns Instagram so they share some functionality) or promote an existing post right from your Instagram app.

Option one: Instagram ad

This option allows you to advertise a custom photo or video specifically to the audience you choose. This is a good option for promoting content that you don’t want to appear on your regular Instagram profile (like custom targeted specials or content created for a super-targeted audience). Here’s how:

  1. You’ll first need to set up a Business Manager account within Facebook. You can then add your Instagram account by going to “Business Manager Settings” and clicking the Instagram icon from the left-hand menu.
  1. Once you have everything linked up, go to the Ad Creation section and follow the prompts to create your ad. (Note: When selecting your objective, only the following categories work for Instagram advertising: Brand awareness, Reach, Traffic, App installs, Engagement, Video views and Conversions. So be sure to choose one of those as your objective.)
  1. Next, you’ll select your audience by choosing from a variety of targeting options. And then you’ll select your budget and set the ad schedule in the “Budget and Schedule” section. This awesome video from Hootsuite will guide you in selecting your target audience.
  1. Once you have all your ad parameters set, upload the image(s) you’d like to use and set your caption. We recommend an image size of 1080 x 1080 pixels and a caption of no more than 125 characters. Be sure to fill in all the ad details – including headline, text, call to action and any advanced features you’re taking advantage of.
  1. Next, make sure that your placement selections are set up the way you’d like. If this is just an Instagram ad campaign, you’ll want to make sure the other placements have been removed.
  1. Once the ad looks the way you want it to (and you’ve triple-checked it!), place the order to send your ad out into the Instagram universe!
  1. Your ad results display in your Ads Manager. This helpful FAQ will help you understand those results and make any necessary adjustments to your campaign.

Option two: Promoted post

If you have a photo or video that’s performing really well, you can easily turn it into a promoted post right within the app.

  1. From your profile, select the Insights graph icon at the top of the page. Scroll to the bottom and tap “Create a new promotion”.
  1. Choose the photo or video you want to promote, and then follow the prompts on the next screen to set up your promotion. You can choose your call to action, create a custom targeted audience based on demographic, and set your budget and ad schedule.
  1. It’s as easy as that! Keep track of your promotion’s success in your Insights.

Instagram Insights

Instagram Insights gives you an inside look into your followers’ demographics and behaviors and provides information on which of your posts have performed best – information that you can use to help you craft more targeted content.

Tap the graph icon at the top of your Instagram profile to access your Insights. Be sure to check out these helpful sections:

Top posts: Take a look at your top posts to see what your followers most respond to. By tapping just above the posts, you can filter the results to see even more data. Keep an eye on this section to help guide your strategy. If your followers prefer video over photo, consider mixing in more video content. If they tend to engage more with fun behind-the-scenes photos of your team, you can look at posting more often about your company culture.  

Followers: Click “See More” in the Followers section to open a page chock-full of data about your followers. Then, as you craft your posts, keep in mind your followers’ gender, age, and location information to help you better target that group. When it comes time to share that content, take a look at the last graph to figure out which days and hours your followers are most often on Instagram and use that to determine the best time to share that content. 

Final thoughts

Social Media Series - Instagram

So, what are you waiting for? Get ‘gramming! Experiment with some of the strategies above, find your niche and build your following.

Stay tuned for the next installment in our Stellar Social Media Strategy series: the massive world of Twitter.

Your Feedback

What did you think? Did we miss an important tip? Have you had success using Facebook to market your business? Let us know in the comments below.

Learn More About LiveRez

LiveRez is the most widely used software platform for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation and property management, websites with online bookings, trust accounting, CRM, housekeeping and maintenance, reporting, reviews and more. LiveRez is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

Did you like this post?Please consider “liking” it and sharing it on your social media channels via the buttons below. You can also follow us and get notifications of all new posts via the “Follow” button Follow Us in the bottom right-hand part of the screen.

Developing a Stellar Social Media Strategy – Part One: Facebook

Social Media Strategy: Part One

Managing social media seems so easy… Just post a few times each week and watch the bookings roll in, right? Wrong. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing everything you need to know for your business to develop a stellar new social media strategy. Roll up your sleeves. We’re going to dig deep! We’re kicking things off with part one – all things Facebook. Ready to get started?

Getting Started

The first step to success on Facebook is glaringly obvious: you need to set up a Facebook page. There’s a ton of great information out there on how to do this, so we’ll skip over this part for now.  

One important thing to note about setting up your page is that you’ll want to fill out your page information as completely as possible, including:

  • Name
  • Location
  • Business hours
  • Contact information
  • Company story
  • Cover image
  • Call to action button

Once you get your page set up, let people know it exists! Here are a few tips:

  • Link to your Facebook page from your website.
  • Put a link to your Facebook page in your email signature and in the footer of your marketing emails.
  • Invite your Facebook friends to like your page.
  • Run some Facebook advertising (more on that later).

One common misconception many people have is that you can grow your following by going and liking other company pages, hoping they’ll like your page in return (similar to other social networks like Twitter). The issue here is that when one page likes another page it doesn’t add to the “like” count and what you post goes into a completely different news feed (one that only that page’s admins can see).

To increase your like count, you want to get likes from people, not companies.  And, as vacation rental managers, it’s the people who you really want to reach, because people are the ones making bookings or listing their homes with you.

The Facebook Algorithm

One of the biggest keys to success on Facebook is understanding the algorithm Facebook uses to determine what posts to show which users and in what order. Formerly called EdgeRank, this updated algorithm has evolved to encompass machine learning and now considers close to 100,000 weight factors. However, we still think understanding the principles behind EdgeRank can give you a big advantage on Facebook.

Affinity Weight Time

The EdgeRank algorithm factored in three main categories: Affinity, Weight and Time.

Affinity – This metric measures how frequently you and your network of Facebook friends interact with content from a specific page or person. The most important factor in this is obviously how much you interact with a page. But, it’s said Facebook also takes into consideration how much your friends on Facebook interact with a page (the reasoning is that you’re more likely to be interested in things your friends are also interested in).

Weight – Not all of these interactions with a page carry the same weight. For example, sharing and commenting mean more than  just clicking Like.  Visiting a page, mentioning a page and other actions related to the page are also thought to be watched and factored into the equation. It’s also believed that videos and pictures in posts carry more weight than links.

Time – Since your feed is a “news” feed, it only makes sense to factor time into the equation as well. All things considered, older posts show up less and further down the feed than newer posts.   

Now that you understand some of the basic factors Facebook takes into consideration when including posts in people’s news feeds, let’s discuss a few ways you can use this knowledge to expand your reach on Facebook.

Tips for Getting Better Engagement

Getting better engagement on your posts is a great way to get more visibility. It’s become particularly important for Business Pages, because over the last few years, the organic reach of posts from pages has fallen considerably. Some studies show average organic reach from page posts in the 2 to 3 percent range, with pages with more fans getting more organic reach than pages with fewer fans.

There are a couple prominent theories as to why organic reach has dropped over the last couple of years. One theory is that pages were posting excessively in an effort to market to their followers, which in turn was crowding people’s news feeds. Others argue that with the increased monetization of Facebook, it makes sense for Facebook to give pages less organic reach, because they want pages to pay to “boost” posts to their fans.

Regardless, it’s getting harder and harder to reach your fans on Facebook. However, there are still a number of things you can do to improve your page’s reach and get more engagement on your posts.

Facebook Algorithm

Here are a few tips to get more reach and engagement on your posts.

  • Use Facebook Live Video – Facebook recently added a new feature called Facebook Live, where you can broadcast live video to your audience. This has been a big push for Facebook, and it seems to be rewarding pages that use live video by giving them preference in their fans’ timeline and even notifying their fans when they go live.
  • Use Facebook Video Instead of YouTube – Similar to the reasoning behind using Facebook Live, you can generally expect to be rewarded with more engagement when you use the features Facebook is really pushing. YouTube (owned by Google) is a competitor to Facebook, so they’d much rather see you use their own video service rather than adding a YouTube video link. Plus, Facebook will show live previews of those videos in your fans’ news feeds, making your post more attention grabbing.
  • Share Your Instagram Images – Instead of posting images directly on Facebook, consider mixing it up and sharing an image from your Instagram account. Why? Because Facebook now owns Instagram and wants more people using it. Sharing an Instagram photo on Facebook lets Facebook promote another arm of its company.  
  • Post the Types of Content Your Fans Engage With – If you notice that posts on a certain topic tend to get more engagement, you should try to post more often on that topic. Here at LiveRez, we know that posts with pictures and videos of our team members and our partners get higher engagement than other posts.
  • Try Using More Photos and Video – Photos and videos tend to get more engagement than regular status updates or posts with links.
  • Optimize the Images in Your Link Posts – If you add a link to one of your posts, Facebook will auto-generate a preview with an image (if available). If no image is available you can add a custom image. Either way, you want to ensure the image displays properly by making it the right size and dimension (this social media image size cheat sheet should come in handy). If you don’t have a good photo editor, you can use an online tool like Pablo or Canva.
  • Keep Selling to a Minimum  To be successful on Facebook, you have to realize why people use Facebook. People don’t go on to Facebook looking to a buy a product. They go there to interact with their friends, see news from their favorites sources and connect with the brands they are passionate about. Instead of selling, showcase something related to your product your fans would think is cool. Maybe it’s a video showing the beautiful views you can find on a local hike or a walk-through of home with some unique amenities. The key is to keep interesting and entertaining.
  • Don’t Post Too Much  If you have awesome content to share every single day and your fans are engaging with it, go ahead and post a lot. But, if you’re posting just to post because you think volume wins the game, you should reconsider your strategy. Strive to add value to each of your posts. And if you have a day where you don’t have something great to post, just take the day off.
  • Test on Twitter  If you want to predict how well a post will do on Facebook, post it a few times on Twitter first (assuming it isn’t super time sensitive). You can get away with posting a lot more often on Twitter. And if you get a higher level of engagement on your post (relative to your other Twitter posts), you can make a safe assumption that the post could also do well on Facebook.
  • Interact with Your Fans in the Comments – Interacting with your fans in the comments section is a great way to get more comments and drive more engagement. You can even go as far as tagging people who liked your post in one of that post’s comments thanking them for liking the post (just be careful to not abuse this strategy). Sometimes throwing out a question on Facebook can get you more comments. For example, let’s say you created a new Facebook group that is invite only. You could post about the new group and tell your fans to let you know if they want an invite to the group. Fans will likely comment on the post to let you know. Another great idea is to post a photo and challenge your fans to write a funny caption.

NOTE: One thing you want to avoid is specifically asking your fans to engage with your post in the post itself. In 2014, Facebook started penalizing posts that prompted their friends to like the post, share it or comment on it.  Remember those posts that said something like “Click LIKE if you’re having a good day.” Those went away quickly. Another thing to avoid is posting the same content multiple times close together, as Facebook is curbing reach on similar and duplicate posts.

The main idea here is if you post content that your fans love, Facebook will reward you by showing those posts to more of your fans.

Getting More Page Likes

In order to grow your presence on Facebook, you want to get more page likes. But, you also have to be strategic about how you do it. With the organic reach of pages dropping, it’s important to get good engagement on your posts, and you won’t get as high of engagement from fans that aren’t as targeted. Essentially, not all fans are created equally. A fan that engages is worth more than a fan that never engages (and likely won’t see many of your posts).

With that in mind, here are a few ways to grow your following:

  • Cross Promotion  As we mentioned earlier, you’ll want to make sure you have a link to your Facebook page on your website and in your emails. You also may want to cross promote your Facebook page on other channels, like other social media channels. There are even some services that can automatically take your Facebook posts and post them to your Twitter channel with a link back to your Facebook.
  • Contests  This used to be one of the best ways to grow your following. You could run a promotion on Facebook that was only visible once someone liked your page (they were called “like-gated” contests). Facebook contests still work (we suggest you find a good Facebook app to administer the contest), but just not as well as they used to. Facebook has established some strict rules on running promotions.  In addition, Facebook can manually remove likes from your page if they have reason to believe the likes are fake or were gained through a violation of their terms.
  • Advertising  Over the past few years, this has been the primary way people have consistently grown their page likes. Facebook is becoming more and more of a pay-to-play network. But, the silver lining is that advertising on Facebook is relatively cheap compared to other channels and it’s targeting methods are really exceptional. Check out the next section to learn more.

Facebook Advertising

Advertising on Facebook is an effective way to get in front of more potential customers. And, Facebook gives you plenty of options to reach exactly the people you are looking for.

When it comes to Facebook advertising, it’s important to consider both your audience and your goals. You want to connect with the right people and use messages that align with your current relationship with them.

Facebook Advertising

Think of your actions on Facebook like your actions in real life. For example, if you just met someone, you wouldn’t want to walk up to them and ask them to marry you (that would be creepy). But, if you’ve been dating them a while and you’ve been getting signs they really like you, then you’d be on more solid ground. The same goes for the subject of the conversation. You wouldn’t just walk up to a group of people, interrupt their conversation and start telling them what you do and why you are so awesome (those are the people you tend to avoid). Instead, you’d want to add value to the conversation, get them to like you, and then they’d WANT to know what you do.

Also – in real life, if you’re trying to make more friends, you’d be better off going to a place where you’d find people who share similar interests or places where your friends and acquaintances hang out.  

So, when it comes to advertising on Facebook, you need to consider the following:

  • Does this person already like my page?
  • Has this person done business with me (or a similar business)?
  • Does this person have interests that relate to my business?
  • Has this person been to my website recently?

With that in mind, here are a few ways you can target people on Facebook.

  • Demographics  Build an audience based on demographics, such as gender, age, location, job, or interests (remember, Facebook has a ton of information about its users it can use for targeting).
  • Custom Audience  Upload a list and let Facebook try to match it to current Facebook profiles. Vacation rental managers might try uploading a list of their past guests or travelers that have inquired about their properties. Once Facebook runs through your list, you’ll be able to advertise directly to those people.
  • Lookalikes  Create a lookalike audience. After you upload your list to Facebook, it can expand your audience to people who have similar demographics to those in your list.
  • Retargeting  If you install Facebook’s tracking code (called Pixel) on your website, you’ll be able to target your ads to people who have visited your site (more below).
  • Fans  Facebook also lets you boost posts to current fans of your page (and even friends of your fans). You can also choose to remove people who already like your page from any of your advertising audiences.

Depending on how you’re targeting, you’ll want to use different messages. Basically, you’ll want your advertising content to align with the Facebook users, their interests and the extent of their relationship to you. Here are a few examples:

  • If you’re advertising to people who aren’t current fans of your page and haven’t visited your website, you’ll want to make your content not as salesy. Focus on things that entertain and inform.
  • If you’re advertising to your current fans, you can include content that is more brand-specific and promotional.
  • If you’re advertising to people who have recently visited your website, you can assume they’re in the market to buy your product or service so you can get away with selling to them more. In this situation though, keep in mind that they’ve already been to your site and didn’t take the action you wanted. So, you might want to remind them of your brand and possibly sweeten the offer to give them that final push to convert.

Just like with other marketing channels, it’s always a good idea to try a variety of messages and see which ones work the best with different audiences. And, one of the primary ways you can gauge your success is by using Facebook’s tracking tools.

Tracking Facebook

You’ve put countless hours of work into getting your Facebook strategy into tip-top shape. So, how do you know if your efforts are paying off? Facebook has some great built-in tools to help you figure out what’s working and where you can improve.

Facebook Insights

Access Facebook Insights (Facebook’s analytics tool) right from your business page. Click “Insights” at the top, and you’ll be taken to the main dashboard. This is a great place to get a quick overview of new likes, how your posts are performing and how your page performance stacks up against your competitors. Let’s dive a little deeper into a few of these metrics:

  • Likes – Measuring page likes is one of the most popular ways to gauge success on Facebook. In this overview graph, you’ll see the number of people who liked (and unliked) your page.
  • Reach – This graph shows the total number of times your posts have been displayed in your audience’s news feeds. The spikes on the graph show the posts with the greatest reach. Click on the graph to see which posts caused the spike. Be sure to make a note of them, as they’re the posts you’ll want to re-share or replicate moving forward to hopefully see that increase in reach again.
  • Posts – As we talked about earlier, engagement is probably the most important factor in determining where your posts show up in people’s news feeds. This section of Insights overview dashboard shows how often your audience engaged (liked or commented) with your post in the past week. Click the graph to see the nitty-gritty details on which post types get the best engagement, which of your past posts have performed the best, and see when your audience is online (these times will often get the best engagement).
  • People – Use the left-hand menu to navigate to the “People” section, where you’ll find data to help you get to know your fans. A good understanding of your audience demographics (age, gender, location, etc.) will help you to create more targeted, successful content.

Note that many of these sections of Insights give you the option to customize the date range for the data, which will allow you to compare results over time. Additionally, you can export the data from the overview dashboard to dig a little deeper into Facebook’s valuable analytics.

Facebook Pixel Tracking

Take your analytics tracking a step further with the Facebook Pixel, which gives Facebook the ability to track actions that users take on your website. This data is incredibly powerful for a few reasons. First, it gives you the ability to retarget website visitors. By tracking the movements of visitors who are simultaneously logged into Facebook, it generates custom audience lists based on certain behaviors (i.e. people who have visited your website in the past 24 hours or people who have visited a specific page on your website). You can define these Website Custom Audiences by which pages they did or did not visit and during which time frame.

Similarly, the pixel allows you to track when someone completes a booking, signs up for your newsletter or other custom conversions on your website.

To set up Pixel Tracking, you’ll want to start by visiting the Ads Manager where you’ll generate your custom pixel. Follow these steps to place that code between the <head> and </head> tags of your web page. LiveRez users can send their code into Support to get the code placed on their website. Once the code is installed, head back to the Ads Manager to create your custom audiences and conversions!

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this article has demonstrated that Facebook can be yet another effective medium for reaching potential customers. But before you jump in with both feet, make sure you have a good idea what you’re trying to get out of Facebook and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Remember that many travelers use Facebook for inspiration and for travel planning. Facebook users are more likely to be an awareness phase than in a shopping phase, so you might be more successful if your goal is building brand awareness and keeping your business top of mind. But, that doesn’t mean that Facebook can’t work well for driving conversions, too. Just keep all this in mind when you’re fitting Facebook into your overall marketing strategy.

Your Feedback

What did you think? Did we miss an important tip? Have you had success using Facebook to market your business? Let us know in the comments below.

Learn More About LiveRez

LiveRez is the most widely used software platform for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation and property management, websites with online bookings, trust accounting, CRM, housekeeping and maintenance, reporting, reviews and more. LiveRez is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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LiveRez Creates American Flag Facebook Profile Photo Creator

American Flag Profile Photo Creator

In honor of the upcoming national holiday, LiveRez created a new Facebook profile photo creator. The tool allows people to overlay an American flag over their profile photo, so they can show their Fourth of July Spirit. And, it’s incredibly easy to use!

  1. Go to Happy4thOfJuly.LiveRez.com.
  2. Upload a photo.
  3. Download the new photo.
  4. Use it as your profile photo on social media channels.

Update

Our CEO was just featured on a local news cast last night. Check out the story behind this tool.

Learn More About LiveRez
LiveRez is the most widely used software platform for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation and property management, websites with online bookings, trust accounting, CRM, housekeeping and maintenance, reporting, reviews and more. LiveRez is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

Did you like this post?

Please consider “liking” it and sharing it on your social media channels via the buttons below. You can also follow us and get notifications of all new posts via the “Follow” button Follow Us in the bottom right-hand part of the screen.

Win $1,000 with LiveRez’s “Best View” Facebook Photo Contest

Newsletter-Cover-Photo-Contest

As vacation rental managers in some of the most beautiful locations in the world, you certainly have properties with breathtaking views. And, if you have a picture of that view, you can win our latest Facebook photo contest.

We’re asking managers to upload a photo of one of their properties, highlighting its amazing view. Once you upload it, you can get your friends to vote for it. On July 1, we’ll select one lucky winner from the most popular photos, and they’ll take home a $1,000 Amazon Gift Card. Learn more below.


How to Play:

1. Enter the contest via the link below.
2. Upload your photo.
3. Get your friends to vote.
4. The winner gets a $1,000 Amazon gift card.

Enter-Now-Button

 
 
 


No purchase necessary. All professional vacation rental managers and their staff are invited to enter. The contest runs through June 30, and we’ll announce the winner shortly after on Facebook.

Learn More About LiveRez

LiveRez is the most widely used software platform for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation and property management, websites with online bookings, trust accounting, CRM, housekeeping and maintenance, reporting, reviews and more. LiveRez is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

Did you like this post?

Please consider “liking” it and sharing it on your social media channels via the buttons below. You can also follow us and get notifications of all new posts via the “Follow” button Follow Us in the bottom right-hand part of the screen.

Why You Don’t Need a $4 Million Super Bowl Ad to See Marketing Success

Super-Bowl-AdHow nice would it be to have a $4 million advertising budget? Pretty sweet, huh? But, even if you had that kind of marketing money, it would have only got you 30 seconds during this year’s Super Bowl.

But, the good news is that you don’t need a big ad budget to find marketing success. Here are 10 free and low cost ways to promote your business that can have a big impact on your bottom line.

1. Local Partnerships – As a vacation rental manager, you know that your guests are going to be doing more than just staying at one of your properties during their vacation. They will be out in the community, enjoying all your destination has to offer. And, they’ll be patronizing local businesses in the process. This presents a huge opportunity for you to partner with these local businesses. You can refer them business. They can refer you business. You may even be able to earn a commission on your referrals. And in the end, these partnership will only add to your guests’ experience and make them like you that much more.

2. Create a Google+ Business Page – Google+ is one of the fastest growing social networks on the planet. And, it’s tied in with the largest search engine in the world. There’s no excuse to not have a Google+ Business Page. It’s a two-for-one opportunity, really. You’ll position yourself on an up-and-coming social media platform and at the same time improve your chances for appearing higher in local search results. Your page will help you get more business and only costs your time in setting it up and maintaining it.

3. Volunteer Your Expertise to Reporters – Advertising in a newspaper or on a radio or television stations costs money. But, when a reporter uses you as a source in one of their stories, it’s 100% free publicity. As a professional vacation rental manager, you’re likely already an expert in two fields: hospitality and your destination. Offering to share this expertise with reporters only makes their jobs easier. In fact, reporters are actively seeking sources. If you haven’t already, you should sign up for a service called HARO (Help a Reporter Out).  Every day, reporters post new requests for sources there. And, the best part is that it’s absolutely free to sign up for and use.

4. Be Active on Social Media – Social Media channels are a great way to stay in touch with your best customers. While social media channels can (and will) drive traffic to your website and help you generate more bookings, they also help keep your customer base engaged (and add fuel to all of your other marketing efforts). As a manager, the top social media channels you should be considering are Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest.

5. Network – Networking is a great way to learn, but it’s also a great way to grow your business (especially grow your inventory). One group of people you should develop relationships with is local realtors in your area that specialize in selling second homes. They deal with a targeted group of buyers that are a perfect fit for your rental program. Especially if the realtor is not already associated with a brokerage that has a short-term property management wing, they can be a huge source of new leads for your rental program.

6. Use Email Marketing – You spend a lot of effort getting new guests, collecting rental inquiries and finding leads for your rental program. One of the best ways to cultivate these lists is to keep in touch with them through email marketing. Depending on your list size and how many emails you send a month, you can utilize the free version of Mail Chimp. Even if you don’t qualify for a free account, email marketing programs come in at a relatively low cost per month. And, email marketing is often heralded as one of the top marketing channel for return on investment (meaning, even if you pay for it, email marketing will pay you back multiple times over).

7. Promotions – Everyone likes a good deal right? Offering discounts or bonus items is a great way to catch people’s attention. And you don’t have to give away a lot to get a lot. Maybe it’s an attractive bonus item that you can get free or for a low cost from a partner. Maybe it’s a discount on a home that’s harder to book. Maybe it’s a last-minute deal on a home that runs the risk of going empty. Promotions simply get people looking, and often pay back much more than what they cost you.

8. Google Adwords – Every day, people are searching Google for vacation rentals in your area. Why not tap into this already qualified and interested field of guests. Adwords is a quick way to move to the top page of the search results, and you’ll only pay when a guest clicks on your ad and comes to your website. To save money, focus on long-tail terms, which often have a lower cost per click and a higher conversion rate when going to a highly relevant landing page.

9. Google Adsense Remarketing – You spend a lot of effort getting guests to your website. Why not capitalize on that investment by having your ads follow them around the Internet. Google Remarketing taps into Google’s Adsense advertising network, allowing you to advertise to anyone who has visited your site when they hit a site that is running Google Adsense. Tons of websites across the Internet use Google Adsense to display ads and make money, so you may be surprised at just how many websites will feature your ads. Re-marketing offers a huge return on investment because it targets only people that have been to your website, gives you tons of impressions on multiple sites and features a relatively low cost per click in comparison to Adwords. Even if you don’t get many clicks, it’s a huge tactic for staying in front of potential guests and re-enforcing your brand.

10. Foster Repeat Business and Word of Mouth – One of the best marketing tools you have is your products and services. Making sure your guests have an amazing vacation will help word about your business spread organically. Remember, even a $4 million Super Bowl ad won’t mean anything if you don’t offer guests an amazing experience.

And just for fun…

Let’s take a look at how this year’s Super Bowl sponsors spent their $4 million.

Learn More About LiveRez
LiveRez is the fastest growing vacation rental software provider for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation management, trust accounting and online marketing, with high-ranking, high-conversion dynamic websites and an extensive affiliate marketing program. The company is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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Please consider “liking” it and sharing it on your social media channels via the buttons below. You can also follow us and get notifications of all new posts via the “Follow” button Follow Us in the bottom right-hand part of the screen.