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 photo posted 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:

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.

101 Tips for Getting More Bookings in 2017

101 Tips for Getting More Bookings in 2017

Are you serious about getting more bookings in 2017? Then check out our ginormous list of proven ideas for how you can supercharge your vacation rental marketing efforts this year.

Planning

Think of your marketing goals like a destination you want to get to. If you don’t have good directions, you run a higher chance of getting lost and never reaching your destination. At the very least, it will take you longer to get there. The same goes for marketing. Without a plan, you’re going to have a much harder time meeting your goals (including one of your biggest goals, getting more bookings).

  1. Have a plan! – Having a marketing plan will keep your efforts focused and strategic. Not sure where to start? You can gain a lot of insights from this blog post. But, if you’re looking for something more specific, check out our sample marketing plan for vacation rental managers.

Branding

Branding is the primary way you tell your story and explain why people should do business with you. In this section, we talk about some key ingredients for creating an awesome brand.

  1. Nail Down Your USP – It’s incredibly important to nail down your Unique Selling Point. It’s what makes you different and better than your competition. And, it also helps you determine who your target audience is. Check out this article from Open Forum for more information on how to find your USP.
  2. Create Brand Standards – It’s important to look professional when you run a business. Developing brand standards can keep your whole team on the same page and help you exude the image you want. Brand standards will lay out what logos to use in what situations, which colors are brand compliant, what fonts to use, and help you develop consistent messaging (see next point).
  3. Use Consistent Messaging – If you really want to imprint your brand and your message into the minds of your target market, you need consistency. In addition to consistent logos, colors and fonts, having consistent messaging will help you achieve this.
  4. Be Your Brand – You can talk about who you are as a company, but if that talk doesn’t align with action, then your brand won’t come off as authentic. For example, if a big part of your brand is built on excellent customer service, you better make sure you’re consistently offering top-of-the-line customer service.
  5. Find a Niche and Own It – A quick way to grow a business is to find (or develop) a niche you can dominate. Let’s say all your homes are pet friendly and in Lake Tahoe. Instead of pitching your business as a vacation rental management company in Lake Tahoe, position yourself as the most pet friendly vacation rental management company in Lake Tahoe. Focusing on a niche will reduce the number of people you are competing with and also give you a much higher market share among a specific group of customers. Check out the Blue Ocean Strategy for some great resources on how to find and own uncontested niches.

Data and Analytics

Marketing without data is like marketing blind. You can do it, but you’re not going to be very successful. In this section, we offer some tips for how you can start collecting data and use it to inform your marketing decisions.  

  1. Test, Test, Test – Make sure you’re tracking and testing all of your marketing efforts. This is probably the single most important factor to your success.
  2. Sign Up for Google Analytics – This is the industry standard for tracking how visitors interact with your site. At LiveRez, we make it really easy to connect your Google Analytics account to your website.
  3. Sign Up for Google Search Console – This service is crucial for understanding the health of your website and how visitors are finding you through Google searches.
  4. Know Where Your Bookings Are Coming From – It’s hard to know which of your channels are paying off if you’re not tracking where your bookings are coming from. There are multiple ways to do this. For more information, check out this blog.
  5. Track your Marketing Acquisition Costs  – Another important thing to track is how much those bookings are costing you. Check out our blog here to learn more.
  6. Learn How to Do Data Driven Marketing  – When you use data to inform your marketing decisions, you’ll get better results faster. You’ll eliminate a lot of the guess work and spend more of your efforts working on projects that will get you results. Check out this blog to learn Data Driven Marketing in Four Steps.

Online Advertising

Online advertising is an incredibly effective way of getting your brand and property in front of travelers that are interested in booking a vacation rental. In this section, we provide some tips for optimizing your use of some of the major online advertising portals used by professional managers.

  1. Leverage Search Engine Marketing – Advertising your properties through services like Adwords and other search engine marketing programs can get you super targeted traffic. And if advertising for the popular keywords is a bit out of your budget, try focusing on some long-tail terms that are less competitive, less expensive and bring in guests that are further along in the buying process.   
  2. Institute Google Remarketing – This is something that not enough managers are doing. Basically, Google Remarketing gives you the ability to show ads to only people that have visited your website but haven’t converted. Your ads will follow people all over the web (even on some big name news sites). It’s a constant reminder of your brand and will make you look like a major player. Plus, the cost is relatively cheap and you’ll get tons of impressions. In addition to Google Remarketing, there are other re-marketing programs like Adroll that you might want to check out.
  3. List on Online Classified Sites Like Craigslist – It’s free to list your vacation rental properties on online classified sites like Craigslist. So, it’s just a matter of the time and effort it takes to create the listings. At LiveRez, we have a tool that can produce professional looking property ads that you can easily copy and paste into these sites, cutting down on the time and effort it takes to advertise there.
  4. Leverage Listing Sites Wisely – Listing sites can be a great way for you to get your properties in front of millions of travelers worldwide. You just don’t want to become totally reliant on them for a high percentage of your bookings. If you use listing sites, make sure you are tracking your bookings and their marketing acquisition costs across all the sites you’re using.
  5. Work on Creating Listing Site Independence – If you feel like you’re too reliant on listing sites, check out our Listing Site Independence calculator that we developed in conjunction with Matt Landau and the community at VRMB. And for a more structured path to listing site independence, check out VRMB’s Listing Site Independence Framework.

Online Bookings

If you’re not taking online bookings, you’re putting a big wall between your potential guests and what they want. In this section, we talk about why online booking is so important and how you can use it even if you have some concerns about making the jump.

  1. Start Taking Online Bookings – This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you want to get more bookings and you’re not already accepting online bookings, you should get started right away. When you take online bookings, you can get bookings around the clock with less effort. Plus, when people book online, they stop shopping (instead of submitting inquiries all around town). If you’re worried about vetting guests before they book, check out our pending booking process which lets you optionally accept a booking but not charge the guest’s credit card until you’ve had a chance to vet them.  
  2. Make Sure Your Checkout Process is Mobile Responsive – More people today are searching the internet on mobile devices than desktop or laptops. It’s an expectation from guests that you have a mobile-friendly website. And this expectation doesn’t go out the window when it comes to the final step of the booking process. Don’t risk losing potential guests at the finish line by not having a mobile friendly check out process.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is the almost always rated by marketers as the highest ROI form of marketing. In this section, we cover some tips for getting started with email marketing and improving your campaigns.

  1. Start Email Marketing – Email marketing is regularly rated by marketers as the highest ROI marketing channel. If you’re not already doing email marketing, you should start today. It’s fairly easy to sign up for a service like MailChimp, import in a list of your past guests and start sending them emails.
  2. Build Your List – Most email marketing services can give you sign up forms and links that allow visitors to your website to sign up to receive your marketing emails. If you want to get even more sign ups, offer a sweet incentive for people to sign up for your list (like a discount or an added benefit on their next reservation, or even access to some exclusive content).
  3. Segment Your Lists – Your marketing emails will be more successful if they are more relevant to the recipient. One way to keep your emails relevant is to segment your lists based on subscribers interests and past purchases.
  4. Personalize Your Emails – The more personal you can make your marketing emails the better they will perform. Sometimes something as simple as merging in the recipient’s first name into the email can make a big difference. Just make sure you have good data; inaccurate personalization can have the opposite effect.  
  5. A/B Test Your Emails – Many email marketing programs will let you run tests on your emails by allowing you to create and send two or more variations of an email to a small segment of your list to compare how those variations perform. You can test things like subject lines, from lines, send times and even the content of your emails. Testing your emails will almost always result in higher open and click through rates.
  6. Mix Up Your Email Styles – A lot of marketers just want to create big, beautiful, image-driven emails. But sometimes a simple, text-only email that is highly personalized and looks like you sat down and wrote it directly to the recipient can perform just as well or better. It’s important to try different styles of emails to see how they perform.

Social Media

Social media provides you with immense opportunities to connect with your target customers and tell your brand story. In this section, we highlight a few ways you can leverage social media to get more bookings.  

  1. Sign Up for Social Accounts – If you’re not already signed up for popular social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. you should definitely sign up and start a business account/page. More and more travelers are using social media as inspiration for planning their next vacation. Social media allows you to reach your target customers in many different places and keep your brand top of mind.
  2. Use Facebook Advertising – You can do some pretty incredible targeting with Facebook advertising, whether it’s remarketing to visitors that hit your website or uploading a custom list of specific people to advertise to. Not only is Facebook advertising targeted, but it’s also less expensive than many other types of digital marketing.
  3. Focus on Engagement – While growing your following is important, it’s even more important to make sure what you’re posting on social media is getting good engagement (in the form of likes, clicks, comments and shares). Facebook uses a machine learning algorithm that uses engagement as an important ranking factor to determine which of your followers sees your content. Some reports claim that only 5 percent of your Facebook fans will see your content. You can raise that number significantly by getting more engagement on your posts. Facebook isn’t the only social network to use this type of algorithm, and other networks that don’t have an algorithm in place will likely eventually implement one.
  4. Use Tools to Automate Your Social Media – If managing all your social channel sounds like a lot of work, don’t sweat it too much. There are a number of programs out there that can help you manage and automate a good deal of your social media activity, from tracking engagement to scheduling posts and more. Some of our favorites are Hootsuite, Buffer and Edgar.
  5. Leverage Social Bookmarking – In addition to posting on social networks, you can also submit your content to social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon, Delicious, reddit and more. Check out this article to learn more about social bookmarking.

Build Awesome Website Content

Your website is incredibly important in getting people to book your properties. Making sure your website looks amazing and is packed with valuable content should be one of your primary concerns before you even worry about setting up a blog or posting content elsewhere.

  1. Build a Local Area Guide – Showcase your expertise and give your guests an incredibly valuable resource for planning their upcoming vacation by building a local area guide. Consider sending guests a link to your guide a few days before they arrive to help them plan their trip!
  2. Sell Your Management Services with an Awesome Landing Page – If you’re looking to grow your inventory, it’s important to have a persuasive and informative landing page about your management services. Be sure to talk about your competitive advantage in the market – what sets you apart?
  3. Sell Your Guest Services with an Awesome Landing Page – Part of what makes you a professional manager is your ability to offer professional hospitality services. So, having a landing page that explains all the added perks of booking with you can be incredibly important to closing more bookings.
  4. Tell Your Story with an Awesome About Us Page – People like to buy from people they trust and even like. That’s why it’s crucial to have a page on your website that lets them know who you are and why you are so passionate about vacation rentals.
  5. Organize Your Properties into Categories and Communities – While many travelers will search by availability, other will just want to browse through your properties. That’s why your properties should be organized by category and community. LiveRez makes it really easy organize your properties this way. We even help you dynamically create landing pages for each of these categories and communities, which will help you rank better on search engines.
  6. Configure Advanced Search Options – Travelers often have one or more specific requirements for the home they’re looking to rent. That’s why LiveRez lets you create custom, searchable tags and apply them each of your properties. This makes it that much easier for guests to find the perfect home.  
  7. Consider Working with a Professional Copywriter – Whether it’s for your property descriptions or just general content on your website, hiring a professional writer can not only save you time but also help you produce content that is of higher quality and more persuasive to travelers during the shopping process.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is the craze nowadays, and for good reason. It’s cheaper and generally more efficient than other types of marketing. In this section, we’ll highlight some tactics and strategies for creating killer content.

  1. Create Unique Content That’s Valuable to Guests and Owners – The key to producing engaging content is to build content that is valuable to your target market and is better than the other available content. See the next two points to learn specific strategies for producing this type of content.
  2. Learn How to Build 10x Content – Rand Fishkin, the former CEO of SEO software Moz, is a leading authority on SEO and digital marketing. A few years ago he coined the term 10x content, the practice of producing content that is not just better than available content, but 10 times better.  Watch him explain this concept and how to create this type of content in his Whiteboard Friday video.
  3. Check out the Skyscraper Technique for Content Marketing – Another leading SEO expert, Brian Dean, has developed an extremely data-driven way to produce killer content. His Skyscraper Technique explains how to find and evaluate the best available content on a subject, and then use these pieces of content as inspiration to build a new piece of content that is significantly better than what’s available. He also builds in a process for getting it front of people who will be the most likely to share it and link back to it. He explains the SkyScraper Technique in more detail in this blog.
  4. Focus on Quality Over Quantity – When building content, focus on quality over quantity. In the past, just producing tons of content was a good way to rank better. But, times have changed, and nowadays you’d be better offer spending the time you’d use on 10 blog posts to produce one really good post. NOTE: That’s why we took the time to include 101 tips here instead of just 5 or 10.
  5. Promote Your Content – Content isn’t like the Field of Dreams (i.e. build it and they will come). To get eyes on your content, you need to promote it through all the marketing channels at your disposal. You should spend as much time promoting your content as you do creating it.
  6. Use Web Monitoring to Generate Ideas – Need inspiration for creating content? One way to find ideas is to set up a series of web alerts on different subjects related to your business. You can start by signing up for Google Alerts and using a social media monitoring service like Mention. You can also subscribe to industry blogs through an RSS feed. In fact, you can even turn your Google Alerts into RSS feeds and house everything in a feed reader/content dashboard like Netvibes.
  7. Create Evergreen Content – Evergreen content is content that will stay relevant for long periods of time. It’s not going to get outdated quickly and will thus be valuable longer and have more time to acquire backlinks and shares.
  8. Ride Trends by Hijacking the News  – On the flipside of evergreen content is newsjacking content. This is content you create that ties into something relevant and trendy. It has a built-in audience because tons of people are already interested in the subject. You just have to take the trend or news item and relate it to your business. You can learn more about newsjacking here.

Property Images

Improving your property photos can lead to big gains in bookings. In this section, we cover some of the most important aspects.

  1. Get Professional Photos – This is probably the single most important upgrade you can make to your property listings. People buy with their eyes, and if your photos don’t do your properties justice, then guests will probably look somewhere else. Don’t sell yourself short. Make the investment in professional photography, and you’ll be happy you did.
  2. Write Captions for All Your Photos – Use captions in your photos to explain all those details the photo itself can’t convey. Plus, we all know guests are going to look at the photos, so adding captions is a great way to get extra information in front of guests that might otherwise miss those details in your property descriptions.
  3. Use Big, Beautiful Images – If you already have professional photos, don’t sell them short by displaying them small on your website. Larger images have been shown to increase sales across all sorts of industries. To learn more, check out our blog post on How Larger Property Photos Can Help Your Bookings.

Video

Videos are one of the biggest trends in marketing right now. In this section, we highlight how creating and sharing videos can help you get more bookings.

  1. Create Video Tours of Your Properties – Wouldn’t it be great if you could give each potential guest a personal tour of your homes? Well, video tours might be the next best thing. Increase guests’ confidence in booking your properties by allowing them to better visualize their family in the home, understand the layout and check out amenities.
  2. Create Videos about Your Business – People like to buy from people. Tell the story of your business in a unique video featuring your company history, interviews with the team, behind the scenes clips from your office…whatever you think will help guests better understand who you are and what you have to offer.
  3. Get Your Guests and Owners to do Video Testimonials – Create an immediate human connection with potential guests and owners through video testimonials. While written testimonials are great to have, video testimonials will help your business stand out! People tend to trust video testimonials more since they come across more authentic than written reviews, and video also tends to be more memorable.
  4. Try Doing Video Responses to Inquiries – Back in 2014, VRMB’s Matt Landau highlighted how he was killing it using short videos to answer inquiries. Check out VRMB.com to see how he creates his inquiry response videos.

SEO

Search Engine Optimization is the practice of optimizing your website to rank higher in search results. Generating more organic search engine traffic can give your bookings a huge boost, so in this section, we’ll quickly explain some important concepts that are critical to SEO success.

  1. Learn about SEO – Are people able to find your website when they search for vacation rentals in your area? There are tactics and strategies, known as search engine optimization (SEO), that you can implement to help guests find you organically in the search results without using paid advertising. There is a ton to know about SEO, so we’d recommend checking out LiveRez’s Ultimate Guide to Vacation Rental SEO to get started.
  2. Go Mobile Responsive – With the staggering growth in the number of people using their phones to search the internet, mobile responsive vacation rental websites are essential. Not only does it ensure that your website looks its best on any size screen, Google also favors mobile responsive websites over sites that aren’t mobile friendly. In fact, Google is in the process of splitting its index into two separate indexes, one for people searching on mobile devices and one for people searching on a desktop.
  3. Have an SEO Plan – Developing your SEO game plan is a crucial part of any SEO campaign. A great place to start is by intelligently picking which terms to target. You’ll want to choose terms that will bring in the highest amount of qualified traffic. The tips found in part three of our Ultimate Guide to SEO will help you figure out which terms will work best for your strategy.
  4. Fill Out Your Meta Information – Meta information on your webpages tells search engines what each page is about. While you won’t see your meta information on the page itself, it’s visible by search engines and will often show up in the search results. So, be sure you have a meta title and meta description for each page on your site.
  5. Optimize Your Heading Tags – Heading tags let Google know what each section of your page is about. There are multiple levels of heading tags (h1, h2, h3, etc.) which indicate hierarchy. Therefore, your h1 tag would be used for the main headline, h2 tags for sub-headlines and so on.
  6. Optimize Internal Links – Linking from one page on your website to another page on your website is called an internal link. These links are important to your on-site SEO for two reasons. First, they create paths that users and search engine crawlers follow to navigate your site. And second, internal links play a role in passing link juice, or ranking power, to other pages on your site. Learn more about the power of link juice in Moz’s article on internal links.
  7. Focus on Site Performance – Another big factor in SEO is how well your site performs. Google pays attention to how well your site displays across devices and how fast it loads. They also look at how that affects user engagement (i.e. are people finding you through search and then just hitting the back button). To learn more about the importance of site performance (specifically load speed), check out our post here.
  8. Optimize for Click Through Rates  – One popular theory amongst top SEOs is that increasing the click through rate (CTR) to your site from search can lead to big gains in rankings. You see, Google has enough data to know the expected CTR at each ranking position. And, the theory goes that if you can achieve a higher than expected CTR for your current position, Google will rank you higher. To learn more check out this article from the guys over at Moz.
  9. Generate More Backlinks – Backlinks are one of the most important search engine ranking factors. A backlink is a link from another website directed to your website. Knowing how many backlinks you have and where they’re coming from is important for SEO because Google will give more credit to websites with a good number of quality backlinks and consider them to be more relevant in the search results.
  10. Analyze Your Competitors’ Backlinks – Running a backlink report on your competitors will give you key insights into which strategies have been successful for them and give you actionable data to help you improve your own SEO strategy. Be sure to note which sites they’re getting the most backlinks from and determine if it would make sense to pursue a link from that domain. You can also use the report to see which page on their website most of their backlinks are directing to, giving you insight into their most popular pages.

Website Conversion

It’s one thing to get traffic to your website, but once it’s there you need to do a good job converting that traffic into bookings. In this section, we’ll go over a few tactics for increasing your website conversion rate.

  1. Know Your Conversion Rate – It’s hard to improve your conversion rate if you don’t know what it is. So, the first step is making sure you have Google Analytics running on your website and have their e-commerce tracking turned on. Once you do this you’ll be able to see what percentage of your website visitors are converting to paying guests.
  2. Use a tool like Hot Jar to Better Understand Your Website Visitors – One of the tools we use at LiveRez to track how visitors interact with our corporate site is Hot Jar. It includes heatmaps, visitor recordings, funnel analysis and can even be used to survey visitors as they interact with your site. And the best part is that you can use it for free if you’re not getting more than 2,000 pageviews a day.
  3. Fix Pages with High Exit Rates – One thing that Google Analytics will tell you is which pages on your website have high exit rates. An exit rate tracks how many visitors that hit a page leave your website from that page. A page with a high exit rate suggests that page is underperforming. So, if that page gets a lot of traffic or is a crucial part of the booking process, you’ll want to work on improving it.
  4. Reduce Bounce Rates on Landing Pages – A landing page is the first page a visitor sees when they come to your website. Generally, your home page is your most popular landing page, but there are often other pages that bring people to your website. The worst thing that can happen when a visitor hits your website is for them to leave without visiting another page, and that’s what a bounce rate measures. If you have high traffic pages with a bounce rate of more than 35 or 40 percent, you should look into ways to improve them. To learn more about how to do this and use other insights to improve your conversion rate, check out our whitepaper on How to Use Google Analytics to Improve Your Vacation Rental Marketing Efforts.

Public Relations

One way to get your brand in front of potential guests is through public relations. In this section, we’ll go over some ways to get coverage from media outlets.

  1. Write and Send Press Releases – Issuing a press release detailing something newsworthy your business is doing is a good way to get coverage. The key here is to make sure you are highlighting the newsworthiness of what you’re doing, and that you’re getting in front of a reporter for whom it’s news. Every reporter has a beat. Every media outlet has a geographic coverage area or specific topic they focus on. You need to match your news with the right outlet and the right reporter.  
  2. Subscribe to HARO – Did you know that reporters are always looking for expert sources for their stories. One of the ways they find those sources is through a service call Help a Reporter Out (HARO). You can sign up to receive daily emails from HARO that list all the topics reporters are looking for more information on, organized by subject. If you’re a good fit, you can email the reporter and offer yourself a source. It’s a good way to get featured in the news and get notoriety for your business.

Partnerships

Here at LiveRez we’re big on partnership. Partnering with other people in your market can be incredibly beneficial for both parties. In this section, we highlight a few ideas for how you can work with others to increase your bookings.

  1. Partner with Local Businesses – Help connect your guests to other great businesses in your area! Have homes near a river? Consider partnering with a local rafting company to offer discounted trips to your guests. Does your local theme park have a page on their website for lodging? Ask if you can be featured, and maybe even offer a discounted rate to park-goers!
  2. Partner with Local Chambers and Tourism Organizations – Joining your local chamber of commerce and working tourism organization in your area can help get in front of more travelers. These organizations are set up to help local businesses and generate more tourism to the area, so it only makes sense to work with them.
  3. Partner with Other Professional Managers – While you might consider other vacation rental managers as competition, there are still a lot of ways you can work with them without jeopardizing your own business. Sometimes it’s as simple as referring a booking to a manager when you don’t any available properties or when one of your past guests wants to travel to a destination where you don’t have any properties. At LiveRez we’re currently working on cutting-edge channel management system that doesn’t just include listing sites, but also enables property managers to work with each other to grow their bookings.

Improve the Guest Experience

One of the best ways to get more bookings is to give guests an exceptional experience during their stay, so they come back and book with you again. In this section, we outline some tips for taking your guest experience to the next level.

  1. Step Up Your Customer Service – One of the best ways you can improve the guest experience to ensure you are offering exceptional customer service. That means everyone on your team that interacts with a guest and touches the guest experience in one way or another is committed to doing everything they can to make that guest’s stay the best they’ve ever had.
  2. Communicate Better – A big part of the guest experience is how you communicate with the guest. Are you sending them the information they need in a timely fashion? Is it thorough and accurate? Is it engaging and persuasive? One way to improve your communication is to use technology. Our CRM system at LiveRez can automate most of the emails you send your guests. And because it’s doing most of the work for you, there will be far less human error and you’ll have more time to make sure your messaging is amazing.
  3. Use a Guest Experience Portal – Wouldn’t it be awesome if your guests had their own portal where they could log in and make changes to their reservation, add options, learn more about the destination they’re heading to or even communicate directly with the manager? That’ exactly what our new guest experience portal, LiveStay, is designed to do.
  4. Leverage Smart Home Technology – Increase efficiency and “wow” your guests with smart home technology. Companies like PointCentral, which is integrated with LiveRez, offer smart solutions that allow you to lock and unlock doors, control pool and home temperature, and more – right from your phone or computer.

Reviews

Industry research suggests that nearly half of all guests won’t book a vacation rental without first reading reviews. If you’re not gathering and sharing reviews from past guests, you’re potentially alienating half of your customers. So, in this section, we offer insights into how guest reviews can increase your bookings.

  1. Gather Reviews from Past Guests – One of the biggest reasons travelers don’t book a property is that they have unanswered questions or they don’t trust the information they’re getting about the property. Having reviews from past guests front and center throughout the booking process acts as what marketers call “social proof”. This social proof is incredibly effective at getting customers to trust your brand and feel more confident in doing business with you. If you’re still not buying that guest reviews are important, go check out Amazon.com. The extensive reviews they generate on their products have been a key to their success.  
  2. Leverage Guest Reviews to Convince Owners of Home Improvements – You’ve been telling an owner for months that the master bed in their home needs replacing with no luck. Consider using guest reviews to reinforce your case! Criticism from guests, rather than just from the property manager, may help speed up those home improvement requests. With LiveScore, LiveRez’s survey and review system, you can easily share those critical guest reviews with the appropriate owner.

Phone Skills

Lots of guests are going to have questions before they book or simply prefer to book over the phone with a reservationist. The better your team is at handling these calls, the more bookings you’ll get. So, in this section, we’ll go over a few ways to close more bookings over the phone.

  1. Pick Up the Phone – Inbound calls are gold! You’re 60% more likely to get a booking from someone who took the time to call you, so don’t let that phone go unanswered! However, if you do miss a call, make sure you have a professional voicemail and that you get back to the guest quickly. The longer it takes for you to respond, the less likely that person will be to book.
  2. Improve Your Reservationists’ Conversion Rate with Better Training – Once you get a potential guest on the phone, make sure that your reservationist is friendly and energetic, prepared to answer questions about the company and your properties, and is trained to close the booking.
  3. Leverage Your Software to Aid in Closing Phone Bookings – A good vacation rental software can make it that much easier to close bookings over the phone. The ability to quickly answer a guest’s questions and match them with an available home that meets their needs is paramount. Add to that the ability to email them bookable quotes in seconds. At LiveRez, our Booking Grid can empower your reservations to do all these things and more.

Lead Follow-Up

Earlier we talked about the importance of increasing your website conversion. But, it’s also extremely important to focus on increasing your conversion rate for inquiries that come in over the phone or through email. So, in this section, we’ll highlight some tips for doing just that.

  1. Create a Lead Management Strategy – Creating a lead management strategy for your sales team can result in some big booking gains. Our partners at Big Sky Vacation Rentals in Montana recently saw huge results after their revenue manager Shelley Henslee put together a stellar lead management plan for their business. In just the first year, it helped the company add more than $1 million dollars in additional revenue. Henslee shared some of best tips with our partners at the 2016 Partner Conference. Partners can access these materials through the LiveRez Help Center. Just do a search for “Henslee.”  
  2. Improve Your Lead Follow-Up Efforts by Using a CRM System – It’s not enough to have a strategy for following up with leads, you also need technology that makes it easy to execute this strategy. There are a lot of lead management systems on the market, but most aren’t specific to the vacation rental industry (and if they are, they don’t always integrate nicely into your property management software). So, it’s important to find a technology that works with your current software and is tailored to the industry. There are a few good solutions out there. You just have to find them (or you could just click on this link).  
  3. Institute a Smart Autoresponder – Inquiries are great, but the longer you take to respond to them, the less likely the traveler is to book with you. Take the hassle out of manually responding by utilizing autoresponder technology that will automatically read inquiry emails and send out availability, quotes and links to book online. If you use the LiveRez autoresponder, it will also create a lead within your system, so you can follow-up with that guest in the future.

Inventory Growth

One of the best ways to get more overall bookings is to grow your inventory. More homes mean more opportunities for bookings. In this section, we’ll talk about a few ways to get more of the right types of homes that will not only help increase your bookings but your bottom line.

  1. Strategically Grow and Defend Your Inventory – To really grow your business as vacation rental manager you need to grow your inventory. There are tons of great strategies for acquiring new owners and keeping your current owners happy. While we could talk about a lot of them here, we couldn’t do it as good as our Chief Strategy Officer Steve Trover did in a recent webinar. As the CEO of one of the best vacation rental management companies in the US, Trover has developed some pretty incredible tactics for growing and defending his inventory.  He shares a lot these strategies in his webinar on Five Owner Acquisition and Retention Secrets to Multiply Your Inventory.
  2. Skim the Fat – There’s an exception to every rule. And the exception to growing your inventory is when you have owners that are just more trouble than they’re worth. You have limited resources as a company, and sometimes you have owners that monopolize those resources while not giving you back much in return. That’s a one-way partnership that you would be smart to discontinue once their owner contract expires.
  3. Improve the Owner Experience – One way to attract new owners and keep your current owners happy is to improve their experience working with your management company. We know you already work hard to protect their properties and get them the best return on investment on their vacation home. But, something as simple as communicating with them better and giving them the convenience to check into how their property is doing or make their own booking can make a big difference. That’s why at LiveRez, we help you automate a lot of your communication with owners, as well as give you the ability to create online self-service portals for your owners to see information on their properties, view their owner statements and even make bookings for themselves.

Competitive Intelligence

One of the best ways to learn how to get more bookings is by watching what’s working (or not working) for your competitors. In this section, we pulled some ideas from David Angotti of SmokyMountains.com, who taught at our 2016 Partner Conference. Partners can find his whole presentation in our Help Center, and non-partners can check out his guest post at VRMB for more information.

  1. Monitor Your Competitors’ Pricing Strategies – Using a pricing tool such as SmartHost, you can keep an eye on your competitor’s pricing to help you better gauge what rate you should be charging for your similar properties.
  2. Spy on Your Competition’s Email Marketing Tactics – Spend time perfecting your email marketing by monitoring your competition’s campaigns. In this blog post, Angotti outlines the steps you can take to use your competition’s emails to curate a list of ideas that will jumpstart your own email marketing campaigns.
  3. Get Content Ideas from Your Competitors Best Performing Posts – Creating successful content can be super time consuming. Make sure you’re creating content that your guests want to read by using tools like BuzzSumo that will allow you to see what types of content your competition has had success with. Use these topics to help you generate successful 10x content (see tip #39).
  4. Steal the Top Performing Keywords and Ads from Listing Sites – Kickstart your campaigns by using highly-targeted keywords and perfected ad copy. How you might ask? Using tools like SpyFu, you can steal top-performing keywords and ad copy straight from listing sites! Check out this blog post for step-by-step instructions on how to leverage this tool.
  5. Use SimilarWeb to Get an Overview of Your Competitor’s Website Performance – Uncover the secrets behind that competitor that always seems to have their properties booked. SimilarWeb will give you insight into their website traffic, where that traffic is coming from (referrals, social media, paid advertising, etc.) and other similar sites that you may want to monitor.

Revenue Management

Revenue management can not only get you more bookings but more booking revenue (which should be the true goal here). In this section, we’ll outline some of the basic concepts behind revenue management.

  1. Adjust Your Rates Based on Supply and Demand – One of your primary goals as a professional manager should be to maximize revenue for yourself and your owners. One way to do that is to strategically adjust your rates based on changes in supply and demand. Just be careful to maintain the integrity of your rates. The last thing you want to do is win the race to the lowest price. Remember, increasing your rates in high demand periods is just as important as lowering your rates in low-demand periods.  
  2. Consider Using All-Inclusive Pricing – One of the toughest adjustments for travelers that are new to booking vacation rentals is the fees. Vacation rentals tend to have more fees than hotels, so guests can often be turned off when they see all the fees broken out during the booking process. One way to avoid this is to include all your fees into one all-inclusive rate. With LiveRez, we make it easy for you lump all your fees into the rental rate and then quickly break them back out for reporting purposes.
  3. Run Specials to Generate Demand – Entice guests to book by offering specials like a free night’s stay or a discount if they book during your slower season. Discover 6 more ways to get more bookings by offering specials in this blog post.

Follow Industry Publications

We’d like to say that we’ve hit every single tip for getting more bookings right here in this post, but in reality, there are so many more ways to increase your bookings. That’s why, in this section, we’re going to direct you to resources where you can find even more tips for increasing your bookings.

  1. Follow the LiveRez Blog – Subscribe to the LiveRez blog to receive advice on a variety of industry topics like marketing and SEO, read interviews with top professional managers across the country and get updates on LiveRez and its industry-leading software. Check it out at…wait, you’re already here (shameless plug: you can sign up to get notifications of new posts at the bottom of this post).
  2. Follow VRMB – If you haven’t checked out Matt Landau’s Vacation Rental Marketing Blog yet, what are you waiting for? Through how-to videos, case studies, interviews and more, Matt offers a wealth of free and inexpensive ways to increase your bookings. Check it out at VRMB.com.
  3. Follow VRM Intel – VRM Intel is the leading source of news for professional vacation rental managers. Editor Amy Hinote has tons of industry knowledge and does a great job of covering all the relevant news coming out of the industry. Check it out at VRMIntel.com

Connect With Other Managers Online

Some of the best vacation rental marketing advice you can get is from other professional managers. In this section, we’re going to highlight a few places where you can connect with other managers to discuss marketing and other best practices.

  1. Live Community – LiveRez partners can talk to each other about marketing through our new online community. This powerful new tool is an amazing way for our partners to communicate with each other, share ideas and find solutions. Get quick access to the community through the communication dashboard in your LiveRez system.
  2. Consider Joining Matt Landau’s Inner Circle Group at VRMB – Matt has assembled a community of nearly 800 vacation rental professionals, where they regularly discuss tips and tricks for taking your vacation rental marketing efforts to the next level. It’s a great place to learn. You can find out more and sign up here.
  3. Join Industry Groups on LinkedIn –  LinkedIn is a social media must-have in the business world. These groups are a great way to connect with others in the vacation rental industry, stay on top of industry news, source shareable content and even recruit new talent. Some of the more active groups in the industry are the Vacation Rental Professionals Group, the Vacation Rental Managers Association Group and the Vacation Rental News and Information Group. 

Upgrade Your Vacation Rental Software

For many professional managers, the management software they use to run their business can have a big impact on their bookings and overall success as a company. While there are a lot of options for software nowadays, there’s only one we can really recommend  :).

  1. Partner with LiveRez – This may look like the ultimate shameless plug, but here at LiveRez we really believe that we have the best vacation rental software, best vacation rental websites, best property manager partners and the best team to support these partners. And as you can see from our reviews on Capterra, we’re not the only ones that think so.

Tell us what you think!

Did we miss an important tip? Have you already tried some of these ideas and had success? Let us know in the comments section 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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Counting Down our Top 10 Moments in 2016

LiveRez Best of 2016

It’s hard to believe all that Team LiveRez has accomplished together in 2016. As we head into 2017, we’re looking back on all the incredible events that took place during our most recent trip around the sun. Check out the list below to re-live our biggest moments of the year.

2016 Partner Conference a Home Run

We knew it was going to be hard to top the 2015 Partner Conference in Sun Valley. So, in 2016 we went back to the drawing board, listened to partner feedback, and worked on planning the ultimate vacation rental conference. We made the conference easier to get to, divided it into two training tracks, landed a big name keynote in Daymond John, managed to bring back Marcus Luttrell, brought in industry expert instructors like Matt Landau, David Angotti and Michael Endelman (to name a few), and even added a sports theme.

The result was the biggest and best Partner Conference we’ve ever seen, with nearly 500 attendees from all across the nation and abroad.

LiveRez Releases New Technology

Our development team took things to the next level in 2016, building and releasing more technology than any year in LiveRez’s history. Here’s just a short list of some of the bigger projects they busted out in 2016:

  • LiveTrust – Brand new trust accounting system
  • e-Signature – Fully integrated digital contracts with e-signatures
  • Responsive Checkout — New and improved checkout process that’s fully mobile responsive
  • LiveScore — A big upgrade to our survey and review system that leverages NPS-style questions
  • LiveStay — A new guest experience portal that’s fully mobile responsive

LiveTrust

New Help Center and Community Strengthens LiveRez Network

One of our big initiatives in 2016 was to make it easier for partners to interact with each other, find answers to their questions, and let us know how we could make their lives easier. That’s why we launched Live Community, the new online forum exclusively for LiveRez partners, as well as a new and improved Help Center, filled with training videos and system documentation.

LiveRez Community

LiveRez Announces Plans for Channel Manager

One of the big announcements coming out of Partner Conference and the VRMA Annual Conference was that LiveRez would be building a Channel Manager and creating solutions that allowed partners to work together. Since the announcement, we’ve been in talks with many potential distribution partners and have started laying the groundwork for a cutting edge channel manager that includes a partner referral and distribution network.

LiveRez CEO Tracy Lotz a Finalist for Innovator of the Year 

LiveRez CEO Tracy Lotz was honored as one of the most forward-thinking tech leaders in Idaho this year, after being named as one of only three finalists for Innovator of the Year.

Tracy Lotz: Innovator of the Year Finalist

Destin Bootcamp

Way back in February, we held a LiveRez Bootcamp in Destin, FL. More than 100 managers attended from all over the southeast to get hands-on system training and catch a first look at LiveTrust, our new trust accounting system.

LiveRez Destin, FL Bootcamp

Partner Visits

In 2016, many partners went way above and beyond in their efforts to network with other partners. In addition to Partner Conference, regional events and online through the new community, a number of partners took the initiative to visit other partners at their headquarters, and we were happy to connect them. From north to south and east to west, partners were crisscrossing the nation to learn from each other.

LiveRez Partner Visits

Team Building

This year we found that the team that…

… paintballs together

… runs like six miles (seriously) the day before Partner Conference together

…and tackles some crazy Christmas party challenges together

Well, that’s the team that stays together. You can check out our teambuilding adventures in the videos below.

Support Team Responsive as Ever!

The support team managed to step up its already stellar performance in 2016. They resolved more tickets than in any year past, had a customer satisfaction rating in the high 90s and a response time that’s nearly 10 times faster than the industry average!

New Partners

In 2016, the LiveRez family grew by nearly 200 property manager partners. These new partners come from all across the world and bring a wide variety of skills and different perspective to Team LiveRez. We’re excited to start our journey with them, as we work together to grow their businesses.

New 2016 Partners

2016 was Incredible. 2017 Is Going to be even better!

 

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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Meet Vince Rosan and Justice Tilley – LiveRez Honey Badger Award Winners

Congratulations to Vince Rosan and Justice Tilley, our newest Honey Badger award winners!

Each month, LiveRez employees nominate team members who exemplify the culture and DNA of LiveRez, and winners take home the coveted Honey Badger award.

Let’s learn more about this month’s Honey Badgers!

Vince Rosan

hb_vince

Vince Rosan is one of the stars of our sales team, working hard to grow the LiveRez family. He says his favorite part of being on team LiveRez is that we constantly get to tackle new challenges and then celebrate our accomplishments.

He loves taking advantage of the countless outdoor activities the Pacific Northwest has to offer. While he loves snowboarding and fishing, he says his true joy comes from being a father and living vicariously through his two sons and daughter.

Justice Tilley

hb_justice

Our support wonder woman, Justice Tilley, joined Team LiveRez earlier this year after graduating from the University of Idaho, where she was a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority.

One thing we love about Justice is her eye for creativity, both at work and outside the office. She loves crafting, especially using old wood windows, and looks forward to whipping up delicious dinners every night after work. And, we’ll admit, the leftovers make us pretty jealous!


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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Meet Sam Martin and Bill Taylor – LiveRez’s Honey Badgers of the Month

Congratulations to Sam Martin and Bill Taylor, winners of this month’s team member Honey Badger Awards.

The monthly award goes to LiveRez employees that always put the team first, make others around them stronger, and exemplify the culture and DNA of LiveRez.

Let’s learn some more about this month’s winners!

Sam Martin

Sam Martin - LiveRezSam Martin runs LiveRez’s SEO/SEM department. Over his 5+ years at LiveRez, Sam has become a partner favorite. Perhaps it’s because of his willingness to go above and beyond to help partners and to take the time to explain the concepts of SEO and online advertising. Or, maybe it’s because of the positive impact he’s made on a number of partners’ businesses.

But Sam’s expertise extends far beyond the realm of search engine optimization and online marketing. He’s an expert fisherman, a talented guitar player and huge Jimmy Buffett fan. Sam works from Great Falls, MT, where he lives with his wife, Erica.

Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor - LiveRezBill Taylor works as an infrastructure engineer, specializing in open-source systems and distributed systems. He plays a big role in the company’s ability to scale its solutions as the LiveRez family grows, and he’s also a hawk for security. In their nominations for Bill, his team members noted his exceptional work ethic and praised his ability to find innovative ways to increase operational efficiency.

When he’s not at work, he loves to hunt and fish, and go shooting. A contractor in a previous life, Bill still enjoys woodworking, tinkering around his shop and building things. Bill loves spending time with his wife and four kids, and says family and friends are always No. 1 for him.

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.

How To Combat Intellectual Entertainment Syndrome

SPECIAL GUEST POST
This post is written by David Angotti, Co-Founder of SmokyMountains.com, the fastest growing property management firm in the Great Smoky Mountains region. Angotti was recently a featured guest instructor and panelist at the 2016 LiveRez Partner Conference. In this post, he talks about how to move beyond the intellectual entertainment gained at conferences and focus your efforts toward putting that new knowledge to work for your business in an actionable way.

 

I am not against intellectual entertainment. There is nothing wrong with the idea of being entertained by content that stretches the capabilities of our minds. When I find myself researching black holes, this is a form of intellectual entertainment. It exercises the brain. It expands my knowledge of a vast universe. The topic is interesting. It’s fun!

However, intellectual entertainment is rarely accompanied by any organizational or life-changing actions. Simply put, this is knowledge that was fun to obtain and occasionally reflect upon, but that will not be used for a meaningful purpose.

Unfortunately, trade conferences and seminars oftentimes end up being intellectual entertainment. The attendees have the best of intentions to change themselves, their organizations, and the world, but ultimately fail.

Why do people fail at producing change in their organizations after receiving top-tier training from experts? As both a regular speaker at conferences and an attendee, I have been asked this question dozens of times.

Since I truly desire to see entrepreneurs succeed, this question has been haunting me. I was motivated to find the answer to this question. I discussed this persistent problem with several of my peers and was able to pinpoint the top three reasons entrepreneurs fail to become change agents when they return to their businesses:

1. Organizational Inertia

This fundamental physics principle applies to business. Your organization is on a set trajectory that it will stay on until disturbed. Most organizations will wait for a negative disturbance from an external force rather than producing a positive disturbance internally.

This is tragic. When a business regularly produces positive internal changes, it will be more stable, more profitable, and able to withstand negative external forces much more effectively.

For most people, staying in the comfort zone is more important than higher profits. Those same people would vehemently disagree that they are stuck in a rut, but their actions scream that comfort is of paramount importance to them.

2. Lack of Focus

When we watch an in-depth presentation, take a course, or attend a conference, the instinctive reaction is to want to implement everything we just learned all at once. This is not practical. The presenter likely has years of experience on the topic that was distilled in an understandable way. The take-a-way nuggets are useful, but you still have work to do.

Instead of trying to implement every new tip and trick that you see, focus on creating a list of these tips and tricks and scoring them in the following manner:

Business Tactic Valuation Formula:
Value to Business: 1 (low) to 5 (high)
Difficulty to Implement: 1 (high) to 5 (low)
Time to Produce Results: 1 (long) to 5 (short)
Anticipated ROI: 1 (low) to 5 (high)

 

Next, add up the score for each item that you are considering implementing and objectively compare them based solely on the impact score. Throughout the training, course, or conference, keep a running spreadsheet or notepad with the score for each of the specific tactics.

At the conclusion of the training, your goal should be to have 1-3 items that you can start implementing the day you go back to work. These are concrete ideas that will take your business to the next level. These are new skills that can pay the bills.

It is important to note that each business is different. No one knows your business better than you. I challenge you NOT to over-score the flashy or hip idea. Rather, honestly assess your own skills and business then apply the correct idea.

3. Lack of Time

Following a conference or training event, you can fully expect to be slammed with time commitments. It can take hours to catch up on email, your kids will want uninterrupted time with you, and your business may have been neglected while you were out of town.

This business creates an unfortunate byproduct – procrastination. If you have not started to implement the top tactics and strategies within two weeks, you likely never will.

How do we combat the procrastination effect? Schedule a reasonable amount of time (i.e. 1-2 hours) per week for the four weeks immediately after the training. Don’t fall into becoming a slave to the urgent and neglect implementation. Doing so screams – intellectual entertainment is more important than organizational change!

It won’t be easy to carve out the time, but if you can dedicate days of your time to attend the conference you owe this to yourself and organization. Over time, the goal is to create a culture of change. Each team member should be able to work on tactics and strategies that make the business truly awesome.

My desire is that a complete understanding of the enemy will help you overcome it. With your help, we can ensure that we are change agents in our organizations!

David Angotti - SmokyMountains.comAbout the Author, David Angotti

After successfully founding and exiting an educational startup in 2009, David began helping companies with business development, SEM, SEO, CRO, online marketing, mergers and acquisition, product development, and branding. Now, he is focused on his own property management firm.