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B&B Marketer of the Year AwardBe Relevant

For social media to work well, it needs to be relevant — to your business and to your audience. When innkeepers ask “Which social networks should I use?” the real answer is “Where are the people you want to reach?” If your guests are foodies who love Pinterest, by all means get on Pinterest to share pictures of the great food you serve, and post recipes and photos on your blog and Facebook page as well.

By contrast, if you want to reach travel writers and other journalists who might cover your B&B or the tourist attractions in your area, you’re more likely to interact with them on Twitter. Fish where the fish are.

Be Timely

If you’re going to be on social media, be timely about it. That doesn’t mean you need to post on every single network every single day, but you should figure out the rhythm of the social networks that are relevant for your B&B and then invest the time to keep up with them. Elisse Goldstein-Clark of the Elkhorn Inn in West Virginia, who has used social media extensively to promote her rural B&B, emphasizes the importance of timely posts: “Using social media effectively means constantly — ‘You’re only as good as your last post’ is no lie!”

If you’re not going to keep a live presence on a given network, you’d be better served not to use it at all. You don’t want someone to visit, say, your Instagram account and see that you’ve posted only three pictures, with the most recent one coming two years ago.

Be Engaging

The biggest reason to be timely is so that you can be genuinely engaging with people who might take an interest in your B&B. If someone posts a comment or asks a question on your Facebook page, it makes for a bad conversation if you take a week to reply to them.

As for how to engage: you want to spend your time talking with people about their interests, not broadcasting at them about your inn and your area. Remember that, while it is “media,” it must be truly social to be effective and welcoming for your potential guests.

Be Helpful

Like other innkeepers who have used social media effectively, Goldstein-Clark emphasizes the importance of being genuinely helpful. Even when she’s promoting her inn, she says, she’s “always giving something of value, such as photos or event information or recipes.” It’s no different than any other social setting: if you’re always talking only about yourself or asking for business, people will think of you as selfish. If, instead, you aim to provide them with useful information that will help them have a great trip, they’ll like you better.

Be Methodical

If you want to have success with social media, you have to keep at it. You can build a meaningful presence online using the social networks that are right for your inn, but not if your participation in those networks is haphazard. Social media need not take over your life, but you should make it a regular part of your work. Consistently dedicating 10 or 15 minutes at a time, a few times per day, can make a huge difference in how effective social media is for you.

Measure, Learn, and Adapt

Social media is constantly evolving, and platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have made it easy for small businesses to analyze their traffic and the impact of any advertising they run there. As with anything else in your business, it makes sense to experiment with different approaches on social media, measure the impact of your efforts, and then continue to pursue the parts that work best for your inn.

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Now over to you: What have you found works that best in your use of social media? Join the conversation on Google+