by Marti Mayne

 

Just a few years ago we’d hear from innkeepers, “I don’t need to be on social media” or “I don’t have time for social media”. It brings back memories of the early days of the Internet when innkeepers said, “I don’t need a website; I’ve got a brochure”.  Today many of the nay-sayers are converts, but still looking for direction on best practices for social media.  

Social media has evolved more rapidly than any other marketing platform in history, making it a challenge, but with just a little effort each day, it can pay off in visibility and engagement with your guests.  You wouldn’t think of ignoring your guest when they walk into your inn or B&B would you? You can’t ignore them on social media either. Social media channels are where your guests are at work, at home and at play. You want to be there with them.

 

Choose your channels wisely

Not all social media channels are right for you or your guests.  You need to go where the guests are. If you’re a foodie (and what innkeeper isn’t?), consider Pinterest.  If you’re after a younger audience and are quick with a cellphone camera, consider Instagram.  If you’re trying to reach the media, you’ll find them on Twitter.  If you enjoy social media, you’ll choose all three and have a YouTube channel too.

Gone are the days when you can post the same message across all channels.  Each has its idiosyncrasies for posting, and they change often too.  You’re limited in characters on Twitter, yet the Facebook “notes” option allows posts as long as you like.  And each social media channel has a different audience, looking for specific kinds of content.

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Know your audience

You know what your guests like.  That’s step one to finding the right social media channel to reach them with your message.  Facebook is the largest social medium in the world, so chances are your guests have visited Facebook, but not necessarily recently. And every fan doesn’t necessarily see your post either.   Facebook audiences tend to skew older, while Instagram and even Twitter tend to attract a younger audience. Pinterest primarily attracts women.

One way to get a feel for who is following your page is to check analytics or insights. 

On Facebook – Insights are located along the top navigation of your page manager screen

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On Twitter – Twitter analytics are located on the profile drop down menu (www.analytics.twitter.com)

On Instagram – Instagram Insights are located on the top right hand corner of the platform screen 

Take a good look at your audience and pay particular attention to those who are not only fans, but those you are reaching and those with whom you are engaging.  This helps to craft your content when you to understand to whom you are talking.

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You’ve heard it time and again - Content is king

We’ll spend more time on content in future articles as this warrant plenty of attention.  Most importantly, however, you need to be genuine and approachable.  Your content should be of interest to your audience (now that you’ve looked at your insights and know them), and should be conversational and casual rather than hard-sell.  We’ve all been to the cocktail party and quickly moved away from the person who talks about themself and how great they are. Be the person everyone wants to follow for their great content and their entertainment value.

Follow the 80/20 rule with social media; 80-percent of the time your posts should encourage engagement – ask questions, create polls, suggest fans caption the photo, tell a joke. Share guest content and photos or information about the area, restaurants, changes or additions to the vacation experience there. Your posts should be as helpful and as enjoyable as possible. The other 20-percent of the time you can promote your deals and promotions, positive reviews, inclusion in articles, recipes and tell the world how wonderful you and your property are.

 

Photos and videos speak 1000 words

We’re a visual society. We all know that no one reads anymore.  Let your photo tell your story, and include some kind of graphic with each post. Instagram and Pinterest are all about photos. Words are few there.  Twitter now offers the opportunity to post multiple photos and videos.  The more compelling the photos on Pinterest, the more they’ll be shared. Facebook now allows users to create slideshows and even add music.  Facebook even offers the opportunity to create a colorful graphic out of your all-text message. The social media channels are making it easier and easier to use and share photos.  We’ll cover best places to find photos and graphics in the next article. 

Videos are the most compelling graphics you can use.  Research shows that social media users are more apt to open, watch, like and share videos than photos.  If you’ve got a smart phone, you can create video clips for your social media channels.  Leslie Mulcahy at the Rabbit Hill inn is a master of the short video, creating Sunday news clips and action in the kitchen each week.  If you have several videos, create a YouTube channel where those trolling for videos of interest can find you.

 

Every interaction is an opportunity to engage

Maintaining an active social media campaign but ignoring questions and comments is like having a table full of guests at breakfast and not talking to them. Social media is just that – all about being social. Take the time to interact with your social media audience by responding to questions, reviews, and private messages. If a fan leaves a comment, you can “like” or answer that comment on Facebook. On Twitter, if a fan shares your message, thank them or like their tweet.  It’s all about sharing the love.  Post content that encourages engagement and sharing. Humor works well here.

Fully Introduce yourself. Is your page verified?

While you’d think this is a no-brainer, we tend to forget about our profiles after they are set up.  Are all the profile fields complete and up to date for your inn/B&B on all your social media pages? Be sure that your page name, property description, website links, phone number, hours, etc. are all up to date.  It’s a good idea to revisit the profile twice a year or so to include any new updates.

You will also want to be sure your page is verified (if possible).  This simply shows that your page is legit, and that matters more and more as online security and safety trends high in the wake of hackers. Click on these links for information on how to verify your page:

Social media marketing is a key marketing topic for innkeepers. BedandBreakfast.com has written a number of articles on social media for innkeepers that are great resources.  Click here to read their first primer on how to use social media to market your inn. Then click here to read more advice for innkeepers on using Facebook and Twitter specifically.

As a follow up to this article, we’ll get to the good stuff and share 50 great places and ideas for your social media posts. We’ll reveal great websites for social media fodder, themes and promotions for innkeepers.  Stay tuned.