Social Media Value for Vacation Rental Managers
We were recently contacted by Steve Bjerklie, a writer working on an article for the VRMA Review with regard to the value of social media for vacation rental management agencies. He asked that we submit our thoughts in response to his questions below, and we thought we'd share them with you. Read it over and then let us know your thoughts in the comments!
1) What can be the impact of Facebook for vacation rental management agencies (VRMs)?
With over 500 million users worldwide spending over 700 billion minutes a month on Facebook, it's no wonder that marketers of every stripe want in on the action - including vacation rental managers. Perhaps the greatest impact that we've seen from FB to date is from a brand awareness and referral source standpoint. It's no secret that people are easily influenced by their network of peers, and watching our client's FB presence grow, along with their site visitor referrals from FB, is a testament to this fact. It's not uncommon for Facebook to be listed among the top referral sources and it is increasingly trending toward becoming a top revenue generator as well.
2) While Facebook can build relationships with customers, does it actually result in bookings?
At this point, we're generally not seeing consistently strong revenue numbers from Facebook referrals for most of our VRM clients - although there are certainly exceptions. While the analytics point to high levels of referrals from FB, and decent numbers for engagement such as "pages viewed" and "time on site," overall, we're not seeing those visitors convert on the scale of a visitor from the search engines. We attribute this mainly to a lack of "intent" on behalf of the FB visitor in comparison to the Google visitor. However, given time, we expect to see FB revenue grow significantly. Our clients that invested heavily in Search Engine Optimization years ago are cashing checks today. We expect the same to be true for Facebook.
3) How does Facebook integrate with a VRM's website and other marketing efforts?
There are a ton of integration options for VRMs with FB. From the ever-present "Like" buttons on vacation rental websites and property details pages, that allow for easy sharing with your FB network, to email opt-in forms and booking engines integrated directly on FB, the options are ever-changing and seemingly endless. For example, consider the just-released "Send" button, and "Facebook Deals" feature and how it might drive sales for VRM's!
4) How much time can a vacation-rental executive or employee expect to spend on Facebook and other social media sites for business? Should a VRM considering a major Facebook presence put one full-time person in charge of social media, or is that much time needed?
Social media can be a black hole of time. A modest presence would be around 1-3 posts throughout the day. However, someone does need to be present to monitor and answer any questions. So, total time doesn't "need" to be much, but someone does need to be monitoring on a regular basis. Answers are expected in a timely manner (and in the case of bad reviews, etc., essential) in the social space. Obviously if there is a particularly engaging promotion, more time needs to be dedicated.
5) What are the do's and don'ts?
Do's: Keep it real. Make social content personal, authentic and compelling. Treat your fans and followers as VIPs. Don't be afraid to toot your own horn when it's warranted. Respond in a timely manner. Choose your words wisely. Dont's: Overselling. Repeating the same specials over and over is a no-no. Don't get started with a presence on FB or Twitter and then ignore it.
6) What are the advantages that Facebook and social media bring A VRM that a website and other marketing portals can't?
Social media presents VRM's with an opportunity to interact directly with their customers in a timely fashion. It also extends the reach of their brand through personal connections, which is extremely powerful. It also gives VRM's quick access to an interested audience for relevant marketing messages and information.
7) Is the Facebook-using clientele growing or has it grown now about as much as you think it's going to grow? Among a VRM's owners and guests, is there a typical Facebook user, or do you see a broad range of people using social media?
Facebook keeps growing and innovating by the day. Social media is becoming more pervasive regardless of Facebook. Regardless of whether or not FB is going to continue to grow, social media is here to stay. Even the old folks are catching on - those aged 65+ are now the fastest growing demographic on Facebook. Just about every demographic is well represented, which also presents the opportunity for targeted advertising through FB.
8) What about Twitter? Effective for VRMs, or just a social tool for chat?
Twitter can also be an effective medium for VRM's - especially for event-based promotions and where real-time information is important. With the integration of Twitter social signals into Google's search results, the impact of "tweets" is likely to become even greater. With social search in its infancy, we can only imagine that social signals will continue to play a greater role in the evolution of the search engines results pages.