One of the most gratifying aspects of operating a vacation rental company is playing the part of host for your guests: not only providing them with a wonderful stay at the residence but also introducing them to the natural and cultural beauties of the area.
People travel hundreds or thousands of miles to spend their vacations in places which are different from their year-round abodes, and part of what pushes them to do so is the curiosity to explore. The local expertise of a knowledgeable host finds appreciative ears, and he or she quickly becomes the traveller’s greatest ally.
Vacation rental companies have known for a long time that successfully marketing vacation rentals goes beyond renting and selling the homes themselves and includes the area in which they are located. However as social media has opened up the gates of communication between geographically distant vacation home owners and renters, this type of marketing has become a year-round activity.
Probably only so much can be said about the homes themselves; successful property owners like Phoebe Thomas of the Lou Messugo vacation home in Southern France publishes weekly blogs which focus on local curiosities. In her blogs Ms. Thomas makes very few direct mentions of the property she rents and instead discusses everything from local apricot production to French holiday traditions to the culinary options of the area. In this way she establishes herself as a local expert and is rewarded with a constant stream of visitors coming from all over Europe and the world.
Aside from confirming local expertise, social media can also pave the way to excellence in another important function of the host- accessibility. Travellers are assured to know that behind their vacation rental there are real people whom they can contact if they have any problems. Ironically, a strong virtual presence can replace a face-to-face relationship, especially for guests who come from afar. Remember that it is important to open up the two-way channels of communication by allowing web visitors to comment on your blogs and responding to their comments, tweets and Facebook messages.
Blogging takes some deal of time and effort and is best done on a weekly time scale. Daily communications should be made with Twitter and Facebook.
La Casetta del Borgo in Tuscany, Italy frequently tweets interesting tidbits (in English and German) about Florence, the Tyrrhenian Sea, openings of art exhibits, and other sites and activities in Tuscany. La Casetta often retweets posts from other touristic activities in the area and thus takes advantage of the power of Twitter as a means for networking and communication not only with potential clients but also with other local businesses which could eventually send clients their way. Create a strong network for your vacation rentals by seeking out other area businesses who are on Facebook and Twitter and starting a conversation with them.
— La Casetta del Borgo (@CasettaDelBorgo) August 17, 2012
Of course all of the words and conversations in the world can’t rival the impact of a good picture. Pictures inspire emotions and besides being used throughout your blogs, posts, and tweets, should be gathered together with a site like Pinterest.
Lou Messugo is once again a great example to follow for use of this social media platform. Many of the images posted by the French vacation home lead back to the blog or main website, taking advantage of the pictures’ visual hook to create a virtual hook.
Don’t make the mistake of linking pictures directly from Google images- this will cause interested users to be thrown back out in the wide-open internet! A great feature of Pinterest is that it allows you to track when and where your images are being reposted. Simply visit http://pinterest.com/source/domain.com/, where “domain.com” is your domain name. Open up channels of communication here as well and thank those who have reposted your images.
All of this work on multiple fronts will increase the visibility of your vacation rental company and help you to be found in a simple search. While it does take considerable time and effort to maintain a strong social presence, companies which manage a number of properties in the same area have the advantage of being able to use marketing of the area to sell all of their offerings. Be informative, be accessible, and most of all, be inspiring!
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