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Is a rental website more important than social media?

Anyone with only half an eye on the world of online marketing might be forgiven for feeling completely confused and bamboozled by it all!  With so many so-called marketing channels available these days, and “gurus” giving out advice on the latest social media craze, it’s hard to know where to begin and which route to follow.

It’s especially hard when first starting out renting your property because you just want to know the most effective way to get the message out and secure some bookings. But is social media a waste of time?

Social media buzz

Unless you have been under a rock for the past few years, the chances are you have already been using Facebook and Twitter, perhaps LinkedIn is your network of choice, or like so many others you may be enraptured with Pinterest or Instagram?

The internet is buzzing with stories about how fantastic these social networks are as an online tool for small businesses, and if you have done your research you may have seen many holiday rental owners putting huge amounts of effort into their social media activities.  But if you take a closer look at those same owners whom seem to be doing a fantastic job on Facebook and Twitter, the chances are that in the vast majority of cases there will be one thing in common behind those public profiles: a solid foundation – and that means a great interactive website to showcase their holiday rental.

You see, without getting the marketing foundation right to begin with, you will miss out on the full benefit of social media marketing and what it is really capable of.

Here are 6 reasons why you should avoid throwing all your eggs into the Facebook and Twitter basket alone…

1)   Ownership – Stake your claim to your own piece of online Real Estate

Now this may sounds obvious but it’s often useful to remind ourselves that no matter how many hours and resources you put into crafting your fabulous Facebook business page, pinning the most enticing images to your most creative Pinterest boards or cultivating thousands of followers on Twitter, these networks are NOT under your control.  The AOL´s and Myspace´s of this world are truth enough that no matter how strong a network is, nothing is guaranteed online …except your own website, provided you take sensible steps to protect it.

Your domain name, the content you write and publish on it, and followers that sign up to show an interest in your holiday property are all yours, not part and property of another bigger machine that could become obsolete.  Your own website and what you do with is perhaps the only thing you can be sure of online, so building that solid foundation first is a very sensible idea.

2)    Show you mean business

Your own vibrant and interactive website makes you look more professional, organised and will spell out “Quality Holidays Available Here” far better than any other marketing activity you can undertake online.  Just think how much more professional the email address jane@seaviewsvilla.com is compared with janebloggs@hotmail.com. And how frustrated have you been in the past to follow someone new and interesting on Facebook and Twitter and not be given a link to their own website so you can find out more?

Even Pinterest now offers the option to have your own website verified so it shows up in a nice red stand-out link in your profile – this is because people consider it important to see a website as verification that the person they are following is completely genuine.

3)    Create “Evergreen” content that never stops working for you

When you publish a piece of content on a website, be it a page about your property, some local area information or a blog post about a special local event, that content is there forever.  And the longer it is there, the more chance it has to bring visitors to your website who are actively looking for the kind of holidays you have to offer.

They say that a Facebook status update has a lifetime value of about  half a day, and a Tweet only 2 hours, so whilst building a social media presence certainly has a place in marketing your rentals, it could be that those two hours spent following and re-tweeting would be better spent writing a really great blog post about next week’s local festival – and if you “future proof” it (remove reference to specific dates that can change each year, and set your blog up so it doesn’t show the dates of your posts) then that article can bring interested visitors to your web page year after year.

4)    Your website as the power-horse of your business

Now this can be a bit of a learning curve to start with, but it is more than possible to set up your website so it makes life much easier for you, helping to run your rental business and marketing with ease.  By driving all visitors to your main website where you have installed some bookings software, you can streamline all of your admin and bookings processes and make the whole experience far smoother for your guests too.  There are several ways to do this, but the premise is that your website should be your main focus, not your social media pages or even listings sites – these are merely peripheral outposts which drive traffic to the main hub in the centre.  Then you have a chance to really wow your visitors and encourage those bookings.

5)    The money is (still) in the list

Internet marketing may have evolved a great deal with the age of social media, pay per click and SEO, but many professionals would agree that the most effective way to achieve sales is still via email marketing… and the best way to get people onto an email list is via a well thought out website. Now this is where the real beauty of social media comes in, because not only does it extend the reach of your business, reinforce your brand and help to build a community around your holiday business, but if you set it all up in the right way, you can send visitors to a carefully crafted landing page and straight onto your mailing list.

6)    Give clarity to your social media efforts

Finally, and this is perhaps one of the biggest benefits of having a website, is that the more content you put onto your site, your blog posts, and so on, the easier your social media efforts become.  You will always have something to post, talk about and tweet and you can even set it up so you only have to publish one piece of content on your blog for it to automatically go out to all of your networks and email subscribers and be amplified with very little effort.

So the next time you feel yourself becoming enthused by the latest article extolling the power of Facebook and Twitter, stop and think. Foundation first.

How social media can benefit your holiday rental

  1. Social media is great for listening to what questions travellers visiting your area ask. These can then be added to your website and blog.
  2. Sales pitches often don’t work, but pushing last minute deals to those looking for a special offer in your area may work.
  3. To grow your marketing email list.
  4. Stay in touch with past guests and get them to share photos of your rental.

Focus on what gets bookings

Holiday home owners spend an average of 8.6 hours per week marketing and managing their holiday rental properties. Many owners have busy family lives and jobs, so it is essential that in the limited time that you have to market your rental, you utilize it to focus on what drives bookings. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Where are your bookings comming from? PPC, rental ads, email marketing? Re-invest in what works.

Ultimately, they are both important. You need a great interactive website to showcase your property and a social media strategy.

I’m interested to know if any holiday rental owners have got bookings via social media?

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