Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Don't get swept out to sea innkeepers

The good ol' days sure cost a lot
The days are long gone where innkeepers paid to have a listing in a travel guidebook and people called to make a reservation on an 800 number and that was that. We used to call it advertising, now what we do is called marketing.

We not only have it all hanging out, so to speak, online with our websites and B&B directories, but on social media as well. Social media has upped the ante and people of all ages are there and expect us to be there as well. Innkeepers are required to have more skin in the game than ever before. This is therefore the reason behind the "letting it all hang out" comment.

What does this mean for innkeepers?
We cannot simply use the "world wide web" as a source for selling, we need to interact. We need to use the social media platforms of our choice as a water cooler of sorts. Remember the old office water coolers? Beyond a source of gossip they were also place to shoot the breeze, share what we did over the weekend and talk about our upcoming plans for our next getaway or vacation.

Innkeepers need to be at the watercooler 
They need to share bits and pieces about themselves, their lives and their inns, all the while learning about their guests and prospective guests' lives. Reading about what they like and where they like to do it. This is nothing new of course; corporations have been studying and mining the market for decades. Innkeepers need to step up and shoot the breeze online. Isn't this what "social" media is all about, being social? We can no longer wait until they are at our table enjoying our breakfasts and conversation to be social, we must now reach out in advance and invite them over for a cup of tea, albeit online.

Don't get swept out to sea
For the old school innkeeper who has fought against this strong current and found themselves swept out to sea via a riptide, struggling and all alone looking back at the shore and muttering to themselves "How did I get out here? How the heck do I get back?" I recommend they swim with the current, not against it, and before they know it they are standing on the shore.

The Future Looks Bright
Here is the best part about social media, it's free! Yes, for the most part it doesn't cost a penny or a plug nickel. At the moment you can personalize it as you are able to use your own branding on all of your social media sites. This is free and you can post whatever you want, whenever you want. Now Facebook and its funky unpredictable algorithms are another story for another time, but you can surely post as many images, stories, blog posts, tweets, pins, pluses as you wish! 

Brand me Marlo
I recommend you use the force Luke, and make sure that you save any image you use online with your bed and breakfast name. Why should you do this? So when someone searches Google images your photo or photos will come up. I recommend you use as many images as possible on all social media sites as people are visual, people love pictures. Brand them, put your mark on them, if you have a beautiful waterfront location and happen to catch the sunrise over the water then put your B&B or URL right there on the photo and share it online, as many places as possible. Don't put all your eggs in one basket on Facebook, go to Twitter and tweet it, InstagramPinterest, Google Plus. If you can swing it add your location as well to the image saved file name. 

For us here at The Claiborne House B&B we compete for Google space with another Claiborne House B&B in different state (notice I did not spell it out, I actually want The Claiborne House Bed and Breakfast of Virginia to come up first!) Here is what came up in Google Images when I searched for the term "Claiborne House Bed and Breakfast":

Literally pages and pages of images came up in Google Images for our bed and breakfast here in Virginia, with a few random images from the other Claiborne House.

If you don't have a preferred program to add your branding or edit images I suggest you check out picmonkey.com online. This is another free option and you can do photo edits such as cropping, resizing, effects, touch up, text, photo collages and even format a Facebook header for you in seconds.

Consider following Chefforfeng's Marketing blog here and Jim's Marketing blog here for more sound marketing advice. If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing from your favorite social media account. CHEERS!