With over 7 million listings worldwide, Airbnb is a competitive space.
Some hosts like to leave all the marketing work to the OTA, but others like to implement their own vacation rental marketing to increase their chances at survival.
Working on Airbnb SEO isn't always enough. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using a social media marketing strategy.
We look at a case study today about how one couple got to 85-95% occupancy during the low season using Instagram.
Joshua is a new Airbnb host in northwest Arkansas. He and his wife relocated to the area near the Ozark Mountains 14 months ago and purchased an A-frame cabin with the intention of listing on Airbnb. After a year spent renovating the space and documenting the journey on Instagram, they are enjoying 85-90% occupancy just two months into their hosting career—in the off season!
If you don’t have a vacation rental website or social media presence, you’re relying completely on booking platforms such as Airbnb, VRBO, and Booking.com to promote your Airbnb. This means your success on these platforms is dependent on how well you optimize your listing’s SEO. With a lot of hosts competing on price and new listings being created every day, hosts with higher-priced properties may not get as many views (and bookings) as cheaper properties.
Social media gives hosts the opportunity to interact with a global audience and build relationships with guests before and after their stays.
We wrote the ultimate guide for vacation rental marketing in 2020
According to Statista, over 90% of businesses use social media to promote their business, with over 70% of them citing social media as having helped them increase brand awareness, generate leads, and develop loyal fans.
For Airbnb hosts, this means more people seeing, booking, and re-booking (i.e. repeat customers) at your property.
There’s a lot of social media sites out there. But should you be on every single one of them?
It’s more important to optimize and find the ones that matter the most. In other words, you want to promote your Airbnb on the platforms that your ideal guests are using. If you have a vacation rental in a popular tourist destination such as Bali, it’s going to be more useful being on Facebook and Instagram than on LinkedIn.
It’s probably a good idea to create a separate account for your vacation rental space.
This not only ensures that people can see your content without having to be “friends” with you on Facebook but also that your content is relevant to your audience.
If you post about your vacation rental from your personal page, you're only promoting to friends and family. And you may just annoy them with it. Promote your Airbnb on a separate page, targeted to FPGs.
Because a lot of social media is about visual content (especially Instagram and Pinterest), these platforms can be great for sharing photos that highlight the aesthetics of your home (which is especially useful if you have a nice view or amazing decor).
You shouldn’t just share pictures and information about your place. You want to promote your Airbnb, but also provide value to your audiences.
It can come off as spammy to your followers if that’s all you post. You should try to post about topics that’ll engage past, current, and potential guests. For instance, you can feature notes that guests have left behind. You can also share tips and recommendations (e.g. places to visit) that guests can use when making vacation plans.
Ideally, your posts should evoke some kind of emotion within your followers. You want them to be able to visualize living at your property. When deciding what to post, you should ask yourself the following questions:
For instance, if you want people to think of your property as homely and charming, the first step is using the right decor to make your home seem lively and inviting. Once that’s done, you can take photos of the decor and ask yourself if any of those photos evokes the feeling of being in a home away from home. Then, you can post the ones that do that the best.
Unfortunately, there’s no exact formula you can use to determine the best kinds of posts to share on social media. In order to be successful on social media, you have to be courageous and not afraid of trying new things. This can mean posting memes, quotes, or even videos of events happening at your property.
You should try to respond to all reviews (if you’re on Facebook), comments, and messages in a timely manner. After all, social media allows you to interact with potential guests. This implies a two-way communication and not just you posting content once a week and ignoring everything your followers post.
At the end of the day, social media is about building a human connection with your followers. You want to show them that you’re more than just a rental property. You can do this by sharing about yourself and your personality, so people can connect with you and your property (which is crucial in building a relationship with your guests).
In a previous podcast episode, I talked with Tarus and Yolanda, the owners of The Nelson Manor, about their social media marketing efforts. I thought they were doing especially well on Instagram, so I wanted to breakdown what they were doing.
When you look at their Instagram, you’ll see that they have several stories featured on their profile.
You can use story highlights to humanize your property. You could feature some behind-the-scenes clips of you giving a tour of your property or even include photos of past guests’ reviews.
When it comes to posting, Tarus and Yolanda are great at switching up their content. As you can see in the photo below, they alternate between posting about their property, local recommendations, personalities, and guest experiences.
They also do a good job of featuring past guests by posting their reviews. This not only makes previous guests feel special but also provides social proof for other followers (which may help convince them to book at your property).
Another way to build relationships with guests is through email. Email provides the opportunity for one-on-one communication, where your guests can interact directly with you (even if the email is a newsletter you send out to hundreds of other people).
It's hard to consistently communicate with your guests and promote your Airbnb listing without email addresses. So, what’s the best way to collect emails?
Unfortunately, not all booking platforms share guests’ email addresses when they book. While VRBO does share that information, Airbnb does not. But, what you can do is contact them after they’ve confirmed their booking and ask them if they’d like to provide their emails to stay in touch. You can also incentivize them by saying that you offer discounts for future stays through email. This gives you the opportunity to start building a relationship and encourage repeat customers.
You can also collect emails by creating a Facebook group for your property (e.g. “Friends of [Your Cool Property/Brand Name]”). You can set it up such that you ask guests for their emails when they request to join your group.
Alternatively, if you meet guests in-person, you can ask them to provide their emails when they check-in. This also gives you a great opportunity to chat with them and build a relationship.
While the ideal email frequency is guest-dependent, I’d recommend sending out an email to past guests maybe once a month and perhaps a bit more often during holiday seasons. You could email past guests about giveaways, discounts and sales, and recommendations (e.g. places to visit or events to attend). For instance, you could have a Black Friday sale to incentivize past guests to book again.
It’s important that you avoid spamming your past guests with emails because that’s the fastest way to make them unsubscribe (which will make it a lot harder for you to turn them into repeat customers). You should try coming from a place of “I have an offering here that I want to share with you because it might be beneficial for you”.
When it comes to diversifying your marketing channels, you should also consider getting your own website. This can help with building credibility and getting more bookings. And if you don’t have any web design experience, you can check out tools such as Lodgify to help you create your own vacation rental website.
While social media and email is great for attracting new guests and keeping past guests engaged, it’s only going to work if you have amazing hospitality. After all, great hospitality helps bring people back. It’s a lot easier to get repeat bookings from guests if they had a good experience. It also doesn’t hurt that they’ll tell their friends about you if you have a great guest experience.
We wrote the ultimate guide for vacation rental marketing in 2020