Pictured above, clockwise from top left: Alex Chamblin, Kathy Deigaard, Thomas Martin, and Cheri Schultz,
In a recent TBMA webinar, panelists focused on Social Media Strategies for resorts. The panel was made up of:
- Alex Chamblin: Senior Vice President, Resort Operations, Capital Vacations
- Kathy Deigaard: Marketing Specialist, Liberte’ Management Group
- Thomas Martin: Board President, Island Club – Seawatch, SC
- Cheri Schultz: Multi-Site General Manager, Capital Vacations
The difference between Social Media and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, are online platforms for promoting brand content and building relationships with your audience, while SEO is about making sure your brand’s digital activity shows up and gets traffic through search engine rankings on platforms like Google. Together, Social Media and SEO are collaborative tools that can boost rankings in search results.
On-going campaign management is a must
Chamblin pointed out that it is “critical for a resort to have an identity and presence.” While a self-managed resort won’t always have the resources to manage social media and SEO, Chamblin said that a third-party provider should be considered for effective management of their efforts.
Schultz suggested, “Recruit a staff member who has the knowledge and time to maintain your page and follow your reviews. It’s important you keep up on those.”
Martin not only agreed on the value of page upkeep, but that reviews should also be answered—whether they are positive or negative.
Timeliness in responding to comments is essential according to Deigaard. This makes followers feel appreciated and heard. “That’s a big part of an effective social media strategy,” she said.
How social media platforms are being used
In looking at Airbnb and VRBO, there was a difference in choices of social media platforms, with Airbnb using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, while VRBO uses Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.
After researching a few legacy resorts, a variety of choices turned up:
Legacy Resort 1: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TripAdvisor
Legacy Resort 2: Facebook, Instagram
Legacy Resort 3: Facebook, Twitter, Yelp
Diegaard confirmed that Facebook is the most prominent of all social media platforms because it is used by people of all ages. “It’s also one of the easiest to advertise on. Designing an ad and publishing it is quite simple. Staff members would be able to learn about social media advertising fairly quickly. Those managing your campaign will quickly see that Facebook coincides with Instagram. They work in tandem”, she said.
Choosing your content
In planning your social media strategy, avoid coming across as “selling your product”, which could be a turn-off. Diegaard suggests focusing on fun things that are available in your area. “Promote local events, local activities, and places to visit,” she said. “Your word-of-mouth efforts increase your reach. Come to our resort, the place across the street has great food.”
While Schultz agrees about maintaining on-going posts about activities, she also highly recommends sharing things that are taking place on-site at the resort. “If the pool and fitness center are opening up, share the details they need and want to hear,” she said. And be sure to not only do it in a timely manner, but make sure the information is accurate.
Chamblin adds that individuals appreciate video and pictures more than narratives and promotions. He proposes finding a strategic way to work with each individual site. “We’re always educating owners on platforms they have access to,” he said. “We get a lot of insight from our Boards and put their plans in action.”
Martin shares a great way to get content on online – firsthand from owners and guests. He said that with staff out and about around the resort, they will see people taking a picture, jump in, and take the photo for them and say, “Post it on Trip Advisor”, one of the platforms he prefers. He also suggests email blasts. “Is there something happening on the island that we can point them to?” he asked. “Is there some kind of family event you can go to? Everything is done with social distancing, but it’s working out very well.”
Using social media to engage your resort employees and its impact on rental revenue
Using the right brand representation on all social media is what Chamblin recommends. For example, having a resort Facebook page which encourages owners to travel. He also recommends being able to utilize social media to highlight associates by “featuring your employees as a centerpiece to your social media presence.”
Martin agreed about the value in recognizing a key staff member who goes out of his or her way to do something that’s appreciated, like helping with luggage or groceries. “We’ll turn that into something positive on social media through Facebook or Trip Advisor,” he said. “This is a place I want to be. This is my home away from home. That’s the message the staff gets out to the owners and it absolutely works.”
With all the positives of social media, it certainly has a large impact on rental revenue. “You have an opportunity to reach a lot of people,” Schultz said. “You have a lot of people who like to communicate through social media. Having the information out there, and the right person to respond, helps with your rental revenue. People like to click a mouse and not have to pick up a phone. If you can use social media to make reservations, you can generate positive results. Our revenue has made a big increase.”
Deigaard concurred that most people are using their computers and because of that, rental revenue has gone up. “They have more downtime during the pandemic,” she said. “Most people are not able to go out. They’re spending a lot of time on their devices. Social media has increased drastically. It’s increased the rental revenue. For the times we are in now, it’s a huge factor in advertising. People are online more so than finding something through print ads.”