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Vacation Rental Facebook MarketingSo I have to admit…

I’ve fallen for one particular owner’s Facebook marketing.

So much so that I booked a visit to his property and I’m right now sitting on the deck of an oceanfront terrace writing this post.

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Now, if you follow my work regularly you know that I rarely discuss Facebook.

That I barely log into my Facebook more than once or twice a week.

That I recently exposed this catastrophic truth about how Facebook is now penalizing anyone who asks for Likes or Shares.

Why?

Primarily because as the owner of a small business, I’d gradually come to the conclusion that my very limited time available for generating bookings was not best spent on the Facebook [You can read my summary post here].

Sure it may be good for engagement or keeping in touch with previous guests…

But generating new bookings?

Never really had any success in my years of testing and prodding.

But I have been proven wrong!

 

The Owner & His Strategy

 

Vacation Rental Facebook MarketingThe owner to applaud is Ben Loomis (originally from Chicago) who promotes his project in Panama called Isla Palenque Resort & Vacation Homes with the following Facebook Page:

https://www.facebook.com/IslaPalenque

So what has Ben done that has me so impressed?

Besides successfully building an ultra high-end fleet of homes in the middle of nowhere Panama with very limited Spanish…

Ben launched the “Island Problems” FB series in which he intermittently posts things that “only a whiny island guy” would say…

Things like “Island Problem #27: I wanted to take a picture of the sunset over the ocean, but flocks of birds kept getting in the way.”

And “Island Problem #8: High tide is at six today so I have to make my bonfire to grill the fish I caught under palm trees and not on the open beach.”

Here are a few more examples:

Look at the activity he is getting on these posts!!!

Friends sharing them with other friends is such an amazing way to get your brand established.

So to investigate a little further…Ben told me his Facebook approach is two-fold:

 

1) Crafting The Facebook Post

 

Ben chooses a great photo (“sunset photos as well as photos of cocktails work best”) and gives them a great caption (“the wittier the better.”)

Since they all have the theme “Island Problems” he tends to come up with them simply sitting around or going about his daily routine.

Ben said he spends a total of about 10 minutes per week actually doing the posts.

 

2) Pay For Exposure

 

He boosts the post using Facebook’s paid advertising platform to have it appear in the Facebook feed of all Isla Palenque’s friends and friends of friends. Ben does this to encourage shares, because he believes that “friends word of mouth is much more compelling than just random Likes.”

Seeing as though if he did not pay to boost the post, it would only be seen by his existing fans, Ben spends $5-$10 per post and says that it gets him around 3,000 views as opposed to the 500 the post would normally get otherwise.

 

The Results

 

So, you know that I typically shun FB marketing because it doesn’t result transparently in bookings…

But Ben actually says, “that’s not the point.”

Ben does the post series to build a tribe.

To get his fans and former guests to share the story and beauty that is Isla Palenque (trust me, this place is world class awesome) with their inner circles.

Most likely, no one will see a post and make a booking on the spot.

(For instance, I didn’t do that.)

But rather, Ben says he does this “for the long play.”

To build trust and front-of-mind referrals (“and at a $200 investment plus less than an hour per month, it’s relatively low risk”).

He does this so that when someone like ME is thinking about a vacation to the most spectacular island, guess who they’ll call?

 

Time For Action: Follow Ben’s Advice In 6 Simple Steps

So, loyal readers: who wants to get creative?

I would love to see unique ideas for your own “Island Problems” marketing series in the comments section below…

Whoever has the best sounding series gets a free copy of my ultra limited distribution eBook: Trailblazing.

About the Author Matt Landau

Matt Landau is the Founder of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog and the Inner Circle, two online resources dedicated to helping vacation rental owners and managers generate more bookings. Google+ | More Posts (230)

  • VRFL

    I think that’s a great idea. I have a website for my house in paradise palms Orlando and the domain name is based on keywords http://www.vacationhomeneardisney.com and am now definitely going to create a Facebook page. Plus another factor is that Facebook uses to be a teenager thing, but now all moms and their moms are on Facebook as well.

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      VRFL, how about “You Know You Live Near Disney When…” and then list things like, “You see Mickey Mouse at the grocery store” or “your mailman wears a Pluto hat.” Just an idea that might leverage your strength (being near Disney) with the lighter side of living there…

      • VRFL

        You know Matt, not only does your knowledge of the vacation rental business amaze me, but the fact that you actually take time to read and reply to every comment on your blog…..that is OUTSTANDING…..and of course, your insight and advice are priceless!!

        • loscuatrotulipanes

          My pleasure VRFL!

  • Great idea…I have been using FB for a while, I encourage my guest to post pictures there..then they tag their friends. https://www.facebook.com/BuffaloCreekVacations

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      Love the “Tag a friend” idea Cheryl. Good thinkin!

  • hey… very cool about how you lock the tips section… that’w what I want to learn!

  • I’ve been using our Facebook page-https://www.facebook.com/SeaRanchAbaloneBayVacationHome mostly as a means of sharing the progress of our new VRBO in Sea Ranch, CA. The challenge I have is I live a continent away from our home. While I don’t have a specific theme, I keep the various personas of our renters in mind and try to post to their interests. I have made a few strong participants on our page and have been boosting my posts. I also added an app-fan of the week which proved to be most useful. After the random selection by the app of people who were active on the site, the winner mentioned that they were thrilled especially given they were planning to go to our home in the following week! I decided then that FoW who also have a booking would receive a thank you gift certificate to a local restaurant. It worked out wonderfully for their birthday celebration.

    @VRFL there has been much in the news how they youth are moving away from FB… with many going on to instagram– my new frontier.

    • Regarding posting of photos- The guests I mentioned in my comments took some fabulous photos too. But they posted within their individual comments rather than directly under Photos- which means they get lost in the comments section. So to assure they remain on the main page I repost under my page name and thank them for sharing. One fabulous photo I actually cross posted/shared off our page onto another travel page with over 5K fans that focuses on events/activities/ photos of our region. So it pays to make friends in your FB neighborhood too (under Admin- go to more, click featured and all other pages you like can be selected to roll on your page). The Fan of the Week app provides code to embed the announcement on a blog too. I announced our winner there and shared her great photo

      http://abalonebayhome.blogspot.com/2014/04/meet-our-fan-of-week.html

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      Hey Donna, I like the “progress of our new VRBO” but do you think random vacationers will necessarily want to share those posts? I tend to think that might appeal to you and your family (“let’s watch the process of our home!!!”) as it would if it was my own project. But maybe not necessarily a stranger? I dunno, just a thought.

  • Lynne

    I have really worked at my facebook page over the last couple of months and whilst no bookings yet it has generated two inquiries, from small acorns, oaks grow. I try to post photos and fun things together with bits of useful info. I now have 776 likes the page is https://www.facebook.com/WhisperingPalmsVilla?ref=br_rs I like the idea of creating a simple problem and resolving it so may work on this and without copying run something along these lines. I have not paid for boosts as yet. Our first guests who connected with me via face book have just left so I am hoping I will get a review from them. Social media is big and will get bigger so worth exploring and learning the rudiments of tagging and sharing. Sharing is the icing on the cake it gets your page in front of so many more people. I need to investigate other aspects of Face book and other social mediums. As I too live across the big pond from our home, it can be difficult to come up with new ideas to grab attentions.

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      Great Job Lynne! I would say that photos and fun things together with bits of useful info” might be a little too broad of a theme for this particular series concept. What about narrowing it down into a collection of…say…”Symptoms You Might Have Florida Fever” or “Ways To Cope With Florida Vacation Problems.” In fact, I’m sure that Ben wouldn’t mind if everyone stole his “Island Problems” concept either 🙂

      • Lynne

        Thank you and I also find, sunset, beach photos get the most hits and likes, plus my tropical drink one reached over 2000 people quite incredible. I do like the idea Island problem concept & Florida Fever is jolly good the vacation problem one I think is long but definitely in the running, I know what I shall be doing this evening. On a side note does anyone who has posted want to share pages, we are after all in different locations so not stepping on each others toes?

  • Joe Gatto

    “Tales from el culo del mundo” I’ll have to work on this theme/title of course.
    This is good stuff! I’ve been reading a lot about how to craft headlines lately, so this gives me inspiration and direction to get creative and start writing & testing clever headlines. This also motivates me to take more photos and use them well. You can also reuse the same fotos & captions to put in your Flipkey listing. Whenever I’ve added new fotos daily to Flipkey I’ve gone up higher on the page.

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      Joe, definitely work on that title. And be sure to report back!

  • As a social media/online marketing expert, and someone who books 70% of her vacation home business on Facebook, I absolutely LOVE this! Ben has done exactly what I teach — engage the visitors to your Facebook page! I say bravo! If anyone cares to see my latest free FB training for vacation home owners, you can access it here: http://nogeekismrequired.com/fb-vacation-sign-up

  • Although I have yet to bite the bullet and pay for advertising, we have had several successful campaigns with our Facebook Page called “Anna Maria Island Beach Life”. It has grown from 269 follows a year ago January to over 2,700 today, and we have had several bookings from it.
    Our strategy has changed from solely pushing our vacation rentals (including changing the name of our page) to something that is more generic and focuses on a lifestyle as opposed to advertising.
    We have had several campaigns that we include off and on on our posts; including “Why I love Anna Maria?….because (various reasons)” our announcement series i.e.: “Please remain seated until the seat belt sign is turned off”(view from parasail) and our doctor’s warning label post (view of fish man in the Gulf) which went viral and was seen by over 8,300 people and shared 134 times to date.
    We also include the regular stunning photos with quotes and video clips of the ocean as teasers (We Winter-rupt this programme to bring you this important message”) etc…..
    Since our island is so eco-fragile, we also like to post do’s and don’ts to protect the local area & wildlife from vacationers who are uninformed of local practises.
    And then we slip in our LMD’s & business posts ever so gently.
    It’s been fun to post local advice and has also led us to a stronger network of our local vendors and as a result referrals (which benefit both parties – when you have an “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch my back attitude”), which is difficult if you live outside of the country.
    I have a feeling it will evolve into something more as we get more successful in the future.

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      Nancy, thanks for reminding me. Ben said he’s planning on (once he’s developed a strong enough following of the Island Problems posts) sharing a subtle sell just like the one you mention for LMD. Will be sure to report his findings back to everyone.

  • Another terrific post Matt, and love that you finally found a good justification to add Facebook to our arsenal of marketing tools. We’ve been toying with the idea of generating participation on our FB page by posting photos showing points of interest around town that many tourist may not know about, asking fans to “guess” where the photo was. Sure, everybody can identify the top tourist attractions – but there are so many fantastic hidden gems off the beaten path: outdoor sculptures, amazing views, odd architecture, cool wildlife, places where popular movies scene were filmed, and free activities that are often overlooked by visitors. The idea came a while back when were out for dinner and I spotted an amazing sculpture out the window – one that I had never seen before or even knew existed. I wondered how many guests (or locals for that matter) would expect to see such a thing beauty in that part of town. Ever since, I’ve been making notes of other interesting locales, and hope to translate these “places” into a regular FB series. Still fiddling with a catchy campaign headline:

    Play off the popular “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”
    with something like “Where would you find me in Sunny San Diego?” OR, play off the old game show “Name That Tune” with something like “Name That [site, space, place, etc]?” OR just something simple like “San Diego’s Hidden Gems” or “Off the Tourist Track” Any suggestions?

    • loscuatrotulipanes

      I really like the “Guess the location” idea. In fact, a good friend of mine did that for a while here in Casco Viejo, posting semi obscure shots of special (or new restaurants) and then asking followers to guess where it was located. Got lots of engagement. Definitely a winner! Let’s see if someone can beat this Paula!

  • loscuatrotulipanes

    Just wanted to share another “Facebook Post Series” that I really like and it’s by a restaurant down the street from me called Manolo Caracol. Since they serve interesting 10-course meals, the owner posts pictures of random crazy ingredients that you’ve never seen before and that get people talking: https://www.facebook.com/ManoloCaracol1

  • Doug

    Thanks for sharing, Matt! I’ve had great success creating a following for my vacation rental (www.facebook.com/goldcreekcabin) by posting information about local amenities and local events. I figure if I can create demand for tourism in the area, my property will benefit when people decide to visit the area.

    • Matt (Himself)

      Great stuff Doug. Help, Don’t Sell!

  • BLS

    I gave up on actively using Facebook when I realized my paid advertising on FB was only leading to teenage boys liking my page (I’m in a popular snowboarding destination), and the people actually reading and engaging with my posts were just my family and friends. Neither category, teenage boys or family/friends, are going to drive any revenues for me. So what advice would others give on how to gather the right kind of fans/followers? Do you ask your guests to follow you on Facebook?

    • Patrick Rech

      Hi,

      We put a link on all our emails allowing prospective guests to join our community on Facebook. And for advertising, you can actually set your target when you set up the ad, and ask for the post to be seen only by a certain demographic. We do vacation rentals in Paris, and the large majority of the decision makers when it comes to renting apartments are the “Ladies of the House”. So we target target women in our ads. https://www.facebook.com/ParisForRent?fref=ts

    • You may need to change your content, but I wouldn’t be too quick to think that targeting teenagers is a bad thing. I have found the same thing for our twitter account. Most engagement is high school and college kids. I use this twitter account as a general “help, not sell” account that gives info about our area. I thought interaction with kids was pointless…until I had a few of them tweet “I just talked my parents into going to [my town] next month.” I’m not positive they rented from us. But I believe my posts are driving more visitors to my town and “high tides lift all boats”. Either way, teenage kids talk their parents into things. Trust me, I know!

      However, I really enjoy twitter and would probably do what I do even if I didn’t have a rental business. Twitter is a hobby to me. If you are just doing it earn more money then there may be a better channel for you. Then again…”help, don’t sell”. 🙂

  • Jennifer

    I do a facebook page in conjunction with our listing and have found it to be the hook for getting the reservation. When replying to inquiries I add “you may enjoy checking out our fb page “Los Cocos, Vieques” for more fun pics of the house and island”. I’ve run top 10 lists and tips but I do stink at asking for likes and I’ve never paid for boosts which I will consider after reading this. Thanks!

    • Matt Landau

      Nicely done Jennifer!

  • Suzie Sunshine

    Some very good ideas. I started something similar on my facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/suziesunshinerentals My biggest issue with facebook is that it seems to consume so much time. I have an inspirational page that I spent so many hours growing now up to about 50K people. And that was for free…no monetary gain. I hesitated with a facebook page for my rental because I understood how much time it will take to get off the ground. But as all my competition seems to use Facebook I found I had better jump on the bandwagon. I for now am testing the waters to find out what gets the most activity. I do enjoy your articles as they help to promote ideas.

  • Josh

    The “Share” button is not available for me to view the rest of the post. 🙁

  • Patrick Rech

    We do vacation rentals in Paris and have a page with about 13k followers. We try to keep our Facebook page entertaining and informative. We rarely use it for direct marketing (Help, don’t sell). We do post about our apartments for special occasion. For example, if we add a new place, we will give our followers a sneak peek of the apartment before it is on our site. We post pictures of Paris, which give us some likes, and insiders tips about our City to help travelers (restaurant recommendations, exhibits). We share articles about Paris we see in the news as well. It is fun to experiment and try to find the perfect formula between pictures and articles, entertainment and information. We are pretty much a destination ambassador, but with the opportunity of showing our brand.
    If you pay for advertising on Facebook, you have a lot of control on who you want to target the ad too. If the rental request you get are mostly from Female Head of the Household, target your Facebook posts and ads to them. Use your money wisely !

  • Oh, dear – my post gone…
    Anyway – great post and inspires me to do a lot with marketing your space!

  • To make this even better he should use a hashtag like #IslandProblems or something. He might start a tribe of others using the hashtag.

    • Do you get good result with hashtags on fb? I was using them at the beginning but gave up on it as I didn’t see any diferences..

  • Here’s 3 absolutely critical tips that makes Facebook either a waste of your time or a huge source of good traffic and bookings:

    1) Don’t listen to the out-dated hype of posting 3x a day or even 10 times a week. Facebook’s currency is engagement. If you are posting nonsense or content that is not getting Liked, Shared, Commented and engaged with then you are hurting yourself. The engagement of your past content and how well your fans participate in it dictates whether any future content you post even gets served to anyone’s eyes. Quality is massively more powerful than quantity.

    2) Don’t post something and expect ANYONE to see it. Currently Facebook admits that somewhere around 2% average of your total fans see anything at all that you post. That’s abysmal. However, the more engaging content you post, the more they show it to everyone. One recent post we did for a vacation property had an “organic” reach of 8,000+ (and we have a little over 8,000 total fans). And I attached a screenshot to prove it. Paid boosting to a highly targeted demographic is very cheap and very effective if you know how to do it.

    3) News Flash: Your clients love the beach/mountains/city etc…..but they don’t want to see 27 pictures of a property you are hawking 5 different times a week. Facebook and social media has to be about 90% personal and 10% “advertising”. Biggest mistake we see clients make. Forget about thinking of it like a billboard. Instead think about it like a chat over coffee about all the things we passionately love about the beach/mountains/city etc. That’s why Ben’s Island posts are gold.

    Done right, it creates that tribe that Matt talks about. And if you do it correctly, I can promise you (with data to back it up) that when it comes time for that sales/ad content that you sprinkle in that it results immediately in calls and requests for bookings and property information. There are VR brands out there right now that are doing this well and they are distancing themselves from the pack via social. Don’t discount the value of it….it’s only going to increase.

  • Mark Peter

    I thought it’s a great information to us. See where people are traveling, all around the world. Anyway, thank you very much for this post.!
    Vacation Rentals App

  • Very good post.. what I found that work good (for me, cottage rentals) are meme. Get 90% more interaction with those.. He could try turning those into meme and see how it would go. Last week I got 20000 views on a meme and i paid only 3$ in fb ads 15000 we’re organics. Trying the same this week. It’s good to get some visitors to the website and make the brand more visible but it didn’t convert good for page like..