What Vacation Rental Managers need to know.
Using social media has always been an important way to market your business. But now Facebook and Twitter are taking out the middle man when it comes to converting exposure into actual sales. Both platforms are trialing a ‘Buy Now’ button that is to feature on certain products. It allows the user to buy straight from Facebook, without having to go the seller’s site. Whilst initially launching for clothing, charities and music, we are looking at how this feature could impact the vacation rental industry if it is rolled out across the board.
It means that the emphasis would be even more based on eye-catching posts. The type of images that make people want to book right there and then. This could be a great opportunity to secure some last-minute bookings by using social media. The majority of last minute bookings come from mobile phones and the majority of Internet access with phones is for social media. Great potential to get bookings.
When thinking about booking a holiday, the logical thing seems to sit at your computer, do your research and book your trip using an established portal. The apartment in Portugal that you ‘liked’ on Facebook or retweeted may be forgotten by this point. There is a tendency to think mobile phones are for more frivolous or perhaps less expensive purchases than a holiday. This may be down to security. Or possibly, the general human assumption is that if something is quick and easy it is somehow less trustworthy or valid. There seems to be an idea that we’re missing out on the more difficult but ultimately, more rewarding experience somewhere else. Will people opt to buy things without searching competitors, checking prices or even reading reviews? This trial is going to put this to the test.
There are currently third-party 'Book Now' plug-ins available but this will the first time that Twitter and Facebook have provided this service themselves. Having the established and dependable platforms of Facebook and Twitter will increase the trust from end users. If there is the option to buy there and then, it will remove that step between advertising your properties and people having to visit your site to book. This, and the current lack of mobile-optimized sites means that this feature could see a surge in last-minute mobile bookings for vacation rentals. The initial trials will see if Facebook and Twitter can get its users to make the leap from socialising to considering social media as a viable place to make purchases.
Despite this potential new development, you will need to remember that social media is not primarily a sales tool. It is a great way to advertise and get your business out there, but people do not go on social media for the hard sell. It is still for people, rather than business. You will need to post a mix of content and advertising. It is also a visual medium; people engage with photo and video more than text. Consider your timing too, Monday morning has a different feel to Friday afternoon. Long, wordy sales pitches are unlikely to be well received on a monday morning so keeping things light will be more likely to attract sales through this feature.
As a vacation rental manager this would be a great opportunity to use bright, appealing images of your properties to your advantage. A well timed post about a beach near your property on a rainy morning could be the catalyst that makes someone on social media book spontaneously. The key will be letting your business speak for itself. Using the tools to show why you are passionate about what you do and letting users decide for themselves has always been the best strategy for social media. This button shouldn’t change how successful businesses operate on social media, it should just reinforce that the links between social media and business are getting stronger.
If the ‘Buy Now’ feature does take off within the travel industry, It remains likely that the change would be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. However, it serves to show that social media practises are changing, and business needs to change with them. By keeping up with this industry you can make sure you are the first to reach a lot of people in an individual and effective way.