I’ve had many innkeepers ask if I could give some additional ideas for what to post online on social media beyond the above idea, so here goes…
Well, let’s see, posting to get people to make a reservation for most inns and B&Bs is pretty much a given that it’s not going to help right now unfortunately 🙁
So….what is an innkeeper to do? Here we have a captive audience of people at home, many using social media quite a bit more than normal, what do we post…..
You can certainly post soft-sell posts, which reference your inn, people staying or coming to stay at your inn and upcoming events. But there is quite a bit more you could consider doing. The key is getting your name, your brand and your B&B in front of the eyes now.
What you are doing or going to do in the community to help. I know several B&Bs that have volunteered to help batch cook for soup kitchens. What can you or will you do to help. People love seeing people help the community and helping will come back in spades.
Testimonials and reviews from past guests.
Recipes you make normally (with lots of pictures) tie some quotes from past reviews in there too.
If you are learning a new skill or more “about “something (highly recommended) write about it!
Tips on recipes substitutions and also cooking recipes or tips that people can do with limited ingredients.
Local news (and other news) of people reaching out and doing something nice for others. Everyone needs the positive right now.
Photos of things in the inn, not necessarily rooms, but closeups and write a story about them.
Example: This great fern print was given to us several years ago by an artist that stayed with us for several days, she had come to speak at our local Audubon about edible wild plants. We love the local Audubon which has some great ongoing programs for the public, so when you come to visit us next make sure you check it out! Sharon Audubon Center https://sharon.audubon.org/
Photos of outside the inn, wide shots and closeups too, as Spring comes, flowers and other plants are going to be coming up and blooming, sharing beauty is always a positive. People need it and will continue to need it.
Test recipes (if you are going to or can play with new ones) ask for feedback on posts, what do people think? Or just post the link and add some text.
Do online cooking tutorials or demonstrations. Live stream it if you are up for it.
Do you have other skills or other hobbies you can share online?
If you have dogs or cats (or other animals) at your inn and you are not already using them for marketing, now is the time.
Talk about some of the things you have in the inn and WHY you like them and use them. You use Molton Brown, do some posts about the products, give some history about it, tell people WHY you picked that line. You have a local painting company that you support, write some posts about them, help others and the return will come back when it’s time. (Don’t forget to take some pics from around the Inn)
While I normally steer innkeepers away from being too personal in their posts, yes you want some personality to come through and be engaging, but not share TMI (Too much personal information, I had someone ask me yesterday what that meant), speaking from the heart is not going to hurt here. This is community time, not sales time.
I think one of the bright spots in all of this hardship and I am already starting to see it locally and across professions and groups, is more people coming together (while practicing social distancing which is ironic) and working together for common goals and the common good. I hope that when all of this is passed, that this continues.
What can you do to get ahead NOW?
Look through past posts on Facebook that were non-sales related or soft sale related and recycle them. Go ahead and mention it as a blast from the past post too if you would like.
Get ahead and write up posts for when this is over, print out some marketing calendars and pre-select when and what days and times you are going to post.
This will give you a basis for how many and what kind of posts to come up with.
This is something innkeepers should be doing anyway but practicing this now if you are not already doing it, gets you into the gear of when things are back to normal and then you will hopefully start doing it automatically.
If nothing else at least do the holidays, any big events that you are pretty sure are going to still be on, i.e. after August? September? And any posts for specials or offers you do every year.
So, if you do teas start getting ahead of pre-writing your posts and when we are back and busy again, you have them all set and maybe a little extra time to get ahead on future ones too at that point
Get photos together, date them and label them, date the posts and put them in order, in a folder or folders where you can find them again and if you use the Facebook Scheduling tool, go ahead and schedule them in.
Write up your posts in MS word, Notepad, Google docs or however you want to organize them, there is no bad or wrong way to do this.
Every year in the Lake Sunapee Area of New Hampshire, we have the Annual Craftsmen’s Fair. Usually, B&Bs and hotels and motels in the area are completely booked up. This year (if it happens, fingers crossed) it will be August 1st to the 9th, 2020. Hundreds of master craftsmen will showcase their one-of-a-kind arts and crafts at the Mount Sunapee Resort in Newbury, NH.
This is the kind of event that most properties will post online about at least once if not more leading up to the event. So, to use this “as an example”.
The start date is August 1st. In a normal season an inn would start posting about this mid-summer and in this particular case (depending on how things are going) we will stick with this for this example. I as an innkeeper want to get ahead of the game, I either have photos from past Craftmans fairs AND/OR I can buy them from a stock photo company AND/OR I can reach out to some of the 100s of craftsmen who will be there and request permission to use some of their photos and make sure it’s noted that you will be giving them credit and a link back to their websites.
You don’t have to follow this order or format, this is just to give you an example of pre-writing up posts to get ahead.
First post: We are so looking forward to the annual Craftman’s Fair this year. Last year we had guests from all over Etc. Etc.
Second post: write about one of the artists, or do multiple posts about the artists, make sure you link to their websites and social media if they have them, Etc. Etc.
Third post, talk about something you bought for the inn last year from the fair (with photo or photos of same) Etc. Etc.
Fourth post, By the way we fill up fast, make your reservation soon Etc. Etc.
Fifth post, Every year we volunteer at the chamber booth, we love doing it because we meet so many people. Etc.
I find it easiest when you are ahead of this to split your posts into topics/themes and put them in different documents. I like to use Google Docs for this https://www.google.com/docs/about/ so you can create both folders for the documents and associated folders, but you can also have one central document (ie your marketing schedule) linking to multiple sub-documents.
I also like to keep an online document in Google Sheets that link directly to websites or online tools that I use very frequently. Yes you can bookmark things, but I gave up when I had hundreds of things bookmarked and even putting bookmarks into folders was a pain because you had to remember which folder they were in. Using the Google docs suite (hey it’s free) to help get organized can be very useful for doing your online marketing. It is pretty much just like MS Office but even a bit more simplified.
I do not know which direction things will take us in, but learning more about social media, how to use the platforms, have a strategy can be useful for any type of business, so if you end up going from innkeeper to realtor or another profession at some point, these are all useful transferable skills. In Restore, Engage, Aggregate, De-stress and You for Innkeepers. I added quite a few links to other posts with resources, so if you are looking for something specific you may find it there and if you can’t find it please let me know and I will track something down for you.
Go forth and get ahead so you can get some heads in beds when the time comes. New Hampshire my home state just issued a stay at home order, so at least maybe I’ll get to catch up on some more blogs myself 🙂
And on a very personal note: I would pretty please ask, if people catch grammatical errors on anything I put out, please be kind enough to let me know by email or direct message instead of posting something in a forum. I do run these through grammarly and if time I ask someone else to proof them. I am dyslexic which quite frankly is non of most people’s damn business but getting snarky comments about a phrase “not being grammatically correct” tends to get me down especially when I am trying to help and working a bazillion hours overtime. ☹
Restore, Engage, Aggregate, De-stress and You = READY
I was talking to one of my innkeeper friends this morning and she said, “It’s funny, we are very depressed because no bookings and everyone has canceled on us for the next few months, not sure how we are going to make it”, but on the bright side, and that I could relate having worked in restaurants for 20 years, this is the first time in 4 years they have had a weekend off.
We ended up talking for a while early this morning and she asked if I could come up with a list of suggestions, not just marketing, but some marketing direction as well as other thoughts, of some things innkeepers could do to be proactive in this very unexpected downtime.
So here goes…….
Are you READY?
In popular Prepper jargon, we have reached S.H.T.F. status (S.H.T.F: Sh*t hits the fan (alternate: stuff hits the fan)) for the innkeeping industry.
I would prefer to think of this as W.A.A.I.T.T. (We are all in this together and “wait” as in this to shall pass).
Well, what to do in downtime? Back in 2012, I had written, Why it pays to sleep around for bed and breakfast owners, I bring this up because I had wanted to do a follow-up article late last year about a place I had stayed at that was top notch but having the owners/innkeepers/management stay in each room would have taken it up even one more notch.
Needless to say, it’s one of several hundred blog posts started and life (as an innkeeper you can relate) and work got in the way of writing it fully. But every property can up their game a bit.
Now: Step One, Take a vacation in your own inn, but use it to fix things, observe things, make them better…..
While your inn is either closed to the public or does not have reservations I would challenge innkeepers to pack their bags for a two-night minimum stay including incidentals, i.e. your big bottle of shampoo and can of shaving cream, go ahead and pack it so you are not using the in-room amenities, but also because it’s not like TSA is going to nab you for bringing anything over 3.4 oz. ?
Pack as if you were going on vacation and also as if you were going on a business trip, cell phones, cords, laptops, the works.
With one prerequisite, you need a notepad in the loo and a notepad in the main bedroom and any other rooms (example a suite with sitting area) with writing utensils, and no it’s not in case you run out of toilet paper. ?
Unpack or get comfortable just like you would if going to stay at another B&B. Then observe, REALLY observe. See those small ding marks on the baseboards? You’ve cleaned and dusted them a million times and noticed them but not “really” noticed them, fix it now.
This is what the notepaper is for, make notes if you can’t fix something right at that very moment and make sure you get back to it and do it this time.
In the bathroom is there room for your makeup case and your partner’s knickknacks on the sink and or shelf? Is the lighting really “that” good?
When you take a shower, can you reach the towel rack easily and is there a place to hang it to dry that works?
I’ve lost track of places that have hooks galore in the bathroom but oddly enough there seems to be some sort of magnetic polarity between the hook and towel as they never seem to want to stick together…… Make notes, now is the time to move that rack, etc.
Breakfast time. Go make breakfast as if you would for guests, then go BE the guest, sit at every seat and every table and eat and observe.
If you have a purse, bring it, is there a place to put it or can you hang it on a chair? If you are going to go out right after, bring your coat, is there room between chair and next chair to put it comfortably? And observe, observe, observe.
This reminds me of a friend who had an inn up here in NH, she had glowing reviews but very occasionally an odd one, not bad just a little odd. We did the dining room flow test (i.e. how people move around and spatial distance between tables and chairs to walk as well as check sightlines, one table of two had a viewpoint from a guest’s perspective right into the little bathroom that adjoined the dining room. What do you see? Test every chair and every point of view.
Wait…..before you take a bite of the food you made, whip out your cell phone and take a slew of photos, be one of those obnoxious Instagrammers.
And make a note, is the lighting good enough for decent photos? If not, what can you do to fix? Bonus, now you have extra photos for marketing……..Food Photography Tips for Bed and Breakfasts might be helpful if you want to up the visual game a bit.
Now go clean up…….or don’t, remember you ARE supposed to be on vacation so do it later. Make it a working vacation. Go take a walk around your neighborhood. I don’t know how many innkeepers I’ve talked to that either have never actually walked to what is around them for a several mile radius or they go out and they walk, but just to walk, i.e. go out and get exercise, but don’t actually take a lot of notice of what is around them.
Take your phone with a full charge and go and take A LOT of pictures, make some notes, actually see and observe the lovely things locally to you that you probably never noticed before. The hidden springhouse covered by wisteria, the small park bench hidden behind the bushes. That great little antique shop (now closed because of the crisis but will reopen) but you never knew or noticed because they don’t have a presence online. Take MORE pictures and don’t forget to wave to your neighbors and share a smile.
Go back to the inn, rinse, repeat for a few days.
Now do a deep clean of the room, wash all linens and suggest bagging them in plastic until the next usage. Document document, document the cleaning of the room so when we get through this and reopen, A. you are all set to go and B. You have proof (take some pictures too) that the room has been deep cleaned and sanitized and that you, the innkeeper were the last person to stay in it.
Now go on vacation in another room, rinse, repeat.
And do some of these other things while you have some downtime in between having weekends off for the first time since you became an innkeeper. I say that tongue in cheek, but I reference what my friend the innkeeper said to me at the start of this post….
Work on a cookbook.
Do some videos, do A LOT of videos, small 1-2 minute clips, virtual tours are good, do a video walkthrough of your inn with commentary or some videos of the area, with commentary. Learn how to leverage Youtube. A great resource for learning Youtube is Youtube Creator Academy, it’s free and it’s super helpful.
Test some new recipes out, take LOTS of pictures. If you don’t have the ingredients or don’t want to use up food, hey you have to eat anyway, but if you don’t want to experiment now, go research some new ones to try when you are back up and with guests again.
I love to find new recipes or at least in my case, some ideas from:
And many more, both Taste Cooking and Epicurious have great email newsletters with recipe suggestions.
Create a marketing plan for the rest of the year and start compiling content and pictures. We hopefully will be over this by midsummer or hopefully sooner, what holiday can you target and get pre-prepared for right now?
One of the biggest complaints I hear from innkeepers when talking about planning their marketing and social media, is “we don’t have time”. You do now, take advantage of it!
While restaurants and other businesses may be closed or operating in a limited capacity, now is the time to make those good relationships and network, pick up the phone, learn a new skill and try video conferencing. Making those valuable connections and do some deals so that when everything picks back up, your inn and the businesses you and your guests engage with are all ready to rumble.
Do a deep clean of the inn, and I know some innkeepers are not able to find cleaning supplies, do some outreach to a local restaurant who may be closed or operating in a limited way, do they have some cleaning supplier (or even food if needed) they want to barter or sell?
Put a plan in place for if this happens again or something like it. While it’s too late to get business interruption insurance, for example, investigate who offers it and rates and be prepared.
And most of all, while we are all supposed to be practicing social distancing, it doesn’t mean you have to practice social isolation. Reconnect with some old friends online, make some new. Start some virtual networking meetings. An innkeeper told me they are now doing virtual tea parties as well as virtual happy hours, sounds like fun to me!
Threat or Opportunity? I’d say a bit of both. People are scared. I’ll admit I am one of those people that has that nagging feeling in the back of my skull going, “pay attention, pay attention!” and I admit we are prepared to go for several weeks if under self (or otherwise) quarantine if need be. But we prepared for that in advance because we have been through situations like being out of power for more than a week in below zero temperatures several times among other life events. It only takes one life learning lesson to forever be ready for this.
Families and businesses need to think about these things, up here in New Hampshire, while we are less likely to have a major earthquake (it could happen) we could have floods, we could have forest fires if we have another severe dry season. A business needs to be prepared. I won’t parrot the hundreds of websites telling you what you should have to stock up on because Google is your best buddy for that, please don’t go and buy up all the toilet paper in the store, others need it to (bonus for innkeepers though you probably already have a pretty good backstock) but regardless of whether the virus scare affects your property or not, this is a good reminder that you should have those supplies in place anyway.
The virus scare if you think about it, isn’t any different from a major tornado, flood, hurricane or earthquake affecting a property. A bit better actually, any of those listed can result in a loss not just of business revenue but of a property itself. At least this is just lost revenue, your property could have washed away in a flood…… Not to make light of this but to put it into perspective.
I think lodging facilities have some opportunities here that they should take advantage of.
One is educating the public about how a B&B is also your home, you as owners/occupiers/innkeepers are good about sanitation over and above a hotel or motel or Airbnb anyway in a normal situation. I’d much rather stay at B&B normally anyway but especially right now rather than a hotel not just by choice but because I’m pretty sure it’s a heck of a lot more sanitary then your average hotel is at the moment.
Two, yes revenue may and probably will go down for the next few months as travelers are canceling vacations and business trips, but this presents a unique opportunity to capture eyeballs online. If I had to self-quarantine and I could not work at home for whatever reason, I will be in the category of what are most people going to be doing and spending time on if stuck at home or elsewhere? On Social Media of course.
The average innkeeper does not have a ton of time to leverage social media because they are working 24/7, think of this as mud season in New England, it’s the slow time of year when you can get caught up with things. Funny enough and lucky enough at least for New Englanders its almost mud season, so the timing could be a lot worse.
Use this opportunity to start pre-writing posts, take more pictures of your breakfast and your property and planning out some marketing for the rest of the year. When and I will stick with “when” everything is sorted out, people will want to get out and resume normal activities, including putting those vacation plans that got canceled back into consideration. Getting in front of their eyeballs when they are literally a captive audience is a great opportunity.
If you don’t know how to use a social media platform, Google is your friend, but so are the channels themselves, there are so many free resources out there to help a business owner better leverage themselves online. Take the opportunity to educate yourself a bit more instead of letting stress overwhelm you, as that doesn’t accomplish anything (aside from weakening your immune system) so one more reason to keep yourself occupied. Again not trying to make light of the situation but being realistic.
So what happens if it doesn’t blow over, what if we have a major pandemic? I don’t know, no one can know but isn’t it better to be proactive for when it does blow over rather than saying if it doesn’t?
There has been a lot of articles reiterating the same thing, wash your hands, sanitize, etc, yes please do all of those but not many articles out there as yet with actual good suggestions on how and what to do to weather this situation. Here are two recent ones of note that I would suggest a read through though because I think they had some good ideas for innkeepers to take note of:
How Can Hotels Survive the Coronavirus? Some good advice if your property is concerned: Six lessons emerge. All of her touchpoints are important but I think Be wary of broad-scale discountingand Don’t cut your marketing budget (and I’ll add to this, even if you are not spending money, the marketing budget is your own time, it’s ROTI, Return on Time Investment, boost that, not cut it) are two things to take special note of.
Does Your Property Have A Coronavirus Strategy? Is another suggested read. Of note here (and he also recommends staying away from the deep discounting) Mandate a “single voice policy” for all employees and departments (yourself) and Provide honest and up-to-date information regarding the situation in the hotel location/destination are both important for a property to note.
ALP has published several blog posts with resources and we will continue to keep it updated with new articles and resources as well.
What else can you do in the interim, I personally love the Beechmere Inn’s approach to this, educating their guests about what the facility is doing to help protect guests, but I also had a question raised by an innkeeper client of mine, “Well what happens if you still have a guest catch the virus (at your inn) or a guest infects others?” Will I get sued?” “Americans are so sue happy, what do you think?”. I’ll be honest I don’t know if someone came to stay at an inn and they were sick with any kind of issue and infected others the impetuous should be on them, but I am not a lawyer.
If you did everything you could to protect guests you did all you could. I’ll take a recent example of the first case diagnosed in New Hampshire for this. The person was told to stay home, he did not and went out and went to a private event and infected at least one if not more (news developing apparently) people, the facility this happened at is handling this well and being proactive. But that kind of thing is just stupidity at its finest and you can only do what you can do.
I don’t believe in fear-mongering and I don’t think it helps if innkeepers are posting all over the place about this, but I don’t think it hurts to help educate guests now and in the future about the safety of your facility, it can be done in a polite and in a no scare tactic way manner.
When life goes back to normal, people are probably still going to stay fairly local, so if you have not yet invested time into researching and targeting the staycation/localcation market, now is a good time to spiff up on that as well. Use this as an opportunity to get your property out there. Run a SWOT analysis on what your B&B can do to mitigate and potentially profit from this long term when we recover from this, and I’ll stick with the “when” not the “if”. In the famous words of Yoda (if he was a marketing guru) “Marketing Never Stop”.
And as an additional note (updated 3/11/2020) I take this very seriously, my own business along with many others besides just the hospitality industry is, and will continue to be, affected. Having several large projects put on hold for an indefinite period of time IS very concerning, but I am going to use this as an opportunity to learn and increase my knowledge of things that can help myself and my clients in the future. If we go down the rabbit hole of depression and inaction, when recovery time comes around, it makes it that much harder to rebound when it’s time.
We do have over 400 posts on our old blog, ranging from hospitality management, to recipes, to social media for innkeepers and more. Don't forget to check it out in our archives at https://chefforfeng.wordpress.com.