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. ☹
Did you know you can download a full backup of your Facebook business page, including all the photos, videos and posts you have posted since you started your page?
Why back up?
Ever look for that illusive post, you KNOW you posted awhile back but couldn’t find?
Many innkeepers upload great photos of the inn and the surrounded area to their business page, but never back it up to their computer for use in other social media, or to have a copy for their media kit or other advertising?
Have you uploaded regular videos to your page, or Facebook live videos and want to re-purpose them? Social Media Examiner (one of my favorite sites) wrote a great post last year: How to Repurpose Your Facebook Live Videoswhich gives some great ideas about re-purposing and gives instructions for downloading one video at a time, but downloading the archive takes a step out.
You can also download individual albums, which I would also recommend doing frequently if you don’t want to download a full archive.
Downloading the full archive though is a piece of cake, once you select “download the archive” it will walk you through some additional steps and it will also send you an email letting you know the download is ready.
Don’t forget you can also back up your personal Facebook account photo albums, which is also worth doing occasionally, especially mobile uploads.
Facebook may also be rolling out a new feature for Facebook admins, I have only seen this option from new pages that have been created, but I hope it’s not just a test, but something they will add to all pages for the admins, it would be great to be able to invite connections and give them a more personalized invite than just “like this page”. When you receive an invite to like a page, a small text editable invite looks like it can be attached to it.
Last week a rather nasty article got published online by Country Living Magazine, 6 Reasons Why I Will Never Stay at a Bed and Breakfast Again. I am not even going to go there in terms of what I think about the article or the author, read it yourself and draw your own conclusions, aside from wondering why it would take 2 years to write a snarky snippy article about a B&B you stayed at. There is always Tripadvisor to vent your wrath on (and no review there at that time mind you.)
The article hit a nerve with me as well, as I work with and within the industry, I work with PAII which has been around for a long time, but mostly it hit a nerve because many of my personal clients are B&Bs, and very many of my friends are innkeepers, and that article portrays ALL B&Bs in a bad light, painting a very broad brush stroke across an industry that makes itself unique through it’s individuality. Plus using horrible Getty stock images to illustrate the article (and realistically people may think they were actual pictures of the inn) is pretty darn insulting. (unlike the stock photos in that piece, the photos in this are from real B&Bs, the top is from the 1896 House in Williamstown, MA, the others are from the Glynn House Inn in Ashland, NH and the Highland Lake Inn in Andover, NH, and I took them so I know they are realistic and true images of the B&Bs).
B&Bs are all unique, a few can remind one of an elderly auntie’s house, but others are art deco, to mid-century mod, to Victorian and some are much more modern. I’ve stayed in hundreds and hundreds of B&Bs over the years, and every single one is different.
In all of those stays I only have had two not so great experiences, one was at an inn someone else booked for me (and it would not have been my first choice based on their website, and looking at their reviews, and it was not horrible, just not my cuppa tea) and the second was the upstairs room above ours ended up being inhabited by a couple of drunken revelers who were practicing the art of gliding hotel (or B&B) furniture for most of the night, this was no fault of the B&B itself, just bad guests.
The quote from Terri Petrovits commentary, “Some people aren’t ‘B&B people,” is entirely true. People who like to stay at B&Bs, like to stay at them for a reason, because they are all unique, and you can find one or two, or a dozen to suit, where ever you like all over the world. Horsefarm B&Bs, stately historic homes filled with antiques, pet friendly B&Bs, Nautical B&Bs, upscale Lux B&Bs, Rustic B&Bs, B&Bs filled with knickknacks, Romantic B&Bs, Themed B&Bs and B&Bs filled with carefully chosen décor that is clean, sleek and modern. You name it, there is a B&B out there to suit, and if none of them do, then stay in a cold, boring hotel, and or a unregulated unsafe Airbnb, your just not a B&B person and that’s ok ?
I’d just like to counterpoint some things from the article “6 Reasons Why I Will Never Stay at a Bed and Breakfast Again” so that when you are looking for a B&B to stay at, you know what to expect when you stay and book at one.
First “The early bird gets the scones”. B&Bs have set hours for a reason for breakfast, most will be very accommodating if you need to leave early, or miss breakfast, but you do need to try to let them know prior. Innkeepers work pretty much 24/7, when they are done with breakfast, they have to clean up, make beds, clean rooms, take reservations, engage with guests, and all the rest of the million things one has to do to run a business full time, they can’t just sit around in the kitchen all day waiting for stragglers. Running a real B&B bears absolutely no relation to the Newhart TV show.
In the couple of instances, I’ve missed breakfast, (i.e. staying up very late the night before working on a presentation) the innkeepers have gone out of the way to rummage me up some homebaked muffins and fresh fruit. This is more than you would ever get at a restaurant (or a hotel) if you showed up after service was over.
“Awkward conversations over breakfast”. B&Bs are all different, some have communal dining tables, some have individual tables within a dining room (how this is terribly different from sitting in a hotel restaurant, aside from B&Bs having much better food and better service etc. is beyond me.) But if sitting at a communal table is not your fancy, find out first, most B&Bs have dining room photos on their websites, and you can always ask. My husband refuses to stay at a B&B with me that has a communal table, because he doesn’t want to socialize, I personally love it. Ask. It’s YOUR vacation.
“Where’s my coffee?” I like strong coffee; my favorite is the kind where the spoon can stand up in it. But not everyone does. Every B&B I have ever visited serves a different brand of coffee, and a different strength of brew.
Ok, coffee too strong, or coffee too weak? How about you ask the innkeeper for something else, or another cup of differently brewed coffee. I’ve been in several B&Bs where I considered the coffee a bit on the weak side, but it appeared most of the other guests were sucking it down happily, so I asked nicely and guess what? The innkeepers made me another pot! Perfection! And by the way, many B&Bs have self-service Keurig machines, so you can get your caffeine fix at any time.
“The rooms are from another decade”. Now this one is VERY broad generalization of the industry, and quite frankly downright wrong. While some B&Bs are old fashioned and have antiques in every room, and yes, a few do still have doilies, many of them do not. Of the 2 dozen B&Bs I’ve stayed at in the last year, only one would I call a doily inn, and I don’t mean that as a sarcastic or nasty statement. The inn was decorated with 50s chic, and I adored it. It was quaint, it was comfortable, the bed was one of the most comfortable I’ve ever slept in, the pillows were to die for, the rosemary hand soap was so lovely smelling I wanted to eat it, the innkeepers adorable (they were in their early 70s) and the breakfast incredible. I usually prefer more modern B&Bs and many B&Bs are. I stayed in a B&B last month that was luxury defined; soaking tubs, Molton Brown Amenities, Ceccotti furniture, Silk-bamboo bathrobes and truffled eggs for breakfast, and Innkeepers in their mid 40s. Innkeepers run the gamut of ages from 30s to 70s, and their B&Bs run the gamut of tastes and styles. That’s part of the appeal of B&Bs. Uniqueness.
“There are few modern amenities” Another VERY broad generalization of the industry. Most B&Bs have TVs and many of them are quite large (but generally tastefully staged), rooms may also include smart phone docks, and other modern electronics, and did I mention WIFI? Most B&Bs have free WIFI, vs hotels where you have to pay through the nose for it, and most times it’s horrible, or an Airbnb where WIFI may be totally nonexistent.
Yes, there are B&Bs with no TVs or small TVs, but some people want to go on vacation and turn technology off, the tiny TVs are there for those that “have” to get their fix. If having cable access is so important to you, that you need to have it on while on vacation in the first place, maybe you need to rethink that just a little, and maybe you should check out the website, look at the room photos and read the descriptions. If you can’t see or read online that they have or have not 100 inch screen TVs, and it’s that important to you, Ask!
The referenced electric fireplace you probably won’t run into in most B&Bs, and if you do and have an issue with it, please save yourself a second bad night of sleep (unlike this lady) and enquire about it with the innkeepers after the first night, instead of bemoaning two nights of it. Or 2 years later……..
“They’re overpriced”. Yet another VERY broad generalization of the industry. Yes, there are pricey B&Bs out there, but most are quite affordable for what you get, they are generally cheaper than hotels and while you may say, “stay at an Airbnb, it’s cheaper!” Look carefully at the comparable rates, Airbnb rentals are generally equivalent in price, if not more money than a B&B, when all the costs associated with it add up. Fees to Airbnb, plus base rate, plus most have cleaning fees. So, your $99 per night Airbnb rental gets a $50 dollar per night cleaning fee tacked on, plus the 6% – 12% fee that Airbnb tacks on, that’s a bit more expensive than a local B&B at a $130 per night for example (read the fine print in the Airbnb listing). And B&Bs have things that most Airbnbs do not, they are inspected and insured, and their fire alarms work for example, add delicious homemade gourmet breakfasts (or you can have your Cheerios in an Airbnb). And in case of an accident a real B&B has liability insurance, ask the next Airbnb host you go to if they have it, and consider what would happen to you and your family in case of a fire, or an accident at the rental for example.
I have yet to stay at hotel aside from several very expensive ones that match the amenities that a B&B has to offer, plus I’ve never stayed at a B&B where you get tagged for using the bottled water in a room at $5 a pop, or a bag of M&Ms for $3.50 unlike at a hotel. Instead at a B&B there are usually beverages available all the time, and free homemade cookies as well. I have yet to stay at a hotel where I have ever had a decent breakfast. Chefs don’t work breakfast at a hotel (I’ve worked in a few so I know the skinny), lowly paid line cooks do, so if you want rubbery scrambled eggs, stay at a hotel instead of a B&B. Even the luxury hotel I stayed in last month in Massachusetts had a horrible breakfast, and I had to pay separately for it to boot.
If you want an ideal B&B stay, do a little homework in advance. Look at the website, look at the pictures, read the descriptions, I have yet to see a B&B website that doesn’t state what size bed is in the room. Take a few minutes and go to Tripadvisor, Google and Yelp and read the reviews first. Are there management responses? Check out their social media! If you buy a new car or new stove hopefully you check out the reviews and reliability first before you spend money. If you are going on vacation and you want it to be nice, take a few minutes and do your homework first.
If you have questions that are not answered on the website, Ask! Pick up the phone or send an email.
If you have an issue at the time of your stay, please mention it to the innkeepers at the time, please don’t wait two years to blindside them with the fact you had some issues with your stay (Or you “think” you had some issues with your stay, and perhaps two years later these were a little confabulated? Or perhaps memory has played fast and lose with a few details for the sake of a snarky article?).
The very biggest and most oft repeated complaint I get from innkeepers when I help them figure out how to respond to online reviews properly, is that guests who may have had an issue with something, didn’t mention it at the time of their stay, so it could be corrected or fixed at the time.
I have never stayed at a B&B where I had a small (or even large) problem and I mentioned it to the innkeepers and they didn’t try to fix it right away. If you don’t even try to say something, then don’t assume they just “know”, and don’t assume right off they won’t try to fix it.
B&Bs and their innkeepers pride themselves on service and hospitality. Innkeepers are not hotel front desk clerks who generally don’t care, innkeepers take pride in their B&Bs because it’s their livelihood.
It reminds me of people who used to come eat at my restaurants who would lick the plates clean, tell the waitstaff everything was fine and dandy, “Just lovely!”, and then leave a scathing review about how they didn’t get enough herb butter for their ciabatta rolls, and the salad dressing had way too much garlic in it, so it was almost inedible (funny since they ate it all). Thankfully I only ever had a couple of those, but I feel the innkeepers pain on this point. If your room is too cold or hot or whatever, mention it, give the innkeepers a chance to at least make it right. While innkeepers are excellent hospitality hosts, I have not yet met any of them that could mind read.
Bed and Breakfasts are unique, they are all different, the innkeepers are all different, it’s one of the pleasures of staying at a B&B, because they are not cookie cutter. (But they always have excellent homemade cookies :).
I prefer staying at a B&B vs a hotel for a million reasons, food and comfort are key, to name a couple of big points. I will never stay at an Airbnb, because I for one am concerned about things like; does the smoke alarm work? What happens if the host’s dog bites me? What happens if I get food poisoning from food they have made me, or food that’s been improperly stored in the house? Am I covered? Is it safe?
Inns and B&Bs are insured and inspected, and that makes additional reasons to stay at them in addition to the great food and hospitality that most B&Bs offer.
Please don’t take one unhappy person’s snark at a B&B she stayed at years ago as a representation of our industry as whole, it’s an opinion article and she had her own opinion, not every B&B is perfect, but the vast majority of B&Bs out there try. Do your home work before you stay, whether it be at a hotel, motel, Airbnb or real B&B, and say something if you have an issue no matter where you stay, while you stay, not after. I challenge you to form your own opinions about the B&B industry, and love it as much as I do.
We recently did a VERY well received webinar at PAII(Professional Association of Innkeepers International) on how to “game” Airbnb, “Airbnb is the frenemy of the legal B&B / Inn world. And while we won’t say, “If you can’t beat them, join them”, we will say, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” If you look at Airbnb as an opportunity because it is cheaper to deal with than most OTAs, take advantage of it and we mean “take advantage” in the purest sense of the word. The non-legal, non-inspected properties are using it, and while we here at PAII are working hard with AHLA to level the playing field so that Airbnb hosts are paying their fair share, let’s not miss an opportunity while we fight. Learn how to leverage an Airbnb listing properly to be able to compete – and beat – those Airbnb illegal rentals stealing business from your property. Learn what pictures, text and additional information to include to make a stand-out Airbnb listing over those that are not legal, while educating the public about why staying at a legal B&B has a lot of benefits over the non-legal listings.”
Here are notes from the webinar, gleaned from talking to many B&Bs who are listing, including inn clients who I help manage their listings, and also talking to many very successful Airbnb hosts as well.
Gaming the Algorithm
Respond Quickly to every inquiry, Airbnb gives preference to hosts that respond within an hour of email, Even a quick “we will get back to soon with more information” stops the clock.
Actively manage your availability calendar, make a few small changes at least once a week.
Link your account to social media, Twitter and Facebook.
SEO your listing, Create a Headline that’s SEO friendly “Hudson Valley Romantic Suite”, Not “Charming Victorian Mansion in the Heart of the Valley”.
Be location and accommodation specific, don’t use catchy phrases or jargon.
Do a Google search for relevance, when you label photos of the area, Google Search your description.
Share your listing online, FaceBook, Twitter, Google+ etc. often.
Review the calendars for each competitor properties, see what their actual prices ranges are, Do a spreadsheet of your competition, high rates, low rates, specials.
Link your account to social media, Twitter and Facebook.
You have fifty words to get the basics across, look at the area competition and focus on what they DON’T offer.
What are your five best selling points?
In the end of your description add a call to action. “We book up fast for the weekends, Email us now to guarantee your reservation” or offer a deal, don’t forget if you have specials or offers you can mention them here.
Make sure your profile photo is SMILING!
Fill out your personal profile giving as much background as possible, the more professional and hospitality related the better.
Don’t put your lowest price and lowest price room on, you get the deal seekers and the ones who want to negotiate.
Remember use this as a directory that’s good for SEO, don’t expect to get a lot of business from it, but you can if you leverage it correctly.
Don’t forget to highlight the legal aspects of the B&B, licensed, insured, plus no room cleaning fees (it is included), Repeat guests won’t book through Airbnb again, they will book direct to avoid having to pay the service fee. Make sure you capture their email address when they come to stay.
12-15 photos, min. of 5 to show up in mobile search results.
1024 x 683 pixels is the best sizing for listings.
Your most important photo is your primary photo, if it’s not interesting enough to click through people won’t, put your best photos first in the listings.
Bathroom photos are important.
Add text and annotations to your photos to highlight certain aspects.
Take your photos in landscape format: Vertical photos won’t showcase your space as well.
Use catchy captions on photos, instead of “This is the dining room” jazz it up a bit like “Awake after a good night’s sleep to a delicious homemade breakfast, our Pecan Waffles are a signature recipe!”
Non-cluttered rooms get the most bookings.
The biggest mistake B&Bs do on is just show just the room that’s available, add area photos and photos of the rest of the house and exterior including some highlights of things to do in the area.
Add screenshots of some of your reviews from Tripadvisor, make sure you highlight unique things at your B&B and in your area.
A good Internet connection speed varies depending generally in the number of users and the functions of the connection, however, 8 megabits per second is usually considered decent. Connection speeds less than 8 megabits per second are considered slow. There are cable broadband speeds capable of moving at 100 megabits per second.
Display the layout of your house by creating a floor plan
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.