6 ways hotels can use social media to attract more guests

A guest blog from Juste Semetaite

6waysGuestBlog

To thousands of holiday seekers, the planning phase may seem like a time-eating disaster. With so many options where to stay and what to do, the majority find themselves immersed in indecision and torn between equally exciting, glamorous and exotic choices. And this is where your social media strategy gets tested.

To capture the holiday seekers’ imagination early, you need to keep the engagement fire blazing on daily basis – a whopping 66% of leisure travellers turn to search engines when planning their next trip. So, what it means, really, is that a ton of potential guests are snooping around your social media accounts every day.

How can you turn curious vacationers into soon-to-be guests?

Capitalise on the magic of compelling visuals

The number of international travellers has skyrocketed in the last 10 years. People are more eager to travel to distant, exotic places than ever before and the thirst for unique experiences pushes them outside their comfort zone.

How do they pick their travel destinations? It’s not uncommon to hear about travellers crossing the world to visit a place they’ve seen featured in a magazine, on TV or in a travel blog. The mind is a visual instrument, so if there is one way to grabbing travellers’ attention, it certainly involves gorgeous imagery.

Here are some ideas to try:

read the full article here

Juste Semetaite is a content marketer @PeoplePerHour,  For hotels struggling to find spare hours or energy to execute social media strategies, PeoplePerHour.com can help. You can ping Juste at juste@peopleperhour.com or tweet @JusteSem.

Accommodation photography

As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words….

It only takes a quick glance for someone to evaluate what they see and form a positive or negative judgement. In fact, studies have shown that the viewer generates an opinion as instantly as the blink of an eye.

Researchers found that the brain makes decisions in just a 20th of a second of viewing a webpage.
The study, published in the journal ‘Behaviour and Information Technology’*, also suggests that first impressions have a lasting impact.

Researchers also believe that these quickly formed first impressions last because of what is known to psychologists as the “halo effect”. Gitte Lindgaard of Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and lead researcher of the paper says: “If people believe a website looks good, then this positive quality will spread to other areas.” As websites increasingly jostle for business, Dr Lindgaard added that companies should take note. “Unless the first impression is favourable, visitors will be out of your site before they even know that you might be offering more than your competitors,” she warned.

Your establishment may provide guests with a spectacular breakfast to beat all of your competitors or you may have spent time, effort & money on the interior design. But if the pictures are poor, unprofessional or non existent, you could risk losing potential customers in an instant.

Therefore, it is evident that good quality photographs are essential for success in drawing in new guests. If there are few or no pictures to look at, the chances are they will move on.

Sarah Kay Photography specialises in all types of accommodation photography and styling. Here she shares some of her tips for creating photographs that will bring out the best in your holiday let and help you use the power of image to increase sales.

Tips for photographing your property:

Tip no 1. It may seem obvious but don’t forget to de-clutter every room. This includes removing bins, leaflets, etc.

Tip no 2. Don’t have wires/cables dangling all over the place! Wherever possible try to hide them either by unplugging or removing them all together. With kettle bases or wires from other appliances, or in the case of lamps which need to be switched on, tuck the wire behind furniture or use masking tape to ‘stick’ them out of the way.

Tip no 3. Tidy and straighten all curtains, blinds, bedding and sofa cushions. Iron them if necessary, there is nothing worse than creases and crumples that stare back at you in photographs!

Note this BEFORE and AFTER shot. Yes it’s the same room!

compare2rooms

 

Tip no 4. Personally, I always like to have all lights switched on in my shots. I feel it gives the image added shine and sparkle. Depending on the natural lighting in your room, you may want to experiment and see which you feel looks best.

Tip no 5. Please, no toilets in shot. I’m not against photographing bathrooms, some look great. If you think it will be beneficial to photograph your bathroom, do try to avoid the toilet. If this is not possible, please please ensure the lid is completely closed and there is no bin or toilet brush in sight! Eeek!!

Added tip: Take a shot of a detail in your bathroom rather than the whole room. To give a taster of the style of the bathroom. The viewer can then create a idea of the whole room just from that one shot.

Tip no 6. Think about your target market and dress your rooms accordingly. Romantic getaway? Champagne and chocolates will do the trick.

Added tip: Less is more, never over-dress the room or it will look cluttered.

Tip no 7. Remember the reasons that people come to stay in your property. Is it the stunning lake view? Is there a fantastic feature window? Think about it’s uniqueness and take those photographs.

Tip no 8. Ensure your outside areas are looking tip top. Hanging baskets flourishing, decking or patio swept and free of weeds, grass trimmed and looking neat. Take the photograph on a day with some sunshine and blue sky. If you can’t get a good day, take one at dusk with all your lights on for an ambient glow.

Tip no 9. Finally, take your shots. Study each image for imperfections as mentioned above. Does the furniture need tweaking slightly to create better composition for the viewer? Would the picture look better if taken from a different angle? Try every corner of the room, some will look “right” some won’t; again, experiment with this.

Tip no 10. Save time and hire a professional photographer, but first ensure they will take care of all the points mentioned above. Not all photographers include styling in the price. I always say, during my accommodation photoshoot it’s 10% photography, 90% preparation! And then there is professional editing… which is another story all together!

www.skhp.co.uk

Twitter @Sarahkay_photo

https://www.facebook.com/skpcumbria
*Source of research into psychology of first impressions: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4616700.stm

Winning Images – Part 2

5 More Ways That Great Photos Can Boost Your Bookings

Book Direct for the best price

Great photos can massively enhance the first impression guests received from your website – and therefore boost your bookings. Here are a few clever strategies to really drive home the benefits that excellent visuals provide…

 

  1. the-lion-inn-suiteCollect lots of terrific photos of your property by all means. In particular, make sure that your room photos present your accommodation in the very best and most flattering light. But once you’ve done this, chose a SINGLE PHOTO that you’ll use to convey everything you feel is best about the experience your offer your guests. Use the photo as a kind of unofficial logo anywhere you can – on Facebook, on Twitter, on Google Places (and whatever other ‘must do’ social media channels are lurking over the horizon!) Once people see it often enough, they’ll associate it instinctively with your property.
  2. When you (or your web designer) is updating the photos on your site, make sure you think carefully about how you name them. Well-named photos add a lot of Search Engine value to your site. It may seem a bit unwieldy, but make sure the file name for each photo includes the name of your property and where it is (e.g. mayfield_guesthouse_norwich_bedroom1.jpg) rather than just (room.jpg). Lots of people find accommodation by doing geographic searches like “B&B in ­____” or “guesthouse near ­____”. Naming your photos in this way will help them find you. Congratulations, your site just got “Searchier”!
  3. the-lion-inn-foodGreat photos of rooms are the gold standard when it comes to visuals that will entice people to stay with you. But other types of photos can also be great when it comes to really emphasising the cosy, personal experience that people crave. If you take great pride in your home cooking, for instance, have some great photos of your meals on your site. If you’re on the coast with spectacular views, emphasise those. In other words, find your unique selling point and push it as clearly and concisely as possible through your visuals.
  4. Putting guest reviews (even TripAdvisor reviews!) on your site can be a terrific way of establishing trust (i.e. “Look, we’re a wonderful property with nothing to hide and here are the reviews to prove it.”) But some people these days don’t even have the time/patience to read reviews. A Guestbook page with a few photos of you with your guests (ideally smiling!) creates an instant and very powerful positive message. They’re also great for your Facebook page.
  5. Going back to how people search, it can be immensely useful to have a “Local Area” page on your site, with lots of smartly-labelled photos showing nearby attractions. Placing yourself within your community means that you become a strong part of its online presence and an advocate for it. It also means that you’ll score well, once again, with Search Engines if anyone searches for a local attraction then starts looking for accommodation.

Winning Images – Part 1

Great Visuals Sell Accommodation

bestPriceTickBig hotel chains have the largest marketing budgets, so their websites must always be the ones that attract the most attention. Right? Wrong. In the USA recently, it’s the websites of smaller, boutique hotels – and even B&Bs – that have been generating the most buzz in the media. Why? Because these smaller hotels are much better (and quicker) at adapting to what customers want when booking accommodation online. And these days…

It’s All About Images!

A strong visually-oriented layout is the only way to go, because (and this can’t be emphasised often enough)…Photos sell rooms.

1. Good photos.
2. Big photos.

And, most importantly…

3. Prominent photos

Here’s a great example of a rooms page (courtesy of the Lion Inn, Winchcombe)…

 lion_inn_rooms

Don’t force your customers to hunt around for images that will tell them what the place they’re thinking of staying at actually looks like. Put them front and centre. You own a great property – let the world know about it!

So, even if you don’t want to redesign your whole site, at the very least get your web designer to boost the size and number of quality visuals on the front page and all the room pages. And, ideally, add a big, unmissable link on the front page itself that shouts, “ROOM IMAGES.”

How To Increase Your Direct Bookings

Get more direct bookings

Always on the lookout for great practice, I spent some time on the website of one of our customers in Thailand. Tom, from the Crystal Bay Beach Resort,

More online bookings with freetobook
Get more direct bookings

had just sent a great testimonial saying how freetobook had increased his website conversion (thanks Tom – see below.) So I wanted to know what it was that he was doing right.

The most obvious thing was the bits of reassurance he was giving his customers, around the direct booking message: letting visitors know that booking direct is a good thing, gently reminding them of the benefits in booking direct. Customers like to know they are doing the right thing, so a little message encouraging them can make the difference between getting the booking or not. Some subtle understated reinforcement strategically placed can reap great dividends. I’m certainly not saying “paste the message everywhere” (don’t!) But putting a little bit of text or a little graphic here and there saying something like “Book direct for the best prices” or “Guaranteed to get the best deal when you book direct” can really help.

I think the Crystal Bay has got it quite right. In three places the customer gets a positive message about booking direct. As you will see from the testimonial at the bottom it works!

1) On the Booking/Rates page – that’s a good place

 

2) On the Contact Us page – another logical place to echo the “book direct” message

 

3) And finally on the freetobook search page – the most important place to have the message, as the customer is just about to book. Where better to whisper, “You are doing the right thing.”

Not everyone takes full advantage of the freetobook search image. You should. It’s a good way to sell yourself at the moment of booking. To upload an image, go to TAB “Home,” SubTAB “Widget,” click edit and upload an image (800px by 200px) into your widget. Then click save.

——————————————————————————————-

Here’s Tom’s Testimonial:

“Free to Book is great, the user interface is the easiest and most intuitive we’ve ever used. After switching to Free to Book we massively increased our website conversion rate for direct bookings which has saved us a fortune in commission. What’s more the support is awesome.”

Tom at Crystal Bay Resort Koh Samui Thailand http://www.crystalbaykohsamui.com/

Images to show you in the best light

We have massively upgraded the photos interface so that you can upload multiple photos for your property: for different rooms, facilities and many other categories. Take advantage of the upgrade and load a good range of photos so that we can show your property in the best possible light. To access the images you have already loaded and to add new ones, go to your “Profile” tab then to the “Images” subtab.