Thursday, March 3, 2011

Facebook and B&B

I have noticed that our post named "Facebook" attracts attention. It is of course not because all our readers want to join us on Facebook, but as I estimate it, because people want to know how to use Facebook in their business.

There have been a lot of excitemenet about Social Media and Marketing in Tourism. There are even conferences devoted to this topic: take for example EyeforTravel’s upcoming Travel Distribution Summit Europe 2011, EyeforTravel's Online Marketing & Social Media Europe Summit, Enter2012, Social Media Strategies for Travel North America. I did have a pleasure to be present at Enter2011 in Innbruck, where a lot of information was shared both from scholars and industry representatives. But one does not have to attend all the events to have a success in Online Marketing.

Let us instead come back to discussing some of the opportunities that Facebook gives for small businesses as B&B. First of all, Facebook is a part of Social Media - the core of so-called Web 2.0 generation. To explain shortly the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, I'd like to mention that Web 1.0 was the well-known Internet with information being pushed on the customers. The traditional web-sites and e-mail promotion (discussed in the topic "Bed&Breakfast and the development of the Internet"), are common representatives. Web 2.0 means communication with your customers: the customers communicate with you, and with each other about you. That is when you meet such resources as Facebook (and its national versions), Twitter, TripAdvisor, Igougo, Flickr, YouTube and so on and so on.

So, Facebook is to be used as a way to communicate with your former and future guests. The most important thing to understand here is that you can't replace other resources as customized Web-page, by a Facebook Page. There are several reasons for that (which I will discuss in my next article). Now I wish to concentrate on the positive sides of this SM. If you already have a Facebook Page, you may agree or disagree with me. If you don't, hopefully I will convince you to get one, and to use the simple advance on "how to get the best out of it".

When you decide to make a Facebook presence for your B&B, you may want to choose creating a Facebook Page or a separate profile. There is also an option called "Groups" which you may use after you get a Profile. Most of B&B make a Page. You can have a look at some of them from our Facebook Page.

One important notice: Choose carefully the name. Once you have 25 fans, you will be able to get a name in the link for sharing (as we have which you can't change afterwards. Once you have more than 100 Likes, you can't change the name of the Page at all. So be careful and think well in advance.

But the question is WHY should you have a Page there?

- Communication. I put this reason in the first place, because it is the whole idea of the Facebook. You go there to promote your business by communicating with your customers. Not more, not less. It is extremely important thus to actually maintain your page and to answer all incoming questions and say "Thanks" for positive comments or give feedback on negative. Your customers must know that you care.

- Branding. By putting your Logo in the Profile Picture, giving general and contact information, you create a presence of your company on Facebook. Don't forget to provide the links to your web-page or blog, an email-address and other important information.

- Promotion. By connecting to your former customers, you get a lot of further connections. People tend to forward links and Likes of their friends. It is a good idea to find relevant businesses in your area and connect to them. "Like" their posts from time to time: that will make you visible. Connect to other B&B's, why not? Apart from looking at their experiences with Facebook, you can get tons of useful information. And possibly, their fans may notice you (if you comment and "Like", but beware - no advertising comments!)

- Fresh information. Your fans may not have time to come by your blog or web-page. But when you update news on your Facebook, they will receive a notice on their Wall about it. Good examples that I have seen: breakfast menu or a recipe, or even pictures; links to interesting articles about the area, events or happenings in the B&B itself, pictures of rooms. You can even advertise some products that you may be selling. Be sure that the information is interesting for your guests and is attractively presented.

- Special campaigns. This is a rarely used by B&B feature, but I did manage to stumble upon one right while I was preparing this post. You can present a program (as done by the Harvest Moon B&B), last-minute prices, updates of capacity, a promotion code that would give your fans a discount (a good way to check the effectiveness of your efforts).

- Special updates. When you have something special happening, you can create an Event and send an invitation to all your Fans, asking them to invite other Facebook users if they can. "Word of mouth" strategy works best.

- Advertising. Facebook gives an opportunity to create an Ad. They promise to target your audience. But this method is not often used, and maybe should not be (at least for now), by B&B on two main reasons. The effect of Facebook Ads is not clear yet. It is a relatively new feature and most of surveys show that users rarely pay attention to the ads that are shown. So why use the money for something you are not sure about? Rather use them on listing on Google AdWords. Another reason is that it is mostly impossible to actually target your potential guests. They may be from any place of the world, of any age, any profession etc. As one of B&B said: My audience is the Guest.

PS: Most of the links to B&B's Facebook Pages in this post were chosen accidentally.

Don't forget to Like us on Facebook :)

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