Learn how you can increase bookings & directly appeal to your ideal guest by positioning your brand as a way to achieving a desirable lifestyle through branding and social media.
Sell The Lifestyle: Social Media and Lifestyle Brand Marketing for Vacation Rentals
Social media can be a great tool for marketing your vacation rentals and showcasing your brand. A recent study has shown the real and increasing impact social media has on accommodation websites. But nowadays our newsfeeds are saturated with low-quality, sales-driven content, so it’s easy to get phased out.
The trick is offering content that doesn’t seem like just another advert for your properties. Social Media offers you the opportunity to adopt a long-term approach - to identify your key demographic and learn their social media habits - and then to create content that resonates with them. One way to do this is by establishing a lifestyle-oriented brand identity.
Social Media offers you the opportunity to adopt a long-term approach - to identify your key demographic and learn their social media habits - and then to create content that resonates with them
People use social media platforms to create and commodify aspirational lifestyle models. By identifying your core demographic, and working out how your brand can fit into their lifestyle, not only will you create sustained customer engagement, but you can shape your ideal customer base and market directly to them.
A good example of a holiday rental lifestyle brand is Airbnb and their relatively new marketing campaign:
"Airbnb aims to be a lifestyle brand and the website’s new look is a place where people can share their travel experiences and show the community their idea of belonging with a custom Bélo" - Stefano .
By creating and sharing content that doesn’t seem sales-driven, you can earn your brand’s place on social media users feeds, walls and timelines. Successful social media marketing campaigns share a range of low-pressure content, such as vlogs, Top 10 lists and events guides and reviews.
Essentially, you’re not just selling your holiday rental. You’re using social media to build up a profile of the kind of lifestyle supported by your rentals. By frequently sharing interesting, low-pressure content across several social media platforms, you can associate your brand with your consumer bases’ aspirational lifestyle - creating a long-lasting relationship.
Aspirational vs. Inspirational Marketing
Inspirational and Aspirational Marketing Campaigns
Social media platforms can benefit both long and short-term marketing. However, by using social media to establish a lifestyle-based brand identity, you should start to see long-term gains that can’t be matched by a short-term marketing campaign.
Ultimately, the difference boils down to two different types of social media marketing:
- Inspiration (Short-term) - Inspirational marketing works by temporarily stimulating people to do something. This sort of marketing results in one-off sales, usually in small amounts, and targets the customer’s impulsive nature.
- Aspiration (Long-term) - Aspirational marketing works by creating a sustained and long-lasting urge in the customer to strive towards achieving or becoming something in particular.
Creating a Lifestyle Brand
Positioning your brand in the social media marketplace
The first step in any aspirational marketing campaign is creating a lifestyle brand.
You need to figure out how you want your brand to come across, what you want it to represent and how you want to market your services.
Step One: Identifying your USPBegin by identifying your USP. What sets your brand apart from the competition? This could be any number of things, such as:
- Distinguished Customer Service
- Extensive and Specialised Knowledge
- Bespoke or Luxury Service
- Affordable Prices and Attractive Deals
Step Two: Identifying Your ClienteleThe next step is to identify your clientele. Your brand needs to be effectively geared towards your customers, so a detailed profile of the people using your service is invaluable. Your social media campaign not only offers an opportunity to better get to know your customers through sustained engagement, but to shape and mould your customer base to attract the sort of client you want.
Step Three: Creating Your BrandYou’ve found your USP, and you’ve identified your customer base - now you need to figure out how the two fit together. By doing so you establish how your brand is uniquely positioned to cater to the needs of a particular customer base - and you’ve taken the first step to creating your lifestyle brand. Now you need to create content that projects the brand image you’re cultivating, and that’s going to connect with your target audience.
Social Media and Lifestyle Brands
Lifestyle marketing and social media
Social media platforms combine various interests to form a coherent lifestyle identity - and you can directly appeal to your ideal consumer base by positioning your brand as an integral part of, and means to achieving, this desirable lifestyle.
You can directly appeal to your ideal consumer base by positioning your brand as an integral part of, and means to achieving, this desirable lifestyle.
Rather than single actions such as clicks or likes (inspirational marketing), aim to create sustained brand engagement by marketing your brand as a whole rather than your individual holiday lets. You can do this by gearing your social media presence towards your target market by creating content that emphasises your brand’s USP.
Are your holiday rentals perfect for families? Then why not write up a Top 10 list of local family attractions to share on social media? Is your brand geared towards outdoorsy types? Then try sharing a video of some local wildlife, or vlog a short walk or hike. This kind of content doesn’t feel like an advert or listing, and encourages user engagement.
Top Tip: Always offer an opinion
If you’re writing a Top 10 list of restaurants in your town, be sure point out your favourite. People may agree with you, or may prefer another place you’ve left of your list. The important thing is that they’ll be more likely to let you know - which gives you the chance to establish a dialogue.
The aim of mounting an aspirational marketing campaign on a number of social media platforms is to create a long-lasting image of your brand, and to use your content to implant this image in the minds of your potential customers as inseparably linked to the aspirational lifestyle that they’re striving towards.
Successful Aspirational Marketing Campaigns
Positioning your brand
Take for example, a TV advert for a high-end car. No-one goes out and makes such a significant purchase solely based on the merit of the one advert - no matter how scenic the landscapes it drives through, or how exceptionally well-groomed the person driving is.
Instead, the idea is to establish the brand as an essential component of a high-end lifestyle. You’re not just marketing the car to the people with the money to buy it - you’re also marketing the brand towards those who don’t yet have to money to purchase it, but who aspire towards such a lifestyle. Should this person eventually make enough money to purchase an expensive car, they would associate your particular brand with the lifestyle they’re striving towards - and identify the car as the missing piece of the puzzle.
By using these principles in your social media marketing, you not only target customers currently planning a holiday, but also put your brand in the minds of social media users who will come to plan a holiday in the coming months or years.
Case Study: Burberry
Social media marketing strategies
Luxury fashion brands are some of the highest-profile advocates of aspirational marketing campaigns. Studies note that the brands that most successfully navigated the transition to Web 2.0 were those with the strongest social media presence and the highest levels of user engagement.
Chief among these is Burberry. Burberry was the first high-end fashion retailer to significantly invest in social media marketing, the first to broadcast live and in 3D its catwalk shows and the first to place significant value in Web 2.0’s folksonomy - encouraging and commodifying user-generated content, and incorporating this content into social media marketing campaigns.
As a result of this, Burberry manages to enjoy comparatively higher levels of social media engagement than its competitors.
By creating and sharing interesting, low-pressure content, Burberry was able to find a place on social media users’ walls and feeds. By mounting a sustained campaign that offered not only an aspirational goal (the extravagant lifestyle associated with the brand in all its promotional materials) but also a means of attaining it (by purchasing the brands products, which have been inseparably linked with this lifestyle through the brand’s social media output), Burberry has been able to convert its social media presence into sales in a way that its competitors have yet to match.
These principles can easily be applied to your vacation rental social media marketing.
Planning your dream holiday...
The customer journey can be broken into three parts, and begins even before they actively start researching vacation rentals. By sharing low-pressure content on social media, you can target users at a similarly early stage:
- Dreaming - The customer begins to think that it’s time for a holiday. The search for inspiration begins here, and if you’ve been reaching your targeted social media users over the last few months then your brand should be the first that they think of.
- Planning - This is where your content really comes into play - If you’ve built your lifestyle brand an attractive enough identity then the merits of booking with your company should be inseparably linked with your location in the minds of your consumer base.
- Booking - Make sure the journey from your social media content to your booking site is an easy one - there’s no point mounting a successful social media marketing campaign if you can’t convert it into bookings
Which Platform to Use?There are a seemingly-endless number of platforms to choose from, all with their own benefits and drawbacks, but the short answer is - more than one!
- Facebook allows you to publish a variety of content types in a single location - photos, links, videos, anecdotes, statuses etc.
- You can link in from tweets and link out to other blogs and content - all good for SEO purposes
- Connect with past guests - This is perhaps Facebook’s biggest appeal. About ten years ago, my parents rented a holiday home in the Rocky Mountains from a man named Robbie. I still remember his name because he connected with my parents on Facebook, and they’ll frequently show me videos of wildlife at the rental, photos of snow at the rental, or stories of renovations at the rental as shared by Robbie - who they still speak of like an old friend. Needless to say, whenever they return they stay at Robbie’s holiday rental, and when friends or family members are looking to for somewhere to stay in the area, Robbie’s rental is the first place they recommend. This is an example of social media marketing done right - by positioning the rental as part of a wider lifestyle, and creating sustained engagement with past customers.
- Find potential guests and promote your brand
- Connect with other owners and related businesses - There’s strength in numbers. A little cross-promotion is a great way to increase traffic for both of you
- Finding potential travellers
- Connecting with local businesses and media - Twitter is a quick and easy way to connect with other users in your area: an invaluable way to build up a profile of your location as a desirable destination.
- Frequent, sustained engagement
- Showcase videos
- Establish a brand for your location
- Post videos guides of your locations/properties - these create a strong brand identity and help cultivate an air of familiarity
- Google+ is hugely effective for SEO purposes
- Allows you to publish a range of content
- Google circles are a great way of networking with other professionals
- Use Google+ listings to hit target keywords
- Use ‘What’s On’ to build a picture of the local community
You can use social media to manage your brand image and curate your customer base - and by earning your brand a place on social media user's feeds and timelines you can integrate your brand identity into their aspirational lifestyle models.
By mounting a long-term aspirational marketing campaign across several social media platforms, you should see sustained brand engagement from your customers - creating a new and long-lasting relationship.