Winter is, traditionally, a hard time for country hotels. Recently, we produced an ebook for country and rural hotels, written to help hotel owners and marketers engage with visitors and tempt them to book a stay out of season.

Below, we take a closer look at a section of the ebook, and offer some further thoughts on the ways in which compelling social media content can be sourced and used to help tackle this ongoing challenge.

If you’d like to discover more about how you can promote your hotel this winter – and beyond – using social media, don’t forget to download our FREE eBook here…

Why Content?

Content is undoubtedly king, especially in social media. But creating a reliable flow of quality and cost effective imagery – photo and video – that resonates with target audiences can be a headache for any business.

For hotels the challenge can feel limiting. What content should you create, what will resonate with your audiences and how will you source a continuous and useful stream? How interesting and useful can Facebook posts be? And, more importantly, how does that effort help you attract customers from a growing short breaks market all year round?

How Key Audiences Book

Current research consistently suggests that affluent young millennials – 21 to 35 year olds – use social networks (especially Facebook) to research holidays. Often these social media users start by taking on peer recommendations. This might be after posting a “does anyone know a great place to visit” style post on their own profile. They also “snack” on travel content like videos, photos and reviews extensively before booking.

Someone looking to visit a rural or coastal area on a recommendation might well find their way to a hotel website like yours while looking for a place to stay. And, after visiting your website, they’ll likely check out what your customers say about you on social media.

Your challenge is to make your business look attractive while they research, navigate around and read up more. This is where a steady flow of content helps you stand out from the crowd. Images and video content exploring the story of your hotel and life in the area can be truly compelling.

Setting Up

This approach leverages and extends the creative talents of select members of your team. In doing so, it enables you to create relevant and quality content that tells the story of your business and local area throughout the year.

Firstly, create a content calendar for your hotel, enabling you to map out seasonal content and themes that will resonate with your target audiences.  In winter these themes could include the best pubs with open fires, winter walks, and favourite seasonal eateries. Try and think of things that you, as a local, love doing out of season. Remember to be mindful of the experiences people might travel to have.

This could be showing how cosy and relaxing a winter stay at your hotel is. But don’t clutter your pages up with offers. Commercial content should be no more than 10% of everything you post. Your job in social media is to “tell not sell”. Instead, your consistent approach should demonstrate your local area expertise.

For smaller hotels, pick one social network to concentrate your efforts on, and create content for this channel first. Facebook is the obvious choice, as it’s proven to drive commercial traffic to your website. Having said that, a well updated Instagram page can be influential with a younger professional audience too. For bigger hotels and chains, the options may be broader and you should seek to create content on multiple channels with people contributing as content sources.

Local Talent for Local Content

Who better to bring your local story to life than the people who live there? There’s genuine social media talent in any workforce. Carrying out a ‘skills survey’ of your staff is a good way to identify the keen bloggers and social media users.

Try to gauge their interest in capturing the local area’s events, landscapes, wildlife and culture through photos and video. If you don’t have anyone to fit the bill, take time to encourage and train senior members of staff to use a camera phone to capture content and upload it. There are many excellent how-to guides online and the technology makes even the most average photographer good enough to contribute.

Get your most talented team members engaged and incentivise them to help create your chosen content. Put some simple rules and regulations together about quality of images, what to write, when to post and where to link back to the hotel “for more information”.

Aim to produce 2-3 Facebook posts per week that show life in the local area. If you have an Instagram page, aim to post the best images every other day and always remember to plan the content against your editorial theme for each month. Stick to the schedule – make it matter!

How Bookings Happen

With many of the clients we work with, the direct and indirect value of consistent and relevant social media content is clear in website analytics. Social media plays a significant role in the path to book for many, even if bookings aren’t directly from social.

Unfortunately, the setup for this kind of tracking is too complex or resource heavy for smaller businesses to properly commit to. If, like most good marketers, you need evidence of a return before time and resource is committed to an activity then social media advertising is an effective way demonstrate that social media can deliver very real returns.

If you’d like to discover more about how you can promote your hotel this winter – and beyond – using social media, don’t forget to download our FREE eBook here…