In 1970, I watched my parents pouring over bed and breakfast information the travel agent had given them. We needed accommodation in England, Scotland, and Wales in August. B and B’s were just getting started at that time, so there were only a couple of pamphlets for each location. They chose the ones that had the pretty pictures as the prices were all fairly competitive.
The agency controlled the options and then directly contacted the businesses by snail mail to book the rooms. My parents had no communication at all with the innkeepers and they had to rely on the agent’s biased opinion on the quality of the rooms and breakfasts.
In 2017, a friend and I will have a large, old multiplex in central Ottawa where we will not only co-house, but also run a bed and breakfast with some corporate housing and perhaps, foreign student housing. Despite all the competition, the specialized housing market is expected to boom over the next few years. Moreover, next summer will be a bumper year, with the 2017 celebrations.
How can we use social media to fill our rooms?
What has changed since 1970 is the fluidity of communication. Whereas ads and newspaper articles were written for an audience, that audience would passively receive the information: a monologue of sorts. That information could then be taken to the parlour, the pub, or the club and be discussed amongst those present, but rarely directly with the author or with people who were not part of the social circle of the group.
In 2017, digital media has enabled information to travel faster and be developed in a non-linear direction just as the invention of the wheel fundamentally removed the most significant barrier to travelling.
If I were looking for a Bed and Breakfast, I would start by posting to my Facebook, asking my friends for recommendations. Then, I would do a Google search and play “Follow the Links” until I found one that caught my eye. Finally, I would read reviews and check out the location. My kids would roll their eyes and then use Pinterest and Instagram to add to my pool. When I book, I would expect an email back directly from the hosts, confirming my booking and perhaps asking me what I like for breakfast. When I used Air BnB this summer, I was glad to text a little with the owner before my arrival; I liked the human touch.
Judith and I have been active in environmental initiatives, particularly living lightly, for 30 years. Our goal is to have the most eco, old residence possible. Basically, Pinterest is going to come alive! Each guest will be able to use their “Swiss Army Knife” room as a bedroom, a social room, or an office simply by using, for example, the murphy bed-desk and the sofa with storage.
Perhaps our social media would be effective if we engaged people interested in small spaces and living lightly in the brainstorming. We could throw out our ideas and ask for input. By providing exposure about the process, giving credit for the ideas, and making it easy to reach us, our social media strategy might create a buzz about the project. When potential clients search for a roof over their heads, perhaps our place would jump out a them. While they are there and after they leave, they can join in the conversation.
We would also have to genuinely engage in online communication with other groups, too. I have recently learned that there is a community of BnB owners in the downtown core. When one is full, they refer to other places in the community. The owners who fear other BnBs as competition seem to have less business. The collaborative process seems to work for everyone. We have already had two well-known BnB’s enthusiastically offer to help us out – especially next summer. They communicate with each other primarily through text, messenger, and email. And meetings at local pubs.
At the moment, we have no social media strategy. We know that the infrastructure of a successful strategy lies in many different platforms leading to conversion but it is the genuine content and the human interaction that will lead to paying customers.
Moving from the parlor, to the pub, to the club, and now to the blog, I would be very interested in your ideas on how social media can meet the needs of our business, our customers, and our community!
If I pour myself a drink while engaging in conversation on this blog, does that make this a “blug”? Perhaps, since this is more like a club –a “blub”?