The Bed and Breakfast Industry has a problem and it needs some TLC from its Innkeepers

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Statistically for every new B&B that opens, two close, plus a combination of the threat of Airbnb, an aging innkeeper population, and the fact that innkeeping as a profession is not something most people (and more importantly millennials) are thinking about as an actual career option. More inns are going on the market than have buyers for them currently.

Lets address B&Bs closing first, Airbnb is definitely a contributor to that, but not the primary fault, the population of people getting into as a second or third profession, and who have owned their B&Bs for years and want to get out is also a major factor in closing rates. Being an Innkeeper is not sadly looked at as a “I want to be one when I get out of college” option to most.

As I go through state by state doing research, I am finding some rather startling statistics, many of which I think are sadly contributing to the closing of B&Bs as well.

Issues with B&Bs

  • The average room rate is about $135 per room (well above Airbnb rates even with the added fees) so they are not being competitive. I know B&Bs feel they should not lower their rates, but some may want to consider looking at their occupancy and then their individual room occupancy through the year month by month. The room(s) that get least rented, i.e. have shared bathrooms or are small etc, perhaps consider re-evaluating those rates, if the room has a low occupancy overall anyway how can it hurt? A head in a bed is worth money vs none at all.
  • Over 60% of B&Bs have old outdated websites that are not mobile friendly, and another 22% have newer websites done in WordPress that are not responsive/adaptive, and don’t have a mobile friendly alternative site. (With more than 50%+ of people looking for lodging on mobile that’s a huge issue. There are some alternatives both for websites and mobile alternative options, if people don’t want, or in many cases can’t, afford to do a new site with a professional B&B website designer.)
  • 86% of B&Bs don’t do packages or specials.
  • Only 8% are doing email newsletters, which is a huge fail as email marketing is huge.
  • 62% of B&Bs have no social media presence whatsoever.
  • Of the 28% of B&Bs that do use social media, 12% of them have completely abandoned their social media profiles, but still list them on their website by way of links or icons. From a guest’s standpoint looking at an inn’s social media for the first time and debating a booking, that doesn’t look good. If you are going to abandon them, fine, just don’t advertise you have it. Interestingly enough, about 8% use social media but DON’T have links from their website to their social media accounts. 
  • Over 40% of B&Bs that do participate online (out of the 28% above) are lazy with their posts on social media. Promoting a special offer on their website and posting it to Facebook (fantastic!) Posting it with a link directly to the B&Bs home page instead of the page its supposed to reference with more information on it about the package itself (not so fantastic).
  • 54% have not claimed their Tripadvisor listing and 63% have not responded to Tripadvisor reviews. Apparently some people just don’t care what’s said about them online, even if it’s losing them business………………….
  • 78% have not claimed their Google Maps/local listings and more than 80% have not responded to Google reviews. See comment above…………
  • I am currently working on statistics for how many B&Bs have claimed their Yelp listings, but at a semi-wild guess based on the number of B&Bs I’ve looked for on Yelp, I would guess it’s a rather small percentage that have claimed them. This is important because as the millennials become more of player in being guests/potential guests, I foresee they are more likely to post a review on Yelp than on Tripadvisor. Yelp also ranks high for SEO, so claiming and optimizing the listing (free, don’t go for the paid) is good for SEO even if there are no reviews on it.
  • Many B&Bs are doing very little actual marketing with the exception of being listed on a state tourism website (generally at little or no cost).

I know innkeeping is a full-time job, but just like any other business you have to market it. Just because innkeepers work more hours a week/month/year than the average person isn’t an excuse.

Many B&Bs, especially ones with outdated sites with some god awful pictures are just relying on their website to make the phone ring and bookings to come in. If the site has tiny dark blurry photos (which many of the older ones do, a little collection curated yesterday from some sites below) vs well taken large format shots (like above), it goes without saying that guests are going to book at the ones with the nice photos.

bad photos

If you can’t afford to hire a pro photographer, ask some photography students from the local college to come by for their portfolios, or a local starving professional photographer and tell them you’ll give them web credit and a link to their site, or take your smart phone and snap some new pictures, heaven knows they have to be an improvement on some of the sites I’ve seen lately. My biggest cringe? Brand new WordPress sites with bad, dated, old, dark blurry photos. Seriously?

An additional issue is many newer sites are not optimized with calls to action (book now) or are not laid out well, or more importantly link to reservation systems that are not user-friendly, and even worse not mobile friendly. If your website is mobile friendly, but your reservation links and booking capability is not, you probably (certainly) have a fairly high abandonment rate. Studies have shown huge abandonment rates in the booking process across the board. Have you tried to book your own B&B on your mobile phone? Have you? Is it easy? If not, you may want to revisit.

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One in approximately thirty B&Bs has a web request form for contacting them (no email because they still believe that spammers scour the web filching email addresses) so unless you want to call directly (and some don’t even have phone numbers on them at all to contact) they are relying on contact forms for reservations or questions. Of the ones with contact forms, many don’t actually work (I’ve tested many from the front end and the back), so innkeepers may not even be aware they are missing out on potential bookings. If you have a contact form, when was the last time you actually tested it? And if you have, do you still test it once a month or more? Especially if it’s based on a WordPress plugin, is your plugin up to date, or even supported by new versions of WordPress? Check please!

Many B&Bs have auto-responders for their email that are unprofessional with odd fonts (Comic Sans in Pink for example), brusque language, misspellings or I come across this frequently, vacation or away notifications that are months old or even in a few cases more than a year old (a topic for another blog post). What are your auto-responders saying about you as a business? Do you even know?

Suggestions for B&Bs to address.

  1. Be proactive in your marketing. This is common sense, but I see many innkeepers waiting for the phone to ring instead of actively going after guests and potential guests online and offline. Yes I know there is only so much time in the day. Make time, it’s the difference between surviving and going under. If you feel overwhelmed, make a checklist, and tackle one small thing a week. Most of the items I listed don’t have to be and are not time-consuming to do. How long to check that your page links work? = 10 minutes. How long to check to see if your social media links A. work and B. are up to date (or not) and you should remove? = 5 seconds. Optimizing your Yelp listing? = 5 minutes or less. How long to check your auto-responder? = 2 minutes or less. Break it into bits. 
  2. How to compete with Airbnb? List your inn and tweak the listing to appeal. There are a ton of helpful articles out there on how to make your listing stand out. Use them! And beyond that, up your customer service quota. What does a real B&B offer that an Airbnb host does not? Professionalism! Awesome Breakfasts! Terrific Hospitality! Safety! Cleanliness! and the list goes on…………leverage it!
  3. Go through the list I highlighted, are you doing all the things you should (or shouldn’t?) Look at your marketing or lack of marketing from a guest’s standpoint? All of it! From checking links working on your website to responding to guest’s reviews. None of this is rocket science, but look at the statistics above and see where you need to do some homework and spiffing up. If most of those are good to go, that’s fantastic, but check! Don’t rely on a guest to tell you that your request for booking on your non-mobile friendly website isn’t user-friendly, they won’t, they will just book elsewhere.
Posted in B&B, General Rants & Raves, Lodging, marketing, Observations, Reputation Management, Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

ADA Service Animal Requirements for Bed and Breakfasts

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Our Service Dog in Training

This past week I wrote an article for PAII’s May Newsletter with some information that the US Justice Department has put out on commonly asked questions about service animals. I wanted to elaborate a bit on the article, and delve a bit deeper into the issues and potential issues surrounding ADA compliance and how it pertains to B&Bs. We are puppy raisers for Fidelco Guide Dogs and this is a topic that hits close to home for me in that regard and not just pertaining to the hospitality industry.

 

PAII and myself directly, frequently gets questions about service animals, unfortunately many times pertaining to guests and potential guests abusing the law. The prevalence of places online where you can buy fake service dog vests (and fake documentation) is unfortunately growing, and on many of the lodging Facebook forums we see questions and complaints from innkeepers about guests bringing “service dogs” that clearly were not.

 

Innkeepers are being overly cautious about this and rightly so, because A. in this sue happy society we live in, they don’t want to get sued, and B. heaven forbid they make an error and it hits the news. An inn’s reputation can get ruined online in very short order, and in some cases could cause them to go out of business.

 

In some cases Innkeepers don’t know specifically what questions they are legally allowed to ask:

From the ADA: In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions:

(1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?

and

(2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.

 

If Innkeepers think about specifically asking the second question, many times it will actually help them weed out the legitimate service dogs from the fakes.  Apparently most of the people using the fake vests are not actually familiar with the laws. **and note where it says (not obvious that the dog is a service animal) think about that, obvious would be a blind person or someone in a wheelchair, so the “non-obvious” pretty much covers any dog including ones wearing vests (legitimate or not).

 

I have a B&B I work with in New England who is pet friendly, but not all of their rooms are. Every few months they will get someone bringing a “fake” service dog and reserving a room in one of the non-petfriendly relegated rooms.  The innkeeper I think has a very nice way of asking (when definitely in doubt and he tries to do his best to believe everyone is truthful, but a dog for example not paying attention to it’s handler and not settling easily is generally a pretty clear indication of it not being a service dog) “In accordance with ADA regulations I am allowed to ask you two questions about your service animal, my deepest apologies for asking, but we had an issue recently where guests came saying they had a service dog and it bit another guest’s dog, “and then asks both questions. He also has a copy of the ADA regulations in hand when he says it. He told me that its an easy way to tell, as people “faking” having a service dog generally don’t have a quick and easy answer for “what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

 

I think with a bit of foresight an innkeeper could come up with additional ways of being “prepared” for having to deal with potential issues. It may be helpful as well to watch some of the videos available on Youtube (of which there are hundreds) demonstrating what actual service dogs and how they are interact with their handlers looks like and what some of them have been trained to do.

 

Another tip off is guests coming with documentation in hand that certifies their dog as being a service dog. By law documentation is not required, nor is it regulated by the Government. Sadly there are sites out there that will provide certificates and vests with no proof required of any disability (in this case think of the saying, “thou dost protest too much”) Don’t use this as 100% proof though that it’s a fake service dog, some people with disabilities have gone that route after having had to deal with too many issues and questions, but the ones that I know (and there are not many of them) actually have documentation directly from a registered service dog training facility and will volunteer if pressed vs the pet dog owner who cheerfully waves around their fake “documentation”.

 

If you read through what I’ve highlighted in the “Frequently Asked Questions” document, you will also find some other things that are tip offs, a dog must not be left in the room, etc. etc. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8NhdxswriMUTlRMaXBob3c5SFk/view?usp=sharing. What can B&Bs do to protect themselves? If you have a guest saying they have a service dog and are going to leave them in the room, you can bring up that under ADA law it must accompany them.

 

A case in point regarding reputation management (and this was a B&B making a mistake but with a legitimate service dog), a few weeks ago a Bed and Breakfast in North Carolina made the news after a woman with a service dog was made to leave the B&B. They were extremely lucky in that it only made one news channel, and negative comments were only put on their Facebook page (which has been taken down).  The news channels original article only made mention of the B&B by name in the actual video clip. It since has added the name of the B&B, but only after the major search engines spidered the article, so it doesn’t look like it’s effecting the inn’s SEO. The inn does have two Facebook “places” pages which I don’t think they are aware of, those come up on page two of Google search and have negative reviews pertaining to the issue. (They have been sent an email to make them aware of this.)

 

In many cases, issues such as this could hit the more mainstream news and can snowball causing internet trolls to leave many negative comments on Tripadvisor, Yelp and other review sites, and can cause permanent reputation damage to a B&B.

 

In this particular case the service animal was a Yorkie, which is not a dog most people think of when it comes to service dogs. Even though it was wearing a service dog vest, enough questions must have been raised in the innkeeper’s minds about whether it was a real service dog. The innkeepers did apologize but it was handled very badly.

 

An issue may come up as well about service dogs in training, the laws regarding in training dogs vary from State to State, and there are some additional statutes per state that an innkeeper may want to brush up on for their own individual states, although all are bound under National ADA statutes. A good reference state by state can be found at http://servicedogcentral.org/content/node/58. Keep in mind miniature horses are also legitimate service animals under the ADA, but I have yet to encounter a B&B having to accommodate one.

 

With more and more legitimate service dogs entering the general population in use for people with PTSD and individuals with other medical issues (like diabetes) that a dog is trained to help with, it’s more and more important that innkeepers know what is a legitimate service dog, and be able to accommodate and interact with people that require them as well as being able to protect their own business and other guests against damage as well as harm.

 

As of now, 18 states have laws that make it a crime to fraudulently represent that a person has the right to be accompanied by a service animal. A list can be found here http://kdvr.com/2016/04/11/law-to-make-it-a-misdemeanor-to-misrepresent-pets-as-service-animals-fails/   I would also highly recommend reading  http://pleasedontpetme.com/pets.php as well as checking out some of the other links off this site, some very valuable education for innkeepers to be aware of in the links regarding service dog behavior, business rights, service dog and handler etiquette and more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in B&B, Customer Service, Hospitality News, How tos, Observations | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Branding, Marketing and the Internet for Aspiring Innkeepers. Part Three

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This is part three of a series based on a recent session I did for Aspiring innkeepers at the recent Mid-Atlantic Innkeepers Conference in Virginia. Part One can be found here and Part Two here.

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Slide 14 gave screen shots of a nicely laid out well designed wordpress site (above) that is responsive (or adaptive) and mobile friendly.  A discussion was had about the importance of having a mobile friendly website. While new or innkeepers taking over an existing business may not have the funds to go out and redo a new website right away, we talked about some of the alternatives that inns could use in the interim of having the site redesigned. (suggested links at the bottom of this post). While it’s not the best substitute for having a responsive or adaptive website done (but with the realization it may not be in the budget just yet), it’s a stop gap interim that needs to be done as Google is making it more and more important that businesses have mobile friendly sites, it’s not something to ignore. (Google Just Upped the Penalty for Not Having a Mobile-Friendly Hotel Website)

Slide 15 is an older standard HTML website with a mobile friendly separate website screenshot from a mobile phone.

Slide 16 is an example of a DIY website through Wix.com which is mobile friendly.

Slide 17 is an example of an older standard HTML website with no mobile friendly alternative, I can forsee an extremely high mobile bounce rate for this site, as you have to really expand the view to move around in the site.

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Slide 18 is an example of a wordpress site that’s lovely, well designed (above) but NOT mobile friendly. Again similar to the older HTML site, I would guess it has a rather high mobile bounce rate.

Slide 19 is a screen shot of a newer website with some rather bad photography of their rooms. Here I put in my own two cents about the importance of good photography, and in terms of marketing budgets and money, my feeling is spend the money on good photography FIRST, before you have your website done or redone. Photos are what is going to sell your inn and book your rooms. A lovely well designed, well coded and well SEOed website is still not going to get you the reservations if you have crappy pictures. People don’t read and they won’t, they look at the pictures and that besides the pricing, influences their booking decisions primarily.

Slides 20 & 21 is a comparison between a not attractive photo selection from an inn, and an attractive one pleasing to the eye, i.e. an “I want to book your rooms photo selection.”

Slide 22 are some food photos I came across on inn’s websites. If you have to ask “what the hell is that?” then it’s probably not something you should be posting on your website (or your social media for that fact either.).

Slide 23 is an example of two professionally taken photos, which still doesn’t take away the fact that inns need to eyeball photos heavily before posting. The top has a photo with pumpernickel toast (and a blurb underneath, which people won’t read) but at first glance (and second) the toast looks burnt. The second is an example of a well done “action” photo i.e. maple syrup being poured.

Slide 24 is an example of another professionally taken photo that is used in large format on an inn’s website but also goes into the category of the innkeeper should really eyeball the photo carefully, especially if being used like this as a photo front and center. It IS a gorgeous photo, well lit, well laid out, But…………. The apple in the photo has been cut prior to taking the photos for enough in advance that it’s start to brown around the seeds, the grapes are lackluster looking and could have used a bit of glycerin or a brief spritz of water. And my personal pet peeve, lots of cheese but very few crackers, so from a visual aspect, i.e. a guest looking at it, the photo looks appealing, but something in it is just a little “off”. I would suggest reading these three articles I wrote, one from last year and the other two from several years prior: Suggestions for Professional and DIY Inn Photography, and Some food styling tips for Bed and Breakfasts, and Innkeepers, think before you post…a photo.

Slide 25 is a shot from Social Media Examiner’s yearly social media report. http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/. I would really recommend that inns and aspiring innkeepers sign up for their free newsletter, very informational. The slide has a breakdown of social media being used currently for business.

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Slide 26 is a snapshot of a B&B using Youtube (above) with a well filled out profile and lots of videos and went over some brief pros and cons.

Slide 27 is a snapshot of an Inn’s Facebook profiles and we went over some brief pros and cons.

Slide 28 is a snapshot of an Inn’s Pinterest profiles and we went over some brief pros and cons.

Slide 29 is a snapshot of an Inn’s blog and we went over some brief pros and cons.

Slide 30 is a snapshot of an Innkeepers Linkedin personal profile page we and went over some brief pros and cons.

Slide 31 is a snapshot of an Inn’s Linkedin business page and we went over some brief pros, there are no cons to having a Linkedin business page.

Slide 32 is a snapshot of an Inn’s Twitter profile and we went over some brief pros and cons.

Slide 33 is a snapshot of an Inn’s Google+ profile and we went over some brief pros and cons.

Slide 34 is what Google+ pages are transitioning to look like.

Slide 34 is snapshot of the web interface for an Inn’s Instagram account and a mobile screenshot of the actual Instagram account.

There are also handouts of all of my sessions at http://forfengmedia.com/MAI2016/. The Pros and Cons of Social Media, and Reputation Management handouts would also be ones I would encourage aspiring innkeepers to download.

Another article that may also be of interest (and it came up in another discussion at the conference) was “checking yourself in” to your own B&B. A related article from 2012, Why it pays to sleep around for Bed and Breakfast owners.

Helpful Links for Aspiring Innkeepers on a Budget

Mobile alternatives if you don’t have the money to redo your website: (some are also website builders as well as offering mobile site alternatives)

Website builders that are fairly low cost and mobile friendly (definitely save up for a good quality designer, but some alternatives for the interim, a website is better than NO website at all realistically)

Free photo editors – lets you edit all your photos online, from one easy place. If you don’t have a desktop photo editor these are great.

If you are an innkeeper or aspiring innkeeper and would like a copy of the actual slidedeck (for the visuals) please send me an email at heather@forfengdesigns.com and I’d be happy to send you a copy. (no sales pitches included, I promise :) **By way of explanation for not posting the slidedeck online, I did get several email requests from people asking me to post it online. In most cases I would, but I’m being bugged by someone that teaches aspiring innkeeper courses (for a rather large fee) that attended my session at the conference. Quite frankly I am happy to share for educational purposes but not if someone is going to profit off it. I realize I should take this as a compliment but it irks me, i.e. take the 6 hours it took me to put the slidedeck together, and do it yourself if you are going to charge for it. (sorry if that comes across as snarky.)

Posted in B&B, Hospitality News, How tos, Observations | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Branding, Marketing and the Internet for Aspiring Innkeepers. Part Two

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This is part two of a series based on a recent session I did for Aspiring innkeepers at the recent Mid-Atlantic Innkeepers Conference in Virginia. Part One can be found here.

Slide 10 was on utilizing your business cards and using them well. I also talked about how in the beginning you may not have social media links set up for your inn, but instead of having to reprint them as you add them, use the Clear Avery Mailing Labels and utilize any white space on the cards for the new text on the label.   I also mentioned the importance of not just saying “Find Us on Facebook” on your cards and print materials,  or just using the logo but actually putting the direct link, like https://www.facebook.com/forfengdesigns as people are honestly lazy, A. they won’t search for it and B. with a name that may have multiple variations or be worded a certain way, you want to make sure you direct people to the correct inn (instead of the inn with the same name in another state for example or you have abbreviations or hyphens in the FB url). Some additional ways you can use your business cards can be found here from the blog in 2011: Leveraging your business cards for the hospitality industry.

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Slide 11 was about the importance of an innkeeper having their 30 Second Elevator Speech done and perfected. I wrote about this one back in 2011: Why Bed and Breakfasts need to have an elevator speech.

Slide12

Slide 12 was about Telephone Tools and having scripts in place for certain types of calls and also Post-its or reminders to make sure you concentrate on the art of the upsell. I wrote some tips about this one back in 2009: A tale of two Inns and the importance of good phone sales skills.

Slide13

Slide 13 was about whether local Chamber membership was worth it. I feel personally that it is, but you have to take advantage of the membership, otherwise it’s worthless. A post from 2014 relates more: Is Chamber membership worth it for Bed and Breakfasts?

I still have about a dozen more slides to go, mainly on websites, photography and social media, so stay tuned for next week when I wrap up the series. Same bat time, same bat place.

If you are an innkeeper or aspiring innkeeper and would like a copy of the actual slidedeck (for the visuals) please send me an email at heather@forfengdesigns.com and I’d be happy to send you a copy.

Posted in B&B, Customer Service, Hospitality News, How tos, Lodging, marketing, Observations | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Branding, Marketing and the Internet for Aspiring Innkeepers, Part One

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At the recent Mid-Atlantic Innkeepers Conference in Virginia this past week I did a session for the aspiring innkeepers, and realized much of what I went over with them in terms of marketing both offline and online I’ve never really either put down on paper (so to speak) or condensed in one place for reference.

Many of the things we went over were basic marketing tools that many B&Bs either don’t take advantage of, or don’t think of, and going out of the starting gate with some additional ammunition to get your offline and online marketing in shape is never a bad thing.

I’ll start out with what was my first slide (slide two) where I talked about having consistent branding. Before even starting to develop your marketing materials, think about what fonts do you like and are planning on using. Are they easily readable in different sizes? i.e what might look great on a sign in front of the B&B may be completely squint worthy on a business card. Is the font going to be one that if you work with a designer on a project,  are they going to be able to find it easily (if it’s not a common one), will they have to purchase it (expect a markup). Is it going to print well on different surfaces like silk screen or having it done in embroidery.

What colors are you planning on using? Are they from color palettes from RGB/Hex or Pantone colors, which the codes can be translated to each other, but a color that may look terrific on print materials (Pantone) may look hideous on a computer screen. If you go to GoffGrafix (there are other conversion sites out there as well) if you are planning on using Pantone colors, test them out with their RGB color conversions down at the bottom of the linked page.

Make sure your branding is consistent from the get go. I’ve seen too many B&Bs where business cards look one way, rack cards another, website another, have three different logos floating around, etc. I know over the years things get revamped, but starting out with consistent branding in the first place gives you a leg up on when you want to change your branding at some point, (as it’s not bad to occasionally do a brand refresh) but it’s something to also put in your initial budgeting. You want to think about in advance that at some point down the road you may want to do a full website rebrand/redo, start budgeting to have any print and other materials you have already developed at that time to be redone at the same time.

Slides three and slide four were on rack cards, and a guest post/interview I did for Bedandbrunchpr pretty much sums up everything I would want to impart about rack cards. You can find it here: Media Moment: Rack Cards

Slide five was on thinking out of the box a bit on your branded amenities.  I wrote about this one (had to go find it! Back in 2010) The great debate about “branded” amenities, necessity or waste?.

Slides six, seven and eight were on advertising where your guests will find you. If you are a Select Registry Inn and have a lot of high end cars in your parking lot for example, consider doing print ads (no print is not dead if used correctly) in magazines like Roundel magazine,  which caters to BMW enthusiasts, or if you are a pet friendly inn, connect with your local vet who always has copies of the pet directed branded magazines in their office, ad space in those is very affordable. You have guests that love quilting, check out McCall’s Quilting as another example. What do your guests like to do, and more importantly what do they like to read!

Slide nine was making sure that if you did print ads, make sure they had a call to action on them, and make sure they had a referral code on them so you could track your ROI (Return on Investment) for the ad. Adding a small incentive always helps. “Use this referral code when booking for a small sampling of chocolate dipped strawberries when reserving your room, Phone reservations only.”  So you give them 3 or 4 strawberries when they come (remember it said small sampling🙂. Or something else (it doesn’t have to be big, a small room discount, free tickets to an area attraction that you may have gotten for free) as an incentive to save the ad itself, plus use the code so you can track your bookings.

I have 2 dozen more slides to go, so I’m going to make this a multi part post, more next week. Same bat time, same bat place.

If you are an innkeeper or aspiring innkeeper and would like a copy of the actual slide deck (for the visuals) please send me an email at heather@forfengdesigns.com and I’d be happy to send you a copy.

Posted in B&B, How tos, Lodging, marketing, Observations | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A revised way to curate Facebook Interest Lists for Bed and Breakfasts

Interest listsFor those unfamiliar with using Interest Lists in Facebook, they are a terrific way to curate content for re-posting on an inns or associations social media channels including re-posting to an inns or associations Facebook business page. While one method of curation is to like a area attractions page “as” your business page, Facebook still filters out the majority of the posts so you are not actually seeing everything posted by the liked pages. Utilizing Interest Lists for curation lets you see every single post posted by the pages who have interesting content, ie. local theatres, restaurants, area attractions etc.

In the past Facebook gave you the ability to add a page to an interest list when you were directly on a business page, you had to like the page first (with a personal account) and then you would see the option. Facebook took that away several months ago. You could still create interest lists, but then you had to like a page first, then go to an interest list and add them.

They have now changed it so that you can add a page to a list without liking the page first and it also appears that business pages can create interest lists (I would be cautious doing this at the moment, as A. I don’t know if that feature will still be around in a few months or its in testing mode and B. it doesn’t appear that you can then share the list with others, ie. having them be view-able and searchable to the public and to friends.) From a collaboration aspect (especially if you are using this feature for the benefit of an association) you may want to stick with creating Interest Lists with your personal accounts for the foreseeable future.

To walk you through some quick steps to create and add pages to an Interest List, go to https://www.facebook.com/bookmarks/interests

step two

Then:

step one

Then name your list:

Step 4

Add a page to your interest list to start:

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To add additional pages to your list, find the Facebook business page you would like to add, copy the ending of the page from the url:

list one

Paste the url snippet into the box to the right and hit add and bingo you are all set!

list two

You can have multiple interest lists for multiple topics and they can be private, public or friends only.

Posted in B&B, Facebook, Hospitality News, How tos, Lodging, marketing, Social Media | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Innkeepers, What does your personal digital footprint say about you? (and your inn)

foot1I was having an interesting discussion with a friend yesterday (an Innkeeper in Virginia) about attending the PAII conference next week, and my friend asked, “So where are you staying?” and we got into a discussion about B&Bs in Austin and how she thought she had found one she was going to book at, and then changed her mind.

“How come?” “Well, I always check out their Facebook page because sometimes they have better pictures of the rooms and inn then the website itself does. (FYI, it appears that Facebook has re-enabled “Featured Page Owner” which means you can click-through to someone’s personal profile from the business page. Facebook took that away about a year plus ago, and has recently brought it back. You can disable this feature or enable if you choose). To continue. “The featured page owner icon said I had several friends in common so I clicked through to their personal profile. Big mistake. I don’t like their politics and I don’t like their views on the politicians leanings even more. I don’t want to stay there!” I.e. that inn just lost her business.

Which brings up a few things I’ve bookmarked and seen over the years (so I guess this post was brewing for a while) that innkeepers may want to take a wandering eye and look over their own social media posts and profiles in the new year. I encourage inns to be proactive about reputation management about their inns, but that should also apply to their personal profiles, and I think many may not be aware of how they “personally” may be appearing to guests and potential guests online. In this day and age, people click-through and explore, you may not be cognizant of how you appear.

I’ll give you some of the examples of innkeepers posting things over the years and some quite recently as well as profile issues.

I recently was attempted to be friended by a innkeeper that I chat with on Twitter, her profile was locked down but her likes, groups and favorites were still visible. I’ll leave it to say that what I saw on her profile in Likes and Groups was not my cuppa tea (similar but probably not nearly as bad as the inn my friend didn’t book at but still). Not friended. I still chat with them online but it’s not someone I think I want having access to my personal information. Nothing horrid but as I said, just not my cuppa.

The very professional innkeeper who has a well populated Youtube channel with some great videos, their Channels and Playlists though feature some really shall we say “interesting” videos as favorites. You do have the ability to make those private FYI.

Another inn’s Youtube account favoriting dating videos. hmmmmm…….

The local innkeeper that connected her personal Facebook profile to her inn’s Twitter page as a feed by accident (I hope). Apparently she has some mum issues and hates her parents. From a guest’s perspective, just a tad too much TMI.

Another innkeeper who has two Twitter accounts, one for the inn (very professional) one for personal. Sadly the person likes to swear, allot, which normally wouldn’t be much of an issue as people do, but their public bio on Twitter says innkeeper @  Jane Doe Inn with a link to the inn as well. Perhaps using a pseudonym would be in order here, or at least taking off that personal identifying information.

The pinner on Pinterest who has a “Hunky Man” board on their inn Pinterest page, mixing business with pleasure is always fun, and while I greatly enjoyed the lovely men with the muscles, perhaps that board should have gone on a personal profile instead of the inn’s Pinterest account.

I have many more examples but the main point being, innkeepers in the New Year should really take a gander (and look from a guests/potential guests) viewpoint of what their own personal social media profiles look like.

I’ll give one more and just because what a guest sees can very much influence their booking practices. An inn advertising they are LGBT friendly, and they personally comment on their own posts on their Facebook business page quite a bit with their personal account, (which has all posts set as public and the account very clearly tracks back to the page as the owner) which is fine. But it is not so fine from a guest/potential guests perspective if they are clearly NOT LGBT friendly on their personal profile. Kinds of defeats the marketing eh?

Recommendations

Facebook

Posts: Make sure your posts are locked down to friends only, if you want to keep your posts public, fine, but be cognizant of, if you wouldn’t discuss it at a gathering, ie. religion and politics mainly, you may not want it posted publicly. If you are a Republican and you don’t want guests from other Parties staying with you, that’s one thing, and your prerogative, but be aware of what else is posted in conjunction with that, just as an example.

Likes and Groups: Be aware your likes of other pages may be visible (depending on your settings even if your posts are locked down) You may not think about this one, but think about it, you may have friends asking you to like their business pages as well as like pages they like. The first inclination by most people is to “like” the page just to get rid of the suggestion. Eyeball your likes, you don’t see them in your timeline so you may not remember you liked the “Going to McDonald’s for a Salad is Like Going to a Brothel for a Hug” page, or your friend added you to the group “My Friends Are Getting Married. I’m Just Getting Drunk” group 3 years ago and you totally forgot about it.

Profile Pictures: Your profile pictures are public including likes and most especially comments from others. Be cognizant of profiles images but mostly the comments from others (delete comments if needed).

Even if you think your profile is totally locked down, go check it at least once a month, Facebook is constantly changing the settings and sometimes things can be viewed you may not know about. Get a friend on the phone, have them unfriend you, and then have them refresh your profile page and tell you what they see. The “View As” option in Facebook is NOT 100% accurate.

Pinterest

Having some personal hobbies or interests on your inn board is fine, food of course is always good. But eyeball your interests, knitting and home improvement are generally fine, but fashion, bad memes, people of Walmart photos, pictures of spider bites, inappropriate photos of men & women, weird toilet boards (yes these are all images and boards I’ve found on inn accounts) and I could go on……………….are probably not appropriate, and belong either on a personal account, or make the boards secret so only you can see them.

Twitter

Who are you following and who is following you? Yes people do look. If you are following all the Kardashions for example, A. they will never follow you back (so why follow them) and B. if you want to follow their posts, put them on a private list (you are then not actually following them, your following their tweets, and only you can see that). Any celebrity including sports figures can actually influence a booker. Same goes for politics. I know a fellow who didn’t want to book at an inn because the innkeepers were apparently diehard Red Sox Fans (they were following all the players who had accounts) and their Facebook business page had set Red Socks Pages as featured liked pages, and he was a Yankees fan. You can’t sadly make this stuff up.

If you have spammers, scammers and “Get 10000s of Twitter followers Now!” accounts, while you can’t control who follows you initially, it looks bad to people who do look. You can get rid of these accounts by blocking the person/account following you.

Lists: If you use the lists feature or someone has added you to a public list that you don’t want people to see. Your own lists you can make private. If someone has added you to a list and you don’t want to be on it, you can block them, and it will remove you from any of the lists they have added you to. I had an inn call me in a panic last month because someone had apparently added her to a list labeled. “Grandma type doily B&B” which she is not, and it clearly hit a nerve.

Favorites (now call likes): Take a look at what you have liked/favorited. Anyone can see that list, a funny joke you liked 2 years ago shows up on that list in the number 5 spot, is it appropriate?

Linkedin

While many innkeepers I’ve talked to don’t see the value in Linkedin, and don’t actively use it, many have accounts. If you haven’t visited your Linkedin account in a while, it is worth a gander at. If nothing else you should have a professional Linkedin photo on the account.

Also look at who your connections are (if it’s set to public which most are) as well as what groups you belong to/have listed. To give you an example, I was on an innkeeper’s profile last week who asked me for some help, and I asked her why she belonged to all of these jobseeker groups/forums on Linkedin. She had apparently been looking for a job before she landed one at an inn about 5 years ago, but forgot to remove herself from the groups.

Think of it from the perspective of a guest/potential guest researching an inn. Linkedin profiles do come up in public search, and are very good for search engine optimization. In this case a search for the inn online also brought up the innkeeper’s Linkedin account, from an outsider’s perspective it appears she is job hunting and may negatively affect (primarily subconsciously but still affect) someone’s decision to book.

Stalk Yourself

It’s worth Googling yourself as well periodically. Put your name in quotes “Jane Doe” Charleston, NC, “Jane B. Doe” Charleston, NC, and add yourself to any Google alerts you’ve set up. Hopefully you have done this for your inn already. The alerts don’t pick up 100% of new spidered items and news though so it’s worth looking manually.

Why do this? I have an innkeeper friend in the UK who had another innkeeper namesake in the UK, different town get arrested for fraud last year. If your name associated with an inn popped up negatively, I would think you would want to know about it (I know I would) and take steps to negate any online damage. In this case. They actually lost bookings about this, until they started being proactive and put out on their social media accounts that this was not them in question.

Eyeball your own online presence heavily and view from the aspect of someone who may book. Even better ask some friends to help you out and get some additional perspectives, what might not occur to you, they may see differently……………..

Posted in Facebook, How tos, Inns, Lodging, marketing, Observations, Reputation Management, Social Media | Tagged , , | 3 Comments