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Michael Cooperberg 08/2/2021

When it comes to increasing direct bookings, everyone should already know about Paid Search as an effective marketing solution. Target users in the midst of their vacation rental search and get them to your direct booking website. But what about Paid Social? Are there effective strategies there to increase bookings and produce solid ROIs?

Nowadays people are spending more and more time on their social media apps, and advertisers are taking note. By targeting specific users at the right time, also known as media buying, sellers of all sorts of products are using platforms like Facebook and Instagram to drive loads of revenue. And while the vacation rental industry is quite different from most other direct-to-consumer (DTC) e-commerce industries, the sheer fact the people are spending more and more of their dollars via Paid Social ads means that with the right strategies (and expectations), Paid Social ads can be a great way to create an additional source of revenue.

First, Let’s Set Some Expectations

Right off the bat, it’s important to note that your Paid Social ads are not going to produce as strong of an ROI as your Paid Search ads. The reason being, with Paid Search, you are targeting users as they are ACTIVELY planning their vacation. They are doing a search for vacation rentals in your area on Google, you’ve decided to bid on users who input that search, and thus you are attempting to drive traffic to your site that is searching for your specific product, keeping them away from competitors’ sites.

With Paid Social, the strategy differs. It’s near impossible to target users on a social network as they are ACTIVELY planning a vacation. More likely, they’re browsing memes, commenting on friends’ photos, interacting with influencers, etc. Thus, you are higher in the conversion funnel, and the likelihood of each individual user booking a property or signing up as a new homeowner is lower.

Social relies on demographic targeting and appealing to people’s interests. With Google, results can be immediate, whereas with Paid Social, we’re trying to create that sense of urgency within an individual to get them further down the sales funnel. Paid Social may require more visits to the site before a user eventually books, as well as additional marketing strategies (i.e., Remarketing) to eventually get them to that point.

Because of all of this, your ROI is expected to lag behind Paid Search. The likelihood of generating a booking is lower, and the likelihood of a booking being attributed back to Paid Social, as opposed to one of the later clicks to the site prior to the booking, is also lower. These are important facts to keep in mind when mapping out your Paid Social strategy.

So, What Strategies Actually Work?

Now that expectations have been set, what strategies should be utilized to see the strongest returns from your Paid Social efforts? The two main strategies we’ll discuss here are Remarketing, where you target users who have previously interacted with your company, and Custom Audiences, where you target users who fit certain criteria that you believe can lead to a booking.

Remarketing is a strategy that is widely used in PPC, but extending your efforts to Paid Social can be an effective way to keep your company top of mind and get users back to your site while they are still in their booking window. Two things to keep in mind are how frequently you serve ads to the same users, as well as how long you serve ads to users before you take them off your list.

In terms of frequency, you want to make sure that the users on your remarketing list see your ads, while also not overloading them with excessive impressions. Serving ads to the same users 5-10 times during the duration of their time on your remarketing list is typically fine, but serving the same ad to the same user 50 times in a week is probably not the best strategy. In terms of remarketing list duration, it really depends on the type of list you’re running. If you’re targeting an email list, you’ll probably want to pause those ads periodically to give your list a break, before starting ads back up again with new ad copy. For site visitor lists that are constantly changing, serving ads to users for a week or two is a good rule of thumb. If they aren’t interested anymore, they won’t return to the site and will be removed from the list, but if they are still interested and do return to the site, they will be re-added to the list and start seeing ads again.

There are a few key Paid Social remarketing strategies we like to use at Bizcor, beyond your standard “All Website Visitors” or “Email List” targeting. First, Dynamic Remarketing. With Dynamic Remarketing you target users who visited specific properties on your website, and actually serve a responsive ad that promotes those specific properties and sends them directly back to the property page if they click. This gets users closer to the checkout process for the properties they’ve already shown interest in and increases the chance of generating a booking.

A similar strategy is targeting “Checkout Abondoners”. With this strategy, we create a remarketing list of users who got all the way to the checkout page on your site but did not complete a booking. You can add specific promotions to your ads to increase the sense of urgency to book and get them over the finish line.

Lastly, you can create a remarketing list of users who made it to your property management page but didn’t fill out a lead. You can assume these users are homeowners in your area, looking for property management, and target them on Facebook to a) remind them of your services, and b) let them know you market aggressively which will lead to them getting more bookings.

While Remarketing should net you a solid ROI, targeting Custom Audiences will increase your click volume and get more users into your booking funnel. With Custom Audiences you are targeting new users who haven’t interacted yet with your business, hoping to generate interest in your location to eventually get them to the point of booking. You can target users based on interests, locations, income, or even create lookalike audiences to try and mimic your remarketing lists.

The key with Custom Audiences is to try and fine tune your targeting based on how users are interacting with your site. If you’re noticing high bounce rates or low time on site, it’s important to make adjustments to try and pinpoint where users are dropping off. Maybe it’s important to narrow your geo-targeting to specific metro areas or remove a specific interest that isn’t quite relevant enough for your offering. There is a lot of trial and error with this marketing strategy, but once fine-tuned, you should be able to add a lot of quality traffic to your booking funnel, with a percentage eventually leading to bookings and revenue.

A Few More Things to Consider

While we’ve reviewed some key Paid Social marketing strategies thus far, there are a good number of additional strategies and management tactics to consider. These can be often overlooked strategies when attempting to run an effective ad account.

For starters, brand awareness campaigns are a great way to increase your social media presence and a great avenue to lock in repeat guests. These campaign types are an excellent channel for lifting your brand name, while ensuring your content reaches as many people as possible. You have the ability to get your content in front of people who didn’t even realize that they needed or wanted it, ultimately trying to pique their interest in your business.

Facebook is an easy and efficient way to maintain your brand’s reputation as well. Positive reviews are obviously the most desirable, but unfortunately negative reviews do come into play as well. Having your reviews set up on Facebook is a great way to communicate with your client base, addressing both positive and negative comments. Furthermore, you can enable suggestions on your page and take into account people’s actual feedback on your business. This shows your company’s willingness to listen to any potential constructive criticism and influences the way your brand is perceived.

Another important consideration is post engagement, which ties back directly to reputation management. It’s important to hide or delete negative comments, as well as respond to positive comments on your ads. Periodically monitoring comments is vital, especially if you have a large audience size and robust budget.

Boosted posts is another Paid Social strategy that can increase your reach. Boosting a post essentially turns an organic Facebook post into a paid ad. This way you can reach people who don’t even follow you. Boosting can generate more messages, video views, event inquiries, follows, etc.

Messenger ads & chat bots are great for direct response when someone needs answers or assistance right away, without having to leave Facebook. With messenger ads, you do need an employee to be logged into Facebook to receive notifications and respond to potential customer inquiries quickly. If you don’t have a dedicated employee to do this, messenger bots like ManyChat can prove useful. Bots allow you to create conversation threads based on what you think your customers are likely to say. This provides immediate responses, as if the person was actually having a real live conversation.

Time to Get Started!

As you can see, Paid Social ads can be a powerful way of gaining bookings, exposure, followers and so on. The sky’s the limit. Depending on your company’s size and your business goals, implementing some, if not all of these tactics gives the highest likelihood of a solid return on ad spend. For more information on Bizcor’s Paid Social services, feel free to email us at [email protected]!