Building a following on Twitter can seem like a difficult prospect, at least initially. If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering who to follow and how to find followers and why your numbers are growing so slowly. It’s a frustrating thought process everyone goes through when they first join Twitter (I know I did), and it’s very easy to throw in the towel at this point.
But Twitter is ridiculously valuable if you run a small hotel or bed and breakfast. Because you can connect with guests from all over the world without spending a single cent on advertising.
There’s definitely some patience and experimentation involved, but once you start gaining followers, you’ll find it much easier to keep that momentum going. And the end result – an increased awareness of your property, more traffic to your website and more bookings – makes it worth your time.
1. Post the right content
Interesting, engaging and helpful content
My first piece of advice would be this: treat your Twitter like an information resource, or a virtual front desk, rather than an advertising outlet. Let followers know about exciting events and discounts at your property, but don’t be afraid to talk about things that are superficially related to your hotel as well, like cocktails (if you have a bar), weddings (if you have a reception venue) or concerts (if you’re near an arena). Be fun and conversational to build your relationships.
The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas employs this strategy, and it works very very well. Their following – an unthinkable 410,000 people – keeps growing every day.
Twitter is a hub for travellers, who use it to seek inspiration and brag about upcoming trips. Travel tips are highly shareable among this group. Especially articles from publications like Buzzfeed, Life Hacker and Mashable, because they’re light, funny and entertaining.
Just set up a Google Alert for those websites so you know as soon as they publish a new travel piece, and make sure you use a popular hashtag like #traveltips or #travelhack when posting your tweet (take a look at this post about finding the right hashtags for more information about this).
Many people shy away from Twitter because they think they can’t be visual. But hotels like the Four Seasons rely on photos for a majority of their posts. Look at how much a photo stands out in the news feed:
If you run a Facebook account, try posting that same content to your Twitter account – like photos of your rooms, recent events, dishes on your menu and candids of your team.
In terms of shareability, GIFs are absolute gold.
Find a travel related GIF by browsing Buzzfeed Travel or search for ‘travel GIF tumblr’ on Google images. Then save it onto your desktop and upload it to Twitter like you would a normal picture. It will come up like this:
— Upside (@upsidehl) April 17, 2015
2. Follow the right people
When you’re building your Twitter audience, you should be strategic about those you follow. The first people to target are businesses in your local area, especially those you already know, like cafés and restaurants. If you send them a tweet to say hello and let them know that you’ve just joined Twitter, they will be more likely to follow you back.
Users engaged with your content
It will take a while for your tweets to gain momentum, but pay attention to the people who are favouriting and retweeting your content. Make sure that you follow them. Ignore bots and marketing spammers who are only fishing for more followers.
Use the search function to find people who have recently travelled to your area. Think of all the phrases people use to talk about your area, and include activities, like ‘surfing Phillip Island’ or ‘cafes Cowes’. Then, search for people who have more of a general interest in travel by using terms like ‘wanderlust’ and ‘travellove’. If they’re asking a question about the area, don’t be afraid to send them an answer, which will demonstrate that your hotel is a local expert.
Users who are following your competition
This is probably the most effective tactic you can use. Search for your competitors and take a look at their followers. Click their names. If their follower count is lower than their following count, then they are more likely to follow you back.
But don’t follow people indiscriminately. A quick look at their profile will immediately tell you if they’re going to be interested in your content. And take note of how often they tweet. If their last tweet was 3 months ago, for example, then they're not going to be an active part of your community.
3. Post frequently
Once a day
Unfortunately tweeting once a month isn’t enough on Twitter, where things move along at warp speed.
Your content might be amazing, but if you’re not posting consistently it’s going to get lost very quickly. I recommend posting at least once a day. If you want to get serious, it’s recommended that you post 3+ times a day, especially during peak times like 1pm-3pm on weekdays.
That might sound like a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be. I set aside 1 hour on a Monday to search for interesting articles and photos. I’ll then schedule these tweets to go out at various times during the week using a free tool called Hootsuite. That way, I only have to check in on Twitter when I have new followers or new messages. It makes the entire process much more manageable.
4. Build loyalty
Personal thank you messages
Whenever someone follows your account, send them a tweet with a personalised thank you message. You don’t have to send these immediately – I usually set aside a few minutes at the start of the day to tackle this job.
Let them know that you’re happy to help with recommendations if they have any questions about your area, but don’t give them a sales pitch. Talk to them like you would talk to a new friend if you were meeting face to face. People are used to receiving automated (and generic) thank you messages on Twitter, so a personal one will make an impression.