My Personal Twitter B&B Survival Guide
I’ve been using email since before email was really invented. When I first started at BA we had a mini computer system and we were able to send emails to other people in our team. Of course, even in those days, it was mostly used for gossip and illicit office romances. As early adopters, my future husband to be and I did most of our courting electronically during work time.
However, whilst I love email, Twitter was invented for me. All my life I’ve been thinking in 140 character sentences. Little anecdotes pop into my head, descriptions of what I’m seeing, something that’s made me laugh. But the big problem was was there was never anyone to share them with. So now I have Twitter and the world to share my thoughts with. And one thing I’ve discovered is that, as well as being able to share what’s in my head with everyone, Twitter is also pretty darn good for my business.
I’ve been on Twitter for 18 months and in the beginning I didn’t quite get it, but over that time I have evolved my own personal set of rules for using it effectively to promote my own B&B business. Now these aren’t THE rules for using Twitter. Maybe it’s my age but the more people tell me I should be doing something the less likely I am to want to do it. As B&B owners we have enough people telling us what to do; environmental health, the tax man, Visit Britain. So you are welcome to pay attention to these or not, use some and not others or just disagree with me completely.
What I do know is that I’ve had my busiest year ever and I attribute a large part of that to how I use Twitter & other social networking sites, so I must be doing something right.
1. Be Clear On How You Want Your Followers To See You
As B&B owners we all want guests to perceive us in a certain way; whether it be 5 star boutique luxury, relaxed rural idyll, romantic getaway etc. On Twitter we can show our followers what our B&B is like & also show them something of what we are like as B&B owners. So it’s good idea for you to decide how you want people to perceive you & your B&B on Twitter and then, for each tweet, assess whether that tweet is helping with that image or not.
I like to think that people see my B&B as luxurious but relaxed & friendly, set in a peaceful country setting with great and varied menus, lots of birds & wildlife & welcoming to dogs. As for me I’m a friendly person, willing to see the best in most people, good sense of humour, dog & bird lover, a good cook, happy to help others, chatty & very slightly naughty on occasion.
2. Don’t Tweet The Negative Stuff All The Time
Let’s be clear I’m not Pollyanna, I have bad days when nothing goes right just like everyone else. Very rarely a guest’s actions will really try my patience. But one of the things you have to do as a B&B owner is not let the guests see the bad days. The dog has died, you’ve got PMT and your husband has left you. It’s the guests’ 1st wedding anniversary, honeymoon, 60th birthday and they are paying to stay with you to have a good time, not to hear how dreadful your life is.
The trouble with Twitter is that there are lots of supportive people out there, so it’s very easy, when you’re feeling like hell, to tweet about it. But if you have prospective guests following you and all they see is one complaint after another they’re going to start to question whether you’re really a fun person to stay with.
This is where Direct Messaging comes into its own. Tweet the disasters in private to another B&B owner who understands what you’re going through!
3. But A Bit Of Self Effacement Can Be a Good Thing!
So I’m about to contradict myself. On the other side of the coin it can be really irritating to see someone constantly tweeting about how wonderful they are. Yes – I know you’re a 5 star luxury B&B with 3 zillion wonderful Tripadvisor reviews, I can see that from Tripadvisor & your website, but people also like to see you’re human.
So I think it’s ok to balance the good stuff with some of the things that go wrong, as long as the disasters are done in a humourous Sid James type of way. The tweet that had me breaking into giggles all night, and still has the same effect now, was from @ashtonlancaster. He describes chasing his dog around the garden, who is in turn chasing a guest, who James is yelling at to stop running.
4. How To Talk About Guests
My web designers run a great course on waking Up Your Website, and one of the things they discuss is room photos. Anna says it’s important for a B&B room to look lived in rather than looking like the Marie Celeste. Getting this right can be difficult; an open book next to the bed, a tea tray on a table, a pulled back bedcover is great. For me seeing people in the room is one step too far. I want to imagine myself in the room rather than some very attractive slim couple decked out in Boden.
So it is with guests on Twitter. If you never talk about your guests your followers may start to think you are the B&B equivalent of Miss Haversham, cooking huge amounts of food that never get eaten by anyone.
Criticising guests is a no no. At best followers will worry you will be tweeting all their inadequacies if they come and stay. At worst that guest may actually be following you on Twitter. But you also need to be careful about the nice things you say too. I think describing guests actions, that can’t actually be attributed to anyone specifically is probably the safest option; “Guests went up to the Jolly Frog and had a lovely anniversary dinner”
5. Give People A Reason To Follow You
As I said in my last blog post, Twitter is about Social Networking not Advertising Networking. People need a reason to follow you and , if all you’re ever doing is advertising your business, they will unfollow you just as quickly.
So find reasons for people to follow. I like to share recipes, breakfast ideas, information about events that are happening locally, nice photographs of the area & wildlife, useful resources & information
If people find what you say useful and interesting they will retweet you to their followers. I personally find that I pick up far more new followers after I’ve been retweeted than from #followfriday
6. Don’t Swear Or Be Rude To Others
In real life I can & do swear loudly. Remember the opening scene to Four Weddings & Funeral? Try being in my kitchen on an “everything going very badly day”. But I personally don’t like to see swearing online ( except to a very select few friends who I know very well & who you can safely not bother to spend time looking for a more suitable description of how I’m feeling).
On occasion I’ve said something on Twitter that someone has objected to. I think it’s really important not to get into an argument on Twitter. If you feel the need, take it to Direct Message. Sometimes someone has said something that has really offended or upset me, but my Twitter business account is not the place to start a public arguments. For that reason….
7. Never Discuss Sex, Religion, Politics
These are 3 topics that turn my blood cold when I hear them being discussed over the breakfast table. I quickly change the subject and will do my best not to be drawn into any conversations about them. I will also studioulsy avoid on Twitter – best really.
8. Reply, Retweet, Engage
This is pretty standard Twitter advice. Twitter is about building relationships. You can only do that if you interact with others. Be useful, if it’s asked for, give advice, thank people, have conversations. It’s what takes time but it’s what makes the difference between Twitter being an effective business tool & it just been a waste of time that you give up after 3 months.
9. Break Your Twitter Rules
Anyone who has been following me for any amount of time knows that I regularly break 1-7 of my Twitter Rules. It’s the joy of self employment, providing I’m not breaking the law or upsetting the tax man, I can do what I like. But even when I’m breaking my rules I’m assessing the potential impact on my business.
So my daughter’s about to go to university, be prepared for sobbing empty nester B&B Landlady Tweets ( I’m really not that old – child bride virtually ) and please be gentle with me!