Recall the days when meeting with a travel agent was the norm for planning your perfect vacation. Before social media gained traction around the world, we relied on travel agencies to show us brochures that captured beautiful images of wonderful far-off destinations. The planning process for family vacations typically began months in advance, allowing plenty of time to research experiences and map out an itinerary. When the start to your vacation finally arrived, you felt some sense of childlike anticipation and uncertainty surrounding what you were about to experience. After all, you'd based your vacation off of a few captivating images and/or recommendations from someone else who'd already been there or heard about it.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, it's time for you to catch up... because millennials have changed the way the world travels.

Forget the brochures... they're officially a nostalgic remnant of our world's past. Those captivating images of far-off destinations around the world can be viewed in the palm of your hand, through social media platforms, within a matter of seconds. And millennials have made this all possible.

Born between 1981 and 1996, this (seemingly disruptive) generation craves adventure, unique experiences, and local cuisine, so they can then share it all on social media. Ever heard the phrase: pictures or it didn't happen? This phrase is commonly used by millennials as a claim that requires proof of one who's traveled somewhere or experienced something extraordinary. After all, if there are no pics to show for it, then who can believe it actually happened?

So, embracing one of the largest generations — the oldest already 39 — creates an opportunity for the vacation rental market. As an owner or manager, there are several things you should take into consideration as you adapt your strategy from the antiquated to modern day. Finding ways to effectively target millennials can offer your business a competitive advantage for years to come. The following are tips to consider to keep your business engaged with this generation.

Tip One: Invest in a mobile-first website

Millennials use mobile devices for research and social interaction, scanning the web for specific terms. We suggest working with a design professional to build a mobile-first website. Then incorporate these design elements so your vacation rental pages can be found, and will keep viewers around long enough to book.

  • Use professional, optimized images. Sites like webdev provide insights on image optimization.
  • Use bold headlines that define the page.
  • Page content should be a mix of bullet points, simple words and short paragraphs (1-3 sentences).
  • Consider bolding the first sentence of the paragraph.
  • Optimize your website for Voice Search to help search engines find you.
  • Make sure your website is fast. Tools like Page Speed Insights analyze how your website is performing on both mobile and desktop.
  • Bi-annual website reviews with your designer can ensure your website continues to perform well.

Tip Two: Get creative on social media

Millennials are innately digitally native, social-first and driven by video. According to recent research from Social Bakers, Facebook and Instagram are two of the most popular social networks when marketing to millennials. If both of these networks are not a part of your social media platform, they should be. Consider incorporating the following social media strategies:

  • More specific ad targeting in your social media platform. Rather than trying to target a wide age range, find your niche market. Have luxury properties? Target the older, more financially independent. Have inexpensive, quaint condos in unique locations? Target the younger millennial.
  • It is essential to be proactive. Incentivize those who ‘like’ your Facebook page by providing discounts or promotions.
  • Encourage engagement and conversation on your platform. Consider live-streaming, interactive polls or pop quizzes on trending topics to engage your audience.

Tip Three: Understand your audience

Millennials are demanding when it comes to price and are utilizing price-comparison apps to shop. The desire to cut out the middlemen and cost, while still craving experiences, offers an opportunity for those owners and managers who have an engaging, well-designed website. A review of your website can help to determine what makes your business stand out.

  • Offer direct bookings on your website. This not only allows you to offer the lowest rate, but also to build a direct relationship with your guests.
  • Offer packaged stays, and market them on your website. Do guests tend to be couples? Consider offering discounted wine tour packages with direct bookings. Guests visiting the area to ski, golf, snorkel or kayak? Consider teaming up with a local shop and offer exclusive booking packages. Combining the experience with the reservation is a win-win. It takes out the after market sale, and provides guests with a one-stop shop.
  • Establish local partnerships. Traveling millennials seek Instagram-worthy destinations. Partnering with local favorites and promoting these hidden gems on your website shows that you understand the need to incorporate unique experiences into a vacation.

Tip Four: Be straightforward

Trust is a huge part of the service industry. When it comes to customer service, instead of writing lengthy emails or phone calls, social media has become the go-to platform for posting reviews. When travelers trust you, they will recommend you to their friends at home and on social media.

  • Manage all social media platforms where you have a presence. Stay on top of guest reviews and messages on your social media platforms. Managing the different networks can be time consuming. If you need help, research different social media management tools offering a custom dashboard to manage all your social media platforms.
  • Be helpful. Whether in person or online, provide a solution, directions, or a recommendation. If you come across as helpful and engaging, then there is a good chance people will return.
  • Ensure communications are on-brand. No matter how you manage comments, complaints and messages on social media, stay on-brand with your messaging to ensure guests understand your company values.
  • Reviews. Utilize feedback. Your guests are your livelihood, so engage with them and ask for reviews. When you get reviews, ensure that they are posted across all of your social media platforms, as well as on your website for others to see.

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