Facebook Ads remain one of the hardest ad platforms to master as a vacation rental marketer and those new to the vacation rental industry. Search ads from Google (or PPC ads) give you specific keywords, display ads allow you target only your site visitors, but Facebook Ads offer so many campaign goals and targeting options, even experienced advertisers can get overwhelmed.
In this guide we want to demonstrate the Facebook marketing campaigns that we’ve had the most success with running ads for dozens of vacation rental companies (managers/owners) as well as break down the most successful ways to get started with Facebook Ads.
Expanding marketing for all of your rental properties instead of just relying on Vrbo, Airbnb and Booking.com is a critically important piece of your long-term marketing strategy. Facebook is one of the few platforms that allow you to generate direct bookings quickly (along with Google Ads).
In the world of digital marketing for vacation rental owners and property managers, it takes a mix of many different Facebook advertising styles and techniques to get great results. Below are a handful of our best vacation rental Facebook ad strategies that’ll drive more bookings and inquiries to your vacation home property.
Quick note: many of our clients are dealing with Facebook disapproving their ads due to Housing advertising restrictions. If you’re having this issue, contact us and we can help get your ads approved!
Setting Up & Running Your First Facebook Ads Campaign
Getting started with your first campaign can often lead to some confusion: even knowing what campaign objective to choose can be overwhelming for the first-time advertiser.
Our recommendation is to start advertising to those most familiar with your brand and rentals. Instead of just targeting “cold” social media users across Instagram and Facebook for your vacation rental business, it’s often best to run your ad campaign first to those you know. Most often your potential guests can come from a list of past inquiries, website visitors and even those who’ve already liked your Facebook page.
True for both vacation rental owners and for managers, understanding both the goal of your campaigns and how to target ads will lead to more success.
Step 1: Create A Facebook Ads Account
Before you can build out a Facebook Ads campaign, of course you’ll need an account. Many vacation rental managers are simply using a personal ad account, but to utilize all of the features of Facebook Ads, you’ll need a Business Manager account.
Step 2: Connect Ads Account To Business Manager
Connecting an ads account to business manager is typically very straightforward, find the ad account ID and then click “add” under the ads portion of business manager settings.
Step 3: Add Payment Method
Once connected, make sure to add a valid payment method to your account.
Step 4: Install Facebook Pixel & Verify Domain Name
Lastly, but a vital part of the Facebook Ads setup process, make sure to both verify your domain name + install the Facebook Pixel (tracking code) on your website.
Facebook Ads Campaign Ideas For Vacation Rental Leads & Bookings
Retargeting Website Visitors
Retargeting is often the best campaign to focus on early – it’s typically the easiest to set up and yields great returns in terms of traffic back to your vacation rental website. Most people don’t convert the first time they view your website, so reminding them with retargeting ads is a great way to bring traffic back to the website and earn more direct traffic and bookings.
Retargeting Facebook Ad campaign setup isn’t difficult with tide targeting, making sure that Facebook users that are viewing your website can be brought back.
Custom Audience Targeting Past Guests & Leads
Many of our rental managers that we work with focus heavily on collecting email as part of their direct marketing strategy. That’s a great idea, and with Custom Audience Targeting those emails are even more useful. It’s simple to build a target audience based solely on past guests and then serve those past guests ads in the news feed on Facebook, Instagram and everywhere ads show across Facebook.
Promotion of a specific vacation rental property or earning page likes is easier when you’re targeting guests who are familiar with your property management business. Any Facebook post can be used as an ad from your page or of course you can write your own copy, design a custom image and promote that post to these past guests.
Lookalike Audience & Interest Targeting
While both retargeting and custom audience campaigns can help target those who already have stayed with you or visited your website, you can also target possible guests you are similar to your past guest list using Facebook’s intelligent Lookalike audience targeting.
With just a few clicks, you can create a list of possible guests that are similar to all of your own past guests. What better way to tell Facebook who may be a good target audience than starting with an audience that’s already stayed with you?
Lookalike Audience targeting can be effective to attract new top of funnel website visitors and to introduce your brand to new potential guests, however don’t expect Lookalike campaigns to drive bookings right away. You’ll need to first introduce your brand, your properties and entice these possible guests with posts on Facebook before you can earn a website visitor or property inquiry/lead.
Interest-based targeting is another option in Facebook Ads, where you can select pre-built audience interests to build your targeting set. For example, you can target demographics + psychographics along with interests based on your idea guest profile.
Visitors to Orlando, Florida might include: Females, aged 25 – 45, based on east coast/midwest states and have interests in Disney + Theme Parks.
Use Facebook Pixel To Track Results
No matter what objective you have with your Facebook Ads traffic, measuring the results of your paid Facebook Ads traffic is key to earning the best results.
Facebook has created their own tracking code, known as the Facebook Pixel, to help you understand how ads traffic is behaving on your website. While you may also analyze campaigns and traffic through Google Analytics, Facebook’s Pixel is worth running alongside your analytics package to help measure other data points.
The pixel may already be installed on your website (for use in retargeting campaigns), but there’s more to do than just install the pixel. Installing the pixel on every page should be considered table stakes for Facebook Ads: more impactful insights can come from adding in conversion actions.
The pixel can track leads, online bookings, revenue from bookings (to calculate your ROI), engagement in the vacation rental search process and phone calls with additional configuration. Using the Events Setup tool, some of this tracking can be done without any additional programming or assistance from your website developer. However, many more advanced tracking tools like ecommerce/revenue tracking from online bookings will likely need to be installed by your website developer.
Relying only on Google Analytics will miss out on some key Facebook tracking like view-through conversions — so while you can use both systems to measure traffic from Facebook, the Pixel has a unique set of analytics measurement advantages.
Common Mistakes With Facebook Ads
While we’ve covered at length the ways that Facebook Ads can go right, there’s also some easy to fall into traps that can cause poor performance.
Choosing To Boost Instead Of Run Ads
While the “Boost post” functionality has improved significantly in the past few years, it still pales in comparison to the regular Facebook Ads Manager targeting toolset. We recommend rarely if ever boosting posts and instead relying on Ads Manager to setup your Facebook Ads campaigns. Using Ads Manager, you can still run Facebook Ads from posts on your page by finding the post ID from a regular organic post on your page.
Engagement Only Ads Without Links
Engagement-only ads can serve a purpose, in particular on new pages or pages that have “gone dark” in terms of organic engagement. However we often see vacation rental managers running engagement only ads without links to their website and wondering why the ad didn’t drive much traffic! Focus only on engagement only campaigns in specific scenarios and use link posts when you want to drive traffic to your website.
Messenger Ads, But No One Is Home
Facebook has increased their encouragement to utilize the Facebook Messenger ad destination instead of websites where possible. That may be beneficial for Facebook and it may work well for you, but only if someone is “manning” the inbox and is ready to help needy guests. There are sadly more negative outcomes than bookings made when you encourage messenger traffic and then don’t have the infrastructure to respond quickly to those messages.
When we say quick, we do mean quick! A guest will expect you to respond in a matter of minutes to questions on property availability, location and more. Can’t respond quick enough? Turn off the messenger ads.
Sales Or Last-Minute Only Ads
Reaching the right guest at the right time is key, but few guests can drop what they’re doing today and visit your destination tomorrow (even if they’d like to). Be careful of promoting last-minute offers that are truly last minute. We’ve found that the average booking window applies similarly regardless of the source of paid traffic (in other words, guests from Facebook aren’t looking at different dates compared to those coming from Google).
Sale ads can work well if there’s legitimate urgency (this property is open next week for 3 days due to a cancellation) but showing a special like 10% off all the time tends to lose its luster quickly.
Dividing Budgets Too Thin
No vacation rental manager has an unlimited budget, so it’s tempting to take a smaller budget and divide it equally between 4-5 campaigns. While this may sound like a great way to test many campaign strategies at once, it can fail if none of the campaigns earn statistically significant data (for example, a top of funnel guest awareness campaign with $3/day budget). It’s often better to try just 1-2 campaigns at a time with a stronger budget, then moving on and pausing targeting that didn’t work for you and trying a new campaign strategy.