Chanters Lodge and Social Media

Yesterday I received this query on the Chanters Lodge Facebook page “Quick question: Is it possible to book two single rooms online and then pay on arrival at Chanters?” There followed an exchange of messages on Facebook which culminated in the following remark from the Guest: “Just booked a night’s stay in Livingstone through Chanters Lodge, Livingstone. Very prompt & efficient communication. A Zambian business using social media well. Kudos.” To which I replied: “We give discounts for bookings through Facebook and for Zambians and Zambian residents. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s good value for money – Chanters Lodge, Livingstone.” We do not have an online booking system at the lodge, but pride ourselves on replying to booking enquiries within 24 hours – and usually much quicker than that, we have two internet service providers ensuring that we are very seldom totally offline – African internet is not great!

Here’s a general resume of our social media activity and the role it plays in our business:

We have 734 likes on our Chanters Lodge Facebook page – I haven’t ‘gone chasing’ for a while but I will! I have 1885 ‘friends’ on my own Facebook page – we post pretty much daily on both pages – the whole idea is to market the lodge, but subtly without direct ads like ‘come and stay at Chanters Lodge’. We prefer to post pictures of Victoria Falls, talk about activities in which our Guests are involved, and post updates on our local radio show. As mentioned, we love to get reservations through Facebook and give discounts! One of the reasons we are so active on Facebook is that it is a very popular medium in Zambia and we would love to have more Zambian business.

We have had a Twitter account (@livilodge) for a number of years and follow about 8000 accounts. We have a similar number of followers ranging from friends and family and pop music lovers, through Arsenal supporters, Zambian account holders and people involved with hotels and travel. I love Twitter – it’s a major source of immediate news apart from which you can find yourself talking to people all over the world about common interests. We have had plenty of reservation enquiries from Twitter resulting in confirmed bookings and once again we offer discounts for Twitter reservations. Why? Because we hope it will encourage people to book through this medium. It’s short, quick and immediate and it is, for a small lodge, another means of marketing. Most of our Twitter bookings have come from people in the travel trade or Zambians and we offer discounts to both groups anyway

Pinterest is relatively new but we have had a page (Richard Chanters) for about a year following a recommendation from a Guest. We have boards for the lodge, Victoria Falls, Zambia, family and the Zambezi as well as Africa and Random pictures. I have found it very useful when Guests ask for pictures of the lodge to be able to refer them to Pinterest – meaning the pictures of the lodge which appear on our website are supplemented on Pinterest. For example we recently pinned pictures of the bedroom renovations in progress at the lodge – photos we would not normally post on our web site as it is a work in progress. There are also photos of staff on that board. On Pinterest we have 198 followers and are following about 250 sites. I often upload photos from Pinterest to post on Facebook if the photos are beautiful or more often funny!

We have been blogging since 2006 – at one time we posted every day but these days usually two or three times a week depending on available material and time to write. These days our weekly radio show forms the centre piece of the blog. We write up the show with a photo of the Guests, reporting the subjects discussed on the programme and the music played – it makes a nice record for the Guests of their appearance on the show as well as keeping blog readers informed. The blog covers a multitude of other issues often involved with the hotel and travel business as well as some funnies. One of the presenters of our radio show, Kaufela, also provides material for the blog writing about Zambian musicians and the local music scene. Thanks to Edward Chanter our blog uploads straight on to our main website.

We estimate that some 80% of our accommodation enquiries are a result of potential Guests reading some of our more than 250 Trip Advisor reviews, mostly, but not all good. Once again the advice to ‘get on Trip Advisor’ came from a Guest. We are proud of the certificates of excellence awarded from that site in recent years. We respond to each and every review written in English and encourage Guests to write reviews on departure. Once again thanks to Edward, reviews upload unedited straight on to our lodge website.

We post on to LinkedIn and Google+