Tag Archives: fun

Fantastic Fill in the Blanks on Social Media

 

Fantastic-Fill-In-The-Blanks-on-Social-Media

Fantastic fill in the blanks for social media can definitely attract more traffic to your website.  People love to use their imagination and share it with others online.

Do you remember Mad Libs? Those books filled with one-page stories filled with blanks that invited you to insert your own keywords? They were  invented in 1953 by Leonard Stern and Roger Price, who published the first Mad Libs book themselves in 1958.  It turns out that  these guys were ahead of their time in recognizing the power of the ‘blank’.

Fill in the blanks can prompt people to think about activities they would like to do and places they would love to visit.  For example, Disney posted, “If I could spend a day with a Disney character, I would choose _______.”

This is a great way to encourage creative responses as well as to promote engagement with your posts and tweets.  The blanks are essentially ‘platforms’ for people to share their creativity.

  • My favorite way to relax after a long hard day is to _______.
  • _______ always makes me feel inspired.
  • The best afternoon snack of all time is _______.
  • My favorite board game is _______.

These types of posts often garner fun and short comments, which then encourage your audience to react and interact.  Share a great photo and a good fill-in-the-blank sentence to inspire your audience to engage with you and your brand.

Twitter Fill in the Blank at bandbblogging Spring

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

Fill-in-the-blank posts feel incomplete until they’re engaged with. People love filling in blanks, and the most effective fill-in-the-blank posts are the ones that let fans share their ideas.

Make fill-in-the-blank posts and tweets relevant to your fans and the space you’re working in to see the best results.

Use fill-in-the-blank posts as a two-pronged engagement tactic: interact with your online community and get to know them better for future marketing campaigns.

Use the post tactic in conjunction with a specific event, such as a holiday.

Fill in the blank contests are great as they have the potential to actually get people thinking. The contest consists of a sentence of paragraph, and your fans are asked to add their own unique perspective by, obviously, filling in the blanks.

Fill-in-the-blanks are similar to questions.  They are simple and create engagement.  Some samples of these are:

  • My favorite social media site is _______________.
  • I’ve lived in ___________cities in my life.
  • I laugh every time I think about ______.

Have fun with these, but one piece of advice is to be careful that you don’t leave the blank too open ended for a potentially bad response. Be careful what you make a fill in the blank because people can turn it ugly.  That is what happened when the German grocery chain posted this:

“I became an ALDI-lover when I tasted _______ for the first time.”

Tweet out a straightforward question that’s easy to answer.  When questions are short and simple, it’s easy for followers to respond because they don’t need to spend a lot of time thinking about their answer or trying to fit a longer reply into 140 characters (or fewer if there is a hashtag).

Fill-in-the-blank tweets get your followers thinking and challenge to them to show their creative side. The key to making fill-in-the-blank tweets work for your company is to relate them to your followers’ interests.  Then you will have success!

January Holidays B&B Inns

Celebrating January holidays at B&B inns can attract more hospitality business.  Both big and small,  there are special holidays throughout the year.  Some holidays are officially observed (like Thanksgiving) while others are just for fun (like April Fool’s Day).

January Holidays at B&B Inns

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

Depending upon where you are in the United States, the month of January can be really cold yet beautiful.  It is a time for reflecting on and making decisions to improve your overall life.  It can also be about honoring those who have made a great impact on the world like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

January Holidays

Jan. 1 New Years Day

Keywords: Happy New Year, New Year’s Day, January 1st, 1st Day of the Year

Themes: fresh start, new you, resolutions, commitments, goals, dreams

Example: New Years Eve Special

Cobblestone Bed and Breakfast of Birchwood, Wisconsin celebrated the New Year with champagne, hors d’oeuvres, noise makers, and hats.  That sounds very festive!

Example: New Years Eve Dinner or New Years Eve Package

Each New Years Eve, Orchard Inn of Asheville, North Carolina hosts a decadent 7-course dinner. The night begins with hors d’oeuvres at 7 pm and then dinner at 8 pm. Then guests raise a glass to the New Year with a complimentary glass of French champagne. 

Guests who chose their New Years Eve package (for the 2015-2016 calendar change) received 2-nights accommodation, breakfast each morning and dinner on New Years Eve as well as a choice of dinner on December 30th or January 1st.

 

January Holidays at B&B Inns

St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Monument in St. Augustine, Florida

Jan. 18 Martin Luther King Day

Keywords: MLK Day, Martin Luther King Day, Civil Rights Leader

Themes: freedom, respect, equal rights, unity, peace

Example: Carriage Way Bed and Breakfast of St. Augustine, Florida is promoting FREE admission into Castillo de San Marcos Fort on Monday, January 18, to honor the memory of where Dr. King himself walked.

Example: Morehead Manor Bed and Breakfast of Durham, North Carolina, named by Black Enterprise magazine as the number one black-owned bed and breakfast in America, promotes their local area’s Annual MLK-Black History Month Parade.

Promote your bed and breakfast by celebrating more holidays throughout the year.  Have the appropriate decor (such as New Years’ noise makers) to make your inn more festive.  Consider hosting a dinner or encouraging your guests to attend local events (such a parades) in your area.

Become known for celebrating amazing holiday festivities (like these January holidays at B&B inns) throughout the year. This attracts visitors to come again to experience your hosting of another holiday.

Amazing Bed and Breakfast Marketing From A to Z

bed-and-breakfast-marketing

Amazing Bed and Breakfast Marketing From A to Z

What if there was an amazing way to market your bed and breakfast by keeping the alphabet in mind? These are some of the most important factors to consider when blogging about your bed and breakfast inn.

  • Amenities: What extra amenities does your B&B have that others do not? It is important to know what sets you apart from your competition. Whether you have in-room hot tubs or fireplaces, this is a great thing to mention in your blog and on your website.
  • Antiques: Do you have any unique antiques that guests can look at? You may want to keep priceless or fragile antiques behind glass to protect them. Some B&B’s sell antiques to their guests.
  • Art: Do guests admire your art collection? Whether you have paintings, murals, or sculptures, people enjoying looking at art. You may refer them to your local art museums and galleries.
  • Awards: Do you have some honor or distinction that is noteworthy? It is okay to mention your Diamond Rating level, your prize-winning recipe, or anything else that distinguishes you from other places of lodging.
  • Bathrooms: Show off your spacious, well-decorated, and luxurious bathrooms with pictures and blog about recent upgrades.
  • Beach: Having a beach or waterfront property adds to your appeal. Share plenty of outdoor pictures as well as pictures of the outside view from inside your inn.
  • Bedrooms: You could let guests know the meaning behind the names of your bedrooms. Is it named after a former resident, your state bird, or a local sports team? Blog about what your own guests tell you they love about your guest rooms.
  • Benefits: Blog about the benefits that come to those who take a break to relax and spend time with loved ones. With permission, you could feature some of your guests and have them share how they have benefited from their stay at your B&B.
  • Birthdays: It is always great to ask guests the reason for their visit. Even if the reason is not a birthday, it may be a good idea to find out those dates so you can send guests a postcard or email on their birthday to remind them of their stay and entice them to want to come back.
  • Breakfasts: Do you cater to special diets like gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan? How do guests receive their breakfast: delivered to their room or eaten in a common place? These are all things you can blog about. Even give a behind the scenes look at your kitchen or interview your chef.
  • Business: Do you host a number of business travelers in your area? Do you have a conference room and technology resources like free Wi-Fi and guest access to a printer and fax machine? Blogging about this may result in hosting more business travelers.
  • Classes: Do you teach, or know of someone who could do this, a certain skill? This could be cooking, dancing, photography, etc. By offering unique classes, you can attract more people to your inn.
  • Complimentary: Emphasize all the free things that come to your B&B guests versus those who stay at your local hotels. This includes: breakfast, concierge services, parking, etc. This gives people a reason to choose to stay with you over your local hotel competition.
  • Concerts: Are you near a big venue like a concert hall or stadium? Blog about the next musician or theatre performance coming to your area.
  • Decks: If you have a deck with an amazing view, by all means blog about it and show pictures of the view.   People like to get away to scenic places.
  • Dining out: Do you provide your guests with a list of local restaurants or have local restaurant menus available for guests to browse? You could feature certain restaurants you know are popular with your guests.
  • Eco-Friendly: If you are an environmentally friendly bed and breakfast, then you should write about what things you do to earn that green distinction. If you line dry your blankets and/or offer an electric car charging station, guests will appreciate that.
  • Events: Keep an eye on events that are happening in your local area. A great way to do this is to regularly check your local and state visitors’ bureaus.
  • Farms: If you live on a farm that grows crops and/or has animals, blog about this. Some guests would love to meet animals from your petting zoo. Other guests want the experience of picking berries, for example.
  • Fireplaces: If you have fireplaces inside and/or fire pits outside, this is an attractive feature. Mention that indoor guests can sip hot cocoa or drink wine by the fire. Outside they could roast marshmallows and make s’mores.
  • Flowers: As long as you know your guests do not have any allergies, displaying fresh flowers on throughout your B&B is a nice added touch. These flowers could come from your own garden or a local florist, farmers market, or grocery store.
  • Frequent stay: Reward your repeat guests in some way. This could be a free upgraded room, a free bottle of wine, free massage, or even an extra night.
  • Games: Do you offer cards, board games, or even video games at your inn? You may have a pool table or air hockey table or even have a horseshoe pit outside. Blog about the games that your guests enjoy playing at your bed and breakfast.
  • Garden: Guests love to walk the grounds of bed and breakfasts with gardens of all kinds, including: flower gardens, produce gardens, and rock gardens.
  • Handicap accessible: Do you accommodate handicapped people? If you have these available, discuss your ramps, ground floor guest rooms, wheelchair friendly bathrooms, and elevators in a blog post.
  • History: Many bed and breakfasts are registered historic places. You could blog about the history of your B&B including its former occupants and what it was used for. Some bed and breakfasts were once private residences, boarding schools, or used for other purposes.
  • Holiday: Use the time leading up to holidays to show pictures of how your inn is decorated and discuss local events related to the holidays.
  • Honeymooners: Many couples choose to stay at a bed and breakfast for their honeymoon. You may even have a Honeymoon Suite as part of your inn.
  • Innkeepers: Your guests want to know more about the innkeepers, the people who run your inn.
  • Just in Time: You could offer discounts based on the time of their stay. This could be last minute specials, mid-week discounts, or stay for a specific number of nights and get the next night free.
  • Kid-friendly: All bed and breakfast inns need to establish their minimum age requirement. Some bed and breakfasts cater to romance and do not allow anyone under a specific age to stay overnight. Others B&B’s are known as “kid friendly” and welcomes kids as well as provide accommodations like adjoining rooms.
  • Lakes: Being located on a lake is a tremendous advantage. If your guests can go fishing, swimming, waterskiing, rafting, canoeing, or do any other water-related activities, this is an opportunity to blog about it and share pictures.
  • Leisure activities: Anything that your guests can do for fun should be mentioned in your blog. I recommend having a list of links to local leisure activities such as amusement parks and golf courses.
  • Libraries: Do you have a common room that is perfect for guests to read in? Do you have a library of books available for them to use during their stay? If so, you could write a blog post about it. If you know a local author (or happen to be one yourself), consider hosting a book talk or book signing. Your library can include movies that guests can watch in their rooms.
  • Linens: Brag about your high thread count sheets, plush towels, and luxurious robes.
  • Local area: Find out why most people visit your area and blog about those reasons often. For example, if you are located near a famous race car track, feature that.
  • Membership: Belonging to associations can attract more guests. Guests rest easy when they know that you are part of a bed and breakfast association; have a certain Diamond rating, and so on. Membership in these organizations adds credibility.
  • Mountains: Bed and breakfasts located in the mountains can show their breathtaking views and discuss those pictures on their blog and website.
  • Museums: There are many types of museums that could be in your local area: art museums, history museums, natural science museums, and even sports museums (or hall of fames). If your inn is near any museums, blog about this.
  • Mysteries: Some bed and breakfasts offer Murder Mystery evenings or weekends. This may even include a dinner and/or getting into a costume. Those who like reading mystery novels are great candidates for people who are likely to enjoy these kinds of mysteries.
  • Night walk: Some local area events happen late at night or you could host your own night tour.
  • Occasion: A special occasion might bring people to your inn. This could be an anniversary or even a family reunion or class reunion.
  • Outdoors: It is important to know what people like to do outdoors in your area.   It often depends upon the weather your area receives and the topography of your region.
  • Packages: Add more value by putting together guest packages based upon interests, seasons, area activities, occasions, and much more. This could mean making arrangements, on behalf of your guests, for restaurants, tours, concerts, and more.
  • Partnerships: You may decide it is in your best interest to form partnerships with local business people. For example, in exchange for exclusively using only their business, you can get a deal with a local florist to reduce their rates.
  • Patios: If you have an outdoor patio area for your guests, take pictures of it. Blog about any outdoor events you hosted on your patio.
  • Patriotic: American patriotic holidays include Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Veterans Day. Your bed and breakfast may decorate, host events, and/or offer patriotic packages.
  • Pets: Your bed and breakfast may not allow pets or the only pets allowed are the innkeepers. Other bed and breakfast inns may accommodate pets in certain places of the inn (like the first floor, rooms with private exits, and private cottages) or it could be entirely pet friendly. If your B&B does allow pets, you could devote a blog post about the lovable pets that have stayed.
  • Pictures: They can say much more than words ever will. Be sure to have flattering pictures of your bed and breakfast inn on your website and in your blog posts. The pictures should accurately represent what your inn looks like today.
  • Pools: If your B&B has an indoor or outdoor pool or hot tub, you can share pictures of that. Guests really appreciate private in room hot tubs.
  • Porches: Many bed and breakfasts are known for their porches. Share pictures of your porch with its rockers, swing, and other furniture.
  • Promotions: Bed and breakfasts can offer special promotions based on the holidays, seasons, and local events. This could include discounts, complimentary services, and free upgrades.
  • Quiet: Guests like to get away from the noise of everyday life. If you live in a tranquil setting, write about the compliments you receive about being a quiet place to stay.
  • Recreation: Discuss types of recreation guests can take part in on your property as well as in your local area.
  • Redecorating/remodeling: Feature the before and after pictures from a recent redecorating or remodeling project. Blog about how and why you decided to make those changes as well as why guests will want to visit.
  • Referrals: Give your guests incentives to make referrals to their friends and family. The incentive could be a discount on their next stay.
  • Restaurant: If you own your own bed and breakfast restaurant, this part of your inn may be open to the public. This is a great way to draw new overnight guests by giving them a taste of your incredibly delicious food when they come to dine at your restaurant.
  • Retreats: You could offer retreats like yoga retreats, scrapbooking retreats, or business retreats. Blog about the variety of retreats you offer.
  • Reviews: Share genuinely positive reviews you have of local places of interest to your potential guests.
  • Romantic: Bed and breakfasts may be the perfect place to rekindle the romance in your relationship. Relationship building is one of the primary reasons people take vacations.
  • Seasons: Decorate your inn to reflect each new season. This encourages people to return at a different time in the year to enjoy that time, too.
  • Shopping: Whether you have your own bed and breakfast shop or you are near a lot of wonderful area shopping malls and retail outlets, guests who like to shop will want to read about the shopping that is available in your local area.
  • Spas: You may have your own spa or have a partnership with a local spa or masseuse to provide spa services. Having these services sets you apart from other lodging accommodations.
  • Sports: Bed and breakfasts near sporting arenas and stadiums can blog about local sports teams season schedules, players, and coaches. Innkeepers might provide a Sports Package that includes tickets to their choice of certain local sporting events.
  • Tea: Bed and breakfasts may have a tea time or even a tea room. They may serve scones, tea sandwiches, cookies, and other finger food.
  • Ultimate experience: Position your bed and breakfast inn as the ultimate experience in lodging accommodations, hospitality, and cuisine. Encourage guests to give you a five star rating, or if they cannot do so, to talk with you about it instead of sharing their less than 5 star rating. This keeps up your image as the ultimate experience and gives you valuable input for how you can improve your guest experience.
  • Videos: If your bed and breakfast has its own video, be sure to put that on your website in a prominent place for your web visitors to see. Videos show more than pictures do. This allows your guests to get a feel for the layout of your bed and breakfast.
  • Weddings: If your inn hosts weddings, it is wise to dedicate a place on your website for that as well as to blog about it. Smaller bed and breakfasts may do small weddings or elopements.
  • Wine: Depending upon your state laws and licensing, you may host wine tastings or allow your guests to bring their own wine. You may even offer your guests the opportunity to tour one or more local vineyards in your area.
  • Xtra special: This was my “extra special” attempt to come up with a word that starts with “X.” It is important that your guests feel extra special not just when they arrive, but from the moment they see your website and speak with you over the phone.  Your bed and breakfast should have a great reputation.
  • Young and old guests: Bed and breakfasts appeal to young couples as well as older ones. You may have guests that return regularly over the years. That is great to have such loyalty and friendship with your guests.
  • Zzz…. Are your guests ready to have a restful experience at your inn? Make sure that your mattresses are comfortable. Be sure to offer extra pillows and blankets. Have a night light for guests to see their way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Be sure to share your blog posts regularly in social media.  No time to write your own blog posts?  Contact us about your bed and breakfast blogging.

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

Time Away Inn Sitters

The Villa

The Villa in Costa Rica

Everyone needs to take a break. Innkeepers are definitely not the exception.  The reasons for taking a break could be for much needed rest, relaxation, upcoming holidays, vacation plans, attending to personal matters, and unfortunately even health related concerns. Carmen Collier and Jeb Marshall were gracious enough to let me interview them about their experiences as Time Away Inn Sitters. Their web page asks, “Are you ready for a break? Carmen and Jeb are professional Inn Sitters, ready to take the stress out of your next vacation or time away.”

For this interview, I will let Carmen and Jeb speak for themselves…

As Inn Sitters, we have learned that each Inn or Bed and Breakfast is unique. We know that responsibilities and constant day to day changes can be overwhelming.  We understand how adaptability and good organizational skills are vital to maintaining your business.  We commit to making the guidelines of the innkeepers they sit for their top priority.  Receiving good reviews and references are also extremely important to us.
bon appétit

Carmen Collier

Hello, I am Carmen Collier, 48, born in Frankfurt, Germany to a full blooded German Mother and a Croatian Father. My Mother was full blooded German born (in 1936) and raised in the Schwarzwald (Black Forest region) of Germany during WW2.  She instilled the importance of doing something right if you are going to do it at all.

My Father was born (1923) in Los Angeles, CA to full blooded Croatian parents. His father immigrated to the States in the early 1900’s at the age of nineteen.

I was blessed to have parents and grandparents who appreciated good food and taught me how to cook and bake at a very young age. Both sides of my family came from a culture where you did not eat “junk food”, fast food, or processed food.

My grandmothers on both sides were phenomenal cooks/bakers. Always using fresh ingredients, and making everything from scratch. My Dad’s Mother even had her own cookbook. I would sit in their kitchens for hours on end watching and observing, and helping when they asked. It was one of my favorite past times.  My Mom rarely made the same meal twice, always inspired by trying a new recipe. We were very blessed!

View from Our Room

View from Carmen and Jeb’s room in Costa Rica

My Father having traveled Europe for 15 years, tasted almost every type of cuisine/fare there was. He had an incredible palate, and passed that on not only to us, but his grandchildren as well.My son Nick is an Executive Chef for a restaurant in Durango, CO.  According to Jeb, when Nick lived with us while he attended culinary school, it was quite a show watching each of us try to outdo the other in the kitchen at night. Jeb gladly did the shopping every day and became the prep cook for whomever was making the meal of the evening.

Dad managed the Delaney’s Seafood Restaurant at the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA for many years. Then my father opened “Restaurant Yebe Tebe” a family restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine in Anaheim, California.  Growing up, I worked for several years learning the ropes and how to prep food properly for the Chef.

After I graduated, I went on to become a professional licensed Realtor and Property Manager. After my kids were in school full time (1999), I chose to get my Real Estate License. I worked at it full time, and was Top Producer for many years. My husband (ex) at the time was a custom home builder. So it was advantageous to be able to sell the “spec” homes he built as well as being the Property Manager for the apartments we owned. I still keep my Real Estate license current!  In addition, I also owned and operated my own “Construction Clean-up” company for over 20 years. We specialized in cleaning new Custom Homes throughout the Temecula Valley Wine Country.

Freja and Carmen

Carmen and a canine companion

Traveling the world as an Inn Sitter caring for other peoples needs and comfort has become my passion.There is no one thing that ultimately prepared me for becoming an inn sitter. However, I feel the following combination of things is probably a common thread among most successful ones: being approachable, affable, helpful, positive, upbeat, artistic, creative, problem solver, can clean properly, take pride in cooking/baking, presentation, fun, responsible, thorough, thoughtful, empathetic & modest.

We are very good at communication, and like to touch base with the owners/innkeepers if not everyday then several times per week.  We have learned that through email, phone calls, instant messaging and Skype we usually have a great understanding of what each owner is requesting.  Honoring commitments are huge.  Every owner is different.  The key is to listen to what is most important and treat their business as if it were our own.  Most have everything down in writing and make sure to keep open lines of communication available.

I have found that most innkeepers like me to stick to cooking what they normally would offer. It keeps shopping and budgeting on track. However, some Inns have a Chef already in place and no cooking is expected from us. Then there are others that have us come in during the “slow” season, and just look after the place with no guests. So it really just depends on the owners individual wants/needs.

As a side note to some of my hobbies/interests that may pertain to Inn Sitting:
    • I took Floral Design in College thinking at some point it would be fun to own a florist shop.
    • I created and sold my own jewelry with a southwestern flair for 3 years while living in Durango, CO before the kids started school.
    • I’ve taken Tole Painting courses, and made many art pieces that I sold at art and craft shows. I pretty much painted on anything, but mostly wood.

So to sum it up, the way I was raised in regards to cooking and cleaning, as well as my hands on experience with owning/operating my own cleaning company, staging my real estate clients homes so that they could be marketed and sell for the highest price, having a creative and artistic flair, and dealing with peoples wants and needs has completely prepared me for inn sitting. Not only that, but my father’s love for travel…it burns deep in my soul. Inn sitting at this point in my life is more desirable for me than being an innkeeper since it allows us the freedom to continue to travel and see the world.

Ronda

Jeb Marshall

Hello, I am Jeb Marshall, 51, born in Seattle, U.S.A. I received a B.S.B.A. from Central Washington University in 1985 and was a Boeing Design Engineer with a top level security clearance for many years.  My job with Boeing helped me improve organizational skills and become a better problem solver.  As an Inn Sitter you must be ready to solve a multitude of unforeseen problems.  Expect the unexpected is my motto.  Keeping a calm head and formulating the best action in response will always produce the best outcome.

Working for Boeing also taught me that working ten hours a day behind a computer screen was no way to spend my life.  I am reminded of that especially when I am back in the states.  It is sad to see so many people with their eyes fixed to a screen, be it a laptop, phone, I-pad or television.  The real world should be seen, heard and felt with real people and places.

I have also worked as a professional stage actor with various theatre companies and the Seattle Opera. As a stage actor I found another true passion in life.  The ability to perform and make people feel is overwhelming.  I carry that ability with me when I inn sit.  Being able to adapt to different personalities is a big plus as an Inn sitter.  I have also been known to perform one of my many monologues from time to time especially after a glass of wine.  I apologize to Carmen for enduring the same monologues over and over.

Mostar

Carmen and Jeb in Mostar, Bosnia

Carmen and I met in the ocean.  It was a sunny Saturday in early December of 2006, off the beach of Carlsbad, CA.  We got married a year and a half later in the “desert town” of Las Vegas, NV.  Carmen and I compliment each other with our inn sitting duties.  She is an amazing cook, how she comes up with her mouth watering meals is beyond me.  She does most of the cooking and cleaning, however I love filling in wherever is necessary.
The inspiration for us to sell everything and travel the world can be found in one of my favorite quotes by Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones that you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”

Even though society teaches us to buy the big house, the nice car and latest toys, Carmen and I decided that “The Stuff” is overrated.  The true inspiration for selling everything comes from within.  Carmen and I are adventurers at heart and following your heart and dreams will always inspire you!Helping run and care for bed and breakfasts has been and always will be a win-win proposition.  We are inspired to leave each inn sit with smiles from both guests and owners, taking the time to listen and observe, learning and becoming richer from each experience.

The best rewards have been the journey.  It is hard to put into words, however it is like reading a good book. You don’t know where it is going to take you but you know it will most likely enrich.  The faces and feelings have been amazing.  I speak of men and women that I have met and helped not knowing how to speak their language but connecting with them.  Feeling them through non verbal communication can be more rewarding than a long drawn out conversation.  The rewards are great with inn sitting. Sometimes a hug or smile can be reward enough for going the extra mile.

I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, whether in the garden or as a handyman on that unforeseen project.  My list of jobs have ranged from changing switches on a circuit breaker in Switzerland to painting the roof of a casita in 100 degree heat in Costa Rica.  I also work as concierge, driver, grocery shopper, greeter, take reservations, accountant, bus boy, waiter, dishwasher, housekeeper, dog walker, receptionist, security guard and so on.

Me and My Buddies

Jeb with two dogs

My favorite inn sit was for a winery in Satigny, Switzerland.  We arrived for the three week sit on my birthday, flying in from Venice where we had  celebrated Carmen’s birthday a couple days prior.  Upon our arrival into Geneva we were picked up and driven to Satigny which is about 10 kilometers from the airport.  Our duties for this sit was to care for their two wonderful dogs, watch and secure the winery and sign for all deliveries and mail.  You can read about it in more detail in our journal.

My favorite foods are Thai, sushi, seafood, Mexican and Italian dishes.  Who am I kidding? I love all food!  It does depend on freshness of ingredients and who prepares it.  The best Thai meal I ever had was in Spain, best Italian in Australia and best sushi was in Costa Rica.  Carmen has helped open my eyes to the wonderful world of great food.

Most people are afraid to travel to countries in which they do not understand the language.  As long as you show respect and try to blend in, most cultures will accept you and it is amazing how well non verbal communication works.  Carmen speaks German fairly well and she is working on her Spanish.   I speak many languages poorly, but can have conversations in English and Spanish.  The Spanish that is spoken in Spain differs from that in Central America much the same way that English in the states differs from the English spoken in the United Kingdom.
I have learned that the best way to learn about a specific culture is to get lost in it.  Get off the tourist lined streets and don’t be afraid to literally get lost.  Having to ask for help or eventually finding your way back on your own can be quite rewarding and you will be amazed at what you will find.  I enjoy getting off a plane or train and not knowing anything about the culture, it is part of the pure joy of travel.  When it comes to inn sitting, I will take the time to educate myself with a certain area if I have never been and learn everything a good concierge should know.

We have decided to be inn sitters of bed and breakfasts for many reasons.  We enjoy the challenge that everyday is going to be a little bit different.  The reward of being able to share some of our talents while having the opportunity to travel the world and make a living is a dream come true.  The Palawan and Cook islands are on my list of places to visit, however finding new places in Europe will never get old.

After traveling pretty much nonstop over the past two years to over 23 countries, we have discovered a tremendous amount about ourselves. We are able to travel anywhere in the world and are accepting Inn Sits from one week to one year.  Currently we are on a one year Inn Sit, in Los Pargos, Costa Rica until mid September of 2015.  After many Skype interviews and hundreds of applicants, we were offered the job.

We would like to extend an invitation to anyone who would like to stay in the casita for $80 a night. The town is great with award winning restaurants and a great pura vida vibe.  Everything is alive and constantly changing!

So much of life is about timing and luck.  Even though we had sold everything we owned, we feel extremely rich.  We have our health, great kids, and we are living our dream.  Life is full of ups and downs, never take the ups for granted and hopefully learn to weather the downs.

Plans?  What is that?  We would like to take on another inn sitting commitment once we finish inn sitting in Costa Rica.  We are always open to discussing any future inn sitting offers with innkeepers and are available to Skype at any time.

The experiences, sites, sounds, smells and tastes of Europe contrasting with Central America have been incredible. Our journey is far from over.  For those wishing to contact us, our email address is timeawayinnsitters@gmail.com

Thank you, Carmen and Jeb, for sharing your inn sitting adventures, experiences, and dreams with us!

Visual Storytelling: Tips

 

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This is the last of the series of blog posts discussing the book The Power of Visual Storytelling: How To Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Market Your Brand by Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio.  This features their smart tips for social media photography.

Social media photography tips:

  • Up your resolution to the highest resolution possible
  • Collages need to be of similar resolution
  • Divide your images into thirds either horizontally or vertically
  • Align your image slightly off center to make it more engaging
  • Variety matters, use a range of angles and setups
  • Take more pictures than you think you need
  • Frame your shot with less cluttered backgrounds
  • Use close-cropped images
  • Work the angles
  • Shine bright with lighting and filters
  • Show don’t sell
  • Celebrate occasions
  • Share great quotes
  • Include photos related to your company’s lifestyle
  • Inspire through the use of images by showcasing your company’s lifestyle, values, and opinions
  • Show how your products and services contribute to the greater good
  • Encourage emotion by featuring a sentimental side when appropriate
  • Propel action into a still image
  • Sprinkle in humor and have a little fun
  • Embrace creativity
  • Not all pictures have to have only one item
  • Go behind the scenes to make your customers feel like part of your brand

This is the conclusion to the blog series about the book The Power of Visual Storytelling.  I highly recommend this book.  I literally took twenty pages of handwritten notes from information in this book!  A special thank you to the authors Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio for letting me share some of their book.  I am not being compensated for this review, I just really think this book is great any business looking to grow their online marketing.

 

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

Visual Storytelling: Shaping

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According to the book The Power of Visual Storytelling: How to Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Market Your Brand by Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio, companies need to shape their visual story.  Each piece of content needs to have a clear theme and point of view as well as a take away message for the reader.

Content needs to be aligned with who you are as a company: voice, personality, and values. Once woven together, these themes shape your story.  It is important to list your goals and determine how visual content can help achieve them.  Ask yourself, if your company were a person, what would it look like in real life?

Embrace social media’s more personable, human side.  Look for the most commonly discussed conversation themes from your online consumers.  Shape your story and identify major themes to craft your visual content mix.  Look at your goals, company voice, and customer feedback by social media platform.

Determine Your Visual Content Mix:

  • The magic is in the mix to keep storytelling fresh
  • It allows you to deliver more personalized content to target audiences across different platforms
  • Evaluate your desired frequency per platform for posts, tweets, pins, etc.
  • Have a formula and clear plan of what steps you will take
  • Frequency varies by company and by social media channel
  • Quality content always trumps quantity and volume
  • Content must be interesting, important, and relevant to your audience
  • The usual shelf life of a tweet is considered an hour at most
  • The shelf life of a Facebook post is around 24 hours
  • Prioritize by social media platform the most important content themes that go into crafting your visual story
  • The mix needs to balance what is important from an ongoing visual storytelling perspective with goals, current events, questions, and general conversation from your customers
  • Content goals will likely change each month depending upon how much news your company has or tweets your making in response to fan engagement
  • Content should aim to be mostly upbeat, fun, motivating, and engaging
  • Outlining content themes makes it easy to identify what messages will be best conveyed as photos, videos, infographics, presentations, etc.

Authors Walter and Gioglio remind us to be listening and responding to what is being said about our company as well as learning the most commonly asked questions.  When we know that, companies can better respond to their own target audience.  This means setting goals and developing a strategy.  Our content will adjust in response to real time as we get live social media feedback.

 

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

Visual Storytelling: Vine

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Vine is an app that lets you post short, up to six-second long video footage loops. These clips can be embedded in Twitter and Facebook posts.  Nearly all mobile users. This launched the short-form video craze.

People can like, comment on, and share your footage with other image sharing networks.  Early adopters, millennials, teens, and hardcore content creators are taking advantage of this social media platform.  Videos are driven by influential people.

Founded in June of 2012, it was acquired by microblogging website Twitter in October of 2012, just prior to its official launch in January of 2013.

Vine Statistics:

A mass audience of 40 million people on Vine

Branded content accounts for 4% of the top 100 tracked Vines

Branded Vines are 4 times more likely to be shared than branded online videos

5 Vine tweets are sent every second

Most Vine activity occurs between 10 and 11 am EST

More Vine tweets occur during the weekend than all of the weekdays combined

Vine New Feature:

In July 2014, Vine updated their app with a new “loop count” meaning every time someone watches a vine, a number on top of the video will appear showing how many times it was viewed. The “loop count” also includes views from vines that are embedded on to other websites.

Vine Strategies:

Vine is perfect for creating a short product showcase ahead of launch

Only have 6 seconds to convey your brand message

Have fun with your ideas

Run a contest and ask users to post their own video responses with a specific hashtag (#)

Tag your clips to ensure they are found by people who aren’t following you directly

Keep it simple, not too detailed or overly complicated

Do not rush your footage just to fit the time frame

Eliminate background noise if possible

Vine is an effective social media channel that companies can use to encourage innovative, imaginative responses in 6-second constraints.  If your company is not currently using Vine, this may be a social media platform to consider adding to promote your business.

The practical information about Vine came from the recommended bestselling book by Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio titled, The Power of Visual Storytelling: How to Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Market Your Brand.

 

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

25 Ways To Write Creative Blog Posts

If you are reading this, then I assume you are looking to be CREATIVE (and definitely not boring) when you write a blog post.  This way you will have plenty of admiring fans! 25 ways to write CREATIVE blog posts:

1. ADVICE You have unique advice that only you can offer to your readers.  Once you understand who your audience is, then you can write like you are writing to a friend.  They will feel like they know you and you will develop a huge following.

2. CAUSE– Why not rally your readers behind a cause you support?  Let them know what you are doing to make a difference and how they can help. Give a call to action. Seriously, don’t leave that out.

3. COMMUNITY Your community could be defined by your local area or it could be people who share a common interest or goal.  Reach out to “your peeps” and connect with them!

4. COMPARISON Take two things and compare them.  Whether you compare two breakfast foods or two fun activities, the fun is in comparing and contrasting them. This could be educational, entertaining, or funny as well. Speaking of…

5. EDUCATIONAL– People like learning about things.  That is one reason why search engines are so popular.  Tell them something that not everyone knows, but you know because you are an expert at it.  Everyone is an expert at something.  Blog about what you know best.

6. ENTERTAINING Everyone likes to laugh and have fun.  You could blog about entertainment that is coming to your community whether it is a music concert, sporting event, or theatrical production. Be sure to make it “entertaining” to read!  Since blogging is writing that is typically less formal than say a report, let your personality shine in the post.

7. EVENTS People like finding out about events–ones that will happen and ones that already happened.  If you have the “inside scoop” on the latest, you can “tell all” in your blog!

8. FAQ This common acronym is short for “frequently asked questions.”  Many websites have an FAQ page on them.  Blog about commonly asked questions.  Blog answers to familiar questions so you can refer your readers to when they ask them.  Saves you time in the process!

9. FAMILY Some of your best material can come from your family members and others with whom you are close. As long as you make it generic enough that you don’t single out any one person or you know they won’t mind your sharing it, go ahead.  You know you want to!

10. GUIDE A guide-type blog post could be a collection of tips about a specific topic. While similar to advice blog posts, they are different in that these tips can be applied by a variety of different people–not advice for one type of problem.  Example: Simple Tips to Get Clients To Pay on Time, Quick Ways to Find Just What You Want Online, etc.

11. HYPOTHETICAL Ask your readers what they would do in a hypothetical situation. Maybe answer that question as well. These types of blog posts tend to get a lot of comments because people like to imagine, “What if….?” Sometimes I imagine, “What if I win a ton of money in the lottery and get to quit my day job?!”  I kind of have to buy a lottery ticket first. Oh well.

12. INSPIRATIONAL Share something motivational with your readers.  Help them connect to you in a powerful way through your telling of someone overcoming a challenge and beating the odds.  Maybe that someone who overcame something big is you.  Don’t be afraid to share since it could encourage someone else!

13. INSTRUCTIONAL or “HOW TO” Give instructions on how to do something that others want to know how to do, and suddenly you have a captive large audience.  You can be creative with your titles of these posts as well. Two examples: How To Teach Your Dog Fun New Tricks, How To Make Delicious Homemade Ice Cream, How To Make a Memorable Family Scrapbook, etc.

14. INTERVIEW If you don’t have any famous celebrities you happen to know (most of us are in this boat), then you could always interview a person notable for what they do. A person who is accomplished in a career or sport or another area of life.  If you interview a person who has an inspiring story and then you have an “inspirational interview“! Wow, two different ways to write a blog post combined! You are an overachiever!

15. LISTS People love lists.  Examples: 10 Ways You Can Change Your Spouse, 20 Best Party Appetizers, Top 40 Bestselling Books About Fitness, etc.  You get the idea and they will too!

16. MEMORIES Often, we like to recall fond memories or retell funny situations.  We may even want to remember how we overcame a trauma for the sake of helping another person who finds themselves in the same emergency. When you blog about a memory, be sure to create a vivid picture in their minds of all the important details of your experience.

17. NEWS Did you know that sometimes bloggers are the first to break a news story? There have been cases where a blogger has gotten in trouble for sharing some kinds of sensitive information.  Keep your day job and don’t blog about company trade secrets. Another word of advice is to keep your love life private so no one tries to sue you for disclosing personal details.  However, if you are in attendance at an exclusive event that you have permission to be blogging about, then by all means SHARE!

18. OPINIONS If you loving sharing your opinions, then blogging is right up your alley!  As long as you are tactful and the topic is appropriate, it is alright to share what you think. You don’t have to have all positive comments from your readers.  In fact, it makes it more interesting when some of your readers do not agree with you.  Usually readers who do agree with you, will come to your defense when you are criticized by others.

19. PHOTOS If you took a great picture or want to share several incredible pictures, then you may want to have a photo blog post.  When your text is all about what is in your photo(s), then you have a photo blog post.  Whether your pictures are of smiling people, grand buildings, gorgeous nature, or something entirely different, there are others who would love to learn about how you managed to capture the photos and the techniques you used in getting it to look the way it does.

20. PREDICTIONS It is common at the end of the year (or the beginning of the new year) for people to come up with their predictions about some topic.  Examples: The Future of Technology, 10 Social Media Predictions, What is To Come in American Education, etc. Similar to the hypothetical “what if” posts, these are your thoughts as to what will come about in the next year (or whatever time frame you select) concerning a particular topic. Inquiring minds want to know!

21. PROBLEMS Life would not be nearly as exciting if there were no glitches.  Inevitably, snags come along.  You spill chocolate ice cream on your brand new white dress shirt.  You get a ticket for speeding on your way to work early one morning.  Your problem post could be written to be a funny look at everyday life or it could be a solution post in which you address how to solve a particular problem with a specific idea, product, or service. People are always looking for solutions!

22. QUIZZES Some people love taking quizzes for fun.  Why not write a blog post that is a quiz about something interesting?  Examples: 15 Questions to Discover the Vacation of Your Dreams, How Well Do You Know Yourself?, etc.  The point is to make your quiz blog post appealing enough to your audience, so that they want to take it.

23. REVIEW Everybody loves reading reviews.  You could blog a book review, a restaurant critique, or a movie screening.  Reviews help other people who, for example, were thinking about reading the same book, dining at the same restaurant, or watching the same movie; decide if they want to based on your review.  When you write a review blog post, you have the power to influence your readers to take action or avoid it.  Don’t let the power go to your head!

24. SECRETS This could mean quick shortcuts, little known facts, or juicy details.  Like news posts, people like finding out things they would not normally know had they not read your blog.  Same cautions apply!

25. STORIES People love reading fascinating stories.  A story blog post captures the attention of your audience yet is brief enough to be the length of a blog post. Stories with important lessons for your readers earn you loyal readers.

Try one (or a combination of several) of these types of blog posts the next time you write! Don’t be afraid to get CREATIVE.  Most importantly, enjoy the process that blogging requires.  It always helps me to visualize my readers reading this.  Will they think this is funny?  Does that tell them everything they need to know?  etc.  Feel free to share your CREATIVE blog post ideas or to ask me a question related to this post.

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