Marketing Guest post by Matt Smolsky of Perfect Places.com Social media figures heavily in the plans of many cottage rental owners and managers in 2013. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Perfect Places Vacation Rentals, social media is a respectable 3rd to paid and free listings as a marketing tool. Social media even surpassed paid and organic search. This comes as no big surprise–social media continues to dominate online conversations. More and more people are turning to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and LinkedIn to stay in touch and get connected. Google has said they will use undisclosed social media markers to help determine organic rankings (what this means exactly is anyone's best guess, as Google doesn't reveal anything about how their algorithms work). But social media has its drawbacks, the biggest being which networks to focus on and how much time to spend on them. Also, social networks are unproven when it comes to conversions and quality of traffic to your site. Here are three social networks that lend themselves to vacation rentals. There are others, of course, and you may want to experiment with them. Facebook The biggest challenge is getting word out about your page – here’s some ideas: Plan on running contests and sweepstakes within your Facebook page. You'll need to do so via a 3rd party app, such as Votigo or North Social. They have discount pricing for small or intermittent campaigns. Facebook is a photo driven network. Don't just cut and paste a link and let Facebook grab the main image from the page. It will be small or nonexistent, if there’s no image in the linked-to page. Instead, download the best image you can find for the link you want to share and load the image to your post. This will ensure that your link and message are accompanied by a great photo. If you aren't handy with a camera, become handy, of find someone who is. Photos are extremely important in online communication. Above all, update your page with content that your fans will find valuable and interesting from their perspective, not yours. How is your special offer useful to them? Is there some tip you can share? How about just an inspirational quote? Even though your Facebook page will be a business page, you can add personal touches. Just stay away from controversy or anything too personal. When you post a photo or link, be sure to ask your fans to Like and Share the post. Keep the copy in your post as brief as possible. There are times when it can be something as simple as, “Think this puppy is cute? Like and share now …”. And yes, people love puppies, kittens and other baby animals. Pinterest Another photo-driven social network. Pinterest has grown quickly over the past year, and it's perfect for vacation rentals. You can display photos of your properties on your Pinboards, just be sure to add a link back to the property pages on your site. Create Pinboards for any and all categories that relate to your cottages, your region or travel. If fishing is big in your area, then create a board for fishing. People cook in cottage rentals, so create a board on easy, vacation-friendly recipes. Spend perhaps a half hour every couple days adding pins and sharing pins from other Pintrest users. The more you participate in the network, the more your pins will be shared. Twitter With Twitter, you're limited to 140 characters (include spaces in that count). It's a great way to get a quick word out about a property, stay engaged with past guests, and get them to spread the word. Once again, though, don't make it all about your properties or your offers. Create compelling blog posts with information people can use. For example, if there are a lot of farmer's markets in your area, publish a guide and Tweet about it, including a link to your blog post. Then, when you update the guide, you can Tweet about it again. Interact with your Twitter followers and the people and organizations you're following. Retweet Tweets. If someone retweets one of your Tweets, say “thank you.” Use # (hashtags) to expose your content to those outside your network. Overuse of hashtags can be spammy, so use them wisely. For every self-promoting Tweet, be sure to share multiple articles and content from others and engage in conversations via blog post commenting. This helps you become a valued member of the community. A word on Google +: The usage of Google + doesn’t compare to Facebook. But it’s an important network to be a part of. While focusing most of your efforts on Facebook, Twitter and Pintrest will serve you well, don’t ignore Google +. Create a profile for yourself and your business and add content to it as you add content to Facebook, Twitter and Pintrest. If it starts to become as big as Google would like, you’ll be positioned to take advantage of it. You’ll notice that my byline links back to my Google + account. This is one easy, yet important, step you can take as well. Link your blog byline back to your Google + account—this will send a signal to Google and help increase your author authority with them. Author authority is predicted to become increasingly important throughout online marketing, not just in social networking. One final overarching tip: always ask your guests which social networks they use, and don't be afraid to ask them to Like you on Facebook and follow you on Pinterest and Twitter. If you find out that a lot of your guests use a social network not mentioned here, then learn how to use it and get connected with them! Matt Smolsky is Marketing Manager at PerfectPlaces.com, which has over 60,000 vacation and cottage rentals around the world. PerfectPlaces pioneered online bookings for vacation and cottage rentals. It’s easy to find—and book—the perfect cottage rental at PerfectPlaces.com.