Airbnb is a marketplace to list, find, and book unique accommodations around the world for short-term. Accommodation includes apartments, villas, houses, tree houses or even castles for a different travel experience. Airbnb provides affordable and comfortable accommodation to travellers as per their specific requirements and budget. This gives Airbnb an edge over hotels, hostels, lodges,etc.Based in San Francisco,California, Airbnb was founded in August 2008 by Joe Gebbia, Brian Chesky and Nathan Blecharczyk. It is privately owned and operated. The company now has over 2,000,000 listings in 34,000+ cities and 190+ countries and continues to grow. It has served 60,000,000+ guests till now.
At the World Economic Forum, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky mentioned that the company will focus on fewer but larger projects this year. Airbnb now wants to expand beyond home and room rentals to offer full-service including local recommendations to become a more inclusive hospitality brand. The plan is to create comprehensive travel planning guides for the ease of travellers. This will also help promote tourism to destinations which are not so common or are difficult to plan.It will especially benefit the less developed countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Burma etc. which are beautiful but do not promote their attractions well.
Airbnb wants to continue strengthening its international presence by making each city more accessible so that more people can afford to visit new locations and hosts can earn extra. This will also help create thousands of jobs for people like photographers, tour guides, chefs, laundry etc and will support this thriving new Sharing Economy ecosystem, where everyone can participate.
Digital Marketing Strategy
Airbnb depends on two components: hosts and travelers. The aim of the marketing strategy adopted is to reach and encourage maximum people around the world to become hosts and/or travellers. Considering this Airbnb initially implemented a clever customer acquisition strategy:
Craigslist was being used by people to offer and look for short-term housing. Airbnb decided to attract qualified leads and reverse engineered Craigslist form to make the two platforms compatible. Whenever anyone listed accommodations on Airbnb, they got an option to automatically create a posting on Craigslist as well. This helped create additional inbound links for the user and drove more traffic to Airbnb.
Google Display Network Partnership
Airbnb decided to make their offers visually appealing to attract more customers. They collaborated with Google and invested in Google Search Ads. This helped Airbnb increase their listings from less than 10,000 to 80,000. They executed banner ad campaign which featured images of real apartments and rooms. This helped them gain even international audience that would have been difficult otherwise.
Airbnb continues to use digital marketing tools to expand their customer base. They emphasize on building relationships and value their housing hosts. The company creates relevant content about the area by collaborating with the local hosts.
Social Media Marketing
Airbnb is active on all major social media channels.
On Facebook, it is about to reach 3 million likes. Its Marketing team regularly posts photos and videos of their unique listings, attracting travellers to visit the place . They post relevant content like on World Earth day, they shared an inspiring video to encourage everyone to save natural resources and Mother Earth.All their posts are quite engaging and attractive. Recently they have listed a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themed apartment in Tribeca, New York. Its a fun place for teenagers to host parties.It mostly remains sold out.
Airbnb posts user-generated photos on Instagram, that it curates from its hosts and guests. Guests can share their experiences with #airbnb and even book a rental place directly from the feed.Its YouTube channel has videos that show parts of the cities that are not usually covered by tourists. Airbnb promotes Living like a Local by promoting ‘Don’t go there.Live there‘. Videos like ‘How to be an awesome Airbnb host’ have more than 40000 views. Airbnb strongly believes in storytelling. They regularly post interesting stories of travellers and hosts along with photos and videos.
Airbnb uses Twitter to promote its blog posts and extraordinary listings. Their hashtag #belonganywhere is quite popular. Airbnb has 485900+ followers on Twitter. They keep their feed updated by posting timely content like “Where to Stay for the TCS New York City Marathon” which is really helpful for travellers. In 2013, Airbnb posted a 4.5minute movie on Twitter using short video clips from Vine, a mobile video app.
‘blog.airbnb.com’ is an informative repository for travellers. The Local Lens section is dedicated to individual narratives just like the Stories section on their website. There are posts on Travel Photographers and their work, about cities and their unique cultures, must-visits and must-dos in each city. There are Blogs on ’30 best things to do in each city’. The Wanderlust section mentions how to feel comfortable and travel like a local in different cities. There is a section on Airbnb Events.
Airbnb not only gives importance to travellers but ensures to profile its interesting hosts through all its content channels, like about the couple in Stockholm who rent out a modified 1976 school bus for $98 a night.
Airbnb Neighborhoods are the local city guides published by Airbnb that break down the most popular cities by neighbourhoods and provide detailed information to travellers about them. This has helped increase user engagement. It lists the accommodation options available in each neighbourhood and travellers can easily book it. These guides provide information like where locals eat, shop and party besides the usual details on major attractions and sights.
Pineapple, a print magazine by Airbnb, is designed for coffee tables in homes. Airbnb calls the glossy magazine “a tangible collection of our community’s stories and inspirations.It is a crossroad of travel and anthropology; a document of community, belonging and shared space.” This reflects the brand’s core values and identity. Pineapple’s first issue came out in November 2014. It is a 128page issue featuring stories about San Francisco, London and Seoul. 18,000 copies were distributed to Airbnb hosts, and a limited number of issues were printed for sale. The magazine is about the connections that the community makes where they travel.
Stories is a microsite with video profiles of hosts and travellers , their stories as to why they rent out their place and the motivation of travellers to leave their homes and travel the world with Airbnb.
Power of Images
Airbnb is careful about the quality of content that is posted on their site.Anybody who wants to list their space can request a free photographer to come in and take pictures of the housing. For this purpose, Airbnb has a network of 3000+ freelance photographers in six continents. Good quality photos increase the attractiveness of the space and the chances of it being rented out become higher. Pictures clicked by Airbnb photographers have a “Verified Photo” icon that reassures travellers that they are getting what they are paying for.
Airbnb once launched a contest for which current accommodation hosts had to create a 15-second video about their favourite local spots and post it on Instagram. This encouraged host engagement and they felt like an integral part of the community, Airbnb got lots of original user-generated content to review and they promoted it on various social media channels using hashtags. This helped them increase their visibility and awareness, they communicated with contestants and followers directly, and spread out the company’s overall philosophy.
Airbnb underwent a massive rebranding effort in 2014. They created a new logo and named it Bélo. However they believe that the Airbnb experience is too diverse and distinctive to be represented by one traditional logo.
So they gave creative control to the travelers and hosts. Users can visit Create Airbnb to customize the symbol by changing its color and shape, adding icons, or weaving patterns into the existing logo. They can even sketch and paint a symbol that reflects their experience. The symbol can even be brought home in form of merchandise like mugs, thank you cards, souvenir stickers. This helped strengthen the consumer and brand bond.
Airbnb encouraged its users to refer new members to Airbnb via email invites. They rewarded the referrers with a $25 travel credit when new members completed their first trip and a $75 credit was offered when they acted hosts for the first time. This way Airbnb converted new leads and had to pay out for referrals only after new users paid. This allowed Airbnb to grow in a sustainable manner.
Airbnb has come a long way since 2008. The company’s now valued at over $25 billion. It is the undisputed leader and the most trusted community marketplace for room rentals. This model for collaborative consumption has completely transformed the travel industry.
Digital marketing has been working very well for Airbnb. It has 470000+ followers on Twitter, 2750000+ followers on Facebook just to mention a few. Airbnb has disrupted the Travel Industry. It has redefined how people interact with one another when travelling. Travellers want options with personal touch. They no more want to see the world like a tourist rather they want to experience it like a local. Airbnb is addressing this need. It is working to provide an even better travel experience for its customers by connecting them with local chefs and other merchants using their online network.
In 2016, Airbnb has its nineteen offices in Amsterdam (Netherlands), Berlin (Germany), Barcelona (Spain), Beijing (China), Copenhagen (Denmark), Dublin (Ireland), London (UK), Milan (Italy), Miami (Florida, USA), Moscow (Russia), New Delhi (India), Paris (France), Portland (Oregon, USA), São Paulo (Brazil), San Francisco (California, USA), Seoul (South Korea), Singapore, Sydney (Australia), Tokyo (Japan), and Toronto (Canada).
Digital marketing is an ever-changing landscape. To keep up one needs a bespoke mix of skills and services – adapting over time to meet their unique goals and challenges. When Airbnb initially started they did not do well. In 2009, Airbnb almost went bust. They began improving the image quality of their listings and this came to their rescue. Airbnb found several ways to not only survive, but also grow exponentially. They adopted a digital marketing strategy well in time and executed it properly. Business innovation and technology contribute to the brand’s colossal success. Social Media Marketing has helped Airbnb get large media coverage, has increased their following, and has helped them communicate their brand message clearly. Digital storytelling strategies have increased Airbnb’s outreach and kindled excitement in people to travel like a local.
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Photo Credits: Airbnb.com