For my friends who are not savvy with what Airbnb does, it is a community-based, two-sided online platform that facilitates the process of booking private living spaces for travelers. At one end, it enables owners to list their space and earn rental money, while on the other end it provides travelers easy access to renting private homes. With over 3,000,000 listings in 65,000 cities and 191 countries, its wide coverage enables travelers to rent private homes all over the world. Detailed Personal profiles and a credible rating and review system provide information about the host and what is on offer. Vice versa, hosts can choose who to rent out their space to. Airbnb also provides a social-networking feature, which allows customers to see users with whom they are connected via Facebook – either directly or through mutual friends – based on the person’s Facebook privacy settings. Guests can also filter their search results to see places their friends have reviewed; connections to hosts through friendships or school affiliations; and places that Airbnb employees have reviewed.
Airbnb’s value proposition is a reflection of its vision, which is to create a world where everyone gets to mingle and connect with people of various cultures and backgrounds via travel. Whether you are in Kuala Lumpur or Cuba, you will be able to ‘Belong Anywhere’. It positions itself as a brand that helps travelers around the world find a way to vacation in a city on a budget and truly ‘belong anywhere’. The brand personas that Airbnb primarily caters to are – the hosts, the travelers, deal seekers and the internet savvy passers by. Airbnb differentiates itself from its contemporaries by understanding and capitalizing on the following 3 fundamental consumer needs:
- Making an extra buck using a spare room(s) in your house
- Saving money on exorbitant hotel rooms
- Getting a local and authentic experience while travelling
Airbnb through extensive research identified who exactly their consumers were and what they could do to serve them in the best possible way. Once they had this crucial insight, they aligned their core product and vision to fulfill these consumer needs.
Airbnb’s Content Marketing Strategy and Digital Presence
According to Jonathan Mildenhall, CMO – Airbnb, Airbnb has pioneered social travel and set the stage for the emergence of the sharing economy. The main reason for the company’s success is their long-term vision and approach to building a brand – to build a company and community. He goes on to explain that, if building a brand takes a few years, building a community takes decades. The founders since the very beginning knew that the ultimate success of their business would come from building a community, not merely a brand. Thus, they don’t let short term gains distract them and focus on the long-term goal of brand building through community building.
Airbnb depends on two components: hosts and travelers. The aim of its content marketing strategy is to reach and encourage maximum people around the world to become hosts and/or travelers. Considering this Airbnb initially implemented a clever customer acquisition strategy:
Craigslist is used by people to offer and look for short-term housing. Airbnb decided to attract qualified leads and reverse engineer the Craigslist form to make the two platforms compatible. Therefore, whenever someone lists accommodations on Airbnb, they get an option to automatically create a posting on Craigslist as well. This helps create additional inbound links for the user and drives more traffic to Airbnb.
Google Display Network Partnership
To make their offers visually appealing for customers Airbnb collaborated with Google and invested in Google Search Ads. This helped them increase their listings from less than 10,000 to 80,000. They often carry out banner ad campaigns to drive awareness and maximize reach across the globe.
Social Media Marketing: Airbnb is active on all major social media channels.
On Facebook, it has over 5 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 people to save natural resources. Their content posts and videos are both engaging and attractive. A while back they listed a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themed apartment in Tribeca which received rave reviews. In its most recent endeavor, Airbnb is using Facebook live to simultaneously broadcast real-time trips in multiple locations in the US. The idea is to redefine what the world sees as experiential marketing. They have also come up with the incredible idea of human less hosts that act as travel guides.
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’ through its campaign ‘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 supported by photos and videos.
Airbnb uses Twitter to promote its blog posts and extraordinary listings. Their hashtag #belonganywhere is quite popular. Airbnb has 5mn+ 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 travelers.
‘blog.airbnb.com’ is an informative repository for travelers. 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 also a section on Airbnb Events.
Airbnb not only gives importance to travelers 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 neighborhoods and provide detailed information to travelers about them. 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.” It reflects the brand’s core values and identity.
Stories is a microsite with video profiles of hosts and travelers, their stories as to why they rent out their place and the motivation of travelers 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 travelers that they are getting what they are paying for.
Video Content- Airbnb is big on videos. They use user generated videos for marketing purposes. Every host has a 30-second trailer and a poster. The marketing team stitches together these trailers to create content for TV, video, cinema and digital ads. All video content ends with the same invitational end card which is the kaleidoscope of posters that says ‘Welcome to the World of Trips’. Airbnb also holds contests where hosts create a 15-second video about their favorite local spots and post it on Instagram. This encourages host engagement and they felt like an integral part of the community, Airbnb gets a lot of original user-generated content through these contests.
Referrals- Airbnb encourages users to refer new members to Airbnb via email invites. They reward referrers with a $25 travel credit when new members completed their first trip and a $75 credit when they acted as hosts for the first time.
User Interface & User Experience
Airbnb’s user interface is very attractive and easy to navigate through. The listings themselves are comprehensive, with elaborate descriptions, reviews and supporting photographs. It is possible to refine search results by making selections for:
- Room type – entire place, private room or shared room
- Price – range from minimum to maximum
- Size – number of bedrooms, bathrooms and/or beds
- Amenities – wireless Internet, TV, kitchen, pool, pets, etc.
- Property type – standard properties such as apartments, houses and bed & breakfasts, as well as non-standard accommodations such as castles, caves, igloos and tipis
- Host language – English, Spanish, French, etc., including sign language
- Keywords – if the traveler is looking for something specific, such as ‘oceanfront’ or ‘close to Te Papa’
It is mandatory to create an Airbnb profile to make bookings or reservations. It is possible to contact hosts using an online form that appears on each listing page, and one can submit a reservation request by clicking the “Book It” button and entering payment details via a secure payment system. Airbnb supports several payment methods, including major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, Discover, and JCB), PayPal, Google Wallet (on the Airbnb Android App for the U.S. only) and some debit cards that can be processed as credit. Travelers are not charged until the host confirms the reservation.
Certain other charges like value added tax or exchange rate fee may be charged based on the country and currency in which the transaction is made.
By and large the user experience in the Airbnb website is seamless. However, I do foresee some concerns that may occur. The biggest concern for guests may be that the property does not match the description, or that the host is unresponsive to guest needs. People have also created websites dedicated to bad Airbnb experiences, some stories on which are terrifying. In one case, a man had rented an apartment in a European city through Airbnb, and the apartment’s real owner showed up wondering who was in his apartment.
However, I do believe that both hosts and guests can help limit risks by using Airbnb features including Verified IDs, profiles, reviews, messaging, secure payment platform and the Host Guarantee.
Overall, Airbnb seems like a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world and I would both use and recommend its services .