How Airbnb Developed A Global Community Of Travel Enthusiasts
If you’re a travel enthusiast, there’s a very thin chance that you haven’t heard of Airbnb. It is an online marketplace for vacation rentals that offers a unique opportunity for travelers, including backpackers and travel bloggers, to have authentic local experiences by staying in private homes instead of traditional hotels. The founders of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Joe Gebbia, initially rented out their own place to visitors attending a local conference in New York City as a way to make some extra money. Inspired by this success, they decided to expand the concept and create a website where people could book short-term rental properties, including homestays or individual beds.
Unwavered By Initial Challenges
In the early stages of Airbnb’s development in 2008, the company faced challenges due to skepticism and misunderstandings about the idea of allowing strangers to stay in someone’s home. However, through persistent efforts and numerous adjustments to its marketing strategies and business model, Airbnb managed to grow its community to over 150 million members. It initially started off by focusing on attracting conference attendees who required short-term accommodations. This strategy proved successful, as they managed to secure bookings for 600 stays during the Democratic National Convention in Denver when Barack Obama was nominated.
Recognizing that some hosts had posted unattractive photos of their rental properties, the founders took matters into their own hands. They personally visited hosts and enlisted the help of a photographer to capture high-quality images of the listings, thereby enhancing their visual appeal. To expand its inventory of vacation rental homes, Airbnb utilized an unconventional method. They scoured Craigslist for existing listings and reached out to these homeowners via cold emails, encouraging them to join the Airbnb platform and list their properties. These creative marketing tactics played a significant role in early customer acquisition and contributed to Airbnb gaining traction in the market.
Organic User-Generated Content
Airbnb operates as a geographically-focused platform that enables users to list their properties and generate dedicated web pages optimized for search engines, targeting specific locations and travel-related keywords. As Airbnb hosts engage in vacation rental businesses, they often employ independent marketing strategies beyond the Airbnb platform to promote their properties. Many hosts establish their own Facebook business pages and run ad campaigns as necessary. On the traveler side, numerous individuals share their vacation photos on social media platforms, tagging Airbnb’s brand pages. This organic promotion enables Airbnb to reach a wider and more genuine audience, ultimately increasing awareness of its website.
Impeccable Social Media Strategy
In the travel industry, maintaining a strong and continuous social media presence is essential. In addition to actively managing its own Instagram account, Airbnb collaborates with numerous travel bloggers. These partnerships allow Airbnb to tap into the influencers’ existing audience and effectively generate the buzz and attention needed for their brand.
Airbnb acknowledges its users by showcasing select social media posts that mention or tag them on their official page. Additionally, numerous celebrities have listed their own vacation rentals on Airbnb, leveraging their extensive social media followings. This further amplifies Airbnb’s word-of-mouth marketing efforts and expands its reach.
Effective Referral Program
Airbnb implemented a highly effective digital marketing strategy through its referral program, which resulted in an astounding 900% annual growth upon its launch. Referrals serve as a clever method to leverage the existing user base and their networks. Airbnb incentivized successful referrals by offering rewards to both the referrer and the referred party. Customers were eligible to receive travel credits based on the terms and conditions of Airbnb’s comprehensive referral program. As the majority of Airbnb’s audience is price-conscious, many eagerly participated in the program to maximize savings on their vacation accommodations.
All-rounded Content Strategy
In addition to its social media content creation, Airbnb places great emphasis on its SEO and branding through its content marketing initiatives. These efforts encompass various forms of content, such as blog posts, stories, and listicles, covering every aspect of the travel journey, including planning, exploring, and hosting best practices. According to an interview with Search Engine Journal, Airbnb has implemented a robust internal linking strategy to enhance the visibility of its user-generated content marketing. Furthermore, Airbnb introduced its own travel magazine called Pineapple, which showcases visually captivating travel narratives and provides tips for both hosts and travelers. This magazine serves as a platform to engage and inspire Airbnb’s audience with compelling stories and valuable insights.
Brand Voice That Resonates With The Audience
Airbnb implements numerous initiatives aimed at fostering the largest community of travel enthusiasts worldwide. The brand has resonated particularly well with Gen-Z travelers due to its alignment with their mindset and worldview. A prominent aspect of Airbnb’s marketing strategy involves consistently reinforcing messages of unity, diversity, inclusion, and community. By emphasizing these values, Airbnb establishes a strong brand voice that deeply resonates with its audience and further solidifies its appeal among Gen-Z travelers.
Visually Enticing Video Marketing
As part of its marketing strategy, Airbnb places a strong emphasis on video content creation across multiple platforms, including its own YouTube channel, which is widely recognized as the leading video site. Additionally, Airbnb introduced virtual tours as part of its online experiences, an innovative feature that proved particularly effective during the pandemic.
On their YouTube channel, Airbnb showcases enticing vacation accommodations and provides travel tips, akin to a typical travel-focused YouTube channel. They also utilize YouTube paid ads to expand their reach. The company’s CFO highlighted in an interview with the Marketing Week blog that their advertising budget prioritizes brand-building initiatives rather than solely focusing on conversions or performance. To personalize their customer acquisition efforts, Airbnb utilized ad sequencing as mentioned in a featured case study by Google. This allowed them to deliver tailored YouTube ads based on the specific type of traveler being targeted, creating a more personalized and less sales-oriented approach.
In addition to YouTube, Airbnb actively engages with other social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts, forming an integral part of its comprehensive digital marketing mix.
This is how Airbnb became a case study of Effective Marketing with its smart ideas and unblemished execution. For more stories of Marketing Marvels who captivated the world with their strategies, join World Brand Affairs. We bring you branding insights of companies and leaders from across the globe.