Airbnb is an online platform allowing people to rent their living space to visitors. It follows many of the conventions of a peer-to-peer sales site, for instance both parties getting the opportunity to review one another to promote security and peace of mind.
Airbnb quickly harnessed the power of social media as it’s essential to get spotted online and to attract the right sort of attention. Although it was founded only seven years ago, the San Francisco-based company, Airbnb, is now a global phenomenon. Like many giants, it’s considered a disruptive force in the tourism and hospitality industry.
People often make the mistake of thinking success in business is a direct result of the novelty of the idea it’s based upon. The idea itself is important but only a small factor in a business’s success or failure. What matters is how the idea is executed.
So how has Airbnb achieved such influential status and widespread adoption? There are four key reasons:
#1 Growth hacking techniques
One of the main factors behind the early success of Airbnb was its growth hacking using aggressive online marketing tactics. Airbnb expanded very quickly by piggybacking on the reach of community listing site Craigslist. It employed creative tactics to do this by apparently posting fictional room ads on the site, messaging users who posted in the room ads category to spread the word about the Airbnb offering. These ninja development tactics resulted in rapid growth.
#2 Agile timing to meet demand
Airbnb’s founders also launched at a clever time: coinciding with a massive local conference that meant local hotel rooms would be in short supply. Offering alternative accommodation secured instant gratitude form both the guests and the hosts.
#3 Strong imagery
Travel is a visual product, with people attracted by beautiful beaches, stunning architecture and amazing accommodation. Image-led social media has been a boost to the travel industry. Everyone from agents to hotels and airlines use social media to engage with followers.
Airbnb recognised the need for strong imagery and in the early days, the site sought to raise the standards of room photography on the site by sending professional photographers round to shoot the properties being listed and improve the attractiveness of the site. This had the effect of making the site look more professional and adding greater security to the purchase decision. This encouraged more exclusive properties to join the site.
#4 Online availability
Data suggests that over one third of holidays are now booked online. Many clients browse for travel deals via their mobile phones. Social networking is a great way to attract clients even when they are not currently shopping, and to generate ideas about their next trip which will move them to book. These networks may be designed for socialising, but they also offer a place to view new opportunities and offers – and it is here that travel companies can make their mark. Airbnb adopted a ‘mobile first’ approach ensuring that potential customers could easily see, find and share great places to stay.
How other tourism firms use social media
Airbnb are not alone in adopting many of these techniques. We know that hotels operate using ‘flexible pricing’, changing rates as demand increases. Imagery is also essential from the inside of the plane to the hotel pool. This has not been missed as others have improved their imagery and adopted social media:
- Booking platforms including LateRooms.com and Expedia have been nominated for awards due to their social media strategies. Both brands use a range of social channels to speak to their audience, and have seen a rapid growth due to these online campaigns.
- Hilton Hotels and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line have seen a great engagement with millennials since they took to Twitter and Instagram to show off their premises and ships.
- Airlines are getting in on the act too – KLM and Emirates have huge numbers of followers on Twitter and Facebook, while Etihad makes sure to post every day and keep its followers in the loop.