Not all marketing is an extravagant Super Bowl commercial, but if you are going to invest in a marketing campaign, it should feel more like entertainment and less like an advertisement. Investors know that product-market fit is vital. If nobody wants what you’re selling, you don’t have a business. Yet, many companies fail in their design thinking and user research to find and keep product-market fit. Even fewer can refine the process to expand a company into a new business venture that reaches fresh audiences while staying on brand.
Social media is essential when creating hype and promoting product-market fit. New and established brands can build anticipation, excitement, and curiosity through social media. Some can even re-invent themselves using social media by keeping their content fresh, fun, and relevant.
Airbnb has changed the way we travel and look for, accommodations. Launched in 2008 when its founders couldn’t afford their rent, the site now boasts a $31 billion valuation. Today, Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace where 150 million people list, discover and book unique accommodations through the peer-to-peer home rental service.
Airbnb has more listings than the top five hotel brands (Hartmans, 2017). The startup’s success can be contributed to a lot of factors, like product-market fit, luck, hard work, the right leadership, and of course, their committed, innovative, and authentic use of social media.
Airbnb is disrupting the hotel landscape by using social media to fuel rapid growth. Their social media marketing serves multiple purposes. First, their user acquisition strategy has two, defined target audiences: people who want to rent out their houses and people who want to rent houses while traveling, as an alternative to hotels and beds and breakfasts.
The social media strategy relies primarily on user-generated images and videos on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube how-to videos and posts geared toward owners, and popular city guides. Their social media campaigns often match humor wwithinith compelling images of different travel locations around the world, making it more than just a service – it’s a travel forum as well (Hogan, 2018).
Airbnb is the master of user-generated content (UGC). UGC occurs when a company asks customers to post their interaction with the company’s product or service. Usually, the content is found across social media outlets using a hashtag (De Maio, Fenza, Gallo, Loia, & Parente 2017). Airbnb’s brand is considered a space for wanderlust-filled travelers who not only want to experience a new space but also want to be immersed in the culture which makes it a perfect match for Instagramming Millennials. If UGC is done correctly, along with other strategic marketing efforts, it will eventually happen organically (Evans 2013). Currently, there are 1.8 million photos using #airbnb on Instagram (Joffrion, 2018). UGC can be a huge asset for a business to showcase happy users/customers.
Airbnb’s Facebook account is its base of social media operations to some extent. As of November 2018, they have almost 15,000,000 likes on Facebook where the company’s digital marketing team methodically posts photos and videos of their exclusive listings, enticing travelers to visit new and enlivening places. They post applicable content that varies from company-produced videos, listings, and overall messages from the company (Fielmanmoi, 2017).
Airbnb relies heavily on Instagram as part of its awareness-generating strategy. A key piece to their early days was getting travel influencers involved in their business. Millennials and Gen Zers dreaming of being travel influencers, flock to Instagram to take the perfect photo of yoga on the beach or a glass of wine in an exotic town. Airbnb recognizes this and works with Instagrammers with influence – people with lots of followers and good engagement rates (Knol, n.d).
Influencers help showcase the uniqueness of Airbnb and the lifestyle aspect of the brand. Their audience is everyone, and that is who they want to reach. The impact is incredible because people are already following the lifestyle of the influencers. Compared to other brands, they do not do a large number of sponsored posts every year, but they are thoughtful about the effect of the ones they do sponsor. The influencer concept started with Mariah Carey in 2015. She posted about her Airbnb property on Instagram and was the first major celebrity they worked with this way. More recently, they did a sponsored post with Lady Gaga, who stayed at an Airbnb property during the 2017 Super Bowl. She shared a single post about it with her more than 24 million followers that garnered over 500,000 likes and 4,000 comments. It was then picked up by news outlets that drove the reach even further (Knol, n.d).
Twitter is a slower-growing social media outlet, but it is one of the best social channels for customer service. Users immerse themselves in a city and a neighborhood when they stay with Airbnb. The company’s brand identity is about enabling people to live like a local so Twitter, designed for quick exchanges and open conversations, is perfect for allowing Airbnb Help Twitter to respond promptly and efficiently to customers (De Maio, Fenza, Gallo, Loia, & Parente 2017). Plus the brand can engage with customers who share their Airbnb experiences on Twitter from the main account (Fielmanmoi, 2017).
The last Airbnb account is their YouTube account which has close to 483 videos and around 164,996 subscribers to their channel. They continue to invest in video marketing as a key part of telling their brand and product story. This account’s content is expressly meant for the channel and acts as a behind-the-scenes look at people’s travel and personal experiences. The content is somewhat different than the user-generated content of Instagram and allows for a different avenue to be used. Each one is carefully shot, edited, and paired with the perfect music to evoke specific emotions (Fielmanmoi, 2017).
Airbnb’s social media marketing is a great example of thinking slightly outside the box. They are all about accommodation. What might look like a visual travel blog, Airbnb’s content attracts fans with its visually compelling posts. They don’t just post images of the inside of people’s homes because seeing the culture and images of places all over the world comes with the experience of where you stay and that’s what connects with people. It’s always a good idea to benchmark against your competitors or snag ideas from them, but it’s also worth looking at success stories from the biggest brands out there. You might not have their budget, but you can always gain inspiration from their campaigns.