Founded in 2008, Airbnb has completely disrupted the traditional hospitality industry within a relatively short span of existence. 

Hotels have gone from being a hallmark of travelling to now becoming most popular for families. 

Less traditional homestays, meanwhile, have become the norm, with this development in the hospitality industry essentially spearheaded by Airbnb. 

As a company that provides a marketplace for people to find lodging or offer their homes to travellers, Airbnb has made finding accommodation more affordable and accessible than ever before.

Its marketing strategy is also a major contributor to its impressive growth and industry dominance, with the company adopting various digital tactics to generate demand among its audiences, engaging customers and driving loyalty.

Leaning on social proof

Before Airbnb blew up, it would have been a rather strange idea to have regular people use their houses as makeshift hotel rooms. How do you even start to trust your host? How would you even trust the people who come to stay in your home?

Yet the model of asking customers to stay with strangers and asking hosts to allow strangers into their homes has become common today, all thanks to Airbnb and how they have built trust through social proof. 

In a marketing context, social proof is showing evidence that other people have purchased and found value in a product or service offered by a business. 

One of the simplest ways of using social proof is through reviews to demonstrate how your customers have enjoyed your product or service—something that many businesses use nowadays to remain competitive. 

Airbnb, however, relies on social proof in many different ways, not just through reviews. This strategy was especially important for them to establish trust in a market that wasn’t familiar with travelling or vacationing in this manner. 

Straight off the bat, they have a star rating for their locations based on customer reviews and the label ‘‘Superhost’, which implies trustworthiness and value, even if you don’t know what it means. 

And on the product page, there are bullet points about the property that are all based on guest feedback such as “Great checkout experience”, “Great location”, and “Enhanced cleanliness”. They even show an aggregate rating like “90% of recent guests gave the cleanliness a 5-star rating” to help back it all up. 

This is something we can all learn from, as customers will always tend to gravitate towards the opinions of other customers rather than what a company has to say about their products or services.

So, if you’re looking to get people to trust and feel confident in purchasing your product or service—social proof is the way to go. 

Knowing when to leverage user-generated content

User-generated content is another way Airbnb has enhanced its marketing strategy greatly. 

Right now, #Airbnb has more than 7.8 million posts by various users across the globe on Instagram. 

Airbnb takes some of the best and most unique-looking photos shared with the hashtag and re-shares them on their own social media page. 

This allows them to create an aesthetic and captivating social media feed that’s immensely shareable and guaranteed to generate more buzz. 

They also take the time to credit the user in their caption when they reshare it on their feed, which enhances their bond with their audience and forms a sense of community. 

Having the picture taken by an individual like the rest of their audience also helps the company come across as more personable and less corporate, helping Airbnb relate to their customers a lot more. 

The customers too—especially those with a love for the brand—would be quite pleased with themselves and excited to see their photos shared on the company’s social media. 

This creates a loop where customers will provide endless streams of content as they want to share images of their stay and get featured on Airbnb’s social media for more customers to see, providing the company with more content to share. 

User-generated content also works as social proof, as the Airbnb audience sees other customers enjoying the service. 

However, while one of the easiest and most affordable ways to share content with your audience, user-generated content is not the answer to everything and it can sometimes be not as productive—something Airbnb learned very early on in its journey. 

Early in Airbnb’s history, the founders weren’t seeing enough growth from all the new listings that were being created. 

This was because most of the properties on offer on their website were published using low-quality, unflattering, user-taken pictures that were not appealing to guests.

This is when they took matters into their own hands and got professional pictures taken of these places, resulting in more bookings at those listings. 

This shows that you must be meticulous in knowing when and where to opt for user-based content. 

Selling an experience

The last decade has seen massive shifts in what people want, with everyone, irrespective of age, wanting more meaningful experiences.

Airbnb was one of the first companies to understand this new need, with their hook being something that capitalised on this need for meaningful experiences. 

While Airbnb has its fair share of marketable benefits, the company leaned heavily on this approach. 

Rather than opting for a marketing strategy based on Airbnb being an affordable alternative to a hotel, they pushed their slogan “live like a local”—one of Airbnb’s first large-scale marketing campaigns. 

They managed to capture their users’ perceptions of travel experiences, making their business incredibly appealing to those seeking unforgettable travel experiences. 

They fully understood the needs of their audience and developed a campaign that catered to them, and ensured consistency in their messaging by utilising this idea across all their marketing efforts. 

Airbnb—building a strong relationship with your audience 

If there’s anything that we can learn from Airbnb, it’s that your customer is the key to your business. 

While this is by no means a new concept, how we can use the concept of the customer is always changing. 

Airbnb was one of the first companies to observe this and was quick to capitalise on everything they’d be able to offer in a way that’s beneficial to both them and their users.