Airbnb’s influencer marketing strategy – a case study

Airbnb’s influencer marketing strategy – a case study

In the past 10 years, Airbnb has grown into a $38 billion company giving fierce competition to the world’s top hotel chains. Their business model has disrupted the hospitality industry in a bid to outperform its competition and become a household name. One factor that has lead to the meteoric rise of Airbnb is its influencer marketing strategy specifically on Instagram.

The way Airbnb has leveraged Instagram by collaborating with some of the world’s most famous celebrities to gain massive brand exposure is commendable. Today, we will dive into Airbnb’s journey with influencer marketing and gain an insight into this approach.

Airbnb’s influencer marketing strategy

Instagram as a marketing platform with more than 1 billion active monthly users is a great choice to spread brand awareness. According to Rachel Haley (Global Connections Strategy Lead at Airbnb), celebrity influencers help showcase the desirable lifestyle and position the brand as a luxurious alternative to hotels. The organic nature of influencer marketing highlights the authentic experience of visiting a city instead of a superficial tourist experience. When you stay with a local resident like a local, you immerse yourself in the neighborhood and experience every flavor has the city has to offer. Influencer marketing authentically associates a city’s lifestyle with the Airbnb brand.

(Not so) Humble beginnings

In July 2015, Mariah Carey booked a luxurious mansion in Malibu through Airbnb. This was the first instance when a major celebrity used Airbnb and they saw an opportunity to collaborate with her. Carey clicked a photo on the mansion’s beachfront and tagged Airbnb in the photo and caption. As a sponsored Instagram post, the photo received close to 45000 likes.

The approach with Mariah Carey has become Airbnb’s regular strategy for collaborating with influencers. Each sponsored post has the same format. The celebrity influencer shares a picture from their luxurious vacation thanking Airbnb in the caption. For their efforts, the celebrities receive free stays at some of Airbnb’s most expensive accommodations.

It is easy to see why this approach works. Airbnb creates major impact with almost everyone because people are already following the lifestyle of these celebs. The association of Airbnb with these influencers creates a win-win situation and garners massive outreach.

It is interesting to note that this approach is diametrically opposite to micro-influencer campaigns run to target niche audiences. Regardless, brands can use a similar approach with multiple smaller influencers in a single campaign at the beginning to become popular among the masses.

Airbnb doesn’t do a lot of sponsored posts in a year. The few that they execute are done thoughtfully. They partner with the biggest names because they want to target everyone. They achieve immense reach and fantastic results beyond any single platform.

What is Airbnb’s campaign strategy?

Airbnb executes Instagram campaigns during popular sports and entertainment events. The rationale behind this is leveraging the increase in the use of social media during these events. Airbnb looks to maximize campaign visibility during such occasions.

An example of this strategy is when Airbnb provided Lady Gaga with a $20 million property in Houston during Super Bowl LI in 2017. This particular sponsored Instagram post (using the aforementioned formula) received more than half million likes and 4000 comments. Not to forget, the extensive news coverage about the celeb’s accommodation in reputed publications along with outreach to her 25 million followers.

Airbnb’s global influencer marketing campaigns

Having established how Airbnb dominated the American market. It is important to look at how they dominated the global market. Airbnb started expanding overseas in 2011 and now operates in 17 countries. When so many American companies failed to translate their success to overseas market, how did Airbnb do it?

Chalk it up to the use of local influencers to drive brand awareness through multiple smartly executed campaigns. The key is finding the right balance between a global strategy and local implementation. The strategy is to collaborate prominent influencers with a particular area of expertise in a particular location. Some of the examples of the campaigns are:

Local Lens Series

In 2015, Airbnb launched an influencer content series where experts shared local experiences people should try in their city. Airbnb worked with local bloggers and content creators across platforms to offer recommendations on things to try in their respective cities.

Night At (South Korea)

In 2015, Airbnb worked with a K-Pop artist G-Dragon on a Night At campaign to support its expansion into South Korea. A contest was held, the winner of which could spend two nights at the artist’s recording studio. This garnered lot of social media attention and a rise in Airbnb registrations in Korea.

Don’t Go There, Live There (London)

In 2016, Airbnb London office designed an exclusive townhouse where visitors could experience local food and music. They offered a chance to experience “the real London”. A team of 25 influencers were tapped to spread awareness about the event on social media. Millions of people came to know about this and 1400 people visited the townhouse in the next 4 days.

Results and final thoughts

Wherever Airbnb went, they collaborated with local influencers, letting them tell the audience about the brand and its awesome service. It is a smart strategy combining the global and local elements for maximum impact. The local influencers made a primarily foreign brand feel like local for the people, inspiring trust and reliability. All credit to Airbnb, they walk their talk.