Imagine logging onto a website and booking a bed in a stranger's home in a foreign city where they speak a different language, all without ever having met! You provide your money upfront, and sometimes, you just have an email providing scavenger hunt-like directions to the key when you show up. There’s no front desk. There’s no help. It’s all done online without any tangible proof that this home exists. It sounds like a scam, doesn’t it?
Actually, it’s the entire premise behind Airbnb. Clearly, it’s a winning idea as this accommodation booking giant was valued at $35 billion in 2019. So how did the founders of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Joe Gebbia, take what seems like an internet scam and turn it into a tech company dream come true? A significant aspect of their success is due to excellent timing and recognising a market need and trend. In the business of connecting travellers with affordable, memorable and sometimes unusual rooms, Airbnb clearly rules the roost, with storytelling proving to be amongst its greatest strengths.
Airbnb is a successful platform because it has been providing necessary services to its customers at the right time. Even during an almost two year long pandemic, their services have been helpful in allowing travellers to isolate themselves in their own space rather than staying in a hotel or other shared spaces.
Another aspect of this company's success is its excellent content marketing. One of
Airbnb’s recent content marketing efforts include the adorable “Strangers” video. This video shows that the people visiting our homes on vacation are not strange. The idea of allowing strangers into your home for vacation is clearly not so odd — otherwise, the company wouldn't be the successful tech giant it is today. This video is an excellent example of having fun with your messaging and content while staying on brand.
AirBnb has taken an impressively comprehensive, multi-pronged approach to storytelling. Let’s take a look at one of the key ways they’re using content to foster a sense of belonging and stay ahead of the pack.
Neighbourhoods: A 10,000-Foot Destination View
Airbnb launched Airbnb Neighbourhoods to help potential travellers weigh up the pros and cons of particular neighbourhoods in each city where they can stay in an Airbnb. The Neighbourhoods page tells you exactly what to expect, so a trip can be made for specific purposes, or to explore a new area where someone has never been before.
It is a finely organised blog-like feed of the boroughs within a given city. If you select Los Angeles, for example, there are 60 neighbourhoods to choose from, and tags at the top to filter the choices down, like “Trendy,” “Peace & Quiet,” “Touristy,” and “Celebrity Status.” Within an individual neighbourhood, there’s an embedded Google Map at the top of the page to orient yourself, followed by a long-scroll blog approach to highlighting the neighbourhood through top-quality images and brief caption descriptions to give you the full lay of the land. Finally, at the bottom of the page, you are led to a few potential choices for Airbnb homes in that neighbourhood. There’s a clear funnel to a sale.
Airbnb also boosts its content with breath-taking photos of all of its destinations, taken by professional photographers. An interesting approach to sourcing top-quality images. is by prominently partnering with a local photographer (who they feature at the bottom to give extra exposure for that photographer). Alternatively, they could have just hired the photographer, given photo credit, and left it at that. But now it adds authenticity – that holy grail of all content these days – by showing a true local’s perspective. Pros in destination and hospitality marketing could certainly do the same, choosing to profile the local who is providing the content, not just showing their work. The picture storytelling idea articulates Airbnb’s brand mission.
The Value of Original Content
Creating original content like this not only attracts news audiences but also provides the opportunity to differentiate themselves from other booking sites out there like Expedia, Hotels.com, and more by highlighting the products in a unique way.
It can also help generate interest in Airbnb’s lesser-known features, like restaurant reservations, excursions, or high-end experiences.
By creating this type of original video content can help immerse users in these adventures, inspire them to do try new things, and create a loyal following of Airbnb as a brand - not just their services.
Plus, by investing in original video content for YouTube, Airbnb can create an additional revenue stream from YouTube’s AdSense, which they can then put back into more content creation to fuel future growth.
Rethinking Media in the Digital Age
When we think of modern “media” companies, many think to BuzzFeed, Barstool, or TechCrunch - but in reality, it’s so much more.
For the most part, people’s search behaviour remains the same whether they’re looking for entertaining content or answers to their pain points.
If you can create content that provides value to your viewer and showcases your product or your brand's industry expertise, as Airbnb has done here, you’re actually generating interest in your brand in a natural way that doesn’t feel sales-y.
Getting attention is really half the battle in the current cluttered landscape, and by creating content, consumers become more receptive to your messages.
If you think that content doesn’t “fit” for your brand, take a look at Airbnb’s example and consider not why you can justify content creation, but how you can create media that drives value for your audience.