From silent discos in San Francisco to surfing lessons in Sydney, never has travel been so inviting—and it’s all thanks to Airbnb.
Near, far, and wide, Airbnb continues to disrupt and dominate tourism on Instagram, luring travelers of all kinds to their platform, and enticing them to experience the all-too-elusive, and Instagrammed, #passportlife.
Whether you’re into luxury, remote or solo travel, as one of Instagram’s leading feeds (currently counting a whopping 3.4 million followers), few other brands have managed to attract, nurture and convert so many travelers.
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And while Airbnb successfully unlocks travel for millions of people around the world, the booking platform continues to break the mould with unique escapes that trigger the wanderlust in us all.
But never has #FOMO been stronger than when Airbnb debuted Experiences in 2016.
Moving beyond basic accommodation bookings, Airbnb launched curated experiences that begged to be saved, booked, and shared. And it was all thanks to a captivating campaign that extended across the company’s Instagram feed, IG Story, Story ads, in addition to print, TV and other social media channels.
We all took note of their sound strategy and are finally sharing the campaign’s blueprint with you all.
About Airbnb & Experiences
Founded in 2008, Airbnb disrupted the travel and hospitality sector by empowering millions of users to “unlock and monetize” their spaces through accessible technology.
With a mission “to create a world where people can belong through healthy travel that is local, authentic, diverse, inclusive and sustainable,” Airbnb now makes over 5+ million unique spaces accessible to travelers across 81,000 cities and 191 countries.
The introduction of Experiences expanded Airbnb’s footprint in the hospitality sector by offering “unprecedented access to local communities and interests through 15,000+ unique, handcrafted activities run by hosts across 1,000+ markets around the world.”
From animal-centric journeys to beer-loving day-trips and location-specific adventures in Japan, Australia, Los Angeles and more, Airbnb Experiences has something for everyone.
Led by inspiring locals, the travel packages go beyond your usual tour, offering an immersive experience unique to each host’s world.
And unlike home bookings, Airbnb encourages hosts to “share [their] passion with the world,” introducing guests to local activities and places.
But some Experiences stand out far more than others thanks to unique partnerships with Airbnb.
Take, for instance, a tour of Tokyo 2020 Stadium by the building’s architect Kengo Kuma, or a special evening with singer John Legend to coincide with the release of his latest album.
After making a big splash in 2016, Airbnb’s Experiences continue to draw increasing buzz as they continue to expand to new countries on a monthly basis. They now offer its users over 4,000 Experiences, in 50 cities around the world.
In 2018, Airbnb aims to invest $5 million in its Experiences to launch the program in 200 more U.S. cities this year.
Take just one look at Airbnb’s Instagram, and you’ll see that Experiences take center stage.
With the program returning higher profit margins than simple accommodation hosting, Airbnb’s drive to expand the program plays a central part in its overall Instagram strategy.
Given that Airbnb users fall into the range of 18-30 year-olds, Instagram is an optimal channel to showcase their listings, and even more so, their Experiences. Combined with the visual aspect of the channel, there’s really no better place to showcase FOMO-inducing getaways than Instagram.
Showcasing local experts, Airbnb used Instagram video to immerse potential travelers in the spirit of adventure.
At the core of the campaign, as with the heart of the brand, lies its values of connection, trust and community. This, along with planning and execution laid the groundwork for a campaign that drove impressive results.
Let’s dive into Airbnb’s Experience Instagram strategy, shall we?
Airbnb Experiences: Instagram Feed
When it comes to their Instagram feed, Airbnb avoids building one that is too stiff or refined.
While many brands inject their brand values and aesthetic through a consistent color scheme or filter, Airbnb instead focuses on producing content that is as unedited and authentic as possible, and highlights real-life travel photography.
Airbnb strikes a balance between aspirational Experiences and those that speak to travelers looking for less adventurous tours. Together, this helps establish Airbnb as an approachable platform that offers something for everyone.
Upon launching, the brand also employed carousels to create first-of-their-kind guides that offered travelers tips from locals.
Through their captions, Airbnb aims to connect with its followers in an inviting and friendly tone that establishes trust and warmth.
Posts relating to Experiences always focus on the host(s)—highlighting their passions, and revealing the who, what, where and WHY of the Experience, while painting a vivid picture that brings about an emotional connection.
When it comes to crafting the perfect caption, it’s best to establish a tone guide that aligns with your brand values. And while this is best done before starting your campaign or feed it’s never too late to achieve more consistency with your captions.
Whatever your Instagram goals may be, it’s always best practice to review your captions at least twice before sending them out. Crafting them on your phone often leads to typos and errors, and so, using a tool like Sked Social (formerly Schedugram) that helps you plan and ace your caption strategy is essential.
And while Airbnb no longer employs first-comment hashtags, if you’re a new business looking to increase your reach, Sked also allows you to streamline your Instagram planning further by giving you the option to insert these as you schedule your posts.
What’s more, Sked’s Hashtag Manager allows you to group often-used hashtags for quick reference—saving you even more time.
Airbnb Experiences: Instagram Story & Highlights
On Stories, Airbnb extends their themes of adventure, curiosity, and connection with playful snapshots that take users on mini journeys.
Guest spotlights from travelers such as “Senior Nomads” allow Airbnb to connect with different groups of travelers, while also offering useful travel tips that inform us all.
Airbnb also leverages the weekly hashtag #TravelTuesday to raise engagement and feature new Experiences.
Borrow this idea for your own brand, but make sure you schedule your Stories using Sked for optimal execution.
Not only does Sked give you the option to add text, Instagram-like emojis and stickers to your content with its full-featured photo editor, you can also schedule them while planning the rest of your Instagram content.
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Airbnb Experiences: Instagram Story Ads
In addition to Stories and Feed content, Airbnb also invested in paid ads on Instagram Stories.
Showcasing local experts, Airbnb used the vertical video space to immerse potential travelers in the spirit of adventure.
“We saw a double-digit point increase in ad recall from our experiences on Airbnb campaign”
Working with agencies Starcom Worldwide, TBWA/CHIAT/DAY and Amobee, the partnership produced a series of 15-second videos specifically created for Stories.
Their highly visual content, which targeted men and women aged 25 to 44, was recorded in vertical format and mimicked excellent local experiences such as canoeing underneath San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and hiking through a forest — all real Experiences that can be booked via the platform.
According to Instagram, the campaign resulted in a 13-point lift in ad recall, a “3-point lift in association of Airbnb enabling travelers to book experiences.”
“We saw a double-digit point increase in ad recall from our experiences on Airbnb campaign that further justifies our investment in ads in Stories as they have made a measurable impact for us,” Eric Toda, Global Head of Social Marketing and Content, said.
Instagram Strategy Highlight: User-Generated Content
With a campaign encouraging travelers to live like locals, it was an obvious choice to focus on content generated by their own travelers and hosts to help spread the spirit of adventure.
Airbnb’s Instagram UGC makes up approximately 75% of their feed and drives 80% of their engagement on the platform.
“Your community, your customers, are the best marketing asset you have,” Airbnb’s James McClure (GM Northern Europe at Airbnb) said, and his statement holds true across the company’s Instagram Experiences strategy too.
According to Pixlee, 77% of Instagram posts shared by Airbnb in the fourth quarter of 2016 were user-generated images and videos and the same remains true today. Airbnb’s UGC makes up approximately 75% of their feed and drives 80% of their engagement on the platform.
By capitalizing on earned content, the travel giant has managed to compete with (and takeover) its much larger competitors to become the third-largest online accommodation seller.
Airbnb extended their UGC campaign to Experiences by wrapping content around the #AirbnbExperiences hashtag. It continues to build their community and establish trust by putting people first.
“Your community, your customers, are the best marketing asset you have”
Altogether, Airbnb’s UGC strategy resulted in an increase of 172K followers!
If you’re looking to simulate Airbnb’s success with UGC, simply create a hashtag to capture the content, call on your followers to share their photos of your product, and make it easy for yourself to organize and schedule your UGC by using a tool like Sked’s Regram Chrome extension.
Instagram Strategy Highlight: Partnerships
When it comes to partnerships, the unicorn startup aims big too.
The platform eyed special promotions alongside behemoth brands such as Audi and Vice, and crafted Experiences “of a lifetime” that translated well to visual channels such as Instagram to draw even more attention to their newest product.
Not only did the partnerships draw inspiration and envy, it also attracted new users and followers by choosing brands with audiences that aligned with their aspirational product.
How The Campaign Lives On
Today, the #AirbnbExperiences hashtag counts over 20,600 Instagram posts and continues to entice existing and potential travelers of all kinds to “find adventures nearby or in faraway places.”
With a contagious sense of curiosity and a foundation of trust intrinsic to the brand, Airbnb forged ahead with a highly visual launch for Experiences across social media.
Elsewhere, Airbnb continues to inspire travelers with a seamless Experiences strategy that extends across Twitter, Youtube and Snapchat.
Though travel lends itself well to a visual channel such as Instagram, the key takeaway from Airbnb’s ongoing Instagram strategy for Experiences is to reach potential customers through captivating and thoughtful content that aims to connect, while leveraging emotional impact to boost engagement.
And of course, no Instagram strategy is complete without proper planning and execution.
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