In less than 10 years, Airbnb has grown from a startup that struggled to get funded to a $31 billion company that’s disrupting the hospitality industry and threatening the world’s top hotel chains. Its influencer marketing strategy is one factor that has helped fuel its rapid growth.
By collaborating with some of the world’s most famous celebrity influencers on Instagram, Airbnb has obtained broad exposure, reaching a total potential audience of nearly 1 billion Instagram users in the past two years. In this case study, we’ll examine Airbnb’s approach to influencer marketing and evaluate the campaign’s reach and results.
Airbnb’s influencer marketing efforts began in July 2015 when Mariah Carey stayed in a luxurious Airbnb mansion in Malibu. According to Airbnb’s CMO, Jonathan Mildenhall, she was the first major celebrity to book accommodations through Airbnb, and the marketing team took the opportunity to collaborate with Carey’s management team.
In a sponsored Instagram post that received around 45,000 likes, Carey posed on the mansion’s beachfront patio and tagged Airbnb in both the photo and the caption.
Over the course of the past two years, Airbnb has worked with dozens of other top celebrities, and the approach taken with Mariah Carey has become Airbnb’s standard influencer marketing strategy.
In each sponsored post, a celebrity shares a picture from their glamorous vacation and thanks Airbnb in the caption. In exchange, the celebrities receive free stays at some of Airbnb’s most expensive and extravagant properties.
Airbnb’s approach to influencer marketing is the polar opposite of micro-influencer campaigns, which market brands on a small scale to niche audiences.
By leveraging big name celebrities and influencers, Airbnb is able to effectively generate brand awareness among mass audiences namely Instagram’s 700 million active monthly users. Through celebrity partnerships, Airbnb effectively aligns itself with the coveted celebrity lifestyle and positions itself as a luxurious alternative to hotel accommodations.
]Airbnb’s Instagram sponsorships are frequently centered around major events.
By planning Instagram campaigns in conjunction with popular sports and entertainment events known to cause spikes in social media usage, Airbnb is able to maximize campaign visibility and increase its chances of ending up in the headlines.
For Super Bowl LI, Airbnb provided Lady Gaga with a $20 million estate in Houston. In her sponsored Instagram post, she thanks Airbnb for the gift.
This post received over half a million likes and generated an enormous amount of exposure for Airbnb. In addition to Lady Gaga’s 25 million Instagram followers, millions of other consumers were reached through news coverage of Lady Gaga’s accommodations in publications like People, Vanity Fair, and BuzzFeed.
Additionally, Airbnb capitalized on the Coachella craze by providing extravagant homes in Indio to celebrity performers and guests.
At Coachella 2017, Airbnb provided complimentary homes to Drake, Martin Garrix, Lady Gaga, Wiz Khalifa, and Stefanie Giesinger, again receiving widespread publicity through both news coverage and Instagram. Martin Garrix, who performed at the festival, received over a 10% engagement rate on his sponsored post.
Through 37 sponsored posts with top celebrities in the past two years, Airbnb has received 18 million likes and 510,000 comments with an overall engagement rate of 4%. The total combined reach of its Instagram initiatives thus far is 966 million.
Compared to many other top brands, Airbnb generates a small number of sponsored posts per year. However, by partnering with the biggest names in the entertainment industry, Airbnb is able to achieve immense campaign reach and profound results that travel beyond Instagram.