Content Strategy & Consumer Engagement at Airbnb

Part two of my Brand Innovators consumer engagement series.

Much anticipated session with Eric Toda, Global Head of Social & Content at Airbnb (left), and Ryan Detert, the CEO of Influential (right).


The fireside chat started with an overview of Eric’s impressive career — from being at Facebook running ads to an expanded digital focus at Nike, to being interim CMO at Snapchat, and now Airbnb. Eric describes his current role as an opportunity to tell the stories that aren’t being told. This spans across the most important issues that are so prevalent in our media today, and it’s crucial for brands like Airbnb to take a front seat in steering the direction of our nation.

In telling these stories, let’s start with the idea of user-generated content, and how powerful brand affinity can be in capturing the essence of a community.

User-Generated Approach

Eric describes the Airbnb approach as simply giving the power of marketing back to the community. Airbnb boasts around 95% user-generated content. Marinate on that for a second. 95%. Eric relates this community ownership to what could be seen in GoPro’s community of makers and doers. However, Eric’s targeting 98% user-generated content, becoming the first brand to do so, but at a potential loss of quality control.

The reason user-generated content works so well within the Airbnb community is because the experiences are truly built by the Hosts and Guests. These people love the Airbnb values and take it upon themselves to bring it all to life.

“We’re making them as famous as any influencer out there.”

Eric’s team shares Airbnb Guest stories directly from their mouths, and pushes them out to millions of followers across social. This is where Ryan and his “Data-First Influencer Platform” becomes useful.

Influential, IBM Watson‘s only developer partner in influencer marketing, boasts impressive first-to-market A.I. across Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Specific to Airbnb, Ryan was able to show us Audience Insights around the brand’s psychographic and demographic profiles. The takeaways, confirmed by Eric:


  • Altruistic & Friendly – Yes, absolutely. Altruism is needed now more than ever.
  • Married & Female – Yes, we view our brand very much as a female brand.
  • Top Cities – London, NYC, and LA. C’mon San Francisco step your game up!

Acting & Speaking Globally

In managing global social for a leading brand, Eric offered a few pieces of advice.

1) Always lead with the native language.

Think transcreation, a cool concept referring to the adaptation of a message from one language to another, while evoking the same emotions and implications. Transcreation can be seen in Airbnb’s new Chinese name (Aibiying), meaning welcome each other with love.

2) Have teams “around the world chasing sun coverage.”

Empower your people to publish content themselves by providing all the necessary access and protocol from the get-go.

Best Practices & the Future of Industry

Budgets: Eric expects budgets to grow significantly across people, paid media, production, etc., citing the maturity of digital marketing and labeling this the era of the digital-first CMO. For Airbnb, we’re looking at a 7x increase, with the majority going to premium production across digital channels.

Making waves at keynote events: How do you cut through the increasing level of noise online? Think creatively and outside the box. For example, 2016 Oscars, Airbnb launches a differentiated #LiveInTheMovies campaign due to an “advertising lock out.” Turning to the almighty second screen (in this case, Twitter), Airbnb was able to achieve a reach higher than that of the top four advertisers, giving people something to be excited about and share. All done with just eight people. Wow.

Future of content strategy: Look at consumption patterns: Mobile, on-demand, live, etc. Shared experiences are coming back, and episodic, serialized content keeps people coming back. Continue to stay true to your consumers and deliver value. Test and innovate. Ask questions and create solutions.

On Airbnb’s new ExperiencesProvide an opportunity for a humble brag social share after a Guest goes surfing in LA on a 3 day lifestyle immersion. Offer exclusive bits for added touch points and memories, and provide opportunities to publish cross-platform.

On handling issues: Always, always, always address issues head on. Airbnb utilizes @AirbnbCitizen and @AirbnbHelp handles on Twitter, along with their impressive collection of sites here:

Amplifying content: There’s a ton of user-generated content on channels like Instagram, but Airbnb is looking to use YouTube as a partner moving forward to share Guest Experiences. YouTube is a powerful creative tool and visuals a powerful connective medium, so look to move your community in this direction as technology creates unique opportunities.

On storytelling: Ask emotive questions to get to the bottom of sentiment. Dig, dig, dig, and don’t make it easy to answer any given feedback or interview question. Ask questions like, “How did you feel?”

Your customer (read: storyteller) will be more worried about doing his or her story justice vs. receiving any sort of compensation. Pay attention to every detail.

Eric’s Goal: Have his CMO asking the question, “Should we put this spot on TV, or in Snap Stories?” 🙂

Special thanks to AT Kearney for hosting, and the Brand Innovators crew for having me (Marc Sternberg, David Teicher, Brandon Gutman & co.).

5 Replies to “Content Strategy & Consumer Engagement at Airbnb”

  1. Love this summary. For marketers, it always helps to understand that users and story telling are key to growing a digital brand.

    1. I agree, and Eric with his Airbnb social team are killin’ it. Thanks for reading (and commenting), Paul!


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s