ARCHIVES: This is legacy content from before Marketing Dive acquired Mobile Marketer in early 2017. Some information, such as publication dates, may not have migrated over. Check out the new Marketing Dive site for the latest marketing news.

Airbnb leverages social media challenge to build global community

Airbnb, a rental accommodations Web site and mobile application, is leveraging a social media challenge to encourage members of the global community to partake in creative acts of hospitality in the hopes of augmenting brand awareness and enticing new customers.

The brand has already offered 100,000 participants and Airbnb members around the world approximately $10 to use for an act of kindness or hospitality to help bridge the gap between strangers, and is asking the community at large to continue the challenge. Using the hashtag #OneLessStranger, individuals can upload their stories, photos and acts to social media sites or apps to inspire others.

?It is a great way to not only augment the Airbnb brand, but to overcome the issues people may have with living in a complete stranger?s home,? said Djamel Agaoua, CEO of MobPartner, San Francisco. ?By embarking on initiatives like #OneLessStranger, it will help make people more comfortable with the concept of Airbnb?s business, which is based on building a trusted community and hospitality marketplace.

?I think that Airbnb will receive more customers through this challenge from the brand awareness alone that it will generate.?

Augmenting brand awareness
The company, which offers consumers the ability to sort through rental listings worldwide and upload their own homes for vacation use, is aiming to turn more strangers into friends and augment its core principles of hospitality and belonging. Airbnb hopes to begin the new year with the goal of opening doors around the world, physically and virtually, and believes its community members will be up for the task.

Airbnb gave approximately $10 or its foreign currency equivalent to customers wanting to participate in the social media challenge, but is attempting to keep the challenge going into 2015. Participants are asked to offer a creative gesture of hospitality or kindness to a complete stranger, and upload the act onto Twitter or Facebook using the #OneLessStranger hashtag.

Airbnb is also compiling the photos on its Web and mobile site, at Previously uploaded acts include participating members buying strangers a bottle of wine to celebrate New Year?s Eve with, taking a new acquaintance out for a drink and going ice-skating.

The brand?s other suggestions for kind gestures include buying supplies for a local senior center, making a friendship bracelet for a stranger and purchasing ingredients for baked goods for people in need of food.

?Airbnb is largely about bringing people together, as its #OneLessStranger campaign attests to,? said Mark Ghermezian, CEO and co-founder of Appboy, New York.

?Leveraging social media and mobile is crucial for companies like Airbnb because that?s what people rely on to connect to one another. Convenience and speed are important to consumers, and the more ways you can offer them both, particularly via mobile, the better.?

Ramping up mobile strategy
Airbnb has recently been ramping up its mobile and social media strategy, as seen with the redesign of its mobile Web site, featuring more user-friendly features for booking options (see story).

The new mobile Web experience has been revamped to look more attractive to customers in an effort to increase mobile traffic for the brand, which is currently at 20 percent. The site now offers large, full-bleed photos of listings to encourage browsing on mobile devices.

Guests can sort through listings and scroll for more information on the host and the space. If the listing is of interest to them, he or she may select the ?Request to Book? button at the bottom of the page and enjoy a streamlined checkout experience.

?MobPartner recently commissioned a travel study carried out by mobile research firm On Device,? Mr. Agaoua said. ?The results of the study show that the smartphone is the top device for researching travel, although most people still prefer to do early research such as planning and booking on a laptop.

?Reasons given ranged from ?It?s more secure,? ?It?s easier to compare sites,? the ability to print, and the fact that many companies still do not have optimized mobile web sites,? he said.

?And, Airbnb as a rental ?share? site should be leveraging social media as well. Social media by definition is a tool that allows people to create, share or exchange information, ideas, and pictures/videos in virtual communities and networks.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York