Thinking of starting an Airbnb side hustle? Here are five marketing problems you need to solve
Thinking of starting an Airbnb side hustle? You need to make sure you have a robust promotion plan. Here are five vital marketing problems you need to solve to get started.
If you’ve ever considered hosting on Airbnb to boost your finances, you’re not alone. Approximately 14,000 new hosts joined the platform each month in 2022. While for some it’s a useful side hustle – Airbnb data suggests the average host makes over $13,000 a year – others have even turned it into a standalone business earning $100,000 a year.
But a word of warning, the Airbnb market is becoming saturated with numerous Airbnb host groups on Facebook discussing the slowdown of bookings. While just being on the Airbnb platform would previously have been enough to get traffic to your listing, there are now more than four million hosts live on Airbnb – that’s potentially a lot of competition.
So, is setting up an Airbnb still a viable business? The answer is yes, but only if you embrace some new strategies. While you can constantly make tweaks to your listing, such as a new title or changing photos to help the algorithm in your favour, to really supercharge your bookings, you need to look at marketing and Instagram is a great place to start.
1) Does my Airbnb need an Instagram account?
Over one billion people use Instagram every month, just think how many of those people could be discovering your place on a daily basis. A large proportion of that audience is also not on Facebook – particularly younger generations.
Prabhakar Raghavan, Senior Vice President at Google even admitted at a conference that 40% of young people will go to TikTok or Instagram to discover places for lunch and you can bet that travel inspiration is not too far behind. If you don’t have a profile but your competitors do – you could be missing out on bookings.
Travel as a sector is also well suited to the aesthetic nature of Instagram. We all love escapism so it’s hardly surprising that beautiful imagery of luxurious hotel rooms or quirky glamping sites always perform well on the platform. In fact, I once wrote the copy for an Instagram competition to win a stay at a hotel and it attracted a phenomenal number of likes, 28,828 to be exact.
2) What should I post?
By and large social media posts tend to fall into three categories: educational, entertaining, and selling. The latter is the most obvious of the themes – post about your availability and prices! The educational category could include posts about your local area or even just more about how you started your Airbnb. I.e was it a derelict farm that you transformed.
Before and after content is also extremely popular. Or it could even be as simple as sharing cleaning tips – there’s a reason Mrs Hinch developed a following on social media – people love a cleaning hack! You could even go one further and create a timelapse reel of a messy room before its transformation ready for the next guest.
Entertaining might include random requests you’ve had from guests in the past. I once did the PR for a London hotel that regularly had celebrity guests and one of the stories I pitched that journalists loved included a roundup of unusual requests made over the years – including requesting rose petals in the toilet!
You can also encourage guests to create content for you by asking them to tag you in photos/reels and share them. Selfie walls or selfie areas are also hugely popular. These create obvious signposts for customers and can encourage them to take photos and share them on social media.
Don’t believe me in the power of the selfie as a marketing tool? A quick Google will show you lots of towns and cities have created selfie walls as part of marketing activity because they are so successful.
3) How will I reach potential customers?
Consider who your ideal customer is. Are they a family or is your property more suited to couples? If families are a key target for you, you might want to create content that will show them why you have the most family friendly destination.
For example, a play area on site, or plentiful board games or maybe the best places to visit nearby for families. It’s also a good idea to follow local businesses or attractions that have your audience. Using hashtags that include the right keywords, e.g families, will also help with discovery. There are also hashtag strategies you can implement to maximise performance.
Competitions are a great way to get followers quickly by encouraging them to share and tag friends in the post. Partnering with a business for a competition, especially if they have more followers than you, offers fantastic cross-promotion.
Don’t forget about previous guests. Encourage them to rebook directly with you for a discount or create a loyalty programme where they get a free night’s stay, if they’ve recommended five people who go on to book and stay.
4) Will it take a lot of time?
This is one of those how long is a piece of string questions and the frustrating answer is, it depends. Some people end up enjoying the content process so much that they start posting regularly. Fortunately, if you don’t want to spend a lot of time posting on social media – you don’t have to.
The secret to success is creating content in bulk or repurposing existing material and scheduling it! If you already use Facebook for your property, you can use Meta’s Business Suite to schedule content on both Facebook and Instagram. There are also other scheduling tools you can use for free or as part of a paid subscription.
If you want to get started, this nine minute video will walk you through the process of creating your first profile step-by-step and tell you what not to post to ensure your profile is maximised.
If that still sounds like too much work, you can also look at outsourcing to a freelancer. Look for package deals that can take care of social media, email marketing and blogs to make sure you’re using content effectively across a number of marketing channels.
5) Is now a good time to start?
January is normally the busiest time for bookings in the travel industry. With the cost of living crisis, many will be re-thinking their holiday plans and might choose to cut the cost of flights from their budget and stay closer to home.
In fact, during the last recession there was actually a boom in UK staycations as people were priced out of holidaying abroad. That’s why there’s never been a better time to start re-evaluating your marketing efforts so you can be found in searches.
While it’s not the only marketing tactic you can try, Instagram is a great starting point for any Airbnb to boost visibility.
Karolina Throssell has over 15 years of experience specialising in travel and technology marketing. Her course Boost Your Guest Bookings is aimed at Airbnbs, B&Bs and glamping sites. Follow her on Instagram via @travel.marketer.iden or visit iden.global for more.
Photo by Lucija Ros