The Key to Airbnb’s Instagram Success

Hint: It has little to do with aesthetics.

Source: KenanOlgun / iStock / Getty

Instagram can be hard to nail down as a platform. Because its main focus is on visuals, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking you need professional photos or perfect lighting. It can be hard to create engagement-causing captions. And with its algorithm, it can feel like you’re shouting into a void instead of speaking to your target market.

But one company that seems to have nailed the Instagram game? Airbnb. The industry-disrupter isn’t just changing what it means to book a travel spot; it’s also changing how brands can find success on one of the world’s most popular social media platforms.

Airbnb’s photos aren’t taken by professional photographers, and they don’t adhere to a specific color scheme. But what they do do is essential: They make you want to go on a trip.

It seems like a simple strategy. Of course your social media platform should make people want to use your service! But so often, companies get caught up in crafting the perfect photo instead of crafting the perfect emotion. Think—what do people need to do before they can utilize your company? For instance, Airbnb users need to decide to go on vacation before they book an Airbnb. Business coach mentees need to decide to grow their companies before booking a business coach. Budget application users need to decide to get their finances in order before buying a budget application. Families need to decide to go out to eat before heading to a restaurant.

What’s that “decision” that needs to happen before someone utilizes what you have to offer? Try to figure it out, and then try to evoke that feeling throughout your Instagram page. Visuals can be incredibly emotional, and it can be easier to manipulate desires through pictures than through words.

Some Airbnb examples:

  • A picture of an enticing treehouse in the woods lit with romantic lighting,
  • A smiling family on a trail surrounded by trees,
  • A couple taking a surfing lesson on a beautiful beach, and
  • A snowy cabin in the woods with a cute dog standing in the yard.

Not all of these images feature Airbnb homes available for renting. But they all make the viewer want to book a bag and buy a plane ticket. By thinking about the emotions of their followers, Airbnb is able to get them daydreaming about an experience and hopefully turn that daydream into a reality. How can your profile do the same thing?