How Airbnb Uses Video to Boost Bookings


After years of bootstrapping, Airbnb has finally reached critical mass with listings in more than 9,000 cities and 170 countries. The company raised a $7.2 million round of funding and booked more than a million rooms. But now it’s looking for new ways to build on that growth, and video will be a large part of those plans.

With the same bootstrapped mentality that Airbnb launched its online room-booking service, it’s trying to increase the number of rooms it rents through video profiles of the cities, apartments and hosts that use its service. The startup’s online video ambitions took off last year after it hired Los Angeles-based SuperHost, actress and video producer Venetia Pristavec to help with community development. As part of that effort, Pristavec and Airbnb created an online video series called AirTV — which she calls the Cribs of Airbnb — to throw a spotlight on some of the coolest pads the service has to offer.

A typical AirTV episode is 90 seconds to two minutes long and includes information on the property, including the type of room, price, number of people it accommodates and location, as well as the Airbnb listing number. Pristavec gives a walkthrough of the property and interviews the hosts, highlighting some of the local flavor and nearby attractions. Airbnb now has dozens of highlighted rooms with video profiles — and not surprisingly, properties that are highlighted on AirTV tend to do very well in terms of bookings.

Airbnb has recently expanded its video library to not just include video showcases of rooms available, but to also improve the user experience for new and existing Airbnbers. In addition to AirTV, the startup is using video to educate users on how the service works and to put them at ease with a concept — renting out your apartment to strangers or renting a room in someone else’s house — that might seem strange to some. As a result, videos like “The Many Faces of Airbnb” are designed to give a human face to the service.

The startup is also using video for more practical uses, like reducing the number of emails and calls its support staff receive. To do so, it’s created a series of online tutorials to walk hosts and users through the more esoteric process of actually renting and booking rooms online. Another series Airbnb is considering developing, “Life at Airbnb,” would profile employees in different roles at the company and would be used on its job listings page to show potential employees what working for the startup is like.

Now based in San Francisco, Pristavec is trying to come up with new ways the startup can use video to promote its offerings. That might include partnering with vertical travel sites to create co-branded video programming or striking distribution deals with airlines and other travel companies to feature its videos as part of their on-demand libraries. In the meantime, the company is relying on its growing library of video content to attract new users to the service and to promote interesting properties around the world.

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