Influencing: How Airbnb Organizes the Host Community

Airbnb has been wildly successful in creating a multi-billion dollar business out of short term room rentals. The company has long been opposed by various lobbies. Traditional hospitality companies fear that it might encroach on their business and demand a more level playing field where everyone abides by the same rules (Internet Marketplaces, Is it Time to Level the Playing Field).  Local authorities see the company as costing them tax revenue and flouting regulations. Other bodies are concerned about the impact on the housing market.

Around the world local authorities are creating new rules for this kind of home rental. Home rental contracts are also being rewritten to limit or ban outright short term subrentals. Airbnb responds to these moves with traditional lobbying efforts, but what is much more interesting is how the company is preparing to mobilize the massive army of airbnb hosts to advocate for the business, too.

What airbnb has done is to create a network of "Homesharing Clubs", local associations of people who rent property through airbnb. Some of these renters are people offering their spare room; others are people who run airbnb rentals as a business. There is a description of a typical Homesharing Club in Airbnb faces Worldwide Opposition...

When the project was launched last year airbnb made no secret of their goal to create an advocacy bloc for their business. But very cleverly this is not the only purpose of the clubs. Airbnb hosts can meet up and share ideas about optimizing revenues, they can meet up to discuss where to find the best plumbers, they can meet up to organize discounts at laundries. They can also meet to discuss political action, writing letters, organizing protests and campaigning on social media.

This approach means that the company can first build a vast network of advocates that are already in position, identified and easy to reach whenever they are needed. Between advocacy campaigns they can be discussing how to deal with people who rent a property just to have a wild party, but if there is any legislation coming up in the area they can be mobilized very quickly.

Airbnb's approach to organized advocacy is simple enough, but it is an interesting example for anyone else who might be in the same situation. The company has many opponents -- lawmakers, hotel owners, housing organizations among them -- but they also have many people on their own side. These are not just the people who benefit by getting a cheaper and sometimes better stay when they travel, they are also the people who actually have a financial stake in the success of the room sharing economy. These people are highly motivated to defend their income. With a relatively modest investment, this motivation can be channeled into action.

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Andrew Hennigan does lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about influencing skills, digital marketing and more. If you would like to discuss a project call 0046 730 894 475 or email


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