#hacktic: AirBnB’s Craigslist Platform Integration

The growth hack: AirBnB’s unauthorized platform integration with Craigslist.

Why it worked: Because nothing gets your business’s name in front of potential customers quite like a beloved platform with tens of millions of engaged users.

AirBnB is a service that connects people who have rooms and houses to rent and potential customers who want to rent those spaces. AirBnB knew they had a service that people wanted, but knew that in order to succeed they’d need to reach a large audience to build their marketplace quickly and cheaply.

Going the traditional marketing route of buying ad space would’ve bankrupted the company while trying to compete in an ultra-competitive travel space. But the creators knew there was a better way–why not draft off a platform that was already facilitating similar transactions, but fell woefully short on the experience? Enter Craigslist.

It worked like this: AirBnB orchestrated a hack to cross-post an AirBnB listing on Craigslist as well. All of a sudden, any user searching Craigslist for vacation rentals is running into a slew of professional listings with AirBnB’s name, inviting clients to click on over.

If that wasn’t enough, AirBnB also used a (admittedly suspect) email campaign to inform posters of vacation rentals on Craigslist how easy it was to post on AirBnB too. Why post on one platform when you can post on two for about the same effort?

This one-two punch of cross-posting their rentals to Craigslist and luring established Craigslist posters got AirBnB the initial traction they needed, without dropping a dime on ads.

Try this if:

  • Your product is a marketplace that needs an established user base to work and you don’t have one. Super platforms like Craigslist, Facebook, Shopify, etc. are a great way to gain distribution to audiences of millions of people.
  • You know your product has tested well and does a great job of fulfilling a real user need. Now you just need the users. Drawing tons of users to a product or service they don’t want or need is a waste of everyone’s time.

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