Using Deep Pockets, Strong Social Media Presence, and a Bit of Hype to Crush the Competition

Where the world of vacation rentals meets collaborative consumption you will find a cadre of both old and new companies each attempting to eek, rake, or shovel their revenues from the revolution that is the shareable economy. Some of the old timers like HomeAway, which owns VRBO have nearly a million properties listed on their various sites, catering to travelers around the world. Other new entrants like Airbnb presumably have a smaller number of properties, yet they also have a much slicker website and a far better user experience for both the owner and the renter. Interestingly Airbnb plays by a slightly different set of rules than other competitors in the space and instead of listing how many properties they have, they emphasize the number of cities (34k) and countries (192) where they have properties. With a market valuation of nearly $10B and oodles of investors pouring cash into Airbnb, are they creating a lot of hype, or are they doing something truly different? Let’s use social media to take a look at how these two competitors differ.

First let’s talk about their Klout scores:

Pic 1

Airbnb is looking good at 83, versus HomeAway’s 71. Granted, Airbnb doesn’t have the history and longevity of HomeAway but they have also gotten way more attention from the press. Although most of the attention is highly favorable, there have been few more scandals, like some sketchy Onion articles and some snafus around evasion of taxes, and yet also a lot more social media volume. As you can see in the ten-day chart below generated by Topsy, there were 73k tweets for Airbnb compared to only 1400 for HomeAway.


One could argue that volumes alone don’t tell the story, so when we look at sentiment as well, we see the score is still imbalanced with 76 for Airbnb versus a 48 for HomeAway:

Pic 3

In summary, with the nearly $1B in Airbnb investments over the past 5 years, and the involvement of more than a dozen major investors, this startup has taken the relatively stable and ordinary business model of renting out properties online, HomeAway’s bread and butter since 2004, and made it sexy, sleek, and modern. While one could argue that there are not many substantive differences in the business models and approaches of the two companies, it is clear that Airbnb is doing a far better job of selling themselves and their culture and is undoubtedly reaching more people. If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? Who cares! Similarly if Airbnb has the same business model and approach as HomeAway, but is crushing them in terms of awareness, sentiment, tweet volume, etc, then does it really matter that they have the same model?


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