Connection Hyperinflation – where’s the value? – Tan Lam #TSC13

If you want to learn how a real business connects with clients and hosts using the internet, watch this story told by Tan Lam.

Tan Lam (@tantlam) is the Social Media Manager at airbnb.

Airbnb was founded in August 2008, a global community marketplace for unique spaces located in over 182 countries. Connecting with a global audience of both travellers and hosts in real-time.

Tan Lam TSC13 photo by Bibi Veth

Founded by Joe Gebbia, Brian Chesky, and Nathan Blecharczyk, it all begins in the living room of Joe and Brian’s San Francisco loft in 2007. There was a design conference coming to town, and all the nearby hotel rooms had been booked solid. They decided to offer up their place, along with good breakfast, to a few strangers attending the event.

Joe and Brian saw potential in the air bed. Something nobody else saw, potential. And that has grown in 2012 from 120,000 listings to over 300,000. In 2012 airbnb opened offices in Hamburg, Paris, London, Milan, Barcelona, Copenhagen, and more cities.

Airbnb is 3 times a win, according to Tan. Global Growth, through Local Growth:

  • win for guest, get to know the local culture
  • win for host, additional income
  • win for local economy

Sharp BS detectors

Tan shared fun stories of airbnb, but he also said, “Just because its fun it doesn’t mean that it is valuable”. Tip: write your obituary to find the core of who you are as a company. The things that really matter.

People’s BS detectors are really sharp today. So make sure that your product does actually do what you say it does.

The tools airbnb uses are, Hootsuite and Zendesk to back it up. A dedicated team for customers service enter things from hootsuite into Zendesk.

The Tools for this customer service

Here is a video of Hootsuite on how why airbnb uses Hootsuite

airbnb uses social media around the globe for:

  • Educate and spread the word of what Airbnb is: People need to know what they are offering, why they’re good and what’s different.
  • Generate relationships and strengthen community.
  • Communicate with global networks and manage customer sentiment.

This is an example of how Tan is doing this:
When somebody mentions airbnb going to Berlin or Tokyo – Tan is giving great tips of reastaurants or retweets to give them great tips for the city by other connections. Cost time but gives great results, lots of retweets, happy customers. Aniversaries, birthdays, send flowers for example.

To me it sounds like the customer service of Airbnb looks similar to what Zappos is doing. Giving the customer the best experience.

Word of Mouth – 50% of the orders

Tan shared another great story of a host. The host mentioned that the last guests stole his pizza cutter. And airbnb send him a new one. You can see what effect this experience has on the host. He wrote a post about it Reason Seven-Hundred and Something for why I remain Loyal to AirBNB

This is of course the reason that 50% of airbnb’s orders come from Word of Mouth.

Great examples on how airbnb changes lives on this beautiful airbnb annual 2012. Host sharing how renting their room changed their lives:

Tessa in London, England:

“Struck by a chronic illness, Tessa used Airbnb as a way to meet travelers from around the world and become a bona fide expert on London’s neighborhoods.”

Evandro & Leo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil:

“Recovering from an accident that left him unable to work, Evandro put his beautiful Rio home on Airbnb. He and his partner Leo pride themselves on providing a superlative experience for guests.”

Shell, Brooklyn, NY

“When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, host Shell opened her home to stranded travelers and locals, providing free housing and food for the community.”

After Shell opened her home right after Sandy helping the community, airbnb saw this and supported this initiative. Normally the hosts can not list their room for free.

In 5 hours airbnb reprogrammed the site to make this possible. After one tweet from a host that offered her room for free for people that were effected by Sandy. It resulted in 1440 listings for free in the huricane area.


“Yes, we are in business. Looking for more hosts. Looking for more customers. But we want to go above and beyond. Winning hearts and minds.”

airbnb is sending People to the hosts. The core of social.

What Tan thinks will be interesting for the future:
Now, people are sharing stories after the event. They want to start sharing stories before and during the experience. That will be interesting for companies to get closer to their potential clients.

Engaging your clients

Two things I really like of what Tan and airbnb are doing to engage hosts and guest:

  • Airbnb hosts making photos of their neighborhood. Great content it shows the guests what is good in the neighborhood, fantastic for SEO.
  • The wish list on the site for guest. When you save a dream place on your wish list, it is also saved on one of your Pinterest boards. Great idea of spreading the content. Again good for SEO.

Video of the presentation

Like most of the presentations I attend I recorded this one. It is done with a small camera, the sound is OK, but you will have to turn up the volume a bit. Tan Lam is a bit in the dark, and that had to do with the settings of the room.

Watch the video of the presentation by Tan Lam on relationships with your customers:

The slides of this presentation have not been made available. Just watch the video above for the slides 🙂

Personal Note from Tan

A personal note from Tan Lam for you in this video that I recorded after his presentation:

More on Tan Lam

You can find more of Tan Lam via:

Airbnb Annual: Global Growth, Local Love

Via 5 Questions for Tan Lam – AirBnb – these 2 questions and answers:

What do you think are the biggest challenges companies are facing today in the field of social business?

Most companies STILL have no idea what to do with social media. They think it’s something they “have to do.” They’ve heard stuff like “have a conversation,” but I speculate they wonder what the heck that’s good for.

What is your biggest social media success and what was your biggest #fail (what did you learn)?

During last year, I was most proud to have helped with Airbnb’s Wish Lists and Neighborhoods launches. Both products highlight our share-worthy content, enrich the travelers’ experience, all while building trust in us as a travel authority. Although I’m early enough in my career to have dodged an epic #fail so far, I’ve had my fair share of missed opportunities and shortcomings around sub-par copy writing and underutilizing analytics in social.

Book a home, castle, couch, treehouse, igloo, room or even a private island for your next vacation via airbnb and experience it. Myself, I experienced it during next12 in Berlin, Wow.

Credit photo: Bibi Veth Visual Storytelling

Your customer experience

How do you enchant your customers. How do you make the experience with your company, products and services special?
What tool do you use to monitor what customers are saying about your company?

Please share below in the comments so we can learn and earn more sales via Word of Mouth.

By Erno Hannink

Sparring and accountability partner for entrepreneurs who create sustainable positive impact. Explores decision-making. Shares his insights on this in, articles, books (Dutch), podcast, newsletters, and tools. Has a life mission to reduce social and ecological inequality. Father of two children, husband of M., runs, referee for the national soccer league, and uses stoicism for calm. Lives in the Netherlands. Speaks Dutch, English, and German.