Airbnb solves #SochiProblems

The setting: The 2014 Winter Olympics are about the begin, and reporters from all over the world are arriving in Sochi, only to find that some of their hotels aren’t exactly ready for them. Some of them don’t even have floors yet. They take to Twitter, and the hashtag #SochiProblems is born.

At the same time, on the other side of the world, Airbnb is hosting its first all-employee summit, OneAirbnb. Employees from all over the world were coming together for the very first time in San Francisco.


Airbnb had put considerable effort into building up inventory in Sochi in advance of the games, and there were still unbooked rooms the morning #SochiProblems hit the fan.

Just as One Airbnb is getting started in the morning, I get an email from Pereira & O’Dell, the Airbnb agency at the time with a simple proposal: What if we answered all of the #SochiProblems tweets and offered to put people up in Airbnbs for free?

Well, at the time “we” was me. I was managing Airbnb’s social media accounts. The head of Brand Strategy was in Australia. The rest of the company was immersed in the conference. It was the one and only time I was completely alone in Airbnb HQ.

As a social media manager and an online editor for major brands, you get used to the feeling of clicking “Post.” There’s always a twinge of anxiety (Did I catch all of the typos? Is someone somewhere going to freak out about something in this post?), but it gets easier.

Not on this day.

#SochiProblems was going viral, and we had to jump on it or let it pass. The posts had to be witty, warm, on-brand but not corporate and truly useful – not snarky. And, holy hell, there was no one in the office to bounce ideas off. And when real-time marketing fails, it can fail hard. But off I went.

A few hours of anxiety in an empty office paid off. We got covered by Mashable, Digiday, Adweek, Business Insider and more. The campaign, such as it was, won two Cannes Lions. The coverage started talking about #SochiProblems as if Airbnb had invented it.

Here’s a nice wrap-up of the day Airbnb tackled #SochiProblems:

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