Airbnb’s Use of Gratification vs. Self-Presentation Theory


Technological developments have been taking place rapidly in the last few decades. Today, the emergence of Web 2.0 has resulted in unlimited interactive communication capabilities as illustrated by the growing use of social media. According to Eginli and Tas (2018), social media has become an indispensable tool for modern societies since it helps build and sustain relationships. Businesses have followed suit as they are increasingly using online platforms to provide products and services. The concept of e-commerce implies a virtual business model where consumers can shop online without necessarily visiting the physical business premises (Humaizi et al., 2020). Additionally, technological advancements are facilitating the development of new economic models, including sharing economy, promoted by such prominent businesses as Airbnb. In these models, several psychological models can be used to explore how users feel about the businesses. in this case, the use and gratification theory and Goffman’s theory of self-presentation will be examined and used in making recommendations for Airbnb.

Airbnb is an American company that provides a platform for home rentals. The firm is based in San Francisco and has a presence in over 65000 cities ad 191 countries across the world (Fast Company, n.d.). Airbnb was founded in 2007 when an idea developed after two hosts welcomes a few guests in their homes. Since then, Airbnb has grown to over 4 million hosts handling over 1 billion guests in virtually all countries on the planet (Airbnb, n.d.). As an online marketplace, Airbnb offers an online platform where users can list their property and connects hosts with travelers (Singla, 2017). The founders have capitalized on the technological advancements and the growth of social media, which can be attributed to the massive success of the company. The key marketing techniques used include atomization, referral marketing, and content generation and sharing across social media (Nicolás, 2018). Therefore, the interactivity of the platform makes it an ideal company to explore psychological theories from the users’ perspectives.

Literature review

Uses and Gratification Theory

Research on consumer behavior can be applied to online media to explore the perceived joy and intentions to use specified media. Uses and gratification theory holds that people understand, even before they use media, the reasons for using it (Samani & Guri, 2019). In this case, it can be argued that the use and gratification theory focuses on understanding why users actively seek specific media to satisfy their needs. A case study of the ‘like’ feature on Facebook from a use and gratification perspective has been presented by Hossain et al. (2019). The findings of their research indicate that enjoyment, social interaction, and information-seeking reinforce user intentions to continuously use the platform. These findings can be generalized across all social and e-commerce media due to their perceived usefulness. According to Zamzuri et al. (2018), internet technology provides consumers the privilege to shop online. Additionally, the emergent Industry 4.0 places business the social media webs as the ecosystem domains that facilitate and normalizes online shopping. Therefore, users on these platforms fully understand what they are seeking when they decide to use the platforms for the specified purposes.

Airbnb is a commercial platform that has proven critical to users across the world, especially consumers in travel and tourism. The intentions to use the platform are improved by the brand engagement and equity associated with the company as explained by Schivinski et al. (2020). Travelers and vacationers across the world know that accommodation is a necessity. According to Sthapit et al. (2019), many of them make decisions either in situ or during planning. Either way, securing accommodation can be both troublesome and expensive, a solution addressed Airbnb. From a use and gratification perspective, Airbnb users fully understand that the platform connects them to hosts in their destinations and that using the platform is both easy and potentially cost-saving. This knowledge emanates from brand engagement as illustrated by Schivinski et al. (2020). Even without the marketing efforts from the company, it can be argued that users will actively seek out the Airbnb platform with the expectation that it offers what they are searching for.

Modern generations can be described as more enthusiastic towards new technologies. Internet is increasingly becoming both cheaper and easily accessible (Mairaru et al., 2019). The proliferation of the internet and digital devices has been accompanied by the growing usage of new software applications intended to make life easier for people. Virtual goods are purchased because this method of shopping is easier and saves time. Therefore, the uses and gratifications theory explains continuous use and positive purchase intentions among users (Kaur et al., 2020). In the case of Airbnb, brand engagement through social media means that users are aware of what is on offer. Additionally, it can be argued that the modern generations will be actively searching for such platforms with positive purchase intentions.

Goffman’s Theory of Self Presentation

Goffman’s self-presentation theory focuses mostly on sharing in social media, a critical element in the social media experience. Through the interactive platforms, users can respond to posts and engage in conversations, as well as give and receive feedback on any subject matter. The term “self-presentation” has been defined by Triệu and Baym (2020) as the process through which an individual controls how he or she is perceived by others. Therefore, individuals hoping for more positive perceptions will make sure the self-presentation features more positive personal attributes. In other words, it is critical to maintain an impression at all times in front of one’s audience (Holmberg et al., 2018). The intention to use social media and similar platforms can be dictated by how well users can create and sustain a positive self-image. Such behaviors can be used to explain why filtering features are becoming a common phenomenon as youths seek to make themselves as presentable as possible. Therefore, it can be argued that only those who can keep up with the pace of sharing and positive responses can sustain online sharing.

In the case of online businesses, Goffman’s theory of self-presentation can be used to prove that content curation is a key determinant of user behavior and motivation. According to Merunková and Šlerka (2019), impression management becomes a critical requirement for any user since what is shared could be used to create a story and an impression that lasts long. Businesses with good self-presentation tend to share content and receive positive responses. However, it is important to acknowledge that most of the content in social media is user-generated. Therefore, the experiences of consumers are shared and discussed on the platforms, which helps potential clientele make purchase decisions. Therefore, it can be argued that this theory mostly targets the users and their experiences as opposed to the conscious and informed user intentions.


The two theories discussed above can be applied to the Airbnb website and the findings used to support recommendations. First, it can be argued that the website is relatively simplistic and does not offer as much user experience as would be expected. Interactivity cannot be compared to ordinary social media platforms even though it can ready location proximity and offer suggestions regarding destinations. Second, the information contained in the website can be considered adequate to support a user in the search for services. Therefore, several recommendations regarding the website can be made based on the two theories.

The first recommendation is that the company should integrate social media into its website. From a user and gratification theory perspective, users cannot expect much from the website and would prefer to search for more information from social media. This is where Goffman’s self-presentation comes where the company should ensure that the experiences of its users are adequate to attract positive responses and help maintain a positive reputation for the company. Such mechanisms as Tik Tok and Facebook videos are an effective means of maintaining a good social media presence.

The second recommendation is that the company should build a better landing page for the website and the online experiences. Having ensured greater social media presence, the landing page should be developed further to match both the aesthetics and functionality depicted on the social networking sites. Links leading to the home should be developed across all social media, in a process that can be described as brand engagement (Schivinski et al., 2020). This recommendation is founded on Goffman’s self-presentation theory where Airbnb should take more control of its online image.

Lastly, trust-building should be supported by allowing hosts to showcase their authentic selves. Self-presentation theory applies in this recommendation, especially considering the business model deployed by the company. It can be argued that the hosts are more responsible for marketing their accommodation property since the company only provides a platform to facilitate the interactions. Therefore, the website should incorporate a mechanism where hosts can advertise their property with greater visibility through both the website and social media accounts. From a use and gratification theory, users searching for information and alternative products in their shopping should appreciate having as much information as possible. Different hosts offer different products and services, which should form a mechanism for open competition.


Airbnb is a business that connects travelers with hosts through an online platform. However, the company’s website displays characters that can deter user experiences. The simplistic nature and lack of greater interactivity can damage the intentions to use. The two theories have almost similar implications on the company and how it manages its website. As illustrated in the recommendations, use and gratification theory should guide such efforts as improving the landing page and creating mechanisms for posting photos and videos by hosts. The self-presentation theory applies in a similar manner where the company facilitates positive content creation and sharing in the process of brand engagement. Overall, Airbnb is an increasingly popular company and its development should be reflected in its website. Overall, a more interactive website integrated with the major social media platforms is a necessity.


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PsychologyWriting. (2023) 'Airbnb’s Use of Gratification vs. Self-Presentation Theory'. 4 September.


PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Airbnb’s Use of Gratification vs. Self-Presentation Theory." September 4, 2023.

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PsychologyWriting. "Airbnb’s Use of Gratification vs. Self-Presentation Theory." September 4, 2023.