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Airbnb is a community built on peer-to-peer relationships, and first impressions are key to building trust with potential renters. Research shows all it takes is 1/10 of a second for judgment to be passed on your profile picture and 80 to 90 percent of that first impression, is based on perceived trustworthiness and competence. With vacation rentals, making a good first impression starts with your host profile – this is where you can provide information to help influence renters’ decisions. Furthermore, recent research reveals that your profile picture may be the single most important factor in gaining the trust required to maximize your bookings and increase your revenue.

Profile Pictures Are the Proven Key to Winning Renters’ Trust

Two studies conducted by researchers at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and published in the journal Tourism Management found profile pictures have a greater impact on success than reviews from former guests do. In the first study, researchers gathered revealed data from Airbnb’s listings in Stockholm, including hosts’ profile pictures, customer reviews and information on the price, size, location and appearance of the short term rentals. They then showed hosts’ profile pictures to over 600 participants and evaluated the impact of the hosts’ perceived trustworthiness and attractiveness.

The results revealed that the more trustworthy the host was perceived to be, the higher they could list the price of their rental’s nightly rate with it being more likely to be chosen by renters.

In the second study, researchers showed participants a series of fake Airbnb profiles and asked them to rate the perceived trustworthiness of the hosts based on their profile pictures. The results revealed the perceived trustworthiness of hosts directly affected participants’ choices, and participants weren’t conscious of the effect the hosts’ profile pictures had on their judgment; only an eight percent minority indicated that the hosts’ profile pictures had an influence on their decision-making.

Steps to Gain Renters’ Trust and Increase Booking Rates

The importance of building trust through your Airbnb profile and earning higher nightly rates lie in your profile picture. Here are four steps to help improve your profile’s success:

  • Look directly at the camera. Eye tracking studies show that people have a tendency to look at other people’s faces, and then follow where they look. Facing directly at the camera will help you connect with potential renters.
  • Show your teeth when you smile. Research from PhotoFeeler reveals that a smile with teeth leads to higher scores for likability, competence and influence compared to those with a closed-mouth smile. A study conducted by New York University psychology researchers lends support to these findings. Their research shows that people who smile in photos are generally considered more trustworthy than those with neutral or angry expressions.
  • Use a bright background color. Background color tests performed by Moz founder Rand Fishkin showed that using profile pictures with bright background colors provide a competitive advantage. Consider incorporating orange into your profile picture to evoke feelings of warmth, security and confidence.
  • Include a high-quality image. A study by researchers at the University of Leeds reveals that images of higher quality that don’t need adjustments for color and contrast have a higher pleasantness response from viewers than those that were over-corrected. Choose a quality picture with a clear resolution that enables renters to clearly see and assess your profile.

The right profile picture will establish the beginning of a trusting relationship with your future guests. Your appearance as a likable and confident individual will set the tone for your hosting abilities and bolster increased nightly pricing and higher booking rates, ultimately resulting in greater revenue for your vacation rental.

By: Michelle Giuliano

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