Ma, X., Hancock, J.T., Mingjie, K. & Naaman, M. (2017). Self-disclosure and perceived trustworthiness of Airbnb host profiles. Proceedings of the ACM conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2017).


Online peer-to-peer platforms like Airbnb allow hosts to list a property (e.g. a house, or a room) for short-term rentals. In this work, we examine how hosts describe themselves on their Airbnb profile pages. We use a mixed-methods study to develop a categorization of the topics that hosts self-disclose in their profile descriptions, and show that these topics differ depending on the type of guest engagement expected. We also examine the perceived trustworthiness of profiles using topic-coded profiles from 1,200 hosts, showing that longer self-descriptions are perceived to be more trustworthy. Further, we show that there are common strategies (a mix of topics) hosts use in self-disclosure, and that these strategies cause differences in perceived trustworthiness scores. Finally, we show that the perceived trustworthiness score is a significant predictor of host choice–especially for shorter profiles that show more variation. The results are consistent with uncertainty reduction theory, reflect on the assertions of signaling theory, and have important design implications for sharing economy platforms, especially those facilitating online-to-offline social exchange.