Growth hacking strategies can be endless. One growth hack doesn’t have to be the only one you use to grow your company. Knowing that there can be a ton of growth hacks to implement, here are some examples of what has worked best for the online media giants that we know of today to give you an idea of what might work for yours:
Facebook’s growth hacks have helped the social media network grow to the billions. While it’s not possible to credit one growth hack with the humongous growth experienced by the network, when the company first started, they used a specific growth hack to reach millions of users.
That growth hack was creating a closed network. When Facebook began, it closed its network to users outside of Harvard University. Initially, it was used by students within the university to communicate to each other. When other students outside the university or from other schools heard about it, they wanted to join. But it was closed and they couldn’t. Slowly, Zuckerberg opened up the network to people outside the university, but only around their town. By the time the social network was viral around the United States, Facebook had created a notion of demand, and people were joining in the millions soon after. The network now has 1.59 billion people and is valued at $300 billion.
By creating a feel of the closed network, the company created the need for it. Limited supply of something great leads to unlimited demand. Facebook still benefits from this growth hack to date.
When Quora began, the idea was to be a platform that people engage in quality conversations. While it might be very easy to confuse or compare Quora to normal forums that are so many around, Quora is nothing like any of them. And that was exactly the point when the founders came up with the website; to be different. They have employed two growth hacks that I can think of off the top of my head and these have helped them to distinguish themselves and grow to the millions.
The first growth hack is the feed. Quora designed a feed that would generate interesting content based on a user’s interest. I am a Quora user myself, and if it wasn’t for the feed I get when I log in to the platform I would probably have considered the site as just another forum. However, the feed on my profile takes a different approach from the forum way of doing things. It presents topics that I’m interested in from most recent conversations. That growth hack allowed Quora to keep many users and increase the amount of time that people spend on their site.
The second growth hack was the earning of credits when your answers get upvoted. You can in turn use these credits to ask somebody like Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales to answer a question that you are following and really need an answer to. How awesome is that! People therefore struggle to answer other users’ questions correctly just to earn the credits. If you have a lot of credits you can ask several leading professionals to answer your question so that you can get varied opinions to learn from.
Airbnb is a case of a startup that used an already established business to grow their company. Airbnb realized that a lot of people were posting their houses for rent on Craigslist. Knowing that these was their target market, Airbnb approached the same people and asked them to post the same listings to their platform. These users knowing that all they needed was to earn from their vacant houses, were okay with posting the houses on Airbnb. Within no time, the company was getting hundreds of new listings every day. As people shared their listings on social media, the company grew to revenues of upto hundreds of millions of dollars.
If you joined twitter when it started you are probably no longer on the platform. That was the case for the millions of users who joined twitter in their very first weeks. Twitter realized that they experienced spikes in traffic when they launched with many people creating accounts. However, same people abandoned their accounts after signing up. Twitter had to devise ways to make the new users stick and continue to use their accounts.
The growth hack that helped them achieve this was the suggestions of people to follow after you sign up. By enabling people to follow at least 10 active accounts of their interests when they first sign up, the new users got people to interact with off the bat. This gave them more reasons to return. This gone hack allowed Twitter to retain a lot of its users growing to 300 million active monthly users to date.
LinkedIn had a lot of difficulty getting new users until they allowed people to create public profiles which would be indexed by search engines and shown to users that search for you online. Today, if you are on LinkedIn and somebody needs to find you, when they search your name on Google, your LinkedIn profile shows up.
LinkedIn has something about it that makes it impossible for people to create fake accounts of themselves. The significance of the platform to your career is so high that you would never create an account of you with fake names. By showing the user’s public profile on search engines, LinkedIn grew it’s users to hundreds of millions. Before then, finding people was so difficult unless those people were celebrities. Now thanks to that LinkedIn hack, when you create a LinkedIn profile and I’m looking for you, I will find you.
The embed code on YouTube videos has to be the growth hack of the century. To put that into perspective, YouTube is now the second largest search engine after Google, and all of that credit has to go to the ‘embed’ hack.
When YouTube started they didn’t like the idea of people watching videos uploaded to their platform from other websites especially because they needed to keep more users on their site. Soon after, they realized their growth numbers weren’t that delicious and decided to test the embed option. A few days later, everyone who owns a website from bloggers to publishing companies like The Washington Post were embedding videos from YouTube onto their posts. People were able to head over to YouTube to watch more videos or create accounts as well as upload their own videos. Least to say, the growth was immense; the growth hack that launched today’s video monster.
Aweber had a counter that showed new users the count of people joining in real time. This email marketing platform is one of the most known platform in its industry today. That growth hack has a lot to do with its popularity.
For new users proof that people are using your service is more important. That is why testimonials have such a positive effect. Aweber tweaked this off the testimonials idea. They had a count showing a new users name and at what time they joined. For new users, this showed that there were several other people joining the service and it was good proof to onboard users with. Aweber was able to grow a lot using this onboarding growth hack in its early days.
Dropbox discovered that the cost of acquiring new users in a field where both Microsoft and Google were competing was very high. The only way was to growth hack their way through the competition. That’s exatctly what they did by deciding to give 2 GB of cloud space away for free to every user who joins, but that wasn’t the growth hack. The hack was when they said that just by inviting new users to join, you get an extra 650 mb of space per each user who signs up.
This was a great onboarding technique because slowly Dropbox went from a few users to over a hundred millions users about two years later. More people invited their friends to join just so they could get more space, and this worked as a win-win for both Dropbox and the users.
The second hack was the creation of shared folders. If anything, they were the first company to create shared folders. A team in a company can now work off the same folder from different locations. This growth hack invited more businesses both large and small to purchase a Dropbox subscription, leading the company to profitability.
Spotify was able to grow their platform in the early days by leveraging the popularity of Facebook. They allowed their early users to share the music they were listening to on Facebook by integareting both platforms. Facebook slowly became Spotify’s new source of new users who joined in millions of numbers and in turn shared their music back on Facebook to their friends inviting more users. That is how the company became a household name in the music industry.
The genius part about today’s tech is that you can create bots online to do anything for you. That was the case of Paypal, launched in 1998. It leveraged Ebay’s puplarity as a distributon platform to grow into a powerhouse in the finance industry. Paypal created bots that would buy items on Ebay using only Paypal as a payment method.
Sellers on Ebay realized that PayPal was appearing so much as a payment method and decided to add it to the payment methods on their listings so that they would not miss out on sales. As they continued to offer this payment method, more people on Ebay joined PayPal and realized that the platform was a really easy way of buying goods online.
Eventually, Ebay added PayPal as a payment method and went on to buy the company for billions of dollars several years later after it became an important payment method for Ebay buyers and sellers.
Skype’s hack was to create a viral endless loop of invitations. When a new user joins Skype they will have to invite their friends and contacts to the platform in order for them to have someone to skype with. These invited users also invite their friends and contacts as well. By creating a viral loop like that, Skype continued to grow before Microsoft bought the company for $8.5 billion.
Now the platform is a viral company for video chatting with friends, family and contacts. Companies are also using the platform for meetings with team members as well as interviews during hiring process especially in the freelance market.
Hotmail added the following statement at the end of each email sent by their early users:
PS: I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail.
Using that statement, recipients of emails from Hotmail accounts were able to create an account with Hotmail. As soon as they adopted that sentence on the end of each email, they moved from 20,000 users to 20 million active users before Microsoft acquired the company.
Zapier’s growth hack is basically an onboarding strategy. On Zapier’s home page, they show you what applications Zapier has managed to connect together. This way, if you need Twilio to connect with Infusionsoft for example, you can see that these platforms can be connected by creating a zap because Zapier has listed both Infusionsoft and Twilio as platforms whose zaps exist. New users usually know before they login if their accounts from different platforms can be connected using Zapier.
Another growth hack implemented by this company is the request feature, which allows their users to request for zaps to connect platforms to each other; platforms that Zapier hasn’t connected yet. Eventually, through these suggestions, the company’s reach has grown as a major intermediary connecting enabling two platforms to communicate. As more platforms are zapped, the company continues to grow because the users who requested these zaps come on board.
Pinterest’s growth hack copied its idea from Facebook. When Pinterest started, you couldn’t just create an account if you wanted to. You had to receive an invitation onto the platform first. This method got them a lot of press. With that publicity and the limited supply of invitations, several people were eager to join the social media network. They created the feeling of scarcity, raising demand. Eventually when they opened the platform to everyone, the platform grew so fast, it’s only about 3 years now, but they are already approaching 50 million users fast.
Another growth hack employed by Pinterest was the infinite scroll, removing the need for pages to load. That removed the issues that would include website speed and multiple reloads as you move from one page to another. Consequently, the time people spend pinning stuff on Pinterest increased allowing the company to keep most of its users for long periods of time.
Instagram allowed its users to share their photos to other social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Foursquare, etc. They implemented this at a time when Facebook was growing, and Twitter as well, but both of these media giants had not quite figured out the handling of people’s photos. Especially on Facebook, Instagram grew a lot because people integrated their Facebook and Instagram profiles, allowing photos to appear on both platforms.
Facebook being the giant it is, it sent a lot of traffic to Instagram, allowing the company to gunner 300 million monthly users. Since it was purchased by Facebook, the photo sharing company has become the second largest social media network dethroning Twitter from that position.
Do you have any other examples of growth hacks that have worked? Let me in the comments section below.
Originally published at press.farm on February 1, 2016.