When I first started dabbling with ingenious, data-driven growth methods back in the mid 2000’s, I wasn’t aware of the term ‘Growth Hacking’. After all, I only wanted to do one thing. Validate a product using the little cash resources available. Fast forward and now startups, regardless of their level of funding, and Growth Hacking go hand-in-hand.
Plenty of the big name start-ups and companies have used Growth Hacking techniques to get not only a massive edge on the competition and to cement themselves as dominant market players. Here’s ten of the finest.
- Mint – There is something to be said for supply and demand in that supplying to a neglected audience can be the simplest path to success. Mint utilised a clever blog system to deliver information and content to an audience that was under represented: people looking for financial management and advice. Perhaps it is not a hack, per se, but there is nothing wrong with sticking with the basics.
- Paypal’s Friend-Referral System – When it started out, Paypal struggled to get a foothold as a payment system in online retailers. Instead of wasting time and resources, they instead worked out a deal with the big dog at the time: eBay. The move ended up with Paypal being listed as a payment source along with Visa and Mastercard. Along with the advanced exposure, they implemented a $10 referral reward to everyone who recommended a friend to using their services – what more incentive could you ask for?
- LinkedIn Boosting Names – Googling your name is a guilty little pleasure for most, and a way to make sure no one is using it for evil. Before LinkedIn, however, Googling or searching for your name probably wouldn’t turn up anything unless you had done something pretty amazing and/or awful. LinkedIn filled in a void of professional social connection and marketing: job posting, profiles for professionals, etc. The growth-hack here is another company filling in an untouched need and grew exponentially.
- AirBNB Reverse-Engineer Craigslist – Well, not exactly reverse-engineering. AirBNB is all about renting out spare rooms to people looking for a place to stay. Instead of developing yet another competitor out there, they instead took the posting method from Craigslist and integrated it within their own site – simplicity in leveraging something that already works.
- Twitter‘s Self-Improvement Phase – Twitter is a name most people would recognize instantly these days. Growth-hackers extraordinaire and household names of successful start-ups, Twitter didn’t have the smoothest launch. People would sign up and then drift off to never return again. Instead of the usual methods of trying to yell louder than the competition, Twitter took some time to meditate and learn – what they ended up learning was that getting users to follow 5-10 people would make them feel more invested in the site and keep coming back for more. Generate interest – classics in action.
- Dropbox Renting More Space – Incentives tempt in even the most miserly of skeptics. Can’t offer a cash reward? No problem! Dropbox is a site that lets people store their documents, videos, etc within their site or software, at least up to a certain amount of data. Referring friends to Dropbox got you even more storage, which is great if you need a lot of room.
- Instagram Playing Nice – Instagram began as a photo-sharing site that brought in the hipster movement (or at least the filters). Another pedigree in the start-up boom, Instagram had a unique edge already with its filters and personal touch. Their hack to expansion? Playing nice with the big dogs, of course. Using Facebook and Twitter, amongst others, Instagram used the option to have them share from Instagram to their sites. Simple method for explosive exposure.
- Youtube‘s Gossip and Buzz Promoting – Ever heard of word of mouth? It’s one of the oldest marketing tricks in the book. For Youtube, it was a unique growth-hack. How do you get a bunch of bored people or corporations on board with your site? Utilise the heck of gossip, media buzz and attract followers like no tomorrow. Allowing the embedding of videos on popular sites didn’t hurt either.
- Quora Playing The Sympathetic Listener – The friendly social-networking site, combined with a touch of Wikipedia style editing , took a similar tactic to Twitter – except instead of looking inward, Quora paid close attention to what its users were doing and wanted. By taking time to learn what their users were doing and the trends occurring, Quora used the simple hack of listening to see the expansion they desired.
- Facebook Using Widgets and Wizardry – Well, perhaps not wizardry, per se. The Facebook movie might have you believe otherwise, though. Facebook took the approach of integrated widgets ingrained into the site and toolbars, generating a plethora of clicks per day. Instead of waiting for other sites to outdo them or copy them, they took a progressive approach and bought up other companies from third-world countries. Big business move proved useful growth-hack – these are usually on opposite tracks, but it worked.
These are ten big names and proven growth-hacks. Do you know of any amazing growth-hacks to add to the list?