Each week, DailyTekk connects you with leading experts on a given topic as part of our Understanding series. This week we are focusing on explaining growth hacking. Yesterday the experts defined growth hacking and today you’ll see real examples of growth hacking in action. Stay tuned; tomorrow we’ll be focusing on what it actually takes to hack growth. Last week we focused on Gamification.
Josh Elman: When I joined Twitter, we had an interesting puzzle. Many many users were hearing about Twitter each day from press, blogs, their friends and were signing up. But not very many of them stuck around. Typical marketing efforts in the past would have been to use email newsletters to bring users back, or spend money on display retargeting. But instead we invested in the product. We dug in to our data for our most engaged users and tried to learn what the “aha” moment was for them. We then rebuilt our entire new user experience to engineer that moment more quickly. It turned out that if you manually selected and followed at least 5-10 Twitter accounts in your first day on Twitter, you were much more likely to become a long term user, since you had chosen things that interested you. And if we helped someone you know follow you back, then even better. As we kept tweaking the features to focus on helping users achieve these things, our retention dramatically rose.
Paul Rosania: BranchOut’s rapid growth in early 2012 is a quintessential example of brilliant growth hacking. At its peak, the company had 14 million monthly active users and was valued at $80 million, despite essentially $0 spent on marketing. A number of growth hacks contributed to BranchOut’s success. First, they dramatically lowered signup friction by integrating with Facebook. Social networks suffer from intense bootstrapping costs, since people need to fill out their profiles and recreate their social graph in order to get value from the service. By leveraging Facebook data about the person and their friends, BranchOut skipped those steps entirely. Second, BranchOut made invitations a one-click process. Third, BranchOut experimented with viral mechanics. Most notably, the company allowed members to vote on which friend they would rather work with, and optionally posting the result on their wall. Lastly, BranchOut seized first-mover advantage when Facebook launched Open Graph. Facebook eventually dialed down Open Graph’s effectiveness, but not before BranchOut added millions of users. Unfortunately, it remains to be seen if BranchOut can continue to build on its successes. While the team’s growth intuition is enviable, the product’s core experience has proven lacking, and usage is dwindling as a result. This is a cautionary tale for startups: you still need to build a great product.
Dan Martell: I won’t disclose the ones I’ve used at Flowtown or Clarity as their still useful (as no one else has exploited them) but I can share some that have been talked about. Airbnb: Building a better promotional tool for their host to publish their listings to Craigslist. The reason is was a Growth Hack was that Craigslit didn’t have an API, so Airbnb built a way to make it work – they essentially “hacked” it together. Youtube: They built a widget for their players so that MySpace users could embed them in their profiles. That’s how YouTube create so much traction, on the back of MySpace. Facebook Apps (Generic): Many startups have built traction for their products by building a free but viral Facebook applications that engaged users and introduced their brand to them (ex: Branchout, Circle of Moms, etc).
Sean Ellis: Growth hacking has been around for a long time (though it didn’t have a name until a couple of years ago). My first significant growth hack was at Uproar.com in the late 90s. We took our game play experience and syndicated a gateway game to 40,000 websites. This helped us achieve the lowest customer acquisition cost of any publicly traded company and was critical for us to become the number one game site in the world before selling to Vivendi Universal in 2001. More recently, the referral program implemented at Dropbox rewarded both inviters and invitees with free space. This program provides free space even when a user doesn’t actively sign up for it.
Aaron Ginn: At Romney, we bucketed our online donors according to demographic data, the size of the first donation, and total amount donated (aka life-time value of the donor). Within our team, we created an internal “progress bar” to encourage donors to max out. This strategy improved the likelihood for a repeat donation by 3X and doubled the total amount data when compared to control groups.
At StumbleUpon, we tested whether a less intrusive and bold call-to-action would increase the likelihood of a new user to convert and retain. We toned down the language in the registration flow and saw a 100% increase in conversion rate from a visitor to a new user.
Ken Zi Wang: One specific example is a SXSW campaign that we performed in March 2012. We established a simple interface with content from different categories that were featured in SXSW. Initially, our team seeded the content. Soon after, users interested in the event who were unable to go to Austin started to find the website very useful and started to submit and engage with the content organically. Even though, this campaign was short lived it resulted in a lot of signups to Fandrop main site.
Meet The Growth Hacking Experts
- Sean Ellis (@seanellis) coined the term “Growth Hacker” and is the founder and CEO of Qualaroo, a company focused on making it easy for marketers to improve website visitor engagement without help from the dev team.
- Josh Elman (@joshelman) is an investor at Greylock Partners. Previously he led user growth at Twitter, and worked at Facebook, Zazzle and LinkedIn.
- Aaron Ginn (@aginnt) is the Head of Growth at StumbleUpon and former growth hacker for Mitt Romney.
- Dan Martell (@danmartell) is the co-founder of Clarity a marketplace that connects entrepreneurs to get great business advice. Previously he co-founded Flowtown.com.
- Paul Rosania (@ptr) is a Product Manager for Growth at Twitter, and was previously a growth hacker at a stealth startup running a Top 100 Facebook app.
- Ken Zi Wang (@kenziwang) is the founder and growth engineer of Fandrop, an innovative and interactive way for users to find, collect and share trending media.