Since we have already discussed if social media is an ultimate growth hacking tool and also explored the phenomenon of virality as well as other effective acquisition channels in the article “Growth Hacking”, let us now focus on the practical side of things – the actual application of growth hacking tools and the results they can bring.
For this purpose, we will take a look at the business models of the following three companies, which not only grew remarkably in the recent years, but – what is even more intriguing (!) –applied very different key strategies from team structure to the marketing approach with great success. Below, we will extract these key strategies to see what can be taken away from their growth “secrets”.
It is a matter of fact that a product that does one thing well is the key to reaching and conquering the market, especially if you are thinking big and want more than just one piece of the cake. Apps like WhatsApp and Instagram have reached that level as a result of well constructed products and incredible engagement.
WhatsApp, for example, concentrated primarily on the rich UX and pain-free onboarding faculties of their product, thus contributing to its immense word of mouth growth and a ‘near perfect market information’, as Forbes contributors Larry Downes and Phil Nunes termed it. By utilizing the constant communication among consumers who adopted their product and effectively marketed it to other users who themselves recruited new users and so forth, WhatsApp was able to use the dynamics of this exponentially growing wave of distribution. This makes the messaging app an anti-marketing growth phenomenon, because they never had to invest anything in it.
User onboarding plays a major role in the eventual success of your product. An easy onboarding process increases the likelihood of new users adopting it. This is a task that should be taken care of by the product team in cooperation with UX and design.
And this is exactly what WhatsApp took to heart: they made sure that their user onboard is simple and streamlined. There is no long registration process with the creation of a username and password, instead users only need to confirm their mobile numbers. Also, the new user is presented with a list of their phone contacts already on WhatsApp, which renders the creation of an entirely new social graph unnecessary and makes for a smooth switching from standard text to WhatsApp.
Koum and Acton, founders of WhatsApp, knew that is was all about the masses, which is why they did not design their app for smartphones only. What they aimed for was an app working across platforms as well as on a wide range of devices and operating systems. With this concept in mind, you can, of course, launch on one platform first, test and then go for the rest. Plus, consider the web as well. Thus, mass audience, mass reach and mass utility may be considered the main components for rapid growth.
When the network effect is present, the value of a service or product is dependent on the number of people using it. A case in point is the telephone. This is also where virality comes into play: the more people have that product, the more its usage tends to expand and spread like a virus.
With networks like Tinder, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram the size of the user base correlates with the level of success. Tinder, for instance, which is location-based, would be of no use if it was not for a sufficient quantity of potential matches. Not even the most engaging or funniest UX could make up for the missing of this key factor.
Do you know how Tinder penetrated the market? Smartly enough, they dipped into what has always worked for bars, pubs and discos to attract people. Following the principle of “Ladies’ Night”, dating ecosystems live on the “supply” of women, which are the true trigger for the participation of men. If the marketplace is seeded with supply, buyers automatically come to participate. Of course, this also works in reverse, but is typically done this way.
This is why Tinder chose to start off with sorority girls as early adopters. In this case the rule of thumb is: the more girls are on the platform, the more guys are likely to partake. Not only was this a brilliant move in terms of addressing the interests of millennials, who are mobile and digitally savvy, but also in terms of the sororities’ word-of-mouth potential. It is the perfect milieu for a product to spread one-to-many, even more so, because connections between friends make word-of-mouth far more contagious.
The same system applies to networks like Facebook or Tuenti in Spain – they used college networks to their advantage.
For years, the temporal, shareable and at times interactive Google Doodles were the only marketing form that the company did. In a way they are a precious Easter Egg in the product for the user to discover and share with others. Google Doodle falls in the category of infographics (visual content marketing). Because they are both timely – they reference news or anniversaries – and consistent, they are anticipated by Google customers and often shared on social media, which in turn brings more people to Google.
Traditionally, companies were divided into Product, Management, Finance, Sales, Operations and Marketing. However, there is a recent trend on including a team responsible for growth. Eventbrite, for instance, intertwines cross-functional growth teams with marketing, UX, UI (user interface), product and engineering members.
A growth team’s responsibility lies in building internal as well as customer facing tools to stimulate growth and in developing socializing tools and strategies, such as A/B testing. Its efforts should be directed towards external growth opportunities, for example SEO and SEM, and an improved customer understanding.
Being open to your customers’ and potential clients’ feedback and understanding their expectations and needs can be of incomparable value to your product. It is therefore inevitable to connect with your users as much as possible.
In the same fashion as there is no single or absolute truth, there is also not a single or best path to growth hacking. It is the mix that brings success, still it is your task to find out which combination works best for you.