Transparent Growth Measurement (NPS)

[Case Study] 21 Growth Hacking Stories

Contributors: Amol Ghemud
Published: August 14, 2018

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Growth hacking is the way you organize and work as a team – collective mindset. It is not just putting set of functions into your business to boost growth.

                          Growth Hacking – more like mindset than a tool.

Successful growth hacks are the product of engineering, marketing, leadership, design and product management. Whether your team consists of two co-founders or a skyscraper full of employees, your growth hacking strategies will only be effective if you’re able to affix them to your organization, apply a workflow, and use the results of experiments to make intelligent decisions.

Here are 21 growth hacking case studies, that have deployed growth hacking strategies to achieve massive growth in their companies. Every strategy is tied to the company’s context, but there’s something we can learn from each one and apply to our own audiences.

1. Tinder

How did Tinder grow rapidly?

Tinder has made an addictive product by gamifying dating. But to get its growth started, Tinder needed to activate their two-sided product. They needed a strategy that would allow potential users to play the game and find a willing dating pool on the other side of the app.

What was the growth hacking strategy used by Tinder?

In order to validate their product, potential sign-ups needed to see it working. Tinder’s strategy was high touch. They sent a team to visit potential users and directly demonstrate the product’s value.

  1. They invested in a tour of hostels and fraternities at colleges to manually recruit sign-ups from their target audience, millennials. It was a move that increased their user base from less than 5,000 users to over 15,000.
  2. First they helped groups of young women install the app. By actually installing the app while in a room with these women, they got past initial install friction.
  3. Then they did the same pitch to a group of boys at a fraternity. Crucially, the app was now filled with women who all had something in common with the boys — they went to the same school.

How did tinder market itself?

To find the right growth strategy for your product, you have to understand what it will take for users to see it working. Tinder’s in-person tandem pitches were a massive success because users could see the app showed them new romantic connections as soon as they signed up.

2. Listerine

One of the best growth hacking strategy.

One of the most famous examples of a “solution looking for a problem,” was Listerine. Although people have always had elixirs to sweeten their breath, the company made up a medical condition — and then saw its profits go through the roof.

Medical Condition invented – growth hacking strategy

They came up with something called as ‘bad breath’medical condition. which does not even exist.

As a result, people began to believe that they had a condition which could be treated with antiseptic, not just an embarrassing flaw that had to be covered up.

3. Twitter

Strategy behind twitter success:

Initially ,plenty of users were signing up for Twitter because they heard about it in the press or from friends, however few were sticking around to actually use the service.

Rather than going the traditional marketing route of reaching out to the customers through newsletters or advertising, the team decided to focus on discovering what would keep them engaged.

After many experiments, they found that retention rose significantly when a person manually selected 5 to 10 Twitter accounts to follow on their first day.

This indicated that they had found areas of interest. They also discovered that the signup process needed to be much faster than they originally realized. Instead of giving users a tour of the product, they offered them a set of actions that got them using Twitter right away.

4. Dropbox

A perfect example of Referral Marketing:

Even though the founders were confident that once they tried it, customers would recognize its value, Dropbox had initial difficulties. After a failed attempt at traditional marketing through public relations and Google AdWords, the company knew it would need to scale through other means.

Instead, what worked for Dropbox was “making our users really really happy, and then giving them good tools to spread the word.” After a great deal of experimenting, the company hit on a landing page design that was and continues to this day to be a model of simplicity

The company decided to offer users 500MB of extra storage simply for referring a friend. During the period between 2009 and 2011, Dropbox customer numbers skyrocketed from 3 million to 45 million. The referral process is intuitive: there are boxes for email, Facebook friends, or a link they can share.

Referrals from friends are still the most powerful way to gain customers, whether for a tiny startup or a multinational corporation. The Dropbox story shows that just building a great product does not necessarily guarantee success in today’s complex online ecosystem.

5. Airbnb

It is a service that connects people who have rooms and houses to rent and potential customers who want to rent those spaces.

AirBnB knew they had a service that people wanted, but knew that in order to succeed they’d need to reach a large audience to build their marketplace quickly and cheaply.

Going the traditional marketing route of buying ad space would’ve bankrupted the company while trying to compete in an ultra-competitive travel space.

But the creators knew there was a better way–why not draft off a platform that was already facilitating similar transactions, but fell woefully short on the experience?

Enter Craigslist.

Craigslist is an American classified advertisements website with sections devoted to jobs, housing, personals, for sale, items wanted, services, community, gigs, resumes, and discussion forums.

AirBnB executed a hack to cross-post an AirBnB listing on Craigslist as well. All of a sudden, any user searching Craigslist for vacation rentals is running into a slew of professional listings with AirBnB’s name, inviting clients to click on over.

AirBnB also used a email campaign to inform posters of vacation rentals on Craigslist how easy it was to post on AirBnB too. Why post on one platform when you can post on two for about the same effort?

This got AirBnB the initial traction they needed, without dropping a dime on ads.

6. LinkedIn

When LinkedIn launched in 2003, online social networks—for connecting with friends—were not efficient meeting places for business.

LinkedIn’s strategy was to get users connecting right when their attention was caught, just after signup. LinkedIn implemented a single question to new users during sign up: “Where do you used to work?”

Based on this information, they then displayed a list of LinkedIn users from this former workplace. This gave users a memory jog and motivation to take the step of reconnecting with old colleagues.

After initiating this new question at sign up, LinkedIn’s page views increased 41%, searches increased 33%, and users’ profiles became richer, with 38% more work positions listed.

As more and more members of the tech community joined LinkedIn, the network effect took hold, and the site became the place to connect and access resources.

It also made it easier to stay in touch with established connections, as before LinkedIn, frequent job changes common among same field meant losing touch because of changing email addresses and phone numbers.

7. Yahoo

Yahoo, over its journey of almost 17 years has become the world’s largest online network

integrated services provider with users exceeding 500 million in numbers worldwide.

Yahoo’s directory is very well-structured and authenticated business library and it can be developed and customized to act as a new and good source of revenue.

It has a presence in more than twenty markets and regions across the globe and is best known for its search engine and host of other services like finance, e-mail, advertising and social media.

Second is the ability of Yahoo to provide customized and contextual advertising. Another very important competitive advantage of the company is the hold of Yahoo in the mobile segment with its auxiliary products and even partnerships with third party service providers.

And probably last but not the least is the employees of the company, who proved tremendous support, and technical know how, that helps Yahoo shore up with customized solutions for its customers and also help-in maintain a virtually glitch/hassle free website quality.

8. Paypal

PayPal needs no introduction. It is used by millions of individuals and businesses to send and receive money online.

Paypal’s growth engine was so strong that they went from 1 million users in March 2000 to 5 million users in summer 2000.

Understanding how to activate users with an incentive can be a crucial part of a business’s success.

They understood the concept of activating users with an incentive. With every sign up, PayPal started giving $20 initially. Once things started looking good, PayPal reduced it to $10, then $5 and eventually nothing.

PayPal had already tried different forms of advertising and found out that this method got them the lowest cost per acquisition.

9. Buzzfeed

It is a media company that publishes interesting content including social news and entertainment.

Buzzfeed started as a side project when one of its co-founders was working at Huffington post. The team started getting a hang of why people share content, how stories spread and what makes someone engage with content.

One of the first memes that got viral was a girl standing outside a burning house. The look on the girl’s face indicated that she set the house on fire.

Over the years, Buzzfeed has evolved its content as the Internet changed. However, at the core, the team knows what makes people click and what influences social sharing.

10. Adroll

Adroll has this great MailChimp integration — it allows users to retarget ads to their email subscribers in MailChimp. But they found that very few users were actually making use of this great feature.

AdRoll, wanted to experiment with in-app messaging to better target the integration to the right Adroll users at the right time, but growth experiments like this require rapid iteration.

  • First they used a tool called Datanyze to isolate users who used both Adroll and MailChimp.
  • They pasted this list into Appcues, and created this modal window, programming it to appear only to users with both tools who could take immediate advantage of the integration.
  • They programmed the window to appear when users arrived at their dashboards. This is the core area of the Adroll tool, where users are poised to take action on their ad campaigns.

11. Yelp

What makes Yelp different, and allows it to draw return visitors and community members, is that it has strategically grown the social aspect of its site. This is what has earned Yelp 145 million unique monthly visitors and has allowed them to overtake competitors by creating their own category of service.

Yelp set out to amplify its existing network effect by rewarding users for certain behaviors.

  • They created user levels. Users could achieve “Elite” status by writing good reviews frequently and for voting and commenting on other reviews.
  • Yelp judged reviews based on several factors, including level of detail and how many votes of approval they received. All of these factors helped to make Yelp more shareable. Essentially they were teaching loyal users to be growth hackers on their behalf by rewarding them for upping the quality of Yelp’s content.

12. Etsy

Etsy is a peer-to-peer (P2P) e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items and supplies, as well as unique factory-manufactured items. These items cover a wide range, including art, photography, clothing, jewelry, food, bath and beauty products, quilts, knick-knacks, and toys.

Etsy reached IPO in 2015, ten years after the startup was founded. It was valued at $2 billion, with 26.1 million active buyers and 1.6 million active sellers. The key to this huge growth was Etsy’s creation of a “community-centric” brand, not just for sellers and buyers to perform transactions but for them to build networks of like-minded craft-makers.

Etsy boosted its organic new user growth by actively encouraging sellers to share their wares on social media.

  • First, Etsy’s strategy was to focus on the seller side of its user acquisition. By preparing their service in a way that gave sellers tons of support but also tons of independence to promote and curate their businesses, they unlocked organic user acquisition — sellers essentially recruited their own buyers, who then visited Etsy and could get hooked on the site itself.
  • Etsy’s “seller handbook” is basically a course in how to use hashtags. Vendors create their own regulars, and drum up their own new business through social sharing, while Etsy positions itself as the supportive platform.

13. Whatsapp

Nobody needs introduction to Whatsapp. Every generation is active on whatsapp. WhatsApp is a cross-platform messaging app that serves as a reliable, affordable alternative to SMS and MMS—for which carriers often charge per-message.

By November 2011, WhatsApp had become the No. 1 paid social app for iOS, and had been downloaded 10 million times on Android.

And in February of 2014 the company was acquired by Facebook for $19B, the largest to date for a venture-backed company.

Let’s look at what separates them from many of their competitors.

“No Ads, Games and no Gimmicks!”

Not only do they refuse to run ads inside WhatsApp, the company has remarkably spent absolutely nothing on advertising or customer acquisition.

A Better, Cheaper Alternative to SMS and MMS

From the very beginning they worked hard to ensure that WhatsApp worked for as many people as possible, which meant making the app work across platforms and available on a wide range of devices—even very old, so-called “dumb” ones—and operating systems.

Mass reach, mass audience and mass utility was the mission.

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14. IBM

As a big corporation, IBM doesn’t have the same urgency as startups have to create growth from nothing. But as cloud-based software has taken off, traditional hardware technology companies have struggled. IBM faces the uphill struggle of redefining its brand and product offering for an increasingly mobile audience.

Their strategy for achieving this startup-like effect has been to take a team-first approach to redefining itself and growing new user bases.

  • In 2014, IBM created a growth hacking team. Already a large corporation, IBM didn’t need to climb the initial hill of growth to get its product off the ground, but by building this focused team, it aimed to grow into new areas and new audiences with “data-driven creativity,” by using the small business strategies it was seeing in the startup scene.
  • IBM now essentially has startup-sized teams within its massive team, working in a lab style with the autonomy to test marketing strategies.
  • “By treating marketing as code it becomes about constantly testing, tracking, iterating and improving ‘till we make something anyone would actually care about,” is how Kasper Risbjerg, former Social Business Manager at IBM, put it.

No matter what your team looks like — whether it’s all remote or an enterprise with low flexibility — you can turn your organizational structure into a space where growth can thrive.

15. Spotify

Spotify is a truly remarkable growth story. In just six years the company is valued at more than $10 billion and has more than 50 million users, 12.5 million of which pay for the service.

Music is a giant industry, and the competition couldn’t be tougher. However, there was a gaping hole in the market. Spotify launched in the U.S. with the simple, yet powerful difference of all the music you want for a low monthly fee.

Spotify allowed people to be in control of their music, a feature that many would pay for instead of being fed music.

Initially the company offered three tiers of pricing, but now there are just two:

  1. Free — Spotify’s free tier is ad-supported, with skip-restricted shuffle and ready-made playlists available on mobile and the ability to choose any song, any time on tablets and computers.
  2. Premium — As with a free membership, paid subscribers can listen to any song at any time, only they can do so at a higher bitrate, via their mobile devices, in offline mode, and without ads. A Premium subscription costs $9.99 per month, though Spotify offers a free 30-day trial along with a discounted $5 per month plan for students.

Furthermore they have introduced :

  • Premium for family
  • PlayStation
  • Student discount

Launching in the U.S. (after finding their voice) caused Spotify to explode, increasing web traffic well over a million visitors a month within four months time.

Their partnership with Facebook and integrating with the social network garnered another exponential growth session gaining 1 million new users within one month.

16. Upworthy

Less than three year after launching, the site attracted roughly 30 million unique visitors per month. It reached nearly 90 million people around the world during November of 2013.

For Upworthy, launching a news website in the middle of what is clearly a transitional period for online media has played a big role in the company’s success so far, according to Pariser – Founder of Upworthy.

17. Hubspot

HubSpot is inbound marketing and sales software that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers.

The company’s inbound marketing strategy covers the spectrum, but one area in which they’ve really excelled is content marketing. From the outset, HubSpot has offered resources like expert blog posts, webinars, and tools.

When searching HubSpot’s blog Inbound Hub for “landing page,” you get 4,480 results.

As HubSpot has become more sophisticated in identifying onsite visitors and personalizing the experience, they’ve been able to drive calls to action not just for new visitors, but to re-engage existing customers as well.

As HubSpot has become more sophisticated in identifying onsite visitors and personalizing. The experience, they’ve been able to drive calls to action not just for new visitors, but to re-engage existing customers as well.

For example, the marketing on Inbound Hub for customers suggests new tools to try in the HubSpot suite. While new visitors will be driven to ebooks or free tools.

18. Snapchat

How Did Snapchat Reach a Multi-Billion Dollar Valuation?

Snapchat has raced to the top of the photo sharing hill and captured the imagination of the valuable teen market. We all know that word of mouth and few controversies. Surrounding the app sparked interest that helped drive its meteoric rise.

The beginning of Snapchat, a photo and video messaging application for iPhone & Android is shrouded in controversy, yet one thing is clear –  the idea dreamed up by fraternity brothers from Stanford goes far beyond just being a “sexting” app.

In an age of permanence, timelines, and revenge posts, Snapchat created a way for teens to share photos freely. Without the ramifications of other social services like Facebook.

The easy-to-use, self-destructing transiency of the experience feels more human in its interaction than regular chat, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

It goes from a timeline point of view. A historic record of activity—to fleeting, in the moment captures that allow users to drop many of the filters we’re taught to put on what we share.

This freedom, combined with engaging product hooks, and social nature of sharing “in the moment” photos and video. Created a powerful new venue and motivation for teens to switch over to Snapchat.

19. Uber

Uber can be explained by even a luddite. It’s a simple idea that solves a real pain point for people around the world. How to get from point A to point B in a safe, efficient and cost effective way.

You push a button, and in as little as 5 minutes a black car. Taxi or a peer-to-peer driven car is there to pick you up. The experience is nonpareil.

Uber has completely changed private transportation in several key ways.  First, their smartphone app is integrated with. Google maps so that you can see how far away the nearest cars are. Set a meeting point on the screen, and hail a car to meet you there.

You can even see your driver’s information (including ratings) as you watch the car get closer to your location.

20. Square

By combining an elegant integrated payments system with a distinctive conversation-triggering piece of hardware. Square has disrupted the credit card payments establishment while making credit card processing more accessible to small businesses everywhere.

Square gave physical credit card readers out to new users. Who then plugged them into their phones to run mobile transactions.

Square wants new payments customers, even if it means they don’t use Square’s software to run their business.

21. Github

GitHub’s tagline “How people build software” is no accident. GitHub began as a software development tool, called Git.

It was designed to solve a problem it’s coder founders. Were having by enabling multiple developers to work together on a single project.

But it was the discussion around Git, what the founders nicknamed “the Github” that became the tool’s actual value.

Github’s founders realized that the problem of collaboration wasn’t just a practical software problem. The whole developer community was missing some linking factor.

So they focused on growing the community side of its product. Creating a freemium model with an open source repository. Where coders could come together to discuss projects and solve problems with a collective mindset.

By catalyzing the network effect, you can turn your tool into a culture. People will come to it for the long term, not just to use a product and get out.

For GitHub, the more developers got involved, the better the tool became. Find that community for your product and give them a place to hang out.


Where are you in the growth hacking process right now? Let us know where you are now and how you’ll take the next step.

Drop your answer in the comments.

About the Author

amol ghemud
Optimizer in Chief

Amol has helped catalyse business growth with his strategic & data-driven methodologies. With a decade of experience in the field of marketing, he has donned multiple hats, from channel optimization, data analytics and creative brand positioning to growth engineering and sales.

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One response to “[Case Study] 21 Growth Hacking Stories”

  1. With thanks! Valuable information!

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