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I have read a number of blogs and articles about growth hacking over the past few years. Most of them talk in circles, citing a few examples of companies that made it big, but never really define what the term means. As a reader you cannot help but feel stupid for not understanding what the big deal is, but you are too ashamed to ever admit it. Unfortunately, I am one of those big company, East-Coast, VP of Marketing types who “just doesn’t get it.” So I am clearly not the target audience.

But I recently came across a book by Jose Casanova and Joe Casanova that actually provided some useful insights into the mysterious world of Growth Hacking. The best part of the book is the detailed examples of how startups built marketing into their products and user experience to dominate their markets. Ten of the best examples are listed below:

  1. Hotmail – Built advertising into its product. Put a simple, clickable URL tagline at bottom of every Hotmail which stated: “p.s. I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail.”
  2. DropBox – Enabled file sharing with unregistered users. An email is sent to the unregistered user creating awareness and encouraging them to register. Encourages referrals by expanding your storage space if you refer someone else who joins.
  3. AirBnB – Enabled users to export their listings to Craigslist through the click of a button. Created visibility for the advertisements on a site with massive traffic at no cost to AirBnB.
  4. Twitter – Introduced an API that allowed users to share content of interest on Twitter through the click of button. Tweeting became unbelievable simple and ubiquitous across the web not just on their site.
  5. Instagram – Much like Twitter enabled users to follow anyone on the network, without any opt-in required by the person being followed.
  6. Living Social – Offered a free product if they could get three friends to buy the same product. Also provided users with tools that they could use to promote offers on their own social media sites.
  7. LinkedIn – Relentlessly focused on improving their email formats to maximize user response and adoption. Tweaked copy, format, pictures and subject lines until they found the sweet spot.
  8. Zynga – Built virality into its games like Farmville with a point system. Users are rewarded when they invite Facebook friends to play the game. If they do not invite friends they gain fewer resources or opportunities to advance.
  9. Pinterest – Users had to receive an invitation to join. Anyone could request to join, but they had to wait two to three days to create a feeling of exclusivity that led to more market interest.
  10. Google+ – Required users of many other Google services like YouTube, Maps, Gmail, Docs and Search to create a profile on Plus. Encouraged posts by featuring them in search results for associated hashtags and keywords.
Steve Keifer

Steve Keifer has led marketing and product management teams at seven different SaaS and cloud providers ranging from venture-backed, early-stage startups to multi-billion, publicly traded companies - including several that experienced hypergrowth, filed IPOs, and reached unicorn status. In Bantrr, Steve shares many of the best practices and lessons learned from building and scaling marketing organizations. Topics include new category creation, brand development, and demand generation.

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