Top 10 growth hacks of all time


#1 Paypal’s friend referral bounty

By paying $10 cash to each new customer and $10 to the customer who referred them, Paypal was able to hack early growth to tens of millions of users before no longer offering the bonus.
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#2 Hotmail Tagline

In Hotmail whenever a user would email another user, the email would have a message saying something similar to “This email sent with Hotmail, Join Hotmail now” and “Get your free email at Hotmail.”
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#3 Airbnb’s craigslist integration

By reverse engineering the craigslist posting process and automating it to the point where it became dead simple to cross-post your airbnb listing to craigslist, AirBnb was able to hack early growth to 10’s of millions of users.
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#4 Mailbox wait list

By creating an incredibly compelling launch video combined with a very cool interface that showed users how many other users were in front of them on the app’s waiting list, mailbox created a large amount of social chatter and blog attention. Within six weeks, Mailbox had a million users signed up and eagerly waiting for the service.
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#5 Dropbox Incentivized Referral Program

Roughly based off of Paypal’s invite system, dropbox allows users to invite their friends for more space. This worked to help dropbox grow from 100,000 users to 4,000,000 in under two years.
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#6 Twitter’s suggested followers on-boarding

Once Twitter found that users who followed more than 30 people were most likely to become active. They optimized the user experience to encourage this behavior.
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#7 Instagram cross-posting

By deciding to play nice with other services like twitter and facebook, instagram was able to leverage the distribution of some very large existing platforms to help accelerate the growth of its service in the early days.
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#8 Pinterest auto-follow

Upon signing up for Pinterest you are automatically following a select group of high quality users. This in turn helps alleviate the cold-start problem, where you have to go looking around the site to find boards and people to follow. Instead they present a sampling of high quality content immediately filling your feed.
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#9 Youtube’s liberal interpretation of dmca

YouTube tried many tactics to gain differentiation over it’s competitors. In the end, YouTube’s growth hack was the only metric that mattered, conversion of viral buzz into users.
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#10 content/seo strategy

Mint focused on building out a unique personal finance blog, very content-rich, that spoke to a young professional crowd that we felt was being neglected. Eventually the blog became #1 in personal finance, and drove traffic to the app. The infographics and popular articles became regular hits on Digg, Reddit, etc.
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12 thoughts on “Top 10 growth hacks of all time

  1. Wow, great case studies! AirBnB and Instagram made smart moves with cross-posting. Why make users choose, when they don’t have to? Even better, they improved the experience of the other platform using their interface (ex. uploading Facebook photos works great, but Instagram adds a lot to the experience). As a bonus, you get free PR on both platforms! Everybody wins with those kinds of growth hacks.


  2. Great compilation of Growth Hacks – Thanks for sharing.
    It is so important now, to be able to build these kinds of things into the products. The marketing should be the product


  3. Adam,

    thank you for putting these together! The Pinterest auto-follow feature can be a pain in the a**! When you figure you want to unfollow people who you followed automatically, you have to unfollow each twice…a weird bug that Pinterest doesn’t care about.


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