Growth hacking may seem like a buzzword that’s flying around. But the truth is, it works. You may think it’s new, but a lot of businesses have been using it, and still use it to grow exponentially.

Wikipedia defines growth hacking as the systematic process of experimentation and scalability throughout the business processes to identify the best ways to grow a business.

The focus is “growth.”

The term was coined by Sean Ellis in 2010. He was working with tech startups back then and was helping them to grow their customer base.


A growth hacker increases sales, improves brand awareness, and does everything to grow the business at an alarming rate.

Data, metrics, reporting, product, and marketing channels are the tools that a growth hacker uses to get the job done.


The best thing about growth hacking is that it is cost-effective. You don’t have to spend a whole bunch of resources on growing your business.

To give you an idea of how powerful this growth technique is, the following list of 11 awesome growth hacking examples is sure to blow you away.


1. Facebook

There couldn’t be any better example of growth hacking than Facebook. How the number of monthly active users of this social network grew over the years might look ridiculous, but that’s what growth hacking does.


Facebook used several growth hacking techniques over the years to make this possible. Let’s discuss a few of them.

i).   Embeddable badges: One of the earliest hacks used by Facebook is its embeddable badges. It allowed the users to use widgets and badges on other websites, forums, and anywhere on the internet.

A badge tells the readers that ‘this person is on Facebook.’ This growth hack helped Facebook in acquiring 200 million users in a year. Getting 200 million people, otherwise, would have been a tough task.

ii). Email notifications: Later on, Facebook used email notifications to send instant notifications to the users when someone tags them in a photo. This hack resulted in a CTR rate of 75%. The email notifications were clicked like crazy by the users.

Twitter wasn’t left out either. How did Twitter became renowned and loved by millions of people?


2. Twitter

As a microblogging social site, Twitter had a strange problem in its early days. There were millions of users but most of them never returned. The retention rate was quite low.

The team at Twitter used analytic tools to monitor the behavior of the customers and introduced two new features.

The homepage was cleaned and new users were persuaded to follow at least 10 people they might know. The suggestions were available on the homepage. You can still see these suggestions on Twitter.


This simple hack not only increased the number of users on Twitter, but the engagement and retention rate improved dramatically.


3. Airbnb

Airbnb used a smart growth hack to increase the number of users and to achieve significant growth quickly.

Airbnb used Craigslist to gain backlinks and to reach a massive audience. They started sending emails to their new clients to re-post their Airbnb listing to Craigslist to increase earnings by $500 per month.


This resulted in a massive increase in the number of new users.



4. Pinterest

Pinterest used its invitation-only sign up to increase site visits by 4000%.


This growth hack made Pinterest the fastest growing social network that reached 10 million users within the shortest timeframe.


The invite-only registration did a great job of enticing the users. Everyone was interested to see what Pinterest has to offer.


Those who were invited to the network felt lucky and people kept on waiting to get invitations from their friends and relatives to join the network.

This created a lot of buzz in the market – and it brought not only users to Pinterest, but also engagement and loyalty.


5. YouTube

In 2005, MySpace was the leading social network with its 25 million users. YouTube used MySpace to promote videos and to bring new users to their site.


There was a problem that businesses in particular, and people, in general, were facing back then. Sharing videos was almost impossible.

The embed codes were not available. Even on MySpace, it’s not possible to share videos. Blogs and websites didn’t share videos either, because they don’t want to send their visitors to any other website (such as YouTube).

It was challenging for YouTube to make it work with the videos. YouTube took the step and introduced embed codes. With an embed code, users were able to post videos on their sites without worrying about the traffic.

It doesn’t just help getting millions of new visitors to the site, but it generated a lot of backlinks too since people were all into sharing videos on other sites.



6. Instagram

Instagram used customer feedback and marketing as its primary tools for growth hacking.

The idea behind the creation of an image sharing app as taken from Burbn. The photo sharing was the most used feature in Burbn. See how it all started:


The founders of Instagram looked around for other photo sharing apps and realized that there are a lot of them available on the market. They did some research and talked to the customers. The feedback helped.

The existing image sharing apps weren’t easy to use. Hence Instagram was born to solve this specific user problem.


Here’s the growth strategy:

Instagram used Twitter and allowed its users to sign up via Twitter, invite and follow people from Twitter, and above all, they allowed their users to tweet the photos from Instagram on Twitter. Since Twitter hadn’t image sharing feature back then so it did the trick.


Besides, it’s launched with iPhone 4, so this also helped Instagram in getting a million downloads in two months.


7. Tinder

The story behind the massive reach and growth of Tinder will make you jump from your seat. First, look at the growth chart. From 8 million to 24 million active monthly users in a year. This is growth hacking at its best.


The CMO and the VP Marketing did it systematically to reach this number.

i).   They initially targeted VIP customers such as model, celebrities, and influencers. This helped in attracting more individuals and the general public to use the app.

ii). In the next phase, they went to colleges, parties, events, and gave presentations about the app.

They knew their target audience well. So it was pretty easy to go after them. They targeted singles, willing to date, and those who had a phone. There wasn’t any better place than a university to promote the app.

“It worked.”

Takeaway: When using growth hacking or any marketing tactics, get to know your audience first. If you do, half the challenge of reaching and persuading them to come join your cause has been resolved.


8. Uber

Facebook took eight years to reach $50 valuation while Uber did it in five years. This was made possible by the massive number of active drivers in the US, $1.6 debt from Goldman Sachs in 2015, and raising $3 billion in venture capital in 2014.


Uber added 32K new drivers in November 2014 and 40K drivers the next month. These figures are astonishing.

So how did Uber achieve this earthshaking growth?

The excerpt from this academic paper sums it:

“The spectacular growth of the number of active driver-partners using Uber over the last few years is evidence that Uber provides a large number of workers a choice they prefer to other available options or not working at all.”

Uber launched a much-needed service and gave people a new way to earn money as a result, most of the taxi drivers moved to Uber (with their existing clients).


9. Hotmail

Hotmail is probably a forgotten story but their growth hacking strategy isn’t.

When Hotmail was struggling to bring new users on the network, they added a simple banner at the end of every email their users sent.


This simple yet power hack increased the sign ups to 3,000 per day and in six months, their users jumped from half a million to a million. When Microsoft purchased Hotmail, it already had 12 million active users.


A simple and free marketing strategy resulted in growth that Gmail was unable to achieve until 3 years ago. Can you beat that?


10. Dropbox

Unlike Pinterest, Dropbox didn’t launch as an invite-only cloud storage service. Instead it created the hype and then shifted to invite-only after the launch.

Dropbox used multiple growth hacks.

The founders selected the right platform to launch the solution to the public – TechCrunch50 – the perfect place to launch such a solution.

The moment is launched, the solution was immediately moved to invite-only creating a massive demand.

The founder, Drew Houston, created a crispy, funny, and exclusive Dropbox video for Digg users explaining how Dropbox can be of help for the Digg users.

The video received 10K diggs in 24 hours and 70K new users were added to the waiting list.

When it was fully launched, their referral program did the rest. They gave 500MB storage to their users for referring Dropbox. This pushed the active users from 100K to 4 million in 15 months and still growing.



11. Buffer

Buffer acquired Digg Digg to increase its user base.

For the records, Digg Digg is a social share WordPress plugin. When Buffer purchased it, the Buffer button was added to the social sharing buttons immediately.


The users were curious to know what Buffer is, and hence it gained new users and increased brand awareness.



If these brands can use creativity and all the free techniques to achieve immense growth, what’s your excuse? All you need is a mindset shift – think differently and you will be amazed at the rare results that you can achieve.

Bear in mind that growth hacking may not work overnight. It takes time, but the rewards will be well worth your time and resources.

Trust me, you don’t need to be certified to achieve “growth” in your business. Although, if you’ve the opportunity to learn the inside scoop of growth hacking, grab the opportunity with both arms.

I would love to hear from you. Which of these growth hacking examples have you implemented in your business?