10 Clever Growth Hacking Strategies from the Biggest Disruptors in the World

Academy Xi
4 min readNov 30, 2017

Growth Hacking (or growth marketing) is the process of rapidly experimenting, iterating, and improving a business’ marketing strategy to optimise growth. The fascinating thing about Growth Marketing is how varied it is; there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

We explore 10 examples of clever Growth Marketing strategies that big companies used when starting out:


Back in the 90s, Hotmail massively expanded email use with an intriguing offer at the bottom of their emails: ‘PS: I love you. Get your free e-mail at Hotmail.’ Pretty simple, but it meant 3,000 new clients per day, mostly coming from this referral system.


Leveraging an existing channel with high traffic, Airbnb massively increased its users. They created a clever email integration, encouraging Craigslist (similar to Gumtree) users to re-post their room ads on Airbnb. The integration worked both ways, and people who posted on Airbnb could also automatically post to Craigslist.


These guys did something different when growth hacking; they used offline strategies to grow user interaction with their app. They identified their target market (single people, wanting to date); identifying universities as a good place to capture this market. Tinder organised free university parties, with the only fee — making a Tinder account.


One of the most famous examples of really clever growth marketing, Dropbox simply added a ‘Get Free Space’ button on the front page of their service. If someone referred a friend, both them and their friend received 500MB free space. Sign-ups increased by 60%.


It’s pretty remarkable the amount of growth these guys have achieved since they started in 2013. By defining their own category of software based on a pain-point — difficult to use, time-zapping internal email communications, Slack focussed on making a product they were really proud of. By leveraging existing communities based on the team’s prior experience, they invited 8,000 people to try it, not charging customers if they didn’t use it after that. It then snowballed into where they are now — over 500, 000 daily active users.

Slack’s Rapid Growth


A simple change; allowing users to create public profiles that show up organically in search engine results was a game-changer. Before our extensive social media presence, valid search results, when searching a name, company or title, were few and far between. LinkedIn, therefore, had some valuable search-result real-estate. They grew from 2 million to 200 million users as a result.


Key to their success is a focus on making it easy to share videos and create a community. YouTube presents you with an embed code to easily share on your social media channels, website or blog. Video suggestions that show up encourage further engagement, making a user more likely to share another video suggested to them.


When first released, there was a lot of hype, and people were signing up and sharing twitter across social networks by the thousands. But twitter hit a roadblock when these new users starting dropping off and disengaging. By thoroughly exploring the key factors that led to the continued use of Twitter, they identified that people were more likely to stick around if they followed 5–10 people, selected interests and created a network. Twitter shaped their sign-up process around this, encouraging users to invest in their account. This dramatically increased engagement.


This social bookmarking site followed Facebook’s lead and started out being invite-only, with quite a long waiting list, generating buzz and exclusivity. Additional to this, they were one of the first to incorporate limitless scrolling. A small feature that has a big impact, this change was based on insights, encouraging longer interactions without interruption and making the experience overall more enjoyable.


Some seriously clever strategies gained these guys 400 million users without spending money on user acquisition, leading to Facebook buying them in 2014 for $22 Billion. How did they do it? Put simply, they had a great product. Nothing else was needed, and they spread like wildfire through word-of-mouth.


From the outside, it’s hard to really tease out what these different examples have in common. The main takeaway should be that no one principle, technique or offer will suit every business type. The trick is to complete thorough testing to determine the approach that will work, and then creatively tackle challenges based on your insights.

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You can learn more about the thinking behind these examples in our upcoming Growth Marketing course.



Academy Xi

Expert-led courses and workshops in User Experience Design, Digital Marketing, Software Engineering, Data Analytics and more. Visit https://academyxi.com/