Iris Leung

Blog Editor | Piktochart

Growth hackers are the unsung heroes behind a wildly successful product. They’re the wily experimenters wrangling users by the thousands, and they do this by pioneering new growth strategies.

There is a common misconception that growth hacking is only a marketing function and it needs to be debunked. After all, there are many products that have gone from zero to millions of users without putting a dent into the marketing budget.

Neil Patel thinks that growth hacking is THE startup buzzword that’s replaced pivoting and iterating. It’s essential to any founder hoping to grow their business “ridiculously fast” and get millions of users and dollars in revenue.
What is a growth hacker?

It’s the dream of every entrepreneur, but how do you get there?

One way to start is to get inspired. It’s easy to forget that the greats were once fledgling startups that deployed the right growth hacking strategy and experienced insane growth.

And you can see it all on GrowthHackers, a site that has documented the journey of some of the fastest-growing technology companies of all time and compiled them into growth case studies.

Besides catering to a need, what we found the most interesting was how these companies dug into user psychology to learn what makes a person tick, and identified the mechanisms behind what creates addiction in order to pander to it.

Creating a “sticky” product that users can’t live without is the ethos behind all growth hacking strategies.Click To Tweet

And we can all stand to get inspired by them.

Slack Tapped into the User’s Fear of Missing Out

It goes without saying that Slack is an indispensable part of almost every company’s team communication, which is why the chat app is perhaps one of the best examples of growth hacking for a B2B SaaS product.

Source: Business Insider

Since its early 2014 launch, Slack grew from 15,000 to 285,000 daily active users by November of the same year. By year’s end, they reached half a million daily users and they weren’t just tracking vanity metrics either. Slack users were incredibly engaged — sending 300 million messages every month and spending over two hours per day on the app.

How did they do it?

  • Slack first started by defining their market space and identifying user pain points early in the game, one of which was providing a “simple and painless” onboarding experience.
  • While some product teams meander and try to cram as many impressive features in as possible, Slack focused its efforts on only a few features like search, synchronization, and file sharing.
  • It enticed users by using a freemium model to ignite bottom-up word of mouth growth.

It wasn’t the only office chat app available on the market, as the likes of HipChat and Skype were already up and running — but Slack supercharged its growth by doing two things:

  • It started taking customer feedback very seriously, responding to around 8,000 Zendesk tickets and 10,000 tweets per month.
  • Gaining a deep understanding of user psychology, applying the “fear of missing out” to work information to increase the app’s stickiness.

Fun Factoid

The way Slack developed the addiction is by leveraging the freemium model.

The case study points out that Slack users became “hooked” after sending 2,000 messagesClick To Tweet

Slack gets users to that point by allowing full access during free trial periods, creating enough opportunities for the addiction to develop before charging payment.

BuzzFeed Gets the Virality Mechanism and Why People Share Things

You either love or hate BuzzFeed, but either way the media platform is still one of the Internet’s best examples of viral content creation.

Back in the early days, BuzzFeed skyrocketed from 600,000 unique visitors per month in 2008 to 30 million in 2012 — but 2013 was true evidence of its growth hacking prowess. In the span of four months, it leapt from 85 million to 130 million uniques, owing most of the growth to Facebook’s shift towards driving traffic to quality publishers.

According to Marketing Week, the site now draws an unfathomable seven billion global views per month. Cue jaw drop.

BuzzFeed’s seemingly runaway success was actually a lot more premeditated than it looks, and tapped into two aspects of user psychology: understanding why people share things, and the mechanism behind virality. These make up the backbone of its growth hacking strategy.

Jonathan Perelman, BuzzFeed’s former GM of video and VP of agency strategy, shared the company’s video content marketing magic formula back in 2014. He said that people share video content for five reasons:

  • To be social
  • To express how they are feeling about a particular topic
  • To show off, or humblebrag
  • To prove they were the first ones to find something
  • To make people laugh

BuzzFeed Visual

Besides getting user psychology down pat, BuzzFeed was also very intentional about its content approach by doing two things: Capitalizing on Internet-native trends such as cute animals, GIFS, and listicles, and catering its content to the “bored at work” network of readers.

Source: BuzzFeed

There are many examples of viral content from BuzzFeed, but one of the most successful experiments that its content team has run is quizzes. In the below graph, you can see where BuzzFeed’s growth started hiking up after the point where quizzes were introduced.

Source: Business2Community

Tinder Created a Gamified Online Dating Experience

Online dating hadn’t changed much until Tinder arrived on the scene. After launching in September 2012, the location-based app picked up 10 million users in just over a year, was downloaded over 40 million times by the end of 2014, and reportedly reached 100 percent year-on-year growth in monthly active users.

How did Tinder ignite its explosive growth in a saturated online dating market?

It did this by building a wildly-addictive app that gamified the user experience with its “swipe right” function.

Unlike other online dating options that were fairly desktop-based and erred on the serious side of things:

Tinder provided a fun mobile experience that “capitalized on new social norms towards casual dating.Click To Tweet

To fuel the trend of casual dating via location-based app, Tinder cleverly tapped into the collegiate Greek system, a dense network of users from both sororities and fraternities. The result? The product spread like wildfire between campus houses by word of mouth.

Tinder lever addiction

Just like the lever on a slot machine, Tinder users keep on swiping right to see if they’ll hit the “jackpot” — which is a match — on their next swipe.

Key Takeaways

Based on the growth hacking strategies of Slack, BuzzFeed, and Tinder — it would seem that the most important quality of a star growth hacker would be an insatiable curiosity for user psychology, and also a deep knowledge of how habits are formed and sustained.

While we first found these case studies a bit chilling, because it reminds us of our own deep-seated reliance on technology, we realize that here at Piktochart — we are also striving for the same goals.

We want to create beautiful, easy-to-use tools that improve the lives of our users, a group of people that we work very hard at understanding on a deeper level. We hope to build something that is indispensible as well — something our users will say they can’t live without.