Pulling a rabbit out of a hat
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A quick Google search will turn up literally dozens of definitions surrounding growth hacking.The confusing part is that many of them differ.

In an attempt to make things much simpler here, we’re going to stick with the most proven and agreed upon definition:

Growth hacking is “a new process for acquiring and engaging users combining traditional marketing and analytical skills with product development skills.” - Josh Elman (Daily Tekk)

Growth hackers have the remarkable ability to utilize technical, marketing and business skills all at once, in order to solve some of the most perplexing problems affecting small businesses and startups.

Some businesses were convinced that growth hacking was a fad, and worse, a buzzword that holds little to no meaning.

However, some of the most popular brands to date saw past these negative reviews and really embraced the changes that growth hacking provided.

This resulted in million and billion dollar corporations in a very short amount of time.

Let’s take a look at 5 businesses that gained viral status in a short period of time and still enjoy the continual benefits that growth hacking brought to the table.


The professional social networking site LinkedIn, seemed to explode on the scene out of nowhere. This site literally came out of left field thanks to growth hacking.

LinkedIn was kind of a social networking miracle, especially since it was created during a time when there were already so many other social platforms in use.

To add to the miracle, it survived and took off, when so many others never saw the light of day, and many others fell from grace (R.I.P. MySpace).

Growth hackers at LinkedIn had a unique challenge on their hands. They had to first make people care that they existed (especially users who were already loving YouTube and Facebook) while also promoting the usefulness an uniqueness of their platform.

Instead of being a competitor site to Facebook, the founder of LinkedIn wanted this site to be more professional. It was marketed to those in professional circles and industry leaders. So, how exactly did LinkedIn ‘go viral’?

Well, because of their ingenious marketing strategies, they were able to muster up 2 million users, but it seemed to just sit there. Growth hackers figured that it was best to grow the site through search engine optimization.

In their early days, user profiles weren’t searchable outside of the website, so they expanded the user settings to include a ‘viewable by the public’ option.

At the same time, users were offered free DropBox storage use if they referred a friend to the site. The result….200 million users. (The later tactic also helped increase DropBox users.)


Mint offered a unique challenge to growth hackers.The business wasn’t doing so well, but there were many reasons for this.

It wasn’t that Mint didn’t offer something that consumers needed, but there were a few flaws in the marketing side of things.

For one, the original name was MyMint, and it was pretty much offering the same services as Wesabe. Noah Keagan realized that mymint wasn’t too much of a trustworthy name, and Mint sounded better.

It also provided a more trustworthy brand name than their competition. In addition, shortening the name on the domain let consumers know that the business was legitimate.

Growth hackers also used SEO to bring more users to the site. They knew that people trusted search engines and were therefore more willing to visit the site if they could come to it through Google.

However, Google created cleaver new hoops for marketers to get through, so that no one abuses the algorithm.

One of these new hoops was the ability for consumers to preview pages before actually clicking on them, this option allows them to simply hover over a website link to see a screen shot of the landing page.

Designers at Mint knew they only had this one shot to impress consumers, so the created an easy to navigate, clean website that would look inviting enough for people to click on the link and actually enter the page.

Their design was both user-friendly and trustworthy, which lead to the best kind of advertising…word-of-mouth.


DropBox did something that many businesses overlooked, they used an explainer video to introduce users to the usefulness of their product.

This video was short, engageable and shareable. After having the video on their site for just a day, they’d already received over 70,000 sign-ups.

This is a perfect example of using viral acquisition for growth; but, even DropBox didn’t expect the fame they bolstered to through using it.

Their growth was so phenomenal that marketing experts and psychologists alike, began to study the structure and inner workings of explainer videos.

This lead to a rise in small businesses and start-ups using explainer videos for launch, and scores of markers referencing DropBox as a case study.

This exposure inevitably lead to large companies signing up with DropBox, and to some major phone corporations and phone manufacturers installing DropBox as a native app on their phones.

In addition to DropBox’s success via video, users encouraged to refer a friend and receive a 500MB increase in storage space.

This resulted in a 60% increase in growth, the result….50 million users.


This social networking giant is perhaps one of the biggest growth hacking success stories.

It stared as a place where old friends could reconnect and school buddies could chat, but it was surprisingly more popular in Europe than it was in the U.S.A.

This was partly due to U.S consumers utilizing social networks such as Myspace for socializing.

Growth hackers quickly realized that consumers didn’t know too much about Facebook and second, couldn’t see the benefit in switching over to it.

However, after a few changes to the layout, search engine saturation and appearances of games and other additions on the platform, users quickly signed up.

To further its growth, users were asked if they would like their email addresses to be searched in order to add their friends. To top it off, the platform was offered as an app, making it more accessible than their competition.

Nowadays, it’s impossible to see a teen movie or TV show that doesn’t reference Facebook or an SNL skit that doesn’t ‘poke’ fun at it. (Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that Facebook is literally the only social platform to ever have it’s own movie.)


In the beginning, Pinterest had a slow take-off, since most consumers weren’t fully aware of what it was.

Those who had a few moments to analyse Pinterest thought it was another Instagram, but those who actually signed up to it and began to use the site, found that it was so much more.

This image sharing site, found that by using an insta-following hack, users wouldn’t feel alienated after signup. They wouldn’t have to go out making friends, they would instantly be following popular users.

To make the Pinterest experience more enjoyable, users were also prompted to search for Facebook friends who are already users, and to invite those who aren’t users (It also doesn’t hurt that Pinterest has a clean, easy to use interface, making the learning curb relatively short) the growth hacks used on Instagram has bolstered the site to a new station in fame heaven.

Fashion blogs, magazines and even news segments refer to Pinterest for images, and most professionals actually have a PinInterest account.

People also like the fact that when they search for a keyphrase in Pinterest, the results are relevant and new; as opposed to those found in a Google image search.

Looking at the list of names above, I’m sure not a single person reading this blog could deny knowing them, seeing them, or using them at some point.

That alone is a testament to the fact that growth hacking works! When these brands first came on the market, they got a few interesting looks, but no one was biting.

After growth hackers got a hold of them, everyone wanted to use them. Now look at their worth!