"If you build it, they will come." A memorable quote from the 1989 movie "Field of Dreams," with Kevin Costner. This sentence became famous for those starting tech businesses in the 2000s. Is it true? Can you follow a simple no-growth strategy at all?
This article will show you that behind every product, or every successful marketing initiative, there is a hidden (and not secret) growth strategy that worked well for these successful businesses.
You will see a few of the most successful enterprises and some of their critical success factors. Maybe some of these strategies can be used in your business. I will also list a few things that didn't work well and what you could learn from that to make your business more successful. So stay tuned!
Chapter 1: The Journey of Twitter
A hopeful populace held their breath in 2012 as the polls were ready to determine who would be the next president of the United States. The name was read, a nation rejoiced, and the new president posted a single tweet to all those celebrating that night:
@BarackObama: We just made history.
It wouldn't be the first, or last time; Twitter played a huge role in events that resonated around the world.
From the trapped Chilean miners, the first Iran election after violent riots had rung out across the nation to the moment when Japan scored its final goal against Cameroon for the 2010 FIFA World Cup; no matter how you look at it, Twitter has become a juggernaut in how people around the world communicate.
As a worldwide recognized social-networking site, and one of the most successful companies seen in the past decade. Twitter didn't even own its current domain name for six months after its start, instead of using Twttr, a name inspired by Flickr.
Started in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Noah Glass, and Biz Stone, Twitter saw a rapid increase in popularity and use, seeing over one-hundred million users by 2012.
In 2019, it ranked as one of the most-visited websites and currently has 321 million active users, including celebrities, politicians, and figures of great significance worldwide.
However, what can you learn from this success and hopefully implement it in your business or new product launch? Let's check some key takeaways.
1.1) Twitter Growth Strategies
Twitter growth strategy #1: Make a simple product
Twitter has always been simple to create a post. The secret is not new for any digital entrepreneur. The product is dead simple. It doesn’t get much easier than write your message of 140 characters, currently 280, and hit the Tweet button.
Keep it ‘simple and open’ and let the web community work out how they want to use it is what has helped make Twitter one of the most successful social media networks going around.
Twitter relucted to insert video and image posting except through third-party providers. Both video and audio require real-time viewing and listening, and the reader can decode the text at his own pace.
The Twitter simple design has proven to be a killer. It became even more popular as a platform for older adults who hadn't used a social-networking platform before. The simplistic design has been praised for inviting a generation that was left out of the Facebook and Myspace boom.
The company's inception began with a daylong brainstorming session by the board members of Odeo, a digital media company that provided tools and resources for podcasting.
Later providing insight about the company, Dorsey stated that they kept the beginning of the company and its beginnings ambiguous due to not knowing what exactly the platform or site was considered.
The concept of Twitter is still discussed worldwide. Some considered it a social-networking site or micro-blogging. The truth is, there are unique characteristics on Twitter that makes it an original and loved the platform.
The initial limit on characters made the platform ideal for spreading "headlines." Users who wanted fast and easy ways to make a point would use it due to its simplicity.
Twitter growth strategy #2: Listen to your users
Many original features were born on Twitter based on its users' experience in the platform. Internally created or not, hashtag made Twitter its home.
Invented by Chris Messina (then with the consulting firm Citizen Agency), no TV shows, conferences, speeches, or any other live event is complete without the use of hashtags. Also, the hashtags helped spread ideas, concepts, and messages in a way never imagined before.
The way people used hashtags in live events, concerts, political elections, among other activities, made the platform increase its reach and bring many more new users and intensified their engagement.
Twitter users also made history inventing new ways of communicating. They started the use of the symbol "@" to acknowledge other users, a character that is currently used in other digital platforms such as WhatsApp.
Users also invented the retweet. Usually, to give the credits of tweets to the original tweet creator, they used the letters "RT" plus the symbol @, and the name of the person who tweeted. Based on that, Twitter created the function Retweet.
The way the company listened to its users and applied their ideas on the platform helped Twitter have the success it has nowadays.
Twitter growth strategy #3: Capitalize on live events
Despite the struggle for identity, Twitter found its first initial boom in users and activity at the South by Southwest Conference. Some smart placement of two 60-inch plasma screens showed live tweets from the events occurring. The tweets went from 20,000 to 60,000 in a single day.
That does describe a lot of Twitter's journey – forward-thinking, innovation, and an exciting take on the open platform. The usage of Twitter spikes during significant events such as the FIFA World Cup and a record-breaking amount at the Los Angeles Laker's victory in 2010.
You'll find tweets from Justin Bieber and Amanda Bynes just as quickly as you will see tweets from Donald Trump and the Pope himself!
However, the advantage for its users is that anyone on Twitter could increase its odds of being heard and leave his or her opinion. They could even talk to their idols, having the chance of being answered. All these possibilities made people love Twitter, particularly during live events.
Anyone could be listened to, being famous or not. The "democratization of fame" attracted new users who wanted to leave their messages to the world.
Different types of business can undoubtedly capitalize and take advantage of events that are at the top of the mind of people, one way or the other; indeed, it works perfectly for Twitter and can work for your business as well.
Not everything has been smooth-sailing for the social conglomerate. The platform has been used by rebel parties such as the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2010-2011 Tunisian protests, the 2009-2010 Iranian election protests, and the 2009 Moldova civil unrest.
The Somalian rebels, the al-Shabaab, had their accounts suspended after admitting guilt to the attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall in September 2013. Consequently, Twitter has been banned in several countries: Egypt, China, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Venezuela.
On a less world-wide scale, there have been smaller controversies. Several people have been arrested for making jokes about terrorism or bombs. Nir Rosen, a fellow at New York University, was caught tweeting some horrendous things about Laura Logan's sexual assault – he resigned from his fellowship after apologizing the next day profusely.
Former MLB pitcher Mike Bacsik lost his job after getting drunk and tweeting some racially insensitive things – if you can't tell, social-networking is not the best tool for sharing unpopular opinions.
For all of its controversy and identity crisis issues, Twitter is also being used as a platform for education, reaching out during emergencies and gathering support for those in need. Like with anything, you get the good and the bad when your platform is open to the whole world.
1.3) A household name worldwide
The revenue for Twitter comes mainly from paid advertisements that are accessible to companies and individuals as well as royalty-free photographs posted on site. Its reliance on open-source software has contributed as well to the success of the platform of the accessibility.
Twitter saw a makeover from its original site with a few glitches here and there. Adaptability, progress, and innovation are the tools that it has used to see such success.
From simple beginnings, Twitter has become one of the household names worldwide for social-networking and connecting with others. The logo is recognized near anywhere it is shown, and Twitter has expanded easily to every technology platform at its disposal.
One can only imagine where the company is headed, and what innovations they will provide next, what people across the world will continue to present on the grand stage of social networking. The world continues to get smaller when more companies like Twitter are born.
Chapter 2) Instagram, A Snapshot Of Success
Do you want to know how Instagram got so successful? Sure! But first, let me take a selfie.
We've all heard the song, the jokes, and the word repeatedly used throughout the everyday conversation – part of the hipster-inspired current culture, even being added as a word to the Oxford dictionary.
Love it or hate it, Instagram makes it easy to take selfies with its simple platform, filters, classic photo styles, and short videos. It is one of the most heavily searched terms on the site and many more photo-sharing communities.
We could make hipster jokes, but let's focus on the task at hand instead. The value of the idea wasn't lost on investors Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, and Instagram was produced via a seed-funding campaign of five-hundred million dollars.
2.1) Instagram History
With a successful campaign, Instagram launched in October 2010 and saw an explosion of popularity with over three-hundred million users ranked in 2012.
After another campaign of funding in return for shares in the company for fifty million, Instagram got a beautiful make-over and more coverage on mobile devices: new filters, logo, functions, all the glossy stuff! With a thirteen man team by the latest release, it is clear that Systrom knew what the appeal of Instagram was to be users.
With all of that success, it surprised very few people when Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame came knocking at their door. For one-billion dollars in both cash and stock, the deal was sealed, and Zuckerberg made it clear that he still wanted the old team to run on Instagram.
Some saw this as bewildering, but despite losing a quarter of the on-hand cash of his company, Zuckerburg stands by it, and no one can't say that Systrom and Krieger didn't come out on top.
Systrom and his team have been smart in every step of Instagram's inception, and it is easy to see why it is successful. Initial views of Facebook purchasing Instagram had many shaking their heads and stating that Instagram got the raw end of the deal due to Facebook's IPO at the time floundering.
However, with Facebook having bounced back, those critics are not as vocal now. Zuckerberg knew exactly what he was doing when he purchased Instagram early on. Some economists believe that, if Instagram did IPO currently, that they would be worth much more – taking them out as a competitor was wise and a huge asset, a brilliant partnership between two business owners that knew what they were doing.
Sometimes, success is all in the strategy. Instagram catered to a rising part of pop culture and took advantage from day one, giving its users every reason to stay. Despite the few blunders here and there, Instagram has proven itself formidable against many of the big names of social-networking and apps for posting pictures.
Love it or hate it, Instagram cemented itself into our culture.
Some say photos are timeless and businessmen say that success is finding what the people want and giving it to them. People want the world to see the exciting lives they lead, and their filtering skills, Instagram is at their service.
Systrom can be considered an inspiration, having sold Instagram for the staggering price at twenty-eight years old. If being able to retire early and call yourself a billionaire before you hit thirty isn't a success story for the ages, I don't know what is.
2.2) Instagram Growth Strategies
Instagram growth strategy #1: Find the "WOW" consumer need – the online filters
Many people had taken their filters elsewhere, unfortunately, regardless. Still, even with a stumble here and there, Instagram has been a huge hit. It has become a part of pop culture and knows it as well as it knows how much people love sharing snapshots and videos of their lives with the world. Instagram filters revolutionized images in social networks.
A platform that opens users to other like-minded users, their nostalgia and memories. The app didn't precisely have humble beginnings either. Initially, it was developed by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, who decided to focus their current project, called Burbn, on photography.
Most inventions come from inventors own needs:
Kevin wanted to find a way to make his girlfriend look better in pictures via filters, but don't tell her that!
Much like Twitter, it has become an essential app in keeping with current events. The many people you see posting pictures of themselves with different filters, over fifty-five million per day on Instagram alone, it is part of the pop cultures around the world.
Providing filters was the bait, but the hook seemed to be carefully placed events such as trending topics on specific subjects, Throwback Tuesday that featured users posting pictures of their childhood or most recent days and, of course, selfies.
Oh, so many selfies. Instagram had cultivated a culture in its own right and even urged users to use the hashtag system on their uploads to make it easier to find users with the same interest.
Have you ever wondered what it takes to create a $1 Billion product, have millions of happy users, and change the way people share stuff and communicate in 18 months? Well, the founders of Instagram do know the answer to that. Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom launched a simple and easy to use app back in 2010.
Its purpose was to let people take beautiful photos and instantly share them on multiple social media channels. So now, think about the next "WOW" consumer needs your company will help to attend!
Instagram growth strategy #2: Less beats more
When it comes to design and usability, the founders of Instagram know that it’s better to exclude anything that’s not essential, so that what matters can stand out.
The very first genius in the minimalist era of technology was Steve Jobs. He knew that more straightforward was better, and people weren’t craving more features and additional products. They just wanted to know how to use this one and do it fast.
Instagram growth strategy #3: Add emotion to the equation
People buy on emotion. There’s rarely much sense in why they do what they do, simply because it’s all about emotional triggers.
That’s another critical thing that separates top brands from the rest. You may think that Instagram is a free mobile app and a social network where you can share photos and short videos.
However, in reality, it’s much more than that. Kevin Systrom loved taking pictures and even got a new camera every Christmas. He was genuinely passionate about photography and knew taking pictures was a form of art. So he added that when creating the product. Here’s how he describes what Instagram is all about:
“Every photo you take communicates something about a moment in time – a brief slice of time of where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing.”
The average user may not be getting to the deeper meaning of every selfie he takes, but he sure feels the effect. That’s why he comes back to Instagram and tells everyone about it. Such is the power of emotion and passion added to a product. No strategic marketing can imitate it.
Instagram growth strategy #4: Launch sooner and make improvements
The founders of Instagram followed a piece of advice we know from The Lean Startup – build a minimum viable product, get it out there in the hands of the right users, get feedback and make changes to improve your creation consistently.
Too many startups fail because they try to add all the features they can think of to the product. Often it turns out that people don’t even need most of them.
So keep it simple. Set one goal, answer one need, and let your product be the solution for that. You’ll make it better once you hear what people think about it.
Instagram growth strategy #5: Focus on the right metric
Everyone’s goal is to make revenue from day one, but big ideas that turn into billion-dollar businesses do things differently.
You may have noticed, for example, that Facebook has always been all about growing users. The money will follow. Mark Zuckerberg knew that the product first had to be in the hands of the mass.
He even bought Instagram 2 years after its creation for a billion dollars, also though the platform still wasn’t making any money. However, it had a huge fan base – literally millions of users.
In today’s world, it’s about reaching the audience first. Making money is an inevitable result of that.
Instagram growth strategy #6: No need for big teams
Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom say no to the need for more people in a team. Instead, they prefer to work with a few passionate individuals who know what they are doing.
The two founders of Instagram know that great products come from a great team. They’ve done their best to carefully pick people who care about what they do, who have talent but are also eager to learn, who have potential and want to contribute to the vision of the company.
Once you choose such people from the very beginning, productivity won’t be an issue. Everyone will be working on what matters, ideas will flow, communication will be smooth, and passion will be part of the result.
That’s something every user will feel when using the product. So, focus on having a small team, but with smart and ambitious people full of enthusiasm.
Instagram growth strategy #7: Choose one core option and be the best at it
When you set too many goals at once, you usually don't get closer to any of them. When we try to get everything done, we get nothing done. It's just that we tend to perform best when it's all about one thing.
That's how our mind works. So instead of complaining about that, why not master that one thing and use it to create a remarkable product. The founders of Instagram had one core option to focus since day one when the app was just an idea: Its purpose, which was making your photos look fantastic.
Together with that, it lets you upload them on all the other most popular social networks in a matter of seconds, connect with like-minded people using hashtags and keep up with friends and current events. However, in its essence, it's about making your photos stand out. Thus, keeping your memories alive, letting your friends see and share them. In the end, all looks great, and it's easy to use.
Instagram's filters made a considerable difference in the way people took pictures and presented themselves online. Almost everyone makes a quick change to a photo before uploading now, even if it doesn't need any correction. It's just the norm.
That’s what happens when you build unique products that people love…
You create the norm. That’s also the only way to achieve massive success in the business world. There’s a lot we can learn from what the founders of Instagram did differently.
It’s essential to keep in mind that they are average people, just like you and me, but who had a vision and took action to turn it into reality and put a lot of effort and time to build something that will make people’s lives more pleasant.
Also, all that without being impatient for the money to come.
So why not follow their steps and see where that will take you? There’s much competition out there, but people are still desperately looking for the next remarkable product to buy that will change their daily life and make them feel special.
Be a creator instead of a consumer, and fill a need. It all starts with a simple idea. The first step can be as simple as writing it down on a piece of paper or doing your research online. Just start.
2.3) Problems Along the Way
A few struggles did hinder some of their success. With any platform for people to step on, you're likely to have a few doing some pretty dumb things. An investigation from the BBC brought up that some "genius" users were posting pictures of drugs they had for sale and then completing their transactions via instant messengers.
Naturally, Instagram responded that they would take action – guess you can't censor them all, right? Or can you?
Some criticism was brought up over the deletion of two accounts, a Canadian photographer named Petra Collins and an Australian photography company. Why? They both had pictures posted where pubic hair was visible beneath their bikini bottoms. Collins protested this due to Instagram not having rules related to the incident; maybe it was just their way of telling her to examine her non-zipper? There are more tactful ways, granted.
The most significant uproar was when Instagram updated its terms of service to virtually state that any material uploaded to their site could be sold to third-party services without consent, credit or compensation; not many people were happy with this.
It's the oddest sentence in the world to say that Kim Kardashian and the National Geographic Society were two noted naysayers, but they must have been useful, as Instagram quickly issued a statement that stated the new terms had been rescinded. Many people had taken their filters elsewhere, unfortunately, regardless.
Still, even with a stumble here and there, Instagram has been a huge hit. It has become a part of pop culture and knows it as well as it knows how much people love sharing snapshots and videos of their lives with the world. Instagram became the place where you go to share pictures with moody, dramatic, and adorable filters.
Chapter 3) Pinterest: Pinning Success to the Board
If Instagram became successful by allowing users the opportunity to create albums and streams of content captured straight from their lives, would it be possible to find just as much success if the material was nothing but stuff created elsewhere? Perhaps we should ask one of the most successful start-ups of recent history, Pinterest.
Pinterest, a pin-board for users worldwide to put together a board of themes, topics, and content from almost anywhere they please. Though be prepared to see a lot of wedding stuff.
The site itself came to fruition in December 2009 by creators Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp, and Paul Sciara. The more official launch occurred in March 2010 through a small, invitation-only beta test that began mostly with family members and colleagues.
After successful funding, Pinterest was on its way to becoming an exciting new competitor in the social-networking business. Or is it?
Pinterest doesn't fit the social-networking bill. CEO Ben Silbermann called it more of a "catalog of ideas" in an interview with Fortune Magazine.
3.1) Pinterest Growth Strategies
Pinterest growth strategy #1: Be at the forefront of innovation in the era of visual content
Asked more about the design and thoughts behind Pinterest, the creators remarked that they hadn't been influenced or inspired by other services or sites out there – which doesn't mean that others haven't taken influence from the Pinterest, mind.
So, how does it work? As previously mentioned, Pinterest has no content created on-site.
Pinterest is entirely based on visual content with little text necessary. With the repin system, people could spread and collect visual content with almost zero effort, just clicking "repin" when they enjoyed it. It was a game-changer for creating, or better to say, repurposing content.
Also, for those who had an image repined, a link to their website was automatically created, not a bad idea in a world of SEO.
Pinterest growth strategy #2: Sharing and collecting ideas
Instead, users register for a free account and use the “pin” button to create a link or copy of what they want to post on their boards. Usually arranged by themes, topics, or ideas, the boards allow users to follow a similar method to Instagram by finding like-minded users with related topics and pins. They are permitted to “re-pin” content in that manner to their board.
Essentially, Pinterest is mostly a photo-sharing website, through videos and other materials that can be pinned, relying on outside content. It is used heavily by both casual users, typically in the older female demographic, and businesses as well for trending styles of advertisements.
Pinterest was created to be a digital pinboard, giving people a place to collect everything that was of interest, such as ideas and inspiration.
A photo-sharing site, a catalog of ideas and information or a sort of bookmarking site, it has proven a success with ad-revenue, the sale of user data and funding from numerous parties. It's still getting into the swing of success stories, so who knows where it will go?
Pinterest growth strategy #3: By invitation only
Everybody is at least curious when a website says you can only get there by invitation. Doing so, it creates a sense of exclusivity and makes its users feel important.
When Pinterest started using this strategy, they not only could create more interest on their platform, they have also created the possibility to empower influencers to have the keys for this exclusive club, making them an ambassador of the brand.
They could also control the quality of the content carefully in the begging. If you are exclusive and one of the few that are in the club, you should keep your responsibility and follow the fundamental rules of content quality.
Pinterest growth strategy #4: Sign up using other social networks
One of the main opportunities that websites had in the past was connecting future users with other social networks. The difference form now is that in the past, they could have contact with the user facebook friends, allowing them to get invited right away after signing up with Facebook.
Besides eliminating this bureaucratic step, they had access to hundreds of other potential users with every signup. When someone has a friend, the chances are that these friends on Facebook have similar behaviors, preferences, and tastes. So they could increase their chances of having more users when the new users trigger the "Invite Your Friends" function.
Since a few years ago, Facebook has eliminated this possibility of inviting friends. However, you still have other options out there. Just look for them and make your success story come to life.
Pinterest growth strategy #5: Use the power of word of mouth
Ben Silverman had a passion for his product. He thought that he could transfer this passion for people like him if he made them know the platform.
So one thing he did in the early days was a word of mouth campaign with influencers called pin it forward. He invited 300 bloggers, and at that time, the product was by invitation only, and he allowed these bloggers to invite their readers.
To guarantee that the product had extremely high-quality content, he wouldn't allow that people would upload personal photos and they required each image had a description, for example. His idea is, when you have a crowdsourcing platform, users usually base their behavior on other users.
One thing is clear – Pinterest is an excellent example of how a start-up can succeed, and another show of a platform that is opening up more of the world to one another.
It's becoming more and more natural to find others with the same interests, to see exciting and creative work you might never have seen before and to watch the events of the world unfold.
Surveys are taken on which products or brands are pinned the most as a gauge of how popular it is and what market is the most interested. It has proven very useful to businesses, both as a platform for advertising and engaging their customers and as assisting from a marketing standpoint.
At present, Pinterest is still one of the top websites in a global ranking. With more than 250 million monthly active users (MAUs) confirmed in September of 2018, and a demographic that very closely mirrors global internet use, it will always be fascinating to follow the success story of this company.
Chapter 4) History of Snapchat: A new perspective on social media and life
Ah, teenagers. When parents flooded Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, they thought they had nowhere to turn.
Yet, some odd four years ago, three students in a Stanford classroom were dreaming up something huge. Huge enough that Mark Zuckerberg was desperate to buy it. That idea? Snapchat.
When it comes to the history of Snapchat, it is a tale for the entrepreneurial dreamer.
4.1) What exactly is Snapchat?
Aside from being the brainchild of Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown Poster during their Stanford years, the history of Snapchat is essentially a simple video messaging app.
The innovation lies in the demographic and in the philosophy of the app, more so. Many claims that teenagers are often that magical demographic that can make or break a social media platform.
When the parents scorch the Earth, it goes without saying that it hit its target and sowed the seeds for lasting success. Most sources pinpoint the user demographics of Snapchat as being largely twenty-five and under.
Snapchat is another King of "selfie central," and is also praised for it's the implementation of the "Stories" feature. The philosophy behind the software is that Users take snaps and either send to specified groups or posted to a Story.
It is the appeal of catching fleeting moments in time or those random little moments of enlightenment (or just perfect selfies) and sharing them.
Users can also set them to only appear for a set amount of time before they are deleted from the servers. Thus, the stage is set. The demographic is right, the advertising has a unique advantage, and the owners even turned down Zuckerberg because they had the foresight to know what they had. Of course, that doesn't mean that they didn't have their share of troubles.
4.2) Snapchat Growth Strategies
SnapChat growth strategy #1: The use of privacy as a unique feature
Snapchat is still rising from it's relatively recent release to a wild success that many want to capitalize on. What is it that makes it so successful? Evan Spiegel has spoken on the matter and believes it to be a combination of a "more personal computer" combined with the ephemeral nature of snaps.
Since the snaps were time framed, the self-destructing posts that are not stored on the recipient's device, or the app's servers, so people feel safe when sending something they were sure was going to disappear forever.
Snapchat allows users to send photos and videos to friends limiting how long they can see their messages. The maximum time is 10 seconds, after that the message is destroyed forever. To view the message, the user has to hold down a button, viewing it until the counter expires or they let go of the button.
Besides that, the absence of features such as newsfeed or profile makes it even more private for its users
Ephemeral is such a strange word in its own right – fleeting, short-lived, but there is arguably a beauty in it and one that Snapchat has capitalized on.
SnapChat growth strategy #2: Choose your target audience correctly
When you are a teenager, your parents are n Facebook or Twitter, and they post these perfect photos that are so different from real life and that last there forever, what would you do? For the majority, the answer was, let's move to SnapChat.
Because of its ephemeral feature, SnapChat started attracting a younger generation that didn't want to get their life monitored by anyone.
In a world where young people don't pay any attention to the TV or even less to TV ads, having a channel that can talk to them directly is a blessing to advertisers. That's why SnapChat nailed when they started adapting its app and developing features, such as stories that were later copied by Facebook, to a very focused target.
The demographic is right; the setup is proper; the stars aligned for this app, an app that comes with an almost poetic philosophy behind it. It's the perfect social media platform for teens, for the adventurous soul, for those who want to share those special moments, and for those who would appreciate them the most.
In spite of everything, Snapchat continues to improve on its software and on how it connects the world. Strange to think of profound thoughts in a social media app, no? Perhaps Snapchat has set the bar for the future.
4.3) It's got the moves like Instagram (rather, the lens options), but it made the same mistake
Yeah, this brilliant app still had its moments of fallout. Like any app, the history of Snapchat has a few dark spots.
Whether it was the lawsuit over ownership purported via Reggie Brown, or "The Snappening," in which over ten thousand images were deleted, there have been some significant issues.
Brown claimed ownership of the app, having stated to have come up with the idea, the logo and the original name of "Picaboo." His falling out with the other two owners got messy.
There was also the matter of the 2013 Hack, in which a reported 4 million-plus usernames and info was made public to, as the hackers put it, put pressure on Snapchat to fix the vulnerability issues.
The company issued an apology the week after. More unfortunate was the privacy issue, in which many foundations were convinced that, like Instagram, their images and Snaps were being sold to third party vendors without monetization or consent on their part.
Some apps never learn. The very nature of Snapchat, again, like Instagram, led to quite a bit of spam Snaps as well as sexting from the users. Who, if you haven't guessed, were often underage. Some teens never learn.
Chapter 5) The History of LinkedIn: A Slow Burn
The history of LinkedIn started as more of a slow burn and, unlike most startups, it's growth would turn into an inferno in the coming years. Their first quarter started reasonably low, at a quoted level of "maybe twenty sign-ups per day.
For a start-up business, those are some especially frightening numbers..
5.1) As a brief history…
LinkedIn first launched in 2002 as a collaboration between Reid Hoffman and several buddies from other sites such as SocialNet and Paypal.
Later in 2003, growth had kicked up enough to receive funding from Sequoia Capital. By all means, this may not seem like a slow burn. LinkedIn was a site created under the "growth-hacking" sort of method.
Reid had worked on both SocialNet and been on the board for Paypal. SocialNet was the first stepping stone for his idea of linked profiles, in the form of dating, as it were. The real purpose was to provide a public profile for people connected to Google.
A Sex and the City episode, Hoffman jokes, put the idea of "Googling" people into his head. Anyone who tells you that they haven't Googled either themselves or others is a dirty liar.
Perhaps that is where the real genius of the history of LinkedIn lies. It touches upon a need that many thoughts were dead in the 1990s. Hoffman has called 2003 as his "valley of the shadow" moment when it comes to the growth of LinkedIn.
The idea had been brewing for years, and it all rested on the big reveal. 2003 was estimated to have five thousand, five hundred and fifty-six followers total.
Now, LinkedIn has an estimated user count of 500 million total users and 250 million monthly active users as of 2019. That kind of success is so wild that there have been several books written about the very subject!
5.2) LinkedIn Growth Strategies
This method pertains to start-ups especially. It means using the resources at one's disposal to promote a site or product with expected fast growth. The challenge is in first getting that initial traction and then in keeping it going.
LinkedIn growth strategy #1: Become known to a smaller audience first
In the beginning, the LinkedIn goal was to find a way to reach traction having some people on the platform. The idea was, first of all, based on inviting friends and colleagues from Silicon Valley, who had worked with them before.
According to Reid Hoffman:
“We started slowly in the first few days because we wanted to make sure the systems worked. I think the 13 people associated with the company invited 112 people.”
After having its presence in the Valley, LinkedIn became a "must be" platform for those new entrants who were primarily looking for advisors or investors. Also, the tech scene was growing fast, which also helped the platform growth.
This growth strategy is not new and unique, it has been used by Facebook when they focused on selected colleges in their beginning, also creating the "must be" need among the initial users' network. Every entrant had to have the "harvard.edu" extension to be allowed in the social network.
Fortunately, LinkedIn had an understanding of how to keep said traction moving right along.
With new features being experimented with come 2004, such as address book uploads and offerings from businesses such as American Express to reach small business owners better, it had captured more than just the attention of investors; it had begun to culminate an audience.
LinkedIn growth strategy #2: Everyone should be part of your growth team
In an interview to Forbes in 2017, Aatif Awan Vice President, Growth & International Products said:
"In the early days of LinkedIn, the entire company was the growth team as everyone at the company was spending time thinking about how to grow. After all, the success of the product and the company depended on building a large network."
LinkedIn considered every member of the company as part of the growth team, product support, engineers, and even the CEO. Reid Hoffman, for instance, invited every friend he had to meet the product, and everyone from the company did the same.
Awan emphasizes that you need to make sure that you have the right product that matches what your target audience needs; otherwise, you can not invest in a real growth team.
He says when the company is still in the early stages, the founder will be wearing many hats, covering product, design, marketing, data science, etc. However, whenever the company starts to grow a team has to be formed.
LinkedIn growth strategy #3: Focus on your strengths
LinkedIn realized in the early days that its homepage was generating the majority of its signup (40%) while their email invitations were accounting to ten times fewer signups than that.
They also relied on that when coming through their homepage; people were visiting thirty pages per session, while three times less coming from email. While analyzing their data, they decided that it made more sense to invest optimizing, even more, their home page and grow with their strengths as a priority. No need to say that it was a great success!
LinkedIn growth strategy #4: The freemium model
With the eventual add-ons of job postings, subscriptions, and public profiles, it had solidified its place. After its IPO in 2011, LinkedIn was shown to have a seven billion dollar market cap.
LinkedIn allowed users to register for free and take advantage of some of their features with having to pay a cent. In the beginning, especially when there were not many business models developed, free tools were not that innovative.
Another tremendous key factor was offering real value for free. LinkedIn started using their directory as a bait. It was open to looking for professionals there.
However, whenever users wanted to check more details viewing the full profile about their search, they had to register on the platform. Have you seen something similar nowadays? Almost every web platform, right?
5.3) Why a slow burn?
So, why consider it a slow burn? It found success quickly, right? It might surprise readers to know that LinkedIn has been in the works since the 1990s.
Reading up on Reid Hoffman, the founder, and president of LinkedIn shows that he had the idea of cooking for a long time. The business side of the internet seemed dead for a while.
At its launch, LinkedIn was competing with other sites such as Monster.com or CareerBuilder. Monster fell victim to its practices, however, both in terms of its lack of innovation and financial scam.
CareerBuilder has also stagnated on a very noticeable level. LinkedIn, on the other hand, has taken to address the needs of its users repeatedly.
Whether it is with public profiles, job postings, or even a social network like atmosphere for professionals to communicate, it keeps innovating. The very idea of the growth it experienced is staggering.
By 2013, its tenth anniversary, it was seeing a user growth rate of two members per second. By comparison, start-up sites such as Facebook or Snapchat, as discussed here, occurred over a much quicker period.
Does that negate the noticeable growth of LinkedIn?
Of course not. Investors were quick to recognize the potential in the site, which started that incredible chain reaction. When a business has the freedom to take their ideas and run with them, both glorious and horrible things can happen.
In the case of LinkedIn, they had the experience and years behind them to implement change wisely. Their rapid success almost defines start-ups. Bring back the subject of growth-hacking; it is practically a necessity.
LinkedIn has seen explosive growth, without question, but it is a project that has been in the works since the 1990s. For those who don't know, the 90s were a notoriously bad time for web companies. They were failing left and right.
The notorious dot-com bubble burst and began a financial and economic crisis that would still grip the world years later. With that in mind, LinkedIn is one of the few companies that both survived the burst but continued like a start-up before start-ups were even a thing.
The history of LinkedIn was a slow burn growth turned into an inferno, and it isn't going to be put out any time soon. LinkedIn has become such a commonplace website in everyone's lives all across the globe.
It is no surprise, both in why it has become such a fixture and why it didn't take off sooner. Perhaps it is a case of that slow burn meeting being in the right place at the right time. Whatever the case, LinkedIn is sure to continue to grow.
Chapter 6) PayPal's History and Success Is No Secret
PayPal's history and success are no secret, and you've most likely seen it everywhere when doing an online transaction. Bank accounts, credit, and debit cards can all be linked to it for convenience, and hundreds of millions of people majorly use it.
PayPal How did it get so big? We're going to find out.
At present, PayPal is one of the big dogs when it comes to a worldwide payment system. Initially, PayPal's fairly straightforward history began when it was established in 1998 under the name Confinity by Max Levchin, Peter Thiel, Ken Howery, and Luke Nosek.
Confinity went on to merge with X.com. X.com was an online banking company that was part of the Elon Musk chain. Musk believed so profoundly in the future of the service that X.com was renamed PayPal in 2001.
When PayPal had its IPO in 2002, it was quickly snatched up by eBay.
6.1) PayPal Growth Strategies
Where does PayPal's success come from? It was at the forefront of online transactions, and on peer-to-peer transactions, for one. Its' continued innovation and growth have proven to keep it in vast use. It has paid its dues to get where it is today and is sure to continue growing far into the future.
By 2010, PayPal had 84 million active users and was generating well over sixteen billion dollars per year. Currently, PayPal has 277 million active users.
We can consider that PayPal itself had four essential rules that made it successful and auction transactions were the leading cause of the growth itself.
We can consider that PayPal itself had four essential rules that made it successful:
- Simplicity: Sign up within seconds and a very easy to use platform for making payments with just an email needed.
- Convenience: Sellers could manage their account and payment receipts with just their browser.
- Security: With PayPal, the merchants did not need to keep credit card numbers in their database. For buyers, they didn't need to give their credit card information for all merchants.
- Lower costs: Fees were small compared to the traditional credit card processors.
However, other several factors, besides the product itself also helped PayPal grow since its inception.
PayPal growth strategy #1: Partner with another platform (or a big client) to grow
PayPal was one of the digital companies to use a platform strategy. They were basically an app on top of eBay. Users could put the PayPal logo and functionality embedded on eBay.
The product fits well with the necessity of users buying and selling goods through auction. By the end o 2001, Paypal was approximately present in 68% of eBay transactions.
Embeddable content became famous afterward with YouTube, spreader all over the Internet.
PayPal growth strategy #2: Create a viral item in your product
So imagine how things worked in the beginning when sending payment to another person:
- A user goes to the PayPal Web site and accesses his account.
- After entering an e-mail address, the user then directed a specific amount of funds to be transferred to another party (as keyed by the payee's e-mail address).
- PayPal then sent the payee an e-mail notifying that funds were awaiting transfer to the payee's account.
- If the payee did not yet have a PayPal account, the e-mail they receive from their payers was a viral trigger that led to a new account registration with PayPal for accepting the funds.
- Once the payment is accepted, the payee could leave the funds there for later use, pay another user, or withdraw the funds for delivery via paper check.
There is no need to say that those who were expecting to receive their payment were going to open their PayPal account with a big smile.
This viral strategy is not new, and one of the most brilliant ones. It was also used by Hotmail, the free email service, which message arrived in someone’s mailbox with the sentence on the bottom of each email: “Get your free email at Hotmail”.
PayPal Growth Strategy #3: Referral Program
While nowadays, affiliate and referred programs are commonplace, in the past they weren't.
PayPal launched its online service with a focus on its incentive program. In the early days, users received a $10 for opening a PayPal account and another $10 for each friend referred to the network.
Until today, payment and remittance companies are still trusting heavily in the referral programs and performance marketing since money needs trust, nothing better than a friend to attend an online financial service.
Like most companies, however, they have had their downturns. In July 2011, the notorious Anonymous hacktivist group was charged with trying to disrupt PayPal. Earlier the previous year, in December 2010, PayPal experienced the denial of service attacks when they stopped processing donations to Wikileaks.
It would be three years later when thirteen of the PayPal 14 pleaded guilty to misdemeanor and felony charges concerning the attacks. PayPal also experienced quite a few issues when it came to fraud, losing millions of dollars to it per month and attempts to coordinate with the FBI on cases of international fraud proving difficult.
In response, they introduced a private fraud monitoring system that used AI (artificial intelligence) to monitor for potentially fraudulent transactions. Regardless, PayPal continued to focus on international and corporate growth, going through the acquisition of several companies such as Xoom Corporation, as well as launching the peer-to-peer payment platform PayPal.Me.
The following platform filled an exciting niche –there had been a significant lack of any peer-to-peer payment system beforehand, and with the introduction of PayPal.Me, smaller entities, and individuals now had a platform to be paid, and pay for, work provided.
PayPal continues to grow to this day. It is continuously innovating in its growth and in the services it provides, as well as security. While some are still wary of it, the statistics do not lie in how much use the site sees per month.
Chapter 7) Valve: Steam-Powered Success
Anyone who has a gamer in their life, or is one, knows that it is impossible not to think of Valve when thinking of video games.
The technological, game-development giant is one of the gleaming icons for those who think about indie developers today, starting up their tiny studios in the hopes of one day being just as massive.
Valve is a success story that isn’t cut off before a third installment, and one that any company can aspire too. It began on August 24, 1996, with ex-Microsoft employees Mike Harrington and Gabe Newell setting off from the conglomerate to focus on game development.
A license to the Quake engine later and these two unassuming gents would be producing the wildly popular Half-Life and be set on their way to fame and fortune. From Half-Life, Newell and Harrington would later come to build the Source engine, the game engine that all Valve games are created on, e.g., Left 4 Dead, Half-Life, Team Fortress 2, Portal, DOTA 2, etc.
Now, in more current times, Valve continues to innovate and work with the community that it has formed. What ultimately is it that has made Valve so successful? In short, they have many innovative and humble associations with their brand, whether it is Gabe Newell’s amiable participation with the people that love Valve’s games or their constant upkeeping with modern technology.
7.1) Valve Growth Strategy
Being one of the pioneers of online game developers, Valve could capture quite a considerable market share. Moreover, the successful product launches such as Half-Life and Counter-Strike helped them create a loyal gamers' base that would support their subsequent releases. The company then was able to capitalize their business launching new models such as the social distribution network, called Steam.
The facts mentioned above helped Valve grow fast, but here I list two other different factors that maybe you don't know about the company that could be applied to your business too.
Valve Growth Strategy #1: Motivate customer interaction
Every one of these games is one that many gamers reading are already smiling and nodding at – Valve is as much a staple as Nintendo, these days. One of the most notable features of Valve games has always been its modability.
Players could impose their mods, patches, and changes smoothly through the Source engine and Valve even opened up a mod community for everyone to enjoy. Therein came the foundation for Steam, Valve’s platform to streamline games straight to players, host mods, forums and one of the most significant game communities in the world.
Steam is a recognized platform with hundreds of thousands of games available on it, the majority of which are not from Valve itself. In fact, the indie game development market has gotten an ineffable boost and exposure from a service Steam offers calls Greenlight – a service that lets the community vote on games that they would like to see featured on Steam.
In short, Valve is one of the most notable companies that have taken customer interaction to such a high level, and that, along with its own line-up of highly rate games, has contributed significantly to its success.
Valve keeps itself open to their customers and, in the same turn, keeps their customers open to the new and exciting things coming from developers all around the world. In short, Valve laid out a platform that allowed a community to build itself.
Valve Growth Strategy #2: Innovate the product development process
Valve has a very innovative approach when it comes to their management style and hiring process, which influenced their product development process. So here it is why.
In more traditional companies, project leaders that are successful in their implementation can create biases from their success. They start thinking that their ideas are excellent because they have succeeded before and they know how to develop products.
At Valve, instead of giving the power to just one or two people coming from the top, the decision-making process was more collaborative and would come from a flat organization.
According to a former employee, there was a democratic decision-making process. At Valve, there were no managers, and during the product development process, every employee assumed a product marketing role since they were deciding on features or product developments all the time.
Valve had no department and no specific roles or job titles for each employee. If the employee felt they could contribute to a project, they would push their desks to the project area start working with it. Valve didn't have an approval process to engage in a project.
Besides that, Valve had an excellent hiring process decided by a search committee. They would look for "T shape" professionals, which are those who have specialist knowledge of an area (represented by the vertical part of the letter T) but a broader understanding of other areas (represented by the horizontal component of the letter T).
That way, they could make sure that the best people were working on what they believed and they liked. These also helped them attract the best talents in the industry.
Of course, that is not to say that Valve has flown to success without issue. They have seen a few lawsuit issues in their time, once with their original distributor, Sierra Entertainment over them distributing Valve’s games on the internet, pay-to-play cafes.
They also had an issue with Blizzard, the company behind World of Warcraft, when they sought license over DOTA 2. In all cases of their legal woes, things have been settled relatively amicably.
Their data and security have been tampered with twice in the history of the company, once in which the data for Half-Life 2 was leaked online and the other in which the forums and community were compromised.
Much like a social media start-up, the interaction, accessibility, and creativity all come together to make for an industry giant. With the gaming community growing by the day and the technology to keep up with it the following suit, one can only wonder how Valve will use its many advantages to stay on top.
Chapter 8) Five Mistakes to Learn from The History of Yahoo
Recently you may have heard a lot about the history of Yahoo, the giant Internet company and one of the most popular websites in the USA as a top search engine (although not choice number 1), a Web portal and a series of other products and services like Yahoo! Mail, Mobile Apps, Big Data, Answers, Groups, etc.
Yahoo was sold to the telecom giant Verizon for $4.8 billion (excluding their stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan). To this day, 700 million people visit one of Yahoo websites every month.
In 2013 the company bought Tumblr and Flickr and added them to its arsenal.
So why is it that Yahoo! wasn’t doing well anymore before the acquisition?
Here are some facts you may not know about the history of Yahoo which culminated in their crisis, some of which are from the past, but the following points are proof that a series of decisions can lead to failure that you must learn to avoid in your own business.
Yahoo Learnings – Growth Strategy #1: Don't miss your opportunities
Did you know that the board turned down an offer to acquire Google for $1 million back in 1998? They also turned down a lucrative acquisition proposal from Microsoft for $44.6 Billion, and later refused to buy Facebook for $1 billion.
When you say no three times, and all of these turn out to be the leading companies of the century, there must be something wrong with your approach. However, the success of these three could have been predicted, had Yahoo been having more sharp-witted and initiative people on the top. Because that’s another thing, they were doing wrong up until 2012.
Yahoo Learnings – Growth Strategy #2: Think about usability as the main factor
Today people have a short attention span, want quick solutions to everything, are overloaded with information, and have so many things fighting for their attention at any moment.
So any technology that is fast, super easy to use and gives them exactly what they want, wins. After all, the Apple designs are so minimalist that there’s nothing unnecessary.
That’s also how Mar
k Zuckerberg made his social network better than MySpace (which was number one at the time), he designed a more exceptional user experience by making things simpler. Yahoo! is still cluttered, confusing, and far from simple.
Yahoo Learnings – Growth Strategy #3: Innovation must be in the core of your strategy
Was lack of innovation one of the critical factors in the history of Yahoo?
The lean startup approach made it clear: The best way to launch new products and services and follow the trends in a particular market is to get the minimum viable product out there sooner, then get feedback; and see if the whole thing has potential. If it does, continually make changes to it and add features according to what people like and don’t like about it.
This also means that you have to make mistakes and learn from them, to challenge yourself by exploring new options.
But Yahoo! remained the same, more or less. That’s true about Tumblr too. Since the Yahoo! board has been in charge of it, it hasn’t experienced any significant changes and is even left behind compared to Snapchat and other apps who made communication even faster and easier through instant messaging and quick consumption of information.
Yahoo Learnings – Growth Strategy #4: Be consistent with your identity
Some experts say that the current crisis Yahoo was facing is due to still not knowing who they are and how to express it with their products and services. It was never clear whether the company was a digital media or a technology one.
Also, in today’s startup world, you must know precisely where you are and where you’re headed, what your strengths are and how you want people to perceive you so that you can stick to that image and keep presenting yourself in the best way possible.
At some point, in 2013, Marissa Mayer had to make a public statement and say that Yahoo! is indeed a tech company, although it was the former – a digital media company – up until the year before.
We can hardly think of another big multinational company for which we can’t give a clear description and say what they do. That too shows insecurity and lack of a clear direction, and in the long-term leads to crisis.
For about two decades, the company has been acting like a child, who often changes its opinion, tries to reinvent itself, and even needs someone else to show her the right path.
Yahoo Learnings – Growth Strategy #5: Make the most of your existing audience
Did you know that since 2008, Yahoo hasn’t reported a single year with growth in revenue?
They made mistakes, said no when it should have been yes, and stayed the same when they should’ve changed. However, they still have one of the biggest audiences on the Web. It’s the highest-read news site with 4 billion visitors every month.
Such traffic must be taken care of. People are already there, so the company must always ask how they can make their experience better. Yahoo! Answers, for example, is a pretty popular tool and the board must invest more time and resources into unleashing more of its potential. Then there’s Yahoo! Groups, whose possibilities are yet to be explored. It can become an even better place for communication and offer more features. Last but not least, Yahoo! Mail is not developing enough in terms of simplicity, spam filtering, and categorizing.
A crisis like that could be predictable. Moreover, if you too are making some of these mistakes with your business venture, make sure you do something about them today, not tomorrow.
In this article, you could read about significant learnings we identified in successful companies.
As you may have seen here, the launch of great products does not guarantee success by itself. Companies had to use much more to make their progress in this competitive market.
By analyzing part of the reasons they grew, you can bring a lot to your set of business growth tools. Making a summary, here we find 31 appropriate growth strategies for your business.
As a contribution of Twitter, you will find three successful growth strategies:
- #1: Make a simple product
- #2: Listen to your users
- #3: Capitalize on live events
From Instagram, we could list other seven growth strategies:
- #4: Find the WOW consumer need
- #5: Less beats more
- #6: Add emotion to the equation
- #7: Launch sooner and make improvements
- #8: Focus on the right metric
- #9: No need for big teams
- #10: Choose one core option and be the best at it
Pinterest gave us another five:
- #11: Stay at the forefront of innovation in the era of visual content
- #12: Sharing and collecting ideas
- #13: By invitation only
- #14: Sign up using other social networks
- #15: Use the power of word of mouth
Snapchat, the social network of ephemeral posts taught us two efficient strategies:
- #16: The use of privacy as a unique feature
- #17: Choose your target audience correctly
LinkedIn, the business and career social network, we could list four great learnings:
- #18: Become known to a smaller audience first
- #19: Everyone should be part of your growth team
- #20: Focus on your strengths
- #21: The freemium model
The PayPal mafia left us with three other learnings:
- #22: Partner with another platform (or a big client) to grow
- #23: Create a viral item in your product
- #24: Have a referral program
The gaming company Valve would not grow without thinking about customers and innovating on their team management:
- #25: Motivate customer interaction
- #26: Innovate the product development process
In the end, talking about Yahoo, we learned a lot from their do's and don'ts:
- #27: Don't miss your opportunities
- #28: Think about usability as the main factor
- #29: Innovation must be in the core of your strategy
- #30: Be consistent with your identity
- #31: Make the most of their existing audience
Based on that, do you have other interpretations? Want to contribute with any points that are not covered in this guide? Feel free to add it in your comments.