In the wild world of growth hacking, the only way to know that you’ve done it right is to grow! If your growth hacking techniques are top-notch, your company should be making waves and making money. While you’re not going to find an absolute blueprint for your own growth hacking success by looking at other businesses, you will absolutely be able to find inspiration and ideas to get you going.

Four startups that got growth hacking right

As some of these companies are now impossibly huge, it’s easy to forget that they started out as startups. The reasons that they got to be so monstrously successful can be traced right back to creative and innovative growth hacking that took them from being simply great ideas to being mega-businesses.


It’s hard to imagine our world today without Facebook. This little engine that could has come to literally define social interactions in ways that reach far beyond social media and bleed out into real world relationships. In order to change the face of modern human relationships, Facebook didn’t hire experts in marketing, but rather hired incredibly smart people who were free from the confining nature of traditional business and could look at it all from an entirely different perspective.

Here are just a couple of the early growth hacking techniques that Facebook used to make its incredible rise possible.

● Set unreasonable goals

In the beginning, Facebook set incredibly unrealistic goals like garnering two hundred million users in one calendar year. That seems impossible, but by using some savvy growth hacking techniques, the company was able to meet that absurd goal. Setting a huge goal forced the company to push forward with creativity and ingenuity.

● Service provider buyouts

One of the more creative hacks that Facebook used was to buy out the services providers in various developing countries and then to exploit those acquisitions for their customer contact info for marketing purposes. It was perhaps a bit cumbersome, but it definitely worked.

● Free embeddable widgets

Early on, Facebook learned to give away widgets and badges that could be put up on websites and blogs. These drove a tremendous amount of growth for the company as they amounted to free advertising everywhere. However it didn’t feel like advertising because these links went straight back to the user’s Facebook page.

● Surround and conquer

Back in the days when Facebook was just for higher education, it ran into a serious roadblock – many larger colleges and universities already had similar in-house services. To get around the problem, Facebook would target smaller surrounding institutions. As students at those schools flocked to this new program, there was inevitable crossover which drove demand for Facebook on the campuses that didn’t have it.

● Famous people

Let’s face it, everyone is fascinated by famous people. Early on, Facebook got great celebrities to sign up for their service, which drove growth dramatically.

● Mysterious methods

There are still a wide variety of methods of creative advertising that Facebook used and continues to use that it refuses to divulge. It’s hard to blame them as they’ve enjoyed incredible success, and after all who would want to potentially allow others to hone in on their hard earned creative growth hacking.


Quora’s online question and answer format found its place in the online world thanks to some incredibly savvy and creative growth hacking.

● Quick experimentation

The internet moves fast, and if users don’t appreciate the experience that they’re having, then they’re just gone. Quora used lightning fast testing and experimentation that was incredibly responsive to find changes that needed to be made. There were immediate positive yields from those real world changes that then fed the next phase and the next in terms of technical design.

● High level user testing

From the very beginning, Quora observed its most active users and followed their behavior patterns. By gathering information from these users, Quora was able to design its program for its ideal user.


LinkedIn offers a growth hacking model that fostered a tenfold growth in public profiles, from two to two hundred million.

● Public profiles

This move was really key for LinkedIn because it allowed searches to happen organically by making profiles public. Prior to its model it was more common for individuals to have to wade through lots of info to find information about a specific person. With LinkedIn, a public profile pulls all of that right to the top.

● Niche marketing

While niche marketing isn’t exactly growth hacking, it’s important to realize that LinkedIn carved out a spot in a completely new format and type of business, which is no small task. However the company was able to stay on mission even as it evolved to meet the emerging needs of its market.


One of the biggest keys to its success is the truly out-of-the-box nature of Airbnb’s business. Who would have thought that people opening up their homes to short term renters would turn into such a hugely successful and profitable business?

● Email

It’s quick, it’s cheap and it’s a proven way to reach out to potential customers – email. That first massive email campaign gave an initial boost to the business to help it to get off of the ground quickly.

● Reaching out to the competition

The biggest and most impressive hack that Airbnb used was to reach out to Craigslist users and ask them to list with Airbnb instead. It was a bold move, but one that really paid off. In fact it was this growth hack that sent Airbnb viral.

The common theme

What’s the same about all of these startups is that they used new marketing techniques that other businesses hadn’t tried. The founders of these companies thought outside of the outside of the box, then dug deep to implement their ideas. Not everything that they tried worked, but they kept coming from different angles.

What startups today can learn from these four success stories is to keep that innovation growing, to keep going and to trust that it is possible to growth hack your way to success. Our digital marketing, web design, and social media experts can help kick start you on your road to startup success!


Pete Peranzo

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