#hacktic: AirBnB’s Craigslist Platform Integration

The growth hack: AirBnB’s unauthorized platform integration with Craigslist.

Why it worked: Because nothing gets your business’s name in front of potential customers quite like a beloved platform with tens of millions of engaged users.

AirBnB is a service that connects people who have rooms and houses to rent and potential customers who want to rent those spaces. AirBnB knew they had a service that people wanted, but knew that in order to succeed they’d need to reach a large audience to build their marketplace quickly and cheaply.

Going the traditional marketing route of buying ad space would’ve bankrupted the company while trying to compete in an ultra-competitive travel space. But the creators knew there was a better way–why not draft off a platform that was already facilitating similar transactions, but fell woefully short on the experience? Enter Craigslist.

It worked like this: AirBnB orchestrated a hack to cross-post an AirBnB listing on Craigslist as well. All of a sudden, any user searching Craigslist for vacation rentals is running into a slew of professional listings with AirBnB’s name, inviting clients to click on over.

If that wasn’t enough, AirBnB also used a (admittedly suspect) email campaign to inform posters of vacation rentals on Craigslist how easy it was to post on AirBnB too. Why post on one platform when you can post on two for about the same effort?

This one-two punch of cross-posting their rentals to Craigslist and luring established Craigslist posters got AirBnB the initial traction they needed, without dropping a dime on ads.

Try this if:

  • Your product is a marketplace that needs an established user base to work and you don’t have one. Super platforms like Craigslist, Facebook, Shopify, etc. are a great way to gain distribution to audiences of millions of people.
  • You know your product has tested well and does a great job of fulfilling a real user need. Now you just need the users. Drawing tons of users to a product or service they don’t want or need is a waste of everyone’s time.

#hacktic: Pinterest’s Invitation Only Signup

The  hack: Pinterest’s invitation-only registration process.

Why it worked: Though the Pinterest sign-up process consisted of several clever growth hacks, we are going to look at the invitation-only element. In case you didn’t hop on the Pinterest bandwagon in those early days, here’s how it worked: anyone could see current members’ pins and browse their boards, but before new users could create and curate boards of their very own, they had to request an invitation and then wait for it to arrive via email at some undisclosed point in the future.

This was effective for several reasons: first, it made Pinterest seem both in-demand and also exclusive—everyone wants it but no one has it—generating a buzz amongst users who were excited to try it out. You could see how cool the product was, but you weren’t allowed to play until that invite arrived.

The lack of specificity as to when the invitation would actually show up only heightened this sense of anticipation. Once the invitation finally came, people were more than happy to brag on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere that they were one of the chosen few who had early access.

This fueled the demand and anticipation of others in their social network, propagating the viral loop.

Try this if:

  • You have a bit of a buzz going from influencers or media and want to generate more—exclusivity doesn’t matter if people don’t know they want your product yet.
  • There are elements to your product or service that non-users want but don’t need—the invitation-request could backfire if you’re blocking access to functionality vital to the user experience. Note that non-members could still browse and access information via Pinterest, they just couldn’t take advantage of features like pinning and creating boards.