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Lessons learned from growing LinkedIn to 400m members - Growth Hackers Conference 2016



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Aatif Awan, Head of Growth & International products at LinkedIn, shares LinkedIn's growth story, why principles matter more than tactics and other lessons learned from growing to 400M members.

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Lessons learned from growing LinkedIn to 400m members - Growth Hackers Conference 2016

  1. 1. Lessons learned from growing LinkedIn to 400M members Aatif Awan Head of Growth & International Products at LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/aatifawan aatif_awan
  2. 2. A Brief History of Growth @ LinkedIn
  3. 3. Growth @ LinkedIn: 2003-2007 0.1M 2M 4M 8M 17M 2003200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015 LinkedIn Member Growth Product market fit. Growth built into product from the start. Reid and early employees invited well- connected people in the industry. Public profiles launch in 2006, became a second major growth channel due to SEO.
  4. 4. Growth @ LinkedIn: 2008-2011 0.1M 2M 4M 8M 17M 33M 55M 89M 145M 2003200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015 LinkedIn Member Growth Dedicated cross-functional growth team (~15 people) focused on acquisition. Identified drivers for key channels and optimized. International expansion. Saw 100%+ lifts in growth for most markets where we translated into local language. I joined at the 100M milestone
  5. 5. Growth @ LinkedIn: 2012- today 0.1M 2M 4M 8M 17M 33M 55M 89M 145M 202M 277M 347M 414M 2003200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015 LinkedIn Member Growth Expanded to cover acquisition, activation, connections, retention and resurrection, notifications. Growth team’s growth: cross-functional team of 120+ people. Invested heavily in mobile and partnerships. Continue international expansion with focus on China and India.
  6. 6. Growth Team Organization SEO & Public Pages Network Growth  Onboarding L2M Comms SEO, SEM, Conversion optimization, Public pages Viral growth, PYMK, Connections Onboarding, Activation, Intent discovery Engagement through Email/Push notifications, Resurrection International Localization, Standardization, Focus on key markets
  7. 7. Principles vs. Tactics
  8. 8. Too much hype about Growth Hacks and Tactics
  9. 9. Focus on principles, not tactics • Principles >> Strategy >> Tactics • Tactics have a short shelf life. • If all you know are tactics, you will likely apply them incorrectly. • Once you understand the principles, you can find the right tactics and even come up with your own.
  10. 10. What we’ve learned
  11. 11. Growth is about accelerating the realization of your vision, not moving metrics up-and-to-the-right. • At LinkedIn, our vision is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. • Growth team accelerates this through creation of the economic graph that connects people, companies, jobs and schools. • Taking this view led us to focus on quality signups
  12. 12. Pick one North Star metric, measure everything • Define one north star metric that: • Is aligned with the success of your business • Measures value for users • Is summable • Sometimes, one is not possible. Go for as few as you can. • Measure everything and tie it back to the north star metric.
  13. 13. Good product comes first, growth second • Investing in growth before you have a good product is a waste of resources. • Measure product goodness with long-term retention (curve should flatten over time) and through customer feedback • If your retention isn’t good, nothing else matters. Improve it by delivering core product value early and often. Good retention Bad retention %age of users engaging by weeks since signup
  14. 14. But that wouldn’t have worked for LinkedIn. • For products with network effects or marketplace dynamics (LinkedIn has both), you need to achieve a good product and growth simultaneously. • Products get better with more users and can be useless without a critical mass. • We solved for this by building two powerful growth engines from the start.
  15. 15. Investing in multiple scalable growth channels multiplies your odds of success • Being dependent on a single growth channel is a strategic liability. • Have one core channel, invest in strategic channels like new platforms and have some venture bets. • We developed two core channels: Viral growth through members building their networks by importing contacts and SEO of people profiles. • Over time we have created more channels with mobile and partnerships.
  16. 16. User Behavior Identifying Growth Channels • Do existing users share your product via word of mouth? • Are people using search to find a solution? • Do users have a high LTV? Channels to explore Virality, referrals SEO, SEM Paid acquisition • Does having more users improve the experience? Virality • Are your target users already on another platform? Partnership, Integration
  17. 17. Prioritize channels and levers Brainstorm hypotheses and ideas Assess impact on north star metric Prioritize based on impact, probability of success and effort Build, A/B test and measure Growth Requires Continuous Prioritization and Feedback
  18. 18. A/B Testing => Always Be Testing • The more you experiment, the faster you learn and innovate. • It can resolve long-disputed strategy questions and break down long-held myths. • You can A/B test most things • We’ve done statistically significant tests to measure impact on customer complaints on an issue with a volume of a few hundred/week • SEO A/B testing can be very effective • As your user demographics change over time, repeating old tests can lead to new insights.
  19. 19. Not all beautiful Growth charts go up-and-to-the-right Weekly Emails sent Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug projected -40% • We heard loud and clear that our members were getting too much email. • We built a central system for all emails called Air Traffic Controller (ATC). • This cut emails we send by 40% and complaints by 53% with no negative impact on growth or engagement 
  20. 20. Hiring the right people is more important than strategy • Analytical • Gets shit done • Curious – asks why? • Finds new ways to do things – asks why not? • Prior growth experience is optional
  21. 21. Culture • Data trumps opinions • Set ambitious goals • Move fast • Learn continuously • Celebrate wins
  22. 22. Thank you! Aatif Awan Head of Growth & International Products at LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/aatifawan aatif_awan


  • I’m going to share the key lessons we learned and not talk much about tactics
  • Not always possible to get down to one for the company but make sure each team has
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