Elliot Schmukler spoke at the Growth Hacker Conference this weekend, along with Sean Ellis, Andrew Chen, and Chamath Palihapitiya. Elliot joined LinkedIn in 2008 and grew the site from 13M to over 175M users by following a few simple concepts.
The concepts really resonated with me as I grow Quibb - a new product to reinvent professional news, starting with the tech & startup vertical. While the professional news segment is not exactly LinkedIn's focus, Elliot's advice was quite general, so a lot of the lessons are directly applicable to any startup.
Before you get started: Understand your channels
If you're not able to break up your channels and flows to understand how new users come to your product, you won't know where to focus your time and energy. In 2008, Elliot was able to identify LinkedIn's 3 main channels (email invitations, SEO results leading to profile page landings, and homepage views) and the conversion rates of each. They could start to understand what was happening through each of those channels, and then decide where to allocate their time and resources.
Reduce friction vs. Increase desire
Linkedin learned that people visiting the site organically had on average 30 PV/session, whereas those coming through an invite only had 10PV/session. The team focused on users that arrived organically, to try to raise that PV number even more. Elliot knew that it would be easier to decrease friction with the users that arrived organically, than entice those that weren't viewing many pages anyway.
Engaged users are better at your job than you are
A key insight is that it's a lot easier to get an active user to do more, than it is to get an inactive user to do anything. Since LinkedIn is a social product, as long as you allow for a lot of different ways for active users to interact with inactive members (especially evident in their new 'endorsements' feature), your active users are much more likely to re-engage and reactivate inactive users than typical drip-email marketing tactics. Elliot defined and thought through how LinkedIn invites are sent, and focused on the second part, to help already engaged members to send more invites:
number of LinkedIn invites sent = % of new users that invite x average # of invites sent/inviter
Double down on strengths
Take advantage of what's already working for you. It's much easier to build on a strength versus improve a weakness. For example, the LinkedIn 'who looked at your profile' emails had 5% CTR for inactive users, but 20% CTR for active users. The team then knew to focus on how to better engage their active users (tweaking subject lines, copy, email formatting/design, etc.) versus focusing on getting the CTR up for the inactive members, and perhaps trying a different email strategy for that group.
Elliot ended with a great final thought to keep in mind as you're trying to understand where to focus and how to optimize your growth efforts:
Every active user is the same - every inactive user is inactive for different reasons
The biggest thing that I learned is that these few key concepts, executed well, are very important for growth. It doesn't matter if you're building a consumer photo site, or a professional network like LinkedIn. Because of what I'm trying to do with Quibb (reinventing industry news for professionals), it's useful to see how a company with a lot more scale was able to get there.