facebook growth

The Story behind Facebook’s explosive growth

Facebook truly has had an explosive growth. The company has managed to capture the entire world barring china, where they cannot enter because of the stringent laws.

Facebook has surpassed all the companies in the Internet space and it still is the undisputed king of the Internet.

If you forgot the dominance of Facebook, here are some latest stats  to refresh your memory.

Facebook has 1.71 Billion users. Over 1.13 Billion of those users log onto Facebook on a daily basis.  The number of Facebook users who are active on mobile are 1.57 Billion. Every user spends an average time of twenty minutes each time they log in.

So how did Facebook get here?  What did they do?


Although, the term Growth Hacker was coined by Sean Ellis in 2010, it was Facebook that was responsible for creating the first growth team. Facebook had a dedicated growth team that was led by Chamath Palihapitiya.

The growth team was an essential team in Facebook’s plan. So alongside Tech and Engineering, Growth was a separate team. This made sure that growth was priority in Facebook and they would get all the resources and also there would be cross-functional collaboration.

So a tech person would talk about a product change and ask how it impacted growth?

This way, everybody was thinking about growth and the impact of their work on growth.

They figured out their True North.

Based on the data they collected, Facebook figured out what they had to do to get a user to be retained, hence making more people join the site and in turn they would peer pressure their friends to join as well.

  • Facebook made sure you had a minimum set of friends when you started off.
  • They would get your feed ready with Interesting information to keep you hooked.
  • They would immediately figure out your social circle and give you a list of recommended friends.

So they created these 3 to 4 parameters that had to be done to keep a user hooked and worked hard to push that agenda.

Creators of the Funnel

They were the first few companies to use the funnel that mapped the user journey. Looking at the funnel below, they had 3 to 4 important parameters for growth.

acquisition funnel

  • Increasing the rate of user acquisition was paramount. How to get people to sign up.
  • The activation bit was the True North we discussed above. How would the users get hooked to the product? As fast as possible?
  • How to keep the user in the site – All this was through product changes and additions
  • How to get inactive users to come back.

Octazen Acquisition

One of the turning points in Facebook’s history was the extremely strategic acquisition of Octazen which was a Malaysian company. Nobody knew why Facebook made this acquisition. It was a such a bolt out of the blue that Techcrunch ran the following article.


It was just their third acquisition and it was something totally out of plan. But, Facebook’s growth team had other plans.

Octazen was a powerful scraper tool and a lot of people initially used it for illegal activities. Facebook used it for importing contacts. Like I had mentioned earlier in the article, Facebook wanted you to already know a bunch of people when you joined Facebook so that you didn’t feel left out.

Octazen helped in importing all contacts from all possible e-mail tools. Octazen as a tool was very good at scraping without being detected which made it one of the most powerful scraping tools in the world.

With this tool, Facebook could map the entire world’s connections. Through this, they’ll be able to find out the degree of separation. For future users, Facebook would be exactly able to predict their social circle and suggest friends. So a user can join Facebook and have about 100 of his/her friends added in a matter of seconds. Within a few hours, he/she could be using Facebook like a seasoned user.

Language Translations

Although Facebook was primarily an English website. They knew that not a lot of users in the world spoke English. For example, in India, for a population of 1.2 billion people, only 10% spoke English. This meant, they would be alienating 90% of India’s population. Or a potential 900 Million+ people.

But how could you translate an entire language without hiring language translators who would spend a lot of time for the many different languages in the world?

Facebook thought of something incredibly smart. They involved their existing users and crowd sourced the entire translation. They created an application on top of Facebook and shared it with the English speaking population of every country. People were more than happy that their native languages were being added to Facebook and helped out with the translation.

fb language translator

Facebook used a voting mechanism to choose the right words for translation. So the highest voted word would be the word they used on the platform. French was translated by over 4,000 people in a matter of 24 hours. They managed to add 80 languages in a matter of few months.

What did this do for growth?

They got millions and millions of subscribers that were added to the platform in a few months. This would have never been possible with the language hack. Facebook with a team of few engineers were able to get millions to the platform. No massive campaign with money outflow.

This is the true definition of Growth Hacking.

This is what makes Facebook special. To achieve things that nobody had achieved before, they questioned everything and did things from scratch. They structured everything differently including their own management style. Every sort of acquisition was out of the box and they used their engineering prowess to build a tool they wanted to acquire users. In most businesses, engineering is used only for core-technology. This dynamic nature of work helped Facebook in getting the users rapidly and with almost no money spent.

The way they went about acquiring their users should be an inspiration to smaller tech companies on how to grow a user base with less amount of money and using the power of technology.

Also read: How to create WEALTH from NOTHING