Boosting the Audience from 12M to 375M: the Unique Story of Badoo

Entrepreneurs and young ambitious teams definitely know about the power and effectiveness of growth hacking. Growth hacking is a popular concept for strategies focused solely on growth.

Nowadays this term is especially relevant among early-stage startups that need massive growth in a short time on small budgets.

Having the main goal to acquire as many users or customers as possible while spending as little as possible, young companies and teams try their best to get amazing results.

I’d like to share the story of Badoo, the dating app, which quick growth of popularity was really amazing. In this post, you’ll know what were the viral tricks they used to get such success and why Facebook should be also mentioned here. Let’s dive in!

The story of Badoo

Badoo is a dating social network, that was founded in 2006 by the Russian entrepreneur Andrey Andreev with offices in Moscow, London, Malta, and the USA. Badoo is available on iOS, Android, and web and operates on a freemium model.

In 2017, Badoo launched a redesigned version of the app and brand, adopting the purple color and an orange heart as the logo with the motto “Bigger than dating”.

By the way, according to CNBC, Badoo is now seeking a sale that could value the company at $1.5 billion.

Badoo had 12 million users by 2007. Then the founder sold the part of his stake for $ 30 million. Some time later, Finam bought another 10% and the price for it was much higher, that was actually never disclosed.

Then it was 2011 and the dating website was named as one of the most successful social media all over the world.

Today the number of Badoo users is more than 418 million. The most active countries are Italy, Brazil, Spain, France, and Poland.

On April 13, 2011, Facebook threatened to close Badoo, if it did not become less viral. It had to do it and became less viral.

It is upright to mention here that Badoo and Facebook have different directions:

  • Facebook limits its users from the outside world to a comfortable zone and forces them to communicate with the same people of similar views.
  • Badoo helps to get out of their comfort zone, making users spend money to feel the excitement of communicating with new users.

Returning to March 2011, we see that a fortnight before Facebook told Badoo developers to make the app less viral: Badoo complies with Facebook’s requests.

Could you imagine that almost 65 million people were using the app by the end of March? That is about the monthly active users’ rate (MAU) of 65 million and the daily active users (DAU) of about 5 million.

In fact, the users had been registered on the website badoo.com. Badoo did not just import Facebook users’ names and ages, but also their profile data and photos.

It seemed that Badoo copied the audience of Facebook. If Facebook did not react, then Badoo would probably have taken all of Facebook’s users.

Actually, some time ago I understood where Badoo got its 160-million audience:

  • The first 15 million users were gotten from Mamba.
  • 100 million more were gotten from Facebook.

There was also a small percent of the audience that came across the site independently and registered.

How did this happen? What viral tricks did they use? Now I can figure it out. Actually, I could show the following screenshots and stop there:

That is how Badoo looked like when it was its peak. Now compare it with how the situation looked like in autumn 2012:

So what is the secret of Badoo? You can answer a question about one of your friends. For example, “Will your friend John help an old lady to cross the road?”

“Yes” is your answer and Badoo publishes the following to your friend´s feed: “Your friend answered a question about you ‘Will you help an old lady to cross the road?’ Click here to see the answer.”

This note is visible to all of John’s friends and it is rather important. Your friend clicks and reaches the page where the Badoo app asks for the right to access their profile. He/she agrees and enters Badoo’s app.

The following text is available here: “To see John’s answer, you need to score 10 points. To score 1 point, you need to answer a question about your friend.”

The chronology of the virus looks like:

  • Facebook presented a feature in API that allowed applications to publish notes to friends´ walls.
  • Badoo quickly understood this opportunity.
  • The Badoo team created an app that automatically posts notes to a user’s friends when they answer questions about them inside the application.
  • Facebook demanded that Badoo make the app less viral on April 13, 2011,
  • Badoo fulfilled Facebook’s requirements and under the questions displayd a tick box with the option “Publish to your friend’s wall,” but made the message gray. If the user removes the tick, then Badoo shows the following question:

The dating platform had technically fulfilled Facebook’s requirements. However, we understand well what Badoo is up to. These changes were the reason for Badoo’s DAU to fell from 5 million to 2 million.

  • After all, Facebook has blocked Badoo from posting messages on friends´ walls. But Badoo is still allowed to post messages to those who answer questions. When you answer a question about your friend, the platform posts a message to your wall and only your friends see it.
  • Badoo’s DAU fell to 380,000 and its MAU to 4.5 million.

What are your thoughts about this story? Can it teach anything valuable?