14 growth hacks TikTok used to become one of the most downloaded APPs of 2018

As Albert Einstein once said… “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world”.

The fact of being able to achieve exponential growth, makes me be really passionate about finding ways to improve AARRR metrics within a product.

And lately, I found one product that amazed me in that sense: TikTok.

“Really? Tik Tok? That app my little cousins are using.” — Yes, that one.

Here are the product growth tactics I found in their product, that I find we could somehow benefit from.

1. Acquisition: Using youtube as an acquisition channel

I feel youtube is a highly underestimated channel.


a. Brand awareness is difficult to measure — only through complicated attribution techniques — makes that lots of people end up not using it.

b. The way brands are using youtube is just showing TV advertisements. Tik Tok is using very expressive videos created by the users as a way to engage users.

2. Activation: Showing videos without the need to log in

You start seeing “how cool” the content being created is, and then say…”Oh, I would like to use it.”

3. Activation: Full vertical screen videos without clicking on them in Home

With TikTok you don’t need to do anything. You open the app, and the video is directly shown.

4. Activation: You don’t need to have friends in to enjoy TikTok

While with other social APPs like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook… it is fundamental to have your friends in to enjoy the product, with TikTok that doesn’t happen.

You are able to use TikTok to:

1) Follow other creators (like with youtube)

2) Use it as a tool to create videos to later share them in Instagram

That makes churn to reduce for users that don’t have so many friends in the network.

5. Activation / Referral: Asking you to find / add your friends

While the previous is true, it is also true that the more friends you have in the APP, the better activation you will have.

Do you know when did Facebook made a step up in their growth?

When they realized that users connected with 7 friends in the first 10 days.

TikTok is trying to put you in contact with other friends, so that you don’t leave the app after playing with it.

6. Activation / Retention: Very visual Discover Page

You are able to see images for any video grouped in what is trending.

Personally, I find that neither Youtube, nor Facebook, nor Snapchat, nor Instagram have found good ways to discover new creators / content. While TikTok has.

7. Retention: Fun + Creative + New

I find it a pity when people only look at their competition to build new features.

TikTok hasn’t been like this and have thought out of the box while trying to solve user needs.

8. Retention: Video Only

If Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram… are focusing so much on video, it might be for a reason.

Why do I love video?

  1. With video you can have better retention
  2. With video users can create content in a very fast and easy way
  3. With video users can connect a lot with their audience

9. Retention: Strong Gamification

They are not only counting the number of fans you have, but also the amount of hearts people gave you.

10. Retention: Push notification has a copy that looks like a message in Whatsapp

I think TikTok is the first app I have seen able to do push notifications with a non-marketing language.

The good thing about it is that you feel as if a friend is telling them to you.

11. Referral: Asking the user to share after they create a video

Once you create a video, you are shown a big list of options you can share your post on.

12. Referral: Very prominent referral button

As they are using a full screen for their videos, it gives them the option of putting the most important features in the screen.

One of them is to share the video with other people, increasing referral by doing it.

13. Referral: Sharing videos with Tik Tok brand on them

This is nothing new. Products like dubsmash, outlook, etc already did it.

But it is a good way of providing brand awareness and more installs, as people might be curious to try it once they watch “how fun” the video is.

14. Referral: Allowing to share in Instagram Stories

I see Instagram Stories as a very good referral opportunity that not lots of companies are taking into account.


  1. People might not be willing to share in Facebook or Instagram, as for that it needs to be a very important post, while people can share 5 stories per day.
  2. You are able to be much more creative with Instagram stories.
  3. Not lots of products are using this referral option, so you will be able to surprise the users by allowing the user to share in Instagram stories.
  4. When a user watches an Instagram story, he is fully focused on that story, without any distraction.

Hope you liked this post :)

I will be periodically sharing product growth strategies, so if you are interested in growing the amount of users for your startup, feel free to follow me.

Do you know any app you would like me to analyze? Leave it in the comments.

And in case you have any query about growth / product for your startup, feel free to contact me at mxmolins@gmail.com.

Who am I?

你好! I am Marc Molins and I am a Product Manager at Skyscanner and former PM at Rocket Internet.

I am passionate about understanding people’s needs and thinking about creative ways to 100x products.

In my free time I like to learn languages, play beach volleyball and work on new projects with friends.