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How to grow from zero users to million users, in a quick time?

That’s the question I’m regularly asked at startup & other events.So I thought I’d use this post to answer that question using a couple of case studies-an online game ‘I Am Playr’ and IXIGO.

Let’s look at some caveat before we start:

26 million users is really a vanity metric. It’s true Ixigo had 26 million users on their video posted on Facebook while 4 million users play ‘I Am Playr’. It is easy to reach if you have deep pockets, what’s harder is to keep those users engaged and coming back day after day. To reach this on a shoestring you need to know the tricks & keep trying, without ever giving up.

These user numbers may sound huge to you, and to a certain degree they are large, but ‘I Am Playr’ is still a tiny player in the social gaming industry. Companies like Zynga alone have over 292 million monthly active users, they have a long way, and a few more zeros, before Mark Zuckenberg is posting about I Am Playr on his Facebook wall.

CASE STUDY 1: I Am Playr

Virality is the key & is defined as a action by a user which directly brings in another user to the game. This should be trackable path of clicks to prove where each viral user came from.I Am Playr has a number of these viral mechanics ranging from sharing achievements on Facebook timeline to rewarding for having more players in the game. An example of this is here.

Facebook Marketing Having a budget to give your startup an initial boost of users can be vital. Much like a rocket trying to leave the earth’s atmosphere – it can give you the user base you need for other, self perpetuating marketing channels (such as viral marketing, media partnerships etc) to kick in.

The most effective form of online advertising will vary, depending what your product is and where it is found on the web. For I Am Playr, Facebook ads worked the best, for two reasons:

First: Users play this game on Facebook – so when they click on Facebook ads, they are already signed in– which reduces friction in the user conversion funnel. Compare this against if someone sees a Google
PPC ad, clicks it and see’s the ‘sign into Facebook’ page = massive drop off in users

Second: Facebook ads allows to target users using both their demographics and psycho-graphic profiles. This gives marketer the opportunity to target users who are most likely to spend money on your game.

Cross-promotion There is a healthy eco-system of games on the web – games companies know that most users play a number of different games over the course of an average week. Every time a user clicks on an ad on the bar, the game owner receives a ‘click credit’ and they receive a reciprocal click from a user somewhere on the game network. Of course having too much of this kind of thing can negatively impact your game’s retention rate – but if done in moderation – they’re usually a powerful way of getting new users. And better to get a reward (a reciprocal click) for someone clicking an ad, than none – which happens if someone clicks a Facebook ads when playing a game.


Let’s look at the second case study where IXIGO reached 26 million users with 7 million views & over 3.5 lakh shares. (IXIGO claims post these figures, Facebook stopped the count).

With these figures to boast for, IXIGO won award for marketing innovation by DMAI & was most shared brand Facebook post in APAC in 2014 as per Campaign Asia.

What was so different? What were the challenged & how did they achieve this?

To execute a content strategy that catapults ixigo towards a larger reach at a low cost and builds on its current strength.


  • To create an impact on user’s travel habits
  • Develop useful & share-worthy content
  • Create brand awareness
  • Engage & acquire new fans
  • Integrate brand DNA with content

How did IXIGO did it:

Ixigo released a 2 min 30 seconds video on travel hacks striking a perfect balance between brand promotion & usability. The content of this video was made to make users life easy & it seamlessly integrates with brand DNA. Have a look:

The total cost of production, distribution & promotion of the video did not exceed $500. Imagine the return on this small investment. With INR 30,000, ixigo was able to achieve a reach equivalent to that received by the brand commercials on Star Plus and other similar GECs after spending Rs.9 Lakhs.

From jewelry hacks to luggage hacks, it covered almost everything that you’ll need to know while packing your bags smartly.

The video was created in a way to hook a viewer in the first few seconds. Key points are covered through words on screen so that they can be easily understood without voice notes.

In an age of information overload, it is important for businesses to offer content that is easy to digest. And nothing works better than 2 to 3 minute videos. Using Facebook Native video, Ixigo took chances & leveraged with high engagement. Moreover, users now prefer videos over white papers, long articles and live demos.

The Results:

26 million users, over 3.5 lakh shares and 55,000 comments.

Quick Tips to Reach 26 Million Users on a Shoestring:

  1. Don’t make an Ad. Create content that will make an impact on user’s life.
  2. Don’t start with the intent of viral. Being viral depends largely on how share-worthy your content is.
  3. Obsess about your users. That’s where the ideas come in.
  4. Think story telling. Story telling has been the best way of engaging people since ages, since childhood.
  5. Why would anyone share it? Earn it.
  6. Always be news-jacking – inject your ideas into a breaking news stories and generate tons of media coverage.
  7. First impression & the second impression. In a video you get 2 chances to create your impression. The first impression is when the user sees the thumbnail & the short description. It has to be spot-on to entice a click. The second impression is the period of first few seconds. You have to hook the people to your video in the first few seconds itself.
  8. Users first, Branding next.
  9. Make the video for mobile screens.


Be creative & consistent. Keep on experimenting. Out of 10 experiments you make, 2 will work. Execution is the key.

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