petithacks - small hacks, faster growth

Behind the referral hack that brought more users for Airbnb and Dropbox


Cast lessons
  • Setting up Cloudsponge 4 mins
  • Testing the import 1 mins
  • Setting up Google Contacts API 11 mins

In this video we are going to build a referral system, something similar to what you can see in Dropbox or Airbnb sites. You might have received an invitation from one of your friends, something similar to that link. Basically what they are doing is they give some credit to you and they give some credit to the friend that invite you.

And Dropbox has a similar strategy: they give you some more megas of storage in their application (and they will give also some extra gigas for your friend too) for those users that referred their platform. Referral programs are a way of taking advantage of their current user base in order to enlarge it. These two businesses take advantage of the fact that they have already your email address (the one you used to signup), so they can request access to your contacts stored in your own email client (Gmail, Hotmail, etc.)

If you check this example with Gmail for instance, there is one section within your email inbox that is called Contacts, it’s a bit hidden but it’s present in any account.

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That section is like an archive of all of the email addresses that you have been in touch with in the past years. So those are the email addresses that Dropbox and Airbnb are looking for: You give them permission in order to access your email account, and they are going to send email to all of the people in your email account. That way you can invite them and you can earn some credit.

Our project in this video will be to build something similar to that. And the process is simple. If you want to see how does it look like, go check Dropbox referral site, just click in it, and invite your Gmail contacts from there.

They open a modal, a window where we have to select the account where we are going to give them access to. In this case I’m going to select my own email account.

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And in this point, they will direct you back to their landing page. After this point, they start a backend process in order to load all of the Gmail contacts. So basically, they grab all of these contacts and they place them in this modal.