Hipmunk sees 361% increase in active users

By Brad Girtz
By Brad Girtz
April 21, 2011 02:00 PM GMT

Travel search site Hipmunk has increased its monthly active Facebook users by 361% and boosted its Facebook likes by 568% thanks to creative marketing campaigns.

In an exclusive interview with Travolution, Hipmunk marketing head and Reddit co founder Alexis Ohanian said the site has a product-focused marketing strategy.

“I don’t ever want to have a reliance on putting assets and energy into making people love what we do,” Ohanian said. “I want the focus to be put on making something people love.”

He recommends spending far less on marketing and using the savings to make improvements on products.  This improves customers experience and makes the product easier to market in the first place.

“I watch new users interact with the site for the first time and you see these Hipmunk eureka moments or aha moments where they are like, ‘Wow, this is new, this is useful, this is the way it should be,’” Ohanian said.

“When you have got that as a start and you can associate that with a memorable brand, you have got something that is going to stick around a little longer.”

The company is a heavy user of social media, running on what Ohanian describes as "a self-sustaining feedback loop". Hipmunk uses Facebook and Twitter for quick, inexpensive campaigns, using followers' feedback to influence its next play.

“Because of my tech background, I am used to really iterating quickly and having smaller projects that, if they fail, don’t cost much because it’s just a cheap learning experience,” Ohanian said.

“I am doing the exact same thing with the marketing at Hipmunk. So every week there is something new we are trying.”

One of Ohanian's favourites is the 'Hipmunk Me' contest, in which users could generate a personalised version of the company's furry mascot. The contest cost very little but doubled the company's Facebook likes in a day.

Hipmunk me

An anti-ad campaign featuring spoof photos of advertising ruining famous landmarks proved another success.

Hipmunk ad

Once these campaigns began to generate interest, the Hipmunk team started engaging users. “One of the things companies can do is to try to make someone’s day,” Ohanian said.

“The best way to do this is with a strike force of happiness. In other words a group of people just monitoring Facebook and, monitoring Twitter that are not PR people but are human beings who are capable of just speaking like human beings to their users.

"These people have the authority to make $25 decisions to further encourage and engage customers. Companies can gain loads of new users that way.”

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