Dropbox's killer 'referral' feature

July 19, 2015 | 3 Minute Read

No, it's not the '250 Mb' reward per referred user. It's something different. Screenshots.

Main use case for screenshots is actually sharing them with someone. Now, whenever something involves sharing, there is an excellent opportunity to turn that into a traffic source.

What guys at Dropbox did with screenshots is an excellent example of a seized growth opportunity. The feature "just works", and unlike other use cases of Dropbox, it exposes the service to more people who aren't already their users.

Save screenshots to Dropbox

Why they are nailing it

Here is how most screenshot tools1 work:

  1. You grab a screenshot
  2. You click to "upload" to some cloud service
  3. You wait a few seconds
  4. You get the link to share

This sounds great! What's the problem?

Well, Dropbox's feature removes a few inconveniences:

  1. It uses build-in screen grabbing process (so it's faster)2
  2. You don't have to click anything, snap & you're ready
  3. Instant the file is stored in your Dropbox folder, there almost no delay
  4. You instantly get the URL in your clipboard which is ready for sharing, even if the screenshot hasn't uploaded yet!

Dropbox: A link has been copied

But wait! There's more. Not all sharing services allow you to easily modify or delete the images after you have uploaded them. It's obviously easy with Dropbox as you can just modify the original file and links remain the same.

Now, some people need annotations, and this is where the vanilla service lacks. But most screen grabbing apps do support Dropbox as a sharing medium. So at step 2 they stash the file in a specified Dropbox folder and you get a link almost instantly, then the file hosting service does the uploading.

For Dropbox, it's a growth feature

Image files are served much like any other files on their platform. You are taken to web app where you can comment on the file, download, add it to your Dropbox or share it further.

Shared Dropbox screenshot - logged in view
New Spotify icon: hate it or love it?

And what happen if you are not a logged-in user? They ask you to sign up!

Shared Dropbox screenshot - logged out view
This has a direct positive impact on user acquisition. As well as pisses off those who just want to see the picture.

This though, is no surprise. The main product is used to share whole bunch of other stuff, so this is the thing they had to do anyway.

What's really cool here is how someone paid close attention to a niche feature, implemented it in an awesome way AND turned users into their personal traffic generating robots.

P.S. Dropbox is opting the users to use the feature during the installation process (a usual trick). If you chose not to enable it, check Import settings. You can get more info on the feature here.

Dropbox Settings, Import, Screenshots

P.P.S. If you are wondering "What the f*** did I just read?" - this is my first foray into writing about growth hacking, great products, startsups & a few other things. If you have any feedback please let me know.

  1. I am familiar with Snagit, Skitch and a few others like that.
  2. This may not be a major advantage, even a drawback to some.

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