The 8 Secrets to Canva’s Sucess

I discovered Canva in early 2015.

I fell in love with the web-based graphic design tool.   (See my first ever LinkedIn post!)

Canva was started by  Melanie Perkins in Australia in  July 2012.  Born out of her frustration with existing graphic design tools, she dreamed about making graphic design easy for everyone.  She also wanted to dispel the myth that some people were born creative and some not.

Making Graphic Design Easy

Melanie spotted a need in the market, and she certainly achieved her goal of making graphic design easy: Canva’s drag-and-drop interface is easy enough to learn in 23 seconds! Their tutorials are simple enough for absolute beginners to learn; yet the tool is sophisticated enough for professionals to use.

Fast forward to end 2015,  Canva announced 2M users. At that time, industry newswires praised Canva for their “draw-dropping” growth. Four months later, Canva had doubled its user base to  4M.  In June 2016, Canva announced that it had more than doubled again to 10M users.  Over 65.4M designs have been created to date. Canva is now offered in 7 different languages around the world.

Canva Magic Button

And when Canva released its magic resize button, you could feel the excitement all over Facebook and Twitter.  Canva Magic Resize will automagically resize a graphic for any social media channel. Those who have been creating graphics for social media know what a pain it is to have to optimize graphics for different social media channel posts.  Why does Pinterest have to be long and Twitter  have to be wide?

If you’re crazy like me and have 11 Twitter accounts, 8 Facebook pages,  8 Tumblr accounts, 7 wordpress accounts, 2 G+ accounts, 4 Instagram accounts 4 blogger accounts, 6 WordPress accounts.  Whenever I create a new account or Page,  I will need to design a logo. A favicon. A brand identity.  A Twitter header and profile picture. A Facebook page header and profile picture, a newsletter header. That’s a lot of designing to do!

Thankfully, Canva for Work was launched before my Pencils of Promise campaign which allowed me to run campaigns on all the social media channels (Facebook, Tumblr, my fundraising website, and all my social media assets).

At that time, I even created a hack! A one size fits all hack for my Pencils of Promise Campaign.

One Size Fits All Hack!
One Size Fits All Hack

And it works!!

But as you can see from the sizes, Facebook has since changed their optimal size, and Twitter started showing pictures as squares, pretty much destroying all the hard work anyone put in to confirm to their arbitrary sizes.  In fact, anyone who has not discovered the Facebook debugger will find themselves quite annoyed that Facebook doesn’t seem to refresh even if you have updated the image to the correct size. Here’s the secret. Go to the Facebook Debugger Tool.  Hit Debug until Facebook grabs a fresh image.

Canva’s Key Success Factors

Canva success story, on hindsight, reads like a MBA textbook case study:

1. Guy Kawasaki as Chief Evangelist.  Can’t imagine anyone better.  How did she pull that off?  He was writing his book “The Art of Social Media” with Meg Fitzpatrick at the time, and so he appointed Meg as Canva’s Head of Social.  DOUBLE WIN. Meg Fitzpatrick is social media guru one level above Guy Kawasaki and current reigning queen of Pinterest.

2. The Consultant will say they were relentless focused on customer service – email response time was about 2 hours (if you tweet to @Canva, it’s about a 5 minutes response time).

3. Head of Ops will say Canva had good supplier management: they invited a community of artists  to crowdsource their work to Canva.  This meant that they were also using their tool and giving them feedback.  It also created the enormous vault of free and paid graphics and vectors (I wonder if how many people actually pay for those?)

4. The Marketer will say it’s because of the content marketing strategy and the great content that they publish regularly their blog.   Inspiring articles on design and interesting tutorials on the different aspects of design – typography, colour, composition. Not to mention their “Marketing via education” efforts that got people designing with Canva’s Design School.

5. The Social Media Expert will say it’s because they leveraged social media to build customer engagement and advocacy (Twitter for social listening: CHECK. Facebook: CHECK, Pinterest: DOUBLE CHECK)

6. The SEO guy will say it was good SEO. Canva used Quora, Buzzsumo and Ahrefs to research the most frequently asked questions in design and studied which types of content got the most shares and backlinks.  The result: Canva’s own version of Brian Linko’s skyscraper technique! This piece on “Designing a Business Card: 50 Awesome Case Studies (And What You Can Learn From Them)” was shared over 4,000 times, resulting in many people signing up for Canva. (read this interview with Buffer for more details)

7. The IT guy will say it’s because the system never went down.

8. The product development guy will say it’s because their product and CX was so good with ever improving features (and it sure did with Canva Magic Button, Brand Colours, Folders, align tools)

What amazes me the most is that Canva didn’t charge a cent for 3 years. That means that Canva was just incurring costs for three whole years. That’s a long time to wait for any entrepreneur, few have that kind of patience. Fewer investors or investment committees will agree to that.

If you need social proof, I’m living and breathing proof that Canva works: I am probably the only non-designer who was invited into Dribbble‘s exclusive invite only social network.

Try Designing with Canva

Go on! Set up your Canva account and start learning how to design today! Here are some good videos to watch. I’ve seen the tutorials go from 3 min to 23 seconds to 15 seconds,

Design in 1 Min

Design in 15 Seconds

And for the recent #CanvaCup to celebrate Canva being offered in 7 languages, here’s the design that I made specially for the special lady who made designing so easy.

Try it!

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