Growth Hacking: What is it?

Andrew Chen defines it as

Growth hackers are a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of “How do I get customers for my product?”

Which I agree but I don’t agree completely on the next part:

and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph

I would define a growth hacker as someone who writes code to scale the user acquisition process. If you were to slap a KPI to such a person it would look something like: acquired traffic/lines of code written.

Andrew gives the example of Airbnb’s tight integration with Craigslist. That’s definitely an example of growth hacking at work. Tight integration/import & export type functionality is really a marketing play that sits in the domain of the developer. No traditional marketer would be able to implement that. I will show you another impressive example of growth hacking at play:

Polyvore + Widgets

Polyvore is a beautiful collage making fashion site that’s brimming with creative users. Early on, they correctly identified that their users were spending so much time making a set, they were often immensely proud of their creation. So what Polyvore did was to allow their users to embed a set on their blog for them to show off. This brings traffic in 2 ways:

  1. Direct click throughs from the blog where the set is embedded on
  2. Keyword rich backlink acquisition through embedded keywords resulting in higher ranking pages in SERPS

I remember reading an article about Youtube a long time ago on how they purposely kept the urls short like this:

The rationale behind that is to prevent the link from being truncated in emails to maximise clickthrough rates from emails. That’s another example of growth hacking.

Obviously, the context has to be right for the implementation to work. There are also thin/dodgy implementations like address book/friend inviter spamming which works…. if this was 2005. Don’t do it. You’ll piss off your users and  your conversion rate would likely be low. Authenticity and trust is the currency of the internet, don’t blow it all in one bad move!

So, to reiterate once more, the job of the growth hacker is to get traffic to the website – a pure user acquisition oriented focus. Once the visitor is on the website, it’s a whole different ball game and ideally, another member of takes over.

The optimisation of the ‘click to $’ funnel to me is a sales process where for a website, the sales person is the website! So tools like A/B testing, analytics, conversion funnels, , engagement loops, retention and cohort analysis etc comes into play. There is no ‘growth’ to ‘hack’ here. But it doesn’t mean that once the user is on your site, there isn’t any growth hacks to be had! See viral loops.

Of course, all the optimisations would be for nought if your growth hacker brings in unqualified traffic of course or if you haven’t found product/market fit yet. So the right hand gotta know what the left is playing at otherwise there won’t be any hands left to play.

Obviously, a good VP of Marketing, as suggested by Andrew Chen, ought to know all of these processes and have a good overview of the the entire start to finish funnel but it is not the prerogative of the growth hacker. I like to keep my job scopes very well defined.

Your thoughts?

3 thoughts on “Growth Hacking: What is it?

  1. That’s a great point about the lines of code written on a new hack vs the amount of new users gained. Many marketers can do all the lower viral/email/landing page tests but not many can write a small stand alone IOS app in a weekend (that’s how Growth Hackers roll kids) with the objective of bringing traffic, users or revenue to their larger start up.

  2. Pingback: SEO Growth Hack on PropertyGuru | pragmatic startup

  3. Nice post Omar,

    Nice little round up on Polyvore, ( man that name just rolls of the tongue)… good things to keep in mind.

    Thanks for sharing.

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