growth hacking

We all know by now that the increasingly over-populated digital landscape of content marketing makes it almost impossible to ensure that your message is heard, especially by your “influencers.” These highly recognized experts make them a coveted audience, due to their ability to sway the opinions of so many others.

What can you do to get their attention? While a large and booming virtual megaphone would be oh-so-helpful, I haven’t found one yet.

However, in the absence of said large and booming virtual microphone, I have found something else and it’s rather awesome: growth hacking.

What is Growth Hacking?

Growth Hacking is a term first coined by Sean Ellis, back in 2010.  (1) Growth Hacking is defined as:

“A marketing technique developed by technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure.” (2)

Sean Ellis describes growth hacking as, “a person whose true north is growth.  Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.” (3)

Entrepreneur and popular blogger, Andrew Chen, wrote about growth hacking in a post called, “Growth Hacker is the New VP Marketing.” He defines growth hacking 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?’ and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph.” (4)

I particularly like how Chen describes growth hackers as a “hybrid of marketer and coder.” It is exactly this sort of combination that propels the growth hacker into the stratosphere, high above the noise of mediocrity.

Case Study 1: Airbnb

Airbnb is one of the poster-children of growth hacking. They managed to utilize the power of an existing platform with 10s of millions of users (Craigslist) to leverage their own product during its humble beginnings.

How did they accomplish this? Not simply but certainly ingeniously. Because Craigslist did not make a public API available to Airbnb, they had to integrate through a complicated process involving reverse-engineering. Clearly, this is where the “coder” portion of the hybrid comes into play.

The marketing strategy behind it is brilliant too; by accessing a “low-competition, huge-volume marketing channel” Airbnb improves the user experience with their product. (4)

While Airbnb is a well known example of using growth hacking to directly get the attention of users, Case Study 2 examines using growth hacking to grow through cleverly getting the attention of influencers.

Case Study 2: Readz “Funny Quotes”

In late March of 2014, I attended the Social Media Marketing World Conference in San Diego. While I was there, I began to notice a recurring theme of “your content must be funny and engaging” in the presentations.

“Ok,” I thought to myself, “What’s funny and engaging about this content?”

As it turned out, there was a tremendous amount of “funny and engaging” bits and pieces within the presentations and I was quickly figuring out a way to repurpose it in a fun and shareable format. With that, the Readz “Content Snack” was born.

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 10.29.26 AMScreen Shot 2014-05-20 at 10.29.46 AM


Using the Readz Content Design Tool, we created our first “Content Snack,” a format built to share bite-size, snackable content quickly and easily. In this case, the content was made up of funny quotes from the speakers who were presenting. Believe me, there was no shortage of content! Each individual snack was easily shared by clicking the “retweet this” button that you see above.

Our Funny Quotes Content Snack took off instantly, not only getting the attention of the speakers we included but fostering engagement with them. Suddenly, we were on the radar of many of our influencers who hadn’t known us before. Within a period of a few days, we saw an increase in followers, favorites and retweets.

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Why did our growth hacking work? It was humorous, brief and easy to share, especially on mobile. The other benefit of our creation that made us stand out was the “real time” aspect of it. Like with Airbnb, the hybrid of the marketing mind and the coding mind is what allowed this idea to come to fruition so quickly.

Growth hacking: working smarter instead of harder.

“Times, they are a-changin’,” croons Bob Dylan in his timeless song. Gone are the days of the non-tech-savvy marketer. The digital world has made a melting pot of our formerly segregated responsibilities. Working smarter, not harder is our modern day mantra and growth hacking is a bold and risky new strategy. It is not for the faint of heart; growth hacking efforts do not always succeed and sometimes they even backfire.

The question remains: do you hover safely in the haze of the noise, waiting for the large and booming virtual megaphone to drop out of the sky or do you take a chance that might actually allow your voice to be heard?

Tweet this: Growth Hacking is a term first coined by Sean Ellis, back in 2010.

Tweet this: “Growth hackers are a hybrid of marketer and coder”

Tweet this: The digital world has made a melting pot of our formerly segregated responsibilities.


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Builder. Marketer. Technologist. CEO @Readz | The one-stop solution for brands to create interactive brand content for the web | organic foodie beerie | paleo | cyclist | Los Angeles