Buzzwords come and go, but some have more staying power than others.
Lately, we've see references to "growth hacking" and "growth hackers" entering the marketing and entrepreneurial lexicon at breakneck speed. What gives? Somebody must be behind this one.
While there's still no dedicated Wikipedia page for growth hacking, as of this writing, there is a conference dedicated to growth hacking. That's an impressive start for a new buzzword. It feels like this one will have more than just 15 minutes of fame.
Of course, it's still early. The definition for growth hacking is still up for discussion, but it effectively amounts to finding quick "hacks" to stimulate the rapid growth of a company or product.
It's different from, but related to, viral marketing, where you are trying to get the word to spread quickly about your offerings. With growth hacking, you skip the spend on traditional marketing dollars and invest instead in product features that will make your product take off.
For example, Josh Elman, a growth hacker who played a role in Twitter's impressive growth, writes that he and his team actively looked for triggers that might stimulate growth, and when they found them, they worked them into their product development process:
"It turned out that if you manually selected and followed at least 5-10 Twitter accounts in your first day on Twitter, you were much more likely to become a long term user, since you had chosen things that interested you…As we kept tweaking the features to focus on helping users achieve these things, our retention dramatically rose."
Even though Elman, having built Twitter up to hundreds of millions of users, is recognized as growth hacker, he's skeptical of the buzzword, noting that: "The short answer is you can't really 'hack' growth."
Another growth hacker of note, Chamath Palihapitiya, who played more than a bit role in getting Facebook to a billion users, also advises people to not believe "the hype and the BS" around revolutionary new ways to hit the big time on customer adoption. He says it's simple: Measure stuff, try stuff, throw bad stuff away, keep good stuff. It's hard work, he says. There's no magic to it.
So, with the growth hackers saying that growth hacking isn't a silver bullet, and that the fundamentals still apply, should we expect the phrase "growth hacking" to die a quick death?
Doubtful. Everybody wants a silver bullet. Entrepreneurs, in particular, the ones that don't make it, often have a fantasy that things will go easy and that they will go fast. They buy into their dream and ignore reality.
So, if you want to find a "hack" for your own personal growth, here's some good advice: work hard, don't trust your gut, don't buy into your own hype, trust your tests, and stick to the basics. Last but not least, don't fall prey to the buzzwords du jour.
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