Digital Insights

Are You Familiar with Growth Hacking? You Should Be and Here’s Why

Published: July 28, 2015

Growth hacking is a relatively new term, coined in 2010 by Sean Ellis, an expert in startup marketing and growth. It’s often thrown around as a marketing term, but it’s not exactly marketing. It’s a new business philosophy. Whereas marketing is more about creating profit, growth is about organic, sustainable change.

You’re aware by now that content marketing is a mainstay of the current consumer model. What you may not realize is that content creation is necessary for the concept of growth hacking to even exist. Think about it. Most Internet businesses are not selling physical products (or they’re not only selling physical products). They need consumers to buy their brand.

What is Facebook selling? Exactly. Many businesses are selling intangibles. They offer the ability for people to connect, share, and work in new ways. And, even if you sell physical goods, you are now a part of that intangible network, using those same methods: web pages, blogs, and social media. You need branded content in order to effect growth.

Are You Familiar with Growth Hacking? You Should Be and Here's Why

What Is Growth Hacking?

We’ve all become familiar with the term hacker. We have computer hackers, life hackers, and illegal blackhat hackers. According to Brian Harvey of UC Berkeley, a computer hacker “is someone who lives and breathes computers, who knows all about computers, who can get a computer to do anything.” A growth hacker, likewise, knows all about growth.

Being a growth hacker is about finding creative ways to encourage business growth. Just as a life hacker finds inventive ways to succeed at life, a growth hacker directs ingenuity towards business success. A growth hacker is not the same as a computer hacker, but they do use technology-based solutions in order to crack the code of successful online branding.

What are some tenets of growth hacking?

  • Change—Growth hacking is about individual growth in order to promote company growth. A company that holds its employees back in order to create a stable workforce is working against itself. Growth is change. In order to maintain sustainable growth at any business, you need regular change. That means your low-level employees should be growing and either moving on or moving up. That is to say, you want driven people engaged in your business. Similarly, the individual growth of each consumer you influence results in positive change for your business, as well.
  • Technology—A growth hacker must be aware of trends in technology and social media. Although they are not doing computer hacking, they are hacking the technological communication system. In order to innovate, they must understand the current players.
  • Opportunity—Growth hackers are always on the lookout for opportunities and ways to connect. If you can find a new way to use an existing platform, you are on your way to growth. Take Airbnb, for instance. They latched onto the chance to use Craigslist as an existing platform, and their business skyrocketed. Take note, also, that they are selling something entirely intangible—just a new and specific way for people to connect for places to stay. When you make connections (both in the networking sense and in the creative sense), you find new opportunities.

Now, one thing to understand about Airbnb’s success (and that you should apply to your own methods) is that they came up with something entirely new. They succeeded because they found an opportunity, had the technical skills to act on it and were ready to create change for themselves and others. Additionally, they used that chance to grow, but not to become stagnant and depend upon Craigslist. Because of Craigslist’s new policies, they would have failed if they had done so.

Will the Real Growth Hackers Please Stand Up?

You don’t necessarily need to hire a professional growth hacker for your business, although that is now a legitimate position that people are filling in companies. The truth is, anyone can learn to be a growth hacker. It just takes individuals in your company who are willing to see potential avenues for reaching your niche. Growth hacking takes people who are present for more than just “doing the job”. It takes personal investment.

It also takes a team effort. The person who comes up with the ingenious idea may not necessarily be the person who handles the technological details.

Usually, a real growth hacker cannot be a paid position. Why? Because the person must be invested in the success of your business. Hiring a professional growth hacker will often lead to uninspired ideas that are rehashed from the individual’s previous projects. Let’s be clear, when ideas for growth are rehashed, they’re not fresh, and that’s not growth hacking.

Instead of looking for someone who knows how to do growth, be your own growth hacker. Invest your creativity into how your product or service can make pathways. Not every hack will work, but the more you try, the better you will become at finding and acting on those opportunities.