This blog was written by John Doherty

Growth hacking has become a buzzterm in the past 6 months, ever since this post written back in April by Andrew Chen. There’s even a growth hacking agency in New York City (linked at the bottom of the post) and startups are starting to hire growth hackers to help them scale up their user base faster.

I’ve heard the growth hacker term thrown around a lot, and have experienced both positive and negative reactions to it from people I know.

The goal of this post is to define down what a growth hacker is, how this integrates well into online marketing, and then to give a few examples of some growth hacks I’ve either seen or heard about that have helped tech startups grow.

What Is Growth Hacking

Growth hacking is, at its essence, “data driven marketing.” It’s coming up with new ways to engage your audience, to incentivize them to share, to find ways to keep them engaged on the site longer and clicking more “things” (whatever that is – ads, links to forum posts, Buy Now buttons). Growth hacking is BOTH about growth (duh) and retention (keeping your existing customers happier and around longer, as this is how you ultimately grow).

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that growth is not about numbers. Growth is about people (read Jack Dorsey’s take on it here. Or as Sean Ellis says here:

After product-market fit and an efficient conversion process, the next critical step is finding scalable, repeatable and sustainable ways to grow the business. If you can’t do this, nothing else really matters.

Growth hacking is not about having your users sign up to your service through LinkedIn or Facebook, with promises that you won’t post anything to their Facebook or LinkedIn feeds, and then emailing all of their contacts and invite from you. It’s not about spamming Facebook NewsFeeds (think about the days of SocialCam destroying your NewsFeed on an hourly basis) in order to gain customers. You may gain them for a while, but you’ll also anger a lot of people and ultimately, I would submit, will lose potential customers because they think badly about your product and approach.

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