Have You Heard of Growth Hacking?


I stumbled upon this article recently about one startup company in Asia that presented their latest product to an audience, called App Virality. What this product does is allowing web developers to monitor their application’s usage like an analytical dashboard and to grow their application ‘organically’ with tools such as surveys or polls and in-app testing (Millward, 2014). While I was interested in this app, but I was more intrigued by this term which is heavily used in the article, Growth Hacking. According to the article, App Virality is essentially “a growth hacking toolkit” for app developers but what does this mean?

You would think that the term growth hacking has bad connotation. However this terms is actually introduced by the Sean Ellis, the man who helps various internet companies in Silicon Valley achieve growth in their startup stage, when he searched for his replacement in every startup company he worked for (Patel & Taylor, n.d.). This is Sean Ellis job advertisement:

Growth Hacker Ad

Growth Hacker Ad (source: QuickSprout.com)

Basically growth hacker is a person whose job is to grow companies using methods beyond traditional marketing. The term hacker was added because hacker is often referred to someone who is ingenious in finding solution that often overlooked by people when achieving his/her goal which in this case is growth (Patel & Taylor, n.d.).

Why do we need a growth hacker rather than just a marketer? According to Sean Ellis, traditional marketer is skilled at understanding how to promote a product but internet has redefined our understanding of a product to the extend where traditional marketing is no longer sufficient (Patel & Taylor, n.d.). For example, Twitter and other social media(s) can now be considered as products and these products can actually self-promote themselves by allowing their users to share the products to the friends and family (Patel & Taylor, n.d.).

ReAmazonCartcently, Twitter and Amazon created a new form of social shopping in their systems where people can tweet the Amazon link of the item they wish to buy with a hashtag #AmazonCart and then immediately the item will be added to the user’s cart (Lacoma, 2014). Using twitter account as the online infrastructure creates massive opportunities for product distribution (in this case Amazon) and thus growth opportunity. This type of growth hacking is similar to the Word-of-Mouth effects as we expect virality, longer carryover, higher response elasticity (Bruyn & Lilien, 2008) from the customer toward the product, Amazon’s twitter cart.

But how is growth hacker any different from online marketing? Well, it is the same according to some people. Growth hacking makes use of social media user generated content to acquire virality, optimizes user experience and conversions through website design, and uses cost-effective advertisement method such as in-depth analysis and extensive in-app testing (Saleem, 2014). These methods are basically a fraction of online marketing and thus make growth hacking as term seem nonsense.

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