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Growth Hacking Defined

It has a real name. Growth Hacking. It’s about finding non-traditional, cheap (it’s the right word, cheap) social media spaces, and out of the box ways to garner a buzz and direct traffic around a product or service.

When talking about growth hacking and how it can apply to you, it’s important to note that at its core, growth hacking is really a mindset. Growth hackers view the world through a growth lens. They have a creative mindset that lets them creatively exploit opportunities and vulnerabilities of a system to their benefit.

Growth hackers are the people who when you give them a paperclip they don’t just think of how it keeps papers together, they think of how if you bend it you can make it into a stand for your phone… or as a tool to reach a small spot… or to do this or that. They have the mindset that allows them to think of creative applications, and reap the benefits of actually executing on them.

Because growth hacks are outside the box and are successful because they take advantage of a hole in a system, they are mostly temporary strategies, that are destined to burn out. When using this strategy successfully, it is important to identify the opportunity, take it, find others to replace it, and back out when it burns out. The nature of growth hacks is that they are opportunities that you are finding first, is a good deal because of this, and you do this understanding that once it catches on, that road may not exist anymore. So you find new opportunities to exploit.

Growth through Creative Strategy and Juicing that Opportunity.

Eat24, a food delivery app and website, is a great example of a killer growth hacking strategy.

They had zero venture capitalist money, didn’t want to throw a lot of money at big traditional media, and came up with a unique marketing strategy that fit their budget and brand. Where does one find a highly trafficked ad platform with cheap placements? Their answer was porn.

Porn sites have:

3x impression volume of Google + Facebook + Twitter

90% lower unit costs

4 higher new user retention than Facebook.

Pornsites own a huge corner of the internet, but Eat24 found that the advertisers are pornsites are mostly other adult brands. This is partially because a lot of brands are hesitant to associate with adult sites, which is something the up and coming Eat24 didn’t need to be concerned about. For the traffic and rates found on those sites, ads were incredibly cheap. And porn and Eat24 actually made sense - online looking at porn, you’re home and can might order food delivered.

While this made sense for Eat24, their brand and target consumer overlapped with the pornsites, it doesn’t make sense for all brands. But the point remains, find an expected opportunity that works for your brand.

Click here for more info on Eat24’s porn story:

Growth through Piggybacking

Possibly, a growth hacking technique that would work for your brand is on the back of someone bigger. By aligning your brand and partnering with others, you can leverage platforms where your audience already exists. Zynga did this using Facebook, and Airbnb did this using Craigslist.

It is important to note that a key to the success of this technique is making sure the partnership is mutually beneficial, and that you make your partner look good.

Growth through Being Social by Nature

One route in growth hacking is through leveraging your existing users. This technique really works best if your brand is social by nature. It is ideally accomplished if you operate with growth hacking in mind early on and developed your product to be inherently social. However, it can be layered into your brand if the nature of your brand is something people care to share.

The key to making your product social, is to make it so that a user’s experience improves through sharing it with more people. That their experience interacting with your brand, they feel is better if they get more people to also use it.

Asking people to share your brand just for the sake of sharing it, doesn’t work. People really don’t give a shit. For example, if I am the founder of a startup, and I ask my friends to share my product on their Facebook pages, they might do that because they are my friends and feel connected to me and want me to succeed. Yet, if I ask them to ask their friends to share my product as well, they won’t care to do so because they don’t have a benefit in doing that. Unless my product is designed in a way that they feel they benefit from getting more people to use it.

Some examples of this.

Uber - If I get my friends to sign up with Uber, I receive Uber credits toward free rides. I want to share the app with my friends so I get credits. And, my friends also get a free ride when they sign up. (Research shows that when a user is told the person they get to sign up benefits too, they feel less guilty sharing and are more likely to invite others in.)

Fitbit - If my friends get Fitbits, we can compete in weekly step competitions. I bought a Fitbit to get more active, and the more friends that sign up and compete in step competitions in the app with me, the more I benefit from having my Fitbit because I feel more encouraged to use it.

While some brands have built social into their process, some need to work harder to create the social sharing aspect. If that’s you, think about what would improve a user’s experience with your brand, and why they might care to share with their networks.


Advertising is a business model competition. You and your competitors are competing to see who can afford to pay more to reach a target group of users.

Growth hacking is the opportunity to break that pay competition and flex your creative chops to step out and make a splash, even with a small budget.

Note, you cannot growth hack a product nobody wants. I realize that sounds basic, but growth hacking really works with a great product that has identified a strong product market fit, and is ready to scale. You can’t buy retention or commitment to your brand.

But if you have a brand that is ready to go, get into the growth hacking mindset, be bold, and make your growth happen. Or best of all, let’s set up a strategy session and figure it out together.

Katherine Baer, Account Supervisor

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