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A Post Mortem on Growth Hacking (andyjohns.co)
57 points by andygcook 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 20 comments



I would caution against making conclusions solely on Google Trends. Less people may be googling growth hacking because more and more people are becoming familar with it.

However that doesnt mean the demand for growth hackers is declining. People may already know what it is but the need for growth hacking may still be increasing. Or it might have different names that people call it by now.


I think that's partly it. As 'technical' marketing becomes a more developed industry, it's splitting into more distinct job roles.

The days of hiring a growth hacker to plaster over your CMO's shortcomings are disappearing rapidly.


I think this topic is an interesting one and I'd love to read about from someone who could speak authoritatively about industry trends. But trying to do the same by reading Google Trends tea leaves is just awful.


Hi there. I wrote the article. You bring up a fair point but unfortunately there isn't any other public data of high quality that can be referenced. I hit LinkedIn's APIs to try and get data on historical job postings for new roles containing "growth hacker" in it but the data is really poor and not useable. I'm also writing from experience + anecdotes having worked on growth for 10+ years and advised a variety of consumer companies on growth. The anecdotes suggest to me it is falling out of favor. I wish there was more data to reference otherwise I would have.


Hmm... why was the Linkedin data poor?


Not sure. Chatted with a few other devs and they shared similar experiences when working with their APIs. The biggest issue is that prior job postings data isn't expose on the API so you can only see current postings, which wouldn't be useful in terms of showing trends, which is what I hoped for.


This post sidesteps the main issue: growth hacking becomes irrelevant because most involved parties are now aware of the breadth and depth of fraud involved. Fake users, paid download farms, automated registrations. VCs learned the lesson.


For those who don't know, Andy was one of the early growth hacker leads at FB & Twitter.


Marketing is what you do when your product is no good. - Edwin Land, founder of Polaroid

... via http://github.com/globalcitizen/taoup


And yet Polaroid has spent considerable amounts of money on marketing.

That statement is often quoted, but it's exactly backwards, and I'll raise you one more sensible quote:

"Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster." — David Ogilvy


Ogilvy found public, untargeted advertising essentially immoral.

Man is at his vilest when he erects a billboard. When I retire from Madison Avenue, I am going to start a secret society of masked vigilantes who will travel around the world on silent motor bicycles, chopping down posters at the dark of the moon. - David Ogilvy

... via http://github.com/globalcitizen/taoup


I was not familiar with this term until now. You can read very far into this article without realizing that the topic is not some technique to gain a few inches in height.

> There are now several growth hacking bootcamps and large conferences.



Growth hacking is hard. We had to learn a few tricks to grow our Hacker News alternative (https://laarc.io)

Suppose you were to start a site similar to HN. How would you get the word out?

The most reliable way to grow is to have an audience (or access to one). But they have to be interested in what you're showing, else you're little better than a spammer.

Looking over the traffic for the last month (https://imgur.com/a/O1wtzav) the spikes were from comments posted to lobse.rs:

https://lobste.rs/s/jqkqwb/what_are_you_doing_this_weekend#c...

https://lobste.rs/s/kx4ojt/what_are_you_doing_this_weekend#c...

This won't keep working, but it might have been enough. The site seems to be spreading through word of mouth now, and about 400 people show up each day.

Communities are also a strange thing to grow. Grow too fast, and you'll spoil it. Ditto if you grow from the wrong source of people.

Fundamentally, you have to have a product that users love so much that they spontaneously tell their friends about it. But press coverage – or at least social media coverage – seems to matter a lot. You probably need both.

We've been using https://playbook.samaltman.com/ as a mantra, and it's been effective so far. But it's only been a month. We'd like to try Michael's advice next: http://www.michaelseibel.com/blog/getting-press-for-your-sta...


It seems that there are two conditions necessary for a better product to take over, which is what you are trying to acompish.

First and most obviously, the new product needs to be objectively better in key ways that people care about, preferably multiple key ways.

Second, the audience must be above some threshold of dissatisfaction with the current product. There must be a sufficient pain point for a sufficient part of the audience. It cannot be merely a "geez it might be nice if X", but an actual "damn, this is annoying...". And, obviously, your new product must address it.

If there is no significant pain point, you have no chance of gaining any traction. Even if the switching cost is essentially zero, you have no real chance.

Trying for a better HN? Maybe I'm missing something, but I haven't seen any big issues, nor anybody complaining about issues. So, I wish you luck, but it seems you may have put a lot of effort into something no one really wants; might be best to consider taking the huge amount you've just learned and pivot to a new target...


Why use the alternative when here we are on the perfectly fine original?

Maybe it can't grow because it's an unnecessary and inferior substitute. I don't mean to sound harsh but if it's difficult to gain traction there's likely a reason.

Which gets to the main point of the original article: you can't 'growth hack' a product that has no market from which to grow from.

Build something people find valuable and it will grow is the only "hack" that truly works.


I agree with you, but would add one caveat. You may have built something valuable, but have yet to find the proper distribution channel. In which case, you experiment selling through different channels until you either grow, die, or pivot.


Nice try here! But still not visiting the site ;)


> But they have to be interested in what you're showing, else you're little better than a spammer.

Just got one of those spam emails from you guys. Not cool. And the website just looks like a clone of HN. Why should I go to a clone when I have the original right here?


The same response posted twice by different accounts. Seems legitimate.

And within the post they reply with: "...else you're little better than a spammer"

Hilarious.




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