College grads and career-changers, be warned. When you search around for a job at your favorite startup (perhaps even on Mashable’s job board?), you’ll start seeing the buzziest of job descriptions: “Growth Hacker.” The name sounds simple enough, but it’s easy to be confused about what a growth hacker is meant to do around the office, and how it differs from other, more traditional positions.
Here’s a breakdown of what companies mean by “growth hacker” and when and how you can become one yourself.
Despite what you may think upon seeing the term, a growth hacker isn’t the same as a traditional technical hacker. So don’t expect that you need to be some kind of Internet wizard or high-level developer to be one. In fact, growth hacking is specifically geared toward marketing.
The easiest way to think of a growth hacker is the ideal, lean startup marketer. Because there is very little cash to toss around in a scrappy, newly-formed company, many startups just don’t have the resources or work to employ a standard corporate marketer. Growth hackers are marketers that are trained to specifically focus on building up the user base of new startups.
These folks utilize all manners of classic marketing — persuasive copy, email marketing, SEO tricks and viral strategies, among others — to convert the audience into users. There’s also a bit of community management and social outreach involved, building the brand’s image on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets.
In this way, "growth hacker" is just a fancy term for online marketer, amid other needlessly fancy job descriptions like "hustler" or "rock star". Its primary objective is to get more people to use a service, and to keep using it for as long as possible.
Yeah, this statement is also correct: Growth hackers are marketers, except for when they’re not.
As the old saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” And growth hackers pride themselves on taking on non-traditional methods (ones you might particularly find in the engineering or coding world) to see their ends are met.
Because teams at startups are relatively small, it’s up to the growth hacker to execute user acquisition strategies from soup to nuts. That may involve some amounts of coding, framework development, A/B testing and other methods that more traditional marketers may overlook.
There’s also a lot of value placed in automating marketing strategies — marrying APIs, integrating directly into social platforms and even putting links at the bottom of email signatures — which remain uncommon in the traditional marketing world. But, of course, when your staffing is low and your goals are high, there’s a lot of good things that can come from getting the Internet to do some of the work for you.
Most traditional marketers would balk at some of the tactics that growth hackers use, or simply avoid them, because it stretches into the scope of development or engineering. But others may see it as a welcome freedom to design all sorts of marketing strategies.
Yes, "growth hacker" is an enormously overwrought buzzword. But, companies are sorely looking for people to take up the mantle and work on startup marketing.
The growth hacker is essentially a scrappy, resourceful and creative marketer with a knack for attracting users. It’s a must-have role in most startups because it helps put the product in the hands of the masses and expand word-of-mouth reach. And it won’t be going away anytime soon — even if the name fizzles out in the next few years.
What do you think of the word "growth hacker"? Let us know in the comments.
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