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How Growth Hackers Wrote Themselves into Existence

Growth hackers

You don’t have to look at a job board for too long before you come across the phrase ‘growth hacker’. But what exactly is a growth hacker? Well, they often have extensive knowledge of SEO and PPC, a soupçon of split testing expertise and some social media skills to boot. One might then ask the question ‘is there any discernible difference between a Head of Digital and a Growth Hacker?’

Although the answer is ostensibly no, there’s probably one key distinction between the two – whilst a Head of Digital will usually find themselves managing a team of copywriters, a good Growth Hacker is almost certainly an experienced copywriter themselves.

In another life, when I was more of a fixture on the startup scene, I noticed how often the art of copywriting was overlooked. It’s not by accident that Amen experienced its peak long before it left beta. Nor is it (solely) due to that cheque from Ashton Kutcher. One of the ways Amen generated so much hype was with its near legendary ‘best job in the world’ advert –

“Tired of mediocrity? Amen is about making strong statements and ultimately about making sense of the world. People have called it “Strangely Addictive”, “Pop-Cultural Engineering” or even “Better than Porn”. Sorry, we can’t tell you more at this point but we gladly will if you apply for a position. Currently we are in private Beta and will be rolling out on different platforms over the course of the year.”

Each of those words has been VERY carefully chosen to appeal to those of an inquisitive nature. Of course, mystery will only get you so far but it is worth nothing that popping the word ‘mysterious’ into, say, TechCrunch’s search box brings up a ton of results. I have no doubt that variants of the word would bring up a few hundred more. Perhaps I’m stating the obvious though; one only has to look at all the tweets rehashing posts from the front page of Reddit to see that if there’s one thing people on the startup scene hate more than not knowing about something, it’s not knowing about (and being seen to know about) it first. Well, after OP anyway.

The term Growth Hacker is a clever one because takes something from the native language of software development (i.e. hacking) and applies it to, arguably, the greatest fear of any founder (i.e. how are we going to get users?). I’m convinced that the term was cooked up by a particularly clever Head of Digital with lots of copywriting experience who wanted to write himself into a job with a startup that ‘didn’t think they needed a copywriter’.

And that’s not uncommon; an indispensable copywriter doesn’t just produce enticing in-app copy and manage social media accounts, they also figure out things like the best way to approach journalists, bloggers etc. It seems that a lot of startups out there aren’t so hot with that part…

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