It was October of 2008. I was in the middle of the thirteen-hour bus ride from New Paltz, New York, to Potsdam, New York, courtesy of Adirondack Trailways. Somewhere around Lake Placid, as the bus wound its way through the largest state park in America, I had a moment of panic. Had I lost it? I checked my pockets more than twice, went into my backpack, and couldn’t find it. Thankfully, it was on my lap the entire time. A small white box. One with Chinese lettering on it. On most days, a box like this would hold gum. Orange flavored. The kind you can get inexpensively in Manhattan’s Chinatown district. But today it had something different inside. Instead of gum, there was a $1,300 engagement ring. White gold. Single diamond. To this very day, it’s the most expensive thing I have ever purchased. I don’t know where the ring is now. Probably sold. Or sitting at the bottom of a crate somewhere in Glens Falls, New York, forgotten. It doesn’t really matter.
What does matters is that, if I thought like a growth hacker back then, I would still be married now. That probably sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. The way I used to think? There was no plan. I wasn’t ready for the economy to collapse, which it did a couple of months after the marriage proposal. I wasn’t prepared for the environment I was operating in, upstate New York isn’t exactly known for its job opportunities for marketing people like us. I had a lot of pride that needed swallowing so that I could take a job that paid the bills. And, finally, I thought relentlessly pursuing one thing, Social Media Is Bullshit, and doing a half-assed job of it, would solve all my problems. Funny enough, I was right about that last part. But. Had I not done a half-assed job, I’d still be married and wouldn’t be in need of planning an extensive re-launch of that book. We’ll talk more about that later. (Trust me, everything I’m writing on SocialTimes about growth hacking ties together. First I’m going to define it, tell you what I think the job entails, and then I’m going to walk you through how I’m using the tactics of a growth hacker to launch, or in this case re-launch, a product. When I’m done, you should have a full 360 degree look at what growth hacking is, and isn’t, why it’s important, and how you too can be a growth hacker.)
Growth hackers don’t think the way I used to. They can’t afford to think like that, which is why it’s my hope to get you to start thinking like one. Not only could it help improve your personal life, but professionally it could be the difference between being employed and working at Walmart when you’re faced with no other options. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Sooner or later, the title of “social media marketer”, “inbound marketing expert”, and “content marketing guru” will become obsolete. In fact, the latter two titles only exist now because most of us are catching on to the numerous scams of social media marketing. So the name is being changed by the people who benefit from the lie to keep themselves in business. I assume those of you reading this are the good guys though (or good girls, although I tend to use “guys” without it being gender specific). If you’re one of the good guys, you gotta stay one step ahead if you’re going to survive, and that’s why it’s important we get to certain fields and terms first. Before the social media hucksters do. Thankfully, thinking like a growth hacker is easy. And unlike those other titles that really refer to the same job with nebulous functions and questionable results, growth hackers have a plan, a clear cut goal, and multiple paths that they can follow to achieve that goal. Those paths are made not by sheer force of will and ignorance (like mine was with the book), but are developed through constant research, some detective work, and lots of tweaking. In fact if you’re going to walk around and call yourself a growth hacker you should be able to take that plan one step further. If you do your job right, as a growth hacker you should be able to see the future.
Ok. We’re not talking clairvoyance on the level of Miss Cleo, although if the numerous lawsuits brought against the Psychic Readers Network are any indication, it’s easy to suggest you can see the future better than she could anyway. What I mean when I say “see the future” is that, when it comes specifically to the product or campaign you’re working on, that you can see its future.
And how you can actually see your product’s future is something I will start to tell you about tomorrow.
(Photo of Glens Falls, New York, courtesy of Dougtone on Flickr. B.J. Mendelson’s old apartment is two buildings to the left from the Domino’s on the top floor.)