Neil Brings His Napping Mask to ABC’s Shark Tank

Last week, ABC aired a new episode of the popular show “Shark Tank” that featured my friend Neil Joglekar (@njcar) and his business partner Justin Lee. Neil and Justin’s product, Napwell, is the world’s first napping mask.

I grabbed sushi with Neil when he was in town to tape the “Shark Tank” segment. There was no guarantee that it would air. I’m glad it did. Congratulations Neil!

Watch the full episode of Shark Tank including the Napwell segment on ABC’s official website.

Santa Caught On Tape – My Latest Viral Video

Santa Claus is real, but kids of a certain age begin to question this fact. My step brother, Tripp Reed, secretly recorded Santa Claus in his living room last Christmas. When he showed me this video, I immediately thought that it could be a big hit online. Earlier this week, he gave me the green light to upload and promote it. The goal is not necessarily to go viral overnight, but I can tell by the early growth that “Santa Caught On Tape” has what it takes to put up six digit view numbers.

The real story here, though, is that kids are able to see that Santa is real. And that’s more important than going viral.

I’m Nominated For A Marketers Choice Award

Last week I received some exciting news: I’m nominated for a 2014 Marketers Choice Award.

The Marketers Choice Awards is the premier industry event recognizing leadership in digital marketing, brought to you by the Industry Index and Advertising Week. The annual gala is the capstone of the Industry Index Innovation Series, bringing together thought leading digital marketers and best-in-class advertising technologies.

I’ve been nominated in Mobile Innovators category. I am the youngest nominee in the category. Win, lose, or draw, it feels great to be acknowledged like this.

Marketer leaders have been nominated and selected by their peers in the ad tech space.  Marketer categories recognize excellence in pushing forward innovation – championing technologies throughout organizations and exceptional thought leadership in their channel.

My path to this point has been far from traditional. Thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way, and a big shout-out to everyone who nominated me.

Email Management: My 30 Day Gmail Efficiency Experiment

Email management is a complete waste of time. At the same time, my personal email inbox out of control. It started in the Hiptics days when I naively listed that email on the site for new music submissions. As the site took off, I was added to countless Press lists.  To this day, I still get an overwhelming number of “please consider this music for review” type of messages in my inbox.

Growth Hackers: Here’s 3 Reasons To Drop ‘Hacker’ From Your Title

Do you call yourself a growth hacker? Those of us who work at startups know at least one person who has ‘growth hacker’ as their job title on LinkedIn. I want to make a case for why ‘growth hackers’ ought to find a better way to describe what they do. More specifically, drop the ‘hacker’ from your title.

Growth Hackers Chart

Before I begin, you should know that I am a ‘growth hacker’. I was a growth hacker before Sean Ellis coined the term in 2008.

Here’s the proof: I started a blog in 2008 that made the WordPress ‘top 100’ in less than 8 months. From 2010 to 2011, organic traffic increased 236%. When it was all said and done, I built an audience of 160,000 unique monthly readers without a marketing budget.

Instead, I used legitimate growth hacks to quickly grow readership, a social media following and build an email list with thousands of subscribers.

There’s plenty more I could share about my own ‘growth hacking’ accomplishments, but that’s not the point of this post.

My point is that even though I identify with the growth hacking community, I would never want to be described as a growth hacker.

1. The word ‘hacker’ has a negative connotation to just about everybody.

When the majority of the general public hears the word hacker, they think about credit card scams or celebrity photo leaks.

It sounds sketchy because 99.9% of the time ‘hacker’ is used to describe something negative.

The definition of the word Hacker

2. To describe our accomplishments as ‘growth hacks’ marginalizes what we do.

Getting 20,000 people to sign-up for your email list is an impressive feat.

Getting 17,000+ to visit a brand new blog takes serious skill.

Calling things like this ‘growth hacks’ makes it sound like it was a magic trick.

Also, the word ‘hack’ carries the same negative connotation as ‘hacker’. When you play golf, is it a good thing if you ‘hack’ your shot? If you are a professional writer, is it a compliment when someone calls you a hack?

Golf Hacks

3. Describing growth experts as growth hackers makes it harder to legitimize the skill-set.

It’s hard work legitimizing a new form of marketing. There is always a small percentage of professionals who give the profession a bad name. Public relations executives still have to fight the perception that PR is professional truth-spinning. Similarly, SEO professionals are dealing with the negative connotations the word ‘SEO’ carries thanks to ‘black hat’ SEO practitioners.

Growth hackers are going to face the same perception battle as PR and SEO, but are setting themselves up to have to fight harder because of the inherently negative connotation that the term ‘growth hacker’ carries.

Growth hackers are cutting-edge marketing professionals who find innovative ways to achieve meaningful results. What they (we) do is cool. It’s important. But we ought to take our own advice about A/B testing and split test the title ‘growth hacker’ vs. another, more positive sounding job title. See what the average salaries are for the different job titles? It’s just a start.

What do you think of the term growth hacker? Please share some ideas for new ways to refer to growth hacking in the comments.

7 Lessons I Learned Building A Blog With 160,000 Unique Monthly Readers

It was May 2008. I was a 20 year-old college kid, and just finished my sophomore year at Denison University. It was around this time that I found myself reading music blogs on a daily basis. I had been consuming the content on hip-hop websites and forums since middle school. Now, though, blogs were part of my daily mix.

A few weeks after launching the blogspot, I moved to New York City to start a summer internship at a travel startup called Eurocheapo. There was something in the Manhattan air that made me want to go full-force with my blog. I decided that it needed it’s own brand name and domain name. I settled on Hiptics; the hip’ from Hip-Hop and the ‘tics from Politics.  Even though I eventually focused solely on covering the world of hip-hop, the name stuck.

My goal was simply to see if I could make a popular website.

In February 2009, only 8 months after launching, Hiptics was ranked as one of WordPress’ “top 100″ blogs based on traffic. By February 2011, Hiptics had over 160,000 unique monthly readers from around the world. Organic traffic was up 236% year-over-year. I was supporting myself from advertising revenue.

In less than three years, I went from a passionate hip-hop fan to one of the most prominent hip-hop tastemakers online. I didn’t have any money to spend on marketing, but I was able to build an audience of over 160,000 unique monthly readers in less than three years.

I created one of the most popular new music blogs of all time without a marketing budget. Here’s 7 lessons I learned from the experience.

1. You need to be passionate about the subject. The driving force from 0-to-160,000 unique monthly readers was my passion for hip-hop music. Getting a website off the ground is hard work. In the first year requires that you give a lot of your time and get little in return. Passion is what gets you through that period. There have been times I have thought about applying my growth formula to other, more lucrative niches. For example, I could make a website about a topic that commands high CPM advertising rates. The problem is it would be a miserable existence. The consistency required to get a blog off the ground, let alone reach hundreds of thousands of unique monthly readers, is hard to

2. Deliver value to your readers consistently. Consistency is what separates blogs from blog businesses.There were some days where I published upwards of 16 new blog posts. I can’t remember ever missing a day of posting. It became like brushing my teeth; I felt off if I didn’t do it at least twice a day. The most popular blogs create fresh new content every day. As a result, readers check back every day. It’s how you develop the viral loop. Posting quality content every single day is good for other reasons, too. It makes you better at blogging because you find your voice. Your writing starts to read more like how you talk rather than how you would write an English paper in high school.  Also, the more content you are creating, the more content Google is indexing. More content means more potential eyeballs. Just make sure it’s good content. If you add value to the web, Google will reward you for it.

3. Master search engine optimization. You will spend a lot of time creating content. SEO is the smartest way maximize the reach of your content. The summer I started my blog, I had an internship in New York City at a travel startup where I was introduced to the basics of SEO. That sparked my interest in optimizing content for search engines. I began educating myself on the inner-workings of Google’s algorithm. It seemed like the most logical thing to do: I wanted to make a popular website, but had $0 to spend on marketing. SEO is always evolving so it can be challenging to stay current. However, there’s no better way to learn SEO, and stay current, then to have a real, live website to experiment with. It also doesn’t hurt that SEO is a valuable skill to have in today’s economy.

4. Live-and-breathe your analytics. If you don’t pay attention to your metrics, you’re at a huge disadvantage. I started using Google Analytics — which is free, btw — to see how many people came to the site each day. That lead to me paying attention to what pages got the most traffic, time spent on site, mobile vs desktop usage, and much more. All of these metrics guided decisions not only about the content, but the product itself.

5. Keep narrowing your focus. Tracking my analytics, specifically by looking at what posts were viewed most, allowed me to narrow the focus of the site. I started out publishing everything hip-hop: interviews, videos, concert footage, new music, album reviews, etc. Over time, I narrowed the focus to 2-3 verticals under the hip-hop umbrella. Narrowing the content scope makes the content better, and easier to generate. When you know what you are creating, you aren’t easily distracted. It keeps you focused.

6. Capture exclusive video content. Over the three years I ran my blog, I published exclusive interviews and concert footage with artists like Nas, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Warren G, Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa, Wale, and many more. This legitimized my blog’s brand and exposed my blog to millions of hip-hop fans.

One day when I was working that internship, I heard Nas was going to be leading a protest at the Fox News headquarters in midtown manhattan. During my lunch break, I headed uptown with a Flipcam to see if I could get some footage. Not only did I get front-row footage, but I worked myself into the press line and asked Nas a question.

7. I found really good people to help me. Right after my site brought Wiz Khalifa to my campus to perform, I got a call from a freshman who said he loves hip-hop and wanted to be part of the site in any way. His name was Ian Rummler. Ian would wind up blogging regularly and eventually became Editor-in-Chief. Having another passionate hip-hop fan blogging increased the volume of content, and made the product better for daily readers who came by for a fix of new hip-hop music.

To learn more about how I built an audience of 160,000 unique monthly readers, subscribe to my newsletter using the form below. 

The 5-Step Formula For Rappers Who Want To Grow Like Tech Startups

Up-and-coming rappers and technology startups face the same main challenge: grow fast.

This post is my attempt to bridge two worlds that I know very well: the hip-hop industry and the tech startup community. Specifically, I propose a 5 step system that can be used by up-and-coming rappers to grow their fan-base like a tech startup grows their app user-base. 

Mobile App Marketing: The 4 Biggest Challenges You’re Up Against

Mobile App Marketing Challenges Ahead Photo

Mobile App Marketing has never been more challenging. Here is what you’re up against marketing a mobile app in 2014:

Marketing mobile apps is hard work, even if you have the greatest app of all time. I have found it to be a worthwhile challenge, though. I wrote this post to share my insight on what you are up against if you are marketing a mobile app or thinking about developing a mobile app.