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.
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.
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?
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.