The Growth Hacker Movement Is Poisonous
The growth hacker movement has been all the rage for the past year and it's becoming poisonous. Everyone and their mother is writing about "How to do the growth hack!" - the term is quickly becoming diluted from overuse.
Just to be clear, growth hacking itself isn't bad. How could it be? It's just a more modern definition of what people in charge of growing a user/customer base does. There are some serious problems the community is suffering from that stem from the recent idolization of growth hackers.
The movement is devaluing actual growth hackers
How many 652 Actionable Growth Hacks You Can Do Today! articles have you seen lately? The articles are usually filled with generic, one-size-fits-all advice with obvious things like "SEO!" and "test your button colors!". Apparently, all you have to do apply this bag-of-tricks to be a growth hacker. There is usually some merit to the advice given in these articles, but it's often so obvious that it's like suggesting "Remember to use your arms!" in an article about how to be a professional swimmer.
Finding huge, long-term drivers of growth is hard and usually very specific to the company that employs them. Suggesting that all one has to do to be a growth hacker is "just A/B test it!" downplays the difficulty of the job.
It's taking the focus away from building a remarkable product
This issue is a second-order effect of all of the cursory articles.
Remember kids, if you aren't getting a healthy flow of new users, just apply the old grab-bag of tricks. I worry people will forget that products that provide real lasting value are the ones that are successful in the long-term. Growth is a false proxy for long-term success and this movement glorifies vanity metrics.
A photo from a recent blog post on the Intercom.io blog illustrates this perfectly.
Maybe we should be focusing on retention hacking instead of growth hacking?
Unfortunately, Growth Hackers will suffer the same fate as the "Social Media Experts" and "SEO Experts" before them. The definition gets so watered-down as everyone who doesn't code appends it to the end of their Twitter bio.
Try to remember that finding large, long-term drivers of growth is actually really hard to do and takes a lot of creativity and testing. Maybe more importantly, remember that remarkable products win in the long-term, not the ones that blow up in a few weeks because they require you to authenticate with Facebook before watching your cat vids.