You may have come across the term ‘growth hacking’ amidst lots of speculation by marketers about what it actually entails. Marketing author, Muhammad Saleem, for example thinks it’s a load of bull, so to avoid any fisticuffs at dawn let’s just leave that buzzword out of things.
Brand growth hacking is one of those catchy phrases thrown around in the industry but what many marketers don’t realise is that most of the tactics that come under it are ones they already utilise. When hacking growth you basically use everything at your disposal to your advantage in order to improve your chances of bringing your brand to life. It’s marketing 101, right?
However, sometimes it’s hard to escape the concept of ‘hacking’. We all love finding easier ways to do things (such as the Babymop, which is obviously an ingenious idea) so we’ll indulge you with three great, actionable tips on how to hack your brand to get you going:
Focus on your audience
You’ve heard it all before; people want to be inspired, educated or are simply seeking answers when online – as well as watching compilation videos of cats falling off things and guilty looking dogs.
However, one of easiest hacks for growth is simply paying close to attention to what your audience wants from you. Happy followers encourage more people to join your fan base. But first, do you actually know who your audience is?
Silly question, of course you do, you’ve done your homework with your Facebook Graph Search research and you’ve come up with some fun personas – it’s almost like playing a game of Sims, but without the ability to build a house and ruin everyone’s lives at the end of the process.
Once you know your personas and what platforms they use it’s time to bring your brand to life. Let’s start with using one of the most commonly utilised social media sites for businesses, since the dawn of time (well, since 2006): the Twitter machine.
‘But the audience is so niche on there,’ you cry. ‘How can I find my followers and have my voice heard amongst the teenagers taking pictures of their breakfast and uploading their videos of failed Kylie Jenner lip challenges?’
Stop worrying – and do watch some of those lip challenge videos because they are hilarious - focusing on your audience will encourage engagement, retweets and hey, new followers. It’s like the circle of life and at the end of it all you’ll be left with a mystical baboon holding your brand’s profile in the air and naming you as the new ruler of your industry sector on Twitter.
You know that taking advantage of emerging and existing platforms is a sure fire way of bringing your brand to life and by making it all really personal on Twitter you will reap the rewards. ASOS is a good example of a brand that’s got the right idea on the site. Exchanges like this with potential customers help greatly when it comes to bringing a brand to life and leading to eventual growth:
— ASOS Here to Help (@ASOS_HeretoHelp) April 14, 2015
Take some time to respond to customer enquiry tweets and show that you’re not a faceless entity with your hand out for your consumer’s money. The more you tweet and interact the bigger the potential growth. Don’t forget to sweeten the deal with competitions and giveaways (that people obviously have to retweet about to enter).
So, while that’s a good starting point, it could be something you’re doing already but not really investing in. Take some time to see what people are saying about you, what they want to talk to you about and what gets shared the most.
You also need to be continuously posting content your audience is going to actively engage with. BlackMilk is an excellent example of a brand that does just this and only really posts statuses on Facebook and Instagram because it knows that’s where its fan base usually hangs out.
The brand’s seemingly simple use of interesting captions on top of great imagery (usually sent in by customers) pulls in its audience. I like to imagine the owners simply sitting back after posting, wearing their (very comfortable) skin-tight leggings while the comment feed fills up with happy responses.
We didn't choose the Merlife, the Merlife chose us. pic.twitter.com/nccMNznHVF
— Black Milk Clothing (@BlackMilkTweets) May 2, 2015
According to Facebook Graph Search, people who like BlackMilk also like Dr Martens, Drop Dead Clothing, DC Snowboarding and bands with names like Skinny Puppy, which tells you a lot about the type of person buying their products and gives them scope to create relevant content. The brand has got to know its audience over time and has built up almost a cult following of people, desperate to get their hands on some of its nylon goodies. It refers to its customers as Sharkies (because when a sale hits they’re on it like a shark who smells blood) and that you ‘nom’ their products instead of purchasing them. Hey, if it works it works, you just need to go and find your niche too. Do some snooping using the Facebook search bar, have a look at what successful competitors have been up to and discover what makes their followers engage.
So how do I ‘hack’ my audience?
You should be taking advantage of the latest platforms and even if you download them and have no idea to use them, don’t hastily delete them off your iPad. Take some time to learn and reap the rewards.
Instagram is quickly advancing on Twitter and Facebook when it comes to boosting a brand; the visual app allows brands to give their followers a ‘behind the scenes’ look into what they get up to - people just love to feel involved and see the ins and outs of things – and so the site is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with, in the world of social media.
Snapchat is another example that could help bring your brand to life visually, as it allows you to regularly send image updates to followers who are interested in what you get up to. Periscope is another rising star, purchased by Twitter, it works as a live stream video broadcast and is a great tool for those brands who hold events or are out and about a lot and want to share what they’re up to in that moment.
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We know what you’re thinking; email marketing is the root of all evil. It’s the PPI call of the marketing world, the guy who knocks on your door at eight in the morning on a Saturday to sell you double glazing, it’s the people in rain macs, who stand in the middle of the high street in your town centre and practically tackle you to discuss their latest offer.
But email marketing is a tradition passed down throughout the industry through the ages and one you shouldn’t be retiring yet – no matter what other people say. There are some simply things you should (and shouldn’t) be doing to ensure it works for you, because good businesses get into some bad routines when it comes to sending out emails.
So how do I ‘hack’ my email marketing?
The first step is to stop sending out promotions every single minute of the day. The more emails you send the more likely it is that people will swiftly hit the unfollow button (unless you now have a daily routine of simply deleting the 50 emails that enter your inbox like some of us.)
If you know your audience on social media you will also know when they are most active, and while it might be tempting to send your emails out for when they first check their phone in the morning remember everyone else is doing the same, so perhaps wait until lunchtime when they ignore their colleagues and sit looking at their smartphone, while picking at a sad tuna salad.
For your email marketing to work you also need good content and no one will ever read it if you don’t get your subject line right – strangely, as soon as most people read the word discount in the title they’ll delete it because they instantly know you’re selling something. Here are some quick examples of the type of email many of us regularly discover in our inbox:
Sure, we can see what some of these companies are trying to do; Grazia are weighing in with the classic temptation tactic, Twinings are offering something special for a limited time and Depop are being cryptic. But do we actually want to read any of these? Nope.
For all we know, these emails might have great content but their subject line lets them down. Here’s an example of a great email from a company called Firebox, sent when a purchase has been made:
Now that’s how you do a transaction email.
However, once you subscribe to the company’s marketing you might receive promotional emails, with subject lines like this:
That subject line probably means absolutely nothing to you and because you don’t care about it, into the bin it will go with the rest of them. The trick to hacking your email marketing is to focus on what people see first, then make the content inside informative, interesting and even personal.
Avoid discount promotions in the subject line, limited time only offers and bank holiday promos, send out emails with content your audience wants to receive and then slip your promotions in there. Once the receiver enjoys receiving your content and continues to open your emails, your brand will grow as a result from all those click throughs to your site.
Okay, this ‘hack’ is a little harder but Luke Lewis, Editor of Buzzfeed UK, has some sound tips on how to take advantage of anything going viral out there (you can also check out our very own Adam Brown’s post on the subject).
Luke spoke earlier this year, at a Guardian Masterclass event, and as the Editor of Buzzfeed he knows all about making content work for you and while the Buzzfeed brand works simply as a platform for news stories (and those funny lists that help with procrastination) it is now synonymous with entertainment.
First things first though, Lewis recommends that you ensure your digital presence can be easily viewed both on desktop and mobile. “There is a shift in viewing posts from web traffic to mobile apps – it is quickly becoming the new way of consuming content,” he said. “People will read a lengthy article on their smartphone if it’s good enough.”
You also need to be in the loop constantly and looking for news or a post that’s making the rounds that you can jump onto and take advantage of. A good example of this is that frustrating black and blue (white and gold) dress that got everyone talking, back in February.
Overnight the Internet exploded in debate – more so than when we witnessed Kim Kardashian naked and covered in baby oil, balancing a champagne glass on her rear - over the colour of a dress. The media took to the street asking bemused random passers by, people lost friends on Facebook because they disagreed and your eyes eventually deceived you when you discovered you could actually see it in both colour variations.
Buzzfeed hopped on the dress bandwagon but they did a little more with it, than just share the image and ask the question. They brought in experts, an associate professor of psychology and a cognitive neuroscientist, to explain to people why they might be seeing the dress in different colours. As a result that post has been viewed nearly three million times – and we just gave them a few more hits with that link above.
“We had to keep a close eye on the site to stop it crashing,” Luke told the masterclass attendees. “That black and blue dress is one of our most popular posts ever.”
However, Buzzfeed doesn’t feature advertising on its site (only sponsored posts) and so those millions of hits didn’t actually result in any money for the brand. One masterclass attendee – presumably with pound signs for pupils, we didn’t get that close - asked why the site bothers if they aren’t going to see any revenue from their post.
“It’s simply about exploiting live events as they happen,” Luke responded. So, when people read that post they might have also shared it, before noticing another one they fancy looking at on the top bar. This might then send them to an article that does bring in money, boosting the brand’s follower growth and creating a nice trail of click throughs.
So how should I ‘hack’ into viral content?
First, take a look at your site for your on page content. Is it easily viewable on a mobile platform? If not, work on that. Luke also noted that a lot of the site’s posts are now being shared via Whatsapp and so they have incorporated a share button for the app, confirming that utilising mobile devices is the way forward when it comes to content. Ensuring your site is responsive could mean a complete website rebuild or incorporating an alternative mobile view into an existing site. Just ensure the transition of your website from desktop to smartphone is smooth and easy.
Then you can take advantage by creating blogposts, sending out tweets and doing live commentary or promotions based on events that are dominating your industry or the wider Internet. These are some great sites to keep an eye on:
Imgur – this is the place where viral images are born.
Vine – and this is the place where viral 7-second videos are born.
Buzzsumo – this site is great when you’re looking for content that’s shareable in your industry.
Tumblr – this is where the blue and black dress originated, so it must be good for sourcing viral content to piggyback on.
Buzzfeed – it might be a day or so old but it will have gained real momentum once reaching Buzzfeed.
Twitter – for real time potential viral content keep an eye on what’s being said on trending hashtags.
Reddit – this is the birthplace for all viral content and threads, up voting pushes up the popular content and Internet memes for you to enjoy and use in your marketing.
What’s Trending – this is a site that gathers all the media that’s currently trending and serves it up in a nice neat blog format.
To conclude, what you need to do to hack your growth and boost your brand isn’t breaking news. We’ve been doing these things for a while. We all know we need Twitter accounts for business but do we really think about what we are going to post on them? We all use email marketing but do we think creatively about the subject line? We all know that we need to take advantage of events going on in our industry but do we plan ahead and actually utilise them? Focus on these things and you’ll see real growth in the future.
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