The Art of the Growth Hack: A Play in One Act

Andrew Littlefield By Andrew Littlefield January 10, 2017


Lights up on a hotel conference room. Plain, generic-looking chairs are laid out in neat rows. A high-top table in the back is adorned with a pitcher of water, with several discarded plastic cups laying on the floor beneath. At the front of the room stands Larry Gordon, instructor for Hack University. He wears jeans, sneakers, and a grey hoodie, his wild hair standing straight out from his head like a lion’s mane. Seated sporadically in front of him are six attendees, laptops out, ready to take notes.


Alright everyone, if I could have your attention please, we’re ready to get started.

First, I wanted to say welcome, and of course, congratulations on being here today at the Hack University Growth Seminar. We’ve got 2 tremendous days of learning planned for you, and by the end of the weekend, you’ll be able to confidently introduce yourself as a “Growth Hacker” at your next startup happy hour event.

[He paces before the crowd at the front of the room.]

One quick housekeeping note: my apologies for the temperature in the room. I know it’s freezing, but you know how these hotels are. Also, the staff has requested that we only use the restrooms down the hall to the left, and not the ones to the right, as those are reserved for the prom happening tonight in the ballroom.

[He walks to a lectern and picks up a remote control for his computer.]

For this morning’s session, we’ll be learning that most venerated of growth hacking skills: the viral how-to article. We’re going to learn how to write an article that generates 50,000 page views, all in a matter of hours with zero budget!

[He pauses and scans his audience, desperate for a reaction, before beginning to slowly pace again.]

Will this help your employer grow? Not really. But what matters here is your personal brand. Viral success leads to growth hacking notoriety, and growth hacking notoriety leads to being invited to all sorts of speaking gigs at local meetups and forum AMAs. And that leads to… well I’m not sure what that leads to, but that’s beside the point.

(No Guru is complete without a sweet social media guru look. Dress your guru above!)


Everybody ready? Let’s get to it!

[Larry motions towards a large projector screen at center stage, positioned such that the audience can read it clearly.]

(On Projector) “Writing a Headline”


I know what you’re thinking: a headline before writing the article? Seems a little backwards.

It’s called disrupting. Get used to it, cowboy, because you’re going to be doing a lot of it.


Headlines are all about enticing people to click on your article—it’s got to pique their interest but not give too much away. Here at Hack University, we’ve studied this topic at length. Our data says you should always use the following formula:

(On Projector):

[Larry reads the words aloud in a monotone voice, almost shouting, before continuing.]

This! This is a headline that works. Simple and effective. For example: “How I Got 6,785 Email Subscribers in 14 Days, Spending Just $7”

Now that’s a headline that’s sure to jump to the top of the message boards and entice some email opens!

[He turns to face the attendees, pausing to gauge their reaction, then points the remote towards the screen while still staring them down.]

(On Projector) “Write Your Article”


There are 2 main sections you need to nail down in your article. The first is the introduction. In this section, you want to convince the reader that you used to be a schlub, just like him and/or her. Now this is key—you need to draw your reader in with the alluring idea that they too can be as successful as you, if only they had this one simple trick.

Once that’s done, you can dive into the body where you explain, step-by-step, the easy method you used to achieve incredible digital marketing success. Whatever that technique is is entirely up to you, but if I’m being honest—it’s not all that important. The majority of readers won’t attempt to actually replicate your techniques, they’ll just sit and think about them for 20 minutes. And share it on Twitter, of course.

Of course, no single marketing strategy exists in a vacuum—success is the sum of your efforts all working together and informing future strategy. And of course, what works for one person won’t work for another.

But that doesn’t read well.

(On Projector) “Photoshop Your Google Analytics Screenshots”


No growth hacking article is complete without some screenshots of your website’s GA dashboard to prove that your techniques are highly effective.

The only problem is, steady growth over time (along with completely normal down periods) is kind of boring.

(On Projector):

Google Analytics


Instead, you’ll want to massage the numbers a bit, which is easy enough in Photoshop.

(On Projector):


Some cutting, free transforming, and painting…

(On Projector):


…and let’s make those numbers a little more gaudy.

(On Projector):


Aaaaaand voila! Now that’s impressive!

Sprinkle these “Screenshots” throughout your article to prove how successful you are and why people should copy your methods blindly.

Lastly, make sure you solicit a few hundred “experts” for a quote on whatever subject you’re writing about. Maybe a few of them will tweet your article, and that’s got to be good for a dozen pageviews or so.

(On Projector) “Promotion Time”


Alright, now that all that boring writing and creating is out of the way, it’s time for the fun part—promotion!

You’re going to want to get that article in front of as many eyes as possible, so here are a few tried and true methods for racking up views.

[He quickens his cadence as he speaks, pointing the remote towards the screen with dramatic flourish with each new slide.]

(On Projector) “Post and Upvote on Discussion Sites”


Reddit,, Growth Hackers, Hacker News, everywhere! Post your article, then send the link to all your colleagues to upvote it immediately to game the system and get it stuck to the top of the page. Once it’s there, people will upvote it without reading it because of that awesome headline you wrote.

(On Projector) “Spam Message People on LinkedIn”


Toy with people’s delicate egos by messaging them on LinkedIn and asking for “feedback.” You’re not going to actually use any of their feedback, but maybe a few of them will feel obligated to share it.

(On Projector) “Endless Promote on All Social Channels”


Use some sort of robot to endless share your article on your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn account. Everything you share should be a link to your blog. That’s why people are following you.

(On Projector) “Convert Those Visitors!”

[He returns to his normal speaking cadence.]


Pageviews are nice, but the real sweetness is email subscribers. A list of email addresses lets you blast your new articles, webinars, and email courses to an ever growing audience of people who never open your messages.

About 3 seconds after landing on your article—before everything is finished loading—have a full-page popup appear asking people to subscribe. Make up some number about how many people already read your blog.

[He pauses as the attendees furiously type into their laptops.]

Now here’s the most important part: your popup should have only two options. One should be green and say “Yes! I want to be a growth MASTER!” The other should be red and say “No thanks, I don’t want to subscribe and I’m a disappointment to my family.”

(On Projector):


Bonus points for making the popup shake around… you know, to get their attention.

(On Projector) “Optimize Your Social Profiles”


Once people read your article, they’re going to want to check out your bonafides on social media, so you need to make sure your profiles are in tip-top shape.

Our research shows that the best Twitter profile should contain the following:

[Bullet points appear on the screen as he reads each one.]

  • Your Myers-Briggs personality type (just pick one)
  • Multiple, coastal cities listed under your location
  • Identify yourself as a “Speaker, Coach, Influencer” then a few more silly titles that don’t really make sense like “Bacon Enthusiast” or “Unapologetic Reality TV Lover.” Refer to the Twitter Bio Generator for ideas.
  • Unnecessarily aggressive defensive statement about your love for the Oxford comma

Yes, I know literally everyone uses the Oxford comma without issue, but loudly stating your defense of it makes you look intelligent. And finally…

  • End with “RTs =/= Endorsements”

On LinkedIn, it’s best to just load your personal statement with every growth marketing phrase you can think of. From there, share lots of quotable business advice from turtleneck-wearing entrepreneurs, even if it sounds like terrible advice.

(On Projector):



So brave. So disruptive.

[He pauses, staring at the image on the projector, just long enough for comedic effect. A student coughs uncomfortably, shaking him from his stupor.]


Alright folks, we’re going to break for lunch now. You have a few food options in the lobby, but you’re probably better off just heading to one of the burger joints across the street.

[Attendees begin gathering their belongings.]

Oh! I almost forgot. You’ll see some course evaluations being passed around, if you could go ahead and fill those out before you leave, that’d be great. I’m legally obligated to inform you that these are admissible in court.

[Fade to black as students shuffle off stage right.]

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