Friday, July 31, 2015

Growth Hacking For Civic Hacks: Part 2

Part 1 of this post series presented the basics of what growth hacking is. Today’s post will consider relevant points from an article about growth hacking for civic hacks and from an article with a viewpoint about what ‘true’ growth hacking really is.

I’ll start with quote from “7 Tactics for Your Civic App That You Can Learn From Twitter and Airbnb” and a suggestion to read whole article. This is the only online resource I’ve found so far that talks about growth hacking for civic hacking. That’s one sign there’s not enough of it being done.
There is an art to developing a user base. One set of best practices and tactics for getting users is called “growth hacking.”...So what’s worked for growth hackers that might also work for civic applications?...civic application creators...almost never have one person (let alone a team) of people who are dedicated to marketing. 
The idea is pretty simple: don’t create a product and then start thinking about marketing it. Think like a marketer from the beginning: create a product that at least one group of people actually wants to use… 
The best way to figure out what people want is to find them where they are and ask. This allows you not just to create a useful app but also to save money on things like PR, social media outreach, ads, and media partnerships...Some of the projects that I’ve spoken to recently about their citizen engagement efforts...saw the most engagement when they went directly to people in their homes and asked them to use their platforms...A Mexican civic application called Tehuan learned through experience that traditional PR...didn’t work nearly as well as word of mouth. So they started putting more energy into encouraging users to share their reports with friends online...Share it on Facebook and Twitter... 
One benefit of having a smaller community of target users (this is the case for civic apps, since not that many people are actively engaged with issues of public concern) is that you can directly contact early users and encourage them to share their experience with friends, colleagues and family. It’s even better if you can build this reliance on networks into your application... 
The backbone of growth hacking is its emphasis on data collection and iteration. It’s pretty rare for a civic application to have a marketing guru on staff, but there are a host of applications that make it easier for tiny teams to process empirical information about how users are experiencing their application and how they can change it to make a better...All of this adds up to a lot of work and it may not be realistic for civic technologists and non-governmental organizations to put time and money into such activities. However, a lot of the tactics mentioned here represent a way of looking at the process of creating a civic application as much as they represent hours of additional work. For example, building features and providing information that you know your market wants and needs doesn’t require extra human resources. It merely requires you to be conscious of your market throughout the entire process of creating a civic application...”
The above article highlights the basics of the right way to create a new product (make that product be something for which there’s an actual market need, something that people will want to use), then proceeds to cover Marketing 101 steps for civic hacks. It seems to me that the US / global civic hacking community would benefit from a collaborative effort to determine and share market needs, to shine a spotlight on best-of-breed civic hacks, and to do everything possible to create ten to twenty civic hack ‘killer apps’ that every city will want to use. For open source projects designed to make our communities better, there is no reason to compete or to hoard information that might help the other person, or the other hack, or the other city, do better than we will in our city. That’s not the situation in for-profit capitalist businesses, where competition generally means much less collaboration. Civic hacking has much less need for competition and many more reasons to work together.

Rob Moffat’s definition of growth hacking in “Defining growth hacking” has a lot to do with finding effective ways to be different from the crowd. By definition, that means you need to think differently because successful growth hacks will be copied by many people and, therefore, have a short shelf life. His definition for the term is “finding innovative mechanisms that acquire new users at a cost that is low enough to be irrelevant.” His view of civic hacking seems to be that a large part of what is called growth hacking is merely mainstream marketing which is using the buzzword to attract clients by promoting themselves and their companies as growth hackers.

Moffat gives these examples of what he considers true growth hacking:

  • Dropbox’s offer of free storage for inviting friends (cost for Dropbox near-zero, high value to users, very successful).
  • Using public web data (Craigslist, Gumtree) to identify your perfect target clients and approach them automatically in an intelligent way (e.g. we have automatically created a listing for you, click here to accept).
  • Sending a tweet out when you have fresh baked goods.
  • Automatically alerting users when an item they have looked at is nearly out of stock. ( are masters of this).
  • Mailbox’s waiting list.
  • CSR Racing ‘tweet a photo of your ride.’

My main takeaways from these articles are (1) there should be more collaboration nationwide and worldwide on creating a set of effective and widely used top-tier civic hacks, and (2) growth hacking will be most successful for a civic hack when there is high value and strong market demand for that hack, and the growth hacks will be unique to that product, or at least a new twist which connects a huge number of users at a very low cost.

Today’s first article pointed out that civic hacking doesn’t generally have much of a marketing budget. The second article says ‘that’s ok, because true growth hacking acquires many users for almost no cost.'


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