Consumer Growth

with Jim Scheinman

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Gray Area

Sharing, not spamming

Jim Scheinman

Founder, CEO, Managing Partner & Resident Growth Hacker

Lessons Learned

Sharing with friends on social networks & via email is huge part of explosive growth.

There is a gray area in growth hacking; do not be a spammer.

Allow users to opt-in to sharing; never post on their behalf without their knowledge.


Lesson: Consumer Growth with Jim Scheinman

Step #5 Gray Area: Sharing, not spamming

So email scraping is when you would enable a customer to put in their username and password on Gmail or Yahoo mail and then it would go into your account and say "Here are your thousand contacts, which ones would you like to invite to this new service?" Probably by 2005 or 2006 after Facebook and Myspace had really started taking off, it became evident that that was a big part of people's success. I think that there was a lot of learning going on. You have to be very careful when you're doing growth because it can be explosive and there is a gray area where you want to be careful not to certainly go anywhere over the gray area where you're going to upset customers, for example, by spamming them.

So a very simple example could be that if you, say, invite your friends to the service you can pre-check. The worst thing you could do is automatically send the invite and actually most companies don't do that anymore. There are still some examples of that and maybe the better example instead of using email would be Facebook. So you can use the Facebook platform. So you would, say, log into your Facebook account and then there are a couple of things you could do. You could automatically send out an email saying, "Check out Zana, it's awesome," which it is awesome, you should check it out, but you shouldn't send that on someone's behalf on Facebook without their permission.

So the right way to do it is to say, "Here's the message we're going to send, which one of your friends would you like us to send it to?" And then you opt into those friends that you want to send it to and you press send, right. Now, that would be the right way to do it. A little bit more aggressive would be, "Here's the message you're going to send to your friend. Would you like to send it?" If you press send it goes to your thousand friends on Facebook. It's technically okay, potentially, arguably maybe not okay. It's certainly not getting user permission. You're in the gray area and you might really make your customers upset and it's probably not something you should do.

You see a lot of companies who are maybe a little bit more desperate to get traffic doing that and they need to really dial that back or they're going to end up hurting themselves and eventually it'll be a negative impact. Then clearly, the wrong thing to do would be to say push send and not even tell you the message that you've sent out and that it went out to all of your friends. You see that once in a while, but the Facebooks of the world and the LinkedIns are going to shut you down if you start doing that and it's really just not the best practices.

Once again, if you're trying to growth hack a bad product, that'll work for just a little while, even being super-aggressive, but eventually it'll catch up to you. The most important thing is to really focus on your product and your value proposition. Make sure you have the product/market fit, then you can growth hack. Then you can start using organic growth techniques to grow your user base.

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