When we built Rap Genius, we were stoned literally the entire time. We raised millions of dollars from Ben Horowitz whilst ensconced in a thick marijuana fog.
How were we able to do this, you ask? Because Rap Genius is one of the only cool things on the Internet. So, with very, very, very little effort, I was able to get millions upon millions of users on my site.
But it’s also because I am a “growth hacker.”
To be honest, I want to throw up when people call me a “growth hacker.” It makes me sound nerdy as fuck. Even though I have tremendous respect for my friend Ryan Holiday and enjoy his book “Growth Hacker Marketing” and the wisdom therein contained… I don’t like the title.
However, people say I’m good at it. Is this true? Am I a “growth hacking guru”? Alas — I cannot tell you. To quote the sagacious rabbi Maimonides: “All I know, truly, is that I do not know.” (I got in trouble with Google…)
BUT — that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to spout wisdom unto you. And so, below, I will attempt to construct a Listicle of my Most Precious “Thugged Out Tactics” to get attention on the internet:
Twitter is the Alpha and Omega of social media marketing. However, the confusing part is that Twitter’s core function — Tweeting — is pretty much useless. NOBODY READS TWEETS. People only like Twitter because they enjoy Tweeting into the abyss. For some reason, it makes them feel special. So when you send out your stupid, corporate-sounding Tweets, it doesn’t matter if they’re good or not, because nobody is reading them.
So why is Twitter important? The magic is the @ replies. Everyone reads their @ replies. It makes them feel loved and important to know someone out there is actually reading and appreciating their Tweets.
Another interesting thing about @ replies: people get even more excited getting @ replies from a corporate Twitter than from a real person. Twitter is literally the only way a company can talk to potential clients where the conversation is welcomed. When you get corporate emails or phone calls, all you think is “spam”. But when you get a corporate @ reply, you get excited and (quite often) you favorite and retweet it to show off to your friends that Corporate America thinks you’re important, gosh darn it.
The most painful thing in my life was when I had to relinquish control of the Rap Genius Twitter to the employees. It happened right after Kanye West got in trouble for going apeshit on his fans at a concert. So, in my final tweet, I paraphrased him:
I came here…I open up a mountain…and you tryna tell me how to tweet on my twitter…..
— Rap Genius (@RapGenius) December 11, 2013
I miss the Rap Genius Twitter sooo much! I miss the power and adoration that comes with control of a corporate Twitter (especially one with lots of followers). When I Tweeted at girls with the @RapGenius handle, it made them really excited.
In fact, I felt a huge hole in my life for the past 2 years, until a month ago when I started Tweeting from the Everipedia Twitter… now I feel like I have my scimitar back! So go on, give me a follow and make me feel powerful again.
Twitter is like The Law. Similar to how corporations can break a shitload of laws and courts forgive them, Twitter shows more love to corporations than to actual humans. Handing your corporate Twitter over to some ignorant college grad “social media” guy is pretty much the dumbest thing you can do, because — if used wisely — Twitter is your greatest guerilla thug marketing asset.
I’m not really a Reddit expert. Reddit is just too nerdy for me — it reminds me of the age before I learned to embrace masturbation, when I felt deeply ashamed of my newfound habit. I have a deep-seeded aversion to Reddit for this reason; I should talk to my therapist about it.
But I digress. Reddit drives more traffic to your site than anything else (except winning Google searches). What’s more, the masturbating nerds on Reddit are precisely the type of people who are prone to becoming hardcore addicts of your site and pillars of your online community.
The most important rule of thumb for Reddit is you have to spam the shit out of it to get results. The same exact link, shared on different days, can have vastly different results! If you have something good, you just gotta keep sharing it over and over again until it takes off.
Another observation of mine, which will, I imagine, come as no surprise to experienced Redditors: anything negative, mean, or belittling is way more likely to blow up on Reddit than stuff that’s kind or sweet. Reddit is, to analogize for my Star Wars peeps out there, the “Mos Eisley Cantina of the Internet”. You won’t find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. If you can find any way to spin your growth spam as a diss/beef, then the chances of it blowing up greatly improve.
The coolest thing about Huffpo is that some people think it is a legit news website, when in fact, anyone can write whatever the fuck they want on there. Trust me, I’ve done it MANY times. It’s like dressing up as a police officer for Halloween… everyone takes you seriously.
When you start blogging on Huffpo, they watch you like a hawk. They don’t let you have any links, so any growth hacking you do on there has to be super surreptitious. You start off slow… just writing some stupid high schoolish essays. Then, little by little, you transform your column into a self-serving spam machine. My favorite is writing a “Top 10” listicle where every entry has a link. There is no way to fit more links into an article while using so few words (trust me).
Gawker is a fake news site, so the neat part is you can game it. You can email them ridiculous stuff from a fake email address and — who knows? — they might publish it. Heck, they’ll publish pretty much anything if it’s dirty enough. Doesn’t even matter if it is even true.
Abusing Gawker could be a good way to belittle your competition, or to get some salacious, Reddit-style notoriety for your own project.
In conclusion, I would like to say that the Internet is a cesspool of shit. Look at some of the stupid, wack ass sites that are in the top 100 on Alexa. This is good news! It means that the whole thing is ripe for disruption, and anyone who builds anything even remotely cool can get noticed very easily.
With Genius, I’ve built one of the most popular sites on earth. Now I’m working on Everipedia and the same thing is happening. Everipedia is pretty much the coolest site ever. It’s a better version of Wikipedia. I am a crippled person with serious brain damage. I am pretty much useless, but the kids who built Everipedia think I’m cool. So, as their site begins to blow up, they credit me with the success.
And so the best advice I can give to the internet “growth hackers” out there is this: work for a cool website. The internet is like drugs: the good shit sells itself. It’s like selling candy to hungry school children. And then, when the site blows up, you can sit back and take all the credit, even though the site’s developers mostly deserve it.
Mahbod “hit em up” Moghadam