Fastest Way To Growth Hack A Platform

Creating anonymous accounts on social platforms is my secret growth marketing hack.

I encourage you to do the same, and here's why.

It's the fastest way to deeply understand a platform and be rewarded for those personal insights with the benefit of limited data sharing and personal brand exposure.

My Obsession With Pinterest

About seven years ago, I became obsessed with Pinterest.

It was the new kid on the block, and our agency prided itself on finding the next "it" thing for our clients.

I employed my hack to see what the fuss was all about.

In two weeks, I went from a casual user to spending hours a day on the platform.

Every day my conversation with the platform was getting more valuable.

I was talking with the platform, pinning, and creating boards, but I was also listening.

The platform was shaping my habits.

Social feeds were all the rage at the time for platforms, but Pinterest was moving, thinking bigger.  They were focusing on search.

A Competitor To Google

And once they launched "Guided Search", it clicked.

The ten blue text links we were used to, Google, had a challenger.

Instead of writing a formula to find what I was looking for, I clicked through options that popped up based on my initial search to help narrow it and saw immediate visual results based on what I clicked.

One time I was looking for what to wear with green chinos, hint it's a short sleeve creme shirt.

With Pinterest, I had dozens of visual examples of suggestions with two additional guided search clicks.

Screenshot taken in 2022 not 2015

But with Google, I had more homework.  I had to click and scroll through articles to find examples.

Both gave me valuable answers, but Pinterest's visual search results were an immediate dopamine hit, and the guided search suggestions helped me explore what wasn't in my initial query.

34% Increase In KPIs with 42% Less Effort

To hack a social platform, it's a numbers game of "feeding the feed", and Pinterest was no different.

But that was about to change.

With Guided Search, it was sowing the seeds to become a search engine, not just a social platform.

At the agency, we used our playbook of "feeding the feed" with an average of 300+ posted pins, re-pins, collaborations, and new boards every month.

We were a content machine, and clients were happy, but we had to think ahead.

Was getting better results only a process of posting more?

Over time, every growth strategy peters out.

Our focus moved to leverage insights instead of a hope and pray strategy.

Given my experience with the platform and joy in using guided search, I started tinkering with applying an SEO mindset to the platform.

What could we do if we knew every guided search option?

I started deconstructing the taxonomy.

I fired up google sheets and started cataloging every guided search option relevant to our clients.

For example, here are the guided search option when you search for "easy desserts".

  • Occasion
  • Recipes
  • With few ingredients
  • For a crowd

Doing this 100+ times and writing the search guide options gave us an interest graph.

An interest graph of what people were searching for on the platform.

We used this graph to "feed the feed", focusing on creating content with a high search position on the interest graph.

For example, "With few ingredients" was a common guided search option for all recipe searches.

In the copy and design of our content, we would now add "With few ingredients" and highlight each ingredient on the pin to increase Outbound Clicks and Engagements.

We started seeing a 34% increase in our KPIs, specifically on Outbound Clicks.

If we got more value from each post, we could reduce the number of posts.

We went from 300+ to under ~180 posts per month.

It was a win/win for everyone, with fewer people power to produce content and improved performance for our campaigns.

With a focus on guided search:

  • Our reporting changed to focus on the continued value of evergreen content we were now producing.  The long tail value accounted for a 30% bump in KPIs in a 90-day time frame.
  • Provided an additional dimension to paid ads in which we focused on content that performed well in search, not just the feed.  Many clients increased their ad spend by ~20%.

The Takeaway

This guided search hack was something I emotionally connected to after I became obsessed with the platform.

Learning it 3rd hand wasn't enough.  Feeling the emotion of the value derived from the platform was integral to understanding how we could transfer those insights to our clients.

I didn't get that from reading a blog post about Pinterest hacks, downloading a whitepaper case study of a brand that had a budget or resource we didn't, or watching a video of an expert sharing what they learned.

I created an anonymous account to limit data sharing and personal brand exposure.

It gave me the freedom to play with limited risk.

If you want to hack a social platform, create an anonymous account and start conversing with the platform.

It's the fastest way to deeply understand a platform and be rewarded for those personal insights with the benefit of limited data sharing and personal brand exposure.

In other ways, fake it till you make it.