Growth Hacking – while in the tech world it’s become a bit of a buzzword, up there with “pivot” and “disrupt”, it isn’t something that most filmmakers spend a lot of time thinking about, and frankly, they should.

If you’ve come to any of our events, you know that I spend a lot of time discussing why filmmakers need to begin building their community from the word go. We need to engage our evangelist network early and give them the tools to spread the word, or we risk getting lost in the noise. As someone who operates firmly in the intersection between media and technology, I often look towards those folks who are able to take a free app or a bootstrapped startup, put them in front of millions of people, and gain real traction. They do it without massive ad spends or marketing budgets, and we in the indie film space can use many of the same tactics on our own projects.

Last night, during a fit of insomnia, I finally got around to reading Ryan Holiday‘s book Growth Hacker Marketing. If names like Eric Reis, Noah Kagan, and Sean Ellis ring a bell, this isn’t going to be anything new, but it’s a quick read (only 56 pages after all), and is a killer introduction to growth hacking for the uninitiated.

First of all, I am a huge fan of Ryan’s work. If you aren’t familiar, Ryan has helped guys like Robert Greene and Tim Ferriss launch their books, he ran marketing for American Apparel, and is part of the new guard of folks shaping the marketing/growth hacking landscape today.

The book reads like a pitch of why we should all think like growth hackers, rather than getting into the trenches with tactics, but it does briefly cover some solid case studies – how hotmail grew to 30M users in 30 months with a simple line of text, how Instagram focused on product/market fit to build a billion dollar business, etc.

The best bit, I think, is Ryan’s account of marketing Tim Ferriss’ most recent book. Having been banned from most brick and mortar book stores for signing with Amazon as a publisher, they had to get scrappy and turned to BitTorrent to distribute entire chapters of the book for free. This directly led to over 250,000 actual sales by their count. It’s interesting to read how they did it, though I maybe found it even more interesting that they were able to shape their narrative and turn a 2-time best selling author into the underdog who was “banned” from every bookstore, which I remember got them a ton of great press at the time.

At the end of the day, traditional film marketing simply doesn’t work for most of us without millions to spend on it (in fact Ryan often uses the film biz as an example of an industry doing it wrong). We need to start thinking like growth hackers if we want to move the needle on our films. If this is the first time you are hearing about this, get on it people. Power through Ryan’s book tonight, and let me know what you think in the comments below. :-)