Growth hackers by nature live to push the envelope. Matt Humphrey once told me over coffee that growth hackers live in a ‘grey area’ and habitually push TOS to their limits. If a good growth hack on the edge translates into explosive growth, everyone is happy. On the other hand, a bad growth hack can destroy a company’s brand and alienate users.
Last week, Rally.org’s email growth hack backfired and destroyed their credibility in my eyes. There are four ways Rally stepped over the line, lost a user, and you should avoid in building a viral product.
1) bad assumption 101: everyone I upload is a supporter
After signing up, Rally displays some helpful tutorials for an easy onboarding process. One tutorial is placed at the top of the home page. Clicking “Gather” opens a modal screen with the ask to upload my friends OR supporters. Like most people, I don’t keep my contacts in a CSV, so I connected with my Gmail account.
Once Rally linked with my address book, Rally counted every contact as a supporter.
Though the copy in the modal screen read “add your friends OR upload your supporters”, Rally makes the irrational assumption, for growth’s sake, that every contact is a supporter. To be a support means to be in an active not passive state. Rally’s logic may hold for a CSV email list; however, for email OAuth, it falls apart. The better way would be to send an opt-in invite email to transition contacts to supporters; though this will decrease the number of supporters, a good growth hack considers quality not just quantity.
(side note: I recreated a test account after my initial experience with Rally. Originally, “You have 39 Supporters” read “You have 1,500 supporters”.)
2) purposeful intent to spam your contacts?
On the fundraiser home page, the main CTA is to post an update. “Send” gives little information where the update will be sent. By selecting the Facebook post, it appears that the post will be shared on Facebook. In my Rally account, I created a sample post called “test” and posted it to Facebook.
Unforuntately, the post went to Facebook and in an email to all of my contacts. I only knew about this
The only possible clue that I was about to message all of my “supporters” was the “Also send this to” copy near the social sharing icons. Hardly obvious.
3) no “select all” checkbox
I tried to delete all of my contacts on Rally, but there is no option to mass delete my uploaded contacts. To erase my contacts, I would need to to click remove 1,500 times. This is an unnecessary and misunderstands the psychology of a user. If a user wants to leave, preventing easy contact deletion will only increase a user’s frustration. It will be seen as a nuisance and is not designed to make a life easy on a user.
4) No online account delete option (not a growth hack)
This is is not a growth hack but not having the ability to delete your account online is asinine and sophomoric. To delete my account, I tweeted to Rally.org multiple times and called their office. Two days later, I finally received a response and I spoke to a very polite customer service representative. She deleted my account and confirmed that ” At this time, there currently is no option to delete your account online.”
To be frank, some of these growth hacks in certain circumstances are valuable (except the inability to delete your account online). My experience with Rally demonstrates how a bad taste in one spot of the funnel can quickly snowball. Growth hacking is designed to reduce friction through a logical and scientific process. In a downward user experience spiral, a user can quickly change his perception from ease-of-use to malicious design. Scam artists and legitimate companies both use similar concepts to accomplish growth goals but have divergent motivation. In a downward spiral, a user will perceive the carefully designed funnel and acquisition emails as a means to take advantage of the user’s network and data versus creating an easy-to-use product.
I really hope my user experience was an outlier. I think better of humanity and my profession, but my mom once said to me, “no matter how hard you work, how nice you are, there will always be people who will try to ruin your day.” Rally, through spamming my entire address book, you ruined my day.
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