A PR Hacking Code of Conduct

If you’re a startup marketer, you’re familiar with the term growth hacking. Since Andrew Chen’s popularization of the term in his April 2012 blog post, its usage has exploded:

At RJMetrics, we’ve been growth hacking since 2010. We use a specific tactic we call PR hacking. The formula is simple:

  1. Identify a topic that’s receiving a lot of attention in the press.
  2. Use growth hacking tactics to compile a never-before-seen dataset related to that topic.
  3. Analyze the data in RJMetrics to uncover newsworthy information.
  4. Tell the story in a blog post and/or research report.
  5. Notify all of the reporters who are covering this topic about the analysis.

This works so well because we uncover new information on newsworthy topics. They don’t always generate attention, but when they work, they work really well. Some examples:

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Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going


In May of last year I wrote to let you know some exciting news: we had raised $6.25M from Trinity Ventures. Trinity was as excited about our product, market, team, and customers as we were and wanted to partner with us on taking RJMetrics to the next level.

The funding allowed us to accelerate our product development timelines and to tackle even more ambitious projects. It allowed us to staff up our Account Management team to provide unparalleled consultative service to every one of our customers. And it allowed us to hire amazing new people in Sales and Marketing to teach the world how we can help them run their businesses better with data.

Yesterday we shared some of the results of this funding. Over the past six months, we’ve done some things that make us very proud:

  • Thanks to amazing work from our growing engineering team, we’ve made major improvements to our product and are working on some of the most ambitious projects in the history of the company.
  • Thanks to the expansion of our sales and marketing teams, we’ve grown our customer base at a 150% annualized rate.
  • Thanks to the creation and growth of our Account Management team, our customers are getting more out of our product than ever, and have the results to show for it.

Our mission at RJMetrics is to inspire and empower data-driven people. We’re thrilled to be achieving this mission faster and on a larger scale than ever. We can’t wait to see what 2014 brings. Stay tuned!

Hacker News Data Analysis: 2014 Edition

Last week, I noticed that my Hacker News account had turned five years old. Wow. This got me wondering about the HN community in general and raised a concerning question: am I a typical user… or the creepy old guy in the room?

A few years back, I crunched some numbers from the HNSearch API to learn more about the Hacker News community. I figured this data set was overdue for a revisit. I pulled a fresh sweep of data from the API, loaded it into RJMetrics, and had my answers in just a few minutes.

(Obligatory plug: If you’re interested in a powerful analysis tool for your online business, try RJMetrics for free today.)

Here’s what I found:

  • Aaron Swartz and the NSA were the big topics in 2013, taking the place of 2012 leaders like SOPA and Hurricane Sandy
  • AngularJS gained serious momentum in 2013 as mentions of Backbone.js cut in half
  • With over 5 million upvotes cast in 2013, Hacker News activity grew by about 25% for a record year
  • The balance of comments, submissions, and upvotes has stayed remarkably stable as the community has grown
  • Users who engage early on stick around for years to come– in fact, more than half of the site’s activity in 2013 was from users who had joined more than a year before

For the full details behind these and other findings, read on.

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Jelly Data: An Outside-Looking-In Analysis

Biz Stone’s new startup Jelly was launched with great fanfare one week ago today. Jelly is as ambitious as you would expect from a co-founder of Twitter: it aims to transform all smartphone-wielding humans into a single collective neurological entity.

Or, failing that, it’s a pretty fun question-and-answer app.

While I’m not qualified to assess Jelly’s ability to transform us into a benevolent overmind, I did manage to get my hands on quite a bit of data about how people are using the app. Since Jelly’s launch, I’ve been collecting data on all of the questions and answers that have been posted. If you’ve been curious what’s been going on, read on.


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5 Improv Comedy Skills that Made Me a Better CEO

Improv Comedy

Not everyone knows this, but for the past few years I’ve been living a double-life. After long days as CEO of RJMetrics, I’ve made a habit of sneaking off to musty classrooms and tiny theaters to learn and perform improv comedy. This spring, I was honored to join Big Baby, a resident “house team” at Philly Improv Theater.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one. A far more seasoned CEO, Twitter’s Dick Costolo, has a background in comedy as well. While listening to his awesome University of Michigan commencement speech recently, I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that doing improv and running a business actually have a lot in common.

While both pursuits are fun and accessible for beginners, they also contain deep layers of nuance that separate the good from the great. As I’ve worked to peel back these layers, more and more of my improv skills have started showing up in my day job. These are my favorites.

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Our Logo Looks Like Underpants: A Case Study in Internationalization

Our recent hackathons have yielded quite a few gems: a gong that rings itself, eCommerce benchmarks, a github-powered roadmapping tool, and countless product enhancements.

Last spring our designer, Zach, unveiled a hackathon project that would end up impacting our entire organization: a new visual identity. New colors, new fonts, and, most importantly, a new logo: the dodecahedron.

This rebranding came with a great origin story that fit well with our company’s mission and world view. After getting some positive feedback from colleagues, peers, friends, and family, we pulled the trigger.

In July, we launched a new website that incorporated the rebranding and celebrated.

A Brief Problem

A few weeks later, I saw the first tweet like this:

I had never heard of Y-Fronts, so I wrote it off and scrolled right past. But they kept coming…

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Announcing the Launch of RJMetrics Client Analytics Services


Some things are just meant to happen.

As our customer base has grown, we’ve often been asked if we can lend a hand with the human side of analytics—incorporating RJMetrics into workflows and making pragmatic tactical recommendations based on data. Unfortunately, as a software company with a focus on building a scalable product, our answer was usually “no.”

Instead, we started referring our clients to an analytics & optimization services firm founded by Anita Garimella Andrews. We quickly learned two things: Anita was amazing at what she did and her clients became successful, engaged superusers of RJMetrics.

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Defined: All the Startup Terms You Could Ever Imagine

aligator armsI recently heard the term alligator arms at a conference and had no idea what it meant. While I was looking up what it meant on Google, I realized everyone around me was doing the same thing, with poor results. I brought it up to the team and everyone agreed, there are a bunch of terms we throw around at startups that take a while to learn.

The team decided to put together a resource where people could go to find all of these terms in one place. Weren’t we all confused the first time we heard of a founder showing everyone their deck?

Hopefully, StartupDefinition.com will clear up that confusion and get everyone sounding like professional entrepreneurs from day one. Some terms, like Customer Lifetime Value, are really important to us at RJMetrics. Others, like Purchase Pretzel, are just frustrating to not know about when someone else uses the term.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 3.32.35 PM

We’ve just launched StartupDefinition.com and plan to keep adding to it. Are there startup terms that we haven’t included? We’d love to add to this list. If you leave a comment or send us a message, we’ll make sure all new terms get added promptly.

RJMetrics Raises $6.25M Series A From Trinity Ventures

The past year here at RJMetrics has been an amazing experience. Our vision—changing the way businesses make data-driven decisions—is becoming more of a reality every day.

Today, we’re proud to announce a new partner on our journey: Trinity Ventures. Trinity has led a $6.25M Series A investment in RJMetrics and Karan Mehandru has joined our Board of Directors. We’ve known Trinity and Karan for quite some time, and we couldn’t be more excited about adding their passion, vision, and expertise to the RJMetrics team.

You can read more about the financing on TechCrunch, Technically Philly, and PRWeb, so I’ll spare you the boilerplate here.

Instead, I would like to take a minute to talk about what this news means for you, our customers.

Ever since our bootstrapped beginnings, customers have been the lifeblood of RJMetrics. This customer-centric philosophy is wired into our DNA, and it will continue to permeate our work as we put this new investment to use.

In just the past few months, we’ve rolled out a new dashboard user experience, a revamped chart builder, new ways to get your data into and out of our data warehouse, and a world-class customer success team.

This pace of innovation, which was bolstered by a small seed round last year, will now accelerate even further. Stay tuned for game-changing enhancements and, as always, please don’t be shy if you have feature suggestions.

Thank you so much for your continued support as we move into this exciting new chapter.

Twitter Vine Flying Past Competition Despite Low Overall Adoption

On January 24, 2013, Twitter released Vine, a mobile service that lets you capture and share short looping videos. We set out to learn just how popular Vine has become in its first month of existence and how its performance has stacked up against competitors like Viddy and Socialcam.

We loaded data from Twitter’s API into RJMetrics and here’s what we found:

  • Overall, video creation is still an extremely underdeveloped market.  Only about 4% of highly active users shared a video through Vine or a top competitor during Vine’s first month on the market. In that same period, 98% of the same group shared at least one photo through a leading photo sharing service.
  • In its first month, Vine steadily gained market penetration to 2.8% of Twitter’s highly active users, blowing past competitors Viddy and Socialcam, which were used by 0.5% and 0.2% of the same population, respectively.
  • Twitter’s built-in tools for photo and video sharing are dominating the competition. Vine.co and pic.twitter.com are the most popular tools in their respective categories by a wide margin.

Vine Adoption

Vine showed impressively stable adoption growth over the course of its first month. We were expecting to see a spike in adoption around the time of the announcement followed by a leveling-off period, but instead the percent of new users each day has remained consistent. This is a good sign for future growth because the rate of adoption does not appear to be slowing as time goes by.

Vine vs. Viddy vs. SocialCam

In Vine’s first month, the percent of highly active users who used Vine was meaningfully higher than the percent who used competitors Viddy and SocialCam.

We were concerned that this might not be an apples-to-apples comparison since many users may have just been “trying out” Vine in this month. As a check, we looked at the average number of times each of these tools was used during the month. As it turned out, repeat usage of Vine was actually more likely than the other apps.

Video vs Photo

While Vine’s performance is impressive relative to its competitors, it’s still a tiny player in the universe of media sharing on Twitter. We looked at the percentage of users who linked to various media sharing services and found that photos represent the vast majority of the links sent out by highly active users.

As you can see in the chart above, native Twitter photo hosting (pic.twitter.com) is the dominant player, followed by Instagram and then a number of less prominent competitors. When you remove Twitter and Instagram, you can see just how small a player Vine is when it comes to sharing media.

About The Data

We decided to sample from Twitter’s most active users to find early-adopter activity. Twitter’s API was used to identify and download the twitter streams of about 2,500 randomly-selected “highly active” users, each of whom had tweeted at least 100 times so far in 2013.

The result was 2.3 million tweets that were sent between January 24th and February 24th. 320,000 of these tweets contained links, which we followed through any link shorteners to find their final destinations.

The data was then loaded into RJMetrics, where we generated this analysis with just a few clicks.


Twitter’s efforts to add native photo and video sharing into its service are proving fruitful.  These tools have quickly become the most popular options for end users, causing a major impact on the market for 3rd party apps.

Vine appears to be establishing itself as the de facto tool for short video creation and sharing. However, the significance of this move will only be felt as its market matures.  Today, Vine is a service only used by a small minority of even the most highly active users.