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Posted by Sonne Taylor on

But The Answer Is Right There: A Case For Project Based Assessments In Advertising.

I’m noticing a startling trend.

Over the past few years the number of job functions related to marketing online have grown dramatically. Roles haven’t always kept up and some shops always seem to have a slightly different way of doing things.

I first noticed this trouble when we began working through rounds of contract and part-time talent. Breaking apart who was responsible for what on a team is a chore. Some people play minor parts and are quick to take credit for all the work. Others had a very specific task that may not have been the right task for the situation. Divorcing the experience from the lesson it taught is part of the challenge of hiring. It isn’t new and it isn’t going anywhere.

But in many fields, job titles are fairly standardized. If someone tells you they worked as a third grade teacher, for example, you know exactly what they did. They taught third grade.

But when someone tells you that they’ve worked with Facebook Ads for three years, you really don’t have a great way of picking apart what that experience meant.

Many small businesses post a daily post on two social channels. Facebook and Instagram are in many cases a popular setup. Working out the math, you might be making as many as 10 original pieces of content that way. In reality, you may make slightly fewer and use a mix of OPC (other people’s content) and recycled assets. You may also spend a few minutes hitting “boost post” and an incalculable amount of time monitoring, engaging and responding to a (hopefully) growing community.

The trouble is, the ads platform is a lot more powerful than many people realize. Posts don’t just show up in your newsfeed (or the feeds of your audience) via magic.

If you’ve read through Facebook’s Marketing API documentation before, you’ll know what I’m talking about. You’ll be familiar with each of the different types of edges, fields and nodes in the Facebook graph. You’ll know how to split out Clicks and Link Clicks, and you’ll probably have a series of custom views you use to highlight the reporting metrics you care about.

If this is your experience, and you’ve got three years of it, you have proven that you can pretty much do anything you want in the world of ad targeting. You may need to learn the quirks of a new platform, or the nuances of a differences between auction styles, but you’re well on your way to developing a valuable hard skill.

The trouble is that at the end of the day, your job title won’t look that much different from your colleagues who are walking a less arduous path.

I haven’t found a great way to reliably differentiate between these two types of candidates, but we do have a work around I’ve grown to be rather fond of.

We’ll create an ad account that conforms to conditions you might find at a typical business. We’ll include some historic campaigns, we’ll spin up some post engagement ads. We’ll position everything from the audience on down to recreate a situation with an obvious problem and a handful of potential solutions.

Then we see what they find and what they do about it.

Ike Ellis suggests a similar approach in “I Will Not Do Your Tech Interview,” when the problem is verifying the skills of a key hire, the easiest way to do that is to create an environment where you can actually find that out. Despite the great variety of Commonly Used Aptitude Test Types, there really just isn’t a perfect replacement for documented, verifiable success.

I think a lot about Roger Nesbitt’s questions in “Designing a Great Technical Test Experience,” I’ve copied them here for convenience.

A technical test provides a framework for the following information to leak out:

How do they handle feedback, both positive and negative?

How fast do they pick up on new concepts?

How much have they been exposed to the concept of elegant code?

What do they do when they don’t know something?

What are they fast at? What are they slow at? What are they sloppy at?

Where are the gaps in their knowledge? How far does their knowledge extend? How aware are they of this?

If given an opportunity to, do they cheat by going outside of the rules of the test? Do they admit it when challenged?

How do they justify the decisions they made in their code? How defensive are they?

What are their values when it comes to development? How flexible are they with those values?

If you’re doing it right, it should be possible for your candidate to completely “flunk” the test, but for you still to hire them because you see the value they’ll bring over the next year.

I think there’s something to this.

If you (or your prospective team member) can accurately gauge strengths and weaknesses, there’s a good chance that individual will also be effective at implementing plans to improve on those strengths and mitigate the impact of any weaknesses. That’s a recipe for success.

So it doesn’t fix the problem of uneven candidate credentialing. It also doesn’t make it any easier for a well-qualified-but-poorly-packaged candidate to stand out, but what a project based approach can do is highlight the way your prospective new player will fit into the team. It should give you a clear picture of what learning projects you need to make sure your new employee undertakes. If you’re looking at this from the perspective of looking for a job, I suspect that this is the reason that folks doing hiring generally pay more attention to applications that are the product of a novel approach to problem solving.

While you may not be ready to change the way you do everything today, over the next few years we’re likely to see the popularity of these sorts of assessments grow. It might be a good idea to start thinking about.

But The Answer Is Right There: A Case For Project Based Assessments In Advertising. was originally published in Thoughts On Best Practices.

Posted by Sonne Taylor on

A Reluctant Reformed Cord Cutter

“Back to multi-channel TV…for work no less.”

I caught myself muttering something to that effect a few days ago as I ended up plugging myself back into the universe of multi-channel TV.

It isn’t the first time in the last decade I’ve come back, but for the most part I haven’t been a regular customer of cable since 2007.

At first, there weren’t really streaming services to speak of. Enough of the old alternative distribution channels were still around by the time DVD mailer subscription services started to peak, that I don’t remember ever being hungry for content — even then.

The great thing about the mailer services is that they for a while, they were built for same day turnaround. You could find content, receive it, enjoy it and be on to the next thing before the week was out. If, for example, you worked out the right balance Blockbuster Online’s same-day exchange coupons were a great deal.

It wasn’t long before internet streaming just became easier than jumping through all the hoops one had to to work around the system.

That’s when I subscribed.

I thought about that while I was getting myself plugged back into the world of multi-channel the other day. I wasn’t after sports or movies, locals or networks.

I actually just wanted C-SPAN.

I was reminded of a moment half-way through Disney’s 2016 Annual Meeting Of Shareholders where you could hear Bob Iger refrain from suggesting an eager shareholder download a location scrambler to take advantage of DisneyLife.

I know we get asked about piracy by start ups all the time, but I don’t know that what I’ve said has changed much in the time since. Be flattered someone wants your content, and find a way to make it easier to consume.

There’s always going to be a percentage of people out there who are cheapskates, but with some out-of-the-box thinking, you can almost always find a way to make the attention work to your favor.

I read once that the difference between a fully loaded streaming subscriber and a cable subscriber was around 60$. Niche content subscriptions could make up that gap and that makes them potentially valuable real estate for brands.

Why else would my shiny new cable box have taken to asking me if I’m still watching?

A Reluctant Reformed Cord Cutter was originally published in Multimedia Marketing.

Posted by Sonne Taylor on

What I Wondered Spending An Afternoon Building Our iMessage Sticker App

I got it into my head late last week that we ought to recycle a few of the illustrations we’ve been generating over the last year.

I wasn’t quite sure what I’d do with the stack, so I started with all the usual suspects. I fiddled with mugs, priced out pins whole nine yards.

Somewhere in the midst of an afternoon spent pricing out merch, I noticed I had a text message.

I realized I had been sending a lot more texts using iMessage stickers, and I figured I might as well spend the time fiddling together a sticker pack.

It’s a great process, and while I’ll try and resist the urge to soapbox too hard, but adelyn has a delightful set “From Sketches to the iMessage Store…” that’s a great place to start checking out the medium.

After resizing a few rough images to use as first version placeholders, I started the process of validating and uploading the app.

Steps went great. Time to upload.

Or to wait…

and wait…

and wait.

We spend a lot of time building out screens for things that aren’t happening in a way that a user might want real updates about. We bury actual settings in consoles and logs and we hope that by doing this we’ll manage complexity in such a way that only the folks who want to be bothered by it are.

But even if something like this screen feels reassuring, it hasn’t done much more than pay lip service to what are otherwise relatively high minded ideals. This loading screen isn’t any more simple than any other, it just looks like it.

That’s not a change, it’s a fresh coat of paint.

What I Wondered Spending An Afternoon Building Our iMessage Sticker App was originally published in Notes On Digital Marketing.

Posted by Sonne Taylor on

One Trick For Evaluating Readership Numbers

When I first realized that advertising would become a focus of my career, I was in part drawn in by the relatively numeric world of digital advertising. I liked that it was easy to base all of your work on an actual number of users, and it seemed reassuring to be able to know what was happening with the content that you produced.

Over the years as my scope of practice has grown, I’ve had to learn the nuances of the way this same information is communicated differently in different mediums.

A few years ago, I was learning how to buy print. It was then that I first encountered the idea of a readership number. It was explained to me that a magazine publisher knew (roughly) how many issues it produced and how many were distributed. With a bit of work the team publishing a magazine could also know what percentage of run went to homes and what percentage went to places like waiting rooms where it was likely to be seen by multiple people.

A readership number then, was an estimate of how many people actually read the content in any given issue.

While this definition might encourage the comfort of feeling as though there were some sort of consistency into the assumed number of readers per issue, I’ve yet to get the same multiple from any one publisher. Some hold to the average of 4, others report the subscriber number and others come up with justifications I’ve heard for as high as 12x.

Trouble is there are just some situations where you don’t have a choice.
If a strategy demands a certain publication, you need it — no two ways about it.

One trick I’ve found incredibly helpful in these situations is to compare the readership and subscribership numbers. Once you’ve figured out how much the figure is inflated, you can check another source to reference the audience size.

While you can’t always find an exact match, I’ve found that comparing the number of people interested in “bicycles” on Facebook to the number of people a magazine claims as readers (and then both numbers to the total (avg cost/total sales size) number of bicycle sales) can often prove a beneficial exercise.

While it won’t tell you exactly how many people you’re about to reach it should get you a little bit closer to reality than the more optimistic sales figure often is.

One Trick For Evaluating Readership Numbers was originally published in Fits About Prints.

Posted by Sonne Taylor on

Why You Should Pay Attention To Disney’s Take On This Generation’s iMessage Sticker

Early reactions to iMessage stickers weren’t great, but folks like Yono were quick to check it out. I’ll admit I’ve found myself unable to resist the temptation, and have also rolled my sleeves up to get into the fray.

It’s one of those things you get or you don’t — but when it comes to actually assembling the assets for an iMessage sticker pack? You could have gotten incredibly simply.

There’s a fairly well defined style guide, and the truth is most teams will have many of the necessary assets hanging out in a folder on the shared drive. It’s quite possible you could be looking at as little as an afternoon of work to launch your first sticker pack.

…or would have been.

In recent months a proliferation of image-only stickers has meant that the market has matured a little. If you’re paying attention to the top sticker packs you’ll notice that many include some degree of animation. Others rely on familiar characters.

But familiar characters aren’t enough. One of the earliest players to the space was the Disney company. Disney has a rich library of assets to work with and one has to look no farther than LINE to be given a rich opportunity to study best practices and learn lessons from earlier attempts with stickers.

Disney’s first collections of apps were simple. They included favorite characters with blurbs and static poses. They were generally priced at 1.99 (as are the majority of the apps on the platform.)

Reviews suffered.

Now this isn’t generally true, but I noticed this a few months ago with some curiosity and didn’t give it much thought.

That is until I took the opportunity to pick up one of the recently updated sticker packs I had had on my App Store wishlist.

That’s right: I bought Lion King stickers.

And while you can’t quite tell here, each one has its own animation.

It really is a great set.

So great, I turned around and grabbed one more.

Same thing.

Great pictures, great animations.

As I scrolled, I contemplated looking for a third pack, and wondered what other assets the team had converted into iMessage sticker form.

And then I saw that like all great Disney products, this one ended with a trip to the gift shop.

I can’t tell you from a distance if stickers are the right fit for your project. They might make sense if you have a particularly rich visual library or if you have something to say that can best be expressed with small shareable graphics.

It might sound as though they might not do much of anything for your business, and the truth is it will be a challenge to measure the impact they have. That being said, directed nostalgia like that can be a powerful thing to share with your customers.

While you can’t always influence the way your customers engage with your message emerging communications technologies like iMessage stickers can help to close the gap.

I can tell you anecdotally that I’ve spent more time with these stickers than I have with any of these underlying assets in years.

While that may not always translate directly into added sales, it has a real and perceptible value. Learning to measure and optimize for it is the trick to finding the best way to exploit a new opportunity like Disney has with these stickers.

Why You Should Pay Attention To Disney’s Take On This Generation’s iMessage Sticker was originally published in Marketing Experimentation.

Posted by Sonne Taylor on

Help Keep Your Account Secure

Why Every Day Transactional Email Might Be Your Biggest Missed Opportunity of 2017

There’s already been more than enough said about the importance of fleshing out a robust transactional email program. The truth is that it doesn’t really matter which platform you end up on so long as when it makes sense for your app to notify a user about something you’re doing it happens seamlessly.

There’s been a lot written about the impact regular notifications can have on the experience of using your app or service. I’ve even noticed a handful of particularly savvy teams experimenting with strategies that make it easier to share emails that might otherwise get dismissed as rote.

And while it’s a much more humble component of your digital marketing universe than most of the other things we talk about, there’s something to be said for taking advantage of small opportunities — wherever they present themselves.

You won’t always be able to rely on a single message to fix every problem in your marketing program. Sometimes, you’ll just have to rely that the system works in more cases than it doesn’t. That doesn’t mean that you need to neglect the opportunity to make your small messages matter.

A well timed push notification can make the difference between a daily active and semi-active user. Over time those small changes can mean a big impact on your metrics.

Help Keep Your Account Secure was originally published in Notes On Digital Marketing.