The Internet rewards the curious. I don’t think it has as many positive effects on the incurious. If you just go there to follow Justin Beiber around, it’s not necessarily going to expand your intellectual world. No disrespect to Justin Beiber.
--Clive Thompson , The Internet Is Making You Smarter, Really
Take Telemetry Seriously
In order to compete in the current international market, every industry that has it’s hand dipped in the digital sphere need to realize that methods for enhancing design are a must.
User-oriented testing and research are gaining importance, becoming a core component of digital production. The gaming industry, for example, needs to use game metrics to measure and evaluate player behavior. Game metrics are a form of telemetry.
Metrics provide hard, detailed and objective numbers on key aspects of development, from the actual development cycle, the technical aspects and technical testing, to the user-oriented testing and -service evaluation.
It’s very important that metrics be collected remotely – directly from the platforms of the players or users. This allows the collection of data ‘in the wild’ as well as from ‘the lab’. We’re talking about getting very important data about users.
User research is rapidly becoming an integral part of development, and metrics are the most important means of providing info about users and their behavior, informing and guiding design and -development.
In Praise of Praise
Why is praise so hard to accept? As kids, we seek praise at every turn. But for me, at some point, a switch flipped. Maybe because I’m quite shy. Maybe because my first professional jobs were more like The Devil Wears Prada than I care to remember. Maybe because as adults, we’re programmed to achieve, achieve at every level, every opportunity, every turn and praise becomes a distraction. Instead, praise feels a bit awkward. Embarrassing, even.
During one particularly trying moment in my early career, I was doing my job plus the job of my boss, who was juggling too many business angles at once. My boss’s job was above my head, and I often felt like I was flailing about, treading water, gasping for air at every turn. I cried a lot; which was probably bad for my confidence. Not to mention that this was my senior year in university.
I was also pushed to my limit, found myself in professional situations with colleagues years my senior in both age and experience, and generally baptized by fire. I didn’t have time or energy to seek praise during this job; rather, I tried to keep my head down and keep working. I also drank a lot. (Twenty years of existence for the win!)
The day an email from one of my professors landed in my inbox, praising me in a quick note for a job well done, I nearly leapt out of my chair. It was the first real moment of praise I remembered in recent history, and you better believe I printed out that sucker and tacked it to my cubicle wall (behind an editorial calendar, lest anyone think I let praise from a teacher go to my head.) When I was feeling overwhelmed or defeated or overworked or generally exhausted, I looked at the note.Those times were challenging, but, looking back, a ton of fun.
Fast forward years, and in spite of being good at what I do, I still have a seriously tough time accepting praise from others. I’m working on a project that I love, and today received a small bit of praise from someone I really, really respect. My reaction surprised me. Maybe it’s because it’s been so long since it’s happened; maybe because it’s been so long since I’ve worked on something my heart and soul are truly behind; maybe it’s because I’m still shy and really need to learn how to accept praise.
This is embarrassing, but when I read her words, I stood up and walked two laps around the terrace. My cheeks were red, and I was actually too embarrassed to look at the computer screen. Really. Now, a few hours later, energized by her words and glowing from one of the first arguably successful days in as many weeks, I’m feeling — physically feeling — the lift that comes from genuine praise of something you’re proud of.
You can bet your bottom dollar this is how I feel right now:
KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid
I would really like to smack one very horrible media buying company based in Beirut for their idiotic advertising ‘strategies’ on Facebook. Their account managers have verbal diarrhea, with a strong sent of BS. To them I say: keep it simple you freaking idiots.
For those that have sat through a school lecture or have spent many years in the industry you are undoubtedly familiar with this Ogilvy adopted phrase and the impact these four words have had on the creative and advertising community. Unfortunately, as human nature (and this one agency I mentioned) has demonstrated over and over through complicated and unsuccessful campaigns – “keeping it simple” is quite a challenge.
Function vs. Design
This is a classic topic that most companies and teams must work through – designers strive to create a canvas while marketers must adhere to what converts and ultimately drives revenue. A classic example can be found in the early 2000’s – while flash allowed designers to produce amazing and awe inspiring creative designs, in many cases the images were not SEO friendly – leading to higher bounce rates and lower conversions.
As time progressed and familiarity with these methods grew, new techniques and strategies emerged producing a more interactive and optimized user experience.
Is Simple the new black?
As Facebook recently announced – the company is making efforts to simplify its ad products and provide a more objective focused advertising model. By trimming the complexities of onboarding and optimization, Facebook is positioning itself to appeal to large and small businesses alike – providing a truly interactive environment for these brands to build creative that promotes engagement with their personal communities. Creative best practices should always focus on the importance of producing ads and copy that not only piques the interest of a brand’s target audience but also encourages them to interact and complete an action.
This is clearly evident when looking at Facebook’s mobile app install ads. During a recent campaign, we saw an 8% lower CPA utilizing custom creatives and managing separate campaigns to leverage the full breadth of Facebook’s unique targeting capabilities. Creativity clearly matters regardless of whether a brand is targeting their audience within a desktop environment or on a mobile device.
Here are some additional list of tips and guidelines to help guide your efforts.
1. Take advantage of Facebook’s large ad formats
The standard size of ads in Facebook’s right-hand column are only 110x80px and while these ads remain effective, the size constraints are far from ideal in a creative workspace. Fortunately, Facebook offers a couple of different large ad formats available for desktop and mobile newsfeed delivery. For example, photo page posts are displayed at a resolution of 400×300 px on a desktop, which is considerably larger than the ads in the right hand side.
Additionally, the newsfeed is considered the primary focus for most users on Facebook and by placing your ads here you are more likely to garner the attention of your targeted demographic.
2. Express context through consumer devices
Expressing context is incredibly important with mobile app install ads, which allows marketers to direct users to interstitial app installation pages on their smartphone. While these ad formats support “install now” buttons, it may not be clear to some users that these ads are actually directing them to install applications on their device.
By showing the device in the advertisement, the clarity of the intended action becomes instantly recognizable and leads to a more qualified app installation and user.
3. Test varying creative approaches within each campaign
A methodology I’ve have had extreme success with focuses on testing varying creative approaches within individual campaigns. This is why alot of agencies are full of s**t.
Intelligent advertisers seen different degrees of success and a few surprises in some cases when testing creative components. While all of the best practices included in this piece are designed to provide insight into the creation of a successful ad, there’s no way to absolutely guarantee that certain techniques work all the time. If we note that one approach works over another, we can redirect design resources to producing more content based on successful images.
4. Try to avoid obvious stock photos
In certain situations, adding an amateur element to ad creative can help to make it seem more authentic, especially in campaigns for social products. Stock photos have become so prevalent that even users who doesn’t necessarily know what a stock photo is understand that what they are seeing is artificially constructed and may negatively impact user perception.
5. Be explicit with your call-to-actions
Make it easy for users to understand what exactly is being promoted in the ad through visual call-to-actions that explicitly convey your message. Citing that something is free or alluding to a bonus of some sort are simple ways of grabbing user attention and increasing click-through-rates.
Granted not all “best practices” will work every time. The key component of any successful campaign is to test, optimize and then test again – we are always striving to exceed our partners goals and objectives. Our creative teams provide image support as a part of AdParlor’s full service solution- we work collaboratively with our partners, providing a consultative approach that has proven to be successful time and time again.
Gamers: to the Cloud! GaAS (Gaming As A Service)
I’m very excited this is taking off. I feel a revolution coming.
Ever since the emergence of Cloud Computing, we’ve been bombarded with terms having the “as-a-service” suffix attached to them. These include Platform-as-a-Service (PaAS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaAS),Software-as-a-Service (SaAS).
I remember reading my first article on GaAs in 2010, and thought “Holy Sh**! This is so cool!” Now, however, it looks as though games in the future are going to be powered by cloud computing, and I’m not just talking about Zynga poker and other Facebook games.
What is Cloud Gaming?
If you like to play games over Facebook, then you must have heard the name of Zynga. Poker, Draw Something, Words With Friends, etc.. Don’t deny that you haven’t played them at least once. The point is, they offer cloud gaming services - it’s not like your games were saved on flash drive. What I always found cool about GaAS was that anyone can play any game supporting cloud technology using any compatible device (i.e.: you can play them on Facebook, but you can download the app on your phone and log back in.)
What’s In There For Gamers?
Many of us have at least one friend in our circles who is a hardcore gamer in true sense - for many of you reading this, I am that friend. I’m talking about the dewche hidden away in his or her environment, and you creep around carefully trying to make sure you don’t disturb the beast in it’s natural habitat.
A gamer generally has a massive PC with a graphics card you normal people cannot fathom, or a gaming console like an XBox and/or PS3. If you are one of us, then you’re spending a helluvalot on the hardware and its maintenance, along with spending on buying more and more games (my boyfriend is already thinking of trading in his 5 month old MSI for a brand new Alienware lappy, and I have a spending problem with PS3 exclusives).
But wait a damn minute! Why does HE get the super awesome patches for A Realm Reborn, and I have wait for what PSN and SE give me? Why don’t we get the exact same game play, same(ish) level of performance against spending a minimal amount? What no one had to worry about new versions of a game or about applying patches? All this gamers will be getting with gaming in the cloud.
Cloud gaming is really going to be a threat to traditional gaming modes, but maybe for the better. Different companies will probably set to offer GaAs in a way that will take gaming to a whole new level. (I’m looking at you, Sony!)
Okay, so there are some setbacks here..
With the progress in shifting the gaming experience to the cloud, there’s still a need for gaming consoles allowing us to play some extremely high-end games; the entire gaming industry can’t just be moved to the cloud at this stage. The lack of graphic processing units is probably the biggest problem at the moment. Cloud computing hosts and virtualization have been optimized only for computing power, but pretty much nothing has been done for the graphics part. That’s why games like Candy Crush look like cr*p.
Another weakness in the cloud gaming concept is the level of speed and network connectivity required to equalize the gaming experience with what is being offered by the dedicated client-side hardware. In the Middle East, gamers have a horrible internet connection, for example, so are gaming companies supposed to just lose the millions of gamers like that? Latency is a major factor here, so dedicated client gaming consoles aren’t going to ever be abandoned. Still, cloud gaming service providers are most likely going to offer some amazing experience to the gamers around (I’m still looking at you, Sony!)
Boys will be Boys, Gamers will be Gamers
No matter how long it takes to shift the complete gaming industry to the cloud, gamers all over the world will continue to be the gamers. You just cannot take the games out of them. It’s why my boyfriend keeps wanting a new, better laptop and why I don’t care how much I spend on PS titles. It’s just that cloud gaming may give them an all new experience that they no longer prefer gaming consoles, but it’s too early to anticipate this. I’m just excited about it all.
Let’s wait for the GaAS concept to emerge to see what’s in there for the gamers.
Surviving the Age of Distraction
The impact of computers and the internet on western society is dramatic, but so far mostly positive. The communication with co-workers, sharing and ever increasing computing speeds make working in front of a screen more fun each day. Something that I have struggled with is actually getting work done with the largest ever human-built library at my disposal. Here at the Rockstart Spaces, it’s a constant flow of people coming to say hi, mails, social networks and telephones grabbing our attention. Also brief moments with colleagues distracting you is something you need to be aware of.
Maybe you start the day with checking your mail or reading your to do list of the day. It’s good to have a look at your current work routine. There’s always room for improvements. Two small tips that really worked out for me;
• Do the most important tasks early in the morning, when your energy level is at it’s peak.
• Try not to make your mail your to do list and don’t check your mail all the time. If it’s really urgent they will call you.
Learning Fundamentals published a blogpost about this very subject with some awesome tips and tricks. If you’re one of those people who can easily stay on track with a newly loaded page of 9gag goodness in the tab-next-door, move along. The rest of us could use the following link, which in itself is a distraction, but a productive one.
Deconstructing The Lean Startup
Lean startups don’t optimize. At least, not in the traditional sense of trying to squeeze every tenth of a point out of a conversion metric or landing page. Instead, they try to accelerate with respect to validated learning about customers.
This is the first in a series of posts that look at Lean Startup methodology, providing insights on how to apply its techniques, in addition to describing common mistakes made when following it.
“I know that I don’t know”
The above line is not a philosophical truism. It’s a fundamental principle of the current best practice for tech startups. To put it another way, when beginning any new venture:
- Assume you don’t know who your users will be (even if, really, you do)
- Assume you don’t know what the best solution for their problem is (even if, in your head, you have it all figured out)
- Assume you don’t know exactly how you’re going to put together that solution
The Lean Startup methodology aims to maximize the chances of success of a new company by emphasizing that there’s a large amount of uncertainty inherent in any new project.
Therefore, the focus of Lean thinking is to approach your work in a way that aims to gradually eliminate the unknowns, until you hit the jackpot.
Once you give yourself that little dose of humility, that honest acknowledgement that you have a lot to figure out in order to attract users and convince them to give you money, you start being able to move away from the non-serious entrepreneur mode that most people fall into.
So what’s serious mode?
Some things I learned about Early-Stage Startup Marketing
Over the past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about (and applying) the best ways to market early-stage startups. Below is a synthesis of this thinking, packaged nicely into a few points. These insights reflect a wide range of responsibilities that fall under the marketing function, and cover both the strategic and tactical. They’re a product of my experience with consumer-facing tech products.
1. Get the nitty-gritties in order
Before getting started on any new project, marketing fundamentals need to be in set. These include having a clear definition of the company’s mission and vision, formulating customer pain points, understanding the target consumer and defining the key message. All of this information is captured in a few brief documents, and functions as a reference point for all future work. You can’t really do marketing without this key step. Different people will always have different answers to questions that define your company, which can ultimately lead to internal confusion and weakens your message to outside parties.
2. Focus your efforts on just a few things
There are a million things you can do to get the word out about your product. Unfortunately, you only have time for just a few. Rather than fighting this reality, focus your efforts on only 2-3 big initiatives at once, like PR, content, and 3rd-party distribution. Marketing activities require intense effort before they catch on. If your resources are spread too thin, nothing will work and you’ll end up scrapping initiatives that have a lot of potential.
3. Give each initiative enough time to succeed
Marketers often deal with the uncertainty of time. Something that you do today may give you results tomorrow…or a few months from now. This happens a lot with situations that rely on a third party with different schedules and motivations (e.g: PR outreach), as well as marketing activities that require a critical mass to drive growth (e.g: social media). Be patient with a program so it has a chance to succeed. I find that 1-2 months is usually a good benchmark of progress.
4. Create a master tracking dashboard
There are a lot of free (or cheap) analytics tools to track key performance metrics, including Google Analytics, Effective Measure, and Campaign Monitor. Each tool does something slightly different that contributes to your overall success, but none of them is the one-stop solution. It’s up to you to create a master-tracking dashboard (I do it in a Google Spreadsheet) that aggregates and standardizes information from all of these sources. It’ll help you see the big picture and understand why your company is (or isn’t) growing.
5. Ask only for one thing
In an early-stage startup, marketing is all about getting people to do things for you: getting users to try your site, getting the press to write about you, or getting partners to take a chance on a tie-up. The best way to do this is by asking them for one thing. If you give them options, they’ll come up with excuses or ignore your request. You should always think in a system of ones: one message, one call to action, one click.
6. Use your pitch to evaluate your product
Writing out your pitch forces you to articulate your startup’s key points of difference. This, in turn, helps to evaluate your product. As you list your company superlatives, identify which ones really stand out and cannot be claimed by competitors. If there aren’t any, this means that your message is weak and will probably be lost in the noise. Compiling this feedback early can help steer your development team toward the most exciting and most differentiating product features, rather than building cost-of-entry ones.
7. Always pair social media with great content
Many people think that social media is a must-have in your marketing mix. The reality is that on its own, social media activity takes a lot of time and has very little ROI. Pairing it with content, either original or curated, adds substance to your conversations. It gives you a point of view when sharing with the community, and incentivizes your audience to participate. If you can’t commit to some form of content production with your social media efforts, don’t expect great results.
8. Make email your best friend
You’ll spend a lot of time marketing your startup via email, including pitching the press, reaching out to potential partners or communicating with users. It’s in your best interest to make it your best friend. Assuming you’re on Gmail (why would you use anything else?), arm yourself with various add-ons that save time on repetitive tasks. A few of the ones I use: Rapportive (plugin) to generate social profiles, Boomerang (plugin) for message scheduling, “undo send” to prevent mistakes, “default reply all” to keep everyone in the loop, and “canned messages” for standardized pitches and replies.
9. Spend money when necessary
There is a common notion among early-stage startups that you shouldn’t pay any money for marketing. The reality is that some very effective forms of user acquisition are paid, and they’re well worth the cost. For example, you can jumpstart your community efforts by paying for Facebook likes, and once you reach a critical mass, the community will grow by itself. The key metric here is arbitrage: as long as the cost is less than the average revenue per user, you have a strong rationale to spend.
10. Add polish to everything you do
As a marketer, you’re ultimately responsible for the final product and the image it projects. If something doesn’t look right or work properly, you’re the one who has to explain it to users and outside parties. Make sure to pay attention to details and add polish to new product features or marketing initiatives before they are deployed. This means doing things like writing site copy, fixing grammar/formatting errors and creating professional About and Press pages. Most of these tasks don’t require a lot of time, but are the difference between a real, unified company and an amateur operation.
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The Modern Marketer : Part Artist, Part Scientist
Marketing has always been a blend of art and science (which is why I love it), but this is a good update in terms of the disciplines under those headings and the fact that they come together in the digital channel.
This Infographic, from SalesForce and Pardot, visualises the new Marketer as having two sides to their skillset as an ‘Artist’ and ‘Scientist’ – balancing creativity and analytical skills. This has always been true, but the Scientist is more to the fore today? For example, Social Media = (Artist) and Manage your digital Relationships + (Scientist).
Historically, there were Direct Marketers focused and skilled in the science and AB testing, and Brand Marketers focused and skilled in the big idea and creative.
Digital brings these two disciplines together. All online creative should be measured, likewise you cannot engage with algorithms alone. The ideal marketing team is probably more like a Venn diagram with three types of people - genuine creatives who can create engaging experiences and content, data scientists who can really understand the data & analytics tools, develop the hypotheses and measure the outcomes; and hybrids who understand that both art and science are essential and can ensure the right balance between the two.
Tumblr isn’t a blog platform like WordPress; it’s a social network that has a blogging platform. The beautiful thing about Tumblr is that it makes it really easy to share your content with millions of Tumblr users… so you can get a big audience without spending a ton of money on marketing.
--Neil Patel, KISSmetrics | 7 Things Marketers Should Know About Tumblr (via Union Metrics)
Professional ambition is expected of men but is optional — or worse, sometimes even a negative — for women. “She is very ambitious” is not a compliment in our culture. Aggressive and hard-charging women violate unwritten rules about acceptable social conduct. Men are continually applauded for being ambitious and powerful and successful, but women who display these same traits often pay a social penalty. Female accomplishment comes at a cost.
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