15 Tips to Motivating GREAT Hires

I recently joined a startup in a senior role, and one of the CEOs first questions was “how do we hire epic talent?”

It’s a great question, but often the way you hire is a reflection of your culture. However, as the new guy, I don’t know the culture yet so I got to blue-sky this. I did an informal survey of my 1500+ FB friends, 15K ish Twitter friends and a hundred individuals directly to come up with this list (in no particular order) of the things that motivate epic employees to join startups, especially lesser known ones:

  1. Give them a world-changing vision
  2. Tell them their SPECIFIC contribution
  3. Treat them like they are the ONLY candidate for the position, make them feel special
  4. Give them authority, independence, trust… not accountability, management, etc
  5. Trust that the hours and location of work they set will be the Right Ones
  6. Know what matters to them and doesn’t, and make the offer/job about the Things That Matter
  7. Sell the city, show the city, if you’re trying to get them to move. AKA: fly them out, spend 1-2 days with them, don’t just make it about the interview… they are interviewing the city as much as the company!
  8. Showcase the culture of the company, don’t just interview them via hiring managers (aka: social events/drinks as part of hiring)
  9. Do “pathing” (aka their advancement plan) before they start
  10. Be consistent, respond quickly, be on time for calls/meetings, AKA: Treat them with respect!
  11. Tell them hiring process up front so they always know where they are and what’s next
  12. If you don’t know them directly, get a solid reference about YOU to THEM from a joint acquaintance
  13. Tell them the honest truth about the situation, the last thing you want is buyer’s remorse when they find out what’s up.
  14. Give them the resources they need (within reason) to fulfill their mandate (budget, people, space, time, etc)
  15. Push them to be better/faster/stronger, always

What would make YOU join a new startup that isn’t on this list?

Social Content

The Half-Life of Content & Real-Time Marketing

Over the last 10 years, there has been three fundamental shifts in content creation:

  1. Increase in content creation costs
  2. Increase in distribution
  3. Decrease in longevity of content

Items #1 and #2 can often balance themselves out (when done right, when wrapped in effective strategy, when blah blah blah).

Item #3, however is the challenge. 10 years ago, content was largely created by mainstream media or long-form bloggers (and, yes, I first started blogging more than a decade ago). This, combined with the increased usage and effectiveness of search engines created a period where content was frequently found, consumed and shared for weeks or months after it was created.

As time has gone on, social content creation and sharing, and raw information overload has increased (intersecting with less and less content being found/consumed/shared due to search engines) there have been three key impacts:

  1. The length of time content is likely to get viewed has shorted
  2. Everyone produces more content, because the longevity has decreased
  3. More content requires media buys to support it than ever before

The Half-Life of Content

All of these trends can be summarized in the Half-Life of Content, pictured below:

Half-Life of Content

Half-Life of Content

We can quibble about the specific periods of time, but it’s clear that pre the web content lasted for a long time (magazines, newspapers, etc). As the web became more popular, and usage increased, things stayed “reasonable” thanks to search engines. But social content + increased content creation means that even items like a tweet which used to be visible and useful for a day or more, are now just a flash in the pan. This trend will only exacerbate over time. The Half-Life of Content will, in fact, continue to degrade.

As a result, we are investing in not just more content but better content, because great content still resonates better than poor content:

Content Cost

Content Cost

This increase in content cost is fine, but ultimately leads to a significant increase in cost per day, and thus increases the required reach to achieve ROI:

Cost Per Day

Cost Per Day

What It Means

We are going to create more content. Content virality will continue to increase. Information overload will keep going up. As a result, great content + media to support content that starts to go viral will become the norm for any intelligent marketer.

But, what’s next? Well, besides better content calendars and content planning, and the intersection of content creation and media, we will need to more deeply integrate the outside of our brands (content) with the inside of our brands (culture) including tools, processes, analytics and entirely new ways of going from planning to content to conversion.

More thoughts on this soon.

How do you view the future of content?

Let me know in the comments belowww.

Analytics & Insights

Front-End vs Back-End Reporting

I’ve written before about how important great analytics are. But even if you know you need great analytics, and have the capacity, there are a few big challenges:

  1. Clients not using your impeccable insights
  2. The transition from what strategy feels are important, and what is feasible and gets delivered
  3. Great analytics can cost more (and/or take more work)

I’m going to leave the “how to get clients to pay” for a future post, as I want to outline my approach for going from “we need to collect data” to “whoa, that insight helped shape our business” in a meaningful way.

The Process

For many teams and agencies, the process whereby we decide what data to collect and what to report are the same. This is a fundamentally broken process. The data you collect can serve three purposes:

  1. Spot issues with the campaign/project (eg: dropoff at registration page could show a bug)
  2. Ensure performance is on par, and adjust media/content strategies accordingly
  3. Send data to the client on the value the campaign delivered

The truth is, there is a significant amount of data required for #1 and #2, and very little of that adds any value at all to the client and, realistically, probably confuses the situation. The flipside to this, which I’ve said manytimes, is that #3 requires very little data to be reported, but often requires significant data in order to arrive at what gets reported.

An example at how the sheer amount of data that sometimes gets pulled together might look like this:

Metrics We Collect

Metrics We Collect

Front-End vs Back-End Reporting

This is where what I call Front-End vs Back-End Reporting comes into play. Back-End Reporting is what we are all largely familiar with: all the data, KPIs, metrics, flows, user info, performance info, app info, etc. Sometimes agencies can collect upwards of 100 different data points, based on those “what should we collect” meetings I mentioned above. And this Back-End Reporting is great. In fact, there’s a view that it’s hard to collect too much data in this, as long as collecting and storing data is effectively free (which it may not be for you and your team).

The challenge is that for many teams, they take all this data, throw away a handful of data points, and then try and figure out how to shove it all together into a big report to present to the client. We then try and simplify it with dashboards, exec summaries, etc… but the truth is, this report (if we’re lucky it’s 10 pages, more often it’s significantly longer) doesn’t actually do what the client needs it to do.

What Clients Need

As a reminder, there’s a significant difference between what clients say, what clients want, and what clients need. From reporting, 95% of clients simply need to know “how much value did this campaign / program / period generate for my business, how close can we get that to a dollar value, and what does that mean for ROI”. They also likely need reporting on their annual KPIs, just so they can track against them. Most of the other stuff we add (because we’re collecting it, so we believe the client should see it) is not only superfluous, it can be destructive because it distracts from the core questions the client needs answered.

While a lot of datapoints are often necessary to answer the big question, the flipside is you also don’t need a 10-40 page report to answer it. In fact, answering that question intelligently comes down to understanding your client, understanding their business, and simplifying the actual report to how you answer the question(s) the client needs answered. And, conversely, it can often be answered by only showing 3-5 specific data points, in an intelligent way.

Real Front-End Reporting

Based on all of the above, real Front-End Reporting is about something we, sadly, don’t do enough of: taking complex data and spending time thinking about how to visualize it for our clients. At the end of the day, Back-End Reporting is pulling together the best data, and Front-End Reporting is about visualizing it in a way that is actionable. Too often, we present Back-End Reporting to clients, when what they really need is Front-End Reporting.

As far as what an example of this looks like, all of my previous examples are confidential to clients, but I am planning on pulling this post into a deck, including generating sample data, for a fictitious client. In the meantime, if any of my readers have examples they’d like to share, send them in or comment below!

Pulling It Together

The biggest thing to remember when thinking about reporting is that it is a two-step process (at least) for (at least) two different audiences. If smart analytics is about getting the right data to the right people, then it’s obvious that the data internal teams/devs/strategy needs can often be very different from the data clients need (or want, or say they need/want!).

Having a process to go from client KPIs and Objectives, to questions we need to answer helps answer the Front-End Reporting question. You can then break those out into specific metrics, reporting timelines, alerts and notifications, etc. Those data points go into your Back-End Reporting process. The “sit the entire team down to brainstorm on data we should collect” is just as important, but typically simply goes into Back-End Reporting (with periodic data extracts).

Agree or disagree with this approach? Think it’s too simple/too complex? Pfft, let me know in the comments section belowww!


Building a Design Practice

The practice of building any, uh, practice is challenging. Especially from the ground up or while merging multiple teams together. Verne Ho does a phenomenal job at explaining how his design practice evolved, and how he tries to keep his team engaged, focused and successful in his recent post A Framework for Building a Design Practice.

I’ve often described building a successful practice as one part mechanic, one part architect and one part magician. You end up creating a process that’s unique to your business’s needs (architect), then figuring out the minute details and gears that are out of sync and causing larger issues (small problems often lead to big impacts: mechanic), and then working constantly to make your team feel like a real team (which is often pure magic).

I tend to focus on three core things when building a new (or rebuilding an existing) practice:

  1. Helping the team deliver projects they are proud of: Too often we can just be pushing things out, or focusing on “quality”. Focusing on work that makes the team high five when it’s delivered will ultimately deliver quality and great results.
  2. Building a process that’s flexible and can be both scaled up and down depending on project/client needs: Too often, when we design processes, we do so to scale up. But scaling those processes down and having them be just as effective is often just as important (most teams get more “scale down” projects than “scale up” ones, after all).
  3. Create a culture that allows for inherent communication: I’ve always believed that email is where information goes to die, and that meetings are designed to be soul sucks. Cultures that inherently share information between people mean we rarely need to tweak process to “improve communication”, because the team’s energy and enthusiasm creates pride (see above) which results in “automatic” sharing (which, yes, includes saving files to intranets, standardized naming, etc).

Ultimately, you need to find the right mix for you as a leader, and for your organization and clients.


Analytics & Insights, Science

Getting to Magic: Facebook’s Negative Feedback Data

I’ll never stop harping on looking deeper into analytics for deeper insight. Too often we just look at positive triggers (Likes/Comments/Shares) as an indication of how well content is performing. But wouldn’t it be nice to know how often people Unliked or Hid our content too, to get an idea of how well it actually resonated?

Enter: Negative Feedback. This is every Hide, Report as Spam, and Unlike for the page, and if you have access to the New Insights is found under the Reach tab:

Where to find Negative Feedback.

Where to find Negative Feedback.

And here’s what the graph looks like:

Negative Feedback Graph

Negative Feedback Graph

If you don’t have access to New Insights, pinging your Facebook Account Manager should get it for you, otherwise it’s buried deep in the data extract Excel sheet (columns BB to BG in my report).

Going Up-Data

Per the post on the Criticality of Great Analytics, the question I’m typically trying to answer with this data is “Which Posts are Resonating Best?” If I had access to web data, I’d make this “Which Posts are Adding the Most Value?” by tracking the entire clickstream to the site, conversion points, etc, but for now we’ll keep this purely in Facebook.

Thankfully, Facebook gives us some great datapoints to make this a largely math-driven equation. We basically want to measure Net Reaction divided by Net Reach. In order to do this, we simply do:

((Daily Comments + Daily Likes + Daily Shares) – Daily Negative Feedback) / (Daily Total Reach / (Daily Total Reach – Daily Count of Fans Online))

There are some simpler ways to do this, that may be just as valuable, but I like to do Net Reach because it factors in how many people were online on Facebook that day. Ultimately what math like this (typically done in Excel) should show is how people are responding to your content day by day. If you run this at Post level, and compare it to content types or narrative arcs, you can also see how your audience is responding to various types of content.

The last time one of my clients had a significant spike in Negative Feedback Rate, we produced content and then segmented it out by audience to try and see which audiences were driving NFR, and found that all folk under 35 skewed negative, while those over 35 skewed positive. This data led towards a market survey which fundamentally changed the positioning for the brand.


Great data is always hard, but now that Facebook is exposing this data directly via Insights, making use of it is easier than ever. Though, to be fair, building Macros into the Data Export will yield some pretty epic data too. More on that in a future post!

Think I’m off base, just like Dave? Let me know in the comments belowwww.

Social Content

The Evolution of Content Calendars

Yes, I believe content calendars are evil. But before I get into why, I want to talk about how content calendars evolve in most agencies I’ve worked with (YMMV).

Step One: Content Calendars

Most agencies launch their social practice using content calendars. These are often Excel or Word-based documents which are designed to allow copywriters/community managers to write content and then for clients to review that content.

The Good: It’s a simple tool that anyone can understand. And, really, any tool a client can understand is often a good tool. At first.
The Bad: The content calendar is often used to move/remove posts, as well as editing content. This can create a significant amount of revisions.
The Ugly: Because of these revisions, we’re often editing content the day/week content goes live.

Step Two: Longer Timeframes

If the issue is that we do too much editing and it takes too long, clearly the solution is to put more in front of the client so that even if Month One is slow, you’ll get Month Two and Month Three approved in time.

The Good: You get to write more content at once, which is almost never bad, because copywriters/CMs get to stay “in the zone”.
The Bad: You never get Month Two and Month Three approved in time, because you focus on Month One, and end up in a constant vicious circle which is really only ever one month in advance anyway.
The Ugly: You start to become frustrated at, and blame the clients, because clearly YOUR process not working is THEIR fault, right? Yeah, I thought so.

Note: I’ve heard that some agencies pull this off. Well done, but just because you’ve solved for this step, doesn’t mean there aren’t better steps out there. In fact, if you don’t fail, you don’t improve… So maybe not failing is holding you back.

Step Three: Separation Anxiety

The next step is to start to use other tools you’re familiar with, to make this process easier. Typically, folks split the content calendar into two steps: content planning vs content creation. Content planning often includes some version of a Blocking Chart, so that clients can review how much of each type of content you’re doing, and where it is positioned, before you write it. This is a good thing, and I’m generally a fan of Blocking Charts, because it’s a single tool for a single purpose, that clients can digest quickly. Also, it typically reduces revisions on your Calendar by 30-50%. You continue to use your Content Calendar for the Content Creation side of things, because it’s the tool you’re used to. But, because of fewer edits, you’re less… frustrated.

The Good: Fewer rounds of revisions, and thanks to separating planning from creation, you often end up with less rounds of revisions and are thus able to plan content 2-4 months out, which everyone appreciates.
The Bad: You end up doing more work for the same results, but you have less rounds of revisions so you feel like this is okay. It’s not.
The Ugly: Users don’t experience content the way you design it, so the tools end up being a kludge.

Step Four: Beyond the Calendar

By this stage, you’ve hopefully developed some epic metrics behind the scenes, which you’re struggling VERY hard to integrate into your content planning. In addition, your practice is likely evolved enough (and bringing in enough revenue) that you can invest a bit in the future. One of the best CMs I’ve ever worked with actually kicked this phase off at my last agency, because he realized that the only way to write great narrative was to write narrative instead of writing 5 posts in 5 random boxes across a content calendar. He realized that he, as a writer, needed to experience the content creation the same way that our users experienced content consumption.

There are actually lots of approaches for this, so I’m not going to highlight the one we built until a later post, but at this stage in your evolution you are likely looking to decrease writing time, increase engagement, give clients more visibility to the “black box” that social content can become, integrate real-time marketing and ultimately:

Bring planning, creation and measurement together

Of course, there is a world beyond this, which involves dashboards, automated systems, cross-functional teams, etc. But the world beyond using the content calendar as the location where you plan, create, edit, approve and measure performance… It’s a fun one. Trust.

Update: I will note that this is for situations where the client requires intimate oversight of all content. If you’re able to evolve a relationship of greater trust, these processes simplify themselves immensely…

Have a better tool to creation or manage content, or think I’m a doofus of doom? Comment beloowwwwww.