Amanda Tessier

Marketer & More

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 2)

The Beginner’s Stack

When the office interns approach me each year and ask where I learned this marketing schtuff, there’s no short response.

With a hodge-podge of a background in social, SEO, content, community, growth, websites, emails, and things-that-do-not-scale, my answer is the nondescript, “It depends.”

I learned some of it in college, some of it in practice, and some of it online. One lesson built on another until I had an arsenal of facts available at a moment’s notice.

To showcase it all, I’ve compiled The Beginner’s Stack.

Not only were they useful resources as as a beginner, but they continue to deliver meaningful information over time.

From marketing technology tutorials to landing a job to getting paid what you deserve, here are the tired-and-true resources that first taught me what I know now.

Blogs for startups & marketing

Buffer Open + Social Blogs

When I ran a sports marketing group in college, I used the principles of team building and culture that the Buffer founders outlined. They worked and I grew the team from me to a dozen people. More on their salary calculator later.

Suggested read: The Power of Every Word: Why I Stopped Using “But” and “Actually” in My Customer Service Emails

First Round Review

Learn the hard lessons of entrepreneurship the easier way with longform articles from the prominent professionals on how they built something — a company, a career, or a product.

Suggested read: “Give Away Your Legos” and Other Commandments for Scaling Startups

Moz Blog

If you want to see marketing geeks start feuds, it’s usually over SEO on Twitter. This blog covers beginner topics all the way to advanced methods.

Suggested read: Beginner’s Guide to SEO

Email Newsletters

The Hustle

A conference and newsletter built for non-technical founders, now more heavily focused on tech business headlines.

Belle B. Cooper

Writer and developer, her writing delves into productivity and learning hacks (that aren’t hacky at all).

Books

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

The book is approaching 90 years old and it still works like a charm. It’s so effective it’s scary.

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

How and why to ask for what you want. She was doing things-that-do-not-scale way before startups commoditized it.

Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte

Scrap the old mantra that hustle is everything and working 20 hours a day is worth it. This book shows the data explaining why leisure is healthy.

Blockbusters by Anita Elberse

Do you know the long tail theory? Anita debunks it in one read that’s well worth it.

Gender, Branding, and the Modern Music Industry by Kristin Lieb

Your music tastes are probably predictable; mine are. After learning the lifecycle of a female pop star, you’ll never listen to music the same way again.

Ignore Everybody by Hugh McLeod

His sex & cash theory shows up again and again. In a nutshell, if you make your passion your day job, it won’t be fun anymore.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

If you want to change your life, change your habits. Cue, routine, reward, and repeat.

Resources to Salary Negotiation & Benchmarking Compensation

Salary.com

This is employer reported data and is more comprehensive than most salary estimates available online. It’s even recommended by negotiation coaches.

Buffer’s Transparent Salary Calculator

Calculate yours by role, city, and seniority level.

How I negotiated for an additional $15k at Yammer by Anna Marie Clifton

If you need a script for negotiating, follow this to the letter.

The hourly wage needed to rent a 2 bedroom apartment

For those thinking of relocating and new to the rental markets, this gives you benchmarks of what you can afford. Rent should be approximately 1/3 of your monthly take-home salary, so you can do the math from there.

The gender wage gap in silicon valley by Rasty Turek

It exists and he crunched the numbers to verify it.

Networking & Conferences

TechLadies

Online and in-person, these events bring together technical professionals from AI engineers to digital marketers alike.

OutOfOfficeHours

An online community connecting newcomers interested in tech and veterans who are working in the industry. These people are so impressive, I want to be a “newcomer” just so I can pick their brains.

BostonTweetUp — Boston-based

While this is a newsletter, it’s event-specific for Boston and Cambridge.

Growth Hacking Breakfast — Boston-based

Held every few months at the Cambridge Innovation Center in Kendall Square, this event hosts a growth marketer once every few months for a event over breakfast. You’ll be back to the office by 10AM.

Young Women in Digital — Boston-based

Boston-based events centered around all topics of digital marketing careers

FutureM — Boston-based

During the fall in Boston, this event brings together local speakers to showcase, you guessed it, the future of marketing

INBOUND — Boston-based

Competing with FutureM, INBOUND is HubSpot’s annual marketing conference that draws 10,000+ people to Boston each autumn

Job Boards & Hiring

AngelList

A job board for startups and talent to connect. I found my startup role here.

Indeed

The generic, catch-all job board where I found a gig in digital marketing.

LinkedIn

Social network and job board. It’s worth investing some time in updating yours — it’s one of the first places recruiters and you future coworkers search for you.

Young Women In Digital

For those local to Boston, you might have a contact in the group who can make an introduction to a role you want.

TechLadies

From the big wigs of tech to the scrappy startup, this group’s weekly newsletter hands you the job opening and the point of contact.

Hireable

Receive weekly or monthly job postings in your inbox. It’s a great way to keep tabs on the job market, even if you’re not actively looking.

Use this stack, share it, and tell me what you think. How’d you learn to be a marketer?

Related reads:

Reads worth rereading

Once I no longer had a syllabus of required reading, I began devouring books fast and furiously. I read more in 2016 than I think I did in 2012–2015 combined.

These favorite books turned my 45 minute commute into the turn of a page, brought sleep faster than scrolling through Twitter, and were free with a library card — or $4 used on Amazon.

With genres including memoir, productivity, and comedic short fiction, these reads will keep you laughing while making you think.

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

A powerful read for anyone grappling with creative agency or just having a hard time asking for what they want. Amanda Palmer’s memoir details her scooping ice cream at Toscanini’s in Cambridge, working as a street performer in Harvard Square, and embarking on a successful music career with the Dresden Dolls. Her non-linear career trajectory has a single defining characteristic — she becomes especially skillful at garnering support through asking for help.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This was a reread for me in 2016 and each time I learn something new from it. Using the tactics at work, they work like a charm. These methods are even effective in email correspondence. So much so, I started keeping a folder of examples where I’ve started keeping a folder of good examples in my inbox as a reminder of best practices. It’s a favorite on many people’s lists for a reason — the book delivers exactly what the title says.

Spinster by Kate Bolick

Being single is fun but everyone is telling us over and over that we should couple up. I even had a family member tell me I was so smart I’d marry a CEO (I then told her I’ll be the CEO).

Kate Bolick owns the Single Lady status like nobody’s business. Her memoir intertwines her personal conflict between single status and marriage opportunities with the history of women in the workforce. It researches the rise of women, yet how we’re still subjected to unrealistic expectations (like marrying a CEO as an aspiration…)

Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte

If you don’t have time to read a book, read this one twice. Its research encompasses how we manage time, why the “ideal worker” construct is ruining both men and women, and what we can do to remedy burnout.

One More Thing by BJ Novak

BJ Novak, an alum of The Office, writes hilarious pieces of short fiction that vary in length from one paragraph to a chapter. They’re thought-provoking and fun-sized, so they’re prefect to read on your beach vacation (which is what I did) or your morning commute.

Harry Potter

There are so many details I missed the first time I read this series 10 years ago. Pick it up again and you’ll see how Joanne Rowling wove in more plot twists than you can possibly remember. Now please excuse me, I have to go reread why the Snitch opens at the close.

PS: Get favorite reads, cool articles, and product tips every week in the newsletter helping marketers be more than ordinary.

Related reads:

The Conversion Rate Optimization of a Job Hunt

Talking about yourself is hard. “How To Objectively Sell Oneself” is a blog – no, a novel – of its own. Yet here I was, filling out job applications again and again, tweaking my resume and rewriting my cover letter in the hopes that my “personal branding” would strike a chord.

After an 8-week period of juggling phone interviews, networking events, and compensation conversations, I signed a job offer. It’s a relatively short period of time to be on the job hunt, especially as a recent college graduate. Nevertheless, it was the first time since I started working that I was without a paycheck. It was time to rejoin the workforce.

Here’s the story of how I tried to hack the job hunt, what was effective, and what I wouldn’t do the next time around.

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job hunt cro

The Math

Alright, here are the numbers for you. I applied to 60 jobs. Yes, 6-0. I’m a very aggressive job hunter.

Out of those 60 applications, I landed 8 phone interviews. Those translated into 6 in-person interviews. Those amounted to 1 formal offer.

From application to phone call, that’s approximately a 13% conversion rate.

From phone call to interview, that’s a 75% conversion rate.

Interview to offer is about a 17% conversion rate.

Is this good? Is this bad? I don’t know. Next time you job hunt, let me know how it goes.

Clearly, I’m better at landing interviews than jobs – here are some, but not all, of the reasons why the coveted offer was rather elusive.

The Challenges

This job hunt had 2 prominent challenges:

1. An appropriate job title
2. An acceptable pay range

My experience is far from a linear trajectory. I’ve been a social media manager for a hair salon, a SEO Specialist in a B2B digital marketing agency, a marketer at an early stage SaaS startup, and a freelancer in between.

I could apply to jobs for social media, SEO, content marketing, digital marketing, or marketing coordination and do them all with equal proficiency. Those skills were disguised in a lot of fancy titles:

  • Digital Strategy Associate
  • Account Executive
  • Digital Marketing Associate
  • Media Platform Assistant
  • Analyst, Strategy & Analysis
  • Web Content & Online Community Coordinator
  • Product Marketing Manager
  • Full Stack Marketer
  • Senior SEO Manager
  • Digital Marketing Manager
  • Marketing Coordinator
  • Marketing Specialist
  • Product Marketing Associate
  • Research Associate, Supporting Chief Marketing Officers
  • Product Associate
  • Senior Digital Marketing Associate
  • Marketing Associate Project Manager
  • Consumer Marketing (Circulation)
  • Marketing Analyst
  • Digital Media Expert
  • Associate Marketing Manager – B2B Digital
  • Content Marketing Specialist
  • Senior Associate, Social Content Systems
  • Online Marketing Specialist, Traffic Acquisition
  • Marketing Project Manager
  • Marketing Communications Manager
  • Social Media Specialist
  • Performance Marketing Manager
  • Assistant Account Executive
  • Digital Project Coordinator
  • Marketing Programs Associate
  • Account Manager, SMB, New Grad
  • Associate Digital Marketing Manager
  • Marketing Technologist Coordinator
  • Digital Marketing Campaign Planner – Manager
  • Associate, Growth Marketing and Strategy
  • Digital Marketing Strategist
  • University Grads in Marketing
  • Brand Strategy Associate
  • Interactive Marketing Associate
  • Product Marketing Manager
  • Event Coordinator

That’s 42 titles across 60 jobs! How’s anybody supposed to know what they’re applying for?! Maybe this is why it’s so tough to hire a marketer.

The latter challenge was pay – firms who deemed themselves “competitive” were 20% below my minimum acceptable salary. Timing the compensation discussion could make or break the deal.

Know Thy Worth

Best practices in salary negotiation involve having a minimum acceptable, target, and reach compensation. I would ask for the range between target and reach, knowing most places probably fall between them.

Based on quotes previous employers had given me, I knew what was appropriate, commendable, or downright deplorable. Thinking about the total compensation package, salary could rise or fall based on benefits including insurance, equity, and vacation time.

Resources like Salary.com make it easy to look up median income levels for specific job titles based on city. It’s employer-reported, so you don’t have to worry about angry ex-employers posting their salaries haphazardly.

I also read a lot about the gender pay gap. It exists, it’s a problem, and I felt compelled to do my part to close it. That was a huge motivating factor. If you’re nervous about asking for even more money, read how Anna Marie negotiated for an addition $15k at Yammer.

Now listen to Nike and just do it.

My dilemma was when to broach the money issue. For some firms, the salary range at entry level was unmovable. If I waited until a later interview to ask for their range, they wouldn’t be able to match my request and we both would have wasted a lot of time.

Others had some negotiating opportunity, but if I asked too early, I risked making money the priority before establishing why I might be the right candidate.

If employers post the range with the job listing, this problem would be solved. And guess what? This could be put into effect in 2016 in Massachusetts. Contact your rep directly to improve pay transparency. 2 minutes to fairer compensation.

The Interview

Sitting in front of a hiring manager, recruiter, or CEO is like customer service – you get feedback really damn quick. From their eyes glancing towards your resume to their glazed over look as you speak, you learn what holds their attention and what’s missing the mark.

These were my top answers to have at the ready before every meeting:

  • What you want

“Product-market fit, a leadership team I can learn form, and the opportunity to have a hands-on impact with company projects”

  • Your weaknesses – and your solutions

“I can be too much of a perfectionist and devote too much time to a task, so I like to over-communicate deadlines. I’m chronically late so I set my clocks back five minutes. If something isn’t going well for me, I hesitate to speak up in case the issue resolves itself. In the meantime, I like to maintain regular meetings with my manager to keep communication open.”

  • How to explain your last exit

“I loved my role there and was really proud of the work I did to build that company. There were a lot of leadership changes. Those brought culture shifts, and I didn’t see the opportunity to learn at the same pace going forward”

  • Why you want to work here

“I’m interested in learning from people with a breadth of experience in digital marketing, I’m seeking experience at the enterprise level, and there is opportunity for professional growth here.”

I also like to remember that I’m interviewing them as much as, if not more than they’re interviewing me. Here are my favorite questions to put the interviewer on the hot seat:

  • What quality or skill do you expect candidates to have that you often see lacking in this role?
  • What’s the challenge that you’re really grappling with when you sit down at your desk every morning at 9AM?
  • Why did you join [this company]?

How they answer these questions not only tells me a lot about them, but gives me some insight into if this is a fit.

One firm was “upgrading their staff” and a lot of turnover was about to happen. Another wasn’t sure what it wanted in a marketer. The interview is supposed to be the honeymoon stage, so red flags are not to be ignored.

How to Find the Jobs

Recruiting is big business. I found niche sites had more tailored job boards and the larger sites had a greater variety of titles and industries. Here were my top sources, just to name a few:

A secret gem are email alerts. Receive them daily, weekly, or monthly. They show you the newest postings and help you keep tabs on gigs that haven’t been filled. My favorite is Hireable – their emails are well-designed and the jobs are up-to-date.

Leveraging a network I’d built over college, I reached out to a handful of contacts and received some amazing advice. One friend was kind enough to give me a thorough critique of my resume and cover letter. She made them a lot stronger. Another put in my name at some big firms. The generosity of people to extend a hand is truly humbling.

Where did I find my job? Indeed.com. The very place I least expected.

How Not to Hack the Job Hunt

A story so good, it deserved a post of its own. Let’s just say Snapchat, AdWords, and landing pages aren’t always the right combination to score an interview.

The Job

Well, I made it. Offer signed and on the table. How’d that happen?

I found the gig via Indeed. During a phone interview with the recruiter a few days later, our salaries aligned and my experience fit the job description.

Following a phone interview with my future manager, I was invited for an in-person interview. After almost two hours meeting with the HR coordinator, my future manager, the Director of Marketing, and the VP of Marketing, I left there feeling hopeful.

The offer came through shortly thereafter, at the top of my reach salary. It was too good to turn away. What almost felt better than having the job was not having to job hunt anymore.

The Falling Action

Boston is a really small town. I can walk across downtown in 45 minutes. This means I’ve met the people they hired for the jobs I applied to. Without admitting that I sought after their job, I learned the reasons why they scored the position:

  1. They had a different expertise
    Even if the position didn’t explicitly say they needed certain experience, it was the selling characteristic
  2. They knew somebody
    … who knew somebody. It’s about who you know, not what you know in some cases.
  3. You pay for the talent you get
    A particular position low-balled salary and I’ve since learned that hire hasn’t been a great fit. Good talent knows their worth.

What I Would Change

In future job hunts, I’ll start by asking within my professional network. Job boards have a very low success rate compared to friends (or friends of friends).

I’d narrow my requirements. As you can see from the vast range of titles, I was open to many positions. In hindsight, perhaps too many. Limiting my focus may have produced more fruitful results earlier on in the search.

Keep an eye on my benchmarks. Now I know the approximate conversion rates. If the number of applications skyrockets again, I’ll pause to reevaluate how my resumes represent my work.

Salary negotiation takes practice. Waiting until the in-person interview gives the advantage that you can prove your worth and show that compensation isn’t a primary motive.

Starting from a position of employment also means I can be more selective in my next job change. There’s a clearer vision of what I’ll look for professionally and how I’ll begin a search.

That’s the story of how I landed to my 9-5. I send a weekly newsletter of my interests 5-9.
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More Than A Marketer

Hi, I’m Amanda.I’m a marketer by day, but a lot more outside of that. And I find what I do 5-9 influences what I do 9-5.

Instead of sticking my favorite reads into Evernote for my eyes only, I thought I’d share them with people who want a little more out of their inbox.

Every week, your inbox will get a dose of favorite reads, handy tools, and analytical articles.



If I met you in person, you’d get a high five, and maybe I’d challenge you to a cartwheel contest. I’m just happy you’re here 🙂

Digital Culture & Emerging Technology

Recently, good friend and creative human Joslyn Yeager and I were discussing Everybody at Once (EA1) and Molly Templeton’s theory of delete culture.

Molly Templeton, a wildly successful YouTuber at the dawn of the platform is now a part of EA1, and still has the same pulse as online trends. Joslyn brought Templeton’s exploration of delete culture to my attention. Here’s the definition for your convenience:

The act of removing social media posts from the Internet that are no longer relevant to the exact moment you are in.”

This is shown by Instagram accounts that only keep 9 photos at a time. Tweets are deleted shortly after they’re posted. It further emphasizes Snapchat’s relevance. I’ll admit I originally thought the app was a passing fad, and I’m glad to be wrong.

Thanks to Growthhackers, I found the slide deck for Snapchat’s pitches back in 2014 (oh so long ago in the startup world). Please browse! What’s most interesting is this slide in particular:

Snapchat technical difference

“DELETE IS OUR DEFAULT”

That is so powerful to me because it explains why Snapchat hasn’t faded away. The company realized this trend (even if by accident or personal need) and capitalized on it.

People are pushing back and trying to take control of their information. Snapchat is certainly collecting information–no question about that–but it’s part of a larger trend to keep what’s in the moment and not more. I realize the implications for data analysis–I’m a data geek and I love taking all the information I can and making sense of it. It’s going to change the way metrics are calculated and goals are achieved, but truthfully, there are plenty of ways to capitalize on the now and the software exists to keep pace with it.

Let’s look at this from a personal perspective: I joined Facebook when I was a sophomore in high school; I’ve since removed dozens of photos of teenage awkwardness. The now-teenager I once babysat already has Facebook and Instagram–all before the eighth grade. If you’re a child growing up with technology, think of that backlog you’ll have to remove once you’re entering college. Your embarrassing childhood photos are no longer tucked away in our family’s photo albums; they’re digitally available and indexed.  Facebook is no longer the fun yearbook we believed it to be; it’s unwanted record of our past selves.

Snapchat’s service is unlike anything previously offered in the social, let alone mobile, space. We can share those same moments with friends, without the documentation. Perhaps it’s also a sidestep around cyberbullying (although certainly not a cure): the content doesn’t live on for hours for continued ridicule, judgement, or evaluation (I know that would’ve solved some of the issues I encountered). I’m admittedly ignoring the loopholes in the system: Snapchat’s database and the screenshot feature. For the purpose of this piece, I’m focusing singularly on the value proposition this platform offers in relation to the growing need to share the now, not save the past and present for future review.

Snapchat, probably unknowingly, took a page out of the biggest startup in the world’s book–Google. Snapchat can pride itself on its technical difference of ephemeral communication. There are few to none services that provide the same benefit; its service is growing so rapidly and providing so much value, it would take another platforms months to get to this level (although I’m sure some are trying). In How Google Works, Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg that Google’s best products have a technical difference that no one can match. Google Search is relevant and fast. YouTube makes video sharable and accessible anywhere. Gmail is free, intuitive email that travels with you. The products that haven’t faired as well (cough cough, Google+) lacked that technical difference users would find valuable. There were too many other competitors with similar offerings in the space. Snapchat developed a product that hit at a core issue–sharing the present in the present–and built around that.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this resistance to corporate control and data aggregation. A few years ago, an NYU graduate student recorded all his own information. He tracked his travels, his browsing history, everything he could using his own methods. He explored the idea that the individual user could collect, and sell, their own data. Rather than the company mine it (even if it is with our permission when we sign up)  and profit off of it, we collect our own information and profit ourselves. Individually it might not amount to useful information for a company, but the aggregation of many people doing this could provide vast amounts of information that directly pays the user for sacrificing some privacy.

There’s something to be said for secrecy–it gives a sense of exclusivity. Even Everybody at Once seems to adopt this mentality. The website is structured so that they’re only discoverable by familiarity with internet culture–which is what they both specialize in and thrive off of. This firm, in their own words, does “audience development and social strategy for media, entertainment, and sports.” Their work–including the “Clone Club” for Orphan Black– works not to interrupt the social space, but operate within it. It’s the pinnacle of content marketing, uniting community and encouraging real-time viewing in a space that is accessible 24/7–an understanding we can all learn to operate within.

5 Pieces of Gratitude

Thanksgiving has to be one of my favorite days of the year; it’s a holiday with minimal hype where families come together to express gratitude and eat. Who doesn’t love a little thanks and food?

It’s a moment to reflect on the blessings we have, especially when we’re constantly given aspiration messages that jump on our insecurities. I’m venturing from my usual marketing discussion because this is far more meaningful than any Facebook algorithm change.

1. A Roof Over My Head

Living in a city juxtaposes the immeasurably wealthy with the unfathomably impoverished. Seeing the bright lights from the skyscrapers of the sparkling Financial District glimpse upon the homeless on the streets tugs at my heart everyday. It reminds me that as miserable the weather may be outside, I have a shelter to call my own. Here are a few charities that do a great deal of good for this cause.

St. Francis House

Pine Street Inn

2. A Meal On My Table

On my first trip to Brooklyn, I photographed all the delicious meals. Why not document the food adventure?

On my first trip to Brooklyn, I photographed all the delicious meals. Why not document the food adventure?

My Italian family made sure I never went hungry and this holds true on Thanksgiving. We usually struggle to fit all the dishes on the table. Not everyone is quite as fortunate. I was raised to view food as love, so I encourage you to share some of your wealth with these admirable organizations.

The Greater Boston Food Bank

Pie in the Sky (bookmark for next year!)

3. Friends of the Past, Present, and Future

If you haven't already, I highly recommend the tree lighting at Faneuil Hall in November every year. Get a hot apple cider afterwards!

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend the tree lighting at Faneuil Hall in November every year. Get a hot apple cider afterwards!

I have a strong group of friends that form a tremendous support system. Along the way, I’ve met many people I consider “bridge friends.” He or she comes into my life for a period of time so we can learn certain lessons from each other and although the friendship laters dissolves (often peacefully), it was an important relationship for both of us. These individuals have taught me who to surround myself with and how to maintain healthy connections. They are people I’m grateful to have known.

My father has an expression: “Strangers are friends waiting to be met.” I’m happy to know that there are many more people I will cross paths with and hopefully learn from. If I’m not celebrating Thanksgiving with them now, maybe I will be next year!

No causes for this one…should I add some? Suggest them in the comments!

4. Work

Wakefly office westborough

I was surprised my first day to find my name on a cubicle of my own.

In an economy that is just beginning the upswing from a recession, I am so grateful to have a job that contributes to my personal capital. My current workplace took the chance of hiring me and gave me such a warm welcome. I have since become fascinated by corporate culture and how to create an innovative and efficient environment. If you’re looking for the same, I recommend reading Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod and How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg. PS: Use smile.amazon.com. It donates to important causes!

Are you in the Boston area and looking to network? Sign up for BostonTweetUp‘s newsletter to learn about local networking events and conferences. It’s easy to familiarize yourself with people in Boston; I’ve been attending the conference circuit for barely 3 years and already see many familiar faces.

5. Health

There have been too many headlines in the news recently relating to people in compromised states both physically and mentally. We’ve all had that moment in the worst phase of a head cold when we can’t even imagine what it feels like to be healthy; a few days later we’re better. I have great respect for individuals combating an illness that doesn’t fade with time. If you or a loved one are going through a tough time and need someone to talk to, the Samaritans are here to listen, give meaningful words of encouragement, and suggest additional resources.

Those are my top 5 things to be grateful for! What are some of yours?

Dear Blackberry, from a devoted iPhone user

Holding the coveted iPhone 6 that technology reviewers are hailing as innovative and intuitive, I went to the website of the device most people consider terribly outdated: the BlackBerry. It was time for some window shopping.

Pursuing the iPhone 6 

I’m the proud owner of an iPhone 4S and upgrading to the iPhone 6 seemed the natural progression, until the aggravation of obtaining it caught up with me. It involved:

  1. One trip to AT&T to look at the physical device
  2. A call to AT&T to review the rebate policy
  3. A call to AT&T to verify the phone options and upgrade availability
  4. A call to AT&T to change (uhhhh-emmmmm, increase) the data plan*

*Note: Increasing the data plan was only done because my “out-of-contract discount” is now unavailable. Needless to say, I was less than pleased about this.

This device wasn’t worth that effort. It is nearly identical to my beloved 4S. In fact, it is worse than my 4S. This iPhone 6 requires a purse just to transport it. It is costing my family more in monthly data fees. The taxes on it are absurd. I need AppleCare for fear of bending the device or shattering this screen. Not to mention all the new connectors and chargers I would need. $199 price tag? This device is going to run me that with a rebate.

New Pursuit: Blackberry

A friend recently pulled out his Blackberry and I was taken by surprise. I thought the company was focusing all its efforts on B2B ventures, not B2C transactions. Back in 2011, this was the smartphone I dreamed of, but with the company’s plummeting value and spotty service, the iPhone was the safer bet. Who knew if Blackberry would be doing business in a year?

Well, it’s been 3 years, and according to company specs and many tech bloggers, BlackBerry’s quality is on-par with Apple. What’s more impressive is the loyalty of Blackberry’s users, the Crackberry fanatics. A simple tweet one morning launched into a day-long conversation with the fans and the company itself.

Apple, and its millions of fans, never showed up in this conversation. It was enough for me to do some further research.

Concerns

There are a handful of features with the iPhone that make me hesitate when considering switching to another brand. They are concerns you likely have as well. The Blackberries, specifically the Q10, resolved many of my worries:

  • iCal: My entire schedule for work, classes, and even lunch dates relies on this notification system
    • SolutioniCal can be imported into Blackberry’s calendar
  • Apps: I’m a social media manager. Without my phone, I’m not doing my clients justice.
    • SolutionApps from Google Play and the Amazon Appstore work on Blackberry, and the majority of my favorites are available
  • Battery Life: My 80+ apps wear my phone down pretty quickly. I charge it daily, if not twice a day.
    • SolutionAlmost 15 days of standby time, compared to the iPhone’s 10 days
  • Size: My biggest gripe with the iPhone is its enlarged screen
    • SolutionBlackberries are roughly the size of the iPhone 4s
  • Memory: Minimum 16GB is required to hold everything
    • Solution: Blackberry Q10 is available in 16GB.

In my research, I did discover some unforeseen issues with upgrading now. Among them:

  • I will be charged a $25 restocking fee by AT&T for returning my iPhone 6
  • The Blackberry Q10, although only $50, is already a year and a half old. I’m upgrading to get the newest, not the soon to be old-model
  • The BlackberryQ20, aka the Blackberry Classic, is rumored to be released in November or early 2015
    • I will receive $200 for my iPhone 4s through the end of October. The amount will drop after that date.
    • The Q20 will likely be priced at $200
    • Now I have a decision
      1. Return my phone now for full value and be phoneless until the Q20 is released
      2. Keep my phone and get less money for it, thus forking over more cash for the Q20
  • I cannot try the Q20 even if it were out; Blackberries are only available online. I do not enjoy gambling on a 2-year commitment

Time to Switch…in 2 years

Too little, too late, Blackberry. I love your devices and I see the tremendous potential. The lack of synchronicity with my upgrade and the release of the iPhone 6 makes it a difficult to change devices. I adore the QWERTY keyboard and the durability. I would be joining a very loyal and enthusiastic user base. The price tag and the inability to try the phone prior to purchase are enough for me to say, “I’m sticking with the iPhone for now.

In 2 years, I’ll likely be reconsidering all my devices. My college laptop may be coming to an end. My next phone contract will expire. I’m aware enough to know that much of Apple’s value lies in its brand, not its products. Therefore, even though your company has suffered tremendous blows (every person I told my story to–with the exception of the friend who owns a Blackberry–looked at me with skeptically raised eyebrows), I recognize that your products have many benefits. In 2016, I’ll be selecting the devices that best suit my lifestyle and career demands, not the ones with the prettiest light-up logo.

Live and Learn

AT&T, should you ever read this, please streamline your communications about upgrades to customers. I’m not someone usually befuddled by technology, but you stumped me.

Blackberry, please establish a showcase somewhere. I really wanted to try your devices, and I can’t commit to a phone without testing it in the store first.

Special Thanks

Blackberry owners, I hope to join you in a few years. Thanks for the many pieces of advice via Twitter; perhaps I’ll be the one responding to a prospective Crackberry aficionado one day.

Alternatives to Our Favorite Shopping App, Hukkster

The recent announcement that Hukkster will be closing its doors left me desperate for a new tool to assist in bargain hunting. If you aren’t already familiar, Hukkster was an browser extension, website, and application that allowed you to bookmark potential purchases and it would alert you via email or text message (your choice) when those items went on sale. It garnered attention when  the Winklevoss twins, famous for their supposed contributions to Facebook and well-known lawsuit of Zuckerberg, invested in the company.

I’m a skilled bargain hunter and Hukkster became a necessary tool for buying coveted items that were usually above my budget. I struggled to find a replacement until I tweeted my dismay and two companies replied me (thank goodness for businesses using Twitter wisely). I’ve tried each of them out, and here’s my review of them.

Covvet

This website is nearly identical to Hukkster without some of the bugs that the now closed company had (such as not being able to properly load). Once you’ve downloaded their browser extension, click it whenever you find a product you like and a price you don’t. You can select how much the product much be discounted by before you’re alerted to its reduced price. In comparison, Hukkster had presets you had to select from.

Covvet, Hukkster, bargain hunting

Use Covvet to save favorite items and get alerts when products go on sale.

My few complaints: it divides popular products by gender lines. This is bothersome because (1) I often shop menswear due to its lower prices, higher quality, and unisex style, and (2) I have friends who are transgender and struggle to find apparel within the boundaries that society has set for them. Additionally, it doesn’t allow you to add products to lists to keep items organized and there are no options to send alerts via text or email.

ShopTagr

This is also nearly identical to Hukkster. Its only options for price change alerts are when the cost is reduced at any amount or at 25% (even Hukkster had more options than that). A great option is that you can earn gift cards to popular stores (Amazon and ASOS are among them) by inviting your friends to use ShopTagr. (Here’s my code: http://shopt.me/yscic)

ShopTagr, an alternative to Hukkster

ShopTagr saves your favorite products and sends you an alert when they go on sale

Much like Hukkster, ShopTgr allows lists (which Covvet doesn’t). I used these in Hukkster to determine what I wanted for myself versus a family member, friend, or significant other.

This service also divides popular items by gender lines and asks you to specify your gender upon sign-up. Therefore, the complaint above still applies. The alert options do not involve emails or texts either. Boo-hoo.

The Winner Is…

Undecided. I know that’s not the answer you want to hear, but it will be determined by which service is connected to more websites. I have yet to use either one extensively enough to decide, so once the winner is clear, there will be an updated post.

Another Valuable Service: BuyHappy

This company alerts you when another retailer is offering the same product at a better price. A slightly different service that grew in the same incubator as Covvet. I just began using it and haven’t seen the full results yet, but it’s worth a try.

My initial complaint: It isn’t available for Safari (I realize I’m the minority here but it would still be nice). If you’re a Chrome or Firefox fanatic, you’re all set!

What’s your vote?

Tell me in the comments below and feel free to tweet me anytime!

21st Century Music

A survey was completed by a professor in a marketing class regarding the students’ media habits. Much of the data was to be expected; twenty-somethings receive a vast majority of news via the Internet or social media. Television viewing has moved online, particularly to platforms such as Hulu or Netflix. The most surprising category to me was the fragmented radio section; most people had completely abandoned traditional radio. Additionally, college students in a city are rarely driving cars–an activity they said involved more traditional radio. The fastest ways to get around Boston are by foot and by MBTA, and most travelers have earbuds on and iPhones on. Pandora, Spotify, Songza, and iTunes have taken combined control, but each one individually owns only a small portion of the audience.

The complaints about traditional radio included excessive advertising, repetition of songs, and lack of choice in music selection. All the applications mentioned solve those problems; a paid version eliminates advertisements, the songs rarely repeat, and there is the ability to thumbs up or thumbs down a track. Additionally, as hard as traditional radio has tried to venture into this platform, these other applications are far more accessible on mobile.

This isn’t the first time I have heard about grievances with traditional radio. The Wall Street Journal wrote this article describing the tactic of playing the same few songs frequently, and some might say, excessively. Listeners are more likely to stay on a station when they hear a familiar song; therefore, new ones are introduced with great care. It greatly relates to Blockbusters, a book by Harvard professor Anita Elberse about how the heavy investment and promotion of a few entertainment products is far more profitable than a consistent investment and promotion of many. Rather than disperse the radio waves with a multitude of diverse songs, it has become more profitable to transition stations over to pop music and homogenize the available content.

From personal experience, the ten minutes I listen to the radio in the morning is enough for me to hear all the songs the stations are currently playing thousands of times a day. It wakes me up, keeps me up to date with current music, and gives me a few of the day’s trending topics before I’m able to read Twitter. I heavily rely on iTunes, use Spotify for songs I like but am not ready to commit to, and regularly explore Soundcloud for new music.

Traditional radio still has its advantages: there is talk integrated in with music. Radio personalities are an asset to this medium. Boston’s AMP 103.3 has capitalized on this; Loren Raye and TJ Taormina‘s program “The TJ Show” has kept the station head-to-head with Boston’s long-running “Matty in the Morning” by Kiss 108. Loren and TJ break up the music with commentary on current events (let’s use the term “current events” loosely here) and different packages that usually involve pranks. AMP 103.3 is creating promotional events in new ways; they’re offering more meet and greets with artists (you can view Flo Rida’s here) and interviews with artists than I’ve seen on most stations. The Birthday Bash thrown by AMP Radio in City Hall Plaza to celebrate their first year in the Boston market attracted over 35,000 people for a lineup that include Cambridge-native Sam Adams, Selena Gomez, and Jason Derulo.

Traditional radio is still one of the few channels that can directly catapult an artist to superstardom. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis went from a modest following to a tremendous one in under a year thanks to “Thrift Shop” being played on radio stations across the country. This leaves open the question of music discovery; if the same songs are being played across all platforms, how do those quieter artists crack onto the scene and how do fans learn about them?

As with most trends, there’s always a new movement against the old ways. Mergers and conglomerates are creating larger and larger entities, leaving more room at the bottom for small initiatives to take off. As I write, Soundcloud is playing East of Ely, a group I discovered this morning thanks to The Kollection. 8tracks has long been a favorite for its innumerable playlists. These platforms are also highly sharable; they can often be linked to Last.fm to record which songs have played and easily connect to social networks.

What does it mean for musicians? An internet presence is important; the chances of joining the ranks of mainstream radio are far slimmer than gaining a following on Soundcloud. Concerts are a great moment to expand your fan base; after seeing Down with Webster at a Radical Something show and being impressed by the their performance, I began to follow their music online. Connecting with fans will always win support; Watsky makes a point of meeting people after shows and replying their tweets.

Music is about the experience; it’s something that innately connects with people. If traditional radio ignores the highly personal aspect of this art, it will greatly suffer as other platforms capitalize on its weakness. Musicians are getting more savvy at taking control of their tours, promotions, and branding, and fans are ready for new content. It’s a transforming marketing and i’m excited to see where to 21st century will take it.

#ECHoops

The Emerson College men’s basketball team had a tremendous season in 2013 and 2014. As an unranked team entering the NEWMAC conference, they had a lot to prove and definitely surprised a lot of people. I was in attendance for each and every home game as the Associate Marketing Director for Emerson Channel Sports in order to provide social media coverage. Watching the team grow and adapt as a unit not only showed their camaraderie and dedication to the sport, but helped me provide better coverage of a department that gets little attention in the Emerson community.

I’ve learned a lot about social media engagement from them. It’s partially because there is such a small audience; I can fairly easily track basic measurements. I can tell you how many people we reached on social platform and how much activity our posts received. I used software to calculate the optimum time of the day to post. During this time I also built a modest marketing team to cover more games and increase our growth. There were shifts in strategy that greatly influenced the success of our online campaigns and carried over into the physical Emerson community.

Content is King

Before the days of Instagram video and Vine, our visual content was strictly blurry pictures. There were a handful of video applications at the time but none had a large enough audience to be useful for our organization. The launch of these prominent applications made our content much more interactive. People could begin viewing the material and reviewing various plays from the games.

Photography with a DSLR has now replaced our blurry Instagram images (all thanks to our fabulous photographer, Sam Nipatnantaporn). Each basketball game consists of at least twenty-five images that include each player who sets foot on the court, some pictures of the coaching staff, and a few shots of the fans in attendance. We have learned to watermark these photos so when they are shared across the Internet we can claim credit. Earlier in the process we made the mistake of not including a watermark; we quickly learned our lesson when athletes began downloading the images and posting them on other platforms or using them as profile pictures (which we couldn’t have been more thrilled about!).

A single photo album gets far more views and activity than our dozens of score updates used to; we’re emphasizing quality images and videos in order to be a resource for the audience and the athletes. Not only have we changed the tools we’re using, we’ve also shifted the focus of what we are including in our coverage.

Successes, Not Scores

We used to post scores heavily; with every score we would try to have an accompanying photo or video (once Vine was around). However, this turned out to be a bit repetitive because ECS provides a live stream of the game and Emerson Athletics updates statistics live online. I wasn’t entirely sure how to shift our focus and what we would highlight instead.

I kept this tactic largely the same until the men’s basketball team competed against Amherst, the defending national champions. We were expected to lose by a landslide, yet we won. The phrase “social media blew up” perfectly applied here. There were constant notifications across all platforms for hours after the game ended; responses were still trickling in for days. It was one of the early games that we used a DSLR camera to get high-resolution photos (as seen below) and I was stunned by the response. The images became people’s profile pictures, Instagram re-grams, cover photos, and the list goes on and on.

Emerson v Amherst

Emerson v Amherst

We learned athletes weren’t as apt to share score updates (even if a great photo accompanied it) or posts about them dominating their rivals. People shared their success stories; they retweeted the video of them making the three-pointer nobody saw coming or making a great block to defend their basket. The win was important, but not as important as what they accomplished during their time off the bench.

We shifted our approach to report the score separately from plays and it decreased the massive gap of engagement we saw between when the team won or lost. In a few weeks, months, or years, everybody will forget who won that game, but they’ll likely talk about the incredible play that was made by so-and-so in the second half with three minutes left on the clock. We want to focus on those memorable moments, not the final numbers on the scoreboard.

The focus to accomplishments diminished the huge disparity in engagement between when the team won versus when they lost. Even at a game that’s a large loss, we still see relatively interactive engagement with our content. This consistency has allowed us to keep growing our reach and our audience.

Engagement

We’re looking to connect with the athletes and their friends and family and sometimes, they don’t know we exist. To address this issue, we started tagging them in posts (which meant we had to be a little creeperish–it’s a word–and find their usernames on Instagram and handles on Twitter). The effectiveness exceed my expectations; the people we mentioned followed us if they weren’t already and showed more engagement with the content. It also drove traffic to the other material we published and our social media influence kept rising. Therefore conversations kept rising; on a few occasions the men’s basketball team would be debating a play and would refer to an Instagram video to review it. They would be chatter about the photographs. The content was reaching our audience via the Internet but was discussed in the physical community.

Video Promotions

It took us a while to begin to develop these, but I’m so glad we’re producing them more consistently now. With the help of the marketing team, we created a whole list of potential promotional ideas based off of famous sports movies. We selected “Like Mike” as the first concept which was especially fitting with four Mikes on the men’s basketball team. Four promos were created–one for each of them–with one of the regular hosts of ECS’s broadcast, Matt Searle. We couldn’t be happier with the outcome and the audience seems to like it based on the view count and the feedback we’ve received. Take a peek at our creations below!

Events

Event planning isn’t my favorite activity; it is a lot of preparation for a comparably short occasion. However, it was time to transfer the success we had online and create a physical event. At the suggestion of my boss, we threw a SuperBowl party (and I couldn’t have been more nervous for it). With an abundance of food, a big screen television for viewing, and a beautiful Skybox in the heart of our athletics center, we had just under fifty people in attendance. We received positive feedback and helpful suggestions through a survey distributed online afterwords. The people who stopped by were diverse–some were friends we had persuaded to go, some were members of ECS, and many were those who heard about the party and wanted the free food.

ECS Superbowl Viewing Party

The success isn’t enough for me to pursue event planning as a career, but it reassured me that ECS could organize an event and build its brand through them. I’m also realizing how difficult it is to book room on Emerson’s campus, so I’ll likely be planning future events months, if not a year, in advance.

Thank You

A tremendous “Thank You” to the men’s basketball team for sharing these videos, participating in our promotions, and having an awesome season for us to promote. If it wasn’t for your dedication to the game, there wouldn’t be anything to report on or broadcast. An ENORMOUS “THANK YOU” to my marketing team who put all hands on deck every step of the way. I know that everybody’s already looking forward to the 2014-2015 basketball season.

Buffer versus Sprout Social

If you follow my Twitter feed, you know my love for Buffer. I follow every single employee and I mention them relentlessly (they’re probably tired of hearing from me). I love that their system can queue posts and perform custom scheduling. There is a growing list in my nightstand drawer detailing all the things I love about this company, ranging from their product to their culture.

All things considered, I’ve come to a bit of a crossroads. I need more analysis on my data; I’m working with more clients and I’m nearly at the maximum of 12 accounts on my Awesome Plan. In order to calculate reach, I’ve begun researching and trying tools that can offer me greater insight in the data I receive. All of which are free versions: Fllwrs, Friend or Follow, Retweet Lab, Tweriod, Klout, Kred, and my favorite, SumAll.

I’m at the tipping point where I may need to invest in a more advanced program. After using the free-trials of several platforms, participating in Twitter chats, and asking other social media professionals, Buffer and SproutSocial are the top choices. There are very distinct reasons why I like each and they are accompanied by equally strong shortcomings.

Buffer’s layout is beautiful. The clean, white design makes it very user-friendly. The iPhone app is easy to use, the queuing feature is wonderful, and its integration with a number of platforms is awesome. The company is constantly developing; recently, Google+ has been added as an available account to connect. There’s a “Live Chat” button added within the last week. They just released Buffer for Business and I couldn’t have been more excited.

After trying the least expensive of the premium plans ($50/month), I was a little disappointed. Jumping from $8.50/month to $50/month is quiet a leap and I didn’t feel it was worth it. The data analysis was not as detailed as I would have hoped; Sumall, a tool that is currently free in beta form, outpaces Buffer. I wasn’t yet persuaded to type in my credit card digits.

I gave SproutSocial a 30-day trial and loved the analytics. It told me where leads were coming from, compiled more detailed reports, and gave me a level of insight no other platform offered. However, the design was slightly confusing. It was an odd combination of Buffer and HootSuite with a black background. I have heard wonderful reviews about SproutSocial, but I was uncertain of the platform’s design. There may be nothing wrong with it at all–it is just unfamiliar to me–but I did not continue use after the trial period ended.

Sprout Social costs $40/month; that $10 difference compared to Buffer could save me $120 a year. For full-time social media agencies and freelancers, that’s nothing. For someone just starting out, that’s enough to make me hesitate.

My hope is that Buffer will improve its data analysis portion of the website. If this is up to par with SproutSocial and SumAll, they have my money. At this moment, neither company is getting anything more from me. Please leave your suggestions in the comments–especially if you know of another service I have yet to use.

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