Leave a comment
Get the GH Bookmarklet

AMAs

Sylvia is the VP of Growth & Analytics at 500px, a premier online community for discovering, sharing, buying and selling inspiring photography. Home to 7M+ photographers and 65M+ photos, 500px recently closed a $13 million expansion round and is backed by Andreessen Horowitz.

Prior to 500px, Sylvia held roles at Google, eBay, ScribbleLive, and OANDA. At Google Sylvia led a cross-functional team of "data hackers" on their Global Center of Excellence for SMB marketing. She received the Google Global Marketing Organization Gold and Platinum Awards for her work there, which included building an online marketing analytics platform from the ground up. At eBay she worked on user acquisition and retention programs, including optimizing eBay Canada's $7M internet marketing program and contributing to eBay's Best Match sort algorithm.

In 2009 Sylvia founded Charity CHAMPS, a nonprofit dedicated to involving youth in micro-giving, now a part of Summerhill Impact. She currently provides career mentorship to new immigrants and is proud that one of her Google mentees was recently named a Forbes Top 30 under 30.

Sylvia has a Masters in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern and looks forward to discussing all things data and growth with the GrowthHackers community.

You can follow Sylvia on Twitter @sylvng and LinkedIn, or check out her new-ish blog at http://sylvia.ng.

She will be live on March 31 from 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which she will answer as many questions as possible.  

  • LS

    Logan Stoneman

    almost 3 years ago #

    Hey Sylvia! Thank you so much for your time today - your career is impressive but I'm most intrigued by your charity and mentorship roles! How has your life changed since giving your time to other projects that are not directly related to a salary or monetary compensation?

    Additionally, how would you suggest others find their own ways to give back, especially in with their marketing and growth skillsets?

    • SN

      Sylvia Ng

      almost 3 years ago #

      It's refreshing to take a step back from our day to day and to look at giving back, isn't it? I'd say that my charity work has enriched my life for the better. Usually the networking that I do ends up directly helping me with my career in growth so the charity work isn't as separate from my day job as you'd think. Aside from the networking, the mentorship attracts talent to my company, and is my way of giving back without necessarily signing up for charity or nonprofit work, which takes more long term commitments usually.

    • SN

      Sylvia Ng

      almost 3 years ago #

      Also check out ttp://www.raultiru.com/ - growth marketers can contribute their skills directly to solve social enterprise problems!

      4 Share
      • ES

        Edward Stephens

        almost 3 years ago #

        Just checked out the Raultiru site - such a good share.

      • RT

        Raul Tiru

        almost 3 years ago #

        Hi Sylvia,
        Thank you so much for mentioning the platform. I feel humbled having great minds joining the community and having wonderful people talking about it.

        At the moment, we're discussing a partnership with one of the most efficient non-profits, fighting Malaria. I hope to have the project up and running within a few weeks. Looking forward to helping them to help more people.

        Once again, thank you so much! Have a pleasant day.

    • SN

      Sylvia Ng

      almost 3 years ago #

      In terms of suggestions for giving back, I'm seeing more and more people applying lean startup and growth principles to nonprofit problems. Check this out: http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/2015/11/how-lean-startup-helped-serve.html

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    almost 3 years ago #

    Hy Sylvia

    So stoked to have you on!

    What's the signal that a startup needs to move away from 3rd party analytics tools and build their own?
    And when building your own, what are the biggest challenges and mistakes you've come across with getting it right the first time?

    • SN

      Sylvia Ng

      almost 3 years ago #

      Good question - this is one that comes up all the time! Realistically I think any org is going to have a mix of 3rd party tools and in house ones, and the question really becomes which parts you move internally and which parts you still rely on external tools for. The main criteria I'd use for evaluation are cost, capabilities, and user familiarity. If you can build the in house solution for cheaper, and it'll save you a ton of analyst hours because you're no longer wrangling data from multiple tools together, then in-house is worthwhile. If your data set is just so large that third party tools can't handle the volume, then obviously you also need to look at in house tools. Lastly, if your users are really familiar with one tool (say Mixpanel or Google Analytics), then maybe it's not worth ripping them away from those tools upfront.

      3 Share
      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        almost 3 years ago #

        That helps.
        And to your knowledge is there a playbook/tech stack that one should follow (or consider following) once you've decided to go down this path?
        What are all the key decisions that could come into play once you've decided to take the plunge?

      • SN

        Sylvia Ng

        almost 3 years ago #

        I hesitate to recommend any one tech stack because it varies by business needs. If you need realtime decision making the tech stack changes significantly than if you're willing to wait a day.

        The playbook itself is to iterate. When I first started at OANDA I remember taking all these schemes that I learned from my days at eBay and drawing up grand plans and those (of course) failed spectacularly until I was able to make MVPs out of them.

        Aside from the obvious to-dos like setting goals and getting stakeholder buy-in, don't forget to review your data privacy policies and make sure those are in place and that you follow them. Then, within those guidelines, track as much as you can at a user level and tie in the sources at that lowest level of granularity, ideally across devices. Test that tracking like hell, before feeding it into a warehouse or doing any realtime streaming of results.

  • AG

    Alberto Grande

    almost 3 years ago #

    Hey Sylvia, thanks for doing this AMA!

    I have two questions:

    What was your biggest learning from building the marketing analytics platform at Google? And what will you do the same or change going forward as a result?

    How did you integrate your analytics and data knowledge with the user acquisition program at eBay?

    Thanks!

    • SN

      Sylvia Ng

      almost 3 years ago #

      Biggest learning was honestly patience. We always wanted to do more than we could do, and sometimes the bar was set so high that we forgot to celebrate the small wins along the way. Along with that, I've learned ruthless prioritization. There will always be competing needs, and you have to really focus to make sure you move fast on things that will move the needle.

      3 Share
      • SN

        Sylvia Ng

        almost 3 years ago #

        Regarding a prioritization a framework, I always used revenue impact as the goal, then would build out an evaluation matrix in a spreadsheet (I think I've seen ones posted on growthhackers, need to dig those up) that would include time to market and teams impacted as factors. The toughest was making sure you have the discipline to evaluate new initiatives where you have no prior data to go on for calculating potential revenue impact. A guess is better than no guess at all.

        4 Share
      • HQ

        Hila Qu

        almost 3 years ago #

        On prioritization, is there any framework or step you take to help that? I fee that is very important thing that most people/team (myself included) fail to do very well..

  • JX

    Jelly Xue

    almost 3 years ago #

    Hello Sylvia,

    Do you think Facebook is a more open platform for growth hacking as for sending direct message and advertisement service?

    Thank you.

    • SN

      Sylvia Ng

      almost 3 years ago #

      Thanks for the question Jelly. I'm not sure I'm understanding you fully - can you elaborate? Are you looking to compare organic social posts on Facebook vs Facebook ads?

  • YP

    yadav prasanth

    almost 3 years ago #

    Hi Sylvia !

    Thanks a lot for doing this AMA!

    I have two questions :

    At Google, what was the main goal behind building marketing analytics platform ? How do that help small business owners for Customer acquisitions and in targeting Brand growth ?

    What strategies would help any business which is small to meet global standards in terms of Marketing and to establish it's brand especially in 2016 ?

    • SN

      Sylvia Ng

      almost 3 years ago #

      Main goal behind building the marketing analytics platform at Google was to automate some of the decision making so that the business could move faster. We were moving to automating multivariate tests and automating ad bids, as well as simply automating reporting. The system was serving a global team of online growth marketers so just by streamlining a few manual tasks we were saving people hundreds of hours of time.

    • SN

      Sylvia Ng

      almost 3 years ago #

      For small businesses I would recommend you really focus on where your potential users hang out, and leveraging as much as possible existing martech tools to acquire those users in those channels. I find many people make the mistake of simply doing things because they can - like going on all the social media channels indiscriminately, or doing content marketing because others are. Small businesses are resource strapped, so you should really do some research first before taking on any tactic.

      4 Share
    • SN

      Sylvia Ng

      almost 3 years ago #

      Another piece of advice I have is to make sure you spend enough in your tests. If you're a startup looking to test out different channels, and your total budget is only $5000, many people split that up into $1000 chunks and throw some at Adwords, some at advocacy marketing, some at Facebook ads, etc., and only find out too late that the individual spend levels aren't enough to tell you anything. Make sure the spend will buy you enough traffic to get some learnings.

  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    almost 3 years ago #

    Bonjour Sylvia,

    Exciting to learn from you with this AMA. You have both b2c and b2b growth marketing experience.
    So here are a couple of questions for you.

    1) Do you feel growth marketers have the same visibility on their conversion funnel in a b2c and a b2b context?

    2) In each context, b2c and b2b, what are in your opinion the most advanced martech solutions to shed the best lights on the entire funnel from acquisition to, ideally, advocacy?

    • SN

      Sylvia Ng

      almost 3 years ago #

      I see B2B vs B2C is a common theme for today!

      1) I think B2B marketers have it tougher in that their data volumes tend to be lower, and their sales cycles are longer so it takes time to get visibility into true conversion rates. Regardless of B2B or B2C, if your target users aren't online, it'll be harder for you to get visibility simply because tracking is harder. At Google we were getting a lot of brick-and-mortar businesses to go online, so as you can imagine tracking that market was a lot harder than tracking online ecommerce sites.

      2) It's funny you ask this because some of the more advanced tools aren't ones that I'd necessarily recommend. You want to make sure you meet your business' needs, instead of finding just the shiniest product out there, which typically would require a good base of data and / or user support that you may or may not have. For advocacy I'm a huge fan of what we built at ScribbleLive which has 10 years of Cornell research behind figuring out who true influencers are. I'm also a fan of Influitive.

      3 Share
  • HQ

    Hila Qu

    almost 3 years ago #

    Hi Sylvia,

    Super happy that you are finally here, please forgive me for having so many questions :)

    1) Reviewing your experiences, I find that you start to work on growth marketing with a very strong analytical background, similar to my experience. How do you think people with analytical background should utilize their strength, as they progress from individual contributor, to a leadership role in growth? What additional skill sets you would suggest people to take on?

    2) How do you structure your growth team and and what is data's role in each function of the team?

    3) The posts on your blog are so much fun to read. And then I also realized you are also a volunteer, manager, mentor and mom. I am curious how do you find time to do so many things, and what drove you?

    • SN

      Sylvia Ng

      almost 3 years ago #

      Analytics all the way! =)

      1) I always look for "T-shaped" profiles when recruiting, and that's what I'd recommend for you as well. So be an absolute uncontested expert in one area (go deep), but also know other areas enough that you're can connect the dots and add value. So if you're in analytics, what's your deep area? Is it web analytics, modeling (LTV, churn, etc), or experimentation? And then, on top of that, do you know enough about other areas of growth marketing to be effective, such as paid media, social media, SEO, content marketing, etc. As you move into leadership the requirements might change and the deep area then needs to be more managerial pieces like people management, product / project management, coaching, and being your company's external voice for growth marketing. At that point you'll need to know the other areas better to manage overall programs and if your organization is highly matrixed (like mine), then communication skills are key so that you can get buy-in and really put in growth processes that people stick to.

      3 Share
  • KW

    Kevin Wong

    almost 3 years ago #

    Do you have any recommended strategies or good examples on how to do growth hacking in an enterprise B2B SaaS business?

    • SN

      Sylvia Ng

      almost 3 years ago #

      I'm sure this depends on the B2B business, and there's more that I want to say than we have time for, but here are a few ideas:

      - offline events: go hit up the industry conferences that your business users congregate in
      - content: focus on generating content that help your potential users solve their business problems
      - influencers: partner with your industry's influencers to get your name out there, whether it's product reviews or PR

      Many people think growth hacking can't be done in B2B but I think it's a mistake to make that blanket statement. Your user base might be small and therefore your base of data might be small, but your users are businesses with their own sets of data. If you can aggregate that data and use that to growth hack, then you're gold! At ScribbleLive we managed to get SQLs out of the masses of people viewing the end product, so it's only a matter of targeting.

  • SA

    Sachin Aher

    almost 3 years ago #

    What strategy would you use to acquire your initial 50-100 customers in B2B Saas for ERP?

    • SN

      Sylvia Ng

      almost 3 years ago #

      To start, just personally recruiting customers by phone or at events might not be a bad idea. You'd want to build some relationships personally to kick of the lean startup processes. But when you really want to scale I'd ask you to research your customers really well first to set the strategy. Are your customers online or offline? What are their demographics? Can you use your personally build relationships to do referrals? Can price promotions work? What social networks can you tap to reach your intended audience?

      • SA

        Sachin Aher

        almost 3 years ago #

        Hi Sylvia,

        Thanks for you useful reply.
        We are targetting initial clients based on personal relationships as most of the clients are offline and we want them to convert to online platform.

        Thanks.

  • MM

    martín medina

    almost 3 years ago #

    Sylvia,

    A lot of people implementing analytics into their projects seem to have a reactive approach, simply analyzing and focusing on what has happened already. Seeing as your background is in predictive analytics, what are some trends in predictive analytics that companies should keep in mind?

    Thanks!

    • SN

      Sylvia Ng

      almost 3 years ago #

      This isn't so much a trend as a "gotcha" but I have to mention it because I see it over and over again. A while back I had the pleasure of meeting some data scientists at Airbnb and we had some good discussions on the issue. When you have a prediction task people fall into the trap of spending way too many cycles trying to change their models for predictive accuracy when getting more data would increase their accuracy way more than model tuning ever can. Say you want to predict LTV (life time value) but your sales cycles are long and sales are intermittent, so it's hard. Instead of going crazy with modeling, maybe what you should do is simply ask your users in an app pop-up or alert. "How likely are you to purchase?" might be your best signal yet!

  • BS

    Bhaskar Sarma

    almost 3 years ago #

    Hi Sylvia,

    Thanks for doing this AMA. I have a simple question: what are the three books that have most impacted you either personally or professionally?

    • SN

      Sylvia Ng

      almost 3 years ago #

      1) Anticancer and Cancer: 50 Essential Things to - I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and these really changed my perspective on how to deal with challenges in life, including things at work. If you haven't been touched by cancer you might think they're not relevant but I'd say the parts on healthy eating, spirituality, need for social support, etc. are applicable to everyone!

      2) HBR's 10 Must Reads on Leadership

      3) Not a book but Amy Cuddy's TED talk has been hugely influential because (like a lot of others out there) I suffer from imposter syndrome. https://www.ted.com/speakers/amy_cuddy

      3 Share
      • BS

        Bhaskar Sarma

        almost 3 years ago #

        Big fan of Amy Cuddy's talk. I suffer from imposter syndrome too (I think way more of us do than we care to admit).

        Also, her take on how your horomonal chemistry changes based on postures hit me like a haymaker to the jaw, and now every time I am stressed out I do the arms akimbo pose.

  • KK

    Kent Kajitani

    almost 3 years ago #

    Hy Sylvia

    So excited to have you on!

    Could you share what was the best hacks ever at 500px to gain initial traction and retein users?

  • NK

    neda khazai

    almost 3 years ago #

    Hi Sylvia,

    Thanks for your time! I have a question regarding a data quality, the data that we get from different platforms is different , how we can make sure on data quality and which platforms giving the most accurate data?

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    almost 3 years ago #

    I know you haven't been at 500px long but what do you believe is it's biggest growth challenge at this point and why?

    • SN

      Sylvia Ng

      almost 3 years ago #

      Biggest challenge I see is staying true to the 500px community and the company's roots. With growth you're always focused on revenue, but the 500px community was born as a group of creatives supporting and encouraging each other's visual creations. The photos on the site have always been very high quality. If we focus purely on monetization it'd be very easy to dilute the quality of not just the photos but the discussions and interactions on the platform. So my personal take is that we need to make sure we do as much as we can from the tech side to ensure that quality stays up as we scale.

      5 Share
      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        almost 3 years ago #

        Totally agreed. And fair to say we agree wholeheartedly on ensuring that the quality of interactions within the community stay strong as we grow GH as well.

  • DW

    Dwayne Walker

    almost 3 years ago #

    Hi Sylvia

    your insights and suggestions are very helpful!

    -Dwayne

Join over 70,000 growth pros from companies like Uber, Pinterest & Twitter

Get Weekly Top Posts
High five! You’re in.
SHARE
55
55