Step 1: Summarize your Understanding and Ask Clarifying Questions.
Candidate: Well, first I would like to make sure that I am on the same page as to what "LinkedIn Feed" entails. (Eventhough everyone knows what a feed is it is important to clarify with the interviewer to confirm upfront that you are on the right track. Ask any questions if you think you are not aware so that you get into the role of a PM of "LinkedIn Feed".)
LinkedIn Feed is the first page that opens up when you launch LinkedIn with your login on Website or Mobile App. In consists of a detailed activity feed at the center with the opportunity to post your updates to your network or write an article at the top center. On the left side is your profile details and a few metrics that user would be interested in as well as different sections related to the user. On the right side, is content that changes frequently such as Daily News and Views or PYMK or targeted ads or any other functionalities. Is this understanding correct?
Step 2: Understand the Goals, Objectives, Constraints and Metrics from PM/Business/Org perspective (that are derived for this page based on overall Product Strategy)
Candidate: Now looking at different sections of the LinkedIn Feed, I can find that the objectives of this capability (not functionality) are to:
a. Primary Objective : Update the user on the professional ongoings in the network, likes and preferences of connections, articles written or shared by the connections. Goal: Engagement.
b. Secondary Objective: Let the user update on the various ongoings related to his/her professional life or write or share his views/articles. Goal: Engagement
c. Tertiary Objective: Make the user aware that he is logged into his/her profile, metrics related to his/her activity or any other functionality he/she can make use of such as events, groups etc. Goal: Experience and Engagement.
Since, the right hand side changes often, I am not quite sure of the goal of that section but it can be anything from Engagement to Experience to Monetization to Retention. For this task, I am assuming that there is no existing goal for that section. Is it okay to do that?
Now, we have two options in front of us "Sponsored Ads" and "People You May Know" (PYMK, hereon). In order to choose one, I do not just need to compare each other but also compare them against the status quo. Since, the status quo varies and there is no definite goal. I am going ahead and comparing the two options. Also, I am assuming that we do not have to search for a 3rd better option based on the overall page goals or the business objectives set in the Product Strategy. Another point is that I assume that there is no possibility of an "AND" instead of an "OR" for the two options. Also, I am sure we are not changing the Engagement Goal of the overall page and we should choose an option which supplements and synergizes with the existing capability. I am also assuming that the priority business objective is to grow the engagement to increase long-term monetization than to focus on short-term monetization. If its the other way round, let me know as it is a crucial assumption while arriving at the decision.
Goals and Objective Done: Overall Page Goal is Engagement and we need synergy as anything unsynergistic will cannibalize other functionality. Overall objective is to grow engagement for the user so as to create opportunities for long-term monetization.
Do we have to look at any constraints such as technological blocks, technical debt, resource and budget constraints, legal constraints etc? If no, Constraints section is complete.
Finally, I would want to look at the current metrics that are used to evaluate the engagement of the Profile Page and what is the expected metric to reach with the modification/addition of the right section. If the interviewer says you can skip that for now and make a qualitative evaluation, skip to Step 3 (I am doing so to reduce the scope of the answer).
Now, on first glance, we can clearly discern that the goal of Sponsored Ads is Monetization and that of PYMK is clearly engagement. There might be possible chances of Monetization later on due to increased engagement through PYMK but there is no guarantee. Maybe an A/B Test can be done later to understand if the connections have gone beyond say X connections, is the CTR on Sponsored Ads increasing. No direct correlation can be found out but can be tested out later. For now, Sponsored Ads = Monetization and PYMK = Engagement.
Step 3: User Persona and User Objectives
The reason we need to understand User Persona and Objectives is that in case there are different types of users, our decision related to what to offer might change. Also, we need to ensure that what the user values and what we are offering from business point of view is in sync. For example, a Job Seeker might be more interested in a tool that simplifies Job Seeking or Resume Preparation. You might offer Zety or a LiveCareer Ads or even LinkedIn Premium Subscription to such users if thats the objective.
From the question, I feel there is no specific persona that we are targeting (to simplify things) such as Job Seeker, Social Networker, Salesperson, Marketing Consultant, Hiring manager etc. Nor are we considering the usage expertise such as Novice, Intermediate or Advanced or Pro user of LinkedIn.
So, in general, the user objectives on the LinkedIn page would be to gain information and engage with the information. A general user would not be immediately looking for purchase as a primary objective as it is not an ecommerce site wherein the main intention of entering the website is to purchase something. General intention of ads on such sides is to create awareness or generate interest.
Hence, it can be noticed that the only overlap between business objective, overall page objective and user objective is to increase engagement with the platform. This can be better achieved through PYMK than through sponsored ads. This can be further validated by creating specific metrics to monitor engagement whose values can be generated by A/B Testing the two options. This can be done in Step 2 if required but you can also state engagement metrics such as:
1. Clicks on the Widget 2. Clicks on CTA etc. 3. Views (through HeatMaps) etc.
Step 4: List the Solutions/Summarize Your Recommendations:
Based on the analysis so far, if there is 1 option to be chosen before validating it through A/B Testing, I would choose PYMK over Sponsored Ads as it aligns perfectly with the business objective, product/feature goals and the user objective and there is a higher chance of achieving our goals through PYMK.
However, I have two more suggestions which can be used if we open up our assumptions:
1. Both Widgets: Why cant we try both widgets with PYMK serving the primary objective at top right and Sponsored Ads below it for monetization.
2. Variable-dependent choices: Can we think of using one over another based on different variables such as Engagement Quotient of the User, Persona of the User, Connections of the User, Availability of option (for example: no strong connection possibility found for PYMK - because PYMK satisfies the engagement criteria primarily if a connection is made OR no relevant sponsored ads found). Choose one option over another based on a simple rule engine in the backend. If you want to make it technically advanced, train a classification model on the inputs received from the A/B Test and apply it and consistenly improve it.