Gaining user clarity by blurring the lines between marketing, product and UX

ClarityIn the traditional paradigm product defines the core value, marketing sells it and a UX lead designs it. I'm not sure this is the most efficient or effective dynamic.

The focused disciplines of product, marketing and UX were born of a desire for efficiency and a focus on product. But what if we redesigned our teams around the user? 

Great marketing, great product strategy and specs, and great design are all born of the same core insights and the same promise to the user. From the user's perspective the pitch, the product experience and the product value all combine to form the brand or product impression. 

What if we blurred our expectations of our teams, of our team members and of our recruiting prospects? What if we expected marketing to contribute meaningfully to product discussions and turned to UX leads when considering outbound messaging strategy? This wouldn't just about information sharing, but creating an environment that fosters cross-disciplinary thinking and cross-disciplinary leadership.

Our users experience our brands and products as one continuous entity. Why shouldn't we organize our teams around the users they serve?

Facebook is punishing crappy content - here's how to create great content every day of the year

Over the past 24 hours the web has been abuzz over Facebook's latest blow to brand publishers: a new algorithm that will demote many posts from brand pages. The industry has been portraying this as the latest blow from Facebook. They couldn't be more wrong.

Facebook will now filter out posts that provide no unique value to users. To be specific, Facebook will be filtering out posts that are (a) purely promotional, (b) copied directly from ads or (c) meaningless promotions. This is good for marketers, it's good for users and it's great for Facebook.

Here's why most Facebook content is crap.

  • Brands and agencies still aren't setup to publish fresh, quality content every day. Agencies are setup to deliver three great thirty second commercials every few months.
  • Therefor, with the exception of a few "major" campaigns every year, brands rarely have anything of value to post to Facebook. In order to feed the Facebook content beast, brands and agencies relegate daily posts to twenty-something community managers or social content specialists.
  • While they try their best, these junior employees often find themselves sharing what they personally enjoy - re-purposing content from around the web. This is generally the same kind of content they would share on their own pages.
  • In order to keep their community engaged, brands invest in the occasional promotion or giveaway. These posts are a great, cheap way to drive "likes" and "shares" but generally contain limited content.
  • In order to show the ROI potential of the Facebook page, page managers will throw in the occasional promotional post with a direct link to a download, purchase or campaign. Unless these posts are truly exceptional, these posts generate low overall engagement.

Facebook is pushing brands and agencies to adopt a new form storytelling, a new approach to branding and a new solution for Facebook content overall.

Facebook is pushing brands to embrace brand storytelling.

Great brands tell a story. They embark on a journey and invite the user to join them. Brand stories live in the 30 second spot and they live in the microsite. But those are mere moments in the arc of the brand story. The brand story arc fills all 365 days of the year and is brought to life through the content and engagement driven by daily engagement with the brand. This engagement will happen on the brand's mobile apps, in the brand's real world follow through, on the brand's website and on the brand's social channels.

It is far harder to create a brand story with an arc, to deliver the vision that includes daily episodic content worth creating. This demands more of the brand, it demands more of the agency and it demands far more from the community managers and content strategists. 

This isn't social-first content or Facebook exclusive-content. It's about consistently meaningful content, 365 days a year. It's about more than a content calendar, it's about creating the brand story that has the legs to fill all 365 days with great content. And inviting your community to join the ride.

The book industry is missing television's boat

The industry press is replete with coverage predicting the fall of the book publishing industry. I disagree with this bleak forecast. But in order to stay alive, publishers are going to need to think beyond print to digital conversion. Book publishers must learn from television's tough lessons learned: the value of relationships, the economic potential of subscription and ad-sponsored distribution, the power of episodic content, binge viewing and the allure of free.

While major book publishers struggle to combat Amazon's hold on their industry, they have failed to deliver a meaningful alternative. The book publishing industry needs find their inner Hulu, and create a powerful new digital platform that can leapfrog the market stasis that has long defined their struggle.

I consume most of my books on the go, listening to them through Audible's Android app. But Audible is far from an ideal platform. Audible demands either a monthly subscription or retail-like per-book fees for their audiobooks. And while Audible is one of my favorite apps, it is frustratingly limited in it's vision and scope.

I want an Audible-like product where I can:

  • share, swap, or borrow audiobooks from friends - possibly for a small fee
  • subscribe to a serial series at a discount
  • access smaller, more frequent releases from my favorite authors
  • engage with the authors and with other fans
  • gain access to supplementary content like author interviews
  • share my listening history with friends and family
  • gain perks when friends purchase books I recommended to them
  • discovery and engage with emerging authors
  • listen to books for free with integrated advertising - book readers are an often affluent audience
  • listen to or subscribe to magazines, particularly the lengthier feature pieces

With only one player in town, the audiobook space is ripe for competition and innovation. And if leading publishers fail to fill this void, someone else will.

Stepping Up to a Better New Year

Once a year I sit down to think about the last year, and make my goals for the next. This past year was a roller coaster. We kicked off the year with the birth of our third son. This was a particularly special moment for my family, as he was the first "Burg" born in our homeland in what was likely around 2000 years.

But this year took a different turn as we approached summer. It began with the news that three of our boys were missing. Over the weeks that followed, I understood for the first time what it meant to be part of this great nation. Strangers gathered together in prayer and acts of kindness. As a nation, we collectively held our breath and hoped for the best. 

But our nightmare became a reality. The bodies were found. And then the war began. For the first time in our lives, my family found ourselves running for bomb shelters as rockets flew overhead. For week after week, we kept our ears tuned to the sound of the sirens as we shared our collective anxiety, fears, pride, dreams and the pain of loss. The cost in human lives and suffering was unbearable. And as we pick up the pieces, I'm not sure we've really moved forward or set ourselves up to prevent further tragedy a few years down the line. 

This past year was not an easy one. 

Here's to a new start. Here's to always appreciating the little things, and never letting the big things weigh us down. Here's to a sweet, healthy and happy new year.

Why are we taking the Ice Bucket Challenge?

Jimmy fallon ice bucket challenge
We've all seen the videos and most of us have already taken the plunge. Why?

I'm sure marketers are already hard at work trying to duplicate this remarkable phenomena. Most will fail. Because before we can consider the How we must understand the Why. In this case the key Why is:

Why are people participating and sharing for a cause with which they did not previously affiliate?


  1. The chain letter effect.
    People share chain letters because they don't want to be the one that breaks the chain. Particularly when it comes to charitable efforts, people often take the desired action to gain the personal satisfaction, or at the very least to avoid the plague of guilt associated with breaking the chain.

    In this particular campaign, making friends nominate others ensured that the chain would grow exponentially with each generation of participation. 

  2. Social accountability.
    People are more committed to charity when they know others are paying attention. While some could view this as vain, I'm not inclined to judge others (particularly when their actions are for a good cause). A philanthropist once wrote that he put his name on his favorite causes because it encouraged personal responsibility from himself, and pushed others to do the same.

    By making posting to a video to social media the means of engagement, this campaign got all of us to stand behind a cause most of us had never previously encountered.

    And while the "rules" of this campaign stipulated that taking the challenge absolved the participant from charitable obligations, I'm pretty that most of us read between the lines and gave something anyway.

  3. It's fun.
    As a teen, I spent five glorious summers as a lifeguard. There is no prank so consistently hilarious as getting people soaking wet, particularly when the water is insanely cold. The visceral scream is a guaranteed laugh-out-loud moment, every time. And there is no better time to get insanely cold and wet for a good cause, than August.

    But most importantly, this campaign was successful not just because it was hot or because the act of participation was hilarious to friends in attendance when the act was done. This campaign was successful because everyone wants to see their friends screaming their asses off when they take the plunge - especially when it's on video and can be watched over and over again. It's just good, clean, fun.

  4. Second movers. 
    Most campaigns that ask users to film themselves will fail miserably. Because most of us do not want to stand in front of a camera and make a statement to the world - otherwise we would all have YouTube channels. Very few people want to be the first to do something foolish in front of a camera, and fewer want to share that foolish moment with the world.

    In this case, whether it was through celebrities, friends or friends-of-friends, most of us had already seen enough social-validation to make our decision to participate in this trend fairly easy. We weren't the first into the pool at the party, but we had a great time jumping in.

  5. Personal expression.
    By the time I was nominated to participate in this trend, I had already seen far too many Ice Bucket Challenge videos. Like so many of you, I felt that I had to come up with something new or different. Nobody wants to share just another "me too" video. And so, as this campaign has grown, so has the creativity of those participating. The videos - from both celebrities and normals - have become far more entertaining.

    And as the bar is raised higher and higher, everyone wins. 

Telling fact from fiction in social media

Wrong way
Social media is an incredible resource for learning the latest news and rumors. Unfortunately, just because something is trending on Facebook or Twitter doesn't make it true. And when we share inaccurate stories, we further obfuscate the truth. 

Below are three basic criteria that will help you determine what is fact, what is fiction and what lies somewhere in between.

3. Consider the source

Is this information coming from a reputable news source? If you are unfamiliar with the source, don't trust or share the article until you have verified this information with a trusted source.

Don't share anything based on a headline or picture alone. Read the article before passing it on. If the author is only quoting random rumors on Twitter, then it's just a rumor.

The same goes for infographics. Just because someone put text over a map or a picture of a politician, doesn't make their claims or quotes any more accurate. 

2. Check the date

Most news content has an expiration date. If this article is more than 24 hours old, do a bit more research before sharing. 

When sharing videos, check the upload date of the YouTube content. A three year old video cannot possibly portray yesterday's events.

1. Google it

Perform a Google Image Search on that image before sharing. If CNN used that image last year, it couldn't possibly depict today's tragedy.

If you suspect a story is untrue, search Google News for corroborating news from trusted sources. If no reputable sources are confirming this story, it's likely too fantastic to be true or possibly too fresh a story to be confirmed.

Three ways to follow along with Israel from home

The scariest part of any war is the unknown. Here are the most reliable, free digital tools and resources that you can use to follow developments from Israel, no matter where you are in the world.

  1. Live Blogs
    I personally prefer live blog over at the Times of Israel, but the Jerusalem Post and Ynet are also reliable and free.

  2. Red Alert Apps
    Anytime a rocket is inbound for an Israeli city, the army issues a Red Alert to warn everyone in the city to head towards their safe rooms. Depending on one's distance from Gaza, we have anywhere from 15 seconds to almost two minutes to get to safety. My home and office are both in the minute and a half range.

    The Red Alert iPhone app is available in English and Hebrew. 
    The Red Alert Android app is available in English and Hebrew.
    The Red Alert Chrome extension is currently only available in Hebrew and is somewhat less intrusive than a cell phone alert.

  3. Live Television
    Israel's two main broadcasters both offer livestreams, which can be found here (Hebrew). Be warned that the local live coverage is occasionally graphic.

    Tel Aviv-based i24 News offers free, live, streaming coverage in English. As i24 News is only a few years young, you will have to put up with a lower quality of reporting.

On a personal note, we are all doing well. We appreciate your messages, your support and your prayers. Please keep them coming.

For those who have asked, here's...

How we are staying safe

Like most homes in Israel, we have a fortified "safe room" that doubles as my home office and a spare guest bedroom. Our safe room is fully stocked with a computer, an iPad, a couch, bottled water and treats for the kids. When a rocket is inbound, loud sirens go off in the targeted city or region. As soon as the siren goes off, we pack everyone into my office, close the door and entertain the kids while we check the news. Within a minute or two, there is usually a report that Iron Dome has successfully intercepted the inbound rockets. After 10 minutes, you go back to life as usual. My kids schools and my office also have safe rooms.

The kids are doing fine. Ari (aged 6) gets annoyed when he's woken up and night, Ovadya (3) sleeps through everything and Shai (6 months) doesn't like being woken up. Though we are naturally concerned, we are safe and well protected.

Living and working in the center of the country, we have it relatively easy. Whereas we have 90 seconds to get into a safe room, residents of southern Israel have 15-30 seconds. And whereas we see a siren or two a day, they see sirens quite regularly.

People here are going about life roughly as they usually would. Many cities in southern Israel have built rocket-proof play areas for just this scenario. Those in the center and north of the country may not be spending quite as much time in large public parks where they would be far from shelters - but schools, camps and offices are generally operating with minimal interruption. Israeli have a wonderfully dark sense of humor when it comes to war. From jokes about the rockets being unable to find parking in Tel Aviv to hilarious bomb shelter selfies, we do what Jews to best - cope with it and get on with our lives. To quote a friend, The startup scene in Tel Aviv is really booming this week.

And amidst all this chaos, my big brother and sister-in-law had a beautiful baby girl. Mazal tov. May she grow up in a world that is free of this insanity.

My moral dilemma at Mashable #smdayjlm

Last night I had the privilege of moderating a panel of three brilliant marketers in front of about 150 attendees at Mashable's Social Media Day event in Jerusalem. About 25 minutes into the panel, I noticed one of the event organizers signaling for my attention. When I glanced at her laptop, my heart stood still. Our three missing teenagers had been found dead and discarded in a ditch.

As the words ברוך דין האמת (the prayer over tragedy) left my lips, I was faced with a deep moral dilemma.  

We weren't even halfway through the hour long event. Should I announce the news and effectively end the panel and the event? Should I allow the panel to continue as if nothing happened? 


My Considerations

On the one hand, the organizers and contributors invested a great deal of effort into this event. The attendees had taken time out of their busy schedules to learn and enhance their own efforts. The panelists had driven in from across the country. We were here to share our information and experience for the betterment of our industry and society overall. In a time of darkness, we were bringing light into the world. Would it be morally better to leave the people in the room in uninformed bliss, to give them a few more minutes of life without this tragedy on their shoulders? 

At the same time, how could we continue as if nothing happened? 


What I Did

I decided to let the panel continue, but to try and direct the questions and discussions towards positive topics such as cause marketing and the value of hashtags in starting or joining a movement. I also tried to prepare the room a bit by asking the panel for their perspective on sharing personal views, politics and beliefs on personal accounts when the public identifies them as brand ambassadors.

As the discussion continued, I noticed the faces of attendees as they caught news of our loss on their tablets and phones. One attendee buried their face in their hands, another's face turned dark red as they let out a deep sigh. 

As the panel was drawing to a close, I realized I had to say something. I left off with the following message:

Social media has the power to bring people together. It connects us as people, on a human level. Social media has taught businesses that speaking at people is not enough, but real dialog and discussion on a human level is necessary for success. 

Five years ago, I began planning my aliyah (immigration to Israel). I started by reaching out to strangers active in the Israeli tech scene. Using Twitter, Facebook, blogging and LinkedIn, you all helped me network my way around this industry. With the help of the many friends I made along the way, I found a number of fantastic career opportunities. 

We have suffered an incredible tragedy. The world tonight has become a little bit darker. As we leave this event, lets not just think about the business applications of these discussions, but the many ways we can use these same tools to bring a little bit of light back into the world.


And then I bid my farewell, got into a cab, and finally broke down in tears.

May we never see such tragedy again.