Facebook Messenger Bots' Struggles Are Good for Facebook... and for Business

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Though the first gen of Facebook Messenger bots have been (in my experience) clunky, the Messenger platform holds incredible power. Even The Wall Street Journal's implementation - which was called out in the press as a great example of the platform - offers as inconsistent and buggy experience.

As a marketer and a product manager, I'm totally ok with this. Here's why.

The holy grail of social marketing is to build meaningful relationships with your customers and constituents. In "the early days" of marketing on Facebook, one of our biggest challenges was managing one-on-one conversations. Everything written on Facebook was public, and customers didn't appreciate just how challenging this made support and personal answers. With the introduction of Messenger for Pages, we were able to address individual fans and provide critical functions - such as support - right from Facebook. This enhanced the marketing power of the channel.

Over time, the same will prove true for Messenger for Business.

We just haven't figured out what this Messenger for Business is... yet.

Capture 2Users don't yet know what to expect from Messenger for Business. When I had three friends test the platform, they were all unsure of what to write. Is this a natural language search engine? Is this a "NanoRep" style interaction, where I ask questions and the business serves up pre-fab answers? Should this feel like I am speaking with a human? And honestly, even innovative brands like the WSJ who have an "onboarding" message, struggled to deliver on basic interactions.

As for what Messenger for Business is... the answer seems to be that it's something very new. And if Facebook can get this right, everyone - the user, the business, and Facebook - will win. It's a win-win-in. Users get better brand communications and support, businesses have stronger communications channels, and Facebook becomes even more central to the brand-customer interaction, opening new revenue opportunities.

In addition to the technical and platform challenges, let's remember the social challenges. Most brands and customers don't know how to talk to one another. It naturally follows that we should start from the lowest form of conversation - with transactional exchanges such as support, news research and the ability to purchase items. Over time, as our expectations and technologies evolve, we will develop the ability to deliver both branded experiences and anticipatory experiences (think Google Now alerts).

If this is indeed Facebook's roadmap, this early implementation makes sense. Facebook just has to find a way to both (a) ensure the quality of the user experience and (b) better communicate this to users.

And best of all, this exposes marketers, product managers and the general public to the challenges and dynamics of developing in today's unique marketplace. Not everything needs to be finished, polished or perfectly defined. Sometimes, you are better off going big and learning fast, and even if it's in public.  

Bottom Line:
At its core, Messenger for Business makes sense. Scaling human relationships requires a new approach, one that will mix AI with human interactions as appropriate. Though the AI or its implementation aren't fostering meaningful interactions in Phase 1, Messenger is an incredibly powerful platform and the promise of AI is as strong as ever. David Marcus is remarkably brilliant, and this will platform will evolve into something remarkable.

*These are entirely my own views and do not reflect those of my employer, family, friends or favorite sports teams.

4 Things Apple Didn't Announce Yesterday

4 things apple didn't announce

With all the excitement about Apple's latest devices, here are the four noteworthy announcements they didn't make:

  1. A new iPad Air.
    They updated their iPad mini line, and they announced the new, gigantic, iPad Pro. But they did not announce a new "normally sized" iPad. Is Apple sunsetting this product, or letting it drift out to sea like the iPod Touch product line?

  2. 3D Touch for iPad and Apple TV.
    3D Touch was unveiled as part of the iPhone 6S announcement. But 3D touch was never mentioned during the iPad-focussed part of their presentation, and 3D Touch does not appear anywhere on their website. Is Apple saving a little something special for next year?

  3. Storage the for Pencil. 
    Apple appears to have just created a perfectly round device that can easily roll off the table. If I'm going to shell out $99 for an Apple Pencil, I hope there is some way to store it so that I don't lose it. Samsung builds storage for their stylus right into the device, and notifies you if you leave the stylus behind. Microsoft's pen sticks to the side of the Surface, and clips onto the keyboard cover. 

  4. News and Advertising for Apple TV. 
    Can I run advertising in my Apple TV app? Is there a new iAd format for the big screen? How about an adaptation of Apple News for the first-screen in my life? 

This is what Google+ should have and still could become


Google+ failed as a social network. They failed to attract loyal content creators, they failed to attract casually addicted participants, and the failed to deliver the tools that would extend and enrich this experience beyond the core site or app.

But this doesn't mean that Google+ failed as a platform. Google+ introduced a number of fantastic tools, that when re-positioned, can build an even stronger (non-social) platform. Their photo tools are incredible. Hangouts have become the video chat tool of choice among the geek elite. The Circles concept was sound. Their card-based design has been extended across Google's entire portfolio with Material Design. And most importantly, Google+ introduced a single sign-on to Google's many properties. Each of these concepts remains strong, despite their combined failure as a social platform.

Google should keep Google+, even if they disregard the brand name. Rather than being about the community, Google+ should be about me.

Google is how I discover and access information about the world around me. Google Now delivers the right information to me, even when I don't search for it. Google+ should be my personal digital dashboard, information and tools. Google+ should show connect with every platform I care about and use this data to make my Google branded experiences even stronger. 

This new platform will be bigger than the "universal" Google that anyone can use. It's my Google. It's Google+.

Innovating the car horn

Air horn
Like a fine wine, my hate for car horns has become more developed with age. The car horn may be one of the most stale and poorly designed communications tools ever built. The same loud signal is used to say I'm annoyedWatch OutThanksHey!Let's Go Islanders and Oh no, we are about to crash. The same disruptively loud signal is used to for one-to-one and one-to-many communications, introducing noise pollution and fueling anger and frustration. This is communications inefficiency at it's worst.

Yesterday, I received an email about a new Kickstarter project. I don't know them, and I don't usually write about Kickstarter projects. MotorMood is not a breakthrough technology. But I believe their concept has merit, and can introduce a new way of communicating and relating with one another on the road. 

MotorMood gives you the ability to say thanks to the cars directly behind you. It's that simple. You let me into your lane, flash them a smile. You turned off your brights, flash a smile. This simple gesture of recognition can change how we relate to another one the road. Today, the only signals my car has are the turn signals, brights, hazard lights and the dreaded one-size fit's all HEY of my car horn. Giving drivers a tool to say thanks and improve their communication with those around them is a great idea.

I don't if the MotorMood will take off. I don't know that this will be how we communicate between drivers in the future. But it's a great step in the right direction. And whether it's through this company or a new feature built into new vehicles, the idea here has merit.

To learn more or fund this project, checkout their Kickstarter page.


As a born and bred New Yorker, I hate the car horn. The same signal is used to say I'm annoyedWatch OutThanksHey!Let's Go Islanders and Oh no, we are about to crash. 90% of the time, this loud signal is used to for one-to-one and one-to-many communications. The same signal is used to signal frustration, danger, and greetings. This is communications inefficiency at it's worst.

The Return of the Arcade


For sixty years, arcades were as american as the coca cola and pizza stuck to the knobs, buttons and joysticks. As a child of the nineties, there was nothing as exciting as the heavily greased yet insanely sticky Street Fighter arcade in the corner of our local burger joint. I will never forget my best friend's birthday parties of Whitey Fords (an arcade), or community trips to Space Plex where they had Capcom Versus Marvel, Virtua Fighter and when our parents weren't looking, Mortal Combat.

Over the past fifteen years, increasingly capable home consoles, mobile gaming and the affordability of big screens TVs combined to decimate this market. My seven year old doesn't even know what an arcade is.

This is all about to change. Because the fundamental gaming experience is about to take a giant leap forward. 

Ever since Atari, video gaming has been about learning new fine motor skills to manipulate increasingly graphically accurate experiences. The Wii changed the game by introducing gaming in a truly natural interface. The Wii (and by extension, the Xbox Kinect) brought us halfway towards a natural, immersive experience. We waved our hands and moved our bodies, but we didn't feel any haptic friction or feedback. Without this closed feedback loop, it was hard to cross the line between fiction and reality.

Home consoles (and mobile phones) have done an admirable job of bringing us deeper into a flat experience. But it's just that, a flat experience. The cost of setting up an accurate, truly immersive gaming experience would be too steep for most families, and the space required will be too large for most homes (for now). But the experience of a fully immersive, virtual reality environment as an augmentation of our physical space, is intriguing. Consider the video below.

While this experience would likely be too costly for a single family, the economics of the arcade could be a great fit for this experience. The cultural fit of the arcade would reward players and celebrate "watchers" much like the arcades of our youth. Big screen broadcasts for spectators and friends could transform this isolated gaming experience into a return to gaming as the social and societal catalyst it once was.

The arcade of the future may not feature giant boxes and joysticks. In fact, it may look and feel similar to laser tag and conventional sporting events. But I believe the economics, technology and societal factors behind the arcades of yesteryear will return with the rise of immersive VR gaming. It will cost more than a quarter to play. And we will get to be the old people, commenting on how when we were kids, there were these things called "bits" and "pixels".

When the basics become commoditized, invest in your CX

This weekend, the wonderful Casey Newton over at The Verge posted a comprehensive review of the many, leading photo backup and cloud storage services. Nearly every service listed offers oodles of storage, location tagging and auto-backup from my mobile device. The very basics of photo backup have become commoditized.  

But these photo services were built by engineers to solve a technical issue - limited storage space. What these products lack is an understanding of our human needs - sorting, fixing, viewing and sharing photos.  With cloud storage quotas growing to near-irrational sizes, storage size is no longer a rational differentiator. To stand apart, it's time for a focus on the customer's needs and customer experience. 

A focus on CX would produce a "mom friendly" one-click service. Once you download the app, your photos and videos would automatically backed up to the cloud, and possibly also to your home computer. Photos and videos would be automatically fixed, doing the basics like removing blur, shakes and red eye. Parents will appreciate automated tagging of children (the spec is simple - define the face a few times, and it will be automatically tagged moving forward). De-duping and simple, controlled sharing (with one click sharing to Facebook, WhatsApp, Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram) would round out the basic feature set. And lastly, this service would allow users to easily send photos to their favorite online photo printing services.

Google+ has many of these features, but it's stuck on Google+. My Mom doesn't even realize she has a Google account and would never understand their sharing or sorting features. Once again, Google+ photos is a great technical solution, but a bit more focus on the CX would make it far more user-friendly. Way back in 2013 I shared my frustrations with the mobile photo backup space. Reading Casey's thorough roundup, most of my frustrations remain.

But there is a ray of hope.

  • Microsoft's new corporate direction shows a strong push towards freemium and cloud based tools. One Drive is a nice solution, and a bit more work would make this a more viable photo back and management solution. Microsoft also seems the most likely to build in deep integrations with leading "sharing" services such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram.
  • Google+ Photos is probably the most capable solution from a big name company, and their recent moves to integrate photos into Google Drive are a step in the right direction. But Google needs to translate their technical tools into a simpler customer experience, building in better third-party sharing integrations, better tagging and lifting their storage quotas a bit to remain viable for more than a couple of years worth of photos.
  • Facebook Photos already allows me to tag my kids, and will automatically back up all the photos on my phone. Their automated photo fix tools are also becoming increasingly capable. Better photo search, tagging and downloading features would round out their app.
  • DropBox's Carousel is nice, but it's still not feature-rich enough for me to consider a real "mom-ready" browsing and management solution.

What would you want to see in a CX-centered photo and video backup and management solution?