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August 2011

Failing in order to succeed: The HP Touchpad Parachute

Parachute I don't think HP meant for the TouchPad to fail.  This was to be glorious unveiling of a new Windows-and-Google-free operating system.  But somewhere along the path to failure, HP discovered a diamond in their rough.  It is now up to HP management to make the most of this opportunity.

Let's start with the core challenge facing the platform: WebOS had very few users.  Without users, there wasn't much developer interest or investment.  Without apps, there wasn't value to users.  Behold the virtuously circular death spiral of the failed ecosystem.

However, when HP brought their TouchPad prices down to a ridiculously low level, they brought on an incredibly large number of active new users.  Developers want to see two things in a platform:a significant user base and the potential for long term growth.  It is now up to HP to instill confidence in the developer community that WebOS will live to see another day.  

After failing to succeed, it is now in HP's hands to succeed at failing.  HP now has a sizable and growing user base that could attract developer interest.  HP's challenge is to instill confidence among developers, in the future of WebOS.  The longer the HP continues to publically waiver on the future of WebOS, the less confidence users and developers will have in the platform.  The less interest that users and developers had in the platform, the less attractive the platform will be to prospective buyers.

If HP can get their act together, they just might be able to find a happy ending in this debacle.  This could be why HP will continue to manufacture products they are selling at a significant loss.  And who knows, with increased demand, they may be able to increase their pricing and attract a new, loyal, advocate fan base.

Here's to happy endings.

Implied Social Contracts: why most marketers aren't even at the starting gate for social

2898938182_259ac8c90a_b When I buy an airline ticket, I expect that I will not incur additional fees at the airport.  I expect that the flight will run more or less on time.  I expect kind and courteous service.  I expect that the fine print on the contract won't ruin my day.

When I purchase a car, I expect that the car will be identical to the one I signed on.  I expect that the dealership will include the warranty they advertise.  I expect that the salesman who talked me into the service contract was forthcoming and honest, and I expect that there will be no further hidden fees or clauses.

When marketers fail to fulfil on the customer's reasonable expectations, on the implied cultural/social contract, the customer/market feels violated.  Negative brand perception and conversation is the natural if unintended result.

By that same token, when I interact with a brand on Facebook or Twitter, I expect timely, personal and professional conversation and service.  I expect the brand representative to know the platform/community social contact and dynamics, and I expect the representative to participate in this spirit.  I expect this representative to know the brand policies and procedures, and to be prepared to address them.  

The Bottom Line

Fulfilling on the implied social contract will not make you a successful marketer, it's ground zero for successful marketing.  Breaking policy and ignoring fine print in order to resolve a customer need doesn't make you successful, it makes you less unsuccessful.  Social customer service isn't a differentiate, it's an expectation.   

Successful marketing won't be about knowing how to use the platform or the dynamic, but how tell a brand story, move units and create real affinities via these platforms and dynamics.  We're past the age where showing up gets you an A.  It's time to bring your A game.

Future Visions: Facebook Updates and Marketing Implications - Week of 8/7/11

Over the past week Facebook unveiled a number of new features that will be sure to challenge marketers to adapt and innovate in yet another new series of platform and ecosystem dynamics.  

In review, over the past 7+ days, Facebook:

  • Enabled zip code level targeting
  • Launched Facebook Messenger, a mobile app featuring their native messaging platform
  • Began linking user status updates about brands to the official brand pages (without user-initiation)
  • Began grouping (and truncating) Facebook wall posts by topic
  • Introduced a global/local navigation solution for global brands with local pages.
  • Enabled adding test users to apps
  • Was challenged by Shagbook over their trademark of the term "book" in a brand name or web address.
  • Redesigned the right hand "chat" bar to include updates from social games
  • Launched a public ads API (this was 11 days ago, I cheated)

Marketing Implications

Enabled zip code level targeting in advertising.

The impact to marketers here is obvious.  More granular geo-targeted media will not only enable scaled marketers to manage their advertising, but invite local businesses and particularly small businesses to better manage their targeting efforts.  If you are in the Facebook ad business, play with this, test it and see where it can take you.  If you're in the third party ad business, this could be huge.  See the paragraph below for some thought starters.

The bigger question in this story is where this level of targeting will go next.  Will Facebook add granular geo-data into the PostRank mix?  Will Facebook add this granular geo-location into their native brand-page publishing platform, allowing marketers to target wall posts to at the zip code level?  How will 3rd party ad platforms add this granular geo-location capability into a broader next-gen optimization engine - targeting only C and D counties, optimizing or building look-alike models based on granular geo-location performance data etc?

Launched Facebook Messenger, a mobile app featuring their native messaging platform

As brands can't send private messages, most marketers will not find a way to use in this platform.  However, savvy brand ambassadors may leverage their personal accounts in the appropriate settings to maintain relationships on the go.  For example, at conferences, conference organizer/social ambassadors could friend attendees and invite them to seek or share information on the fly by using Facebook Messenger.  That said, this environment in it's present form is far from ideal for most of these communications.  

Additionally, while the rumored (likely) introduction of video into this environment will not impact marketers, this is a trend that marketers should pay attention to and consider.  Live social video is big and is getting bigger)

Began linking user status updates about brands to the official brand pages (without user-initiation).  

Began grouping (and truncating) wall posts by topic.

This could be a big deal.  While many have been quick to point out that Facebook must be using an NLP solution to derive this data, the bigger story here is where this may be going. For now, auto-tagging posts with pages will improve brand page visibility.  This means that both compliments and negative or crises communications will become linked to the brand page.  

Most interestingly, this speaks to two potential platform evolutions that could really change the game.  For one thing, Facebook could begin grouping and truncating interactions with a brand, minimizing the visibility of meaningful interaction.  

More importantly however, Facebook could begin pulling organic activity onto brand pages.  This will cause quite a stir.  While I'm sure that Facebook would never change privacy settings, many users will become confused or even outraged when they see brands comment on their posts that were originally written as personal status updates.  This would put a tremendous amount of responsibility on the community manager to set expectations and define their environment when commenting.  Additionally, this would make crises management that much more complicated.  While this is a sizable change, I believe this will be coming, and soon.  Automated linking and explicit tagging (@brand tagging) are looking very similar, and this is the next likely evolution of this dynamic. 

Introduced a global/local navigation solution for global brands with local pages.

While this isn't yet available to the general public, this is a big deal for scaled marketers.  Global/local page management, information architecture and design has been a challenge with no perfect solution.  That said, as much as I love the team at Facebook, this is an area that they have struggled with for some time and Facebook's proposed solutions aren't always the right ones for many global/local marketing needs (particularly when brands have multiple sub-brands with inconsistent names or design elements).  Savvy marketers will consider Facebook's new offering,  but continue to weigh this platform against solutions offered by leading third party page management solutions, as well as their historical page infrastructure and Facebook's fan migration opportunities.

Enabled adding test users to apps

Many marketers currently provide influencers, members of private communities and members of the media with early access to their campaigns and apps for either testing or preview purposes.  However, doing so historically required setting up a password-protected staging environment, almost always off-domain (not on  This new "testing" environment could prove very useful for both private community testing, as well as pre-launch previewing to influencers and members of the media.

Was challenged by Shagbook over their trademark of the term "book" in a brand name or web address.

The impact to marketers here is minor.  As marketers continue to explore off-Facebook extensions of Facebook efforts (such as Intel's Museum of Me), many will likely want to integrate either the words face or book (or Facebook proper) into their domain name ( or domain extension (  For now, stay away from doing any of the above unless you have Facebook's written consent and it has been reviewed by your lawyers.  The cost of a legal battle is likely not worth the minor branding benefit.

Redesigned the right hand "chat" bar to include updates from social games.

 Brands with strong social games will have enhanced visibility... for now.  Early response to this platform update hasn't been the most positive and I agree with much of the concerns shared.  Facebook users celebrated when their walls stopped being flooded by requests for crops.  Reintroducing these updates in the sidebar create a high degree of noise in an area otherwise dominated by signal (who is online and available to chat).  

That said, if you are not yet planning on building a social game, this should not be a reason to do so.  I have seen very few case studies or examples of marketings building well designed branded social games.  Building a successful social game is very difficult, and relating it back to a meaningful or valued brand experience is even harder.  And not inexpensive either.  

Launched a public ads API (this was 11 days ago, I cheated)

The third party ad business on Facebook is booming.  As Facebook continues to evolve their relationship with brands and marketers, outsourcing the day-to-day ad business (particularly on remnant inventory), is likely a trend we will continue to see more of in the days ahead.  With plenty of cash on hand, Facebook is better off with sales leads partnership with marketers to innovate on the platform, then push advertising alone.  If marketers can be encouraged to further invest, the ad revenue will come.  And most importantly for Facebook, their platform will become stronger and more differentiated.

As with all third party advertising solutions, not all solutions were created equal.  Just because someone has access to an API, or may have years of experience in advertising outside of Facebook, doesn't mean that they can deliver the best solutions for you in Facebook.  Those with an early lead in this space have years of experience in this environment.  That said, competition leads to innovation.  With a level playing field, this market is going to get very interesting.

Breaking all the rules - Good goes around

How many millions of dollars of future sales are lost every day when front line employees utter with purecontempt, "That's our policy."?

How many brilliant, multi-million dollar ideas are lost when managers push employees to deliver on dated expectations rather than embracing innovations?

How many students fall through the cracks of our systematized educational solution when they don't fit into a box, or more importantly, when a teacher treats them like yet another box to be checked?

How many billions of dollars and untold man-hours are lost when politicians play the role of PR rather than serving as representatives of their constituents best interests?

Scaled systems are brilliant facilitators of mechanical solutions.  If you are in the business of putting a sprocket into a socket, go for it.  Oh, how I love the wonderful products of the industrial revolution...

But when dealing with human beings, an ethos, a culture and a mission statement are far more useful than a strict form and process.  And we, as consumers and as individual human beings won't have it any other way.  We aren't industry.  We're Jon, Ted, Mary and Frank.  Nice to meet you!

Regardless of your industry, if you want people to value you, you must demonstrably and sincerely value them.  As we find ourselves struggling to break free of the assembly line-driven approach to business, this will often mean breaking all the rules.  So please, go ahead and challenge what needs to be challenged, smile, shmooze and get to know your customers.  They will thank you for it.  Which will make you a bigger and better asset to your business and employer.  Good goes around.

And one day, when you run the show, please remember what made the "little people" tick, and more importantly, what made your front line employees and customers smile and appreciate one another.  Because THAT is what is going to make you successful, no matter what industry you find yourself in.

Educators, Rabbis and Students... and Facebook?

283792277_c04cb875f5_b My older brother is a religious educator to a teenage audience from what is popularly known as a "Modern Orthodox" background.  As a good educator, he walks a fine line between being his student's friend and being a role model/religious leader.  He not only teaches his students in the classroom, but has them over his house on a very regular basis.  This is a pretty regular practice in this style of yeshiva-school system.  In the educator's view, they aren't just teaching their students how to practice judaism but how to live like a Jew (living a proper, moral lifestyle with a strong emphasis on family and religious devotion).  

Where does Facebook fit into this relationship?  Should he be Facebook friends with his students?  With his alumni?  Would it appropriate for him (as religious figure) to be on Facebook altogether?

The crux of this question centers around the nature of the educator/student relationship, as well as the inherent informality of digital social communications.  With this in mind, I would like to suggest the following list of considerations, as well as my personal perspective.


  • Pretty much everyone is already on Facebook.  Communicating with his students past and present on this platform likely wouldn't introduce a new behavior.   
  • Maintaining a relationship with students once they have moved on should include leveraging the social platforms they already use.  When I was a recent graduate, my rabbinic mentors used email to stay in touch.  Before my time it was phone calls, and even earlier it was letter writing.  Facebook is the natural and potentially highly effective progression of this dynamic.  (note: I'm not suggesting that Facebook should take the place of email or phone calls, but it's a great additional tool to consider)
  • Facebook makes it incredibly easy to stay in touch many, many people over time.  This is arguably the ideal platform for maintaining multiple relationships over time, far more so than email.  
  • For teachers like my brother, teaching someone them how to be a man of substance (a.k.a. living like a Jew) already includes inviting students into ones home.  The same principles that students observe sitting around his Shabbat (sabbath) table can be demonstrated in how he interacts with his own social circles on Facebook.
  • Facebook can create a sense of camaraderie and community across his students.  Facebook allows them to directly interact with one another, leveraging their teacher as a social focal point or catalyst.
  • One of the fundamentals that my Rabbis taught was how to be a Jew on the street.  This used to mean teaching students the importance of proper decorum, presentation, morality and social interaction, as each of is supposed to be a proper a representative of the Jewish people.  This education should be expanded to include digital etiquette in blog commenting, over-sharing, respecting intellectual property rights, proper social etiquette when it comes to post pictures and media of and about others without their expressed permission and so much more.  Participating in these platforms is not only key to understanding and educating students on how to properly behave in these environments, but it will also serve as an example to students for how one should conduct oneself on these platforms.


  • There are times when educators knowingly turn a blind eye towards their student's behavior in or outside of the classroom.  Facebook changes this dynamic by giving the educator incredible and even unhealthy access to their student's personal lives.
  • There is a level of safety and professionalism that is found in counseling someone while maintaining a level of personal detachment.  Pervasive student access to their mentor's personal social lives isn't always healthy to the relationship.
  • Even after a student has grown into a mature adult, there is a level of respect towards the religious mentor that in-part defines their relationship.  Most Facebook communications are more casual than in-person communications.  More informal social communications can erode the respect that more traditional communications help to maintain.


  • Many members of the committed religious community eye new digital platforms with an air of suspicion.  Stripping away the preconceived notions regarding digital social media will require patience and clear communications.  And even with these communications, many leading figures with severely limited first hand knowledge of the platforms may believe some of the prevailing rumors in the community regarding what takes place on Facebook.

Personal Perspective

Not every teacher needs to be active on digital social platforms personally, nor should they all connect with their students as friends.  Many of the most inspiring rabbinic mentors I studied under were clueless when it came to technology, but incredibly insightful when it comes to humanity, morality and living an honest and meaningful life.  The lessons that they imparted continue to influence every aspect of my life, even my online social communications.  The principles of morality and respect are ever-present, regardless of the platform.

However, there are also those educators that take a more friend-like approach towards education.  These are the educators that schooled us on basketball court and had us over for more informal barbecues.  I would strongly encourage these types of educators to leverage channels such as Facebook to maintain relationships with alumni, students and parents of present students.  That said, it's also perfectly acceptable for these educators to choose not to accept friend requests from students, alumni or parents.  Finally, before entering into this conversation, I strongly recommend that any educators that wish to remain employed with their present employer, consider checking with their institutional leadership before beginning to participate.  

An Educator's Guide to Facebook Interaction

It is incumbent on all participating educators to set expectations with their students and define their social dynamic.  I have included my suggestions for doing this below.

  1. Set your Facebook privacy settings to be fairly rigid.  Do now allow people who are not friends to view or comment on any of your posts.
  2. Make sure that you are properly trained on the all of the core functionality before using it.  It is imperative that all information shared in private channels and with confidence remains private. 
  3. Setup proper lists that will define what content and actions will be viewable to your many different groups of friends.  If your friends are using Facebook, separate them into a different list.  When posting, be sure to carefully select which lists will have access to this content.  And remember, just because you didn't share something with your students, doesn't mean that they won't see it as coming from you through a mutual friend or connection.  Be careful what you post.
  4. Set the tone for your interactions through your own engagements. If you want to maintain a more formal relationship, write and comment in a more formal manner.  If your followers aren't picking up on this cue and are participating in a less-formal manner, write them a private message thanking them for their input into the conversation, explaining your rationale for why you are being more formal, politely request that they help you build the community in the right way, and end by stating that you look forward to their continued input and participation.  This should help get the message across without damaging the relationship.
  5. If you already have a Facebook account, consider letting your friends know that you will be using this channel for student interactions.  This means that their posts that appear on your wall should be appropriate for this audience.
  6. Do not create an additional Facebook account for student interactions as this is against Facebook's terms of use.  While in one case in Australia, Facebook allowed educators to create a second account for student interaction, this is not yet part of their general terms of use.
  7. Be proud of who you are and what you stand for.  While most of your students may use Facebook for the more day-to-day interactions, there is nothing wrong with sharing bursts of inspiration or more meaningful content as well.
  8. Use Facebook for what it's good for.  This isn't the environment for a lengthy and deep lecture.  However, this is a great place to share short content that will deliver meaning.  Ask questions and reply to their comments.  Network and introduce alumni to one another.  Help them build a community around their shared connections and interests.  Link to great articles.  Post on their walls and wish them a Happy Birthday or a congratulatory message on their life milestones.  Make the most of it!
  9. Be present.  This will take some time and will require attention.  A relationship is only worth the investment you both put into it.
  10. Don't forget to be human!  Facebook is an interpersonal channel.  Show your humor and relatability.  Don't be afraid share.  If you're not having a good time, they aren't having a good time.
  11. Use all your other channels.  Facebook will not take the place of a heart to heart phone call or an email newsletter.  It's additive.
  12. Learn and share with your peers as you go.   



Please note that in this post I assume that the student body in question is of age (later teens) and is of proper maturity to appreciate basic social conduct.  While Facebook allows 13 and 14 year-olds onto the platform, engaging with this socially-immature audience is a very different dynamic and not one that is addressed by the above considerations or recommendations.


About this post

Thanks to my older brother, Rabbi M. Burg for the many conversations regarding his pedagogical approach over the past few years.  While I cannot speak to his personal perspective on this particular issue, many of my perspectives were influenced by his overall approach.  Additionally, special thanks goes out to my good friend Rabbi Gil Student for inviting me to share this post over his blog.  

To New Beginnings... Next Year in Israel!

Thank You Almost five years ago, I was privileged to join some of the smartest marketers in the world at Digitas. It is with great appreciation to Digitas and their leadership, my wonderful colleagues and my fantastic clients  that I take the next step forward.  In just a few days, I and my family will fulfill a lifelong dream by making aliyah and moving to the holy land.

While I am very excited about the opportunities ahead, I would like to use this post to celebrate the wild and highly rewarding ride that was the last five years of my professional life, as well as to thank many of those that helped make this journey so rewarding.  

When I joined the Digitas Emerging Channels team in 2007, social media was a small, niche practice.  The conversation was dominated by the promise of UGC and online video (YouTube is the future of television!) and Second Life just coming onto the scene.  From this small yet promising early space, we launched a remarkable number of industry firsts and developed social into a strong and valued business practice.  From midnight new business planning sessions through early morning international calls and countless flights in between, it's been a fantastic ride.

While I do not have the space to thank everyone individually, I would like to call out a few people who were instrumental in my success.  I would like to start by thanking my father.  When I made the decision to rejoin the agency world, his advice and mentorship guided me towards opportunities I had never thought possible.  Carl Fremont and Greg Verdino, thank you for taking a leap and bringing me on-board.  Carl, thank you for your continued support throughout the past five years.  Greg, thank you for encouraging me to get out there and share my own perspectives.  This has paid off in spades.  Ethan Morris and Lee Baler, thank you for your incredible insight and advice early on, as well as your ongoing friendship and support. Craig Daitch, thank you for your advice and leadership, as well as the subsequent years of friendship and mentorship.  Steve Griefer and David Droga, together we challenged everything the world thought about online video.  Thank you for your trust, support and perspective.  Chris Andrew, Michael Fasciano, Mark Kiernan and Jason Crawford, thank you for your incredible insight and support in building version 1.0 of the social practice.  Beth McCabe, thank you for simply everything.  As the saying goes, Burnt (let's say muppets?) dread the fire!  Jen Miller, Rachael Rensink, Liz G, Jeffery Fletcher, Cheryl Nolan, Aileen Payumo and the one and only Katie Walsh, thank you for your fantastic support and most of all, friendship.  Together we built something trully remarkable.  Jordan Bitterman, Ken Burbary, Noah Mallin, Jessica Randazza, Dani Klein, Amy Minkoff, Mary Snauffer, Annie Riley and the entire Digitas social team, you guys all rock.  The future is incredibly bright and I wish all of you the best of success.

To all of my social friends, thank you.  I would not be nearly as smart, informed or inspired without your perspectives, friendship and support.

Finally and most importantly, I would like to recognize my biggest fan.  We always say that advocates are an under-appreciated resource, and try as I may, I will never be able to properly express my deep appreciation for my greatest advocate, my wife Rina.  She has stood by my side through it all, offering advice, lending emotional support and teaching me how to log off of the computer, turn off my mobile and appreciate the wonderful world around me.  Rina, you're more than I could have ever dreamed a wife could be.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

As for Future Visions?  While I look forward to the next great step in my professional life, I will continue blogging about the digital transformation of our society, all be it with a somewhat different and hopefully unique perspective.  As I'm pretty sure this is right around my fourth anniversary blogging here at Future Visions, here's to four more great years together!