Musings on digital business


Facebook’s answer to Siri — M

Today, A FEW hundred Bay Area Facebook users will open their Messenger apps to discover M, a new virtual assistant. Facebook will prompt them to test it with examples of what M can do: Make restaurant reservations. Find a birthday gift for your spouse. Suggest—and then book—weekend getaways.

How It Works

To try the new service, users will tap a small button at the bottom of the Messenger app to send a note to M, the same way they might message anyone on Facebook. M’s software will decode the natural language, ask followup questions in the message thread, and send updates as the task is completed. Users won’t necessarily know whether a computer or a person has helped them; unlike Siri and Cortana, M has no gender.

Full article on Wired.

Facebook M Digital AssisstantCompared with Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, this may be a smarter digital assistant considering Facebook can not only utilize the AI (Artificial Intelligence) tech like others but further enhance its context by leveraging its vast amount of a billion plus active social networking users graph data.

I am looking forward to how Facebook executes on this.

Kid on the Subway

Wednesday Huddle: Bilal’s Top Picks in Digital

I frequently get asked to share scoop on the latest and the greatest in tech, marketing, business and digital. So I’ve decided to start curating a weekly digest of top links that I’ll share each Wednesday.

I find them useful and I’ll use them as reference for current and future projects. Hopefully you will find this effort useful as well.

  • What we learned from designing 200 pitch decks?
    Data centric trends and analysis on what makes investor pitches successful. A good read and a bookmark. I found it informative.
  • Why great User Experience is invisible?
    Airbnb, Disney World, Uber and Nest. They are all phenomenal products, which together are worth over $135 billion! Not only do their services deliver great value, their experiences are so well thought out and executed that their strategy goes unnoticed. In other words, their user experiences are invisible.
  • Inside Deloitte’s $1.5 Billion Ad Agency
    The agency + brand world has been disrupted by digital. CMOs, CDOs and CIOs are all seeking expertise and integration (to be able to drive ROI) without interacting with 75 different shops. Deloitte’s taking advantage of this shift and has built a $1.5 Billion machine in just 4 years. Good read if you are driving digital at a brand or agency.
  • How to sell like Elon Musk?
    Learn from the greatest mind in the world. From Tesla to Space X to Paypal.


Events to pay attention to:

Business Innovation Factory Summit in Sept 15-16. One of the best conferences to expand your mind and your business.

My friend Saul Kaplan describes, “Spreading of ideas is critical, but the end goal is solving a problem or creating a new opportunity.  The real question is, can an idea translate into action and can it scale,” says Kaplan. “I think a lot about how to enable R&D at the business model and systems level, where we have the best chance of launching ideas that convert to scalable, transformative innovations.”


Turkish Airlines: First Periscope Flight

Talk about using a emerging medium to tell an authentic story.

Turkish Airlines recently launched the world’s first ever “Periscope” live broadcasted flight as passengers and fans got a behind the scenes experience as the airline flew from Istanbul to New York. They used Periscope, the video streaming platform, to showcase crew cabins, flight lounges, pre-flight checks, inflight service, the crew and the pilots hard at work.

What’s really intriguing here is that they are using an emerging medium, the persicope video streaming network, to tell a story that has never been done before. It’s live. It’s raw. It’s authentic and allows fans (or soon to be fans) to get a glimpse from an angle that they typically wouldn’t get to see on any other communications channel.

In addition to that, Airlines typically aren’t seen as open, transparent and nimble organizations which would ever experiment like this.

Enjoy the case study below:




Life with Purpose

What do you desire from life?

Late Alan Watts was a British-born philosopher who spoke passionately about doing what you love during your life and not settling for anything just because there’s a paycheck attached. Here’s a great video that will make you want to live larger, smarter, and happier.

Better to have a short life doing what you like doing — instead of a long life doing what you’re miserable at.

#BigData Chat with Bilal Jaffery, Brian Fanzo and Rachel Miller

Discussing Analytics and #BigData with Brian Fanzo and Rachael Miller

I had a blast discussing the role of data in shaping business culture and accelerating positive change.

What I truly loved about the wonderful and charming Brian and Rachael, the hosts, was that they insisted on keeping it simple yet deep enough that one could gain actionable insights out of our discussion.

We discussed Internet of Things, Social Analytics, Google Nest and Dashboards along with my love-hate relationship with a fellow Canadian, Justin Beiber.


Here’s the video for your viewing pleasure.

P.S. Thanks Steve McMurray (@NuviSteve) for the image.

Art of Storytelling by Bilal Jaffery

The 6 Keys to Great StoryTelling

Storytelling is among the most ancient of arts. To hear a great story is to be touched in heart and mind, in body and spirit. The storyteller gives the tale; the listener receives it, responding out of his or her own being. The story comes alive. It flourishes and grows.

But when it comes to the art of business storytelling, most businesses today, in 2015, are struggling to get it right. Typical content marketing efforts are lazy, self-serving and reflective of the internal processes more so than something that captures hearts and minds of the audience.

Most marketers are just shouting. Not empathizing. 

Without further ado, here are my 6 points on the art of great storytelling.

1. Being audience-centric: Many of us fail at telling great stories because we focus on ourselves. Most marketers just discuss their products and how great they are. There is minimal focus on what the product does for the audience and why should they even care. 

Customers don’t care about you. 

They care about what your product or service does for them.

I always challenge my teams to think about a purpose — before engaging in any form of storytelling. From sales pitches to webinars to customer service to emails. 

“There is a bad way and good way to tell stories. Consumers care about themselves, so unless the story resonates with them from start and they can see themselves in it, it is not very valuable”.

In fact, based on managing marketing (basically storytelling) in various forms from startups to enterprises, I can tell you that in the age of hyper-connected social media, if you aren’t utilizing this social behavior in your story telling and not making the audience a part of your stories, then you are not achieving scale in your efforts. 

Saul Kaplan, a great friend, and the founder and Chief Catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory stated last week,

The most successful businesses today are movements more than companies. Movements don’t market. Movements inspire and engage. – Saul Kaplan @Skap5

2. Commitment and Passion: To earn an audience, one must do it repeatedly. Some of your stories may flow very easily, while others will require work, practice, rewrites and new approaches. Invest the time, resources and passion.

3. Focus: You can’t earn a mass audience on day one and appeal to everyone. (exception being, temporarily, if you give away one Apple Watch a day for free for next 30 days, starting today)

It is hard to be everything to everyone. Decide on what you are good at and find an angle. With limited resources, we must tell stories where target audiences reside. It means focusing on a small number of storytelling opportunities.

4. Personality: Please find an authentic voice and personality that attracts the audience. It doesn’t need to be fully polished, in fact, these days, authenticity is so rare that people gravitate towards the raw, unpolished and honest.

Great stories happen when an authentic personality shines through. It is the difference between creating content, and developing stories that people find interesting, intriguing or provocative.

5. Opportunity: Sometimes, stories happen because there is a well-defined plan. Sometimes, good stories happen because a situation emerges that screams for action. Be receiptive and agile enough to leverage these opportunities. The key is to be relevant. 

6. A willingness to listen, not just tell: As much as you want to tell stories, listening is important. Often, ideas for stories emerge when you’re listening. It could be at a conference, a dinner party or out for drinks with friends. If you are not listening, good story opportunities are squandered.

“A great storyteller…helps people figure out not only what matters in the world, but also why it matters.” – Maria Popova

Linkedin buys Lynda.com

Linkedin is still underrated

Linkedin in my opinion is still the most underrated network of the big social networks.

When it comes to business of networking and real credible thought leadership, Linkedin leads the way. It is more focused. It is less shiny. It executes well without the fluff.

It also gets less PR than the other two major social networks. Which, in my opinion, adds to its credibility.

I have connected with the brightest minds in the world due to Linkedin. I’ve also been successful in attracting the brightest talent due to Linkedin.

You can’t beat the value.

Now with, with LinkedIn‘s acquisition of Lynda.com. Which cost them around $1.5 billion to buy one of the Internet’s most respected online education platforms.

Many folks in the tech community wrongly think that LinkedIn is a one-trick pony. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

Linkedin: A network of networks

It has quietly been making acquisitions over the years that include Pulse (which is a major part of how they now deliver some of the best business content out there) and SlideShare, which is a runaway success as a social network for sharing presentations and building thought-leadership on the web.

With Lynda, they just established themselves as a leader in education and a socially connected foundation for the future of learning.

And for the teams involved, acquiring Lynda for $1.5 billion is amazing.