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Planning to buy your child a SmartPhone for holidays?

TeenSafe, maker of the leading iPhone, iPad and Android monitoring software for parents, is reminding moms and dads planning on buying their teen a smartphone this holiday season to be prepared and empowered with the proper tools to help them keep a watchful eye on their child in this technologically advanced world.

“Whether it’s your child’s first smartphone or you are upgrading your child’s phone this holiday season, consider giving them the most valuable gift of all, your protection. With 21st Century technology at your child’s fingertips, the world and all the information it has is available to our children,” said Ameeta Jain, TeenSafe co-founder. “We as parents try to do everything within our power to protect our children from the day they are born. Give them a smartphone with a monitoring system in place and start protecting your children in the digital world so you as the parent set the tone before giving your child their first phone.”

TeenSafe gives parents the ability to see their kids’ incoming, outgoing and deleted text messages, web browsing history, contacts, call logs, location and Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Kik activity through a secure, online account. The technology is the only monitoring solution that works without having to jailbreak your child’s phone and is becoming known for truly helping parents become aware of what their kids are doing that they may not be talking about at home. Parents can take responsible action often before issues become crises.

T Mobile IPhone

Thinking about buying your teen a smartphone?

TeenSafe, maker of the leading iPhone, iPad and Android monitoring software for parents, is reminding moms and dads planning on buying their teen a smartphone this holiday season to be prepared and empowered with the proper tools to help them keep a watchful eye on their child in this technologically advanced world.

“As a society, I think we are beginning to realize that some of the parental controls we currently have in place are just not enough anymore. Children are receiving phones at younger ages every year and because the technology is expanding so quickly, many parents have learned the hard way how these devices can have negative effects,” said Rawdon Messenger, TeenSafe CEO. “With the new iPhone 6 breaking records with preorders this month, we are encouraging parents to set the tone by creating a TeenSafe account before giving their child their first phone. By creating an expectation from the beginning with a monitoring service, parents can prevent the negative effects before they occur while protecting their children from the doors of opportunity that open as soon as they turn the phone on for the first time.”

TeenSafe gives parents the ability to see their kids’ incoming, outgoing and deleted text messages, web browsing history, contacts, call logs, location and Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Kik activity through a secure, online account. The technology is the only monitoring solution that works without having to jailbreak your child’s phone and is becoming known for truly helping parents become aware of what their kids are doing that they may not be talking about at home. Parents can take responsible action often before issues become crises.

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Social Media Prenups Trending In Valley

First comes love, then comes marriage, the baby carriage, and, for many Americans, divorce. Even if a couple doesn’t have an estate to divvy, family matter lawyers are reporting emerging trends that may have couples wishing they had signed prenup.

As the director of family law at Rose Law Group, Kaine Fisher has prepared many high-profile pre- and post-nuptial agreements. Some have had unusual provisions, such as what happens if a spouse transmits a sexually transmitted disease or a clause that liquidates damages for infidelity. However, there’s a new trend he and other local lawyers are touting — social media clauses.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the first places millions of people turn to share their thoughts, photos and lives. It’s where professional and personal relationships grow, thrive and, sometimes, end. And, when the inevitable happens, there’s a chance the scorned and burned feelings will turn up on social media platforms in the form of private or unflattering information or photos about the other person. This is where the expertise and intervention of attorneys is rapidly required.

“Over the past couple of years, I have noticed an explosion of requests by clients wanting to include what is more affectionately known as a ‘social media clause’ in their pre- and post-nuptial agreements,” Fisher says. “At the onset of a marriage, such provisions are effective in setting relationship boundaries. However, at the end of one, these provisions are are typically used as swords to achieve greater financial gain.” 

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported more than 80 percent of U.S. divorce attorneys say social networking is a rising topic in divorce proceedings. Social media has been a staple in divorce proceedings since MySpace was introduced in 2003, but Norma Izzo Milner, a litigator focusing in the areas of alternative dispute resolution, family law and domestic relations with Jennings, Strouss and Salmon Law Firm in Phoenix, is still surprised by how few clients still aren’t considering social media prenups.

“Once I provide some basic legal information about how social media can play a part in or impact either a relationship or the ending of one, they tend to take precautions and limit their social media activity,” she says.

People just can’t seem to help themselves, Fisher says, adding that they also don’t always have control over what hits the web.

“A jaded ex-girlfriend or a careless spouse can expose, either intentionally or intentionally, private photographs or videos of you that you  never wanted anyone to see,” he says.

“The reality is, most people connect through cyber space and report daily activities from what they are eating to how they are feeling. This can be a dangerous outlet for people facing the emotional challenges of a divorce or legal separation,” Milner says.

The amount of couples who enter into prenuptial agreements, despite a divorce rate of 3.6 per 1,000 people, is surprisingly low, says Milner. The two leading causes of getting a prenup, she says, is to protect an estate or to prevent the difficulty and costs of a divorce, based on previous experience.
“I find it surprising that the majority of people spend a large percentage of their daily time engaged in some form of social media, but do not think about how it might impact their lives long-term,” she says. “I generally have to bring the topic up for discussion with my clients.”

Social media prenups can be drafted as inclusive of existing and future platforms. In the event of being blocked from an ex’s social media pages, Milner says couples can include an term that enables access to personalized web content for a period of time after separation.

The family law group at Burch & Cracchiolo hasn’t used a social media clause in any of the prenups it has drafted, but recognizes it as something that’s on the horizon, says Marketing and Client Development Manager Chris Long.

Chris Ingle, an attorney at Rose Law Group who specializes in online defamation and protection of intellectual property, has not encountered a social media prenuptial case outside of the new articles and online buzz.

“I have to say that if somebody approached me with that idea, I’d recommend against that very strongly,” he says.

It’s a matter of a dispute escalating into a court battle that becomes public record and costs “a small fortune,” he says, adding, “It takes what started out as a disagreement and turns it into a full-fledged litigation war. I don’t think that’s in everyone’s best interest.”

Ingle recommends couples who are going their separate ways to write a non-disparagement clause, which promises couples won’t go out of their way to say anything bad about the other person or have anyone do that on their behalf.

It’s not necessarily the words that have many people preoccupied — there are images and the revenge porn industry to consider.

“If you’re going to let somebody take those photos and videos, you have to trust them implicitly,” says Ingle. “Once it gets out there (online), it’s difficult (to reverse).”

Some options, particularly for people whose images or videos are posted on a website by a third party (presumably an ex), include filing for copyright of the footage. It’s “cheap and easy,” says Ingle, to get a copyright. Unless your significant other challenges the claim, someone can generally submit a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) request to the hosting website and get the photo or video removed.

For couples who drafted their prenups pre-Zuckerberg, who, by the way, had a relationship agreement drafted up before his marriage to Priscilla Chan that required 100 minutes of alone time away from Facebook’s headquarters, Milner still suggests considering a dialog about social media in the relationship and, potentially, a post-nuptial agreement.

“It’s never too late to have the discussion and spell out expectations and healthy boundaries to avoid future problems,” she says.

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Maricopa Community Colleges hit big on social media

Maricopa Community Colleges have reached a milestone in connecting with the community through social media. To date, Maricopa Community Colleges has been “liked” or “followed” upwards of 50,000 times across their top three platforms, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Facebook makes up the bulk of engaged community members, having just reached 40,000 followers today. By comparison, the Facebook page had fewer than 1,000 followers in mid-2012.

“People respond most positively to good, relevant content,” said Natalie Vaughn, Online Marketing and Social Media Manager for Maricopa Community Colleges. For instance, many people flocked to the social media pages around the time that the District celebrated its 50th Anniversary. “The majority of people in Maricopa County have either been a student or know a student of a Maricopa Community College. So we give people easy access to important, fun, historical, and current information about what’s going on right around them.”

Social media is an increasingly successful way for public agencies and private companies to do business because it allows direct interaction with customers. “We continue to see a high volume of engagements (e.g., likes, shares, retweets) so we know our social community is engaged,” said Vaughn.

Connect with the Maricopa Community Colleges and all of the ten colleges on Facebook, Twitter (@mcccd), and LinkedIn.

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What companies have the worst customer service?

Ranker.com, a platform that produces thousands of crowdsourced answers to opinion-based questions, has collected nearly 14,000 votes on what people think are the companies with the worst customer service. Nearly 5,000 votes were also collected on what people think are the most evil Internet companies. Here are the current rankings for both lists:

Companies With the Worst Customer Service

1. Time Warner Cable
2. AT&T
3. Bank of America
4. Walmart
5. American Airlines
6. Comcast
7. Citibank
8. Best Buy
9. Gold’s Gym
10. Ticketmaster

The Most Evil Internet Companies:

1. Facebook
2. Comcast
3. Apple
4. Time Warner Cable
5. Go Daddy
6. AOL
7. Electronic Arts
8. Microsoft Corporation
9. Google
10. Twitter

Ethan Beard

Parchment adds tech giant to board

Parchment Inc., a leading technology company that streamlines the request, delivery and sharing of verified academic and professional credentials online, announced the appointment of Ethan Beard as an independent member of its board of directors.

Beard spent nearly five years with Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), starting as the director of business development in April 2008, moving to Director of Platform Product Marketing and then on to director of developer relations. In his most recent position with Facebook, Beard oversaw worldwide developer relations, operations and product marketing for the Facebook API. Beard joined Facebook from Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), where he spent five years serving in various capacities from director, new business development to director, social media.

Beard joins Parchment’s board of directors during a period of rapid growth for the Scottsdale-based digital credentials platform company. As a member of the Parchment board, Beard will provide strategic guidance that draws on his extensive experience transforming consumer Internet services into sector-wide platforms. Beard joins a Parchment board with deep experience in education and SaaS ventures, including Parchment CEO Matthew Pittinsky, who previously co-founded the global education technology pioneer Blackboard.

“Ethan’s expertise with technology platforms combined with his track record as a successful business development strategist makes him a welcome addition to our board,” said Pittinsky. “Ethan brings a unique experience set to the boardroom and is someone whose strategic guidance will help elevate Parchment to the next level. Of particular importance, he clearly cares about education and our mission to help learners turn their credentials into opportunities.”

Earlier in his career, Beard co-founded BigSoccer, an online community and store for soccer fans and spent time structuring derivatives at Bank of America. He holds a Bachelor of Science in economics from the Wharton School of Business and an MBA from NYU Stern. Beard supports a variety of non-profits, including serving as a board member for Beyond 12 and represent.us. Beard currently serves as Entrepreneur in Residence at venture capital firm Greylock Partners.

“The opportunity to join the Parchment board has special meaning to me,” said Beard. “Parchment is one of those rare opportunities to develop a high-impact platform in education, a sector central to addressing so many critical social issues. Credentials play a pivotal role in education, and the mission that Matt Pittinsky and his team have established at Parchment is truly exciting to be part of. ”

Beard replaces Ted Mitchell on the Parchment board of directors. Mitchell resigned from his board position when he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Under Secretary of Education, with responsibility for postsecondary education.

Kyrsten Sinema

Sinema will stay in Arizona’s 9th District

Democratic U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema won’t jump from her current district to the one being vacated by retiring Rep. Ed Pastor.

Sinema announced on her campaign Facebook page Thursday that she intends to seek re-election in her current 9th Congressional District that covers Tempe and other southeast Phoenix areas. The announcement comes a week after speculation emerged that she might change districts.

The 9th is a swing district that either party could win. Sinema won in 2012 by about four percentage points.

Pastor’s 7th District in south Phoenix is solidly Democratic, meaning Sinema could avoid a Republican challenge every two years if she switched and won.

Numerous Democrats plan to run in the 7th District. They include Sen. Steve Gallardo, Rep. Ruben Gallego and Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox.

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ASU student ‘brains’ behind concussion tutorial

For decades, the devastating effects of repeated concussions on the health of professional athletes was a well-kept secret – until it exploded into a national controversy. As investigative journalists reported scientific evidence of the long-term impact of head injuries on NFL players, the focus soon shifted to high school athletes. How could we protect their health and safety?

Arizona was an early adopter of protection for high school athletes. In 2011, the state legislature passed a law requiring coaches to remove high school athletes from play if they even so much as suspect a concussion. The law requires that the athlete must obtain written clearance from a medical professional, like a physician or athletic trainer, in order to return to the sport.

State legislators also called for preventive measures that would make it mandatory for high school coaches, students and parents to complete concussion-education programs. To comply with the law, the Arizona Interscholastic Association deemed that every high school athlete in the state must complete Barrow Brainbook. This interactive, online training was developed in part by Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.

But the real brains behind Barrow Brainbook belong to Arizona State University educational technology doctoral student Robert Christopherson.

“Over 180,000 high school athletes in the State of Arizona have benefitted from the knowledge of Robert Christopherson,” said Dr. Javier Cárdenas, neurologist and brain injury expert who is director of St. Joseph’s B.R.A.I.N.S. Clinic. “Robert’s expertise in educational technology is the primary reason Barrow Brainbook has not only successfully taught high school athletes about concussion dangers, but has become the most successful concussion education program in the country.”

When he began his research, Christopherson noticed immediately that most available concussion education programs targeted coaches and parents, but few addressed the athletes themselves. From the start, he said the directive from Cárdenas was empowering youth to assess the situation and be part of the decision-making process. Today, Barrow Brainbook remains the only concussion education program in the nation directed at high school athletes.

To engage the young athletes, Christopherson considered social media for two reasons. First, research showed that student behavior online and in classrooms was becoming increasingly similar. Second, it was important to deliver concussion instruction close to where the head injuries happen. Teaching the athletes on the football field was not an option, so the researcher had to come up with an equally effective venue.

“So we decided to make a pseudo-Facebook,” he explained. “We created an environment that looks like Facebook, has a lot of the same social network interactions and includes characters that represent those people who influence the athletes most – peers, role models including NFL players and college athletes, and doctors.”

cronkite global initiative

2013 Global Summit on Negotiation and Trust

The only professional conference that directly makes the connection between negotiation, trust and achieving a sustainable outcome is the Global Summit on Negotiation and Trust, a three-day event that will take place November 8, 9 & 10, 2013 at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Phoenix, Arizona.

This program is designed to help participants become better at forming and sustaining collaborative relationships; increase cross-cultural competence and trust in international negotiation settings; make trust a competitive edge through practical tools and techniques from proven experts; and deploy trust to resolve conflict more effectively and improve negotiation results.

Independent research has established a link between high trust and negotiation results, revealing how these characteristics contribute to improved productivity, higher employee morale, lower organizational conflict, faster decision-making, better teamwork and lower costs of litigation and failed partnerships. The conference will provide a road map for enhancing credibility, improving employee engagement, building commitment, loyalty, and a high performance culture. Additionally, participants will expand their personal and professional network while harnessing the collective wisdom of experienced practitioners, top scholars and executive peers.

Among the speakers will be:  Stephen MR Covey, Author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal #1 bestseller “The Speed of Trust”; Dr. Robert Cialdini, renowned Author of the NY Times Bestseller “Influence: Science & Practice”; Divya Narendra, CEO of SumZero and a co-founder of ConnectU, the predecessor to Facebook; Hon. Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, South Africa; Edgardo Pappacena, Global Business Model Transformation Leader for PriceWaterhouseCoopers; and a number of top scholars, leading practitioners, business leaders and Harvard luminaries.

Conference Chairman and event speaker Andre Bisasor, brings with him a legacy of successful events as the founder of the Negotiation & Leadership Conference. This Global Summit is the next iteration of preeminent conferences produced in the tradition of the previous gatherings held in Cambridge. The following leading authorities on the subject of negotiation in the field are scheduled to speak at the Global Summit.

  • Dr. Robert Cialdini (Renowned Author of the NY Times Bestseller “Influence: Science & Practice”);
  • Michael Wheeler (Harvard Business School Professor);
  • Bruce Hay (Harvard Law School Professor);
  • Divya Narendra (CEO, SumZero and An Originator of the Facebook idea at Harvard College);
  • Chris Voss (Former Head of the FBI International Hostage Negotiation Unit; Former Subject Matter Expert on Hostage Negotiation For G-8 and White House; Former Lecturer at Harvard);
  • Leonard Kopelman (Lecturer on Management & Law at Harvard University; Renowned Expert in international & diplomatic law)
  • Dr. Lakshmi Balachandra (Professor, Babson College; Former Lecturer on Negotiation at Harvard and MIT)
  • Hon. Hlengiwe Mkhize (Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Govt. of South Africa);
  • Dr. Karen Walch (Professor at Thunderbird School of Management);
  • Edgardo Pappacena (Global Business Transformation Leader & Former Chief Strategy Officer, PriceWaterhouseCoopers);
  • Clark Freshman (UCLA Law Professor; Expert in Lie Detection in Negotiation);
  • And many more

Pricing begins at $1,395 USD with an Early Bird registration special of $995 USD for registration before October 15, 2013. Student tickets are deeply discounted at only $150 USD for Early Bird, or $295USD at the regular rate.

To register, go to  http://globalsummitonnegotiation.com/registration-page/

Early registrants, who also follow on twitter at @globalsummitAZ, qualify for giveaways including: one complimentary 8-week, 100% online Executive Certificate course from the Executive Certificate in Global Negotiations, a value of $1,980 USD, as well as one complimentary admission to the on-campus program, Communicating & Negotiating with a Global Mindset, at the Glendale campus with a value of $3,800 USD.

The conference also includes a concurrent youth program that provides a limited number of high school students ( including those from under-resourced communities) the chance to attend the event for free.

Additional information on the Global Summit is available at http://globalsummitonnegotiation.com/

Kristin Bloomquist is executive vice president and general manager of the Phoenix office of independent marketing and communications agency Cramer-Krasselt.

Leveraging visual storytelling tools can boost business

According to the old adage, a picture is worth 1,000 words. But what about a six-second video? Or an impeccably curated pinboard?

A host of new photo and video-sharing platforms—and the evolving universe of digital devices that enable them—are opening up new opportunities for marketers to engage consumers. But like many forms of “new media” before them, apps like Instagram, Pinterest and Vine (Twitter’s six-second video app) demand that brands embrace new forms of communicating.

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are now pillars of every brand’s social footprint, but it wasn’t so long ago that likes, shares, user-generated video and 140-character status updates were new to the brand lexicon. Now more than ever, the challenge for brands is to become fluent in the language of visual storytelling—from infographics to photography to short, simple videos.

Since its launch in January, Vine has attracted marketers such as GE, Target, Oreo and Marvel Entertainment (with the world’s first movie “teaser”), who are anxious to gain access to the app’s steadily growing base of 13 million users who share 12 million videos a day.

Not to be outdone, Facebook launched video capabilities on Instagram in June. Users can create and edit 15-second video clips, personalize them with the filters the app is famous for and then post to Instagram and Facebook. Putting this kind of functionality in the hands of Instagram’s 130 million users will only ignite interest in this kind of short-form video. But creating compelling content within this kind of time constraint can be challenging, to say the least.

So how do marketers make the most of these tools?

First, Be an Observer: Look (and listen) before you leap. How are other businesses in your category using the space? Are users already posting about your brand? What are the platform’s unique traits and tools? Vine and Instagram video in particular are still in their infancy. First movers may have the advantage, but if their approaches aren’t right for the brand or venue (see next point), they’ll do more harm than good. So first do your research.

Make It Contextual: These platforms demand a regular stream of engaging content—but make sure your approach is a strategic fit and appropriate for both your brand and the venue(s). Our work for Johnsonville offers a prime example, where we leverage each platform based on what it does best, all working in concert and with a common brand strategy – from the “Share Your #Bratshot” promotion on Instagram to daily Bratfirmations on Pinterest offering grilling quotes, wisdom and humor.

Make It Useful: Don’t just show up to the party – offer guests something of interest or value. Remember: these platforms attract a sought-after, tech-savvy audience that often shun more “traditional,” disruptive forms of marketing. Time spent curating an inspiration board on Pinterest, for instance, is “me” time—not “please bombard me with your brand message” time. Lowe’s strikes the right balance with its helpful how-to vignettes on Vine.

As revolutionary as they seem, these tools are just the tip of the iceberg. In this attention- starved, mobile-first world, marketers will have to become master visual storytellers and more, as new tools and technologies continually redefine how brands connect and communicate with consumers.

 

Kristin Bloomquist is executive vice president and general manager of the Phoenix office of independent marketing and communications agency Cramer-Krasselt.

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Four Peaks Brewery Bringing Local Life to Tempe Oktoberfest

image001Tempe’s own Four Peaks Brewery takes front stage as title sponsor of the 41st Annual Oktoberfest October 11-13. Four Peaks Brewery and their award-winning beers and ales will help the Tempe Sister Cities organization to attract record crowds to Tempe Beach Park where music, food and great beer make for an event that you won’t want to miss.

Oktoberfest is a signature event in the city of Tempe that draws more than 150,000 attendees each year.

Look for Four Peaks Brewery to debut their new Oktoberfest Lager, a German influenced full-flavor lager that will pair well with the traditional Oktoberfest foods such as bratwurst, schnitzel and pretzels. On Friday, October 11 Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell will kick off the festivities by ceremoniously tapping the first cask of Four Peaks Oktoberfest Lager.

In addition to the Oktoberfest Lager, Four Peaks Brewery will also serve the rest of their award winning lineup, including their Bavarian Hefeweizen as well as their crowd-pleasing Sunbru, 8th Street Ale, Kilt Lifter, Hop Knot, Peach Ale and Oatmeal Stout.

“Four Peaks is excited to support Tempe Sister Cities and one of the longest standing events in all of Arizona,” states co-owner Jim Scussel. “Our focus remains on Arizona, our customers and events which benefit worthy causes. We’re very excited about the partnership and potential it offers for both Four Peaks and our hometown.”

Oktoberfest attracts a wide range of attendees thanks to the great weather and many varied events. Children’s activities, live bands and a 5K fun run help to draw people from around the valley. Four Peaks Brewery will bring a true local flavor to the many beer tents while patrons celebrate the annual Bavarian ritual on the shores of Tempe Town Lake.

Admission to Oktoberfest is free. For more information go to tempeoktoberfest.com 

About Four Peaks Brewery
 
Four Peaks is an award-winning local brewing company that has been crafting a quality selection of staple and seasonal beers since 1996. They have received acknowledgement and praise for not only their ales, but also for their perfectly paired pub food offerings. There are 3 valley locations, and their craft beer can also be found at select establishments and supermarkets throughout the state of Arizona.
 
For more information, contact Greg Ross at greg@fourpeaks.com or visit www.fourpeaks.com

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Facebook Is Top Social Media Site for Marketing Spend

What are the hot spots for social media marketing in the coming year?

According to a new survey by The Creative Group, more than six in 10 (62 percent) advertising and marketing executives interviewed said they expect companies to increase their spending on Facebook marketing in the next 12 months. This is up from 53 percent who planned to boost their Facebook budget one year ago. Executives also anticipate companies will channel more marketing dollars toward LinkedIn (51 percent) and Google Plus (50 percent), up from 38 percent and 41 percent of respondents, respectively, last year.

The national survey was developed by The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service for interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm.

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Top 3 Tips for Running a Successful Local PPC Campaign

Most businesses understand and embrace the value of building their organic search rankings on Google, but the value of pay-per-click or PPC advertising is often misunderstood and underestimated. While high organic search rankings are a great way to drive traffic and increase exposure for any business, there are only 10-16 spots available on the first page of Google for any given search term. In most industries, hundreds of businesses will be vying for those coveted first page Google results, and PPC ads give all businesses the ability to gain exposure on the first page of Google for local search terms.

Businesses can also run PPC ads through a variety of other mediums like Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, and LinkedIn. This makes it possible to target your ideal customers and experiment with different platforms to see which one generates the highest click through and conversion rates.

Reasons to Consider Utilizing Pay-Per-Click Advertising  

PPC is a powerful marketing tool for all businesses. For companies that don’t have high organic rankings for relevant local search terms, PPC can provide a way to achieve better visibility and leverage your online assets. For start-ups or businesses that are just beginning to ramp up their SEO efforts, PPC can provide an additional revenue stream, and even businesses with an established presence on search engines can generate additional revenue through PPC ads.

Another great reason to consider running a PPC campaign is because you can set the budget, which means you can start small to analyze your return and then grow it once you find a strategy that works for you. Most businesses hire an experienced search engine marketer to help them set up and manage their PPC campaign, as these marketers know the ins and outs of PPC advertising and can establish cost-effective and successful ad campaigns.

Search engine marketing may also play a role in organic search rankings due to the increase in clicks and exposure a website will get from PPC advertising. Since organic rankings are based on relevance and popularity, PPC ads can help improve the website’s popularity score through Google and bolster search engine optimization efforts.

Top Tips for Running a PPC Campaign

Beginning a PPC campaign can be a little confusing at first if you’ve never worked with the programs before, but by utilizing the following tips, you can get the most from your paid advertising efforts.

#1. Keep it Local

For local businesses, bidding on key phrases that are targeted to your geographic area can be extremely beneficial in driving traffic that will eventually lead to a conversion. Location specific keywords often have less competition, so marketers can get more bang for their buck by choosing a geographically targeted keyword as opposed to a generic keyword. If you need assistance selecting the keyword phrases that will result in the highest ROI, consult a PPC marketer to help you establish your campaign and perform appropriate keyword research.

#2. Expand Beyond Google

When most people think of PPC advertising, they think of Google AdWords. While Google AdWords is a great tool to gain exposure and visibility for your business, there may be other venues that offer advertising in the pay-per-click model that could yield better results. Some companies have success advertising on Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, and even LinkedIn. Assess where your target market spends their time and how they would search for your business to determine whether you should branch out to other PPC advertising mediums.

#3. Measure Your Success

Once you start your PPC campaign, make sure to keep track of your progress so that you can make adjustments and improvements where necessary. This may include testing your ads using different keywords, experimenting with different ad text, and utilizing advanced targeting options so that you can reach the customers that will be most interested in what you have to offer. An expert in search engine marketing can help to analyze your metrics to determine the best strategy for your campaign’s success.

By implementing a few of these key tips and reaching out for help from an experienced search engine marketing firm, you can harness the power of paid advertising to increase sales, drive more website traffic, and improve conversion rates.

If you would like to learn more about how to implement a local Pay-Per-Click campaign for your business, please contact Net-Craft.com at 480-563-0558 for a free PPC consultation.

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Social Media: Great Resource for Small Business

Are you taking advantage of social media in your small business? According to a recent report by the Social Media Examiner, you probably should.

89 percent of the respondents said social media was providing them greater exposure and 75 percent claimed it was increasing traffic. Although only 43 percent suggested that social media increased sales, I think social channels should be looked at more as a brand building play anyway—which is very consistent with the survey results. That’s not to say social channels don’t generate sales, they do. I just don’t think the social channel should be treated the same as a Google Adwords campaign or direct mail.

I was surprised to read that about 25 percent of the small business marketers surveyed had been doing anything with social media for a year of less and only 30 percent had been doing anything for a couple of years or more. For many small businesses, I think the social bandwagon is a wagon you should likely get on, provide you take the right approach.

Nevertheless, before you jump in with both feet, here are five questions you should ask yourself:

1) Do you really want to do this?

Before you spend time on strategy, before you set up any social media accounts, ask yourself, “Am I willing to invest the man hours that will be required to make the effort a success?” Most small businesses won’t require a full-time social media person, but they will require someone’s time. For example, if you plan on posting a blog every week, plan on three or four hours to research and write. Once you get in a groove, you might be able to cut that down a bit, but if all you’re doing is once a week, you won’t see much time savings. What’s more, it takes about 50 posts before Google starts paying any attention to you, so you’ll want to commit to a year’s worth of writing before you’ll see much search traffic.

If you’re going to have a Facebook or Twitter account, you’ll want to make daily updates — which don’t add much time to the day but can add up to an hour or more if you’re updating Twitter, Facebook and any other social media — to build a following. Best practice suggests a couple of posts in the morning and a couple of posts at the end of the day. That doesn’t mean you can ignore that media the rest of the day. You’ll want to make sure someone is regularly (every hour or two) monitoring your accounts in the event a customer or prospective customer tries to interact with a question or concern. This person might be you, but doesn’t have to be. Just remember, whoever interacts with the world on social media becomes a spokesman for you and your company. Choose wisely. However, if nobody’s there, you lose the interaction and the value of the social medium. Do you really want to do this?

2) What do you want to accomplish?

As I said before, being social just to be social is time that could be better spent someplace else. Do you want to establish yourself as a thought leader? Do you want to keep your customers up-to-date on what’s happening in your company? Do you want to keep customers and potential customers educated on industry best practice? Do you want to leverage social media as a customer service tool? You’ll need to build a strategy around those objectives and execute accordingly. Some media do a better job at some objectives than others.

3) Are you prepared to air your dirty laundry in public?

None of us like to deal with public complaints, but maybe this question is put the wrong way. A better question might be, “Are you willing to watch your dirty laundry aired in public?” Whether you’re part of the social conversation or not, people are talking about you and your business online — the good, the bad and the ugly. If your business is like most, you’re going to be exposed to some pretty intense negative feedback from time to time.

One of my friends purchased a shed from a big box home improvement store a while back. It was to be shipped in a couple of days, but somehow his order got lost. After several frustrating phone calls with no resolution, he decided to try complaining on the business’s Facebook site. Within a few minutes, he had a very friendly social media person try to take his complaint offline to “shut him up.” You may want to establish an official policy regarding how this type of interaction will take place. Don’t wait until it’s time to make those decisions while in the heat of battle.

He suggested they work it out on Facebook. Not long after that, he had confirmation of the shipment and the issue was resolved. Like most of us, they didn’t want this dialog to take place on a public forum — they had behaved badly and wanted to hide the misstep. However, publicly making things right probably helped them with their Facebook followers. We all understand that mistakes happen. This retailer demonstrated publicly that it was willing to help its customer (although it would have been much easier to have dealt with the issue before my friend escalated the issue to Facebook).

4) Who is going to be responsible?

If nobody in particular is responsible, your social media efforts aren’t going to go anywhere. A few years back I did some social media consulting for a local nursery. They had volumes of tips to help gardeners and we started sharing them three times a week in a blog that invited them to visit one of their gardening experts to make sure they got the best advice for their particular yard. It was so successful that they decided to bring the effort in-house. Unfortunately, they lost whatever momentum we had gained when they stopped posting daily on their Facebook and Twitter accounts and quit contributing regularly to their blog. My guess is that nobody was really responsible to make sure the effort happened every day (see point No. 1.

5) How are you going to eat the elephant?

Launching a social media effort can feel pretty daunting for a small business, but it’s a lot like eating an elephant, you need to do it one bite at a time. Once you’ve discovered where your customers hang out the most, start there. If it’s Twitter, spend your time there. Once you’ve got that down and feel like you can take the next step, move forward. You might be surprised at how quickly you’ll have a robust social media presence.

If you were waiting for the fad to go away, I’m not convinced it will. Sure, we might be using different tools that Facebook or Twitter, but the way we communicate with our customers is changing for many small businesses and I’m convinced it’s going to continue. You might be interested to know that Facebook, Blogging, and Twitter round out the top three social media channels according to the survey. If you’d like to read more about it, here’s eMarketer’s take. What do you think? Is social media a great resource for small business?

A small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty Kiisel makes small business best practices, tips and advice accessible by weaving personal experiences, historical references and other anecdotes into relevant discussions about leading people, managing a business and what it takes to be successful. Ty writes about small business for Lendio.

Entrepreneurs

SRP helps Entrepreneurs Learn to Grow Business

Humberto Contreras owns Gorda’s Baja Taco in Phoenix. It’s a tall order for Contreras, like most small-business owners, to operate his restaurant day to day. However, he’s savvy enough to know that to get noticed in the competitive culinary world, you have to get on social media, pronto. Contreras recently enrolled in the free Facebook for Business 101 workshop offered by his utility company, Salt River Project (SRP), to get started.

“I learned Facebook is the ‘in’ thing, and if you’re not on it, you are falling behind,” Contreras said. “I learned what to do, how to post and attract customers, and how to stand out on Facebook.”

Contreras, along with hundreds of other small-business owners, took advantage of the series of free workshops led by Ken Colburn, founder and CEO of Data Doctors. From September 2012 through February 2013, SRP conducted five free workshops about social media and key channels:

·        Social Media for Business 101

·        Facebook for Business 101

·        Twitter for Business 101

·        LinkedIn for Business 101

·        Google AdWords for Business 101

The final social media workshop for SRP small-business customers, Lifecycle Marketing for Small Business, is scheduled for April 30 at the Fiesta Resort Conference Center in Tempe. To learn more or watch the complete video series now available online, go to srpbizresource.com.

“It is no longer a luxury or an option for small-business owners to decide if they are going to engage in social media or not,” Colburn said. “It’s a must to remain relevant. You have to understand this communication tool. It is how people are making buying decisions in virtually every business.”

The social media guru offers his top three tips for entrepreneurs:

1.      Don’t procrastinate. The longer you wait to get started, the further behind you will be.
Don’t let the overwhelming nature of social media keep you from stepping forward.

2.      To start, pick one social network. Learn the basics, stay focused until you feel comfortable and then move on to another network.

3.      Start small. Set aside time. Keep it simple with no more than 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening to get familiar with social media and understand the basics.

“The three keys to social media are to listen, engage and measure,” Colburn explained. “A lot of people make the mistake of using social media as a megaphone to shout their marketing message. Social media is not a monologue; it’s a dialogue. If you are not having conversations with people, you are not doing it right.”

In 2011, SRP launched its Business Resource Center (BRC) to offer small and midsize entrepreneurs a valuable online business resource to help them grow and sustain their businesses. The one-stop resource is packed with critical information in the following categories:

·        Economy at a glance
·        Business success stories
·        Local and national business resources
·        News and research
·        Current and pending legislation
·        Advice from business experts
·        Workshops

Business customers requested more information about social media, which spawned the series of free workshops designed to help small-business owners harness the power of social media.

“I think it’s great for SRP to step up and recognize this is one of the challenges for small businesses and try to help educate people,” Colburn said. “And this is one of the ways Data Doctors also likes to try to give back to the community.”

Is Facebook Worth the Effort for Small Business?

I’m a big advocate of social media, including Facebook, but whether or not it’s right for your business depends largely upon what you expect it to do and the type of business you’re in. Having been active in social media in the B2B space for the last several years, I often compare what we’re doing on social media with some of my favorite brands (most of which happen to be B2C brands) and the audience we’re able to build, the engagement we’re able to experience, and the results we’re able to see pale by comparison to a strong B2C social media presence—but I’m pleased with the growth we see when compared to other B2B brands in our space.

We also regularly experiment with advertising on social media with limited to moderate success when compared to other direct marketing channels. Nevertheless, I’ve seen and read about the same marketing approaches reaping great results for consumer brands. In fact, I’ve even responded to adds that offered me products I might be interested in—and have even made purchases. But, I don’t want to be a focus group of one.

According to Erik Sherman, “Facebook marketing? A must according to many companies. Not worth the trouble to some. But most of the voices you hear are in the business-to-consumer space.” He continues, ” After all, people go onto Facebook for fun. But what if you’re trying to reach other businesses, making the seemingly reasonable argument that the users don’t stop being involved in business just because they’re taking a break?”

I have yet to be convinced that social media like Facebook is a viable direct marketing channel in the B2B space, but it’s definitely a good vehicle for promoting content. Social media has proven to be a good media for building an audience that’s interested in your industry, interested in learning, and willing to engage with you online. And, they often become some of your very best customers.

Three or four years ago I think it was Marketo’s Phil Fernandez who suggested that people who engaged with their social media before entering the sales process were better informed and prepared to make a purchase than those who didn’t. He suggested that it was time to stop thinking about the sales cycle and start thinking about the revenue cycle. He suggested that social media was a great vehicle for planting seeds that eventually became prospects and entered the sales funnel. He also argues that the traditional linear approach to marketing handing off a lead to sales and sales closing the deal doesn’t seem to work as well as when marketers continue to nurture, educate, and inform all throughout the revenue cycle.

I’m convinced that social media and content marketing play an incredibly valuable role within the revenue cycle. With that in mind, I believe social media is worth the effort for small business—I’m just not convinced that it makes sense to advertise there.


Small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty makes small business best practices, tips and advice accessible by weaving personal experiences, historical references and other anecdotes into relevant discussions about leading people, managing a business and what it takes to be successful. Ty writes about small business for Lendio.

social media day

Is Google+ Better for Business than Facebook or Twitter?

In the world of social networks, innovation can quickly change the field of frontrunners — remember LiveJournal?

We just saw it again as Google+ overtook Twitter to claim the No. 2 spot behind Facebook. And the new kid is already better than Mark Zuckerberg’s baby for small businesses, professional firms and entrepreneurs, says Alex Hinojosa, vice president of media operations for EMSI (www.emsipublicrelations.com).

“I knew Google+ would attract a big following because it really lends itself to business uses and SEO,” says Hinojosa, who has witnessed the value of Google+ grow exponentially in the daily operations of his PR firm.

A new Global Web Index study show Google+ grew to 343 million users globally in December, or about 25 percent of global internet users. Facebook still accounts for 50 percent of the pie.

“Facebook continues to go through self-imposed changes that are seeing mixed responses from longtime users,” Hinojosa says. “The new No. 2 has much, much more to offer than simply being an alternative to the big dog.”

Hinojosa reviews the merits of Google+ as a business tool, and why he believes the social network will continue its meteoric rise:

• Power: Google+ may be the new kid when it comes to social media – it’s not even 2 years old yet — but Google has become synonymous with anything online. The “new kid” offers something that no other social media platform can: Google power.

• Overwhelming advantage: “Google loves its newest offspring and it favors any post, article, picture and link posted on Google+,” Hinojosa says. “If you post a link on your Google+ about asthma remedies, and one of your connections is logged in to Google+ and searches for asthma remedies, your post will show up high in his Google search results.”

• In action: Let’s say you own an art gallery full of nature photos. Your website for promoting the gallery highlights “mountain photos,” “wildlife photos,” and “waterfall photos” and you’ve created matching URLs for each page, such as bobsnaturephotos. com/waterfallphotos. Now you head over to post your newest update on Google+. You post a message about the waterfall, then you add the link to your waterfall page, bobsnaturephotos. com/waterfallphotos. Now, whenever one of your connections types “waterfall photos” into a Google search, whether it’s days, weeks or months later, there you are on page 1 of the results. Your post shows up, your profile picture shows up, and your link shows up.

“Once upon a time MySpace was king, but over a period of about a year the world made a seamless transition onto Facebook, which may very well see a mass exodus of users,” Hinojosa says. “If your business or employer is not already on Google+, it’s time to make the move.”

Alex Hinojosa is the Vice President of Media Operations at EMSI Public Relations, where he oversees the creative process and execution of print (traditional & online), radio, TV and social media campaigns.  He has an extensive background in radio, working as a national talk-show host and executive producer for CBS Radio, Clear Channel Media & Entertainment and ESPN in major markets.  Alex is also a (social) media coach and fill-in talk show host for Genesis Communications Florida.

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Super Bowl power outage shines light on PR opportunity

One of the biggest victories that came out of this year’s Super Bowl was not the Baltimore Ravens win, but the fast thinking public relations and creative teams that seized the moment when the lights went out. When the players were side lined due to a 34-minute power outage viewers immediately took to social media. According to Twitter, users sent an estimated 24.1 million tweets during the game, with a bulk of postings taking place during the blackout.

While television ads during the Super Bowl broadcast were at an all-time premium at $3.8 million for 30 second spots, outreach and engagement on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube was a fraction of the cost.

Quick turn around

Two major brands that pulled out all the stops and generated considerable buzz were Tide and Oreo. Tide posted an image with a simple headline reading, “We can’t get your blackout. But we can get your stains out.” The image was retweeted more than 1,300 times. Oreo generated even more interest with its post showing on Oreo cookie illuminated on a dark page with copy reading, “You can still dunk in the dark.” This tweet was retweeted approximately15,000 times and was still being talked about the next day.

While fans waited for the lights to turn back on and for the game to resume, there was an estimated 231,000 tweets taking place per minute.

Looking to the companies and brands that recognized the opportunity serves as a valuable lesson in PR communications, and aptly demonstrates the advantage of a timely response. Having the ability to seize the moment and turnaround clever content quickly, paid off. While the NFL covered the blackout with banter about the game, viewers and ticket holders turned to their smartphones and tablets to access social media sites to receive updates and share.

Expanding reach

Unlike any other televised event, the enormous publicity building up to and surrounding the NFL championship takes on a life well beyond the match-up of teams. Viewers have equally as much interest, if not more in the half-time entertainment and the commercials. It may even be safe to say that the Super Bowl is the only televised program where viewers do not consider the commercials or half time as an optimal time for a bathroom break. Nor do most viewers set the DVR just so they can fast forward to get to the “good stuff.”

Most notable is the significant amount of pre and post publicity coverage centered on the ads themselves. News teams on local and national stations discuss which companies will be advertising during the game and in some case go so far to show video clip teasers. In the days after the game the buzz continues with post game dissection of which ads were deemed favorites.

On YouTube this year’s award-winning Budweiser ad featuring the Clydesdales has received more than 11 million views and 56 thousand “likes”. In addition, while we don’t have access to the statistics, we know they also benefited from viral email, Facebook, and Twitter shares. In other words, the $3 million plus price tag for ad time may be warranted not just because of high program viewership, but because of the added value received from PR and the viral viewing via social media.

Super Bowl XLVII proved to be an exciting game full of entertainment, surprise blackout and all. While the city of New Orleans and the operations team at Mercedes-Benz Superdome were not prepared for an electrical outage, some savvy marketing and PR professionals were certainly prepared. Let Super Bowl XLVII be a lesson to us all in how to maximize PR and utilize the increasing power and up-to-the-minute connection of social media to engage and expand a campaign.

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Home builder uses social media to attract buyers

Lennar Arizona has just surpassed 250,000 “views” on YouTube, has nearly 5500 Facebook “likes”, and 4,000 Twitter followers.  In fact, social media has become such a critical component of the Valley home builder that it has created a new “I Team”, standing for Information, Integrity and Internet. The five member I-Team is a strategic addition to the marketing department and will dedicate themselves to the on-line dialogue with customers.

In any given day, you can watch 30videos of their YouTube that take the viewer through a visual tour of any number of Lennar model homes available in Arizona, provide insights into the company’s innovations such as the new NextGen Home Within a Home® series, or point you in the direction to clear up a troubled credit score.

Lennar has a number of communities in the greater Phoenix area including Montecito in El Mirage, San Tan Heights and Skyline Ranch in San Tan Valley, Lone Mountain in Cave Creek, Evans Ranch and Layton Lakes in Gilbert and Stetson Valley in Phoenix.

In the era of 24-7, second by second streaming information, the communication begins long before that prospective buyer walks into the sales office. For the uninitiated, social media is a group of Internet, web based and mobile applications that have redefined the way many people communicate.  The user-generated content has put the general public in the forefront of defining the conversation, compared to the traditional methods such as newspapers, magazines, broadcast and websites that were controlled by professional journalists and company marketers.

For buyers Linn and Kelly Shaw who purchased a Lennar home at the Layton Lakes community in Gilbert, the social media presence made their search process easy.  “The ability to look at financing options and view new model homes prompted me to look into Lennar as a builder.  I really enjoyed the YouTube videos of the models.  With my wife’s and my busy schedules, we didn’t have a lot of time to tour model homes or communities, so their social media content streamlined the process for us.  Access to the homes through the videos and online detail description of the homes was a huge benefit to us,” said Linn Shaw.

Mike Lyon of the real estate sales training company Do You Convert says that content is the key in the success of social media.  “If the information a company presents is entertaining or educational, it will spread.”  And that’s the key.  “Social spaces are not about selling; it’s about educating and spreading information naturally, and Lennar was one of the first home builders to really commit to creating and spreading content,” he noted.

A number of the big home builders have embraced social media, but Lennar has taken the communication to a higher level. The company has tremendous visibility online whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram, FourSquare, or LinkedIn, Lennar is all over it. The company also has four very active blogs.

“For several years now, Lennar has aggressively pursued the social media path.  “There is no question that our social media initiatives have created relationships that have led directly to home purchases,” said Mike Dowell, senior vice president of marketing for Lennar’s Arizona operations.

Buyers who have utilized the social media connections often pass along those tools to friends. “I watch real estate closely and haven’t seen another builder do what Lennar does on-line.  It was so easy to share the Lennar YouTube videos with our friends who were also looking for a home,” homebuyer Lin Shaw added.

The cultural shift is well underway. For many people of all ages, social media is becoming a preferred communication method. Social media is an effective way to communicate facts. “The customers seem to appreciate the ability to research the home opportunities on their own, and to review comments from current Lennar home owners via the company’s Facebook page, blog and other social media sites,” noted Dowell.

A home builder with nationwide presence, at the national level Lennar has more than 800,000 YouTube views, over 200,000 “likes” on Facebook and over 130,000 followers on Twitter. Additionally, each of Lennar’s Divisions across the nation has a strong and growing social media presence in their respective markets.

Lennar, founded in 1954, is one of the nation’s leading builders of quality homes for all generations. The company builds affordable, move-up, and retirement homes primarily under the Lennar brand name. The company has been building in Arizona for nearly 40 years and owns considerable land holdings in the state. For the latest Lennar information, visit any of the following: Lennar.com, Facebook.com/LennarPhoenix; Facebook.com/LennarTucson; YouTube.com/LennarPhoenix; YouTube.com/Lennar Tucson; Twitter.com/LennarPhoenix, Twitter.com/LennarTucson.

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Man Brings Social Media Business to Chandler

The front of his business card reads, “Poet, world traveler, human being.”

The smell of old books and antique belongings emanate throughout Patrick Smith’s apartment. A bottle of prohibition Whiskey sits on display next to an ancient looking hieroglyphic stone.

After many years of traveling internationally, Smith, a Chandler resident, has decided to bring his business, BiBoBu, to Arizona.

“There is something that spiritually connects me to the mountains in the desert,” Smith said. “This is where I want to live permanently.”

He relates his love of the desert to the same landscape of Israel, where he lived for seven years. For over a decade, Smith traveled to more than 15 countries including Greece, Egypt, Israel, Spain, Morocco, and France. For work, he owned and managed restaurants, nightclubs, and cafés in those countries.

While living in Israel, Smith experienced discrimination as an American in a foreign country where the population was primarily Jewish. Many landlords didn’t want to rent him a home or hire him because he wasn’t Jewish.

For a short period, he fell on hard times and was forced to live in a cave where he read books, wrote poetry, and studied the Hebrew language. Practically penniless, and living off the little money his father was sending, he could barely afford food. Smith eventually found a job at a café in Tel Aviv, and later managed restaurants and eventually owned a nightclub.

Now, Smith owns a marketing company and website, BiBoBu, which uses social media sites — such as Facebook and Twitter — for companies to help advertise their products. BiBoBu is a marketing tool that companies can use to tailor their advertising campaigns in order to fit their customer base. It groups all of the social media sites together in one place, making it easier for companies to utilize. College campuses such as Northern Illinois University use BiBoBu to recruit students, spread the word about alumni fundraisers, and engage students in campus events.

Smith’s people skills from working in the hospitality industry abroad and in the U.S. for so many years seem to be what sparked his interest in social media outlets and the business world. “Communication is key in working with people, and that’s what I’ve learned,” Smith said. “This is the generation of social media.”

Smith said he met many different people throughout his travels, and one day he wants to write a book.

Now settled in Arizona, Smith runs his business from a place he can finally call home.

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Social Media Changes Driving Some Marketers Buggy

Social media is the most rapidly changing aspect of communications to begin with. Throw in an IPO (Facebook) and a major overhaul (LinkedIn) and modifications are barreling ahead so fast, even the techies seem unable to keep up.

“I’m a big believer in social media marketing for my business, so when I started having a lot of problems with LinkedIn, I didn’t wait – I sent an email to the Help Center,” says Marsha Friedman, CEO of EMSI Public Relations, (www.emsincorporated.com), in Wesley Chapel, Fla.

“Last week, a ‘customer experience advocate’ finally emailed me back. He wrote, ‘I apologize taking so long to get back to you. We are currently experiencing an unusual high volume of requests due to our recent site enhancements.’ “

Many of the changes were implemented Oct. 16 and, as EMSI’s social media specialist, Jeni Hinojosa, observes, “It’s a great overhaul.”

But, she adds, “It must not have gotten much of a test run because the site has been very buggy.”

Over on Facebook, Friedman says she’s noticed advertisements popping up everywhere – even in her news feed.

“Now that the site has gone public, it’s trying all sorts of new tricks to make money for shareholders, but it’s creating some problems,” she says.

One of her employees got this error message while trying to post to her wall: “The server found your request confusing and isn’t sure how to proceed.”

Hinojosa offered a brief overview of some of the changes and a solution people are turning to – at least in the case of Facebook.

LinkedIn: “One of the new features I like is that you can check for comments and other activity without getting notices sent to your email,” Hinojosa says. “Just go to your LinkedIn page and you’ll see the notifications at the top, just like on Facebook.”

“The bugs I and others have encountered include being unable to check private messages; sporadically unable to get into groups; and being notified that invitations to join others’ networks are waiting – but when I look, I don’t see any,” Hinojosa says. “When we report the problems, the responses we’re getting sound like they’re working on them but they’re overwhelmed.

“Hopefully, they’ll get them worked out soon. The good news is, they’re aware.”

Facebook: “Sadly, I’ve been down this road before – and it didn’t lead to a good place,” Hinojosa says. “Remember MySpace?”

Since its initial public offering in May, Facebook has been making a lot of changes designed to add revenue. The newest of these are a $7 fee for “promoted posts” from your personal page and a $5 to $15 fee to promote posts from your fan page. They’re not yet available to all 166 million U.S. Facebook users, according to tech bloggers, because it’s still experimental.

Now, those with the option will see a “promote” button next to the “like,” “comment” and “share” buttons. Click “promote,” put the appropriate fee on your charge card, and that post will go to the top of your followers’ news feeds a few times in the days ahead. (It will also wear the Scarlet S label of “sponsored post.”) The promise is that more of your followers will see it.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense when applied to personal pages,” Hinojosa says. “How many people will pay to show off their vacation photos? But people using Facebook as a marketing tool may be motivated to pay for more reach.

“Soon, everyone will be scrolling through a bunch of ‘sponsored’ posts before they get to the ‘free’ ones. If you want someone to actually see your post, you’ll have to pay.”

That’s why, she says, people are jumping to …

Google+: “If Facebook and Twitter had a baby, it would be Google+,” Hinojosa says.

This toddler network, which launched in June 2011, combines Facebook’s capabilities for sharing news and photos and Twitter’s searchability.

“It allows you to designate one or more “circles” for your friends,” Hinojosa says. “One co-worker might be ‘business’ and ‘close friends’ while another could be just ‘business.’ So everyone sees what’s appropriate for them based on your relationship.”

“Like Twitter, Google+ uses hashtags to help sort information and allow people to search for posts on particular topics,” she says. “For instance, if you type #cutecats into the search box at the top of your page, you’ll see everything with that hashtag – including comments that incorporate the label.

“What makes me happiest is, Google had its IPO way back in 2004,” Hinojosa says. “So we shouldn’t have to worry about this company suddenly drumming up ways to make us pay for what we previously got for free.”

Benjamin Franklin Plumbing's Facebook page

The Benefits Of Social Media For Small Business

No matter what product or service you’re selling, you’re always in the business of relationships.

Fifteen years ago in the entrepreneurial world, all you needed was a name and a phone number. That was it; that was all you needed for customers to find you. Then, having a website became necessary for building the reputation of your business. Today, we have moved into yet another realm of the Internet known as social media; sites include: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Each has their place and has become yet another layer of building and maintaining relationships, both personally and professionally.

Many of you already use Facebook in your personal lives to keep in contact with family and friends. It’s a great way to share up-to-date information and photos. Extending this to business, this outlet allows your customers or potential customers to get to know you on their level, and at their own speed.

Facebook and Twitter posts allow you to reach your customer base without becoming intrusive. As a business, you can also use social media networks to follow your target customers to find out what how they spend their free time, where they have dinner, what they like, etc. Having this additional insight allows a business to specialize thank-you gifts and gear its products to its customer’s needs and desires.

The faster a business uses social media to help champion its successes and get to know its audience, the faster the business will see a return on its investment. Since becoming active on social media, I’ve seen an immense increase in overall brand awareness.

Having a great business reputation on social media is a huge asset to your business portfolio. It’s also a great place to build good relationships with your vendors or business partners, to network and build business together.

My business has grown by maintaining and creating relationships. We have customers who have used our services for more than 20 years! Social media is just one more way our customers can keep in touch with us. I’m in the service business, utilizing social media allows our customers to get know us beyond the time we spend in their home. Oftentimes, checking my business out on social media makes new customers feel at ease.

Another important aspect of social media is helping others for the sake of helping. For instance, I’ve noticed individuals out of my market area searching for the best water filtration system on Facebook and Twitter. Does that mean I don’t respond because there is no potential sale for me? Absolutely not. Social media is not just about selling a product.

Gary Vaynerchuk, author of “Thank You Economy,” is a great resource and inspiration on how to make social media work for you and your business. He teaches that social media has the ability to make a brand or a business human. Each business has the potential to out-care everyone else via social media by helping others.

Adding social networks to your already-busy work day might seem daunting. It can be time consuming and is an investment. But when used consistently, it becomes a valuable asset. If you decide to outsource social media to a firm, set rules for when/what to publish on your networks to ensure your social media profile matches your business’s reputation.

I know social media may seem scary at first, but I believe it is a positive and effective way of reaching your target audience on a day-to-day basis and keeps your business top of mind. If you are still unsure about social media networks, there are several great tutorials online and local seminars to help you get focused.

If you’re on these social media networks, I would love to connect! Look me and my business up:

Twitter: @asktheexpert, @benfranklinaz
Facebook: facebook.com/BenjaminFranklinPlumbingAZ
YouTube: youtube.com/benfranklinaz

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NLRB Issues First ‘Facebook Firing’ Decision

National Labor Relations Board Issues First ‘Facebook Firing’ Decision

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is on a roll. Just a few weeks after issuing its first decision finding that a company’s social media policy violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) (see alert at left or here), the NLRB yesterday released its first decision addressing the legality of an employment discharge over an employee’s social media postings.

In Karl Knauz Motors, decided on September 28 and released on October 1, the NLRB adopted the findings of an administrative law judge (ALJ) that a car dealership lawfully discharged one of its salesmen because of certain Facebook postings regarding an accident at an affiliated dealership. The NLRB concluded that those postings were not protected by the NLRA. In commenting on photos he took of a Land Rover that was driven into a pond by a customer’s son, the salesman wrote: “This is your car: This is your car on drugs.”  The salesman continued: “This is what happens when a sales Person sitting in the front passenger seat…allows a 13 year old boy to get behind the wheel of a 6000 lb. truck built and designed to pretty much drive over anything.” In response, the employer fired the salesman because his actions damaged the reputation of the company and the individuals involved, and because the salesman showed no remorse for his actions.

While the car dealership maintained, and the ALJ agreed, that these postings were the sole reason for discharge, these were not the only Facebook postings that the salesman made around the same time as the postings described above. Another set of postings involved photos and comments about the dealership serving hot dogs, chips and bottled water at a sales event announcing a new BMW model. Among other things, the salesman wrote: “The small 8 oz bags of chips, and the $2.00 cookie plate from Sam’s Club, and the semi fresh apples and oranges were a nice touch…but to top it all off…the Hot Dog Cart. Where our clients could attain a over cooked wiener and a stale bun.”  The ALJ found that these postings were protected, concerted activities because customers could have been disappointed by the food options at the event and this could have impacted the salesman’s compensation. In its decision, the NLRB did not decide whether the “hot dog” postings constituted protected concerted activity under the NLRA.

In addition to the NLRB’s conclusion regarding the legality of the car salesman’s discharge, the NLRB also concluded that a “courtesy” rule in the car dealership’s employee handbook was overly broad and could be construed by employees as prohibiting NLRA-protected conduct. The handbook language at issue provided:

(b) Courtesy: Courtesy is the responsibility of every employee. Every employee is expected to be courteous, polite and friendly to our customers, vendors and suppliers, as well as to their fellow employees. No one should be disrespectful or use profanity or any other language which injures the image or reputation of the Dealership.

The NLRB found the second section of the rule—regarding not being “disrespectful” or damaging the dealership’s image or reputation—violated the NLRA because the rule “proscribes not a manner of speaking, but the content of employee speech—content that would damage the [dealership’s] reputation.”  The NLRB ultimately ordered the dealership to remove the courtesy rule from its employee handbook and give employees inserts or new handbooks. The NLRB did not address other policy language that was at issue before the ALJ.

What This Means for Employers

The Karl Knauz Motors decision is the first in what will likely be many more decisions by the NLRB as the NLRB’s regional offices continue to issue complaints over so-called “Facebook firings” (other cases are currently pending before the NLRB). The decision is also consistent with the NLRB’s increased focus on social media postings and policies, as reflected in the many cases detailed in three reports issued by the NLRB’s Acting General Counsel since August 2011.

Before disciplining or discharging a union or non-union employee over a social media posting, employers should consider whether the posting constitutes protected concerted activity under the NLRA and consult with legal counsel. In addition, social media policies should be narrowly written to ensure they do not run afoul of the NLRA. Such policies should make clear that employees may engage in protected concerted activity without penalty. Again, counsel should be consulted when drafting or revising a social media policy.

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Top 10 mistakes businesses make when using social media

When a business leader calls for the creation of a Facebook page and a witty Twitter handle, he often believes the social media strategy is in place and he returns to his “core” duties.

The problem with this is that for any business in 2012 and beyond, social media needs to be considered a core part of your business plan and it must be implemented at the senior level and trickle down into the DNA of the entire organization.

Steve Nicholls: author of Social Media in Business, international speaker, and social media strategist has noticed a recurring list of misconceptions when it comes to the use of social media in business.  These common mistakes hinder an organizations ability to maximize the use of social media while mitigating risk.

Here are the top ten most common mistakes companies make when trying to use social media to grow their business:

1. It is all about social networking. Social networking websites such as Facebook are just a very small part of social media. Social media is much more for business, providing four main benefits: communication, collaboration, community and collective intelligence opportunities, however, companies are still not fully aware of all of these. Iconic organisations operating in different industries such as The Times, Accenture, Salesforce.com, Starbucks, Cisco, NASA, Groupon and Coca-Cola have all made use of social media in very different ways to gain competitive advantage, and understanding the various opportunities social media provides for business is the first step towards capitalizing its potential.

2. It is simple. Social media is mostly user-friendly, but embracing it in business is far from being simple. There is a huge difference between using Facebook and bringing the right aspects of social media into the DNA of a company. The larger the company is, the more complex the task of bringing it in successfully. As the amount and depth of information relating to social media is overwhelming, capitalizing on the right combinations of social media tools for the company can be intricate.

3. It is free. One aspect that makes social media for business a very attractive avenue is that many tools are free to use, providing excellent cost-effective solutions to business. However, the cost of bringing social media within a company is not completely free. Time is the key resource. Going too fast and adopting social media hastily in an organization can bring more risks than benefits. Doing it well requires learning and training processes that will need time, and investing in that time is key for success.

4. It is not important. Social media opens doors to enormous markets. For instance, there are 850 million Facebook users and 50 million business people on LinkedIn, including the CEOs of the 500 top companies in the world; thus the business opportunities a company can get by connecting to only 0.1% of those are extremely valuable. Markets like these simply cannot be ignored, thus businesses that are still hesitant as to how useful or important social media can be for them need to consider this aspect strategically. Social media is no longer a choice; it is a strategic resource and a new dimension to corporate strategy.

5. No need for policy. Having a solid social media policy when incorporating social media within an organization is crucial as it will allow the mitigation of potential risks. Social media can open a company to different types of risks including security issues, PR issues and HR issues. While these risks are very real, it is essential not to let them inhibit progress, thus the key is to develop a sound social media policy that identifies the risks and mitigates them.

6. Having a negative mindset. It is common for managers, employees and other players of an organization to have some prejudice against adopting social media within their organization, thinking it will mostly bring problems and waste company time. What is important to keep in mind however is that benefits far outweigh risks, thus having the will to invest time and mitigate possible risks through a clear social media policy will allow a company to increase its competitive advantage on the long-run.

7. No structured implementation process. It is easy to go enthusiastically in the wrong direction with social media. To prevent this from happening, managers need to have a step-by step formula in order to analyze their internal and external business environments and develop a systematic, contextual approach to bringing social media within the realm of their organizations. Bringing social media in the company needs to be done through a systematic model that will work to optimize benefits while mitigating risks along the way.

8. Identification of constraints. Many constraints to adopting social media are invisible and as a result, these are the hardest to identify. People issues are often the biggest obstacle to the implementation of social media, but these are often hidden from view. Thus making sure that all invisible constraints are also identified is crucial in order to prevent them from erupting later on and undermining the project.

9. No clear goals. Perhaps the most important aspect to keep in mind when using social media for business is that it constantly needs to be fitted into the more general business goals of the company. Using social media just for the sake of using it will not have any positive impact, but instead might create more problems than benefits. Having a focused strategy that will incorporate social media within general goals is thus key.

10. No ongoing strategy. Social media is a constantly evolving avenue of opportunities; the tools that are useful today might not be useful tomorrow. As tools change, a winning social media strategy will be one that is able to capture all these innovations and constantly create the right combinations of tools for your business, according to the general business goals.