Tag Archives: facebook

Know Your Customer: Gathering Data to Build Marketing Campaigns

Know Your Customer: Gathering Data To Build Marketing Campaigns

There was a time when we relied largely on focus groups and surveys to learn who was buying the products and services we were touting and what they thought about the experience. Thanks to technology, today we have access to a wealth of data to help build marketing campaigns that will catch the attention of potential consumers. To some, the tools used to gather information are seen as an invasion of privacy, while others view it as smart business. For any company, big or small, the reality is that data is now accessible and a valuable tool for creating more efficient and effective communications.

In early spring, Target stores received a great deal of attention for their “data grab” practices that made it possible to predict a woman’s pregnancy, thus sending specific coupons and mailers anticipating her shopping needs. An article in Forbes detailed Target’s practices and explained that they are not the only one gathering data: “Retailers are studying details to figure out what you like, what you need, and which coupons are most likely to make you happy.”

Similarly, Safeway stores recently launched an online and mobile coupon application that gives customers discounts based on their shopping history. The program called “Just for U” tracks customer purchases through the Safeway Club Card and uses the information to create personalized discounts on specific products. Safeway’s marketing gurus recognized it was not enough to offer coupons and weekly deals to entice shoppers to choose their store over the many other options; the deals need to be personal, they need to matter to the customer.

As a small business owner lacking the deep pockets to employ an in-house statistician tracking your customer’s every move or a team of marketing experts to roll-out individualized messaging, you may think it would be nice to know more, but it just isn’t possible. While it is true that you may not have the resources of the marketing departments at Target or Safeway, you do have the ability to gather valuable information about your customers and create more targeted and effective messaging.

1. Google Analytics

Google Analytics provides tools for gaining insight about how visitors use your website, how they find your site, which pages they are visiting, and how you can keep them coming back. It also helps to understand why some visitors buy from you and others don’t. Gathering data and information on your Web traffic gives you valuable feedback for making adjustments to your website and your marketing programs to help increase conversions and meet your goals.

2. Facebook

The insight section on your Facebook brand page is full of valuable details. It not only provides the information on the number of people talking your business and the reach your posts are getting, but it also provides the demographic breakdown of those that like your page as well as the geographic location from which they are coming. You can also learn which posts generate the most response about your company and its products. Utilizing this data can help you target your marketing campaign with online and/or print ads and create messaging that will get your customer to take notice.

3. Email

A monthly e-newsletter or weekly e-blasts can be a fairly inexpensive way to market. It can also provide you with valuable data and feedback. You can track who opened your emails, who forwarded them and who clicked on which links. Understanding what people are interested in reading about helps to tailor your content to get the best response and increase sales.

Knowing not only who your customer is, but what they like can help you decide where to focus your marketing efforts and how to allocate your budget. Taking the time and effort to learn about your consumers’ behavior and interests is like a courtship. If you want to generate repeat customers — and actually secure that second date — learn more about them.

For more information about gathering data about your customers to help build your marketing campaigns, and/or marketingworx and its services, visit marketingworxpr.com.

texting

Eat, Drink and Be Social: Dining Apps

Dining out? Check your phone first (if you aren’t doing that already); here are some dining apps for you to consider.


With today’s plugged-in landscape and social media savvy society, websites, blogs and smartphone applications are quickly becoming the go-to source for daily tasks like hunting down recipes, shopping for restaurant deals and connecting with friends. From check-ins to secret menus and Twitter notifications about the next happy hour, social media is the inroad to “what’s good” at bars and restaurants.

At Sapporo, social media has allowed us to give diners a backstage pass to our food and how we make it as well as provide a tailored personal experience. Hungry for a certain dish? Don’t worry; Sapporo has you covered. By liking Sapporo on Facebook, users can ask questions and checkout the new and most popular menu items and what people are saying. Through Twitter, users can follow and find out about upcoming events and exclusive promotions.

Whether you’re looking for a fine-tuned menu, a trendy, foodie destination (like Sapporo) or just wanting a burger, below are some social media app suggestions that will have you eating, drinking and being social in no time.

Digital dining promotions

Remember the days of cutting coupons? Cut no more; with today’s social media landscape, getting the best deals on restaurants is literally at the click of a button. With daily deal sites like Groupon, Living Social and Doozy of a Deal, diners can pre-purchase coupons and print them off to use them at their leisure. But that’s not all, more and more restaurants are utilizing their own social networking pages like Foursquare and Facebook to offer exclusive deals and promotions to help drive traffic through the door and create customer loyalty.

There are dining apps for that

For those who may be hungry but too lazy to make a reservation or order food, there’s an app for that. Today’s social landscape makes it easy for diners to get rid of their hunger pains by the push of a button. At Sapporo, an app called Open Table allows diners to make reservations through Facebook. Other restaurants have also created their own mobile applications that allow customers to place food orders from the convenience of their smartphones and even pay for their purchases.

Table tweets

Dining with social media isn’t just about getting the best deals; many restaurant guests enjoy the connection social media allows them to have with the restaurant and its chef. Through Twitter, many restaurants, chefs or owners will actively engage in conversation with the customer base by posting events, recipes, up-to-date menus and photos. Some even take customer interaction one step further by coming out to greet those patrons tweeting from their table.

Mind your mobile manners

“No phone at the dinner table” is a phrase everyone has heard at one time or another. Since mobile technology has improved and diners are more social media savvy, it has become socially acceptable to multitask during meals. Today’s guests are eager to check-in, snap photos or tweet about where they are and what they’re doing. Not sure what to order? Foodspotting and Forkly, apps that can be downloaded to a mobile device, allows diners to snap photos and share dishes so customers make better-informed purchasing decisions.

Dine and dish

After a dining experience, there is nothing more guests like to do than dish about what they ate and how amazing, or not amazing, it was. Several social networking sites have created a space where patrons can share their tips, reviews and rate restaurants. Urbanspoon is an app that allows customers to view ratings for the specific type of food or restaurant they are looking for. Yelp is another app that allows users to search for the restaurants closest to them and read reviews before choosing a specific restaurant.

In the past, dining out may have involved navigating an unfamiliar neighborhood aimlessly searching for a restaurant, unsure of what to expect on the menu ― but not anymore. Look no further than your smartphone, where restaurants like Sapporo are engaging in the social space and guests can stay in the loop and experience a new type of dining experience.

For more information, menus, hours and location of Sapporo, visit SapporoScottsdale.com  or call (480) 607-1114.

social media tweet bird

Social Media: Turning Tweets Into Tourists

Used correctly, social media can pay off for the hospitality industry

Over the holidays, the JW Marriott Desert Ridge built a giant village out of 800 pounds of gingerbread and 250 pounds of chocolate to display in its lobby. For four weeks, the cookie town was posted on the JW Facebook page and fans were invited to guess how many gumdrops, pounds of dough, poinsettias and twinkling lights were decorating the resort. Winners received a weekend stay.

Did the campaign succeed?
Definitely, according to Jennifer Whittle, account supervisor with the Lavidge Co., which represents the resort. The goal was to increase fans on Facebook, a figure that doubled in a month. “Additional objectives were to drive traffic to the resort’s website and property,” she said, “and to position the resort as a fun place to visit.”

But still, just as with traditional advertising, marketing or public relations, it can be tough to measure how social media translates into revenue in the tourism industry.

Measuring whether this new medium is working depends on what a business wants to achieve, said Rebecca Seymann, Lavidge director of interactive campaigns. Some businesses believe that the more people who “see” them on Facebook or on a blog or in an app, the more awareness of their brand will grow, thus driving up sales.

But businesses do try to compute results. “Many hospitality businesses use social media, email, their websites and aggregators to promote special offers and then measure direct sales using a variety of tracking tools,” Seymann notes. And many use social media to respond to customer complaints as well.

One attraction of social media is that the cost of use seems minimal. Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are all free. Writing the copy and getting the photos or videos for social media do cost something; as does monitoring the site. A cottage industry has grown to help businesses interpret the data from social media; but some measuring systems are still free.

“Facebook has metrics built in that don’t cost anything,” says Christine Carlson, advertising manager at Las Vegas-based Allegiant Travel, which flies out of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. “And we also use Google Analytics, which is free as well.”

So Allegiant can find out how many Web users click on its Facebook page and repost the page to other fans; how many viewers like the company’s site; even how many viewers switch from Facebook to the Allegiant Web site to book a trip. But if a Facebook user looks at the company’s website, signs off and then comes back four days later to book a trip, Allegiant can’t easily track that. In its brief time using social media, Allegiant has attracted more than 50,000 fans on Facebook.

social media icons

For some hospitality businesses, such as W Scottsdale, the main objective of a social media campaign is to “engage in conversation with our fans,” according to Joe Iturri, director of sales and marketing. The hotel uses Facebook and Twitter particularly to promote W happenings to fans first. The events often involve fashion design and music. “W often gives fans insider access, like sending information to them first about our big New Year’s Eve event,” he says.

But W’s use of social media can be even more up-close and personal in pursuing contact with potential customers. When fans post messages saying they will visit the hotel soon, W’s social media rep tries to chat online with them about their likes and dislikes. “We’ll ask what wines they like, for example, and when they arrive, we have a bottle of a great wine in their room. Or we’ll find out whether they like foam or feather pillows,” Iturri says. Facebook and Twitter get top billing. Other channels used: YouTube, FourSquare, Yelp.

When favorable posts come in about a past visit, W responds, too. Or if there is a negative review on TripAdvisor, “we contact the poster and try to resolve the problem to the best of our ability,” Iturri says.

In 2009, the hotel hired a full-time social media person to answer postings around the clock, Iturri says. That employee checks Twitter, Facebook and other channels several times — both night and day — on a laptop and responds to questions and postings both favorable and unfavorable. The first person to hold the job was so successful that she was transferred to the W Hotel headquarters to start national programs.

That all might work for a national or international company, but what about the little guy — the independently owned restaurant or boutique or small resort?

For smaller businesses, social media can pay off, too, says Josh Kenzer, online marketing manager for the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau. The big issue for a smaller business, though, might be the labor costs in maintaining an up-to-date Facebook page, for example, adding pictures and news regularly.

“A business owner needs to be honest about the time he can devote to it,” Kenzer says. “Here at the bureau, someone has to spend about 30 minutes to an hour a day adding new content. You also don’t want someone to post a message on your page that says, ‘I’m here this weekend and what can you do for me?’ and then you don’t reply to them.”

Social media is also not a silver bullet. “Like website management, pay-per-click, SEO and banner campaigns — and like print, radio, public relations — social media should become a regular recurring marketing activity and a budget line item that incorporates key marketing messages to target audiences,” says Seymann of the Lavidge Co.

Arizona Business Magazine March/April 2012

Facebook's IPO

Is Facebook’s IPO A Chance To Get Rich Quick For Valley Residents?

With the announcement of Facebook’s IPO, many want to get to get their hands on the stock in hopes of a chance to “get quick rich.”

The eight-year-old company Facebook filed to go public by May and raise $5 billion in what could be the largest-internet IPO. Facebook reported $3.7 billion in revenue and $1 billion in profit last year alone, doubling the $1.97 billion in revenue it registered in 2010.

Facebook now boasts 845 million members since CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg started the social media giant. With the proposed stock filing, Zuckerberg will have 28.4 percent of Facebook’s shares making his personal worth a staggering $24 billion.

According to Valley macroeconomic expert and CEO of Online Trading Academy in Phoenix, Ken Beckrich, the answer of if local Valley residents should invest is definitely “no.” Unless you want to get crushed by big bankers with deep pockets, Beckrich warns the average individual from investing his/her life savings in Facebook’s stock.

The major investor in Facebook, Morgan Stanley, will only provide their best clients shares of the stock in order to create a supply and demand. This will then leave very little accessible and affordable shares for the everyday trader.

As many look for investments to “get rich quick,” Beckrich advises for less risky investments that don’t include powerhouse names or whatever the latest fad is. Rather, educate yourself on an investment that will have the highest return on investment rate.

For more information about Beckrich or the Online Trading Academy, visit tradingacademy.com.

Streaming Devices

Add Streaming Devices As Inexpensive Additions To The Office

Streaming media has become a regular part of many home entertainment choices, with folks (myself included), choosing Netflix, Amazon, and HBO Go instead of scheduled programming or even On Demand. And now many streaming devices have gaming channels, music, and the ability to run personal apps like Facebook and Picasa.

Streaming media devices can also be an inexpensive and cool addition to the office. Most businesses are setting up flat panel screens in their conference rooms and lobbies for better presentation viewing, adding visual elements during meetings, and entertainment for clients as they wait. In open office environments, which house many start ups, screens are usually set to news channels all day long. Connecting an inexpensive streaming media device can break up the monotony with music, pictures from the last office happy hour, and the occasional stress busting game of Angry Birds.

How to choose? Here are some of the best streaming devices for your money:

Roku

Roku wasn’t the original but it appears to be innovating the fastest in the streaming industry and currently has the most choices. Roku has four models, ranging from $49 to $100. Every Roku device gives you access to over 400 channels and growing, with the more expensive models featuring HD video support, a remote for motion control with games, and USB port. Just last month Roku announced a streaming “stick” that will deliver all the joy of streaming from something the size of a jump drive. It’s a solid bet, and you can’t beat the price tag.

Apple TV

I recommend this with reservations because I think the real Apple TV, predicted to debut this fall (or winter, or next spring), will come with streaming technology built inside. But just in case I’m wrong, or if your business has a bonified Apple ecosystem going, then Apple TV is the streaming device for you. Apple TV is the only streaming box compatible with iTunes and AirPlay, which lets you stream content from your iPad and iPhone – both of which are often used as business tools. Apple TV doesn’t have as many channels a Roku, and sits at the high end at $99. But it’s a reliable, great device that will complete your hipster system.

Boxee

Boxee might be the original streaming device, and possibly ahead of its time. I first saw Boxee a few years ago at a Wired party at CES. It was one of 10 or so gadgets on display and everyone who saw it couldn’t lift their jaw off the floor. As is often the case with first-on-the-scene gadgets, Boxee got a little overshadowed by other streaming devices with bigger marketing budgets than this start up. It’s still holding it’s own though, and is actually a great device from a company that continues to innovate. The company just announced Boxee LiveTV, which lets you stream live sports, local news, special events, and shows from your local broadcast stations via an HD antenna. Like other streaming devices you can get all of the great Internet channels such as Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, and apps like Facebook. Boxee costs $167, making it the most expensive of these options.

There are several more options enterting the market, and it’s probable that in the next few years the TVs we buy (not just from Apple) will contain this tech inside and we’ll order streaming services from cable. But until then, $100 or less to widen your media capability in the office is a good buy.

Election Social Media: Wright & Brennan

Phoenix Election Social Media Wars: Wright & Brennan

Election Social Media Wars: Wright & Brennan

Social media has become an important and effective marketing tool, with businesses creating Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for their customers, sharing deals and special offers. And it’s no less important in a race for mayor, especially for the Phoenix election mayoral candidates.

We visited all of the Phoenix mayoral candidates’ respective social media pages to get a better idea of how they represent themselves and their campaigns. It’s one thing to believe what the media and rival candidates say about one another, but how are they connecting with their supporters and how are they bettering their campaigns via social media?

Yesterday, we covered Wes Gullett and Peggy Neely. Today, we’ll look at Jennifer Wright and Anna Brennan.

Jennifer Wright

Jennifer Wright’s website states her campaign focuses on the following issues: repealing the food tax, creating a more open, transparent government, enforcing SB 1070, increasing public safety, creating more jobs and improving small businesses and small business creation.

Facebook & Twitter

Wright’s Twitter thoroughly updates her followers of her responses at mayoral debates. She’s informative, and she seems active on her account, responding to her followers’ questions. For instance:

Jennifer Wright's Twitter, Election Social Media“@rbcarter 2 make sure jobs & oppy’s thrive, ‘hoods r safe & secure, & the city is fiscally responsible. VOTE WRIGHT!”
“@RPongratz Thanks for your support!”
Jennifer Wright's Twitter, Election Social Media“Q1: B4 be sworn in, I will identify 20 biz stuck in city process & make sure they are up & running by inauguration day. #PhxDebate”
“Q5: Fiscal responsibility KEY. Review proposed line-item budget b4 passing, cut fat and admin bloat. Hold depts accountable. #PhxDebate”

As for Wright’s Facebook, with 507 followers, it’s updated frequently with video posts, shared links of articles relating to the mayoral race, as well as her thoughts and opinions. She seems more active and personable on Facebook, determined to increase the number of followers every day:

Jennifer Wright's Facebook Page, Election Social Media“‘I have no interest in being a household name or having personal fame or notoriety. I do not seek to be a career politician. Instead, my desire is to serve and lead Phoenix back on a path to prosperity. I would be honored if the highest office I ever held were that of Mayor of Phoenix. I humbly ask for your vote.’ Jennifer Wright”
“500! LET’S RAISE IT TO 510!””Today’s goal is 490!”
Jennifer Wright's Facebook Page, Election Social Media“Have you seen and shared my web-ad?
The Wright Change for Phoenix
www.youtube.com”
“Jennifer Wright Press Conference Post-Chamber Debate
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhPqG2u8s3s “

Anna Brennan

Anna Brennan focuses on the community for her campaign. She pledges to “have the most open, accountable, and transparent government that the City of Phoenix has ever seen,” work on the city’s budget by proposing a zero-based budget, emphasize the importance of education by advocating for public school reform, and spotlight illegal immigration.

Brennan’s social media usage, both Facebook and Twitter, have identical posts — all video links to Brennan’s unique, live broadcasts from her cell phone (using bambuser, an app that streams live video for others to view), updated very frequently.

Facebook & Twitter

Anna Brennan's Twitter, Election Social MediaAnna Brennan's Twitter, Election Social Media

 

Anna Brennan's Facebook Page, Election Social MediaAnna Brennan Facebook, Election Social Media

No. of Friends & Followers for each Mayoral Candidate:

As of August 18, 2011, sourced from the social media pages linked to each candidates’ website:

Claude Mattox

Greg Stanton Facebook Page, Election Social Media2,942 Friends
Greg Stanton Twitter, Election Social Media775 Followers

Greg Stanton

Greg Stanton Facebook Page, Election Social Media1,349 Friends
Greg Stanton Twitter, Election Social Media583 Followers

Wes Gullett

Wes Gullett Facebook Page, Election Social Media759 Friends
Wes Gullett Twitter, Election Social Media235 Followers

Peggy Neely

Peggy Neely Facebook Page, Election Social Media509 Friends
Peggy Neely Twitter, Election Social Media452 Followers

Jennifer Wright

Jennifer Wright Facebook Page, Election Social Media507 Friends
Jennifer Wright Twitter, Election Social Media125 Followers

Anna Brennan

Anna Brennan Facebook Page, Election Social Media104 Friends
Anna Brennan Twitter, Election Social Media40 Followers

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Election Voting Dates & Times:

Saturday, August 27, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Monday, August 29, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Tuesday, August 30 (Election Day), 6 a.m. – 7 p.m.
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Election social media — is it important to winning an election? What do you think?
Do you think the candidates’ social media pages, “friends” and “followers” have any impact on the election and who will win the mayoral race? Let us know. If it is, it looks like Mattox is leading the pack.

 

Google Plus vs. Facebook

Tech Blog: Google Plus vs. Facebook

Google Plus vs. Facebook

You may have recently heard something about Google Plus, the new social networking site. Thousands of hip, social networkers have fled Facebook for Google’s potentially greener pastures.

Should you be one of them? Read this and decide if Google Plus is really better than Facebook.

The History – So Far

On June 28, 2011, Google released their new, much-hyped social network Google Plus (plus.google).  G+ was an instant hit in the early adopter community; literally every single tech blogger in the world signed up for a G+ account and then wrote an article about it.

Even though the new social network was invitation only, the number of registered users exploded. See the graph below:

 

Google Plus had 10 million users after just two weeks; after four weeks, over 25 million users had signed up.

The tech community was giddy over the fact that it had grown faster than any other social network in history. (Never mind the fact the Google was already a billion-dollar company with tremendous brand value and worldwide recognition).

In spite of this exciting news, the question on everyone’s mind was whether or not G+ would be able to take on the social networking behemoth that is Facebook.

Clash of the Titans

With its 750 million users, Facebook still dwarfs Google Plus. Google is attempting to attract new members by introducing a variety of features that seem to address Facebook’s limitations:

Circles

On Facebook you have friends and that’s it. Unless you fiddle with complicated settings, you won’t be able to control which friends see what. (Meaning that if you post those pictures from spring break, Grandpa will see them and be disappointed in you.)

Google + is different. You organize your contacts based on circles, or categories, including family, friends and work. Before you post anything, you must decide which circle(s) are allowed to see it. This means more privacy and more control.

Just like Twitter, you don’t have to know a person in order to add them to one of your circles.

Video Chat

G+ has a feature called Hangouts, which allow you to video/instant chat with up to 10 people at a time. In response to this, Facebook implemented their own version of video chat. However, Facebook Chat only supports two-way video calling.

Google Plus vs. Facebook

Sparks

G+ users can find out more about their own interests by using the Sparks function. Sparks is like a front-end Google search that continuously updates links about topic they are interested in, like sports or movies.

The closest feature on Facebook is the ability to “like” an organization; this will make their updates appear in your news feed.

Facebook’s Advantages

Facebook’s biggest advantage is the sheer number of people who use the service. If you’re looking for someone, chances are they’re on Facebook.

Facebook also has business and organization profiles, which allow users to interact with companies that they like.

Additionally, integrated games are a big draw for the site; over 50% of users play Facebook games. Google Plus does not have any games or organization pages.

Extemporaneous Musings/Conclusion

Maybe it really doesn’t matter if Google Plus is better than Facebook. Maybe features like Circles and Hangouts aren’t actually the things attracting people to Google. Perhaps the real appeal of G+ is the fact that it offers a fresh start, a tabula rasa.

On Google Plus, we have a change to erase all our social networking mistakes of the past. Gone are the embarrassing pictures and the awkward wall posts. No longer do we have to sift through endless updates about Farmville, listen to our great aunts complain about Obama, or not actually know who half our “friends” are.

We have a chance to build G+ into whatever we want it to be — a utopia of intellectual discourse, civil debates, and funny videos of cats.

Or maybe I’m wrong, and people are just signing up for Google Plus because it’s trendy.

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Other Questions:

If everyone starts using plus.google, will it no longer be relevant in the trendsetting, tech hipster community?

When did Facebook stop seeming cool? Was it when your mom poked you?

Would Facebook be cool again if the real Mark Zuckerberg started acting like the Mark Zuckerbeg from “The Social Network”? 

Would it be funny and ironic if I joined Myspace?

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Wave Pool, Big Surf, Tempe, Ariz.

Big Surf Now in Full Swing for Summer Months

Big Surf Waterpark, Tempe, Ariz.It started with a fascination with surfing. Phil Dexter wanted to bring the waves to Arizona; and so plans were made, designs sketched and within a year of construction, his dream waterpark Big Surf opened to the public — with just one wave pool.

This was the first of its kind to ever be built in the country, and the park has recently opened for this summer season.

Since the park’s opening in 1969, Big Surf has been expanding and adapting to meet the needs of their park guests. And this season, they’ve added various features and specials.

While its the wave pool that attracts visitors, according to Jeff Golner, spokesperson for Big Surf, the waterpark has something for virtually everyone.

Surfer at Big Surf Waterpark, Tempe, Ariz.“Our wave pool is obviously our main feature,” Golner says. “We have everything for every age, from the toddler that wants to splash around in Captain Cook’s Landing, to the wave pool being relatively advanced; and we have some other slides that are really serious and quick, but very steep and thrilling.”

Not only does Big Surf offer water activities, including surf sessions every day at 5:30 p.m., but corporate and group outings have become a big hit as well, Golner says.

“We’ve seen a lot of interest in major corporations and small business utilizing the park as employee outings or event consigning tickets for employee’s use,” Golner says. “We’re up 35 percent over where corporate and group outings were last year, and it’s continuing to trend up.”

In order for Big Surf to reach its goal of 150,000 attendees, the park is offering specials during the week via social media in order to attract, increase and connect with its audience.

“We’re also focusing a lot of our advertising with deals,” Golner says. “We know that the economy is rough right now so we’re definitely engaging in putting out lots of coupons.”Wave Pool, Big Surf Waterpark, Tempe, Ariz.

Two specials include two-for-one on Tuesdays, and on Wednesdays all Big Surf attendees pay the children’s admittance fee.

“This is a great water park,” Golner says. “It’s a great place to cool off but the atmosphere is extremely family friendly; it’s very affordable as well.”

For more information on Big Surf in Tempe and the other deals the park offers, visit www.bigsurffun.com or call (480) 994-2297.

 

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Big Surf Waterpark Logo, Tempe, Ariz.If You Go:

Big Surf
1500 N. McClintock Dr. / Hayden Rd.
Tempe, AZ 85281
480-994-2297
www.bigsurffun.com

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Social Media rights

Social Media Series: Employers Have To Be Diligent About Not Violating Employees’ Rights When It Comes To Social Media


This article is part of an ongoing series about social media in the workplace. We’re interested in your feedback/questions, so please comment and the authors may address your issue in their next article.


Tweet from Uncle Sam: Let your employees talk about their working conditions through social media — or else!

Social media can get employers in trouble. Without a narrowly tailored policy guiding how the company will manage its employees’ use of sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter while the employee is on the job, the employer may very well run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act, which is enforced by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The NLRB’s avid interest in social media stems from its charge to ensure that both union and non-union employees’ federal right to discuss the terms and conditions of employment, including wages, hours and other working conditions, is protected.

The increased interest by the NLRB in matters affecting employees’ use of social media began late last year. At that time, the federal agency filed a complaint against a Connecticut employer for terminating an employee who had posted negative comments about a supervisor on Facebook. The NLRB tweeted this past winter that the case had settled. The employer agreed to: (1) revise its social media policies to ensure that the employees are guaranteed the right to discuss the terms and conditions of employment and (2) never discipline or fire employees for engaging in such activity in the future.

In Arizona, an Arizona Daily Star reporter was terminated for inappropriate and unprofessional tweets. The termination resulted in the employee filing an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB against the Star. After investigation, the NLRB dismissed the charge, concluding that the termination was lawful because the tweets at issue did not relate to the terms and conditions of employment.

Just last month, the NLRB announced its intention to file a civil complaint against Thomson Reuters for firing a reporter for one of her tweets. The tweet read: “One way to make this the best place to work is to deal honestly with Guild members.”  According to the NLRB, Thomson Reuters violated the reporter’s federal right to comment on the terms and conditions of her employment.

The NLRB’s growing interest in social media as it relates to employees demonstrates that there is a line to be drawn between protected and non-protected activity taking place in cyberspace. Determining where to draw that line is challenging. Even the NLRB recognizes the fast-moving nature of emerging social media issues in the context of employee-protected activity.

On April 12, the NLRB’s Office of the General Counsel issued a memorandum requiring regional offices to submit social media cases to the NLRB’s Division of Advice for review prior to issuing an administrative complaint.  The memorandum states that the Division of Advice must handle prosecution of social media cases, because there is a dearth of case law currently available and the NLRB considers the issue a policy priority.

Co-author: Carrie Pixler

[stextbox id=”grey”]More than ever, employers need guidance about social media in and around their workplaces. We’d like to hear from you about your issues and questions related to social media and your business. Please post a comment below this story and we may address your issue in the next edition of our Social Media Series.[/stextbox]

 

Social Media as evidence

Social Media Series: Using Social Media As Evidence In Lawsuits

This article is part of an on-going, social media series.


When litigating against a former employee, the Internet can lead to an evidentiary goldmine for an employer. A former employee’s social media activity may provide evidence of the employee’s breaches, such as a violation of a non-competition provision or breach of confidentiality.

Courts have addressed the litigation strategy of discovering evidence in an employee’s communications in cyberspace. Two recent cases make clear that emerging law tends to favor an employer’s ability to tap into an employee’s social media space as another litigation tool.

In Indiana, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a sexual harassment suit on behalf of several employees who claimed emotional distress resulting from the alleged wrongdoing. As part of its defense, the employer sought to discover information from the plaintiffs’ Internet social networking site profiles and other communication from their Facebook and MySpace accounts. The court decided that this information was discoverable by the employer because the plaintiffs already had shared the information with at least one other person through private messages and perhaps a larger number of people through postings.

Similarly, in New York, the court rejected an employee’s assertion that her social media activity was private and could not come out as part of the lawsuit. She had sued her employer claiming discrimination based upon her disability. The employer sought to use her Facebook content as evidence that she was not disabled at all. Rejecting the plaintiff’s privacy concerns, the court explained there is no right to privacy in social media content, adding that when a person chooses to disclose information on a social media site this act of sharing such information weakens her ability later to claim the information is protected by privacy.

Even if not considered private, how can it be that an employee’s entire social networking site activity is relevant to his specific claims in a lawsuit? An Indiana federal court answered this question in a situation where the employer sought access to its employee’s entire body of social networking activity on Facebook and MySpace to seek evidence about the employee’s emotional distress claim.

The court determined all of the employee’s social networking activity must be turned over to the employer, including any profiles, postings or messages, status updates, wall comments, causes joined, groups joined, activity streams, and blog entries that reveal, refer or relate to any emotion, feeling or mental state.  Even though the courts’ recent actions show a general favoring for the employer when it comes to discovery of employees’ social media activity during a lawsuit, employers would be wise to watch their own social media activity. The impact of social media in trials reaches across the courtroom to everyone involved in the litigation, including the employer’s agents and key witnesses. Accordingly, employers should view the courts’ rulings on social media as a premonition and make sure their own organization is in order with the appropriate social media protocol and policies.

Lori Higuera, a director in Fennemore Craig’s Litigation Section, co-authored this article.

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Photo: Flickr, norwhicnuts

New Forms Of Communication Causing Generation Gap

Social Media Gap

New forms of communication are causing a generation gap in the workplace — but who’s really at a disadvantage?

Look around your workplace. Chances are you’re seeing younger and more employees on Facebook, Twitter, iPhone and Android apps, and hundreds of other social media applications and platforms. The prolific little snippets of social interaction have spread like wildfire.

To the younger generation, they blur the line between personal interaction and a professional business tool. The Old Guard still often sees them as noise compared to established traditional channels of business communications. Both generations often wonder how the other gets anything done.

The work force 10 years ago was dominated by personal relationships, marketing savvy and big personalities. The phone, e-mail, cocktails and personal meetings dominated the corporate environment. The traditional work force relied heavily on building long-lasting relationships. It was not uncommon for deals to be forged over golf games and wine tastings. Access to key players was controlled by “gate keepers” who kept people’s time at a premium. Employees worked harder on fewer relationships with higher returns. Patience was a virtue and personal networks were closely guarded. This made the world harder to operate in, but also kept the noise down.

From the perspective of the social media savvy work force, tools such as Twitter and Facebook allow them to reach people more quickly and on a broader scale. As both producers and consumers of small bite-sized pieces of information, the younger generation views it as a time saver all around. They say, “Twitter is great. I can get hundreds of followers and talk to them all at once.”

If only a few of them engage it’s a win because so little time went into the relationship. For the more advanced social media users, the medium can be used to boil down complex human interaction into simple metrics. Suddenly, interacting with 500 people on Facebook becomes a game of which word in a sentence sells more product. This drive toward obtaining results immediately fits perfectly with the behavior of social media, as well as the millennial generation’s mind set.

The question isn’t about how well employees will communicate with each other across the gap, but rather, how they will communicate with customers. Companies looking to bring in social media talent must first learn if the consumer they are serving is ready for that type of engagement. A traditional work force will have a difficult time communicating with social media consumers. The solution here is simple: Hire a younger, more Twitter and Facebook happy employee. The Old Guard then assumes a more managerial role. Minor training will be required to bridge the intra-office political gap, but at least the consumer is being served.

If the company is serving a traditional consumer through a younger work force heavily engaged in social media, there may be a significant impact to the bottom line. It’s usually impossible to retrain consumers, and very hard to undo the customer interaction expectations social media has set for many younger employees. Given characteristics of the millennial generation, training social media employees to use traditional means may also be next to impossible. With a significant supply of traditional employees still on the market, companies will probably end up matching their employee base to their consumer base through hiring practices.

Employees have the option to transition from traditional to social media communicators. Traditional employees have the advantage of growing up in a world that did not know social media; that world will never completely go away. Social media can be learned at a fundamental level fairly easily. However, younger employees have grown up with social media. They’ve learned to use it in many creative ways and can ride the wave of social innovation with little effort. The new generation will, however, have to rely on the Old Guard to pass down hard lessons learned in the traditional space.

So what does social media mean for employees in the future? Based on trends, it will probably be a requirement soon. The world is embracing social media, and the medium is just in its infancy. As new tools to manage and control social media emerge, it will become more complex and essential to both office politics and customer interaction.

Everyone graduating today is steeped in social media and only a few years away from key workplace positions. The Old Guard will transition to areas requiring less and less social media and then fade from the workplace, leaving behind only a handful of the most effective old school communications techniques. By then, it may not matter; social interaction is evolving so quickly the social media we know today will be old school in the very near future.

Paul Kenjora is founder and CTO of Arkayne Inc. Arkayne helps marketers improve online sales conversion. Kenjora can be reached at pkenjora@arkayne.com.


Arizona Business Magazine Mar/Apr 2011

Social Media Employment

Social Media Series: Using Social Media In Hiring And Firing Employees

This article is part of an on-going, social media series.


With an estimated 34,000 Google searches every second, the Internet is most assuredly a source of information for employers when making hiring and firing decisions. Given the inevitable use of the Internet to make these decisions, there are a number of questions that employers should consider:

  • Should an employer use the Internet to investigate prospective employees?
  • What liability could there be if an employer uses the Internet in this manner?
  • Should an employer affirmatively address, in its practices or procedures, the use of the Internet to investigate prospective employees?
  • May an employer terminate an employee for online content posted during non-work hours?
  • Does it matter whether the employee’s online content is or is not about work-related topics?
  • What recourse, if any, does an employer have in disciplining an employee for inappropriate conduct on social media?

 

Prospective employees generally know that they should scrutinize their online presence so as not to have their resume hit the trashcan due to one weekend of debauchery posted on a Facebook photo album. Employers, on the other hand, too often fail to scrutinize their use of social media in hiring. Whether there is an official policy to run an online search of a prospective employee or informal protocol of the hiring manager, an employer’s practices and procedures should address the use of social media to investigate prospective employees.

Businesses should be aware of the potential liability in searching the online content of prospective employees. For example, a human resources representative decides to look up a prospective employee on Facebook and discovers that the individual is two months pregnant. She decides not to hire that candidate. Now, the business is vulnerable to an employment discrimination lawsuit if the candidate finds out about the human resources representative’s online activity and links the decision not to hire to the candidate’s pregnancy.

If a business wants to affirmatively use social media in evaluating the candidate and in hiring decisions, then it should express this practice in a social media policy and remind interviewers of the pertinent laws prohibiting discrimination in employment decisions.

Firing

In a survey conducted by the Health Care Compliance Association and the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics, almost 25 percent of respondents reported that the employer had disciplined an employee for conduct on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. In November 2010, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) initiated an unfair labor practice action on an employer for terminating an employee who posted personal negative comments about her supervisor on Facebook. The NLRB argued that the employer’s termination was unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in that it was based on a policy that prohibited employees from engaging in “protected concerted activities” — discussing the terms and conditions of their workplace with each other.

In an effort to avoid common traps in cyberspace, employers should seek legal counsel when developing a policy that outlines the accepted use of social media in hiring decisions, as well as firing decisions. For instance, while there may be certain circumstances where an employer can terminate an employee for his personal online communication performed off the clock and outside the office, there are other circumstances where an employer cannot take such adverse action. A public employer generally cannot prohibit its employees from engaging in private communication that is protected by their First Amendment right to free speech. Similarly, an employer generally cannot fire employees for online discussions with co-workers about the terms and conditions of work, such as how much pay each employee at the office earns.

Such a social media policy has two important benefits: it helps employees to align their conduct with the company’s expectations and it helps the company to support a decision to reprimand an employee as appropriate under the expressed standard. Employees left to question the cause of their termination are often the ones who also decide to visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to explore filing a discrimination charge and/or the NLRB to file an unfair labor practice charge against their employer.

Carrie Pixler, an associate with Fennemore Craig and a member of the firm’s Litigation Section, co-authored this story.

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Lynne King Smith, CEO of TicketForce

TicketForce Jumps Ahead Of Competition With Facebook App

For all you concert junkies, Facebook now meets concerts as TicketForce has just made purchasing tickets online even easier, joining forces with said social media platform.

Lynne King Smith, CEO of TicketForce, announced they will be merging ticket sales with the social media powerhouse in hopes to create an all-inclusive process for potential concert goers.

“We push the mark,” Smith said. “[We] take it a step further and have everything right in front you – [a] buy tickets tab.”

TicketForce acknowledges the impact of social media, as Facebook has jumped to the No. 2 spot in all U.S. Internet traffic in 2010 — just behind powerhouse Google, according to Alexa.com.

ConcertTicketForce’s website advocates to “Take your ticketing Social,” and that’s exactly what they’re doing with Facebook. The social media giant Facebook has crossed borders other social media sites such as Myspace and Friendster never have.  Facebook — in comparison to Myspace and Friendster — provide users a more professional and legitimate medium for online marketing and sales.

Smith strongly acknowledged the influence of the social media explosion in recent years, which allows TicketForce to be “very fluid and flexible…the company is able to respond [to customers] instantaneously.”

Smith said TicketForce initially developed the idea a year and a half ago but just recently gathered the company and developers together to make it a reality.  As this Mesa-based company continues to grow, they recognize the downfall of many ticketing agencies.

Smith made the point of minimal processing fees, which over the years Ticketmaster has increased.

However, TicketForce utilizes white label ticketing solutions, which in effect removes private agencies from the purchasing process and “makes the ticketing process more relationship based,” Smith said.  This allows for minimal fees, usually between $.50 and $2.00.

TicketForce offers an all-inclusive website where customers can utilize a user-friendly guide to shows playing nearby, a live Twitter stream and links to various other social media sites including Facebook.

“Our approach to business is to stay out of the way,” Smith said, and she stresses how important positive customer relations is for their business.

TicketForce has truly expanded their influence in the ticketing world far beyond Maricopa County.  They offer tickets in 48 states and Canada, and show no signs of slowing down.

TicketForce

For more information, visit www.Ticketforce.com, or check them out on Facebook.

Twitter Screen Shot

Has Twitter Peaked? A New Study Questions The Relevance Of The Social Media Form

I love year end lists. ‘The 10 This …’ and ‘The Top 15 That …’ This year, one that I enjoyed was on CNN.com, in the business section, about “The Five Most Underreported Stories of 2010.” There’s some great stuff there about Apple’s “slow and clumsy move into the cloud” and “How Amazon saved the Kindle.” There’s even a mildly reassuring piece that argues there isn’t actually another tech bubble going on — though I’m going to take a wait-and-see approach to that.

But the one that really caught my eye was, “Hype aside, Twitter isn’t mainstream.” Like all of the items it was brief, but it pointed to a Pew study that’s fascinating. Some of the most interesting facts:

  • Only 8 percent of American adults use Twitter.
  • Less than a quarter of these, or 2 percent, are heavy users.
  • Half never listen to what anyone else tweets

There are a number of other interesting stats in there, but those were the big ones for me. Interestingly, while the article’s attitude toward the percentage of adult American users was negative — only 8 percent — I actually thought that seemed reasonable. I know we hear more and more mainstream references to Twitter, but it’s never felt even close to the type of critical mass that Facebook ultimately hit.

Out of curiosity, I decided to compare it to Facebook. That turned out to be harder than I thought. But I did learn that 27 percent of Americans use Facebook in the bathroom! Now, we’re somewhat comparing apples (American adults) to oranges (all Facebook users), but it’s still somewhat startling. Roughly three times as many people are using Facebook in the bathroom as are using Twitter at all. I’m not certain what that tells us, but it certainly seems like it tells us something! I’ll leave it for the social historians to figure out what.

The real question, though, is “has Twitter peaked?” I have had a Twitter account for a couple of years, but I never use it because to me it just feels so narcissistic. I feel odd broadcasting personal observations in 140 characters or less.  And as for reading tweets, the types of things I’m interested in hearing, from the types of people I’m interested in listening to, most often can’t be communicated in such limited form. The statistics seem to indicate that Twitter is most popular with people who are eager to share their thoughts with others, but have no interest in what others are saying. That just doesn’t seem to me like a formula for lasting relevance.

Facebook

What You Get With The New Facebook Profile

On December 5 Facebook introduced another change to their ever-rotating lineup of profile options. The latest update establishes a new layout for user profiles and more options for displaying work and education information. While the new profile is currently on an opt-in basis only, Facebook will be gradually rolling out the change and plans to have all Facebook users switched by early 2011.

What to Expect:

While current profiles push basic user information such as career, education and hometown off to the side, the new profiles will feature this information at the top of the page directly under the user’s name. This move bumps off the most recent status update that was usually displayed in this spot.

The new profiles also feature 5 recently tagged photos in addition to the main profile picture and users can choose to display featured friend groups (family, coworkers, etc.). Facebook users can expect more than just a new profile page though. The photo display page has undergone a transformation as well, featuring an “infinite scroll” rather than the page-by-page layout of before.

Along with the aesthetic changes come increased options for connecting with other users. The new Facebook profile offers the option of tagging your coworkers in career information and listing projects you have worked on with them. As for education, you can list classes you have taken and connect with old classmates.

How to Opt-In:

If you can’t wait for the new profile to be implemented for all of Facebook you can opt-in to the change by visiting www.facebook.com/about/profile and clicking the green “Get the New Profile” button.

New Facebook

Greenpeace International Urges Facebook To Use Green Data Centers

Greenpeace International Urges Facebook To Use Green Data Centers

Facebook is often under some kind of scrutiny in the news. Lately, this has been because of ongoing privacy complaints against the social-networking giant.

But the latest issue with Facebook isn’t about privacy, it’s about energy. An article in the NY Times highlights the issue. Greenpeace International, an environmental campaigner, contends that Facebook’s latest data center (under construction) in Prineville, Oregon, isn’t good for the environment. The data center is powered by PacifiCorp, a company that gets 58 percent of its energy from burning coal.

For a site that has more than 500 million members, Facebook’s reliance on data centers is obvious. But is this coming at a price? In the article, Lisa Rhodes, vice president of marketing and sales at Verne Global, a data center company based in Iceland, stated that “according to the Environmental Protection Agency, data centers now account for 1.5 percent of all electricity consumption in the U.S. and by 2020, carbon emissions will have quadrupled to 680 million tons per year, which will account for more than the aviation industry.”

Greenpeace is urging Facebook to switch to a more environmentally friendly source of energy. Other technology giants such as Google, Yahoo, Toshiba and Hewlett Packard have already taken steps to toward becoming greener. Google invested $38 million in wind farms and Yahoo cut 40 percent of carbon intensity of its data centers by 2014.

Yet, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is fighting back against these allegations. In a Facebook message to a Greenpeace supporter he writes: “Some of the old data centers we rent use coal, but most are already green.” He also added: “The newer ones we’re building from scratch in Oregon use hydro power from dams. We’re moving in the right direction.” Facebook representatives also added that Facebook rents data center space that is shared with other companies, making it impossible to decide what energy it’s powered with. However, the company did say that they’re moving toward larger, customized data centers with a focus on energy efficiency.

So what do you think? I doubt the thought of energy  efficiency crosses our minds as we log onto Facebook. But it’s good to hear that there are groups out there committed to implementing the type of change we need for a greener future and that companies are taking responsibility and responding to it.

www.facebook.com
www.nytimes.com

www.greenpeace.org

Groupon success with business owners and consumers

Bargains Fuel Groupon’s Success With Business Owners And Consumers

Since its launch in Nov. 2008, Groupon.com has grown to become a phenomenon – both in the business world and among people searching for a steal.

Groupon.com uses the power of a group to get products and services at a 50- to 90-percent discount for its users. The discounts can be on anything from salon and photography services to deals at restaurants.

In order to be valid, the Groupon discount must reach a tipping point. The tipping point is the amount of people that must buy the Groupon in order for the retailer to make the discount valid. The tipping point is different for each discount.

Groupon offers Phoenix deals, and a separate venue for Scottsdale deals is on its way.

Groupon expanded rapidly. In less than two years the company has gone from seven employees at their headquarters in Chicago to 2,600 employees worldwide. Although Groupon has grown steadily since its inception, the company hit its stride in 2010, says Julie Mossler, Groupon spokesperson. In August, Forbes Magazine named Groupon the fastest growing company ever, Mossler says.

Harnessing Groupon’s power for your business is easy, Mossler says. The company started GrouponWork.com to help businesses learn how to work with Groupon. The site provides case studies on Groupon’s success and tips on how to successfully structure deals.

Dolce Salon & Spa is one Phoenix-area business that has taken advantage of the new marketing potential behind Groupon’s deals.

Dolce has offered two deals through Groupon.com and has seen a big return from it, says Dynelle Rodriguez, spokesperson for Dolce Salon & Spa.

Rodriguez said Groupon called them and suggested they strike a deal. The opportunity to market the salon and spa in a unique way intrigued her, she said.

Each day Dolce has a customer using a Groupon discount, Rodriguez says. Although the result has been greater than the company expected, Dolce isn’t looking to do another Groupon discount in the near future because of the long expiration dates on the company’s Groupons, she says. However, Rodriguez says she recommends Groupon to all businesses she deals with.

If you want to use Groupon for personal use, Mossler offers a few tips.

1. Let the excitement die down and wait a week before using the Groupon.
2. Tip on the full amount of the Groupon to thank the business for offering such a great discount.
3. If there are any problems, even if the merchant is the problem, give Groupon a call.
4. Connect with Groupon’s individual cities on Facebook or Twitter. Example: @GrouponPhoenix and facebook.com/grouponphoenix

In the future, Groupon is hoping to customize its bargain offerings even more than the gender- and location-specific deals the company currently offers.

If you think Groupon is going to save you tons of money, meet Josh Stevens, the Groupawn. He is living solely off of Groupon’s coupons for one year – and he applied for this job. He has to barter to pay for tax and tip and he must rely on strangers for transportation and lodging.

If Stevens is successful he will receive $100,000 at the end of his year. Stevens is about halfway through his journey and has yet to visit Arizona.

Mossler says Stevens’ plan was to venture West when freezing temperatures set in back East.

Keep your fingers crossed that Stevens sticks to his plan and hopefully we’ll see the Groupawn in Phoenix soon. It appears as if it’s getting cold in those northeastern states.

www.liveoffgroupon.com | www.facebook.com/liveoffgroupon | @groupawned

Photo: www.designerclothesonline.co.uk

Social Media Hasn’t Reached Luxury Brands, Yet

With celebs tweeting about everything from their morning latte to a product they’re peddling and Facebook taking over the world one movie at a time, you can’t go a day without being involved in social media.

However, luxury brands, like Chanel and BMW, have yet to catch the social media bug.

This Forbes.com article explains why many luxury brands aren’t advertising on social media sites the way most retailers are.

One reason is that consumers looking to buy luxury items are seeking more than just a sleek sports car or a perfectly-fitted suit. They’re looking for an experience that drips luxury from the attentive staff to the chilled champagne they’re sipping. That experience isn’t something a consumer can achieve sitting at home on a computer, even in the plushest of pads.

Luxury retailers are about decadence not convenience, which is why some of them don’t have a huge online presence.

At Oscar de la Renta, online transactions make up only 10 percent of the company’s overall sales, while Chanel doesn’t sell its items online.

If online sales aren’t a big deal to companies, how can they get excited about social media advertising?

The answer is that most of them don’t, even though a recent Unity Marketing survey of luxury brand consumers found that almost 80 percent of them have a social media profile.

Brands like Jimmy Choo and Oscar de la Renta have used social media to reach consumers.  But these retailers are the leaders, not the norm.

Photo: Omni Tucson National Golf Resort & Spa

We Have A Winner! Two Nights At Omni Tucson National Golf Resort & Spa

Kristen Barrett is the winner of our contest. She shared her experiences in Flagstaff with us on Facebook and won!

Stay tuned for our next AZNow.Biz contributor contest. Follow us on Twitter @AZNowBiz for instant notification about our next contest.


Hot ballooned over the Grand Canyon?  Cheered on the Suns at a playoff game?  Come face-to-face with a javelina in the desert?

If you’ve had an interesting, fun or cool Arizona experience, let us know about it and win a two-night stay including golf and breakfast for two at the Omni Tucson National Golf Resort & Spa!

Each time you share an experience on our Facebook wall, you’ll be entered for a chance to win.  Invite your friends to come and enter as well.  But hurry, this contest expires Wednesday Oct. 27.

More contributor giveaways are coming your way, so keep your eyes peeled for new chances to win!

Executive gadgets

Cool Gadgets For The Cool Executive

 

Getting a shiny new toy for the office doesn’t always have to be justified by how much money it will save or how much more productive it will make you (unless you’ve got one of those CFOs). Sometimes you just want cool gear. Here are some fun gadgets just out that get business execs into the cool zone.

We all know a hand talker. Those ever expressive types who accentuate any conversation with their hands waving about. If you have one of these in your office, put those hands to good use with the Air Mouse Elite. Using your own natural hand movements, this uber-sensitive mouse turns into a master presentation controller. You can walk freely and flail your hands every which way while giving a killer presentation. The cursor even turns into a highlighter, laser pointer or pen. You can even gently swipe it in mid-air to activate embedded media and other special effects. It works with both PCs and Macs, retails for $79.99, and it’s carried at a slew of retailers, including Amazon.

 

Keep your laptop and hand-held devices juiced up wherever you go with this slick new universal charger from Targus. The Targus Premium Laptop Charger is smaller and lighter than other universals, and it lets you charge your notebook, plus one low-power device, at the same time.  The charger comes with nine “tips” the enable the connection between the charger and most laptop brands on the market, so you’re likely to find one that works with your laptop.  It also includes a mini-USB tip and an Apple iPod/iPhone/iTouchcharging tip. Power up in the wall or in your car with both AC and DC plugs. $149.99 at www.targus.com.

 

 

Are you fairly certain you’re wasting time in meetings? Want to know exactly how much is being wasted? Not time — money. The Time Is Money (TIM) clock shows you exactly what you’re tossing in terms of cash as every minute passes on the clock. You simply enter your hourly rate, the number of people in the meeting, hit start, and as your team blah, blah, blahs you can see very clearly what it’s costing the company. Now if only they could somehow integrate this with Facebook … This little guy is $24.99 at www.bringtim.com.

 

 

If you’re one of the millions of people who use their iPad for business, then you probably enjoy carrying it around in a stylish case. Why not let your case do more than just protect the device inside? The M-Edge Method Portfolio, while pricey, is a multi-functional, modern portfolio that lets you organize and carry your business wares in the same swanky sleeve as your iPad. This portfolio is designed with a sleeve that holds the iPad in place, four credit cards slots, a clear ID window, and a business envelope/boarding pass pocket. Two leather pockets are sized to fit your smart phones (up to two). A handy zipper pocket keeps all of your other incidentals. $119.99 at www.medgestore.com.

Social media sites are no longer just places to reconnect with childhood friends or college roommates.

Social Media And The Hiring Process: Your Profile Can Sink Or Save You

Social media has set up camp in the professional world and is there to stay.

Social media sites are no longer just places to reconnect with childhood friends or college roommates. Companies now use social media websites to do unofficial background checks on potential employees.

A Cross-Tab Marketing Service study, released earlier this year, reveals that 70 percent of companies have rejected a candidate based on an inappropriate social media website posting.

This is a scary reality for everyone who uses these sites as a harmless way to catch up with friends, but may have crossed the line by uploading funny, yet work-inappropriate pictures. In today’s world, a world inextricably tied to the Internet, anything posted on a public page can and will be found by potential employers, says Lew Clark, an attorney with Squire, Sanders and Dempsey.

However, there are ways to prevent shooting yourself in the social media foot and, if you’re smart, work the system.

There are a few obvious things not to have on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube or other social media websites — including inappropriate photos or conversations. Poor grammar, spelling or writing skills, use of profanity, and poor people skills also can turn off a potential employer, Clark says.

“One of the huge no-nos that we discuss with folks … is to never, ever post anything negative about a former boss, co-worker, employer. It creates the wrong image. No matter if it’s true, valid, anything else, you just do not want to go there,” says Cindy Jones, vice president of human resources at Synergy Seven.

Don’t despair. Companies aren’t just looking for reasons to disqualify you. They’re also looking for reasons why you’re perfect for the job, Jones says. Especially on professional social media sites, such as Linkedin, companies look to see prospective employees’ connections.

If used properly, social media can be an effective marketing tool, Jones adds, providing a real-world example of how to use social media as an advantage.

When a woman decided to switch careers from Realtor to sommelier, she changed both her professional — Linkedin — and personal — Facebook — social media pages to reflect her new career path. She posted her excitement about passing tests toward receiving sommelier certification and changed her main picture to one of her toasting with a glass of wine.

While this type of online makeover won’t work for all fields, Jones says it’s an example of using social media to one’s advantage.

“There’s nothing at all improper with a prospective employer (looking) on someone’s public Facebook page, their public Twitter page, or any other online networking website that you can access publicly,” Clark says.

However, accessing a potential employee’s private page by figuring out the password, accessing it through someone else’s page or by pretending to be someone else is illegal, he adds.

Aside from accessing a page illegally, employers can find themselves in other sticky situations.

Employers may find information about a person’s religion, health, age or personal life that they wouldn’t otherwise learn and can’t legally take into consideration in the hiring process, Clark and Jones say.

“The risk to the employer is that someone could allege that you used information that is legally protected to decide whether to hire somebody or not,” Jones says. “Our guidance with most companies starts at the place of there’s nothing illegal about it, but be careful.”

Clark adds: “Employers are looking for whatever resource they can to try to get information about candidates so they can make a good hire.”

Background checks, including checking social media websites, can reduce costs, encourage honesty among employees and ensure the best person gets the job, says Marcia Rhodes from WorldatWork, a global human resource association.

Although using social media in the hiring process offers many perks, Jones and Rhodes say they’ve seen a trend in which companies are limiting social media background checks on possible employees, contrary to the report previously cited.

Kim Magyar, an attorney with Snell and Wilmer, says she doesn’t see the number of companies using social media decreasing, but companies are being more targeted and cautious with their searches.

Some companies wait until they’ve already interviewed a candidate to check social media, while others check before they conduct an interview, says Magyar, who has given presentations on social networking and the workplace.

Many companies believe social media can be a treasure trove of information; information that might not always be accurate, Magyar says.

“There’s nothing to prevent an employer from making decisions based upon what they see (on social media sites),” Clark says.

Nothing, except the awareness that public social media pages are fair game and the preparedness of prospective employees to maintain their pages in a way that represents them in a respectable, hire-able way.

Ipad vs. Textbooks

IPad vs. Textbooks, A Greener Facebook And More

Some really interesting things happening in sustainability this week. Check out these stories about: Facebook, Japan’s dolphin hunting season, Notre Dame using the iPad in a paperless course, and others.

EarthFest Educators Night
On Sept. 16, more than 400 educators will receive resources on how to make their schools greener.  At this free event, educators can enter to win two full-tuition scholarships to the University of Phoenix to obtain their Master of Arts in education and $5,000 in grant funding for the 2010-2011 school year.

Japan’s Controversial Dolphin Slaughter Begins Again
Yesterday marked the beginning of open season for dolphins in Japan.  This famous annual slaughter is the subject of the Oscar winning documentary “The Cove”, which was turned into a miniseries on Animal Planet called “Blood Dolphins”.  The first episode aired last Friday, Aug. 27.

Notre Dame Starts Paperless Course With iPad
The University of Notre Dame is using the iPad in a project management course instead of a textbook.  The course has 40 students and isn’t the first e-reader classroom test, Princeton University tested the Kindle last year.

Facebook Comes Under Fire to Be Greener
Facebook is the subject of a petition that Greenpeace says 500,000 people have signed.  The petition is protesting the social media site’s planned use of coal to power a facility it is building in Portland, Ore.  The facility is projected to get 67 percent of its power from coal.

U.S. Ban on Drilling Could Be Overturned
A United States ban on deep water oil and gas drilling could be overturned for a second time.  On Sept. 1, U.S. District Court judge rejected the Obama administration’s request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the oil industry.

Photo Credit: www.apple.com

Oil Rigs supply our addiction to oil

Eating Organic, Kicking Our Oil Addiction, Solar Forestation And More

With so much going on in the green industry it’s hard to focus on just one topic. I’ve gathered stories about eating organic, kicking our oil addiction, solar forestation and more.

Cross-country road trip to conserve water
In an effort to educate the public about water conservancy, the Environmental Protection Agency is launching an educational cross-country road trip called “We’re for Water”.  The trip kicked off Wednesday, July 14, in Los Angeles and will end in New York on August 3.  National monuments including the world’s largest toilet are on the itinerary and contestants will be Tweeting and posting on Facebook their experiences along the way.

Is “solar forestation” the new trend in green living?
Mounting solar panels to the roofs of parking lot stalls in order to take advantage of the sun seems like an easy and productive idea.  However, much more planning goes into the carrying out of this idea than most people think.  One idea is to have solar panels that rotate to capture the sun’s rays or panels that are angled a certain direction.  An architect calls this “solar forestation”.

Kick your oil addiction
This blog, which comes in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, details several ways the average person can kick their oil addiction.  But it’s not as easy as the patch or the gum.  Our oil addiction is engrained into our everyday lives in a way that’s going to be tough to kick.  Some of the solutions are no-brainers like walk and bike more, another solution is buying local.  Either way, if we want to kick our addiction to oil, it starts with us.

Easy way to eat organic, join an organic food club
This article is one piece in a 52-part series about ways for Arizonans to go green.  The list of organic food clubs is a little lacking but the idea is good.  Here’s another resource for finding organic food near you. www.organicstorelocator.com/all-arizona

The new superhero – No Impact Man
In a United States where oil seems to be on everyone’s mind, Colin Beavan – who usually goes by his alias No Impact Man – blogs about his choice to live greener and in an op-ed piece for the New York Daily News explains why all Americans are part of the problem.  However, Beavan has a tiny problem with the way the Daily News portrayed his opinions.  This post and the Daily News article will show you why Beavan thinks we’re all in this together.

V icon, similar to Facebook icon

How Should Employers Respond To Social Media In The Workplace?

Virtual Networking:

According to some major news articles, the reign of e-mail as a primary tool for communication is coming to a close. This does not mean e-mail will no longer have a place in many people’s daily lives, but rather that its use will be minimized as new generations of communicators strive for instant feedback.

The Nielsen Company conducted a study that found that as of August, 276.9 million people used e-mail across the U.S. and other major countries. In contrast, the number of users on social networking sites was 301.5 million. What is staggering is that social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have only been in existence for about five years or less. What does this mean for employers?

Currently, there are three major responses by employers regarding employee (and their own) use of social media. The first response is to completely ignore social media and deal with issues if and when they arise. In fact, according to Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law, more than one in three businesses have no policies concerning the use of social media sites in the workplace. The second response is to completely ban social media and even block social media sites so there is no potential for use. As of July 2009, the American Management Association found that approximately 71 percent of IT departments are blocking users from social networking. The third response is to allow employee use of social media within a defined setting.

While trying to weigh how to respond and considering the potential risks, such as security issues and low productivity, it is important for employers to consider that studies show that, although 61 percent of all employees access their Facebook profile at work, this may be a phenomenon to embrace. It is no secret that the delineation between work time and home time has blurred with the use of laptops and cell phones.

In August, the University of Melbourne reported the results of a study that showed people who use the Internet for personal reasons at work are about 9 percent more productive than those who do not. One possible theory according to Brent Colker, the Melbourne study author, was that “short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf of the Internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher total net concentration for a day’s work, and as a result, increased productivity.”

Given these dynamics, most employers will want to choose the third approach and opt for a social media policy that will provide active social media users in the workplace with defined parameters. Much like Internet-use policies, the employer will want to advise its employees on the proper professional etiquette of social media while protecting its own interests. To do this, the employer should be mindful to consider the following when drafting its policy:

  • Encourage employees to use good judgment: Don’t write anything you wouldn’t say in person.
  • Advise them on how to preserve confidentiality and intellectual property: Do not disclose customer or proprietary information.
  • Require employees to disclose any work-related blogging to their supervisor: An employee should use a disclaimer on his blog clarifying where he works and that the opinions and views expressed are not necessarily those of the employer.
  • Mandate that social media use not interfere with getting the job done and that computer use will be monitored appropriately: Always stay productive.
  • Provide a reminder or training regarding the ethics code of the business or given profession: Respect copyright and fair use and do not risk harassment, discrimination or defamation.
  • Encourage employees to be courteous social media community members: Pay heed to mutuality, authenticity and timeliness; these concepts have special meaning in the social media sphere.
  • Clarify the place of social media within the overall business goals and communication plan: Workplace social media use should follow the employer’s goals.

As employers venture into this brave new world, they should be mindful that any policy implemented should work consistently with any Internet-use policy or disciplinary policy already in place.In addition, some employers may need to consider drafting more than one policy — one for hourly and one for salaried employees due to wage hour laws. Also, employers should remain aware of other legal issues that may arise, such as free speech rights and potential litigation and discovery issues. As such, it is always prudent for employers to have legal counsel review such a policy before it is implemented.