Monday, December 23

Why Bother About a Social Media Policy? Think Twice

You have a business. You're engaging on Social media. So what next? In light of the many social PR fails, consider a policy for your employees.
If you intend to promote your brand and interact with customers through social networks and social media channels – and I highly recommend that you do – you must realize your employees will be there as well, with their own personal accounts. There’s no reason not to encourage your employees to explore and engage in social media communities online, but remember, they are also the face of your company to all their friends and associates – as well as to the customers they know. What they say online or the type of photos they post on their personal accounts may reflect, albeit in a roundabout way, on your business. When they directly talk about you or your business, it will have a cause and effect relationship.
It is your job to guide your business’s online culture and protect your brand’s online persona. Provide guidelines for your employees in the form of a Social Media Policy. This written document, similar to other codes of conduct you have for employees, will let them know what type of behavior you expect from them online and any limits as to what business-related information they can share in the public stream.
Here’s how one of our nation’s biggest companies handled it. Back in 2009, before most people thought about setting guidelines, Adam Brown broke ground by developing a 4R social strategy (review, respond, record, redirect) and spearheaded the development of social media guidelines for the Coca-Cola Company. Aside from designating a code of conduct for their official online spokespeople, Coca-Cola also laid out specific principles for their associates. By taking a look at what Coca Cola deemed appropriate, perhaps it will help you forge a set of standards for your own employees. From Coca-Cola’s Online Social Media Principlesthe guidelines below with my explanations outline expectations for any online activities – personal or professional – where employees reference the company or have made their association with the company known.
1. “Adhere to the Code of Business Conduct and other applicable policies” – Coca Cola has several policies regarding specific business activities, including general conduct, information protection and insider trading. All employees (from the CEO to interns) are expected to follow these when mentioning online that they are employees of Coca Cola. 
2. “You are responsible for your actions” – This point is a reminder to exercise sound judgment and common sense when posting online because employees will be held responsible if their actions negatively impact the business or its image.
3. “Be a ‘scout’ for compliments and criticism” – This guideline acknowledges that employees are “vital assets for monitoring the social media landscape.” Coca-Cola even supplies an in-house email for forwarding both positive and negative comments employees observe online, so they can feel confident negative situations will be addressed without feeling like they must be the one to take action.  
4. “Let the subject matter experts respond to negative posts” – This point stresses, again, that should employees encounter a potentially damaging post about the business, the post should be referred to those trained and approved as official online spokespeople to handle responding.
5. “Be conscious when mixing your business and personal lives” – This principle recognizes that personal and business personas often intersect online and reminds employees that everything that is posted online – even when channels or profiles are “private” or “protected” – can still ultimately be seen by anyone at any time 

Wednesday, December 18

11 Tips for Photographing Items for Online Stores or eBay

The idea behind using images in your web store or eBay listings is to attract the eyes of potential buyers. With that goal in mind, you should try to create the best-looking images possible, no matter what kind of technology you’re using to capture them.

Point-and-shoot may be okay for a group shot at a historical monument, but illustrating your item for sale is a whole different idea. Whether you’re using a smartphone or a digital camera to capture your the images of your item, there are some basic photographic guidelines can give you better results:

Do take the picture of your item in filtered daylight, whenever possible. That way, the camera can catch all possible details and color. If you can’t take your images during the day, use a set of true-color lights.
  • Do avoid getting yourself in the photo by shooting your pictures from an angle (see photo). If you see your reflection in the item, move and try again.
  • Do forget about fancy backgrounds; they distract viewers from your item. Put small items on a neutral-colored, nonreflective towel or cloth; put larger items in front of a neutral-colored wall or curtain. You’ll crop out almost all the background when you prepare the picture before uploading the image to eBay.
  • Do avoid getting yourself in the photo by shooting your pictures from an angle. If you see your reflection in the item, move and try again .For an embarassing see below.
  • Do use extra lighting. You can do this with your camera’s flash mode or (even better) with extra photo lighting. Use extra lighting, even when you’re taking the picture outside. The extra lighting acts as fill light — it adds more light to the item, filling in some of the shadowed spots.
  • Do us a photo tent or a Cloud Dome (or their new Nimbus Dome for use with smartphones) when shooting pictures of jewelery or collectible merchandise. These devices diffuse the light and allow the details and proper colors to shine.
  • Do remember that eBay requires the images must be at least 500 pixels on the longest side. Adjust your camera so you get the largest representaion of your item.
  • Do take several acceptable versions of your image. You can choose the best ones later for your listing.
  • Do take a close-up or two of detailed areas in macro mode that you want buyers to see (in addition to wide shots of the entire item) if your item relies on detail.
  • Do make sure that the items are clean. Cellophane on boxes can get nasty-looking, clothing can get linty, and all merchandise can get dirt smudges. Not only will your items photograph better if they’re clean, they’ll sell better, too.
  • Do make sure that you focus the camera; nothing is worse than a blurry picture. If your camera is a fixed-focus model (it can’t be adjusted), get only as close as the manufacturer recommends. Automatic-focus cameras measure the distance and change the lens setting as needed. But just because a camera has an autofocus feature doesn’t mean that pictures automatically come out crisp and clear.

Tuesday, October 1

Know Your Customers Expectations: #Millennials

In my book, The Ultimate Online Customer Service Guide: How to Connect with Customers to Sell More, I discuss the importance of reaching your customer where they are most confortable. Each generation has their own niche needs and wants and I go into depth on each of the Generational cohorts.
Millennials may also be known as the Gen Y preceded by Generation Next, this group is the largest consumer market since the Baby Boomers. They are the approximately 80 million individuals born between 1977 and 1995 to possibly the early 2000s who grew up with the Internet. Although generations generally span twenty years, some demographic definers suggest the actual dates are 1975 to 2000, while others suggest a time frame of 1985 to 2005.  Advertising Age, the influential magazine for advertising, marketing and media professionals coined the term “Gen Y” in 1993 targeting late X-ers born between 1974 and 1980-- so these are truly children of the advertising era. Having been raised in the 1990s, their parents worked extra hard to strike a balance between work and family after the workaholic atmosphere of the ’80s. 
Generation Y comprises the children of the Boomers, and is sometimes called “Echo Boomers” since their large numbers are due to the fact that the huge parental cohort chose to reproduce at this time. This generation has an estimated 80 million members and has finally eclipsed the last birth explosion of 78.2 million Baby Boomers.  
Members of Generation Y have been influenced by their parents to value education. They’ve worked several part-time jobs and already know what they want from their careers once they reach the marketplace. To Gen Y, technology is a fait accompli. They’re aware of every up-and-coming trend and are the first to embrace or reject it. The spontaneity of the Internet keeps them ahead of most businesses; for instance, they seem to know what their favorite stars are wearing almost before the designers and retailers do.  To this cohort, online customer service is crucial to their decision making as they have the experience to research one company over another; benefits such as expedited shipping and generous return policies rank high. They’re style-conscious, tech-savvy, and "prematurely affluent" due to their boomer parents’ prosperity. Millennials appreciate when entertainment is part of the message they receive from retailers.  Retro themes are very popular in this group -- even reflecting times as recent as the ‘80s.  
Online marketing expert Kelly Mooney, in a 2006 study, found that while Gen Y’s are “self-expressive, confident and optimistic, they are also assimilative, risk averse and rarely make a purchase decision without consulting their peer networks. Just like Boomers, they have strong opinions, but more so than Boomers, they feel compelled to share their opinions with their massive peer networks.”Authenticity and transparency in the way you do business is important to this group. Their interpretation of how things should be done gives them the innate talent to sniff out sleazy sales techniques. Give them community to share with their peers instead of marketing at them. 
According to Ken Gronback, author of The Age Curve: How to profit From the Coming Demographic Storm, “Gen Y is already consuming at 500% of the level of their Boomer parents age for age in adjusted dollars.” In other words, this generation may just become the largest spenders in history. 
However, the perception of entitlement issue rears its ugly head with this group. They are sometimes referred to as the ‘Trophy Generation’, which reflects a current trend in children’s competitive sports -- as well as in many other aspects of their lives -- where “no one loses” and everyone gets a trophy to promote the sense that they’ve all done well. Many in this cohort are the aforementioned “boomerang” generation; delaying the transition of passing into adulthood by living at home.   
Members of this generation tend to want lots of attention and have the need to feel “special.” If you approach this crowd with “what you can do for them” and offer a community with spontaneity, you’re got their attention.
Please also visit my website for more interesting tips and observations.

Friday, September 6

Be Social - Update your New eBay User Profile

If staying social is the key to connecting on the new Web, your eBay profile is the hub of your eBay user interaction. Your eBay "About Me" and your profile pages are the perfect way for customers and the eBay community to get to know you. We like learning about other people, and your eBay profile let folks know with whom they are transacting.
Marsha Collier eBay Profile
To get to your new profile page, click your user ID on your My eBay page (or any eBay page for that matter). You'll get there even when you click your name in the “Hi” dropdown at the top right of the home page. When you arrive, the page will be prepopulated with any items you are currently selling, your reviews (if you’ve reviewed an item on eBay) and your bio and profile picture if you have previously posted them to a My World page. (NOTE: eBay's My World has been replaced by the profile page). There will also be links to your recent Feedback, your eBay store (if you have one) a link to your current listings

Take an opportunity to edit the page now, it will just take a moment. Personalize your page after you click the "Edit profile" button that appears under your User ID on the page. Once you click that button, small pen icons appear showing you where you can edit the page:
  • Uplaod a profile photo: Click the pen icon in the corner of the square next to your user ID. The page will prompt you to upload your profile image. Choose a profile photo that portrays you and your personality. There are no set requirements for size at this point, so I suggest using a close to square headshot. If you do not select a headshot, your face might be too small for folks to see.
  • Cover Photo: Just like Facebook,you may upload a photo for the top of your page. Keep inmind that text covers a good deal or the cover photo, so don’t select a picture where the most important spot is at the bottom. When selecting (or cropping) for use as a cover photo, keep in mind eBay’s recommended 1200 pixels x 270 pixels size for best viewing. Also eBay prefers they be smaller than 5MB in size.
  • Add Content: Here you have 250 characters to talk about yourself, your business or the items you enjoy selling or buying.
Click the Done editing button when you're through - this should only have taken a few minutes. It's easy to share a link to your profile, or find other buyers and sellers by typing an eBay ID in a URL: My profile page, for example, is

Be sure to stop by my Cool eBay Tools website for useful tools and tips. Please post and let me have your eBay profile URL. I can’t wait to see the creativity on your eBay profile page!

Thursday, August 22

The "Value" of the Handwritten Word

I recieved this story the other day from a Facebook friend. Not only is it sweet,  but it reminds me that the books I sign mean a great deal to some.

This is just one more way that my work enhances my day. 
Thank you, Zack, you can touch the book all you want!

Thursday, August 8

Social Storytelling Through Book Reviews Promotes Shares

Book reviews can add great content to share in social media and your blog, especially when the books are written on a topic that relates to your customers. But after many years online, I can testify that reviews written without thought can be boring. Don't write a "book report." Let your readers know why the contents of the book resonated with you and how it can help them.

As an online writer -which YOU are- it's your duty to develop content that attracts people and make them want to share. A short (emphasis on the word short) video review can tell a story and be fun to watch. Check the example below posted by +John Lawson for my newly published eBay Business All-in-One For Dummies which he posted yesterday during his Google Hangout. It's a fun take on a serious title.

I hope, if you took the 3 minutes to watch the review, you might want to click the link above and buy my book. Its for any eBay seller, or e-Commerce business who wants to ramp up to professional grade. I'm sure it will give you enough tips to justify the purchase.

Saturday, July 27

Why should I add social media to my e-commerce plan?

Perhaps you've heard that social media can help promote your online business. When we deal in e-commerce, we're often wrapped up with the daily, hum drum of advertising, buying selling and shipping. Who has time to add social media to their day?

For more quick video tips, please stop by my website.

Friday, May 31

Looking for Big Numbers in Social Media? Why?

If your online goal is to conclude a sale to (or build your brand) with your social media friends and fans, you’ll have to give these folks a cold, hard look. Some believe that more is better. But more what? You need to focus on people who, at the end of the day, may purchase something from you directly or through your website.
Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, and other tools will help you decide if you’re playing in the right ballpark. If your message isn’t being received by the right people, you’re wasting time and money in social media.

Visit my website to read Big Social Media Numbers Don’t Always Equal Dollars for the cold hard facts - and just how to measure your numbers.

Tuesday, May 21

Step By Step Guide to Leaving Feedback on eBay

 Leaving feedback for the seller after your item arrives is an important end to every eBay transaction. Your leaving feedback lets the community (and the seller) how happy you were to do business with this person.
There are several ways to leave feedback for a seller:

  • If you’re on the transaction page, click the Leave Feedback link; the Leave Feedback page appears.
  • In the Purchase History area of your My eBay page, click the Leave Feedback link next to the transaction.
  • In the Feedback Forum, click the Leave Feedback link to see a list of all your completed auctions from the last 60 days for which you haven’t left feedback.
  • On your My eBay page, scroll down and on the left side you will see your purchase history. Click there to find the item that's just arrived. Under Actions to the right of the item, you will see a Leave Feedback link, which will take you to the Feedback page.
  • Click the Community-->Announcements link, in the main navigation bar, and then click eBay Feedback Forum. On the next page that appears, click the Leave Feedback link.
To leave feedback for a seller, follow these steps:
  1. Enter the required information.
    Note that your item number is usually filled in, but if you’re placing feedback from the user’s feedback page, you need to have the number at hand.
  2. Choose whether you want your feedback to be positive, negative, or neutral.
  3. Type your feedback comment.
  4. Fill in your star ratings by clicking the stars next to the questions (see further on, "Giving Detailed Star Ratings Properly ").
    If you decide that the seller’s description was inaccurate, you will have to explain why by clicking next to the explanations that appear
  5. Click the Leave Feedback button
In addition to a feedback comment and rating (positive, negative, or neutral), buyers should leave detailed seller ratings, too. After the buyer types a comment, he or she is prompted to rate the seller with one to five stars on four different factors of the transaction. The table below shows the specific rating factors, and a translation of what the stars mean.

To see the rest of the tips (and my personal take on the eBay Star ratings) please click visit the article on my website.

Wednesday, May 15

Personalize Mood and Activities to Facebook Updates and Comments

Believe it or not, emoticons (or Smileys) have been in use since the 19th century to punctuate written words with graphics simulated by characters. An historical newspaper specialist found what appears to be a sideways winking smiley face embedded in The New York Times copy of an Abraham Lincoln speech written in 1862  "(applause and laughter ;)";. There is some debate as to whether it is a typo, a legitimate punctuation construct, or an emoticon.

Facebook gives you options to adding your mood (or activity) – to your own posts – or to comments you write on your friend’s content. Below are keystrokes you can use to form emoji, and further on I show you how to use Facebook's new mood and activities emoticons within your own posts

When you’re commenting, or in chat, you can type in these characters to add punch to your words:

For a quick tutorial on the rest of Facebook's emoticons and how to add moods to your own posts, click to see the full story on my website: Add Mood and Activities to Facebook Updates with Emoticons

Tuesday, May 7

Opps! How to Re-Open that Browser Tab & 40 more Shortcuts For Web Browsers

I’m all about using keystrokes instead of clicking! I also love the controls available on my mouse. The tables below give you a list of documented shortcuts. You’ll see that whether you use Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer or Apple Safari that they have many of these shortcuts in common.

Each browser has some of their own specific shortcuts, but learning the ones they have in common will serve you well as you switch between browsers and computers. I have listed them by browser (as I know these work) and have bolded some of my favorites. Test  these shortcuts in the browser you are currently using and see if they work. Hopefully these tips help cut down your desk time.

Firefox Shortcuts

Press This Firefox Will
Backspace Go to the previous page you’ve viewed
Ctrl + O Open files from your computer in the browser
F5 Refresh current page
Ctrl + B View or search your bookmarks in sidebar
Ctrl + T New Tab
Ctrl + N New Window
Ctrl + Shift + T Undo Previously Closed Tab (oops command)
Ctrln + H View or search your History in a sidebar
Ctrl + U View Page source (to study HTML)
F11 Display full-screen, reducing the amount of icons and stuff displayed
Esc Stop loading the current page
Ctrl + P Print the page
Ctrl + S Save the current page to a file on your computer
Ctrl + F Find an occurrence of a word on a webpage
Ctrl and + or Ctrl and - Enlarge or reduce the text on the screen (Zoom)
Ctrl + 0 Return to default browser text size

View more in the full post at Cool eBay Tools

Sunday, April 28

I'm Moving > Posterous Shutters Tuesday 4/30

Posterous, was acquired by Twitter a while ago and Twitter decided to shut Posterous down as of April 30.

Everyone with a blog on Posterous has to move it to another platform. I imagine most people with a Posterous blog moved their stuff to another platform a while ago, but I'm one of those "last minute" kind of people.

Unfortunately I won't be able to take my current subscriber list with me, so if you want to stay in the loop and continue to get interesting content about how to maximize your online endeavors, please consider subscribing to my main blog, Marsha Collier's Musings, online since 2004. It will incorporate the Posterous posts, as well as future ...musings.

In a few weeks, the blog will be incorporated into the latest iteration of Cool eBay Tools. A site a I founded in 1999, which now includes articles tools and tip that encompass eCommerce, Social Media, Customer Service ...and of course, succeeding on eBay.

Thank you all for tuning into my Posterous blog over the last two years.  See you on the other, brand spanking new side!

Image credit: andresr / 123RF Stock Photo

Monday, April 15

Roger Ebert’s 8 Twitter Rules, Social Media For Brands, Social Multitasking - AllTwitter

Need a little weekend reading? We’ve compiled our top ten Twitter stories of the week, which includes the late Roger Ebert’s 8 rules for using Twitter, 5 ways that social media content is evolving for brands, news that men are far more likely that women to use social media whilst on the toilet (or drunk), how small business are using social media (and what they might be doing wrong) and a look at the many hats of a community manager. 
 Here are our top 10 Twitter stories of the week. 
1. Roger Ebert’s 8 Rules For Using Twitter
Much-loved film critic Roger Ebert died on Thursday after a long battle with thyroid cancer. Surgery in 2006 had left him unable to speak, but he continued to be a prominent user of social media, and Twitter was a particular favourite. Indeed, after some initial resistance, with Ebert proclaiming that he would “never become a Twit” and that Twitter represented “the end of civilisation”, he would go on to write more than 30,000 tweets before his death.
2. 5 Ways Social Media Content is Rapidly Evolving For Brands
Anyone working in social media marketing appreciates the unique challenges of attempting to budget and plan for the upcoming year’s social media strategy. How can we know the type and level of resources we’ll need to be successful when the mix of social content is evolving so quickly? And when most social marketers have only recently secured budgets commensurate with the amount of time and resources required to succeed in social media marketing, how do we stay ahead of emerging trends in 2013? Did we know we’d need a Pinterest budget a year ago? Probably. Do we need a Vine budget today? Probably not.
Read More on MediaBistro
(Twitter image via Shutterstock.)

Tuesday, March 26

My SXSW Experience - Real Talk: The Online Customer Service Shift Panel

Friends had suggested I go to SXSW many times, but I never really saw the value. Then in mid 2012, I hear from +Kip Wetzel (whom I admire for his work in taking the reins of the @ComcastCares account in 2011). He told me he had a plan for a panel and when he was through with his convincing pitch, I knew this was a disruptive topic for the customer service industry. My book on the subject came out in 2011; this panel could be groundbreaking. It was time the philosophy of reaching the customer where they want to be reached become the norm.

Kip craftily assembled a group of folks with the backgrounds to handle the topic: 
  • +Carla Saavedra Kochalski "Manager of Social Media & Digital Content for Samsung Mobile USA's Customer Care Team" - but in reality a very talented young woman who truly "gets' the customer and can apply balance to social media custiomer service. She's been a driving force in enterprise-level social media strategy since 2010.
  • +Bianca Buckridee "Social Media Operations Manager @ChaseSupport" American Banker Magazine said: "She has a thousand-watt smail that never seems to sitch off and a sunny personality that has surely servived her well on the front lines of customer service." She grasped the value of customer social media comments as early as 2009, and has been on a mission to perfect the outreach ever since.
  • +Brooks Thomas "Southwest Air: Emerging Media. A journalist who's defined "emerging media for his brand. He personalizes the airline's blog with words like, "I know how your morning went down. Your synchronized yawn-and-stretch routine happened as it always does. You almost tripped on a Tonka truck on your way to the bathroom. You groggily stumbled down..." Customers can related to a brand through his words.
Three incredibly intuitive and smart people. It was my job to keep the peace and help steer the conversation. I didn't have to do much steering. To a packed room of 500, we not only got our points across, but engaged the audience ... below is the Powerpoint, and a portion of the panel on video. I hope to see everyone next year and see how the #custserv philosophy has advanced.

Our Powerpoint - thanks to +Bianca Buckridee ...

Thursday, March 14

Real Talk: The Online Customer Service Shift - SXSW Twitter

Our panel: Bianca Buckridee (JP Morgan Chase), Brooks E Thomas (Southwest Air), Carla Saavedra (Samsung Mobile US) and I at addressed 500 social media, brands and customer service enthusiasts.

The crowd responded with a ton of Tweets including comments, quotes and links that carried actionable insights. Before I post the deck online, I thought I'd share this valuable collection

The Ultimate Online Customer Service Guide: How to Connect with Your Customers to Sell More (Google Affiliate Ad)

Wednesday, March 6

STUDY: Online Customers Prefer FREE Over FAST When It Comes To Delivery

Are you worrying about the recent trend to same-day delivery? Think it will cut into your business? Read on to see how your 24 hour shipping turnaround will stay competitive.
As several major retailers experiment with same-day delivery initiatives, a new study suggests that consumers are more interested in delivery price than speed.

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) surveyed 1,500 U.S. consumers and found just 9 percent of the sample group said same-day delivery is a top factor that would improve their online shopping experience, while 74 percent cited free delivery and 50 percent cited lower prices.

EBay, Nordstrom, Wal-Mart,  and many other retailers are beginning to offer the same-day delivery option to consumers in selected markets. These retailers face growing pressure from, which has been offering same-day delivery of selected items in certain cities since 2009.

The survey did find that “affluent millennials”—ages 18 to 34 and with a household income exceeding $150,000—who live in urban areas might be an attractive market for same-day delivery. While these consumers make up only 2 percent of the market, their online spending is about two times more than that of the average U.S. consumer.

BCG suggests that retailers should offer same-day delivery for only a select number of products that are small and light and that carry high margins. Electronics, office supplies, and apparel are likely candidates.

“Same-day delivery will be a niche service in the near future,” Rob Souza, a partner at BCG, said in a release. “Retailers may choose to offer it to build customer loyalty, enhance brand awareness, or keep up with the competition. But it is unlikely to generate significant revenues for either retailers or carriers.”

Affluent millennials are willing to pay up to $10 to receive a delivery the same day, according to the survey, while other consumers are likely to pay up to $6, less than the fee charged by most retailers today. At those rates, same-day delivery would generate between $425 million and $850 million annually in delivery revenues if—as the consumer survey data suggest—up to 2 percent of online orders are fulfilled on the day of purchase.

Despite the relatively modest levels of anticipated revenue, several startups, such as Shutl, Zipments, Instacart, and Postmates, have flocked to the space, and established carriers, such as the U.S. Postal Service and Federal Express, are also running tests.

New York and San Francisco, densely populated cities, are the sites of many of these tests. BCG’s analysis suggests that Boston and Washington, which have large shares of affluent millennials and population densities similar to other U.S. cities, would be more promising places to test national acceptance of same-day delivery.

BCG fielded the survey in November, eliciting a sample that was representative of the U.S. population in terms of gender, ethnicity, age, and household income.

BCG is a global management consulting firm.


Saturday, February 23

Visual vs Verbal: Reaching Out to Grab The Customer #storytelling

I love hearing stories about businesses. I'm sure you've heard the apocryphal story about Nordstrom accepting a return of a set of tires, even though they don't sell tires, just to please a customer. (If you haven't, click here to read the full story). The fact that people enjoy repeating the story not only reinforces the mythology, but enforces Nordstrom's reputation for first-rate customer service.

The web can be a pretty cold place when it comes to selling. As customers, it's tough to see through a sales pitch and feel the love for a product or brand. That's the reason why websites need to have comprehensive 'About Us' and Frequently Asked Questions pages. The very best About Us pages tell stories about the people behind the business. The FAQs should be written in an engaging manner - not just filled with techno-fluff and acronyms. Friendly word phrasing is important; just as important as the visual impact of a picture.

If you've heard me speak, you've no doubt heard "post enough pictures to tell the story as if there were no description, and write your description as if there were no pictures." By doing so, the pictures can appeal to those who have a visual learning style and provide equal punch to those of a verbal bent who get far more out of words.

Stories and anecdotes can create just as much magnetism as a dazzling seventy-five year art provenance. Words. When phrased well they speak to people - and carry your message.

Building trust goes a long way to nurture long term customers. One of the best ways to build trust is to tell stories.

While reading Lou Hoffman's blog, I came across SlideShare deck below produced by the Hoffman Agency: “The Return of Storytelling vs. Corporate Speak,” which shares some of the science and anecdotal evidence on why storytelling works. It's well worth the time to take a couple of minutes and enjoy the message.

Tuesday, February 19

Take Control of Your Google+ Calendar Events

Does your phone (tablet or computer) ever notify you of a meeting when you don't expect it? Yea, me too. Then I open my Google calendar only to find I have been invited to an "event" - hosted by someone I don't know - in a far away time zone.
Mind you, I enjoy being invited to events that are relevant to my work, but the Google+ invitations are more than invitations. Just about anyone, even if you are not in their circles (or they in yours) can reserve space on your personal calendar.
The settings to prevent this are not obvious (one would think you'd find them under the Calender tab, but no), so I thought I'd share...
  1. Go to your Google calendar
  2. On the far right of the calendar, you will see a cog icon next to the word More. Clicking the cog will open a drop-down menu
  3. Scroll down the page until you find the following words"Show events you have declined" as shown below
  4. Gcalender
  5. Click your mouse in the three radio buttons indicated in my screen shot. In essence, what this does is by selecting no, you will no longer see any events on your personal calendar except for those to which you've responded yes.
That should do it. From now on only the events you see will be the ones you put on your calendar. Note that if you share your calendar, others who see your calendar will see those events.

Thanks to +Kelly Lux  for inspiring this post!

Monday, February 11

USPS to Continue Saturday and Begin Sunday Package Delivery

In an exclusive interview with MSNBC's Craig Melvin, Postmaster General of the United States Patrick Donahoe talks about the future of the U.S. Postal Service;and says the organization will soon start delivering packages on Sundays.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
This isn't t your grandparent's Post Office. They are facing new challenges using today's technology. In this exclusive interview, Patrick Donahoe, Postmaster General of the United States shared some strategies:
"Here is what we are doing. the reason we are delivering packages on saturday is because package growth is booming. 14% up in the last two years. 17% christmas this year. year over year. big, big growth in fact, you will see in some areas we will be delivering packages on Sunday starting soon. That is a big innovation. the other thing that you see, is the world of secure and secure digital messages. We are getting into that, people tell us, the same thing you can do from a hard copy, sealed against inspection, we need that in the digital, e-mail world. there's a lot on the table. we have to get the negative finance behind us in the rear view mirror so we can focus on growth." 

Thursday, January 24

"I bought WHAT on eBay?" What to Know and Do When You've Been Impersonated

So I'm clearing out my email before I go to sleep. Decide to clean out a mailbox that's pretty much dead - left over from my old marketing agency days. To my surprise, I see an email from eBay requesting that I pay for an item I supposedly purchased on the site.
I had to shake my head, as I knew I hadn't used this email address in years. I examined the email. In the area where eBay would insert the User ID of the buyer, was a series of numbers. Hmmm, strange ID. I try to check out the headers to see if the email came from eBay. This is close to impossible to do on the phone, so I examined the links - and indeed the email did seem authentic.
Within a few hours, an invoice was sent to the same email address, addressed "Dear 2679302013" with my name appearing at the top of the email.

It's after midnight, so I took to my laptop to research further. I perform an eBay bidder search by going to eBay's advanced search:

I find that this user ID made one purchase (the one I was invoiced for), but the purchase was made while I was on my radio show. I clearly couldn't have made this purchase. The User ID also showed eBay's new user icon with 0 feedback. By clicking on a user's feedback number, you can find out when the user first signed up for eBay. Clicking through I find that they signed up for eBay on a Saturday as well. Hmmm. I usually don't sign up for new accounts when I am on the air.

I went to eBay - and clicked the Customer Service link, hoping to send them an email alerting them of the impersonation. I was amazed to find that eBay's customer service takes phone calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was after 1 am at this point, but I figured, why not give it a shot.
The customer service representative (working from eBay's Salt Lake City hub) answered the call and listened to my tale of woe. I had forgtten several things:
  • eBay keeps all the data user's input when you sign up for an account
  • IP addresses are attached to transactions
  • eBay sends out an email upon opening an account
"Charm", the CSR sent an email to the registered email address with a code to confirm that I was indeed the owner of the address. I read her back the code from the email and she said that eBay would remove the email address from the account. What bother's me is that the account is still for Marsha Collier, and is still an active account on the eBay site.
Lesson learned? If you have old email accounts, be sure to check them regularly. If I would have followed my own advice, I might have noticed the initial registration email that came from eBay (sent 2 days after the user registered the bogus account) welcoming me to the site. I sincerely wonder why eBay no longer requires an email address confirmation from those who open an account. If they'd have, the user would not have been able to make a fraudulent purchase - as I'd not confirmed the authenticity of the address.

I recommend in my books to let brands know when they have done something right; when you are pleased with their service. (They must get so sick of social media complaints, that a compliment usually brightens their day, and the reply with a "thank you." So next morning, I used Twitter to thank @eBay (and @AskeBay) for their CSR's excellent service. All I got back was the sound of crickets - no response.

Saturday, January 19

5 Things You Need to Know About Facebook’s Graph Search

The world’s largest social network making waves with launch of a new tool called Graph Search.

The tool essentially allows people to discover information based on data that Facebook has collected from its users over time. For example, someone could use Graph Search to discover information such as “restaurants in Chicago that my friends like” or “photos of me that I liked.”
While Graph Search is currently in a limited beta release, the tool seems to improve the social network’s lackluster search bar, which previously only allowed users to search for people or pages on the social network. Moreover, Graph Search has the potential to impact businesses on Facebook. Discover five things you should know about Graph Search below:

Facebook Graph Search Results

1. Likes Matter

Facebook Likes are now more important than ever, especially for businesses. According to a Facebook blog post, Graph Search can make it easier for people to discover and learn more about businesses on Facebook. This is because the search results are based on Facebook’s robust database, which includes information that has been shared by businesses and individuals alike. That being said, businesses with a large fan base will be more likely to turn up in searches for phrases like “restaurants in Chicago that my friends like.”

2. Engagement is Key

Aside from obtaining likes, businesses should focus on maintaining an engaging Page that includes quality interactions with fans. Since the search results are based on information that has been shared by businesses and individuals, interactions between a business and their fans can help the business score higher in the search results. Furthermore, Graph Search also makes interactions like check-ins even more important, because users could potentially search for phrases like “Places in Los Angeles that my friends have been to.”

3. Invest in your Page

Facebook’s blog post states that the best thing businesses can do for their Page is to continue to invest in it and make sure that it is complete and up-to-date. Items like the name, category, vanity URL and information within the “About” section of a business Page can help make it easier for people to find the business on Facebook. Additionally, Page owners should make sure that their business’s address is correct because this information could help someone discover a local business when they are searching for places in a specific location.

4. There are No Graph Search Ad Formats…Yet

As Graph Search becomes more widely available, so will the speculation of a new ad format from Facebook. However, the social network confirmed in their blog post that there are currently no new ad formats available for Graph Search. However, it is important to note that Pages and apps can still use the Sponsored Results ad format to show up in the search results for all Facebook users, whether they have Graph Search or not.

5. Sign Up to Try It

Graph Search is currently in a limited beta release, which means that you must sign up for a waitlist to gain access to this tool. According to Facebook, the rollout of Graph Search will be gradual, starting with a very small number of users. This means that the company is still working out some of the bugs in order to provide the best search results possible to its users before the tool is available to everyone.
Original Post by Allison Howen

Thursday, January 17

Do You Use Cloud Computing? Survey Finds Americans Confused

A whopping 95% of those claiming they never use the cloud actually do so via online banking and shopping, social networking, and storing photos and music.

While “the cloud” may be the tech buzzword of the year, many Americans remain foggy about what the cloud really is and how it works. A national survey by Wakefield Research, commissioned by Citrix, showed that most respondents believe the cloud is related to weather, while some referred to pillows, drugs and toilet paper. Those in the know claim working from home in their “birthday suit” is the cloud’s greatest advantage. The good news is that even those that don’t know exactly what the cloud is recognize its economic benefits and think the cloud is a catalyst for small business growth.

Survey Highlights:
  • 95% of those who think they’re not using the cloud, actually are
  • 3 in 5 (59%) believe the “workplace of the future” will exist entirely in the cloud
  • 40% believe accessing work information at home in their “birthday suit” would be an advantage
  • More than 1/3 agree that the cloud allows them to share information with people they’d rather not be interacting with in person
  • After being provided with the definition of the cloud, 68% recognized its economic benefits
  • 14% have pretended to know what the cloud is during a job interview
The cloud is what powers today's business and social sphere online, are you using it to  your best advantage?

Study graphic courtesy of

Tuesday, January 15

Prepare for the 2013 U.S. Postal Service® Price Change Jan. 27

Beginning Jan. 27 the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will introduce a First-Class Mail Global Forever Stamp at $1.10 (20 stamp sheet for $22), and is among new mailing and shipping changes for the new year. Here's the short take on the changes:
  • Parcel Post® is now called Standard Post and is ONLY available at the retail counter. (Parcel Select is a comparable mail class for Endicia customers)
  • First-Class Mail International Parcel is now called First Class Package International Service.
  • International Electronic USPS Delivery Confirmation® will now be available, and FREE, for First-Class Package International Service and select Priority Mail International packages (only on shipments to Canada, 19 countries to be added in April 2013)
  • Express Mail International Flat Rate Envelope weight limit has been reduced from 20 lbs to 4 lbs
  • Express Mail International now includes the first $200 of USPS insurance
  • Optional expedited delivery of USPS packaging is available for $2.50
  • Commercial Base discounts are growing in 2013.
  • First-Class Mail 1 ounce stamp is increasing by $0.01 to $0.46.
For full information on the new changes - and how to best use USPS mail classes for your business, click here to download a comprehensive PDF from Dymo Endicia

Small business gets commercial base discounts on shipping when they use electronic postage for their shipments. I use Dymo Endicia's Dazzle software and they have given me a discount link for my readers. Click here for a code for a free 60 day trial.
Note that the USPS receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

Tuesday, January 1

Best Practices: 10 Ways to Avoid Email Overload in 2013

Email is possibly the biggest time-suck for most of us. It's good to remind ourselves of the best practices now and then. I came upon this valuable post from 2011. The recommendations are as valid today as they were then.
Most people I know share a common complaint - too many emails! However, I observe many people creating extra work for themselves in their haste to plow through it all. The results include miscommunication, slow response times, and even more emails!
I'm generally on top of my emails and my inbox only contains the current day's messages. I doubt I'm any less busy than the average person, but I do follow a few simple tips.
  1. Think before you "Reply All"
    A boatload of our extra email comes from people hitting the "Reply All" button, even when "All" of us don't need to see the message. Only use this feature when necessary.   
  2. CC and BCC cautiously
    A close cousin of the "Reply All" problem is the CC and BCC. Copy someone who doesn't need to be copied and you risk having them add more unnecessary emails to your inbox.
  3. Read carefully before responding
    A lot of unnecessary email traffic comes from people sending partial responses to emails. In their haste to reply, they may miss a key detail. For example, I recently emailed a friend who invited me over for dinner to let her know I was available on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. I asked her to choose the day that worked best for her and her husband. She replied, "We can't do Friday, but we can do Saturday or Sunday." Ugh - now I have to send a second message and she'll no doubt send a reply. Two additional emails would have been avoided if she had simply selected the day that worked best for her.
  4. Write concise but thorough messages
    Think of a question your recipient may have about your email and include the answer in your message. A short, well-written email leads to less back and forth which ultimately reduces your email load.
  5. Describe what you want in the first paragraph
    Make it easy for your recipient to understand what you are looking for. Put any request for action or information in the first paragraph of your message so it won't be missed.
  6. Email isn't for conversations
    Look at the messages in your inbox and see how many are from the same conversation. Do you need to discuss something with a colleague? Pick up the phone and knock it out.
  7. Write descriptive subject lines
    The subject line should give the reader a clear idea of what the message is about so he or she can determine how quickly to read it. A descriptive subject line also reinforces what you are asking the reader to do.
  8. Set rules to automate email management
    Outlook and many other popular email programs let you set rules to automatically manage certain types of emails. For example, you can have all your email newsletters automatically routed to a "Reading" folder that you can check once or twice a week. This unclutters your email box and allows you to get to those lower priority items when you have a free moment.
  9. Use one program to manage all your email addresses
    Many of us have multiple email addresses, but that doesn't mean we can't get all our messages in one place. This allows you to manage just one email inbox instead of several. I have rules set up in Outlook that route messages sent to my secondary email addresses to special folders so they don't get mixed in with messages sent to my primary account.
  10. Check email only a few times per day
    Constantly checking your email every time a message arrives is a huge distraction and productivity drain. Instead, set aside blocks of time to focus on email and power through your messages. Force yourself to make a decision about each message (respond, file, or delete) rather than just leaving it sitting in your inbox for later. You'll find this approach allows you to write better messages, get fewer responses in return, and dramatically reduce the number of emails in your inbox.