Monday, November 29, 2010

Cyber Monday - Online Shopping Safety Tips

The Cyber Monday blitz has begun, and retailers and consumers alike are going retail crazy! Black Friday is done and over with, but we still have Cyber Monday to contend with today! Holiday shopping is easier than ever. With just a click of a few buttons, your holiday shopping is completed. However, online shopping comes with risk so it's good to arm yourself with the following online safety tips. Consumer identity theft is rampant, especially during the holiday season so take extra precautions when shopping online:

Tip #1 Make sure all websites you visit when making purchases begin with "https" and make sure that little padlock key icon pops up whenever you use a site. If you don't see a padlock key pop up somewhere, you might want to skip that site as it's probably not safe to make an online purchase (or a scammer looking to steal your credit card number!)

Tip #2  Print out and save all receipts of online purchases. If your credit card number is stolen, federal law limits your liability to $50.

Tip #3 As with any purchase, make sure you read all the fine print, return policies, etc. 

Tip #4 If it looks and sounds too good to be true, well it probably is - shopper beware! Some discounts aren't really bargains at all so shop around and make sure you're really getting a deal. 

Happy Cyber Monday Shopping! There are lots of great deals out there today so be on your cyber toes - best of luck!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Part Four - Social Wifi® Impacts Future Hotspot Technology

Part Four 

Ryan concludes our interview by sharing how Social Wifi® is destined to make a positive impact on the future of Wi-Fi technology. 

What makes your product better and more innovative than your competitors' products?


We are giving restaurateurs, hoteliers and other service-based companies a tool that adds tremendous value in enhancing their social media presence, email marketing reach, loyalty initiatives and customer engagement - for pennies on the dollar!

Currently, millions of hospitality and service-based businesses are providing Wi-Fi to their guests in ways that can do irreparable damage to their businesses. It's now established that providing a Wi-Fi hotspot is simply the cost of doing business, but providing Wi-Fi in and of itself means very little in terms of return for their business: it's like having a family of five and using a bicycle as your means of transportation - just doesn't make sense!

We customize the platform based on each client's brand. We fully manage the system, provide 24x7 monitoring, security, and it does not interface with their existing systems, such as their POS, PMS, etc. This means the client has a marketing, social media, loyalty promotion engine all built into their Wi-Fi and they don't have to touch it nor worry about it.

Do you think other industries, outside of hospitality and service-based, will follow suit in the next few years? 


It only makes sense for them to follow suit. If you can have a tool that is: customized to your business, doesn't have to be managed by your staff, improves your branding, adds sales and promotional channels, is highly secure and doesn't impede daily operations - all without you lifting a finger - wouldn't you use it?

How do you foresee your product impacting the hi-tech/Wi-Fi technology industry in general?


Don't we all hope that we invented the next Facebook, Twitter, or Google for that matter? Who knows what the future brings?

What we do know, is that businesses are in a position to reap and continue to see long-term success by integrating one small, discreet tool (Social Wifi®) that gives customers what they want and the business more than they could ever hope for in less than 30 seconds!  I also know that by focusing on our clients' success, Social Wifi® will see similar success as well.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Part Three - How Social Wifi® Puts Hospitality Companies on the Map

Part Three...continued 

Ryan Chambers, principal of Adapt Marketing & Design and co-founder of Social Wifi®, explains how their hot spot technology helps hospitality businesses market smarter and faster to customers. 

How will Social Wifi® put hospitality-based and service-based industries on the map?


Social Wifi® will be one of the most cost-effective tools businesses will have. What's really going to expose their brand is simply their customers who access the Wi-Fi hotspot. Within seconds of hopping on the hotspot - whether by mobile device, laptop or iPad - the customer is exposed to the client's social media hubs, specials, incentives, mobile campaign and is seamlessly transitioned into the opt-in email invitation.

For any business owner, CMO or marketing manager, all this data that is provided freely by their customers is worth its weight in gold! We can even segment all the way from zip codes to date of birth! So that's just the first part of how our hospitality clients win.

Then, from your Social WiFi® hotspot, customers begin to engage your brand again OR for the first time! Customers spread this viral buzz to their friends and fans, watch in interactive videos, and check out the latest deals and specials all from your digital playing field.

How does Social Wifi® alleviate their fears and worries?


First, to the person who doesn't want people camping out, we let them know that the nature of his concept or business is what's going to create campers.

If your average menu item is at or over $8 - or your average ticket is over $11 - then you're least likely to have groups of people stay there for hours at a time - simply because it's too pricey to eat and surf for extended periods. The other way of looking at this is, if some patrons do stay at your establishment for 2.5 hours, then this gives your servers an opportunity to sell more, as well as managers to at least say hello to their customers!

For the person who thinks their customers don't use or need Wi-Fi, that translates to the business operator not knowing that people are connected to the web via their mobile devices – which are used now more than ever. These operators are also unaware of location-based advertising and its huge success.

Research shows that in August 2010 over 55 percent of hospitality locations are now offering free Wi-Fi. By December 2010, we anticipate that will be over 60 percent. The data also showed that 40 percent of women and 47 percent of men are more likely to engage brands that have content relevant to their current location.

Basically, the business is out of touch and sometimes it’s a matter of enlightening them. In other cases, you just have to thank them for their time and move on! You can't force someone to care. For corporate concerns, since the only thing Social Wifi® needs is an internet connection, it will not interfere with any business

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Part Two - Why Hotels & Restaurants Don't Use Social Media

Part Two...continued

Ryan Chambers, principal with Adapt Marketing & Design and co-founder of Social Wifi®, tackles the big debate in the hospitality industry. Why don't hotels & restaurants use social media? 

Why are hospitality & service-based businesses still hesitant and/or fearful to use social media? 


Social media and hospitality go hand-in-hand. I think a year or two ago there was still hesitation from a significant part of the industry to avoid social media. It was sort of a ‘wait and see’ mentality. Plus, it was like any other industry. They didn't want to touch a new technology until the critical mass had validated it.

You saw the early adopters - the independent restaurant owners - who needed every single advantage they could get to keep their door opens, then, the larger franchises like Taco Bell.

On the hotel side, your boutique hotels picked up the torch, then your larger hotel brands followed suit.  You see the same thing happening on the food & beverage side now. The hospitality industry, historically, can be one of the slowest turning ships. For decades, decision makers have adopted the classic "if it ain't broke..." mentality. Innovative marketing was not a priority for hotels, partly because they had a number of tentacles touching the consumer on their behalf: travel agents, tourists, business travelers, convention centers, etc.

So with all these opportunities to generate business, the hotel’s Marketing Director or Manager is really just a sales person with a cool title. And that's not a knock on them. It just shows how the organization prioritized certain initiatives.

With restaurants you had the same issue but a little more exaggerated, partly because margins in some cases can be very thin. So when they’re looking at your books every month and they're making money, then there used to be little incentive in their minds to market or to ‘waste time’ on social media.

Then when you add ignorance about a technology and a lack of desire to do anything different, you've got a perfect recipe for stagnation. But there were three important things that kicked the industry in the butt and ultimately changed this mindset. First, the hospitality industry began to notice the social-media-successes from other industries like Entertainment (music especially) and Human Capital (mainly recruiting), and so it began to open their eyes.

Second, they began to feel the effects of the looming recession and when that bad boy hit us, it was like a bully pulling away your chair as you're about to sit. Things were not so predictable anymore - patrons held out, so revenue was shrinking. This meant they had to look at every possible angle and ways to reach out for the sale.

Then finally, we began to see a shift in the workforce - the Millennials and the progressive Gen X's were working together! Talk about an invasion on the old-school's way of doing business! Don't get me wrong, we didn't change a lot of the key business principles, but because on the outside we changed how we wanted companies to do business with us, it inevitably meant that we took these 'new-age' principles into the corporate arena. So now you have an educated, informed, progressive group of marketers who understand, love and live by social media. They not only use social media to ultimately encourage the sale, but to also build brands, engage their audience and participate in what's going on outside the four walls.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hospitality Industry Benefits from Innovative Social Wifi® Hotspot Technology



Happy Thanksgiving Week! This week I am featuring an insightful fourt-part interview featuring hospitality marketing guru, Ryan Chambers, principal of Adapt Marketing & Design.  

“Adapt is a hospitality-focused, integrated marketing firm based in Texas. If your organization operates in the hospitality industry, or if it targets or serves those who operate in the hospitality industry, then we’re definitely the marketing folks for you,” Ryan shares. “We provide strategic, creative social media and mobile marketing services to those wanting to elevate their brand and strengthen their bottom-line within the hospitality space.”

Ryan graciously took time out of his whirlwind schedule to chat with me about Adapt’s newly-launched innovative Wi-Fi hotspot technology, Social Wifi®

As a native-born Jamaican, Ryan was literally born into the hospitality world so it is a natural fit for him to partner with hospitality clients. His dad was an executive chef for a major hotel in Jamaica for 35 years, and his mom was an executive with Hilton Hotels. 

In Part One below, Ryan discusses his inspiration behind Social Wifi® and why the hospitality industry still hesitates to use Wi-Fi platforms.


How and why did you and your co-founder, Risi Avila, create Social Wifi®? What inspired you?


It was one of those things where the stars aligned - I grew up and worked in the hospitality industry and my passion is to help those in the industry to market effectively and smarter. We were in the same place with the same mindset, at the same time. We met in Arlington, Texas in late 2009 at a restaurant that had retained us to help them with their marketing, and Risi was doing their Wi-Fi.

I don't remember the sequence of events, but we began talking about things that could be great to do with a Wi-Fi platform - like email opt-in, social media integration, block porn websites and a bunch of other novel ideas. We quickly realized from our first meeting that we had the same vision, so we moved into quick action by creating the proprietary Wi-Fi platform that our clients love and use today.

What's the biggest reason WHY these business operators won't touch Wi-Fi platforms? What are their biggest complaints/fears?


The biggest one is "I don't want customers camping out at my restaurant." The other top two are: "Our customers don't use or need Wi-Fi here," and "Our corporate office looked at it and they don't want our computer systems to get messed up."

How have your clients - who currently use Social Wifi® - seen improvements in their business? 


We've been piloting for the past 6 months and have noticed great results. A Fort Worth restaurant grew their customer email database to a little under 300 opt-ins in less than 90 days and their Facebook 'friends' and 'Likes' dramatically grew in this same timeframe. By creating video and integrating it on one of our Arlington client's Social Wifi®, they couldn't have enough watermelon salad prepped. People log on to see what treats await them.

Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow...Ryan tackles the big social media debate: why hotels and restaurants are still hesitant to use social media. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why Companies Need to Jump on Board with Social Media in 2011

People will find any excuse in the book NOT to use social media. As we move into the New Year with an economy that can be best described as “struggling” on a good day, you put your company in jeopardy by not jumping on board with social media. 

People have a way of talking themselves out of beneficial tools that help their business grow. Social media is one of those tools.  Have you yet to join the rest of the world in social networking? What’s stopping you?

These are the 10 most common excuses why businesses don't use social media:

#1 Laziness! Instead of making a change for the better, you’re content to continue with mediocre marketing

#2 You are too busy to put extra time into creating and maintaining social media networks.

#3 You proclaim that Facebook is only a dating pick-up site for college kids.

#4 Social media is too complicated and overwhelming so why bother fussing with it?

#5 Who cares? Social media is a waste of your time and energy.

#6 You think people are rude and aren’t willing to help in a strictly virtual setting.

#7 You think social media is over your head – leave it to the tech wiz!

#8 Social media is all hype - just a passing fad.

#9 Since you’re a solopreneur, you think your company isn’t big enough to benefit from social media.

#10 If you put details about yourself online, you fear someone might take advantage of you.

While keeping up with the rapid development of social media can be intimidating, the simple fact is that NO company can afford to remain blind to its benefits any longer. Social media connections will open up new doors for your business by providing more channels for people to find you. The more your name is out there, the more you brand yourself as an expert in your industry – that’s the name of the game in social media.

Traditional marketing  is not nearly as effective as it used to be. Social media connects you with people you need to know,and brings your company front and center to the public. Social media is free but if it’s implemented and updated regularly, then it will require a committed investment of your time BUT it’s an investment that will see HUGE returns.

Stop making excuses for not using social media. The way the professional world works is changing, and it’s up to you to change with it.  Social media is the quickest, easiest way to market your company. Companies are jumping on board by the truck load. You NEED to be at the front of the line if you want your business to remain relevant and profitable.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Danger of Information Overload in Business - Why It's Time to Turn Off & Tune In

Mondays are always a great day for  introspection, because I kick off each Monday morning with my Copywriters' Mastermind group. Today the subject of "information overload" was brought up as a group. We concluded that the internet opens up SO MUCH information right at our fingertips that we feel overwhelmed and it's just too much. There are business gurus to follow, articles to read and social networking groups to join!  Ughhh, stop the madness!

The conversation continued as I chatted with a friend I hadn't see online lately. He mentioned he just needed to slide off the 'online grid'  in order to get his business ducks in a row. I know that feeling all too well. Online insta-communication is great, but it can be a double-edged sword - enough to make anyone's head spin off into dizzying directions!

As business professionals, there are days when we really need to turn off our laptops and mobile devices for a few minutes each day. We experience information overload every second of the day, and our monkey mind spins out of control. 

Instead of cramming as much information as possible into your noggin, take the time to turn off in order to tune in. As "free love" as that sounds, it's a healthy approach to take when you feel overwhelmed and can't stuff another fact into your brain.

Between webinars and text messaging, technology makes it very easy for us to communicate and connect on a regular basis. Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, reports, "Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003. That’s something like five exabytes of data." 

That's a LOT of information we're creating and taking into our poor grey matter. Before you spend your lunch hour consuming the online version of Wall Street Journal, think about turning off the technology and tune into yourself - yes, a novel concept. If you don't take the time for yourself, no one else is going to do it for you. 

1. Walk away from your desk or computer station. Turn off your cell phone and go outside - even if you only have five minutes to spare, take a deep breath and feel the fresh air filling your lungs. As silly as it sounds, people forget to breathe - a deep, slow inhalation not only relaxes the body, but it rids the lungs of toxins and refreshes the brain.

2. Listen to soothing music. Stash the cell phone in your drawer, sink back into a comfortable chair (whether at home or at the office). Don't do any work. Play soft, soothing music for at least five to ten minutes. Close your eyes and just listen.  Music has a calming effect on the parasympathetic nervous system, and soft music relaxes both mind and body.

3. If possible, don't answer work emails or text messages at home. If your job is an "around-the-clock" type position, that might not be possible. But if you can, check out of your office role and check-in at home. Start slowly. Set a timer and make a promise to yourself not to check your Blackberry or laptop for 30 minutes. Make it a priority to relax - play with your dog, hang out with your family or just sit quietly/mediate without being disturbed.

I'm just as busy as the next person, and I find myself caught in the trap of information overload as well. I practice yoga on a regular basis and my teacher said something very prophetic last week that stuck with me: "Yoga is a work-in NOT a work-out."

This statement could be applied to your daily professional grind when it comes to information. We spend so much time focusing on the external - meet that goal, read that article, write that speech...that we forgot about our internal selves. By just taking a  few "ME"  minutes, your energy increases and makes you more productive in the long run - and puts a smile on your face!

Instead of tuning in all the time, give yourself permission to tune out - you'll definitely feel better!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Does Your Social Media Make the Grade? How to Measure Your OnlinePresence

You post on a daily basis, blog your heart out, and are right on target with your social media. However, have you measured your results lately? Is your social media campaign really working for you?
How does your social media presence measure up to other users out there? The following "grading" apps allow you to check-in with your social media. How well does your company come across to the public? How you could improve your key message points via social media?  These tools are an effective way to gauge your online presence - what's working and what areas could stand improvement.
According to Twitter Grader, I scored 93 out of 100 on my Twitter profile - not too shabby. I must be doing something right with my tweets. Another quirky Twitter app is TweetValue. My profile rounded out to be a whopping $503. Google ranks at the top of their stats at over $166 million - go figure.
For Facebook users, check out Facebook Grader. Facebook Grader takes into consideration a little bit of everything. If you don't fill out your profile accurately or don't have a lot of Friends on your list, points are docked.
For publicists and marketers (or anyone who wants to check the relevancy/accuracy of their press releases), add Press Release Grader to your marketing tools. The grader searches for how well keywords are optimized, language and content, inclusion of links, etc. For copywriters such as myself, it's a handy tool to have in their back cyber pockets.
Other helpful tools for website and blog analysis are Website Grader and Blog Grader.  If you don't have time, you can check out all your accounts at once - Social Grader hits the big ones (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn).
The apps mentioned above are FREE and easy to use. Most of these apps (excluding TweetValue) are created by Hubspot, an excellent resource for social media tools and information and one of many favorites on my bookmark list.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Why Two Heads are Better Than One - Don't Berate, Collaborate!

The old saying "two heads are better than one" is my new mantra. I am involved with a fantastic Masterminds group that resulted from my involvement with the International Freelancers" Day Conference - my new copywriting group,  Bhaskar, Jacque and Barb - the Kick A** MasterMind Group (KAMM). Bhas offers our 'international flavor' - a pun on words because he represents Assam where the incredible Assam black tea is produced in India.

I also have been lucky to collaborate and share with amazing colleagues such as Ms. Confident Copywriter/Social Media Guru-ess Victoria working partnership with Ryan Chambers and Joey Do from Adapt Marketing & Design...and the list goes on and on!

I've also moved beyond my comfort zone and am involved with a new "enlightened business professionals" group that meets this week via conference call (I met these amazing people through the Enlightened Business Summit).

As we push forward with our business goals, it's easy to put our noses to the grindstone and roam solo as we keep our eye on the prize. However, we forget about the potential partners and collaborators who could help and guide us with our business goals.

In this economy, it's easy to berate others for their successes and whine: "Why are they making more money than me?" "What do they have that I don't have?"
Well, it's time to stop the pity party and find out what makes them so great. Instead of berating them, collaborate with those you admire. After our KAMM meeting this morning, I felt energized and motivated to forge ahead with my week. I am very grateful and appreciative of their feedback and insight - truly, THREE heads are better than one (in this case!)

I know all the excuses whirring inside your brain when it comes to collaborating with partners - been there, done that.  However, I learned I needed to move past my "I'm gonna do this on my own" mindset. It is OKAY to ask for help sometimes - we all need it.

They will steal my ideas! - No, they will improve upon them and offer you positive, helpful feedback you wouldn't receive otherwise

I know what I'm doing - I don't need anyone's help! - It's time to lose the ego. We all need a little help. Ideas grow stale and sometimes we get stuck. Collaborators offer us fresh, new perspective.

People just annoy me. I do better on my own. - Other people's energy motivates us. Human interaction is what keeps our creative juices flowing. So before you kick other people to curb, listen to what they have to say and maybe you'll learn a few new things!

I don't trust other people to help me with my business. - If you don't trust others, then why do you work with people in the first place? Collaborators and partners make good sounding boards to test new products or ideas. If you can't count on people, then maybe you should re-think why you're in business in the first place. You have to build lasting relationships with your customers and clients, so it makes sense to have a few trustworthy collaborators in your corner. Use sound judgment when it comes to collaborating with others, but don't put up walls either.

So remember...don't berate others for their success or shun the idea of collaborating with other people in your industry who can lend support and expertise. Networking is one thing, but collaboration takes your business to an improved, dynamic level. Don't berate...instead collaborate!

What have been some of your best collaborations and partnerships? Who has helped you along the way?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Move over Wolf Blitzer - SF Columnist Mark Morford Goes Insanely Viral with Post-Elections' Article

The elections are over but there's a BIG stir happening in California post-elections. My favorite SF Gate columnist, Mark Morford, is a classic example of viral marketing gone crazy - but in a good way!

Whether you agree with his politics or not, the fact that his Letter to a Whiny Young Democrat has caught the viral marketing storm since Nov. 3 is phenomenal. Social media marketers could take a page from his Facebook whirlwind. It's a big love fest with excerpts of  his 'hate mail' thrown in for good measure.  The emails are riddled with typos and horrific grammar which makes for a good laugh to kick off the weekend.

So why has his article become a huge smash in only a few days? Mark's followers are going nuts and retweeting his column like crazy - even Roger Ebert tweeted him!

Not only is Mark a pithy 'in-your-face' writer, but he's a smart e-marketer who is hitting upon a very timely, controversial subject that affects us - whether we want to admit it or not. Not to mention his timing was impeccable - his column was posted the day after the elections hailstorm.

He is stepping into the minds of the politically-socially aware and writing about all the things we're thinking (or maybe not thinking) - and his fans are cheering him on from the wings!
His politics aren't everyone's cup of tea but you can't fault him for his savvy social media marketing skills. Mark's got it going on - a great example of social media marketing that is literally ON FIRE!

Congrats Mark!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Enlightened Business Unite - Why It's Time to Shift Our Collective Awareness

I want to share my experiences with the amazing Enlightened Business TeleSummit which wrapped up last Friday afternoon.  I was both blown away and amazed by the truly inspirational speakers I heard throughout the week. A shout out to Lisa Nirell and her fantastic marketing presentation - I was one of the lucky few and won a copy of her book, Energize Growth NOW: The Marketing Guide to a Wealthy Company. Thanks Lisa!

As part of these fantastic and inspirational presentations, I met like-minded business professionals who on are a similar 'enlightened' path. I met wonderful business consultants and life coaches and as a result, we  formed Mastermind groups with each other. Our goal is to further our discussion and collaborations post-Summit. These break-out discussions allowed us to network and share our insight/feedback about speakers and topics - awesome collaboration and meeting of 'enlightened business' MINDS! 

I had the privilege of talking with Jose A. Munoz, Jr. from the Los Angeles area - always fun to meet a fellow Californian! Jose's vision resonates with me and wanted to pass along his insight and business wisdom - especially since we are both committed to helping small businesses achieve their goals in more 'enlightened ways.' The old paradigm of business has shifted. It's time to offer new ways of working together and sharing. It's all about more sustainable solutions - which is Jose's main focus. 

Jose works with people who are owners, managers, and key personnel within organizations with a desire to implement a positive change within small businesses. He is an accomplished and innovative leader with 15 years of solid and progressive experience within multi million-dollar organizations in multiple industries.

Jose holds a Bachelor of Science in Business and Master of Business Administration, with an emphasis in Leadership & Managing Organization Change from the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University. He has used his experience and knowledge to help people accomplish personal and business goals his entire career.

Please check out Jose's inspirational article, Love, Kindness & Compassion in Business  

Jose shares why it's time to 'lead with love' and 'collaborate with compassion." Words to live by as business professionals! Jose welcomes your comments and feedback - please stop by and say hi! 




Therese Pope, Copywriter/Content Developer & Digital Buzz-icist

Content Writing & Marketing Tips ** Online Buzz Branding

** Digital & Social Media Strategies