August 30, 2010

Your Target Market Is Over 50? Try Facebook, Not AARP

Everyone knew the Baby Boomers would get into social networking in larger numbers, but it's happening faster than people who chart such things had anticipated. Whether that news bores you, surprises you or includes you, you need to care. Here's why:
The classic push-back "That stuff's for the kids" doesn't work anymore.
Is a member of the Board of Directors keeping Facebook out of your organization's marketing or fundraising plan because none of your key influencers do "that stuff"? Is someone resisting a try at Twitter because they're "too old"? Who's the holdout in your world? Tell them that the way the world communicates has changed, not just the way "the kids" communicate. Tell them the Goddess said so. Tell them these stats courtesy of Pew Internet:

In just over a year, from April 2009 to May 2010, social networking usage grew:
  • nearly double, from 22% to 42% among Net users age 50 and older.
  • by 88% among users age 55-64 (Boomers represent!)
  • by 100% among users age 65 and older. Online, one in 4 people over the age of 65 is a social networker.
The Pew researchers noted that while email is still a first-choice for older Internet users, they seem to be sticking with social media after trying it. The report states:
"Among the pool of adults ages 50 and older who use social networking sites, 44% used them on the day prior to their being contacted for our survey."
Logic and common sense say that we're going to see more statistics like these as the over 55 crowd continues to adapt to life online. And time and again, when Baby Boomers hit a particular lifestage, they pass through America's systems and culture like a devoured baby rabbit working its way down a cobra's neck. You can't pass something that big without the landscape being changed a bit, ya know?

How many wake-up calls do you need? We're at the moment when the writing leaps off the wall and shakes its moneymaker in your face: social media is a communications tool that shouldn't be ignored.

August 27, 2010

ATTN Businesses: Your Social Media Account = Your Customer Service Desk

Business folk are throwing around a word that many of them really don't understand. As always, the Goddess is here to help.

Social networking. Social computing. Social media.

Look up the definition of "social." Whether you use Dictionary.com or a hardbound dictionary, you won't find a listing that says "monologue."

In business applications, social media is not to be used in the manner that a business owner would use a print ad, or a broadcast media ad, or even a megaphone in the front yard.Being social on the Internet means that you are looking for, and participating in, conversation. Maybe there's more people than 2 involved, but you are never talking to yourself.
I sell stuff.
My stuff is great.
Have you seen my stuff?
Be honest. Would you read a tweet or a Facebook page full of just that? Of course not. But here's the real reason for this post:

If someone responds to your messaging, ANSWER BACK! That's the entire goal of why you're on Twitter or Facebook or whatever in the first place.

If you're contacted by someone with a complaint, and you don't say anything at all, you have opened yourself and your business to a world of hurt in a medium where one can hardly compute how many people will read the nastygrams to follow. If you do nothing more than apologize for what went wrong, that cyberhug will go a long way.

If you receive a compliment via your social network, ANSWER BACK! Saying "thank you" is just common courtesy. Ignoring the person can turn her positive experience into a negative one, and now you've got nastygrams either online or in her mind. Either way, you're down one customer that you didn't have to lose.

August 25, 2010

5 Lessons for Communicators from the Class of 2014


Since 1998, back-to-school season is also the time that adults update their conversational references and, if over the age of 35, feel a little older. The annual Beloit College Mindset List has become a national touchstone, and a softball news story for all forms of media. Designed to keep Beloit's faculty grounded in their students' realities, it reveals the "cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college."

The new list describes the graduating class of 2014, most of whom were born in 1992. The Internet has always existed for several recent classes,and the list is helpful to people in many fields. There are always several points on the list directly related to communications. Last year's list gave up this gem,
"Everyone has always known what the evening news was before the Evening News came on."
Don't get hung up on the fact that the list was written specifically about today's 18-year-olds. There's deep insights here for communicators willing to listen, including:
#44 " The dominance of television news by the three networks passed while they were still in their cribs."
Worse, chances are good that the people these teens know who watch network news regularly are their grandparents.
#28 "They've never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day."
Younger people wear wristwatches for style; their time-teller is a mobile phone.
#26 "Unless they found one in their grandparents' closet, they have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides."
I had to think about this one for a minute, as I distinctly remember using slide carousels on the job not that long ago. Oh. "Not that long ago" was 1996, when today's freshmen were 4 years old. Never mind.

The #1 item on the 2010 Beloit Mindset List for the Class of 2014 is:
"Few in the class know how to write in cursive."
Yeah, OK, this is a big deal. I know it is. What about signatures? Handwritten letters? The artistry and pride of beautiful handwriting. Noted. But because the Goddess knows the hard knocks that nonprofit PR and Development pros face every day trying to get messages across and money out of wallets,

Beloit's #2 item about the Class of 2014 is my #1:
"Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail."
This message has been hammered again and again for at least 6 years, but beyond the larger organizations, most non-profits have yet to make the big move to digital. This is no longer a trend; it's reality.

Online donations? A must, not an option. Enewsletters and solicitations will still appeal to 40+ donors, but start thinking of text and social media campaigns for the young-un's. It's finally time to sit your boss and Board down and explain that all those pretty 4-color direct mail pieces may need to be put to sleep.

August 24, 2010

Lessons for Communicators in Islamophobic Swift Boating

Throughout my career I certainly had my share of PR crises: criminals on the payroll, physicians hiding their errors, the requisite news anchor having an extramarital affair. I could go on with stories that would pop your contacts out. But lucky me, I never had to fight the worst kind of smear campaign--a successful one.

The thought first came to me when I heard news that the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life revealed that nearly 1 in 5 Americans wrongly believes President Obama is a Muslim. Released on August 19th, the poll results also showed that of Republican Americans, a full 31% do not accept that Barack Obama is a Christian. All this after months of campaign headlines focused on his former membership in the United Church of Christ and the pastor who performed his wedding.

A separate poll by
Time came back with even higher results after the President weighed in on the Ground Zero/Islamic Center controversy. It'll be no surprise when the next survey comes in with even higher numbers, not when so many people are continually working to feed the lie.

The day after the Pew announcement, Rev. Franklin Graham, a much bigger fan of spotlights than his father Billy, shared this tripe on CNN, hinting that because Obama's father was Muslim, "we'll just have to take his word for it" that he himself is not.

Wow. It would take former presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry to know even a pinch of the pain and rage felt by a victim of this level of muck. Mr. Kerry's legacy includes a new word in our cultural dictionary. To "
swift boat" someone will forever be associated with making up a negative claim and successfully getting it believed by the desired audience.

Meanwhile, the best brains in communications helped to get Mr. Obama elected; I have to believe they're still around him, crafting a plan and getting him to stick to it. The best responses are the most difficult:
  • Don't take the charges personally.
  • Find allies among organizations and individuals who will share the truth.
  • Repeat the basic facts again and again and nothing more.
  • Refuse to strike back in anger.
It must be awful to be the target of a well-coordinated smear campaign. I know for sure that it's awful to watch.

August 23, 2010

Resistance Really IS Futile

I have become a Bluetooth user.

Eww.

The very first time I saw someone walking down the street wearing a Bluetooth headset, I matched the picture with the Borg, an alien race on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Borg are a collective of individuals connected to each other's thoughts by cranial implants. (It must be noted that the Borg's shared singular goal is to consume technology. They care not for money or power.)

Once it became popular to walk around talking at full volume to the voices in one's own head, I vowed never to do it, just on general principle. People just look crazy at best and rude at worst pushing a grocery cart or waiting for a light to change and talking as though someone is standing in front of them, no visible communication device in sight.

And now I am one of them. To a degree.

Because I now rely on my mobile phone for business calls, I wear the Bluetooth headset when I'm out of the office but in the house. That's it. I have yet to use the headset outside of my own house. My Borg is still in the closet, and I like it that way.

In September 2009, a study found that the number of people covering an ear with Bluetooth every day was 17% lower than in 2008. I guess I'm not the only one wanting to look like this is my native planet.

What else? Well, I got my BBerry some bling. I never said I wouldn't, but I never thought I would, either. When I think of phone bling, I think of Carrie's phone from Sex and the City.

Too over the top for me.

But then I found this little gem of a case on my new fave site for gadget accessories. It's purple with just a touch of sparkle. It makes me grin every time I look at it, and what more could you want for $5.99?

I have one more principled digital pledge: Whenever I am lucky enough to be taking a walk with a dog or a child or both, I will not talk on the phone. I will enjoy the peace of the moment, which has its own organic connections, after all. Perhaps that's a pledge I can keep.

August 21, 2010

Goddess Gold: A Communicator's Primer on Mercury Retrograde

Goddessfriends, I'm taking a tip from radio pros like Tom Joyner who take advantage of lower listener levels on weekends and rerun earlier shows. Analytics tells me I have fewer readers on weekends, and some posts are fairly evergreen. Or at least, that's what I think. You tell me. This post, with a few updating tweaks, is from December 2009.

Mercury Retrograde started on Friday, August 20 and continues through Sunday, September 12. Here's why communicators should care:

In ancient mythology, communications were ruled by the Romans' fast-moving messenger god, Mercury. Early astronomers gave him props by naming the zippiest planet after him (Mercury orbits the sun in just 88 days). Myzodiac.com explains that at least 3 times each year, when viewed from Earth's perspective, a planet appears to have stopped and then temporarily reversed its regular movement in the sky. That phenomenon is called "retrograde."

When the planet Mercury goes ziggity-boo, as my goddaughter would say, so do all of its royal subjects: thinking and perception, processing and disseminating information and ALL means of communication. Verbal, print, phones, computers, fax machines, TVs...the whole ball of wax.

After about 3 weeks or so, the retrograde planet then appears to once again stop and reverse, now going "direct" and back on its normal cyclic path. Every planet has its retrograde phases, but when Mercury's involved, that's the proverbial horse of a different color.

My late godmother, a psychologist and astrologer, explained all this to me years ago thinking the knowledge would be helpful since I was studying communications and I'm a Virgo. The 2 sun signs ruled by Mercury -- Virgos and Geminis -- are more vulnerable than others to a retrograde's effects. My godmother tried to teach me much more about astrology, but Mercury Retrograde is the one thing that stuck.

I can hear HubbyMine and other naysayers tut-tutting that computers crash, letters are lost, shaky negotiations and personal misunderstandings happen
every day of the year. And of course, that's true. But for me and my friends who work in public relations, journalism and other communications-related fields, Mercury Retrogrades are the only times of year when we can safely say that such occurrences are darned near guaranteed. It's not an excuse, it's just the way it is.
And one more thing to remember: once the planet goes direct, resuming its normal path, Mercury has the capacity to undo actions taken during the time of its reverse travel.

We are advised, then, NOT to start anything new during a Mercury Retrograde because it's bound to unravel. Don't sign contracts or legal documents. Don't get married. Don't schedule a meeting requiring major decisions. Give yourself extra time for travel. Watch out for a "Mercury shadow" that begins about 3 weeks before, and ends a few weeks after the retrograde period, too. (Photo Credit: BeliefNet)

A few examples:

When the Titanic sank during a 1912 Mercury retrograde, the crew ignored several messages warning of icebergs in the area. The radio officer on the Californian, a ship just 20 miles away, was off duty and never received the urgent calls for help.

Closer to our time, look at the the 2000 U.S. presidential election. Floridians thought they voted for Al Gore when they actually pushed the chad for Pat Buchanan. Mercury turned direct on election night at 9 PM, just when newscasters got everything wrong. When the dust settled, a majority of Americans thought they'd elected Al Gore, but George W. Bush took office. (Some astrologers say that Bush's entire Presidency reflects classic Mercury Retrograde results.)

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin chose to sit down for an interview with CBS Anchor Katie Couric one day after Mercury turned retrograde in Sept. 2008. The rambling, disjointed and thoroughly
confusing result was, well, a mess. The governor's interview days before with ABC Anchor Charlie Gibson, during the Mercury shadow, went just a bit better, but not much.

So what's a girl to do? You can't stay in bed for all these episodes in the sky, but you can be smart. Do some research, paperwork or filing. Work on a project that's already been started or stall the launch of a new one. Double-check everything.

On the positive side, the Greeks saw Hermes (Mercury's Greek counterpart) as the god of the unexpected and of coincidence. (Fans of
The Celestine Prophecy will think of "synchronicity".) Author Arianna Stassinopoulos describes a retrograde as "the confusion which inevitably precedes new beginnings."

If you don't believe any of this, fine. You probably stopped reading in the first paragraph anyway.

But for the rest of you, the last Mercury Retrograde of the year will be December 26 through January 15, 2011. Make a note.

August 20, 2010

Ethics in Social Media: P&G Does It Good

The Goddess has recognized the brand that made the best use of social media at BlogHer this month. I'd estimate that at least 90% of the conference's exhibitors incorporated some aspect of new media into their on-site spiel. To enter contests or receive the best swag, the bloggers were encouraged to "tweet this" or "post that", immediately if possible.

In the category of Fiercest Attention to Social Media Governance, all Goddesspoints go to P&G.

First, I have to point out that Procter & Gamble, a house of brands, built a "house" (right) in
the center of an exhibit floor. No corner booth for this Mad Women gorilla. Walking in on faux hardwood floors, visitors passed through a Living Room, Kitchen, Laundry Room, Bedroom and Bathroom, each pitching appropriate P&G products.

Now the governance part. From Downy to Bounty, practically every flat surface of the house featured printed half-sheet reminders about the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) recently updated Endorsement & Testimonial Guidelines.

Written in a cordial tone, here's what the notice from "Your P&G Team" says the FTC requests:
  • "Clearly and conspicuously disclose within each of your posts or tweets that you received product, coupons, gift cards, or other informative materials from P&G and/or one or more of our brands. This can be as simple as stating, "P&G [or brand name] gave me this product sample...". You should place this disclosure within your post or tweet itself -- not in a bio section or in a separate badge that the consumer must click open or link to separately.
"If you Tweet, you're asked to follow your statement with a disclosure hashtag, such as #paid ad, #paid or #ad, to indicate that you received something of value from the advertiser. Or you can include a disclosure in the tweet ("Brand X gave me a free sample...) and then link to your blog posting for more details.
  • "If you choose to talk about P&G and our products, we invite you to speak from your honest, personal experience. (We hope you love our brands and will let everyone know!) If you discuss specific product claims or benefits, please refer to our resources to ensure that you make only claims consistent with our materials."
I love the easy-to-understand examples and the earnest transparency of this effort's in-your-face distribution. I'm sure P&G makes the same message available in various digital formats, and in post-conference communication as well. But clearly, the rule of "meet people where they are" isn't just for online interactions. Even better, the very existence of the handouts signaled the company's respect for the bloggers' media status, while admitting its own
own eagerness to attract free advertising.

And yes, I do see the calculating hand of legal counsel in the move, but I'm betting the PR team understood it was all for the best.

P.S. The Goddess accepted several free samples that were available to all BlogHer attendees at the P&G Home Away From Home display, including Downy and Febreze.

August 19, 2010

The Best Use of Social Media by a BlogHer '10 Brand

One brand represented at BlogHer '10 had a social media campaign to reach the women bloggers in attendance that wowed the Goddess right out of her good-for-walking-in-New-York sandals. This brand linked traditional and modern communications tools in a way that made me all gooshy inside.

In the category of Best Use of Social Media by a BlogHer '10 Brand, the Goddess happily, and easily selects Gypsystyle.com! At least, I think that's the brand to salute. Let me explain.

Mid-morning on Day 2 of BlogHer, I saw 3 women walking through the hotel with the most beautiful oversized woven bags. I caught up with them and they prattled on about a brand's message on Twitter that said to come to Room 1231 for a gift. All sponsor suites with major swag were on Floors 42 and 43, at least, that's what we'd been told.

Although I was on Twitter through much of the conference, I hadn't checked in that morning. (I told you I'm not truly addicted!) I zoomed for the elevators and tried not to sprint to Room 1231.

But, the door was locked; the magic window had closed. The Housekeeping staff started to look at me strangely after I'd knocked on the door just a little too long.

That might have been the end of the story, except for the actions of Amethyst, my BlogHer roomie extraordinaire. She'd been tweeting early that a.m. and she saw the special gift alert. She not only made it in time to get herself a bag -- she got 3 more for her roommates!! The bags were full of mini-gifties: coupons, card games, lotion, air
freshener and drink samples, a coffee mug. My roomies and I agreed that the bag itself was the swag. (my bag at left.)

I don't know if Gypsystyle sent the initial announcement tweet or tweets, but since the bag encased everything else, they're getting the credit. I'd love to connect with someone at Gypsystyle to get their perspective, but in the meantime, here's how I see it. If you accept that my conclusions are full of assumptions, read on.
  • I don't know how many announcement/teaser messages were sent on Twitter over what timeframe. If there was only one, that makes the whole thing even cooler somehow.
  • I'm making a major guess that the marketers at Gypsystyle didn't have the budget, nor the inclination to invest heavily in BlogHer. But, they knew they needed to have a presence because the women in attendance were exactly their audience.
  • Remembering that the best trade show booths have the biggest giveaways, the Gypsystyle team appealed to basic human greed and curiosity. It ain't pretty, folks, but it works.
  • Again, only guessing, but I'm thinking Gypsystyle rented a room at the Hilton for a single day, not a suite for 2 or more days like other suite hosts. I'm also guessing that cost-effectiveness...conservation...aligns with the Gypsystyle brand.
  • I imagine the staff brought a limited number of gift bags. When they're gone, they're gone. Again, cost-effective AND more manageable for the people working the suite.
Anecdotal Bottom Line: For the women who didn't get a bag, the campaign generated the emotion that every retailer craves in a woman: envy. The Gypsystyle bags, and the Twitter message that so many conference attendees missed, was THE buzz of the day among more than 2,000 women... who just happen to have blogs. Nicely done.

August 18, 2010

More Ideas from Big Brands for Little Brands to Admire...and Copy

Today's post: More real-life marketing strategies used by the Big Brands exhibiting at BlogHer, the annual conference for women bloggers. Yes, they knew they'd be seeing a more Net-savvy audience than is the norm, but I figure all or part of any good idea can be adapted to fit your needs if you love it enough.

JustDance2/Ubisoft: To promote the sequel to the popular JustDance game for Nintendo Wii, there was a stage instead of the traditional booth. It was like dance karaoke, but for as many as 4 people. You do everything the animated person on the screen does and the controller in your hand monitors how accurately you match the moves. Conference attendees
getting their dance on had their photos taken and were encouraged to tag their pic on the game's Facebook page.

OK. I hear you thinking (I'm a goddess, after all), "I'm not a video game company. How the heck is this supposed to give me ideas?"

If your event has any element where photos can be taken of adult participants, post the pix on your company's Facebook page and tell people to tag themselves. Whether they tag or not, trust and believe that they will visit you on Facebook. For most humans, knowing there's a pic of you out there in cyberspace that you've never seen will drive you crazy until you've seen/approved of it. (Make sure your Facebook page looks appealing/full of good info and conversation before you lure them in.)

Sustainable Earth/Staples: The giveaway was a small sample bottle of an environmentally friendly multi-purpose cleaner. To win a chance at a $200 Staples gift card, bloggers were asked to try the product, post a review on their blogs and email a link of the review to the company's communications agency.

(Confession & Contest Entry: I tried the Sustainable Earth cleaner and I liked it. I used it in my office on a range of surfaces. It looked like water and had no discernible smell. Frankly, I was surprised it worked as well as it did. I confess to being woefully un-green, and my chemicals usually make their presence known through scent. Perhaps this will get me going down a greener road.)

Dora the Explorer/Nickelodeon: Well, of course Dora was there! (Remember the appeal of the conference's Mommybloggers.
Dora was everywhere, including on the back of my Hilton room keycard.) She's still riding high from her 10th birthday party.

The creativity here was in the product itself. I doubt you can copy this idea, but how could I not share? Parents of preschoolers can get a cartridge for their Garmin or TomTom GPS and hear Dora's voice give turn commands, etc. Correction: You don't have to be a parent to buy it. If I had GPS it'd be worth the $20 for a giggle every day when Dora says, "VĂ¡monos! We're getting closer!"

Tomorrow: Of the 100+ brands on parade at BlogHer '10, which one will the Goddess annoint as making THE Best Use of Social Media?

August 17, 2010

Real-Life Big Brand Social Media Strategies - Part 1

About 3 career lifetimes ago, you might occasionally find the Goddess working a TV station's booth at events like the Home & Flower Show, the Boat Show, or... hardest for me, the Sport & Fisherman's Show (I remember taxidermy and water-skiing squirrels...)

My booths always dangled a big giveaway to attract people who had to give up their contact info to enter the drawing. The goal was to collect as many names and addresses as possible to build the company's mailing list. Booth work was rarely much fun, standing on my feet most of the day, grinning and grinning and oozing PR small talk to the masses.

Not much has changed. Except now a name, address and e-mail address opens up a whole new dimension of marketing, and stats.

At BlogHer '10, brand marketers of all kinds were challenged to get all that old-school information AND tap into existing online networks of the Net-savvy women bloggers in attendance. My real WOWEE! moments came when I was presented with one social media campaign after the other. It was stunning, actually. Out here in the Real World, there's a nice healthy core of non-profits and businesses alike that are still quite reluctant to invest time or trouble on new media.

To get a glimpse at how the Big Guys do it, here are some of the real-life examples presented at BlogHer. It'll take a few posts to get through them all, but it's worth it. I know I'm not the only one interested in fresh ideas that might be ripe for "creative borrowing." Just know that I can't proclaim that these examples are "marketing best practices" because I don't know the outcomes yet. (I'll report back if I'm able to get information about results.)

Filtrete Water Filtration Products/3M: Tweet @FiltreteWater with the #BlogHer10 hashtag about the company's donation to help create rain gardens across the U.S. to win a chance at a Filtrete Water Station, a fill-your-own water bottle concoction. Their handout was on seedling paper which can be planted to grow wildflowers. Nice touch. Their giveaway was a water bottle. Well, of course it was.

E-Bay Fashion: In addition to posting fashion photos on Flickr, E-Bay offered a $1,000 "Bill Me Later" shopping spree. All I had to do was tweet about my experience at their booth with a pic, OR post the booth pic to my blog and tweet the link.

Tropicana: A 2"x4" card teased a QR code on one side and promoted a 3-step contest registration on the other:
1. Follow @TropicanaOJ on Twitter

2. Take a photo of yourself with a Tropicana beverage.

3. Tweet the following phrase with your photo ("Enjoying @ TropicanaOJ goodness at #BlogHer10")
A wicked voice in my head wonders if a sponsor had asked conference attendees to go to the roof of the Hilton and jump off, they might have done that, too, all for the lure of a prize massage or Coleman outdoor gear. I didn't participate in this one, mainly because I didn't read the card until I got home.

In other cases, I had good intentions of doing all my brand-related tweeting and posting in my hotel room. Didn't happen. I realized far too late that the BlogHer pros kept their smartphones handy at all times so they could stop and immediately do whatever a contest might require.

More tomorrow!

August 16, 2010

QR Readers: A Weird Little Box of Black Squiggles Might Be Just What Your Marketing Campaign Needs

Have you noticed these weird little patterned boxes on advertisements and leave-behinds? If so, don't ignore them -- they mark another step toward mobile computing's takeover. They're also a great marketing tool...for the right audience. If you've never seen a Quick Response (QR) code before now, hang on another 5 minutes; they're coming your way, too.

Because I am nobody's developer, I'll just say that QR codes are magic. How else could a 2-dimensional square hold so much data? Price barcodes -- the strip of vertical stripes they scan at the grocery store -- hold about 20 digits in one direction. QR codes can handle as many as 7,000 vertical and horizontal digits.

URL links, phone numbers, brief text. What do you want to say? Scan a teddy bear to learn how many children are served by your crisis nursery. Scan your bag of popcorn at the movies to get a coupon for your next bucket.

You "open" the coded info with your smartphone (doesn't have to be the newest and shiniest phone, but it does have to have a camera). Choose from a variety of QR readers to download to your phone at no charge. This 23-second video shows what you do next:



It's the darnedest thing. For a moment it actually felt as though communications tools are changing faster than the Goddess can keep up. A foolish thought, of course, and yet...

Consider this sentence from a recent post at Soft Tailor, a technology review and blog:
"QR codes can be spotted on almost every website these days."
"On almost every website"? Really? Have I just not noticed a strange box of black squiggles on my favorite sites? I'm thinking, no. I'm still confused as to why a website needs that extra boost, but I'm getting there.

Actually, I've only seen QR codes used in print form. Tropicana used them to interact with bloggers at this year's BlogHer conference. I saw one in an ad for Miami443.com in the NY Times (Sun 8/15/10).

Search for "QR code generator" and you'll easily learn how to create your own 2-D squiggly square. From there, the world is yours. Put one on your business card and suddenly it provides 3 times the amount of information. T-shirts. Giveaways. Mashable suggests geo-based tours and reviews. YouTube shows a girl who knitted the code into a winter scarf.

Several of the links I've provided here are from the United Kingdom, as this is another of those
times where other nations are way ahead of the U.S. QR code was created by a Japanese company in 1994. (Yes, that's a Japanese Disney ad with QR codes at right.)

If you remember nothing else from this post, remember this: QR codes turn anything into a website.

I've unlocked my first code while writing this. (I used ScanLife on my BBerry.) The code shown in the newspaper ad for Miami 443 took me to... the Miami 443 website. Not an overwhelming dose of creativity, but hey, even though I bounced right off of it, I did go to the website. I can say with some confidence that I never would have visited the site otherwise.

August 14, 2010

Goddess Gold: A Strong Password Equals Homeland Security

Goddessfriends, I'm taking a tip from radio pros like Tom Joyner who take advantage of lower listener levels on weekends and rerun earlier shows. Analytics tells me I have fewer readers on weekends, and some posts are fairly evergreen. Or at least, that's what I think. You tell me. This post, with a few updating tweaks, is from August 2009.

As if there weren't enough going on in the world to worry about, people keep telling me that being Homeland Security for their computer is really bothering them. It's all about the passwords.
The worriers know they're supposed to have "strong" passwords. They know they're not supposed to use the same one for every sign-on site they visit. But they feel as though there's almost no place where they can hide a list of all their sites and codes and not worry that some evildoer -- a spouse, an offspring, or even a real burglar -- will find the stash and do something awful with the info.

That's where Open ID comes in. A single password is created on an identity-providing site that then confirms who you are on the websites and social networks you visit. Not every sign-in website accepts Open ID, but thousands do.

Perhaps you've heard the term "open source" which refers to any program that can be modified or used by web developers. (The founders of Twitter, for example,
provided the source code that led others to build the vast Twitterverse of tweetdeck, twistori, twitzu and a kazillion more apps that interact with twitter.com.)

Open ID was established in 2005 by an open source community. In other words, no one organization owns or controls Open ID. The Open ID Foundation was formed as a legal entity to provide infrastructure and promote adoption of the format.

Here's the 2 things you need to know to get started:

1) There are several providers where you can get a free and secure Open ID to use across the web, such as claimID, verisign and myopenid. I can tell you that sometimes there are a few...hiccups with the Mac and my Open ID site, but it still works and I'm happy.

Not that you asked, but I use myvidoop. Why did I choose that one? Honestly? I like the name. So sue me.

Here's how myvidoop works : From a grid of 12 photos, the user selects 3 topics such as trains, people, food, castles, musical instruments or toys. Everytime I go to myvidoop I type in the letter shown in the each of the 3 photos that comprise my personal grouping. The photos are never in the same order, and there's really no way that anyone else might ever guess exactly which 3 photos equal my passcode.

Then when I visit Facebook, for example, my user name and password fill themselves in like magic. As the late Billy Mays would say, "It's that easy!"

2) You may already have an Open ID. If you use Google Reader, for example, you've probably been to other sites that say "Sign in with a Google account". The concept is the same as the broader Open ID--a single username and password work at several locations. Other sites that share their ID this way include Yahoo, Flickr and AOL.

Now let's go back to the beginning for a minute. As far as I'm concerned, Open ID doesn't eliminate the need for strong passwords or to understand what they are.

Password strength is determined by length and the diversity and complexity of the characters. "Complexity" means that you choose from the full keyboard, with upper and lowercase included. The number of characters is also important because each symbol or letter increases your protection big-time. What are the odds that a malicious someone will select the a particular character and position it just as you have again and again? That's why most sites require passwords to be a minimum of 8 characters. Microsoft recommends 14 characters as the ideal.

If you really want to be sure about your creation, find a password checker like this one to verify its strength.

And if you think of a really good place to hide your list of codes in your house, let me know.

August 13, 2010

Brands at BlogHer Had It All: the Good, the Bad & the Strange

There's a bit of online bickering as to whether BlogHer is a "serious" conference. Too little geek, too much girl (AKA networking) and swag, the freebies thrown at attendees from every corner. As a first-time attendee, I have to point out that it was indeed possible to be dazzled by the swag and still attend sessions and network.

(One of my roomies was at her 3rd BlogHer event, so it took some really good stuff to make her go "Ooooh." But, "good" is a relative term. She "ooohed" over an Uno card game.)

In America, wherever large groups of women aged 18-54 gather, there are brands. Period. BlogHer attracted more than 100 sponsors + exhibitors + private corporate suites + invitation only sponsor-hosted parties. From Johnson & Johnson to E-Bay, Chicken of the Sea to Spanx, name a product that touches the average woman's life and I'm here to tell you that they were probably there, too.

It's been a long time since I've been to the type of conference that includes exhibitor space at all, much less on the scope of BlogHer. Next post, I'll get into the innovative social media strategies the Big Guys used to engage the bloggers. Today let's check out the more traditional approaches. BlogHer booth and suite design, in some cases, left me speechless, groping for my camera. And sometimes celebs were involved, in every definition of the word.

--Procter & Gamble, a house of brands, built a "house" (right) in the center of an exhibit floor. Walking in on faux hardwood floors, you pass through the Living Room (information on P&G's clean water initiative), Kitchen (Febreze and Bounty), Laundry Room (Downy), Bedroom (I can't remember which hair products... Pantene?) Bottom line, as a "booth", this house was amazing.

--Yeah, I stopped at this booth and let them dress me up like Wonder Woman, but this was a booth that didn't work for me. I kept forgetting what product they were pushing. It was Aquaphor, a balm for cracked, dried or irritated skin. It "works wonders". Works wonders + women bloggers = Wonder Woman. Sure, I get it. (Not.) Stranger still, when I gave the ladies at the booth some real life examples, they weren't happy.
Me: My roommate says Aquaphor is great for post-tattoo healing. She loves it.

BoothTeam: Yes, we hear that all the time. But that's not what it's really for.

Me: After I saw a suggestion in a magazine, I've been personally using Aquaphor as an under-eye cream. I love it.

BoothTeam: Yes, we hear that all the time. But that's not what it's really for.

Although I've been content with the product, if I listened to Booth Advice, I'd stop being a customer because I'm not using it "correctly." I understand liabilities, etc., but this seems a weird way to keep customers.
--Bruce Jenner (right) was promoting Tropicana. No one I talked to at the conference knew what the connection was between delicious juice and Kim Kardashian's aging, formerly famous in his own right stepdad.

Later I found this video with Bruce hawking a Tropicana project, but I still find the decision to use him as a spokesperson very strange. Considering the near-epic fail of Tropicana's changed logo in 2009, I might have gone in a different direction. Carrie Underwood, maybe. I'm just sayin'.
  • --The host of Bravo's Top Chef, the lovely Padma Lakshmi, served as a celebrity judge for a food contest at the Hillshire Farms booth. Another interesting pairing. I mean,it's hard to imagine Padma screaming "Go Meat!" at any point in her exquisitely gourmet life. Nevertheless, this time the pairing gave a nudge upward to the brand, I thought.
--The funniest thing about posing with the Pillsbury doughboy? A constant whirr-rr-rr sound from the cooling system in his costume to keep his hot buns Poppin' Fresh. (Could NOT resist.)

--Fisher-Price sent 2 of its most popular characters: Mrs. Potato Head from Toy Story 3, and Elmo! Accompanying the
life-sized figures were tables showing all the various machinations of toys for children, and soon, pets, too.
--Hallmark did what Hallmark does best: Christmas. A big corner booth space was transformed into a holiday living room, including a decorated tree, mantel and rug. And yes, there was a "fire" in the fireplace. I had my "Christmas" photo taken and soon I'll be going to the company's Facebook page to find out more info on my pic and other holiday programs from the company.

--Ronald McDonald was one of the few characters who could actually talk. (Legally, costumed figures often cannot speak as their own voice would not match the voice the public has come to know. Mickey Mouse at Disney World, for example, waves, hugs, blows kisses, but talking is a no-no.)

The booth gave away samples of McDonald's oatmeal. Of all the things McDonald's could give away, they chose hot oatmeal. Considering that it was 99 degrees outside and 98 degrees on the exhibit floor, I thought this was a bizarre choice.

--I was delighted to meet the Sun from the latest ad campaign for Jimmy Dean sausage. Jimmy Dean had a huge presence, and was a great source for a quick nosh.

--Finally, the Goddess' award for Overall Best Design by a sponsor has to go to the Hershey S'Mores suite. Walking in, I saw a tight little room with a couple of couches and 4 or 5 hot plates where you could get a s'more made to order.

(Oh, weren't you ever a Scout? A S'more is 2 pieces of graham cracker with a hunk of chocolate and a marshmallow melted in the middle.)

I had to get further inside to see that there was a much larger room attached. The secondary space was second to none, because this room had been transformed into Everybody's Backyard. Floor-to-ceiling painted panels covered all the walls to recreate sky and clouds on a sunny day. The carpet was replaced with nicer-than-Astroturf grass. Part of the "
yard" had picket fencing. There were lawn chairs for your comfort.

Best of all, at the room's far end was a "campfire" to "cook" your s'mores. Fake logs and pieces of colored silk blowing from a hidden fan made up the fire. I'd seen that before, but as you walked closer, this fake fire gave off heat. Where the heater was stashed, I don't know, but the entire facade really worked.The happiest person in the suite was the kindergartener-to-be in the photo, but grown-ups loved it, too.

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