Category Archives: Technology

Becoming an e-reader: What you want to know

Reading, books, e-readersIn the years since they’ve been available, I’ve heard some pretty heated debates over the advantages and disadvantages of e-readers. It became such a divisive issue that I quickly placed it after politics and religion on the list of taboo party topics. For the most part, I favored the traditional format, citing the free marketplace and familiar feeling of a printed book. As more of my friends (and strangers on the bus) seemed to be embracing digital formats, however, I considered tearing away from my trusted paper friends.

Fast-forward a few years, and there I sit on the bus totally lost in an e-book. Friends on the fence have grilled me about whether e-readers are worth the money, so I thought I would share the considerations that turned me from a bound-book traditionalist into an avid e-reader.


  • A 1,000-page book that goes places. Perhaps the most obvious perk of e-readers is their compact size. Of course, not every book is 1,000 pages, but I’m no stranger to deciding between whether I pack my lunch for the day or carry my reading material. No longer are my mornings plagued by what I can fit in my bag.
  • Books on demand. Although I miss going to bookstores to browse the fancy art books, I don’t miss trying to hunt down a specific title. Now, as long as I’m willing to buy an available book, I can go from browsing to reading in less than a minute.
  • Easy on the eyes. I have uncooperative eyes. Even though I wear glasses, my prescription changes drastically with fatigue. Being able to change the lighting and size of the text on my screen keeps me comfortable reading at any time of day.
  • Vocabulary builder. Growing up, my parents refused to tell me the meaning of any word that was beyond my comprehension. “Go look it up,” was the standard response. E-readers cut out the middleman by providing a definition with one click. Better yet, all words that I “look up” are recorded on a list that I can reference and quiz myself on later.


  • Book budget? What’s that? I’ve always been a binge reader. As soon as I get my hands on a book or series that I’ve wanted to read, it doesn’t last me more than two days. In the past, however, my reading was limited to what I – or a friend – had on hand. Now, for the sake of my bank account, I try to make books last at least a week.
  • E-book free to a good home. Not being able to give books away is my least favorite part of being a member of the e-book club. I’ve never liked overloading my shelves, so I’m thrilled when I can send a good book home with a well-matched reader. Some e-book programs let you loan books to friends, but they have enough restrictions that I haven’t found them useful. I’m hoping that the e-book marketplace will open up soon to compensate for these less-than-tangible purchases.
  • Libraries need to catch up. My reading wish list may not jive well with the Chicago Public Library, but it seems that every book I want to check out is 30 people deep in the hold list. I once tried placing a book on hold, and, when the book became available to me two months later, I received error messages with every download attempt. I have successfully checked out one other book, but the software seems to have a long way to go before I’d call it user-friendly.

Do you use an e-reader? Let us know why – or why not – in the comments below.

How PR has recently changed and how to adjust

cell phoneOver the holiday weekend, I found myself relaxing on the beach with a few good friends. At one point, I looked over at a few of them, and they were checking their social media channels. It made me think about how far public relations and the news media have come in the last few years.

Today, everyone from teens to senior citizens can post information online and it becomes accessible to millions of people. Now, almost anyone can be a reporter and post news and photos of the latest happenings.

Traditional PR isn’t dead, however. Given the current environment, PR practitioners should keep the following in mind:

1. Building a community of ambassadors around your brand will still take you far. These days, everyone stays glued to their phones because people enjoy sharing information and producing the information that gets shared. Give your audience something they want to share and are passionate about.

2. Be a thought leader. Whether you’re publishing white papers and blogs or staying up on trends and sharing them with your audience, do an outstanding job consistently so that you build and maintain an audience. The media tends to publicize companies that have a large following, because more people are attracted to their stories. In turn, you will develop new media relationships and more sources for your portfolio.

How have you adjusted your PR strategies in these social times? Let us know in the comments below.

Planning your website for on-the-go — responsively

computersWhen it comes to websites these days, the focus is not only on a desktop experience, but also on a mobile experience. As mobile devices are fast becoming the norm to view websites and take in content, now is the time to start thinking about how people are getting your content.

One of the ways designers and developers handle mobile is through responsive design. Responsive design is a method of designing and coding where the content adjusts to different screen sizes and resolutions. This method allows the content to scale appropriately on each device (phone or tablet) and have elements appear and disappear based on want you want your visitors to see.

For example, if you have a really large navigation menu, that might work great on a desktop screen; however, it may take up too much space on a mobile phone. You don’t want people to only see your menu when they first navigate to your site on their mobile device — you want them to see your content. With responsive design, we can create an icon that appears only if someone is on a mobile device, which, in turn, allows the person to click it and reveal a streamlined navigation menu. This allows your content to remain in the forefront.

Another thing responsive design is fantastic for is when people resize their browsers in the horizontal plane (wider or narrower) on their desktop computers. Designers and coders can have content move to different areas of the screen to allow for a greater user experience for more people and give visitors the most important information right away. Websites don’t live in a vacuum and user interaction is a key component that drives our work.

There are many mobile strategies out there, with responsive design being one of them. When planning your mobile site (or main website) using responsive design, think about your audience and the content they’ll want. This preplanning (or postplanning if your existing site is moving to mobile) will help you create the best experience for your visitors.

Let us know what your mobile strategy is or what you’d like to do in the future in the comments below.

gTLDs: The next big thing or alphabet soup?

web browserJust when you thought the Internet had run out of Internet addresses, think again: a new era of URLs is nearly upon us.

On July 2, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the Big Apple will be one of the first cities in the world to provide a geographic-specific Internet domain: .nyc. The International Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently approved the new address, or generic top-level domain (gTLD). The nonprofit ICANN regulates naming conventions on the Internet like .com, .net and .biz.

New York City officials expect to put the new Internet addresses up for sale later this year, according to the mayor’s website. The nation’s largest city was one of 1,006 entities ICANN recently approved for a new gTLD. ICANN also gave the go-ahead for .toys, .mba and .poker.

Large corporations also got in on the action, paying a $185,000 fee for each application to scoop up new branded gTLDs like .lincoln, .redken, .merck and .safeway. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, seven Chicago-area companies also successfully applied for gTLDs: Allstate Insurance, Jones Lang LaSalle, Discover Financial Services, McDonald’s Corp., Citadel LLC, Transunion LLC and Abbott Laboratories.

Allstate’s picks? .allstate, .goodhands, .autoinsurance and .carinsurance.

The steep six-figure price tag undoubtedly discouraged many businesses from applying for a vanity gTLD in the first round of applications – and likely will in the future, too. Still, as these addresses will likely become commonplace in the coming years, here are answers to three questions business owners might have now:  

Should I start or continue to run analytics on my company’s website? Yes and yes. Without analytics, it will be impossible to make “apples-to-apples” comparisons of before-and-after Web traffic if you ultimately decide to make the switch to a new gTLD.

Should I drop everything immediately and go out and buy a .shoes gTLD for my shoe business or .tires gTLD for my tire business? No, don’t do that. First, these applications were just approved and it’s too early to determine what it all means. The first wave of gTLD applicants was primarily trying to warehouse domains for one of two reasons: protecting valuable brand names or, like New York City, launching Web hosting businesses that will sell new URLs ending

What will these new Web addresses mean for SEO? Uncertain. Until new gTLDs are up and running, it’s impossible to discern whether they’ll be more effective in generating search results than old standbys like .com and .org. Writing in the Guardian, Search Online Marketing’s Adam Grunwerg put it this way:

“If these new gTLDs are helpful for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), then we must remember that spammers will quickly abuse them. It could be the .info situation all over again, where extensions quickly become tainted and promoted for spam purposes. In this environment, it’s the trusted domain extensions such as .com and that will be the biggest winners.”

Are you considering a new gTLD for your business? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Word of mouth 2.0

TSG139 - lips picSocial media plays an important role today in shaping individual purchasing decisions. Still, many companies resist using Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn at all, or don’t take full advantage of these important marketing tools once they’ve taken the social media plunge. 

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B2B trendspotting: What we learned in 2012

TSG 139 - cell talkerAs 2012 draws to a close, it is worth reflecting on a number of milestones and trend lines in the world of B2B marketing and advertising that emerged this year, developments that may make a big splash in how businesses interact with their current and potential customers in the coming years.

Mobile tipping point?

More than two years ago, Wired set off an existential crisis for tech types and marketing/advertising executives with the article “The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet.” In it, the magazine speculated that the then-recent advent of smartphones, tablets and other portable, app-based devices would soon send Web browsing, Googling and other 1990-era Internet trappings the way of the Dodo.

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Making Your Social Media Matter

Few small businesses today question the marketing ROI of sites like Facebook and Twitter. Still, many small firms remain stuck in an awkward adolescence, unsure how to best use social media to engage their customers and integrate these standard tools with their overall business strategies.

But why?

While many small business owners realize it’s no longer sufficient simply to have a Facebook page, LinkedIn profile or Twitter handle, they often find themselves asking “now what?” after signing up for a social media account. For many, taking the social network plunge can be a daunting undertaking.  But it’s not impossible if you keep these two concepts in mind.

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Get out the vote: What the election taught us about combining traditional and new marketing strategies effectively

Earlier this year, 5 million people bought the newest iPhone in its first weekend of availability. Last year, more than 11 million Harry Potter fans bought an opening-day ticket to the final installment of the popular movie franchise. Neither of these tectonic cultural movements registered anywhere near the turnout of a U.S. presidential election, which saw 125 million voters cast their vote (give or take – I think some folks in Florida are still waiting for their turn). Election Day offered keen insights into the culture of our country, not the least of which are the most effective marketing strategies of our social networking world.

Marketing has always been a part of elections and reflective of the technology of the day. From the original campaign buttons William McKinley used during his 1896 presidential campaigns to the whistle-stop tours along U.S. railways throughout the 19th and 20th centuries to the judicious tweets from President Barack Obama leading up to his re-election, leveraging innovative marketing tools to win big is as ubiquitous as kissing babies and shaking hands.

In 2008, then-presidential hopeful Barack Obama gathered an immense number of micro donations through social media, which he rolled over into effective traditional marketing campaigns. In 2012, he wasn’t alone in complementing traditional marketing with more cutting-edge tactics. Republican challenger Mitt Romney employed similar voter outreach and made it a much tighter race than John McCain’s organizers had during the previous election by fumbling opportunities to incorporate new marketing strategies.

The sooner businesses embrace the lessons presidential elections teach us about mixing traditional marketing strategies with newer ones, the farther ahead of their competition they will be. While newsletters, direct mail, brochures and advertisements allow you to deliver your message, social networks like Twitter and Facebook become tools that allow your business to present its casual, relaxed and human side.

New media is built around interaction within the community. Let your supporters work for you. President Obama generated both money and interest by presenting a call to action that involved his supporters spreading the word. There is no better recommendation than that of someone freely and willingly putting you in front of people you might otherwise not have touched.

We’d love to hear how you’re absorbing new marketing strategies into your traditional ones? Tell us about it in the comments section.


Are your e-blasts working?

If you’re like most companies today, you send electronic communications to prospects, current customers and stakeholders.

Recent research from Monetate, an e-commerce software firm, shows that 4.25 percent of visitors who arrive at a website through an email turn into customers. Monetate’s found that only 0.59 percent of visitors who arrived via social media turn into customers.

The lesson? E-blasts – when used properly – yield significant results for your business. Misusing an e-blast can have the opposite effect, however. What are the ingredients for a winning e-blast?

  • Clean copy. Did you edit your copy carefully? Did you overuse exclamation marks? Is your point clear? Is your copy too long? These are important questions to ask yourself before you send an e-blast. A well-edited, concise e-blast will go a lot further than something sloppy. Two paragraphs of copy – a couple of sentences and maybe a few bullet points – is all you need.
  • Clean coding. Make sure whoever puts together your formatted e-blast knows what they’re doing. Be sure to remove [TEST] tags from the subject line. Eliminate sloppy HTML, which usually rears its ugly head when converting Microsoft Word to HTML. Edit the final layout with an eye toward eliminating any errant tags or other bad code that made it into the e-blast. If these types of errors show up, readers will not be impressed.
  • No gimmicks. Don’t promise the moon, and don’t write too aggressively. For example, lead sentences like, “For only $100, you can get …” usually scare people away. While you’re at it, go ahead and remove “free offer” and “risk-free” from your e-blast vocabulary as well. Show that you’re adding value, and let people know you can fill a need.
  • Don’t overwhelm. Aside from managing the content of individual e-blasts, make sure you’re not doing yourself a disservice by inundating subscribers with emails. There is no standard frequency when it comes to sending e-blasts, but a good rule of thumb is a minimum of once a month and a maximum of once a week. The worst thing a company can do is turn a loyal reader into someone who hits the unsubscribe button, and readers frequently opt out of e-communications when companies flood their inboxes.

At the end of the day, a well-crafted e-blast is good for your business and can promote products and services that help your customers. Take these steps to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Have any additional e-blast tips? Share them with us in the comments section below.