Category: Review


Atlas Robot

(Credit: CNET/DARPA/Boston Dynamics)

For those of you who follow #SmuttyCat, you know his views on robots.  What with Skynet-like tech coming out every day, we need to be prepared to defend humanity.

Now, CNET informs us that Terminator-like robots are a reality, not fiction anymore.  The new Atlas has human based look and abilities, articulated fingers and… opposable thumbs!  Now that’s scary.

Atlas is designed for repair, search and rescue and disaster clean up and recovery operations.  It can lift and carry, climb, use tools and work in areas hazardous to humans.  Atlas can even boogie, but the rhythym needs work.

Review the video and let us know what you think in the comments.  Is Atlas friend, foe or potential exterminator of humanity?

Social Media graph

Credit: Custora

Everyone knows you can’t be in business without a social media presence.  Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn are absolute musts to engage your audience and expand business presence.

But did you know that good ol’ e-mail marketing still beats the crap out of all platforms in actually making sales?

According to CNN Tech “Custora found that customers who came to retailers from search were more than 50 percent more valuable than average” and, more importantly, “E-mail customers were nearly 11 percent more valuable than average

Why?

Possible reasons; people want to be active purchasers, not sheep being force-fed useless stuff.  Social engagement creates closeness with current and past customers.  Trackable purchasers are more likely to be new customers.  Engagement is about conversation, the brick and mortar equivalent of “I’m just looking“.  It becomes a way to turn browsers into buyers, but is a slower process.  And finally, social engagement is about awareness and learning.  Social media platforms let followers know about you and your business reputation and expertise.  These things all lead to sales eventually, but it is almost impossible to track this behavior.  Click and buy behaviors track directly.

Customers may use a search engine to find your site after following you on Twitter for 6 months.  But now Google search gets the credit for making the sale that you have “massaged” for months.  So don’t drop or neglect your social media.  Redirect social marketing energy.

Action Plan

So, what does this mean for the small business owner?  First, put your social media specialists’ hours into cultivating and maintaining a robust email list.  Right now.  Craft and execute regular e-blasts to your list and post to other platforms on the benefits of subscribing to your e-blast.

Next, keep your social media posts focused on your goals.  If it is to drive traffic to your website, post links to interesting information on your site.  (You do have interesting information on your site, don’t you?  If not, contact DKemp Designs right now for help).

Finally, SEO is king.  Work on your search rankings to get them and maintain them.  Ironically, social media is good for this.  So have your social media person work on making your company a household word with posts and web content.

Social Fights Back

Don’t think social media is taking this sitting down.  Twitter and Square have joined to create product cards that essentially act as instant ways to purchase products posted on Twitter feeds.  The product cards can also be posted to other platforms such as Pinterest.

This new model of selling directly through social media platforms will not only create opportunities for entrepreneurs, but allow business owners to track their sales better.

Let us know in the comments what tools you use to track sales.

Continuing the current trend of multi-use tech, Samsung has just announced the Ativ Q, a hybrid laptop and tablet that takes multi-tasking to a new level.

The Ativ Q is a 13 inch, Intel powered tablet with a swing out keyboard that doubles as a stand.  It runs Windows 8 (full version, not RT) and Android  Jellybean.  And if that’s not enough for you power users, it can run both OSs side by side.

Whew, that’s a lot of multi-tasking even for Techsnoop.  With 4GB of ram, it should be fairly speedy compared to other tablets.  It also comes with 2 USB ports and a nini-HDMI port for ultimate connecting.

The trade off, (there’s always a trade off in tech) is the thickness (13.9mm vs 8.2mm for the Tab 3) and weight (1.29kg compared to 550g for the Tab 3).  But, if you need something a little more robust than a normal tablet, this may be the Lablet for you.

Take a look at the video and let us know what you think of this fab new machine.

 

socialbar_buttonsSocial media is changing.

From Facebook’s new feed to LinkedIn’s revamped interface, the look and function of social media sites is changing.  In addition, engagement trends and fan behavior are changing.  What does this mean and how does the small business or freelancer keep up with these changes?

Strategy

Everything in social media boils down to strategy.  No matter the changes on the platforms, small business owners have to keep their focus on the end game.  Your strategy determines what media and platform you use to engage with your target market.  Keep up to date with information specifically relating to your market, not the multiple social media networks.  Find out when and where your market chooses to engage and what content they prefer.  Focus your efforts on meeting the audience needs.

Engagement

Yes, you need to sell stuff.  There is no other way to make money, period.  Social media is not a sales venue, rather an opportunity venue to introduce your business, the business values and the benefits to your audience.  Compare it to a demonstration or free sample.  Serve content your audience will care about and share with others.  That’s engagement.

ROI

Ditch the ROI of social media.  There are many tools and methods that claim to measure the ROI of social media.  None are completely accurate.  Rather, understand that social media is a reputation tool.  Reputation cannot be measured, but proves invaluable when customers make a purchase.  And is priceless when gone.  Social media used effectively, establishes you as an expert in your field and builds confidence in your audience when interacting with you.

Marketing vs. Social Media

Marketing is showcasing your product or service.  Shining it up and parading it to the masses and begging for approval and purchase.  Or, creating a desire so strong the public feels they cannot live without your offering.

Social media is personal.  Who are you.  Why should I trust what you are offering?  Social media answers these questions in subtle ways.  How fast and satisfactorily do you answer customer concerns?  How durable and reliable are your products and services?  Social media allows you to operate transparently and build confidence in you.  It speaks to morals and values.

Gimmickless Marketing

Fans of brands on social media like to be entertained, but will quickly turn on gimmicks.  There’s a fine line between cute and gimmick, but brands must master this.  Until a small business has enough capital to hire professionals, it is best to stay away from anything that could be a gimmick.  Be honest, open and you will build a following.

SmuttysocialmediaA Picture…

In social media, a picture may be worth a thousand words, but a meme or video is priceless.  Serve up bright and compelling visual content that can be shared and re-shared.  Keep copy snappy, short and relevant.  Use metrics to post at the appropriate times of day for your audience.

Get Help

Finally, if all else fails, hire help.  Social media is part of business branding and cannot be left to wither.  If there is no one in your business who can successfully take on the social media duties, hire an intern or new business.  This is a win-win.  They get experience and a portfolio, you get affordable expertise.

socialmediaIf you are a small business owner, reaching the maximum audience is critical to success.  Without the budget for splashy TV ads and mass mailings, social media is the great equalizer.  Developing a laser targeted social media strategy is the key to leveraging this powerful tool.

First decide what audience you want to reach, then research the metrics for the various platforms.  Google has a wealth of website tools to track traffic and research SEO.  Create a message that can be communicated quickly and easily but encourages interaction and follow up.  Choose a tool that can manage your messages and your interactions without taking all your time.  After all, you have a business to run.

Equally important to your marketing efforts is your digital footprint.  How easy is it for customers to find your business and are the search results accurate?

  • Track your digital reputation by making frequent internet searches for your business name.
  • Note how many links come up and what rank they are.
  • Make sure all links are yours and are positive.

If your customers can’t find you, you lose sales.    Contact the search engine to remove any that are not you.  Yes, spammers will hi-jack your business name to re-direct traffic to their sites.

One great tool is Brand Yourself a web app that allows you to control what links appear in search listings for your business.  By following a number of steps, Brand Yourself walks you through getting useless links away from your search results.  This allows your positive links to rise higher on search rankings.

With both free and paid versions, this is the must-have app for small business and freelancers.

Next, choose one or more management tools to keep up with your social media news, followers and postings.

communit2Commun.it is a good product if you are unfamiliar with Twitter and trying to get the hang of who to follow, who to engage, who to list.  The dashboard gives views of your followers, engaged Tweeps and groups.  Recommendations are made for follows, unfollows, thank yous and engagement.  There are free and paid versions so you can try it out to see if it meets your needs.

Crowdbooster is a good tool for managing both Twitter and Facebook pages and multiple accounts.  It tracks growth, engagement, allows you to schedule tweets and posts and stats can be exported.  There is a free trial period, but no free version.

Let us know in the comments if you have a favorite tool so we can check it out.

HackerToday’s post deviates a bit from the norm, but Techsnoop believes that small business owners should learn from the mistakes of large business.  Small business owners have thin margins for error so it pays to keep an eye on and learn from, Big Biz.

During the late 80s and early 90s, many employees explored flexible work options with employers to assist in balancing their work and family responsibilities.  One option was job sharing where 2 employees would share one full-time job.  Another was the ability to complete work tasks from home.  The work from home option required a solid plan on the part of employees where they could demonstrate responsibility and capability to actually be productive outside the office.

Once it was proven that employees working from home were actually more productive than those in the office, employers embraced this option on a larger scale.  Not only was it good for productivity, it allowed businesses to increase staff while keeping square footage overhead low.  A true win-win policy, work from home allows employees to accept smaller monetary compensation due to lower commute, lunch and wardrobe costs.  In a flat financial economy, both business and staff are able to reduce costs and exist on lower margins.

Fast forward to 2013

As more start-ups and small businesses use work from home policies to recruit top staff and keep overhead low, Yahoo bucks the trend and decides to eliminate this valuable policy.  The official word is that the productivity of some work from homers is low.  However, this “toss the baby with the bathwater” management approach has been proven to be unsuccessful.

When a business has under performing employees, managers need to directly meet with offenders armed with an objective list of actions that are not meeting standards.  A discussion then needs to outline the expected corrections, acceptable outcomes and results of meeting or not meeting the targets.  The manager then sets the target date for the improvements to be reached.

Should the targets not be met, the employee is let go.  Period.

When a company tries to correct individual behavior by imposing changes on an entire group, the employees who are not abusing the policy become upset and their productivity drops.

Those employees who in good faith, took a work from home position and are meeting and exceeding productivity levels, are being punished.  Even the most faithful will suffer from a morale drop and a feeling that they are being cheated or unfairly punished.  When employees feel they are not being equitably compensated, they will try to level the playing field by reducing productivity or other behavior.

No one likes to be group punished for the errors of others.  Yahoo, take note; this is a dangerous path.  Your superstar workers will be disgruntled and start looking to move to the competition.  Additionally, this move does not address the actual problem; low productivity of some workers.  Just being in the office does not raise productivity.  What actually will happen (Techsnoop predicts) is that the slackers will find ways to make their problems seem to be someone else’s fault.  Dissention will grow in the ranks and a toxic environment will ensue.

Lessons Learned

One way small businesses can keep their costs low is to use independent contractors whenever possible.  These freelancers require no benefits, pay their own taxes and are highly motivated to complete projects timely and professionally.  But if you are successful, at some point you will need an actual employee.  An employee is one whose schedule and duties are directed by the company and/or manager.

The ability to work from home, at least some of the time, can be a big selling point for a job with a company that has fewer benefits and lower payroll capability.  This nets you higher quality workers for lower wages.  Technology has made work from home jobs a great option for workers and employers.  Employers who choose to go backwards with options reveal a culture that will drive away the talented and creative workers needed to be successful.

htcEVO4gLTELosing your technology gadgets just got a whole lot easier.

Polytron Technologies has made the invisible smartphone a reality and next will come screens, laptops and tablets.  While this technology was fun to watch in Ironman and The Avengers, in practical everyday use, invisible smartphones are going to be a problem.  Techsnoop already has enough problems finding the phone and laptop.  How many of you have to have another person call your phone to find it?  Now, compound this with the phone being invisible.  Whoa, do we really need this?  We’re going to need to lojack every device.

But, the tech is here, therefore it will be used at some point in production.   Maybe someone will develop a voice activated retrieval system.  Hmm… Techsnoop needs to get busy.

Let us know if you think see-through tech is a good idea.

Multi-ScreenIf you are an avid eBook reader like Techsnoop and use several sources, it can get very frustrating trying to find a particular book.

Well along comes Calibre an eBook reader, manager and converter.  The Calibre application can read nearly any format of eBook and even convert from one format to another.  This works for books, comics (yah!), news and magazines.  If any of your books is missing data or covers, you can edit the metadata to add this information.  But the best thing of all is not having to search through 3 or more applications for a book.  You can add them all to Calibre and browse in one window for your next great read.

Calibre works with all readers, PCs, phones and tablets.  Calibre has all the usual functions such as resizing text, but it also allows you to tag books for even more searchability.

And the most important, it is FREE.  But consider donating to the creator as this is too great to lose out on.

Happy Reading!

AkashTabletChristmas has come and gone and many children did not get the hoped-for iPad.  Well parents, looking forward to birthdays and graduations to middle school, you may have a more affordable choice.

DataWind has developed a second generation low-cost tablet to be sold for $40.00.  Primarily directed at developing nations for educational purposes, this could be a game changer in the tablet landscape.  If it can be reasonably sold even with minimal specs for $40.00, other affordable tablets could appear here in the US.

In India the government has committed to paying half the cost of the tablet so families can outfit children for only $21.00.  However in countries like the U.S. it will cost about $64.00.  Don’t complain.  Compared with $400 to $900 for a high-end name brand tablet, that’s chump change.  Or the cost of about 18 medium lattes.  Hmm… priorities, priorities.

With specs like a 1GHz Cortex A8 processor, 512MB of RAM, and 4GB of memory (with a micro SD slot expandable to 32GB ) and a 7-inch capacitive display with  800×480 pixel resolution it makes a great choice for parents to get for younger children.  If it is damaged, it is cheap enough to replace without raising your blood pressure.

Let’s all wish the Aakash from Datawind well.  It’s in our own best interests.

If you like to be on top of the latest in technology, here is a round-up of the most useful items coming out soon.

Human-technology interfaces are undergoing upheaval.   The mouse is dying and the physical keyboard may be next.  Touch screen and gesture based technology is growing fast.  Now LuminAR has developed the light bulb as touch screen interface to be placed anywhere.  The projection creates an instant display that interacts with user gestures.  It can be used as a display or to scan and send documents.  The bulb will be able to be placed in any lamp as plug and play with your wireless network.

For on-the-go pet owners Pintofeed lets you feed your furry family from your smartphone.  There is a feeder that can be programmed manually or, with a downloadable app, can be remotely programmed to kick out a half-cup of food for Fido or Felicity.

 

More human-machine interface technology comes from the portable, virtual keyboard which can be used with any device;

 

Samsung is on fire with great tablets, smartphones and now the man-cave dream; an 85″ ultra HD TV with 8 million pixels.  Yes, 8 million.  If money is no object, treat your hubby to ultimate bragging rights this Christmas.

Parents everywhere will appreciate the Owlet baby monitor which straps onto baby’s foot and monitors heart rate and blood oxygen levels.  An alert is sent to your smartphone if there are changes.  Created to give parents extra response time in case baby stops breathing.  Not yet ready for production, it will bring huge peace of mind to parents everywhere.