FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – New App Lets You Make Payments With Nothing More Than A Bump

By: iCopywriter Senior Editor, Heather Price-Wright

We all know that the worst thing about group outings, from ladies’ lunches to happy hour to big birthday dinners and beyond, comes at the end. Figuring out the tab, especially in this day and age, when no one carries cash, can be a massive headache.

Luckily, according to Mashable Tech, app-maker Bump has a solution to that and many other pesky payment problems. The company’s new app, Bump Pay, allows you to transfer money instantly by just “bumping” your smartphone against that of another Bump user. Basically, your phones high five, and the money moves from user to user. The money is transferred via PayPal, and the only fees you pay are those associated with your PayPal account; the app itself does not charge extra fees.

The original Bump app, which lets users transfer photos, contacts and other data between smartphones, has been around for awhile, as has the capability to pay via Bump, but only as a feature in the PayPal mobile app. However, Bump Pay as a standalone service is sure to open up the capability to far more users.

Wondering how Bump can work not just for tricky end-of-the-evening check-splitting situations, but also for your business? Here are a few scenarios in which Bump Pay could prove extremely helpful:

  • Accepting payment at trade shows, fairs and other events
  • Paying vendors or service providers from your business’ PayPal account
  • Allowing for an additional form of payment from customers at your physical shop
  • Eliminating fees from credit card companies by accepting payment in a more direct manner

Our biggest concern with this new app is, of course, security. After all, that’s your money and financial information swirling around in the cloud, just waiting to be bumped. On its FAQ page, Bump assures users that privacy and security are a chief concern and that information will never be shared unless users physically bump phones. However, we’re still a little leery of the whole thing, and will have to keep our eye out, should any security concerns come up as the app becomes more widely used.

Do you currently use Bump? Are you excited about Bump Pay, or worried about the security of your financial info? Let us know in the comments!

Have you checked out iCopywriter.com lately?

Meta-WHAT? Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Meta Tags

By: iCopywriter

When you add the prefix “meta” to a word, you are describing an abstraction of the original concept that completes or enhances that concept. Metadata, for example, is data about data. The term Meta is used for an even more specific purpose in the online world. If you’re involved in online marketing you’ve probably heard the term “Meta tags” thrown around quite a bit. The term is often misunderstood, however, and the tags are often used improperly.

Hopefully this blog will help demystify the concept of Meta tags, what they are, how they are used and what kinds of benefits they offer.

So Just what is a Meta Tag, Anyway?

If you’re confused about what the heck all of this stuff is, you’re not alone. The concept of Meta tags is complicated, but they’re not so complicated to utilize once you know the ground rules and have an understanding of the most recent recommendations in this area. Meta tags are basically just snippets of information in code form that are placed directly between the <HEAD> and </HEAD> tags within a HTML document.

The History of Meta Tags

Meta tags were used a great deal in the 1990s and early 2000s to help build, grow and promote websites with expanding pages. Unfortunately, many webmasters abused Meta tags by including keywords in their meta information that were not related to the website. It was particularly problematic with adult websites that were using unrelated keywords in their meta tags. A pornographic site might pop up when someone searched for a reputable site like the New York Times, for example, because of the tags. This prompted search engines to quit using Meta tags as major search criteria, but there are still searches that read Meta tags to some extent.

The Potential Benefits of Meta Tags

When used properly, Meta tags can help optimize a website and yield positive conversion results, and you don’t need to know how to create Meta tags to benefit from them. There are many experienced professionals who can quickly, easily and affordably update your website with Meta tags. Recommended tags include content type, description and content language (if non-English). Other optional tags include abstract, author, copyright, designer, keywords and title.

The Meta Google Tag

For the best results, many now believe it’s probably a good idea to focus most of your Meta efforts on Google, since it’s the most popular search engine. This online giant offers several Meta Google tag options that can be used to optimize your website for its search engine. They are optional, and many websites rank quite high in Google without using them. If you want Google to read, index and obey a tag, though, it better be a Meta Google tag. Otherwise you’re wasting your time.

 

Some Employers Now Asking for Facebook Passwords (Plus, All the Backlash)

By: iCopywriter Senior Editor, Heather Price-Wright

Would you give a potential employer keys to your house or car, so that they could do some independent snooping before deciding whether or not to hire you?

Even if the career in question were a dream come true in this rocky job market, you’d probably think twice about working for a company that would want to breach your privacy that way. But that’s the comparison being made by at least one expert to some companies’ newest way of vetting job candidates: asking for Facebook passwords.

According to an Associated Press report from last week, some companies, especially public and government agencies, are asking job candidates to hand over their Facebook profile information, including passwords, in order to be considered for positions.

Agencies have reported that anything from photos of illegal activity to potential gang and/or crime affiliations to “derogatory” or offensive postings, if posted to applicants’ social networking sites, could disqualify them for open positions.

Other companies fall short of asking for passwords, but do require that potential employees log onto social networking sites with job interviewers watching or “friend” human resources personnel so material placed behind privacy walls can be explored. Some firms also require new employees to sign non-disparagement agreements stating they won’t bad-mouth their employers online, even on personal social networking profiles.

Of course, the AP story has generated plenty of backlash against the companies in question, including:

  • A strongly worded statement from the mighty Facebook itself, condemning the practice and noting that the company intends to “(engage) with policy makers…to help better safeguard the privacy of our users.” Note: Earlier in the week, Facebook vaguely threatened legal action against the companies in question, but seems to have withdrawn that threat.
  • A request from two U.S. Senators that Attorney General Eric Holder look into whether the requests for passwords and similar personal information break any federal laws.
  • Numerous lawyers and other experts stating that the policy is illegal, a massive breach of privacy and probably against the First Amendment.
  • Bills set to be introduced in several states, including California and Connecticut, outlawing the practice of employers asking for private information about potential employees’ social networking activities, including profile details and passwords.

Suffice it to say that the companies engaging in this practice are meeting with a storm of criticism from all directions.

What do you think? Have you ever been asked to provide information about social networks in a job interview? What did you do? Do employers have the right to ask for this kind of information?

Have you checked out iCopywriter.com lately?

3 Reasons You Need a Blog (and Why Fresh Blog Content Matters)

By: iCopywriter

You’ve probably already been told that your company, whether it cleans carpets, prepares taxes or trains sea lions, needs a blog. Maybe you’ve even got one – complete with content as old as the Internet itself. In which case, of course, the blog is all but useless. In fact, it’s probably even hurting your site rankings.

Having a company blog is important, but it’s not enough. In addition to just having a blog, you must maintain it, with fresh, relevant and lively content posted on a regular publishing schedule.

To find out just how important fresh blog content is, we checked in with our go-to SEO experts at one of our favorite performance Internet marketing and advertising companies, LSF Interactive, to see what they had to say.

Said Hamaid, LSF’s Senior Project Manager for SEO notes, “The time and age where content was just another instrument to improve rankings through repeated submissions is long gone. The search engines have gotten smarter and today, only unique content prevails. Unique quality content is not only good for search engines, but it’s also good for users. Content must be seen as way to captivate and convert your visitors more than a tool to rank.”

Still not convinced? Here are three more reasons you need a company blog, and more importantly, fresh content posted to it.

  1. Interaction With Readers. Everyone knows that the best part of a juicy blog post is the comments section. Whether your posts are stirring up controversy or answering questions about your industry, a blog is a great place not just to talk to customers, but to get them to talk back. And the way to achieve that wonderful back-and-forth is to give your blog readers new, compelling content that they can interact with and comment on regularly. LSF’s Director of Social Media, Fumi Matsubara, gives us the low down: “A regular publishing schedule turns readers into loyal readers.” The least you can do is give those loyal readers something new to share and respond to!
  2. Opportunity to Share What Your Business Does Best. A blog is simply the best way to share the collective wisdom of your company or organization with the customers you serve. From tips on how to care for pets at home from a veterinary office, to fashion advice from a local boutique, there are so many skills, insider tricks and tidbits of wisdom your business has to offer. Regularly producing fresh blog content is the perfect way to get that information into the hands of consumers, and to have them remember your business’ name and function.
  3. Search Engine Rankings Boost. From an SEO standpoint, regularly generating new blog content is simply a must. Notes Matsubara: “Publishing new content on regular basis will help increase the ranking of your website that the blog is attached to. (Meaning, the blog needs to be located at your domain, not on a third-party URL). This is primarily due to the search engine seeing that the blog’s URL is indexing the same as the main website, and associate(ing) the two together. The majority of websites are static, meaning they are not updated regularly. If you think from that perspective, updating your blog, even once a week, can improve your website’s ranking.”

So what are you waiting for? Dust off that old company blog and breathe some life back into it! Your search rankings and, most importantly, your loyal customers will be the better for it.

Need help? We’ve got you covered…iCopywriter’s seasoned bloggers and project managers can help you with everything from brainstorming and researching topics, to creating and managing your publishing schedules, to writing and editing your copy. We’ll even write a free sample blog for you.

Have you checked out iCopywriter.com lately?

 

 

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day–Suing Siri?

By: iCopywriter Senior Editor, Heather Price-Wright

Is Siri all she’s cracked up to be?

According to The Huffington Post’s Tech blog, at least one New York man thinks not – and wants Apple to stop advertising the “voice-activated assistant” as able to perform all the functions “she” does in Apple’s television commercials.

Apple has advertised on its website that the Siri function of the iPhone 4S was released in Beta, meaning users should maybe have expected some bugs and functionality issues. However, the class-action lawsuit complains that Siri’s actual capabilities are drastically different than those advertised, to the point that Apple’s ad campaign for the device is “misleading and deceptive.”

Here at iCopywriter, we were unaware that you could just sue companies for saying their products would work one way, and then having those products work in a completely different way. We thought that was just called “advertising.” In that case, perhaps we should consider bringing class-action lawsuits against:

  • The makers of Bud Light Platinum, for claiming their product has a top-shelf taste, and for giving the misimpression that any hot girl has ever ordered a Bud Light.
  • The makers of Febreeze, for convincing us their product could make a terrifying cat lady/axe murderer’s unfinished basement smell like “lilac.”
  • Subway, for claiming eating fast food sandwiches for every meal could help us look like Tony Parker (and win an NBA championship ring).
  • Pretty much every company or product that has ever used a woman in its advertising, for, you know, making people imagine that women could look like this.

In other words, it seems a little silly to have imagined Siri would be as seamless and user friendly as is portrayed in Apple’s TV commercials, just like it would be a little silly to imagine that lying in a pulsing bed of thousands of marbles is the same as chewing a particular brand of gum. And for the record, while not perfect, we’ve found Siri to be a fairly useful little tool.

What do you think? Should Apple change its advertising of Siri and the iPhone 4S? Or is a little ad exaggeration par for the course in today’s consumer marketplace?

Have you checked out iCopywriter.com lately?

 

3 Ways Pinterest Can Work for Your Small Business

By: iCopywriter

March 20, 2012

Last month, we wrote a blog post introducing (or re-introducing) you to the social media universe’s new darling, Pinterest. Since that initial post, Pinterest has continued to skyrocket, gaining new users and new buzz by the day.

According to a USA Today Money article, Pinterest was third in popularity among social networking sites in the United States, after only Facebook and Twitter, as of last week. That’s an incredible feat, considering that just a couple dozen people founded Pinterest in 2011.

Pinterest is good for more than sharing personal style, recipe, home décor and other visual ideas and inspiration, however. As USA Today notes, the site can also do wonders for your business’ visibility and interactions with potential customers. Here’s how:

  1. Sharing Your Own Material. Carl Christensen, a photographer, told USA Today that, while he was reluctant to use social media to share his artful creations, Pinterest has been the perfect venue for him to connect with potential clients the best way he knows how: through images. By “pinning” his own work on his Pinterest boards, Christensen says he has increased online sales of his work to account for half of his total business.
    Try It Yourself:
    Whether you create art, sell consumer products or offer a helpful service, try pinning your company’s own work on Pinterest. For example, if you design beautiful custom business cards, pin a few samples. Potential customers will take note, re-pin your work and keep your business in mind.
  2. Re-Pin Other Users’ Posts. According to Pinterest, the best way to build up a following on the site is to re-pin images from other Pinterest users’ boards. This creates buzz and draws those users, plus their followers, to your site. The more you draw interested eyes to your business’ Pinterest boards, the more would-be customers you can introduce to your own products or services.
    Try It Yourself:
    Do you own a small market, restaurant, bakery or other food-related business? Consider re-pinning creative recipes you see on other users’ pages. You could even include comments about how to use your products to recreate those recipes, or add beautiful photos of your own edible offerings to the mix.
  3. Link Pinterest to Your Other Social Networking Efforts. According to USA Today, many companies are drawing their Facebook friends and fans to their Pinterest page, thereby making connections with consumers on many platforms at once. For example, Bergdorf Goodman let its Facebook fans finish this sentence: “In the morning I never forget _________.” The retailer then revealed the responses on one pinboard, letting followers see how their answers translated to visual representation.
    Try It Yourself:
    Ask your Facebook followers what they think of (one word, image or phrase) when they think of your company. Then, let them know to check Pinterest to see if their response made it onto the company pinboard, and to check out the other responses, too. This will generate interest on both social networking platforms and help customers feel engaged with your business.

There are plenty of ways businesses can use the magical place that is Pinterest to further their social networking goals; these are just a few. With the creative space provided by a site like Pinterest, the uses are only limited by your imagination.

Have you checked out iCopywriter.com lately?

 

 

5 of the Most Outrageous Stunts Pulled by Companies at SXSW

By: iCopywriter blogger, Kimberly Crossland

March 19, 2012

When products stop speaking for themselves and companies are stuck in an all-too-close proximity, attention-grabbing stunts start happening.

South by Southwest (SXSW) is a conference held each year in Austin, Texas, filled with musicians, artists, techies, startups, bloggers and an all-around large assortment of characters. This year’s conference was no exception, with companies pulling out more stops than ever to gain the attention they were seeking when signing up to attend. With the dotcom boost this year in the number of IPO’s we’ve seen being filed, companies were more eager than ever to get in front of the eyes of potential investors and VC companies that could bring them a fortune.

Here are a few of the craziest stunts we’ve heard of so far:

  1. The HootSuite Bus – Hooters were spotted on Congress and 6th street this year, but not the kind serving delicious wings in brightly colored orange shorts. Instead, these hooters were part of the “HootBus,” which shot “HootSwag” from a “HootCannon.” Those who were lucky enough to receive some of this swag went home with t-shirts and other HootSuite memorabilia – and perhaps a bruise or two from knocking fellow bystanders out of the way.
  2. Fifth Sun Street Dance – Fifth Sun is a maker of angry birds t-shirts. To garner attention, the company dressed half its staff up as pigs, and the others as birds, and had an all-out “West Side Story”-like dance in the streets. This full-blown brawl of pigs and birds, appropriately titled “Shake Ya Tail Feather” was hard to miss, even for non-SXSW attendees.
  3. Americans Elect Boxing Match – This non-profit agency, which is currently running an online presidential primary election, threw down its brand-building tactic in the ring. A boxing match was staged between actors dressed up in elephant costumes and donkey outfits.
  4. Bre.ad Sandwiches – Social media advertising company Bre.ad dropped a good chunk of money on hiring mascots dressed as large slices of blue bread. They encouraged conference attendees to become real human sandwiches and take pictures of themselves between these two oversized slices of bread. No doubt, this will gain some attention in the social media world when people begin posting their human sandwich pics.
  5. BBH Homeless Hotspots – As we wrote about in last week’s Freaky Friday blog, perhaps the most controversial stunt out of this year’s SXSW was the 14 “homeless hotspots” set up around the conference area. BBH hired local homeless people and provided them with the necessary equipment to become human 4G hotspots. Conference attendees could pay the homeless person providing Internet access a fee of their choosing, and connect their mobile devices. This stunt raised quite a few eyebrows and has become one of the most debated stories out of SXSW.

There were dozens of other wild stunts performed by tech startups and other companies to try to gain the attention they so desired in such a crowded field.

What was one of your favorite stunts this year? We’d love to hear about it!

Have you checked out iCopywriter.com lately?

Our Freaky Friday: Weird of the Day

SXSW’s Newest Brainchild: Homeless People as Mobile Hotspots

By: iCopywriter Senior Editor, Heather Price-Wright

March 16, 2012

Practical solution to a persistent problem, or dehumanizing exploitation straight out of a dystopian novel?

That’s the question attendees of this week’s South by Southwest technology, music and arts festival in Austin, Texas may have been asking themselves as they encountered a project set up by BBH, a marketing company based in New York.

The initiative, called “Homeless Hotspots,” is exactly what it sounds like. Twelve homeless men and one woman, all of whom are part of the Front Steps Shelter’s Case Management program, have been equipped with MiFi devices, turning them into living, breathing mobile hotspots. BBH’s Homeless Hotspots website tells conference-goers that they can “pay what they like to access 4G networks carried by (their) homeless collaborators.” The firm prefers that users of the service pay via a PayPal account, so it can track finances. All the money goes directly to the homeless person providing the mobile hotspot. Those interested in the program, but not at SXSW, can also make a donation directly to the Front Steps Shelter on the Homeless Hotspots site.

BBH is comparing the program to the “street newspapers” model, but for the digital age. However, we can also see a few troubling differences between the two projects:

  • With street newspaper programs, homeless people are selling products. In the case of Homeless Hotspots, they are the product. This might be seen as dehumanizing.
  • Having homeless people act as mobile hotspots only underscores the vast gulf between them and the people “employing” them for wireless access. Newspapers are a more accessible, universal medium; mobile devices with access to 4G networks are a hallmark of privilege. There is perhaps too much uncomfortable irony there.
  • While the program is meant to encourage people to interact with homeless people (BBH recommends introducing oneself before logging on), there’s something decidedly un-interactive about standing next to a person and fiddling around online on one’s smart phone or tablet. It’s not very likely to foster communication between the homeless individuals and those to whom they’re providing a service.

However, the program also has its pluses. For one thing, it draws attention, during a gathering of mostly privileged hipsters and yuppies, to an incredibly persistent problem: that of homelessness. It also provides the individuals participating in the program with a way to earn some money and be employed for a few days.

We want to know what you think. Is this a great idea, or a terrible one? We’re on the fence; what about you?

Have you checked out iCopywriter.com lately?

 

 

3 Types of Blog Content Your Readers Will Share

by iCopywriter

Are you in awe at some companies’ and organizations’ ability to “go viral” seemingly overnight? Are you baffled as to how some blogs with funny pictures get millions of viewers a month, while your informative, up-to-the-minute blog about your particular industry is seeing sluggish traffic?

According to a recent blog post by SEOMoz, one way of increasing your blog’s traffic is to produce content targeted toward a demographic (or demographics) likely to share that content. But there’s a delicate art to reaching those hyper-sharers, and it involves creating compelling, viral-worthy and precisely targeted blog posts. According to SEOMoz, here are three types of content sure to generate shares:

1. Infographics. People are crazy about these wonderful mash-ups of interesting information and eye-catching design. Take the USDA’s sexy new “MyPlate” graphic, which replaces the clunky, impossible-to-understand food pyramid with a simple, visually pleasing circular design indicating how much of a person’s plate should be filled with different types of food. While the information might be exactly the same, or even a little bit less specific, the infographic used to convey it has made it much more popular than the original pyramid.

TO DO: Try it on your blog – instead of posting a long string of numbers and facts relating to your industry, make a pretty picture with them, instead.

2. Videos. For an example of this one, we need look no further than the “Kony 2012” phenomenon that has taken the Internet by storm in the last week. The 30-minute video, produced by the charity Invisible Children, has received millions upon millions of hits on both YouTube and Vimeo. It seems all of our Facebook friends have shared or at least seen this video, and the media buzz (and, yes, backlash) it has created has been astounding.

TO DO: So what can your business learn from the Kony phenomenon? Videos are highly sharable, but only if they have certain characteristics to set them apart, namely a highly compelling message and, most importantly, strong production value. Gone are the days of dinky, grainy videos; to compete, your blog must be able to put together something truly high quality.

3. Counterintuitive Lists/Facts. People like to be surprised, and they share information they find genuinely surprising. Foodies will share multiple articles a day about things like “10 Health Foods That Aren’t As Healthy As You Think” (as seen recently on Buzzfeed – peanut butter, you done me wrong). Other groups are just as likely to share articles that disprove or debunk information everyone takes for granted.

TO DO: So try it out – put together a counterintuitive fact list about your industry, and let the shares commence.

Have you checked out iCopywriter.com lately?

OUR FREAKY FRIDAY: WEIRD OF THE DAY

In this age of tech giants like Google and Facebook gobbling up our personal information like it was literal cookies, one app is encouraging that, rather than fight it, we actively participate in the over-sharing of our entire lives.

According to msnbc.com’s Technolog blog, the app, called OverShareMe, can be added to users’ Google Chrome browser as an extension. It then tracks users’ every Google search and broadcasts those search terms to Twitter, via the handle @PlzOverShareMe.

Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how much privacy you actually want to maintain), your searches aren’t announced via your own personal Twitter feed. Instead, when you install the Chrome extension, you choose a personal hashtag, which appears with your search terms on the app’s feed. For example, if we chose the tag #iCopywriter and searched for, say, “Why do people have two nostrils?” (I myself have, embarrassingly enough, Googled that exact phrase), the app’s Twitter handle would read:

@PlzOverShareMe: #iCopywriter Why do people have two nostrils?

One of the most interesting aspects of following the app’s Twitter feed is watching people refine their search terms or jump from search to search, and trying to imagine their thought processes while doing so. In the last few hours, for example, a user with the hashtag #prettyprettyprincess searched for “dr pepper 10 manhattan” and then, presumably because the results weren’t specific enough, “dr pepper 10 manhattan where to buy.” It seems this app, meant to be a cheeky addendum to Google, might actually give the search giant an extremely useful look into people’s search behavior and how they refine and change search terms to find exactly what they want.

The overall point of the app isn’t clear to us; is it a social experiment? A commentary on the culture of data mining and sharing the minutest, most banal details of our daily lives in which we exist? What is it trying to say about searches, about sharing, about privacy in modern life?

We were going to think about those big questions, but we got sidetracked Googling, and then tweeting that we were Googling, “What should I eat for lunch?”

Have you checked out iCopywriter.com lately?