President Obama with Teacher of the Year

Teacher of the Year, 2014

Today’s blog was supposed to be about my favorite teacher. But I quickly recognized I had more than one. Then I read about the attrition rate of U.S. businesses, thanks to Christopher Ingraham’s Washington Post blog yesterday. So I decided to provide some unsolicited advice to new and current teachers, based upon the Brookings Institution’s latest report.  The report shows that new businesses are failing faster than they are starting. While the BI’s researchers are working on the reasons for this trend, teachers may benefit from pondering the report’s consequences for their current and future students. Here are several possible repercussions of the study’s findings that teachers might help students better prepare for:

1.  Racial and geographic economies will proliferate.   Future workers will find they will be relegated to either industries or services in which their racial and geographic peers predominate. That simply means that the flat-lining of jobs growth will result in fewer opportunities for minorities to break out of traditional employment patterns. Affirmative action aside, it is human nature to hire and promote more of those who look like the boss.  Minorities who dominate particular industries will continue to do so, unless so-called disruptive economics introduces more diversity. Teachers should continue to teach students to be tolerant of differences so they have a better chance to benefit from the global economy.

2.  Technological advances will shrink employment opportunities. Competition for fewer jobs will also mean that students who develop both social, math, and technological skills will fare better in the future. The debate about teaching to standardized tests and teaching students to think critically should be a moot point, based upon the study.  Both are needed. Clearly, future workers must learn early how to practice creative economics, using problem-solving and basic accounting.

3.  Research skills will become as important as social skills.   Google’s search engine makes some of us think research is like slicing a piece of cake. But with an ever-shrinking jobs pool, students who can navigate the Internet to accomplish a strategic goal will be the better survivors. Teachers who understand that will help students immeasurably.  Their students will recognize the power of technology when used as a bridge to communities of people they know how to relate to–no matter their race or locale.  Have them think about ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft as cases in point.

While I have never been a classroom teacher for more than a few months, I know and respect the power of teaching and of being a lifetime learner.  I am grateful to a long list of teachers in and out of the classroom for helping me navigate in our New and Shared Economy.

Advertisements

Jobs Report: Is Tech Part of Our Recovery?

Chart of Jobs Growth in US, 2008-2011
Job growth since 2008 Infographic: Visual.ly
Chart of Jobs Growth in US, 2008-2011

Job growth since 2008
Infographic: Visual.ly

This morning, my WTOP.com SMS alert told me what I used to report every month on the radio: last month’s jobless rate. It’s good news by most standards. Six percent (6.3 to be exact) of people actively seeking work is the lowest rate in 5 1/2 years. Nearly 290,000 new jobs added. All good indicators our economy is bouncing back.

But are Baby Boomers bouncing back, and if so, how? The Urban Institute’s report on joblessness among the 50+ crowd, coupled with a GAO analysis, during The Great Recession painted a pretty dismal portrait of the financial well-being of this pre- and currently retired demographic in the US.

Being a techy Boomer, myself, I am curious about how the tech sector is playing a role in helping my folks out of the most recent jobs rut.  So, this May, I am putting that question out to my network…on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIN and traveling around the country to investigate it.

As part of my personal research, I’d like to find success stories of Boomers using technology to bounce back from a tough financial spot. If you can help with this research, send or Tweet me a link or a personal contact that I can interview anywhere in the country.

And if you’re a Boomer who wants to jump into the tech economy (check out Xconomy.com) to improve your financial position, here are five revenue-creation companies you may want to explore:

 

1. E-Bay

2. Flex Jobs

3. Postmates

4. Thrillist

5. Lyft

Subscribe to this blog, and I’ll help keep you posted on this and other digital cues in the rapidly changing world we share.

Hootsuite is Heaven

It’s been almost six months since Kenneth Piner, a video producer and Northwestern alumnus, advised me about the merits of using Hootsuite to manage my social media properties. Try it, you’ll like it, was the gist of his message. It was advice I filed away for later use.

As in advertising, sometimes you have to hear advice a few times—from different sources–before taking action on it.  Even we media gurus are human. So it was with me and Hootsuite. But this week, I took the plunge. But not before doing a bit of due diligence. As a business, Hootsuite appears to be in a sweet social media spot.  The “eyeballs” that all media covet are in the driver’s seat and publishers of all ilk can’t quite predict where they will be found to cluster next. We know they are scarce for print media, which has led to layoffs of newspaper and magazine journalists nationwide. It’s all part of the so-called changing media landscape.

With social media and other online platforms commanding impressive views, Hootsuite is capitalizing on the commodity of time that its software saves by using a dashboard approach to monitoring activity across several platforms.  Like most upstart media technology companies, Hootsuite also is leveraging its “free” following by offering premium services as a business model.  Targeted to businesses, Hootsuite understands that it’s in a position to advance while the gears of traditional media are “seizing up” as Hootsuite’s CEO put it.

At my level, I’m just happy to have the order of having my social media universe, both personal and business, in one online garage. Now that I’ve tested the waters of Hootsuite, I am a true believer. When it comes to contracting my social media schedule, it’s like heaven.

QR-code: Just because it’s cool?

QR codes, or Quick Response codes, admittedly were hardly on my radar six months ago. But it only took seeing one of the pixelized codes on the back of a Google sales executive’s business card during a recent convention to make me re-visit it as a marketing tool. Communications World published an article about the increasing popularity and uses of the codes in March. But I had not seen them in use first-hand until the small business convention and the direct mail insert I received from a local printing company. That was enough to send me searching for more information about the QR codes and how they can be used in a marketing campaign.

The first reason I consider using new technology is simply because I believe in innovation. New translates to being forward-thinking and creative. Trends, however, come and go. It is important for marketing communication strategists to analyze how we use new technology before we put it in our marketing mix for a client or cause.

Part of the analysis process for integrating new technology puts audience needs at center stage. With QR codes, your audience must have a cell phone with a camera to translate the embedded link or message to the phone. Most people have cameras in their phones, but not everyone. The World Edition of some Blackberrys have no cameras. Of those who have camera phones, how many of them have data packages to access the Internet or check their SMS messages? In considering whether to use Quick Response Codes in a marketing campaign, here are three audience filters I would use before putting them into play.

Is the audience high-technology savvy? If the answer is yes, the audience might be good candidates for offering QR codes as an information dissemination tool.

Are the end users in need of updated or rapidly changing information from a sole source with unique information for their needs? Two scenarios come to mind. In the first, the audience is comprised of air travelers who have boarding passes for a flight. They can capture the QR before leaving for the airport to find out if a flight is cancelled or on time. In the other case, a coupon update for a fast food chain might be worth checking to see if the latest is available for download. In this case, the customer may have an outdated coupon for one offering, but the coupon has a QR that when captured, provides the current coupon of the week or period.

The last filter is audience interaction. Is the audience confined to a small area or group gathering, such as a convention or spread out in rural homes? While QR codes have been used in both instances of audience interaction, their use must be tailored for the group dynamics of the intended audience. At a convention, the sharing of contact information through use of QR codes is fueled by the conversation among a tight-knit group. In a rural area, instructions may have to be spelled out about how to use the QR codes and why.

Based upon my own filter analysis, I believe the Webcomic community that I am helping a client reach might be perfect for QR codes. Comics fans pass at least two of the three filters because they tend to be tech-savvy, and they gather in book stores tailored for comics (or go to comics conventions). Posters and post cards promoting the Webcomic could use QR-codes to drive users to the client’s Web site instantly with the click of a camera. Will they deliver? Stay tuned.

A quick study on QR-codes can be found at http://www.scanlife.com/us/faq-landing.html.

Social Media, No Small Business

National Small Business Week Logo

Cynical readers would be correct to retort under their breath “no kidding” about the widely known fact that social media is no small business. After all, this was the week Time magazine put Facebook center stage with its in-depth look at the mega social media platform’s privacy transgressions. But my focus this Tuesday was the Social Media Forum at the National Small Business Week Conference at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Southwest DC. I went because I always learn some new insight when I attend these free social media forums and webinars. Besides that, I believed that I might gain new insights that could assist with a start-up Webcomics website marketing plan that primarily uses social media to create buzz before its launch this summer. The panel and the small businesses in the audience delivered much more than expected.

Here are the social media insights for marketing small businesses I mined from the forum’s panel:

Think of social media investments to gain customer loyalty and promote transparency in terms of not just ROI, but ROTI (return on time invested.)” –Brian Moran, President, Veracle Media, and moderator for the forum

The bricks to clicks social media platform Yelp is the preferred social media platform for most retail businesses across the country. Businesses on average are spending about $3.60 per fan a year with Yelp.
-–Luther Lowe, business outreach manager for Yelp

Don’t just leave it to the interns. They may not know any more than you do. There was much discussion from the panel and audience about assuming that social media is a young professional’s province. Rather, the consensus was that social media marketing success requires a progressive learning curve from anyone who embraces it, at any age. Social media should be managed as part of a small business’ overall strategic marketing mix. This resonated, especially given anecdotal testimony from one company that adopting social media helped grow business by 30 percent.

Intuit is researching cloud analytics and integration into business ledgers. That means Intuit may soon help businesses analyze how much direct revenue comes as a result of email and other social media campaigns, according to panelist Angus Thomson, head of Intuit’s new social media division. Intuit’s entry into the business analytics side of social media portends social media’s share of the business marketing mix could be huge in short order. (Another sign: Microsoft’s big footprint, integrating social media into Outlook 2010.)

Young consumers are more tolerant of interruptions. That research tidbit from Small Business columnist Rieva Lesonsky indicates online entertainment businesses (like my client’s) may find success with intermittent ads and/or donation offers, especially among younger fans accustomed to mobile communication venues.

Outside of these social media info nuggets, small businesses made clear most are struggling to survive and keenly exploring how creatively they can use the new network of platforms that encompass social media to pull them through.