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Social:

4 Times You Should Use Social Media for Shopping

Social media sites like Facebook are really pushing the business side of things, hoping to turn SM into a platform for shopping and not just sharing cat memes. However, some industries are doing quite well with social media positioning while others are lagging behind. As a consumer, what’s important for you is figuring out when using social media for purchases is in your favor and when it’s not. It all depends on what you’re looking for and the shopping experience you want.

For example, perusing real estate agents social media sites can give you a more in-depth glimpse of properties available. It’s often easier to navigate than many websites and it’s an avenue to ask questions without feeling pressured into a sales pitch. However, shopping for real estate isn’t the only time when using SM is in your favor. Check out these other industries where social media and shopping makes the perfect match.

1. Boutique retailers

Yes, every business owner should be able to drum up a gorgeous and user friendly website but that isn’t always the case. Using sites like Etsy has revolutionized how boutiques and artisans connect with their audience. As long as you get the one of a kind, quality product you’re after, does it really matter how it happens? Seek out boutique-minded SM platforms for the best options.

2. Restaurants

This is especially helpful if you’re planning your outings in a new city. It’s great to check out a restaurant’s menu online, but if you want to see what the specials are, if there are any events coming up or more photos of what the venue is really like, depend on social media. Plus, you’ll get impromptu reviews from genuine customers.

3. For state of the art technology

Whether it’s a drone or the latest home automation gadget from a startup, not all businesses are big enough (yet) to warrant a full website. In fact, some tech-heavy startups are focusing solely on one or two devices. Instead of building a website for just a couple of offerings, they use social media. Additionally, their audience is often younger and more dependent on social media, so this platform just makes sense.

4. Car shopping

There’s only so much you can tell about a dealer’s inventory from their website. Head to their social media site for more pictures (or to request them) and to connect online without having to deal with a pitch.

No matter what the industry, it’s worth visiting their social media page to see if there’s more (different) information.

Social:

How Twitter Ruined Communication

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There’s a time and place for nearly every social media platform, but as one of the Top 5 most popular SM sites, Twitter’s influence has spread far beyond what anyone imagined. What can you do in just a few characters? It became a challenge that social media users were committed to mastering. Unfortunately, practice really does make perfect and that kind of brevity has become common in everyday speech and other written communication platforms.

Then there’s the hashtag, which has spread not just to written communication but speech as well. Hashtag annoying. What started as a way to promote trends has become a noun in itself, and some younger generations don’t see the pound sign as anything beyond a Twitter-related device. Even though Twitter’s earnings are holding stable (and it’s in no danger of being overthrown right now), maybe there’s a reason why it’s not as solid as it used to be.

Lazy communicators

People, particularly in younger generations, have seemed to develop a fear of talking in person and talking on the phone. It’s why when a crush actually calls you it’s a huge deal or why it’s so common to see people hunched over their phones at restaurants. The recent experiment of one restaurant revealed that while service has remained the same in recent years, people are taking longer at restaurants because they’re wrapped up in their phones and apps.

Everyone needs to check in on numerous SM platforms, food photos need to be snapped, and hashtags need to be used so they can show their on trend. While Twitter certainly isn’t the only SM platform making communication in general subpar, the requirement to shorten words and keep them brief is destroying the quality of written communication. Using “u” instead of “you” might be necessary on Twitter, but it’s not being used just about everywhere.

The demise of the English language

While there are still many people who understand brevities like “u” aren’t actually proper English words, there are some people who consider it valid. If you grew up in the era of Twitter and have been using “u” and hashtags ever since you can remember, why wouldn’t it seem appropriate? English teachers everywhere are #smh, but it’s a very real and sad phenomenon.

If there’s an avenue to doing things easier and with less time, humans will take it. Twitter, of course, can’t be blamed for the general falling apart of communication and the English language. It’s a symptom, not the cause.

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last update: September 19, 2014

Science:

4 Tech Rules for Your Workout

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You want to look like a terminator at the gym because of your perfectly toned body, not because of all the wires poking out from your ears and armbands. Sometimes technology can be a great way to optimize your workout, but sometimes it can distract you from doing your best. How can you strike a balance and use tech wisely at the gym? It’s time to set a few rules.

It doesn’t matter if you prefer a crossfit gym, big box gym or the local hole in the wall boxing gym to get your sweat on. No type of workout is going to be beneficial if you’re too distracted to make the sessions count. Consider adding these rules to your next workout, right up there with your personal water goals and getting in those BCAAs.

1. Do cardio at least once per week with no iPod

However you get in your cardio (treadmill, running outside, elliptical, row machine, etc.), if you’re dependent on having music blasting in your ear, shake things up. Try at least one day per week with no music. Your body will start to respond to other stimuli and you’ll get a break from your addiction. Long-term learning to do cardio by natural outside influences (such as passing cars) or your heartbeat can help improve your workout because the “pace” is always difference.

2. Leave your phone in the locker

If your excuse is that your music is on your phone, get a separate mp3 player with no Wi-Fi access. You’re going to check that text, email or Facebook notification and it’s going to interrupt your workout. It can also distract you as you rush through your last 10 minutes to reply. Unless you’re expecting a true emergency call, it can wait for an hour.

3. Take calories counters, etc. with a grain of salt

Even the most high tech heart rate monitors and calorie counters might potentially be off. They can be used occasionally as a general measurement, but they’re not your workout bible. Instead, rely on how you feel, how out of breath you are and manual heart rate checks.

4. Take out the ear buds

Like at the airport, some people use ear buds as a way to tell people, “Don’t talk to me.” Sometimes you need total alone time at the gym, but if you do this non-stop you’re missing out on something big: the supportive community at your fingertips. You can learn a lot from your fellow gym rats.

Social:

Why Certifications Matter

A piece of paper really is just a piece of paper…until it’s more. Such is the case with degrees, certifications and licensing. No matter what industry you’re in, there are probably a smattering of certifications you can collect, but this doesn’t work like Pokemon. There are options that can truly advance your career, and there are ones that do nothing but waste your hard-earned cash. As a consumer, knowing which certifications are a “must” before choosing a service or product is important, but you also need to know which ones are just fluff.

Unfortunately, this is going to take some research on your part. Just because a company ticks off a seemingly endless list of certifications doesn’t mean anything. The good news is that they do the triaging for you, so start by considering which certification they list first. Is it renowned in the industry, is it required, and/or is it exclusive? If so, then that’s the sign of a company that care.

Vetting out the white noise

Whether you’re thinking about getting a certification yourself, stocking a product that may or may not be certified, or you’re shopping around for the most reliable product/service, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all that white noise. A reputable company won’t just list the certifications, but also provide background information on them including why they’re important. Otherwise, it’s just tacking on a bunch of useless letters after a moniker (what use is “John Smith, MD” is no one knew what MD stood for?).

However, just like when you hire a new worker, you shouldn’t trust any company blindly. Go to the certification official site for yourself, check it out and see just what kind of things are required in order to get certified. In some instances, it’s as meaningless as attending a webinar. In others (like with Microsoft) it can be nearly as daunting as getting a new degree.

From a products standpoint

If it’s products you’re considering, certification is even more important. Whether you’re shopping for a product that’s been certified as green by a certain organization or you’re looking for UL certification for compliancy, this added information is just as crucial as the safety ratings and product reviews. It’s a cheat sheet to ensure you’re getting the best product for the best price.

A certification can tell you a lot about a person or product, or virtually nothing at all. Cross-check, and you won’t just educate yourself but pinpoint the prime choice for you.

Mobile:

Seal the Deal with These 3 Contract Apps

Employment, free-lance, and confidentiality contracts are invaluable tools for businesses that want to thrive while making sure they’re adequately protected. Contract negotiations and signature collection can be a cumbersome yet necessary process before you work with new partners, employees, and freelancers.

Don’t be tempted to skip these procedures, because they can protect you against unpleasant and potentially costly legal repercussions. Here are three apps that can make the contract building and exchange process easier.

1. Shake

The power of the Shake app comes in its pre-set templates, which are designed to help business owners with a variety of tasks. You can choose from basic categories, such as “Buy/Sell,” “Rent/Land,” “Loan,” or “Freelance/Hire” to start building a contract right away.

Next, you fill in the blanks that address the parties, scope of the project, and payment amounts. The documents can be signed digitally on your touchscreen, and then sent to the respective parties, so they can add their signatures to the document.

You can manage multiple contracts from this single app, which ties in with your mobile contacts for easy sharing. This is one of the most user-friendly apps available for contract building.

2. DocuSign

The DocuSign mobile app is designed for businesses that wish to upload custom contracts and collect signatures. You can sync multiple cloud services with DocuSign and pull contracts from several sources, including DropBox, Box.com, Google Drive, and Evernote.

This is a great feature for teams who need to collaborate, share, and manage contracts across cloud systems. You can also use DocuSign templates as a framework for future contracts.

DocuSign is an excellent option for companies that work in enterprise organizations, since your IT department can use strict MDM processes to control workflows and security.

3. EchoSign

EchoSign is a service provided by Adobe. It allows you to upload custom contracts, create editable fields, define signature areas, and send the document out to multiple recipients.

This app syncs with Salesforce, which makes it a great addition to your retail workflow. You can view a contract’s status at any moment, with detailed auditing information, so that you know when recipients have viewed, signed, or declined a contract.

Like DocuSign, this app solution was built with enterprise organization needs in mind.

Contracts play a vital role in daily business operations, and they can protect your company from business litigation and liability. You should work closely with a legal professional as you craft contract documents.

Then you can deploy the contracts with mobile apps to collect signatures with ease.

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Lifestyle:

Choosing the Bus over a Train or Plane

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Bus lines have suffered for many years over misconceptions on the convenience and safety of traveling the highways. The truth is very different from the false perception, especially during the past decade. All bus line companies have done due diligence in reevaluating their customer service, along with upgrading their dependability and enjoyment factors. It is still true that many factors impact an inter-city bus trip. All customers must be considered and stops are scheduled in a way that addresses all traveler needs. But in metropolitan areas, using the bus makes excellent sense when all options are considered. An excellent example is taking a Washington DC to NYC bus trip.

Economics of Choosing Highways over Airways

Flying to a destination can seem to be the most feasible and quickest manner of transporting between cities, but that may not exactly the case. Using a Washington DC to New York City travel plan, it takes just over an hour to get to New York from Washington after takeoff. Depending on the airline and date chosen to take the trip, flight tickets are approximately $175 and upwards to $500 depending on the class. Baggage expense must also be considered in the cost of travel. Traveling by bus is easily a bargain in this choice. In addition, when considering time spent awaiting a flight or unloading at the destination, bus trips to close destinations often take a similar amount of time.

Comparing the Bus and Train

Buses have historically been infamous for delayed arrivals according to the timetable, a rap which flights have also endured. Trains such as Amtrak are usually much closer to accurate because the Federal Railway Administration requires railroad companies to explain in detail exactly why an Amtrak train cannot meet the arrival timetable. Amtrak is a private passenger train company that uses other company rail systems for a fee, so the hosting railway company must comply with the federal regulations for their access charges. Train dispatchers regularly hold freight trains or long periods to allow Amtrak right of way priority. For punctuality, the train would appear to be a better travel choice, but trains still run late and can rarely gain back the lost time. Using DC to New York as an example again, the price of an Amtrak ticket is approximately $100, while a bus ticket is considerably less.

Comfort and Enjoyment

The purpose of the trip can make a big difference. Those who are along for the ride and traveling for entertainment purposes the bus can still be a fun experience. While trains offer more mobility while in transit, such as being able to walk around, many bus line companies have focused directly on improving the entire dynamic of traveling by highway, especially among the newer and smaller bus transportation companies. Many bus transport companies actually sell trip and tour packages with specific destinations along the route. These offerings have become very popular for those looking for a short enjoyable inexpensive vacation trip.

Safety

While air terminals are well documented as overly concerned with safety in the skies, bus lines are no less concerned with potential safety problems. Public bus stations in major cities are also notorious for attracting undesirable types, but many of the newer highway transit companies maintain small independent terminal that allow for greater control over customer safety both on the road and in the terminal. Bus line transportation is clearly on the business incline and are becoming more popular every day.

 

Social:

Build Your Business with a Strong Web Presence

Do you want more customers and sales? Are you trying to gain exposure online? If so, you’re not alone. Millions of companies are competing against each other on the Internet. The World Wide Web offers great opportunities for those who want to make money and reach new clients. The key to success is to build a strong online presence. This involves creating a website and blog, staying active on social networks, and sharing quality content.

If you want to expand your business, go online and make a name for yourself. Promote your brand to the target market, interact with your prospects, and post unique content on your company’s blog. Here are some tips to build a solid online presence for your business:

Set Up a Website

It is estimated that more than 47 percent of small businesses don’t have a site or blog. A professional website can enhance your reputation and give you a competitive edge. About 97 percent of U.S. customers use the Internet to find products and services. Over 61 percent have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog.

Invest in a quality website and promote it on social networks. Business owners who blog generate up to 88 percent more leads than those who don’t. Your website is a valuable marketing tool that can increase sales and put your brand in a positive light.

Optimize Your Site or Blog

Simply building a website is not enough. You also have to choose an eye-catching design and optimize your content for search engines. If you can’t afford to hire a Web designer, use WordPress. This blogging platform includes thousands of free and paid themes that will make your website look amazing. The best part is that it can be installed with one click and then customized according to your needs.

Once you choose a theme and a domain name, search for relevant keywords. Ask an SEO expert to help you pick the most relevant terms. Many freelancers offer keyword research services at competitive rates. When this step is complete, start posting content on your blog. Add your targeted keywords, upload pictures and videos, post infographics, and share your work online. A well-optimized website with quality content will rank high on Google and attract traffic.

Stay Active on Social Networks

Social networking is an important tool for every business seeking to build a strong online presence. Start by adding social sharing buttons on your blog. Create a Facebook page for your company, post pictures and text, and encourage your prospects to become fans. Reward them with free eBooks, bonuses, and special discounts.

Share all types of media, including photos, slide shows, infographics, statistics, and blog posts. The content should be relevant to your fans and help them solve a problem. Be consistent and interact with them as often as you can. Social media gives businesses a chance to show their human face and learn about their target audience. Take advantage of this opportunity and connect with your clients on a deeper level!

Gadgets:

Should You Get an Unlocked Phone?

Unlike most smartphones, unlocked phones aren’t enslaved to a specific carrier such as AT&T or Verizon. They’ll work on any network within the CSM cellular family via a SIM card.

In the US, only H2O, T-Mobile, and AT&T employ GSM networks. Other carriers opt for CDMA signals.

In other words, if you want an unlocked phone, your only options are those previously tied to the three GSM networks in the US. However, that still gives savvy shoppers plenty of options.

It’s legal to purchase unlocked phones with no contract or carrier plan attached, and it can save you a lot of money. You also need to buy a separate SIM card from either a carrier or prepaid company of your choosing in order to activate it.

In many cases, reputable companies that sell unlocked phones also offer SIM cards at a great price. Opt for a month-to-month service to avoid contracts, and rest easy knowing you can pick up a new SIM card anywhere in the world.

Benefits of unlocked phones

There’s no other option for international travelers who want to keep out-of-country costs to a minimum. If you plan to make calls in the country you’re visiting, you need to sidestep those disturbing roaming fees.

With a local SIM card, you get a local number and can use your phone as if you lived in France, Greece, or wherever else you’re visiting. For multi-nation hoppers, an international SIM card offers much lower rates than roaming charges.

However, if you want to call “back home” while abroad, you can simply travel with your US number and make calls as if you were in the US. Calls and texts will cost a little more, but there’s no need to keep changing your number for those who want to call you.

Carrying multiple SIM cards is a boon if you frequent the same international territories. When you have a US and destination country SIM card connected to the same phone, you can take calls via your US number while also receiving calls locally for the best rates.

Better selection and rates

Usually, even after you add in the SIM card, unlocked phones are less expensive. The total phone price becomes subsidized via monthly fees when you’re in a contract.

The initial price might seem like more, but not if you factor in the monthly rate of committing to a contract. Plus, you can always opt for cheaper data or voice plans to save even more. Crunch those numbers and see just how much you could save.

Finally, you’re going to have a wider selection if you go the unlocked route. Carriers have to pick which phones they offer, but that’s not the case with unlocked phones. You can go Apple, Nokia, Samsung, or anything else.

 

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