Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Welcome To FourSquare --- Sort Of

As many of you know, I'm somewhat of a "Social Media" junkie.  I Facebook, Tweet, Google, YouTube and all the neat things like that.  One of the things I really like to do is FourSquare.  Mostly it's to compete with my wife and friends for "Mayorships" of various venues.

Image Courtesy of FourSquare

Becoming a "Mayor" means you simply patronize a business and "check in" more than anyone else who uses FourSquare.  In some stores/bars/restaurants you get rewarded for check ins, or become Mayor.  When I had my business, every 3 check ins got you $10 off any computer service, while showing me that you just became mayor got your a free pizza or ice cream treat from my good friends at Breadeaux Pizza.
Now, there are two sides to FourSquare -- The front end and the back end.  I've just described the front end.  People check in and that's about it.
Here's the backend, and where businesses get lost or confused.  Many businesses out there did not set up their location and really have no clue what people are doing when they are "checking in."  However, if they ever DID take ownership, they could get a demographic of their customers -- age, sex, where they are from, time of day they are checking in, etc.  Many don't know how or don't care.
My other big complaint of this is that EMPLOYEES of a business check into their own work locations.  Now, for me to become a "Mayor" of an establishment, it means I patronize their business more than any other customer they have that uses FourSquare.  9 times out of 10, when I PATRONIZE a business I spend money there.  Many times, if I'm not the mayor, I will get other "badges" that show events of the day or trends in my check-ins.
When an employee checks in and gets the Mayorship, it devalues the location as then no other person can get any rewards for checking in, if they offer rewards, and it skews the demographics that the owner is looking at getting.  If Joey the employee is the Mayor and checks in 100 times, the business is not getting any useful data from....it's CUSTOMERS.
When I had a storefront, I could control that through the backend of the program.  I blocked myself, Becky and my other employees from becoming "Mayor."  They could still check in, but they would never become rewarded for it.
Bottom line, if your business is on FourSquare -- USE IT!! Maximize its potential.  Here are some stats from FourSquare:
30 Billion People use it.
3 BILLION check ins per day.
Over 1 MILLION businesses use the business platform part of it.
78,500 Mayors are ousted each day.
Again, it's a gripe I have and maybe I should be doing more to work with businesses about it. If your business wants in and really wants to move forward, then I'd appreciate your email or phone call.  I won't do it for you, but I will put you on the right track.
Patrick Palmer - Mayor at 27 locations all over Iowa!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Do It Yourself Computer Repair -- Not So Fast.

As mentioned in my Monday Morning Memo, I see a lot of folks who want to "Do It Yourself" when it comes to computer repair.  Yes, with some of the proper tools, you can, but when it comes to many of the new viruses and malware out there, it's tough to do and do right.
Here are some tools to use for basic maintenance:
CCleaner -- Use the file cleaning part.  (Download from FileHippo)
Defrag -- In many systems this is already preset for a certain time/day.
Error Checking or Check Disk -- Under tools in the hard drive area.
Updating your virus programs
Updating Flash, Java, Shockwave, Adobe Reader
Reformatting -- usually happens when you make the wrong choices on a DIY project.
However, much beyond that you are in a grey area that I don't even give advice to over the phone.  You see, when I do, then I feel that I'm liable if you mess it up.  Plus, doing a Google Search for some of this may lead you down the wrong path as well.  Folks who run virus/spyware sites are usually pretty good at SEO and making their hacker sites bubble up to the top to make you think that you can trust them to remote in and fix the issue.
Usually, they just get your credit card info and they are gone.
I've used a famous quote a lot, and it fits here as well.  "If you think hiring a professional is expensive, hire an amateur once!"
Again, give The Computer Guy a call if you have issues, I can get the problem solved the right way the first time.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

EntreFest 2013 - A Wrap Up

Ever since 2008, EntreFest has been an annual event I always look forward to.  Meeting new people, hearing speakers that I get inspiration from, mini conferences to learn tools and tricks of the trade and the socialization of like-minded people.
The event has been held in Cedar Falls, Coralville, Des Moines, Dubuque and Ames.  This year it was held in Cedar Rapids.  The UNI Business Division (for lack of a better term) has been the backbone of the event, until this year, when they turned some of the event over to a 3rd party. 
The event started out Wednesday Night with "Start Up Drinks" in the lounge area.  This was hosted by a local Cedar Rapids group, from what I could determine.  It was a nice mixer, with a lot of folks who hadn't signed up for the conference.  At that point, I would have pushed for a sign up, but it wasn't my dog in the fight.  Naturally, they gave everyone a free drink ticket.  Being that the ticket was only for stuff I didn't like to drink, I gave mine away.  I won't go into the issues I had with the hotel bar and restaurant staff, as they later made amends for that.
Thursday started out with 2 opening speakers, both fantastic.  Christian Renaud whose theme of "Quit apologizing for being from Iowa" was heard loud and clear!  People were still talking about it the next day.  A great speaker.  Mary Quass, owns the 7th largest radio network in the US and talked about dealing with people and banks.  Also an interesting "interview style" discussion that was presented.
At this point in time, let me say the Kirkwood food was VERY good.
The breakout sessions were OK.  My favorite was Social Media 101: Followers, Likes, Check-ins and Pins with Macy Koch.  It was basic in nature, but she did cover a few things that had changed in Social Media and that was good to catch up on.  Her company is hosting an event in Des Moines on April 11th and it will be good to go to get more information.
I also went to Tim McDougall's Innovating Inside A Big Company.  Tim previously led the marketing divisions of PF Chang’s Restaurants, The New Orleans Hornets, The Houston Rockets and The Miller Brewing Company, and recently co-founded FusionFarm, a groundbreaking digital marketing start up...housed inside a 130-year old media company!  I liked the stories of mistakes that big companies make and how to learn from them.
Kristen Monroe and I are old pals and usually sit at the same table when we are at events.  If the name sounds familiar, she is my web designer.  She has a million things going at once and it was good to hear here present Getting Things Done, Time Management In A 24/7 job.  She had some technical issues with her computer and clicker.  When you aren't used to a certain system, a glitch can really throw you off your game.  I think Kristen was thrown off slightly, but the information she presented about dealing with your inbox made up for it.
Then we had a pre-supper mixer.  Everyone had a free drink ticket, so I went up to the bar and ordered a mixed drink, then was told the only had beer or wine.  UGH.  I think we are 2 for 2 now on the drink situation.  I think that this should be addressed next year. I gave my ticket to another person and went into supper.
The meal was fantastic and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds was introduced to emcee the pitch off contest where 10 businesses compete to win $10,000.  I know that this is a big deal, but since I had been a contestant in one of these before and had a bad experience (that I won't go into) I ate and went back to my room to follow up with some phone calls I had missed.  I later went back down to the event where people were just at tables talking about what they had learned and socializing.
On Friday we started out with the Biz Info Smorgasbord.  Very valuable for people who have specific questions for various experts.  I had one for an attorney who deals with Copyrights.  These bastards who think my logo (that I own and paid for) is clip art is going to come to an end.  So, we are going to go to work on sending out letters to the people who are using it illegally. 
I had been doing videos during the conference in the absence of "The Brand Chef" as he was missed this year as well, so I had to go to my room to upload what I had done.  I missed a bit of the round table discussion from Chuck Peters, Innovating Inside A Big Company #1: A CEO's Perspective.  I guess I really wasn't in the mood or missed the inside jokes or just didn't care for his "challenges," so I was happy when the phone rang and I could excuse myself from the room.
Mike Draper of RAYGUN T-shirt company made the day a success. What a great speaker!! Humor, participation and a business lesson -- the keys to a good presenter.
I was pumped up after Mike's speech until I went to the next session.  The next session I had really been looking forward to was Social Media 201 and the presenter would want me to mention his name.....  This was to talk about monetising Facebook a bit and do some work with advertising.  I had done some of this before, but Facebook had changed a few things, so I was looking forward to it.  What a letdown.  The presenter struggled, but thought he was all that and a bag of chips.  He left slides off of his presentation, made constant excuses and let some lady in the back interrupt at least a dozen times.  I wasn't kind on his review sheet and left the class early.  
Here's a tip... If you are presenting to a crowd who PAID, then dammit, be prepared and get it together.  This REALLY put a bad taste in my mouth, when I think that I could have been the one to present this topic and would have done a bang-up job. 
When I went to the last event, I was still annoyed and found that the emcee just liked to hear his own voice, which was consistent throughout the two days.  They had a mini pitch off for people who gave one minute speeches.  Yeah, the winner was a gal who would provide a coat check for girls in Iowa City who wander around downtown in the winter not wearing coats so they wouldn't get beer spilled on them.  Boy, I really feel sorry for a bunch of drunk girls who don't want that to happen...NOT. 
There was no prize drawing for attendees and so I left.....a bit down from the last 2 hours of the conference.  I had always left on a high note before thinking "GEE, I can't wait for next year."  But, I didn't have that feeling this year.  Sure, there were good speakers, but something is missing and I've yet to put my finger on it.  I've been to worse conferences...but, I've been to BETTER EntreFest events.  (Remember Dubuque!?)
Again, I love the event concept, I just wish it had gone a bit better for me, personally.  I did think that a full day on Friday was good for people to get their money's worth.  At $119, you can't go wrong.  For beginning entrepreneurs, this is great, but as I walked around talking to people, there aren't a lot of repeat customers.  I think most of the people I met were first timers, and a few second timers.  I had been there six times and that's how much I believe in it. 
Five tips I would give as solutions to fix attendance.
1.  Change the date not to conflict with any high school state tournaments.
2.  Give a discount to chamber directors and development directors -- they need to be here.
3.  Require at least ONE PERSON in each pitch off team to be registered for the event.
4.  Bring back someone like "The Brand Chef" who is doing interviews, live streams or something to promote the event as it is happening. 
5.  Take it back to Des Moines or Ames every other year.  They will kill it if it goes to Council Bluffs, Sioux City or the Quad Cities.
Again, I will plan on EntreFest 2014...and I will promote it, but don't let me down.