Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Testing New Gogo Text & Talk Service at SXSW

gogo flying lab
By Marsha Collier

Duty Calls. When an email arrives inviting you to join the likes of Bell, Edison and Marconi, you definitely need to read it. I was lucky enough to be one of the first to use Gogo’s new Text &Talk service on Gogo One, the company’s “flying test lab.”  Not only would I have that honor, but I was to be part of the first in-air BBQ food truck with incredible Texas barbecue from Keith’s BBQ of Austin.

The Gogo twin jet is a Canadair Challenger 600 flying test lab, and features their latest Air To Ground system (ATG-4), along with our business aviation system, Iridium phone service, Inmarsat Swift Broadband satellite service and the Gogo Vision entertainment system. I had to poke around and see where the magic happens. Across form the lav was a closet, filled with the latest in technology.
We were given the tail number of the plane so we could log on to to track our progress as we flew at 600 miles per hour, 30,000 feet above all the revelers at #SXSW in Austin.  Alternatively, I could log on to the Glympse app, which would have allowed me to send real-time location information and estimated time of arrival with anyone while up in the sky. After sending a Glympse of your location to your earth-bound friends, you can shut down your mobile device and your friend or family member will remain updated with your location through the duration of the flight.

I shared pictures and tweeted, when Brad Jaehn, Gogo’s Vice President Product gave me a quick demonstration that I uploaded from the flight to Instagram. (OK, a hand held microphone would have definitely been a plus). The Gogo connection to ground-based cell towers (via several antennas on the underside of the plane) made this a flawless, immediate upload.

Gogo’s network services passengers with Wi-Fi enabled devices to get online on all domestic AirTran Airways and Virgin America flights and on select Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways flights – as well as on thousands of business aircraft – bringing the total to more than 6,500 Gogo equipped aircraft to date.
We live in amazing times and I’m grateful to watch all this innovation.
In response to a question on this post, at left is a picture of the antennas on the bottom of the plane.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tonight is the Shorty Awards Deadline - Please Vote

The +Shorty Awards are like the Oscars/Emmys/Grammys for social media and I am proud to have been nominated in the #BizAuthor category. It means so much to me that people care what I have to say.
"Influence is only the passing of enthusiasm. I hope that you know how enthusiastic I am about what I do."
There are two winners in each category. One for the highest popular votes and one judged by the #ShortyAwards academy. Voting ends on Tuesday and must be placed with specific verbiage shown on the site.

If you have a Twitter account, I'd be honored to have your support. Please go to and vote in the #BizAuthor. 

Thank you so much - have a great day!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

USPS Price Hike Hits e-Commerce: Compare USPS, FedEx, UPS [INFOGRAPHIC]

If you're an online seller: eBay, Etsy or website vendor, be prepared to get a kick in the wallet. On Sunday, January 26, new pricing comes into effect.

Our customers all want free shipping but the latest pricing for the USPS may force you to raise your product selling prices. What do these new postage rates mean for your online business (besides higher prices)?
  • Flat Rate Priority Mail envelopes stay the same price as in 2013  
  • Reduced minimum volume requirement for Priority Mail high volume discounts (CPP and CPP Cubic)
  • New Zone 9 created for the Freely Associated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, and Palau
  • No Commercial price increase for First-Class Package International Service
  • Electronic USPS Tracking International Service expanding to additional countries
  • New $0.01 discount for First-Class Mail Letters (up to 3.5 oz.) when PC Postage or Meters are used
The folks at Endicia made an easy-to understand pdf outling the 2014 USPS price changes. You can download this valuable information here.

They also came up with this spiffy infographic; comparing average package prices between USPS, FedEx and UPS rates.

Click image to see a larger version
2014 USPS Postage Change Infographic
Shipping Battles 2014: Price Change Comparison Charts - USPS vs. FedEx vs. UPS
via Endicia

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Earthquake Awakening In Northridge: 20 Years from the Epicenter

On Sunday, January 16, 1994 it was what some call “earthquake weather.” When hot, dry Santa Ana winds scorch the Los Angeles area with temperatures reaching into the 80s by day and plummeting into the 40s at night. Earthquake weather is apocryphal, but those who have lived here believe in it, even vaguely, as there is no other explanation for why the quakes occur.

I was a single mother with a home based business; doing advertising and marketing for regional shopping centers and local businesses. The next day was Martin Luther King Day and my 12 year old daughter would have the day off from school. We had just come home from a mini road trip to Solvang, so she decided to spend the night in my bedroom.

At about 4:31 am (04:30:51 to be exact), I woke up to the sound of my daughter screaming, “Mommy, mommy we are going to die!’ I opened my eyes with a start to see a 32” old school CRT TV (which weighed close to 100 pounds) fly up in the air and crash on to the facing wall. I reached for my glasses, while yelling to my daughter to roll off the bed and stay as close to the bed as possible (a highly debated safety technique called “triangle of life). 

On my way to the floor, outside the window, I saw a pole mounted electric transformer sway at least 3 times at a 40 degree angle until it loudly exploded. I told my daughter not to move and tried to reassure her it would be over in a minute — I while I blindly clawed the floor for my glasses.

There was a loud rumbling, as if a train was tunneling beneath us and the house came alive with sounds of its’ own. The wood frame groaned, pictures and mirrors were falling to the floors and breaking. Crashing of heavy objects could be heard from other rooms.

We held tight, shouting phrases of faith to each other that it will be over soon (for the full 30 seconds or so) until the shaking stopped. What we didn’t know then, was that our home was at the epicenter of the 6.7 magnitude Northridge earthquake. In a panic, we both tried to find our glasses in the pitch black of pre sunrise to no avail. After a few minutes we decided to make a dash into the backyard.

Then, at 4:39 am, a 4.5 aftershock struck. Aftershock is the term used by seismologists to describe the smaller earthquakes that follow the initial one. This was the first of 2,929 aftershocks within the following three weeks through February 6, 1994. It felt like there was one every few minutes. The exact data from CalTech can be seen here and here

We froze on either side of the bed. The noises seemed to be dying down but we were paralyzed with fear. 4:40 am; another aftershock. This time a 4.8 and one minute later, a 4.0. I can only give true magnitudes from the CalTech data, because when you are on top of the quake you experience something you never thought possible. The earth was moving, this isn’t supposed to happen. Combine that with terror and you have a life changing experience.

There was a sliding glass door in my bedroom, leading to the back yard. I guess I didn’t lock it that night because our neighbors, three strapping Cal State Northridge University students, opened the door and yelled to see if we were all right. We weren’t. Neither of us could focus properly, as our glasses became part of the rubble that occupied my bedroom floor. They grabbed us both and pulled us up to run out of the house and on to the street.

Standing up and running was not an easy task. When the ground moves you develop a wobbly type of motion (earthquake) sickness. When you try to move you sway as if the earth is still moving. This has been dubbed by the Japanese as “jishin-yoi” or "earthquake drunk" an unsettling feeling very much like the way some feel when they have stepped off a ship.

We ran, nevertheless, out on to the sidewalk which was beginning to overflow with neighbors in underwear and pajamas and their pets. Just in time for another aftershock.

Looking down the street in pre-dawn light, I could see fires in the distance. There were sounds of explosions and emergency vehicles with sirens blaring. I held my daughter tightly. We hunkered in the street, not knowing what to do or where to go. Friends who worked at the university or the mall stopped in front of our house to be sure we were OK, and then drove off to see how their offices and buildings had fared.
About half a mile west was one of my clients, Northridge Fashion Center and a half mile east was Cal State Northridge. The mall sustained so much damage (a department store and parking structures collapsed) that they could only reopen with half their stores a year and a half later. The University sustained an unimaginable $400 million dollars in damage. They were up and running within months, though, see Cal State Northridge Earthquake Recovery Bulletin.  
After we regained some level of composure by talking to the neighbors, the cold of the night before was making us shiver. I had to go back into the house to get blankets or something. A neighbor went with me, back through the gate and into the bedroom. After I retrieved our glasses, we ventured into the rest of the house to view the damage.

The wall from my bedroom to the living room had been a photo wall, covered with framed pictures for a length of ten feet. There were no photos on the wall now, just a hallway floor stacked with broken frames and shattered glass. The glass crunched under our feet as we walked.

Walking into the living room, it was clear that the furniture had skated across the wood floor. The contents of a bar spilled out and broken bottles had spewed liquor everywhere. Looking up, I saw the mantel had flown off the fireplace. I started to shake, perhaps I was going into shock, and my neighbor wanted us to go back out, but I had to see the kitchen. 

“Seeing” the kitchen was all I could do. I couldn’t go in. The floor was covered with at least of foot of broken everything that had jettisoned out of the upper cupboards and pantry. The oven door was open and my (now almost empty) double-door refrigerator had fallen open and was precariously leaning on the wood dinette table. Its contents joined the cacophony of broken dishes and canned goods on the floor. I had made some ranch dressing from scratch the night before. I guess that bottle launched the furthest as ranch dressing was splattered all over the opposite wall.

I grabbed a portable radio, opened the front door and delivered glasses and blankets to my daughter. Several helicopters appeared, circling our neighborhood, going back and forth to the fires in the east and the mall to the west. Smoke and dust filled the air. We had no real idea of what had happened or what was about to happen. So sitting on the front lawn, I turned on the radio while sirens blared around us.

The news was in full emergency mode. Neighbors told us there was no electricity or phone and that we had no water. There were announcements on the radio to let residents know that “if” you had earthquake insurance (I did), that the insurance companies were setting up tents to help out the insured. I went into the house and got us clothes. We went to survey the damage.

A block away, the corner of Reseda Boulevard and Plummer Street was full of police and fire vehicles. We walked closer — this picture will be in my mind forever — and were struck frozen at the sight of rescue workers puling people from an apartment building. Residents of the first floor were crushed when the second and third stories of the building collapsed upon them. Some of the people coming out were moving, some weren’t.

The next hours, days and weeks are a blur. I know that we got in the car and took charge. Things I can remember?
  •  I walked around the house and took pictures of the damage. 
  • We went to the Allstate Insurance tent and they gave us emergency money. (I no longer have earthquake insurance because after the quake the deductible went up to $200,000).
  • REI was about a mile north. We drove up there for emergency (camping supplies). The ceiling of the store had caved in. The manager stood outside with another employee and a card table. I told him we needed a tent, sleeping bags and water purification kit if possible. He ran into the store and got us everything we needed and more.
  • Looking for food, we drove to the supermarket. Their refrigerators and freezers were not working and they were selling food in front of the store. We bought an entire ham from the deli department (I figured it had plenty of preservatives)
  • There was no water. Period. The Red Cross was taking care of their workers and we bought bottled water from scalpers who drove up from unaffected parts of the city. We paid up to $10 a gallon.
  • When we went back to the house we saw that the half where the dining room and kitchen had fallen off the foundation. I don’t remember the angle, but a ball rolled very quickly.
  • Our back block wall was at an angle and the city had contractors tear it down. We went to the lumber yard and bought chicken wire (hey, no judging) until we could get someone to put up a chain link fence.
  • News crews and their camera people scoured the homes on our block. I stood outside like a carnival barker offering “B-roll” of a wrecked house in trade for bottles of water. We got plenty of water.
  • We camped out in a tent and cooked whatever we ate on a Weber bar-b-Que.  I’ve been a Weber owner ever since. On the other hand I hope I will never camp out again.
  • One of the aftershocks was so strong that, while sleeping, I flew out of a banana lounge chair on to the ground.
  • The local “Northridge Pharmacy” pharmacist owner, Barry Pascal, realized his customers needed their medicine. He set up a table in front of the pharmacy, running in to get needed medicine and giving it to his customers that signed IOUs on a note pad.
  • There was no coffee.
  • Brent’s Deli owner, Ron Pascal, fed hundreds of emergency workers during the many hours after the quake.
  • My clients who were not destroyed needed me to design some “Re-Opening” ads.  I went into my garage (which had been professionally reconstructed as an office) only to find the ceiling had collapsed and monitors had strewn everywhere. I shoveled off a spot. Repositioned the computer (it all still worked – which is why I’m a fan of Sony to
    this day) and cranked out some work.
  • T-shirt vendors became a common sight, selling commemorative “Northridge Earthquake” souvenirs.
  • To defray some of my construction costs, I designed a logo to to go on a coffee mug for the drilling contractor (notice Collier Company in the lower left of the design).
The city engineer crew “green tagged” our house, deeming it safe to live in. But major repairs had to be made. The repairs and interior damage totaled close to $200,000 in the end. We had to retrofit the house.

After repairing the house, (within a year) we moved to another home in Northridge. Prices had plummeted with people almost abandoning their beautiful homes on large lots. We purchased a severely damaged one and with the help of structural engineers, a 90 page engineering report and a great contractor we rebuilt the new house from the ground up. Our home is built on caissons with steel and concrete bored over 30 feet into the ground. This one isn’t going anywhere.

I figure lightening won’t strike twice. I hope.

If you have a Northridge earthquake story - please add it in the comments? I would love to read them.

  • Time: 4:31 am PST 
  • Date: Monday, January 17th, 1994 
  • Magnitude: 6.7 
  • Epicenter: 11.5 miles beneath the San Fernando Valley along a hidden fault. 
  • Aftershocks: 2,929 occurred during the next three weeks. 
  • Deaths: Believed to be as high as 72 
  • Injuries: Approximately 9,000 
  • Damages: estimated at $20 billion. 
  • Damage occurred up to 85 miles from the epicenter 
  • Felt 220 miles away in Las Vegas, Nevada
 © Marsha Collier 2014 - You are welcome to use photos. Please attribute to Marsha Collier and link back to this post.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Why Bother About a Social Media Policy? Think Twice

You have a business. You're engaging on Social media. So what next? In light of the many social PR fails, consider a policy for your employees.
If you intend to promote your brand and interact with customers through social networks and social media channels – and I highly recommend that you do – you must realize your employees will be there as well, with their own personal accounts. There’s no reason not to encourage your employees to explore and engage in social media communities online, but remember, they are also the face of your company to all their friends and associates – as well as to the customers they know. What they say online or the type of photos they post on their personal accounts may reflect, albeit in a roundabout way, on your business. When they directly talk about you or your business, it will have a cause and effect relationship.
It is your job to guide your business’s online culture and protect your brand’s online persona. Provide guidelines for your employees in the form of a Social Media Policy. This written document, similar to other codes of conduct you have for employees, will let them know what type of behavior you expect from them online and any limits as to what business-related information they can share in the public stream.
Here’s how one of our nation’s biggest companies handled it. Back in 2009, before most people thought about setting guidelines, Adam Brown broke ground by developing a 4R social strategy (review, respond, record, redirect) and spearheaded the development of social media guidelines for the Coca-Cola Company. Aside from designating a code of conduct for their official online spokespeople, Coca-Cola also laid out specific principles for their associates. By taking a look at what Coca Cola deemed appropriate, perhaps it will help you forge a set of standards for your own employees. From Coca-Cola’s Online Social Media Principlesthe guidelines below with my explanations outline expectations for any online activities – personal or professional – where employees reference the company or have made their association with the company known.
1. “Adhere to the Code of Business Conduct and other applicable policies” – Coca Cola has several policies regarding specific business activities, including general conduct, information protection and insider trading. All employees (from the CEO to interns) are expected to follow these when mentioning online that they are employees of Coca Cola. 
2. “You are responsible for your actions” – This point is a reminder to exercise sound judgment and common sense when posting online because employees will be held responsible if their actions negatively impact the business or its image.
3. “Be a ‘scout’ for compliments and criticism” – This guideline acknowledges that employees are “vital assets for monitoring the social media landscape.” Coca-Cola even supplies an in-house email for forwarding both positive and negative comments employees observe online, so they can feel confident negative situations will be addressed without feeling like they must be the one to take action.  
4. “Let the subject matter experts respond to negative posts” – This point stresses, again, that should employees encounter a potentially damaging post about the business, the post should be referred to those trained and approved as official online spokespeople to handle responding.
5. “Be conscious when mixing your business and personal lives” – This principle recognizes that personal and business personas often intersect online and reminds employees that everything that is posted online – even when channels or profiles are “private” or “protected” – can still ultimately be seen by anyone at any time 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

11 Tips for Photographing Items for Online Stores or eBay

The idea behind using images in your web store or eBay listings is to attract the eyes of potential buyers. With that goal in mind, you should try to create the best-looking images possible, no matter what kind of technology you’re using to capture them.

Point-and-shoot may be okay for a group shot at a historical monument, but illustrating your item for sale is a whole different idea. Whether you’re using a smartphone or a digital camera to capture your the images of your item, there are some basic photographic guidelines can give you better results:

Do take the picture of your item in filtered daylight, whenever possible. That way, the camera can catch all possible details and color. If you can’t take your images during the day, use a set of true-color lights.
  • Do avoid getting yourself in the photo by shooting your pictures from an angle (see photo). If you see your reflection in the item, move and try again.
  • Do forget about fancy backgrounds; they distract viewers from your item. Put small items on a neutral-colored, nonreflective towel or cloth; put larger items in front of a neutral-colored wall or curtain. You’ll crop out almost all the background when you prepare the picture before uploading the image to eBay.
  • Do avoid getting yourself in the photo by shooting your pictures from an angle. If you see your reflection in the item, move and try again .For an embarassing see below.
  • Do use extra lighting. You can do this with your camera’s flash mode or (even better) with extra photo lighting. Use extra lighting, even when you’re taking the picture outside. The extra lighting acts as fill light — it adds more light to the item, filling in some of the shadowed spots.
  • Do us a photo tent or a Cloud Dome (or their new Nimbus Dome for use with smartphones) when shooting pictures of jewelery or collectible merchandise. These devices diffuse the light and allow the details and proper colors to shine.
  • Do remember that eBay requires the images must be at least 500 pixels on the longest side. Adjust your camera so you get the largest representaion of your item.
  • Do take several acceptable versions of your image. You can choose the best ones later for your listing.
  • Do take a close-up or two of detailed areas in macro mode that you want buyers to see (in addition to wide shots of the entire item) if your item relies on detail.
  • Do make sure that the items are clean. Cellophane on boxes can get nasty-looking, clothing can get linty, and all merchandise can get dirt smudges. Not only will your items photograph better if they’re clean, they’ll sell better, too.
  • Do make sure that you focus the camera; nothing is worse than a blurry picture. If your camera is a fixed-focus model (it can’t be adjusted), get only as close as the manufacturer recommends. Automatic-focus cameras measure the distance and change the lens setting as needed. But just because a camera has an autofocus feature doesn’t mean that pictures automatically come out crisp and clear.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Know Your Customers Expectations: Gen Y

In my book, The Ultimate Online Customer Service Guide: How to Connect with Customers to Sell More, I discuss the importance of reaching your customer where they are most confortable. Each generation has their own niche needs and wants and I go into depth on each of the Genrational cohorts.

Tonight we will be discussing Gen Y in our Tuesday night Twitter #custserv chat. To add a little backgound information, here is a snippet from my book:
Gen Y may also be known as the Millennials or Generation Next, this group is the largest consumer market since the Baby Boomers. They are the approximately 80 million individuals born between 1977 and 1995 to possibly the early 2000s who grew up with the Internet. Although generations generally span twenty years, some demographic definers suggest the actual dates are 1975 to 2000, while others suggest a time frame of 1985 to 2005.  Advertising Age, the influential magazine for advertising, marketing and media professionals coined the term “Gen Y” in 1993 targeting late X-ers born between 1974 and 1980-- so these are truly children of the advertising era. Having been raised in the 1990s, their parents worked extra hard to strike a balance between work and family after the workaholic atmosphere of the ’80s. 
Generation Y comprises the children of the Boomers, and is sometimes called “Echo Boomers” since their large numbers are due to the fact that the huge parental cohort chose to reproduce at this time. This generation has an estimated 80 million members and has finally eclipsed the last birth explosion of 78.2 million Baby Boomers.  
Members of Generation Y have been influenced by their parents to value education. They’ve worked several part-time jobs and already know what they want from their careers once they reach the marketplace. To Gen Y, technology is a fait accompli. They’re aware of every up-and-coming trend and are the first to embrace or reject it. The spontaneity of the Internet keeps them ahead of most businesses; for instance, they seem to know what their favorite stars are wearing almost before the designers and retailers do.  To this cohort, online customer service is crucial to their decision making as they have the experience to research one company over another; benefits such as expedited shipping and generous return policies rank high. They’re style-conscious, tech-savvy, and "prematurely affluent" due to their boomer parents’ prosperity. Millennials appreciate when entertainment is part of the message they receive from retailers.  Retro themes are very popular in this group -- even reflecting times as recent as the ‘80s.  
Online marketing expert Kelly Mooney, in a 2006 study, found that while Gen Y’s are “self-expressive, confident and optimistic, they are also assimilative, risk averse and rarely make a purchase decision without consulting their peer networks. Just like Boomers, they have strong opinions, but more so than Boomers, they feel compelled to share their opinions with their massive peer networks.”Authenticity and transparency in the way you do business is important to this group. Their interpretation of how things should be done gives them the innate talent to sniff out sleazy sales techniques. Give them community to share with their peers instead of marketing at them. 
According to Ken Gronback, author of The Age Curve: How to profit From the Coming Demographic Storm, “Gen Y is already consuming at 500% of the level of their Boomer parents age for age in adjusted dollars.” In other words, this generation may just become the largest spenders in history. 
However, the perception of entitlement issue rears its ugly head with this group. They are sometimes referred to as the ‘Trophy Generation’, which reflects a current trend in children’s competitive sports -- as well as in many other aspects of their lives -- where “no one loses” and everyone gets a trophy to promote the sense that they’ve all done well. Many in this cohort are the aforementioned “boomerang” generation; delaying the transition of passing into adulthood by living at home.   
Members of this generation tend to want lots of attention and have the need to feel “special.” If you approach this crowd with “what you can do for them” and offer a community with spontaneity, you’re got their attention.
Please also visit my website for more interesting tips and observations.