Thursday

My email from Amazon: California to tax e-commerce, they will cease paying commissions

I wirte books for a living. As any author will tell you, royalties are where we make money. It's interesting to note here, that books sold through Amazon usually fall under a "high-discount" clause in any author's contract. Meaning? Amazon buys books from the publisher at such a low rate, that the author gets a lower percentage on royalties on books sold to them.
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I digress. I also make money when books are sold from my own, direct Amazon affiliate links. I have a small astore, that lists my books. I don't get rich from it, but these days, every penny helps.
Yesterday's email brought a not from Amazon, that due to pending California legislation, I will no longer have that stream of income. I'm not whining here, but it is disheartening. The text is below:

Hello,
Unfortunately, Governor Brown has signed into law the bill that we emailed you about earlier today. As a result of this, contracts with all California residents participating in the Amazon Associates Program are terminated effective today, June 29, 2011. Those California residents will no longer receive advertising fees for sales referred to Amazon.com, Endless.com, MYHABIT.COM or SmallParts.com. Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned before today will be processed and paid in full in accordance with the regular payment schedule.
You are receiving this email because our records indicate that you are a resident of California. If you are not currently a resident of California, or if you are relocating to another state in the near future, you can manage the details of your Associates account here. And if you relocate to another state in the near future please contact us for reinstatement into the Amazon Associates Program.
To avoid confusion, we would like to clarify that this development will only impact our ability to offer the Associates Program to California residents and will not affect your ability to purchase from Amazon.com, Endless.com, MYHABIT.COM or SmallParts.com.
We have enjoyed working with you and other California-based participants in the Amazon Associates Program and, if this situation is rectified, would very much welcome the opportunity to re-open our Associates Program to California residents. As mentioned before, we are continuing to work on alternative ways to help California residents monetize their websites and we will be sure to contact you when these become available.
Regards,
The Amazon Associates Team

Tuesday

How Hashtags, @mentions, and FedEx Work Together: Customer Service in the Twitter-verse

Fedextwitter
FedEx Customer Service Twitter reps:
@FedExAl
@FedExDolores
@FedExGracie
@FedExLaSheila
@FedExLina
@FedExRobin

Blog post by Sheila Harrell FedEx Vice President of Customer Service Operations

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It’s been a while since I’ve blogged as we’ve been busy working on ways to enhance our service to customers.  I also have been busy with my  teenager who keeps me current with a cliff notes version of all things cool in the world – from a 13 year-old’s perspective. 
 
Speaking of cool things, I just have to share with you something that happened in Customer Service Operations (CSO) recently. We have a team of five reps in our Dallas Call Center who spend the better part of their day watching blog sites.  They are primarily looking for opportunities to turn negative posts about FedEx into positive ones.  About a year ago, @FedExRobin (that’s really one of our Twitter Reps’, or “tweeter’s” names!) caught the attention of renowned author, Marsha Collier.  Some of you may recognize Marsha’s name as she has written several of the “… for Dummies” books. Marsha was so impressed by FedEx Robin that she devoted a chapter to FedEx in her latest book, “The Ultimate Online Customer Service Guide”. 
 
So, we decided to invite Marsha to the Dallas Call Center on Tuesday, April 19th to meet FedEx Robin in person!  More than 300 team members representing several FedEx operating companies were in attendance at the afternoon event. Marsha Collier and Ginna Sauerwein, FedEx Managing Director, spoke to the group about the impact social media has had on customer service.
 
In case you didn’t know, about a year and a half ago, FedEx made the decision to engage customers in the social media space because that is where many of our customers were conversing. I am so glad we did!  Our Twitter Reps have been able to help many customers who would have never called us the old fashion way! 
 
Let me give you a recent example.  Remember the launch of the iPhone 4 last summer? By coincidence, the day we began delivering them, fedex.com was experiencing delays in posting package tracking information, even though shipments were being delivered on time. Once word got out that the new phones were supposed to be on their way, the blogosphere exploded!  And… so did the number of calls from iPhone fanatics who were looking for that delivery!  Because of our social media presence, we were able to post a message explaining the situation. Within minutes the message went viral and the chaos subsided.  Cool. Very cool. That day, we learned that the power of social media can have a dramatic and positive effect on customer service. 
 
So… I hope everyone will join the thousands of followers the FedEx Blog Response Unit (BRU, for short) in Dallas has – if you haven’t already! It’s just one more way that FedEx serves its customers’ needs!

via blog.fedex.designcdt.com

 

I had a wonderful time at FedEx, the employees are really happy to to work there and they want to share their passion for customer service to all! Sheila and @FedExRobin have become good friends!

Monday

Online Sellers Breaking: USPS Resumes Accepting Mail to Canada on Tuesday #eBay


The U.S. Postal Service will resume accepting mail for Canada starting Tuesday, June 28. This action follows yesterday’s order by the Canadian Parliament for Canada Post employees to return to work tonight.

Mail that was held in the U.S. Postal Service network is being released today and transported to Canada in stages. Customers will experience some delays in service due to the large volume of mail that was being held. We are working closely with Canada Post to minimize these delays and to return to normal service levels as quickly as possible.

Global Express Guaranteed (GXG) remains the best option to avoid delays in service. GXG is available online at www.usps.com and at thousands of participating Post Office locations throughout the United States.
Additional information and updates regarding acceptance and movement of international mail is available at www.usps.com/communications/news/serviceupdates.htm.

Thursday

BREAKING! eBay Mobile app for Android updated with selling functionality

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Good news for mobile eBay sellers. The auction company revamped its Android application allowing users to actually sell stuff while not on their computer. Using your Android-powered device, you will be able to list an item from start to finish and even include up to 8 photos. What’s more, you can rely on RedLaser’s barcode scanning technology to prefill item details for an array of products. Moreover there are options to revise items from your “Active Selling” list, relist them from the “Unsold” list, “Sell one like this” capability (when viewing a similar item on eBay), as well as the ability to schedule an auction (start immediately or choose a later date), end an active auction, mark an item as shipped, and contact the buyer right from within the app.

In addition, eBay for Android now rocks an updated home screen, more options for refining search results (condition, free shipping, location, completed listings and sold items only) and the view of your own feedback ratings and recent comments from eBay members. Finally there are tons of changes under the hood, fixing a number of bugs and bringing performance improvements.

Wednesday

Twitter Essentials Webinar: How to Set Up and Run A Successful Twitter Account for Your Business

Over the past few years, Twitter has entered the mainstream conversation on business marketing and promotion alongside other social tools like blogs and Facebook. Even if you’re already marketing on other platforms, Twitter provides access to different customers in a different context.

How do you tap in to this powerful new marketing tool? Join me, Dave Peck and Denise Wakeman for this two-part online seminar organized by Tweethouse. You’ll learn how to set up a Twitter account for your business, how to get more Twitter followers, and what tools are the best for tweeting, monitoring, and engaging your customers. We’ll cover everything from the meaning of “hashtags” and “retweets” to hard-to-find applications that make it easy to search Twitter for relevant keywords and schedule Tweets for later release so that you can plan ahead.

Why bother with Twitter if you’re already on Facebook?

  • Establishing your Twitter account * Finding the right people to follow * Best practices for engaging with other Tweeters
  • What is a hashtag?
  • Growing your followership
  • Getting the right tools set up for Tweeting and monitoring

Day 1: Monday, June 27th, 1pm – 2pm PT
You’ll learn the basics of setting up your Twitter account, including:

  •     What kind of account to create (as a person or as a business)
  •     The account creation process
  •     Identifying your first people to follow
  •     Finding good material to Tweet

Day 2: Thursday, June 30th, 1pm – 2pm PT
You’ll learn how to effectively monitor Twitter for keywords and grow your followers:

  •     Learning about hashtags
  •     Getting more followers for your Twitter account
  •     Effective search tools for Twitter
  •     Valuable monitoring services

I know you'd love to attend - so here's a link for a 15% off discount!

 

Tuesday

Four Things You Might Not Know About Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

   Compete recently fielded a survey to uncover how consumers are using leading social media platforms and the impact usage has on interaction with a brand. Some interesting findings about Twitter emerged from the study that might be surprising to many. Here are four things that you might not know about Twitter.

1. Twitter users are more likely to engage with the service through a mobile device than are users of other social media platforms. 43% of Twitter account holders utilize the service through a mobile device compared to 34% and 9% for Facebook and LinkedIn respectively. Twitter is well positioned to capitalize on the macro trend of a greater proportion of internet browsing activity shifting to smartphone and tablet devices. See chart below for usage breakdown by device.

social media usage by location

2. Twitter drives integration across consumer media channels. 17% of Twitter users tweet about a TV show while watching the show. Clearly this illustrates that many consumers interact with multiple forms of media at the same time. It presents an opportunity for marketers to create compelling TV campaigns, as these commercials not only reach the direct TV audience, but also have the opportunity to scale once tweeted. See chart below for details on Twitter usage by activity.twitter activity usage

3. Twitter is more effective at driving purchase activity than Facebook. 56% of those who follow a brand on Twitter indicated they are “more likely” to make a purchase of that brand’s products compared to a 47% lift for those who “Like” a brand on Facebook. This is further evidence that marketers can drive ROI with Twitter by engaging followers through compelling content. See the chart below for more details on usage outcomes across Twitter and Facebook.social media usage outcomes

4. Twitter is the preferred platform for learning about new product updates. While those who follow a brand on Twitter and “Like” a brand on Facebook do so to learn about discounts and available “free stuff” to a similar degree, the Twitter followers are much more likely to use the platform for “updates on future products” (84% to 60%). Clearly Twitter is viewed as a medium in which consumers can directly communicate with the stewards of the brands they are most interested in. See chart below for details on why consumers choose to follow or Like a brand.reasons for follow-like a brand

 

 

Friday

BREAKING: USPS Will Stop Accepting Mail Destined to Canada by End of Day This Saturday

Due to the expectation by Canada Post officials that the strike by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers will last until at least sometime next week, the U.S. Postal Service will suspend accepting mail destined to Canada — effective Saturday, June 18, 2011, 11:59 p.m. CDT — with the exception of Global Express Guaranteed shipments.

"As a convenience to our customers and to minimize service disruptions, we arranged to accept mail destined for Canada as long as possible," said Giselle Valera, vice president, Global Business. "We will continue to closely monitor the strike situation, and once Canada Post resumes operations, the U.S. Postal Service will again begin accepting mail for Canada. We also will then resume processing any Canadian-destined mail currently held in our network."

To avoid service disruptions or delays — regardless of the duration of the strike at Canada Post — U.S. Postal Service customers can continue to send letters and packages via the Postal Service's Global Express Guaranteed (GXG) service. GXG is a premium, date-certain international shipping option with international transportation and delivery by FedEx Express. GXG is available online at www.usps.com and at thousands of participating retail locations throughout the United States.

Additional information and updates regarding acceptance and movement of international mail is available at www.usps.com/communications/news/serviceupdates.htm. />
The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

We're everywhere so you can be anywhere:  www.uspseverywhere.com

A self-supporting government enterprise, the U.S. Postal Service is the only delivery service that reaches every address in the nation, 150 million residences, businesses and Post Office Boxes. The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations. With 32,000 retail locations and the most frequently visited website in the federal government, usps.com, the Postal Service has annual revenue of more than $67 billion and delivers nearly 40 percent of the world's mail. If it were a private sector company, the U.S. Postal Service would rank 29th in the 2010 Fortune 500. Black Enterprise and Hispanic Business magazines ranked the Postal Service as a leader in workforce diversity. The Postal Service has been named the Most Trusted Government Agency six consecutive years and the sixth Most Trusted Business in the nation by the Ponemon Institute.

9 Uncomplicated Tips for Professional and Business Success in Social Media #SmallBiz #Custserv

It's time to get down to the business of social media. This week I'll be speaking again at the eBay Radio conference in Las Vegas (OK, it's more like a party - but I digress) and the most savvy online sellers are already excited to jump on the social media train.

2010 eBay Radio Conference

Like anything new, Social Media has attracted gurus, experts, mavens and scammers, each with a different story to tell. I've been studying Social Media and community for over a decade and I've learned a few important truths.
  1. The internet is still a community
    Yes, SEO is important, updating your webspace is too, but keep in mind that the town square of years gone by has moved to the internet. Conversations are barely held in person or over the phone - they happen online. This is a community, where you need to respect your friends (your audience).
  2. It is not a soapbox - don't sell, share
    As fascinating as your sales message or opinions are to you, constantly barraging folks with your importance doesn't cause your friends to interact. They don't make people want to converse with you or do business with you. They want to know the person behind the tweets (or the blog or the page) is a real person, with a real life.
  3. Be a person
    Every name on the web has a person (or persons) behind it. Share a little of your personal day. If there is more than one person at your business handling the tweeting for your Twitter account, have them sign their tweets with a caret and their initials, like ^mc.
  4. Time those tweets
    If you tweet at the same time every day, you're no doubt hitting the same audience over and over. We are creatures of habit and log onto Twitter around the same times every day. Set your calendar to vary the times you tweet - you will hit a different audience.
  5. Answer back & retweet
    If you're not interested in what other people are saying, why should they feel engaged in your comments? Read, comment, inquire. Be a part of the community.Share valauble information you see in your online streams to build credibility with your followers. Save your promotional tweets for one in five - one in six is even better.
  6. Quality still wins over quantity
    Is it really important that you have a gazillion followers? I think not. There's really no way to effectively follow tens of thousands of people. Go to wefollow and categorize yourself and your business. Find people who are interested in your message and/or your product. Follow them. If they like what the see on your Tweetstream, more will follow.
  7. Follow back those of like mind. Do you care about a new MLM program? If that's what you are intesterted in, follow them - but don't clutter up your stream with unusable verbage. If you don't care about the latest get-rich-quick program, pass when those citizens follow you. You have a market. Know it and follow back. 
  8. Commit to the community
    Fill out your Twitter profile with links to your site or your Google online profile. Let people know who you are. Isn't it more interesting to know about the person you're following? Is a faceless profile even the least bit interesting?
  9. Visit your Facebook stream at least twice a day
    Check the posts of your friends on your Facebook home. Again, comment or "like" what they have to say. It's all about the interaction. Don't post your sales message to other peoples walls. Friend and join fan pages of people and businesses you like and respect. Communities only survive when there are active participants.

Followers and friends stay with you only if they like, respect and trust what they discover.

Wednesday

Find Out Who Really Delivers Customer Service: Infographic of Stella Service data #custserv

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They say you never want to see how your sausage is made. They’re probably right. But when it comes to the STELLAService evaluation, we think it’s important for people to know how it all goes down. We’re focused on bringing transparency to the world of online customer service, so it only makes sense for us to be as upfront as possible about how we go about evaluating the service performance of Internet retailers.

Monday

Victorian Steampunk Laptop Finally For Sale; Lets You Live in the Past

Live in the past--in style, baby! That must be what this guy was thinking when he came up with the Victorian/Steampunk Laptop. And you can now pre-order one for yourself--provided you can spare $5500.

Richard Nagy, built his original steakpunk laptop five years ago out of an HP ZT1000 notebook, inferior tools, and little money. Datamancer says that his newest laptop "will be loosely based upon the general theme of the original, but with much finer fit and finish and with emphasis on usability," and that the new (old?) laptop will feature cutting-edge interal components (as you'd expect for a $5500 computer!).

Sunday

Considering the lack of Privacy on the Web, eBay has surprising Standards

eBay's TRUSTe Privacy Policy

eBay had a privacy policy for all its users before privacy policies were even in vogue. Now eBay maintains the safety standards set forth by the pioneer in online safeguarding: TRUSTe.

TRUSTe sets a list of standards that its member Web sites have to follow to earn a "seal of approval." The thousands of Web sites that subscribe to this watchdog group must adhere to its guidelines and set policies to protect privacy. eBay has been a member of TRUSTe since the privacy watchdog group was founded.

To review the policy that's earned eBay the TRUSTe seal of approval, click the Policies link that appears at the bottom of every eBay page.

In addition to setting and displaying a privacy policy, eBay follows these guidelines as well:

  • eBay must make its Privacy Policy links easily accessible to users. You can find the logo on eBay's home page. Click the Policies link. On the eBay Policies page, click the Privacy Policy link and you're taken to the Privacy Policies page for more information. Take advantage of this opportunity to find out how your data is being protected.
  • eBay must disclose what personal information it collects and how it's using the info.
  • Users must have an easy way to review the personal information that eBay has about them.
  • Users must have an option — opting out — that lets them decline to share information.
  • eBay must follow industry standards to make its Web site and database secure so that hackers and nonmembers have no access to the information. eBay uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which is an encryption program that scrambles data until it gets to eBay. Unfortunately, no Web site, including the CIA's Web site, is completely secure, so you still have to be on your guard while you're online.

Saturday

"Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising's Image of Women" Sets Our Daughter's Up for Failure

Is it time for us to take responsibility for setting up women to fail? Our culture has perpetuated impossible standards, affecting self esteem.

Friday

Social Media: What Most Companies Don't Know from Harvard Business Review

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Social media has arrived, but companies still aren't sure what to do with it. Fifty-eight percent of companies are currently engaged in social networks like Facebook, microblogs like Twitter, and sharing multimedia on platforms such as YouTube – but research from the Harvard Business Review Analytics Services report .... read more here.