Thursday, January 24

"I bought WHAT on eBay?" What to Know and Do When You've Been Impersonated

So I'm clearing out my email before I go to sleep. Decide to clean out a mailbox that's pretty much dead - left over from my old marketing agency days. To my surprise, I see an email from eBay requesting that I pay for an item I supposedly purchased on the site.
I had to shake my head, as I knew I hadn't used this email address in years. I examined the email. In the area where eBay would insert the User ID of the buyer, was a series of numbers. Hmmm, strange ID. I try to check out the headers to see if the email came from eBay. This is close to impossible to do on the phone, so I examined the links - and indeed the email did seem authentic.
Within a few hours, an invoice was sent to the same email address, addressed "Dear 2679302013" with my name appearing at the top of the email.

It's after midnight, so I took to my laptop to research further. I perform an eBay bidder search by going to eBay's advanced search:

I find that this user ID made one purchase (the one I was invoiced for), but the purchase was made while I was on my radio show. I clearly couldn't have made this purchase. The User ID also showed eBay's new user icon with 0 feedback. By clicking on a user's feedback number, you can find out when the user first signed up for eBay. Clicking through I find that they signed up for eBay on a Saturday as well. Hmmm. I usually don't sign up for new accounts when I am on the air.

I went to eBay - and clicked the Customer Service link, hoping to send them an email alerting them of the impersonation. I was amazed to find that eBay's customer service takes phone calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was after 1 am at this point, but I figured, why not give it a shot.
The customer service representative (working from eBay's Salt Lake City hub) answered the call and listened to my tale of woe. I had forgtten several things:
  • eBay keeps all the data user's input when you sign up for an account
  • IP addresses are attached to transactions
  • eBay sends out an email upon opening an account
"Charm", the CSR sent an email to the registered email address with a code to confirm that I was indeed the owner of the address. I read her back the code from the email and she said that eBay would remove the email address from the account. What bother's me is that the account is still for Marsha Collier, and is still an active account on the eBay site.
Lesson learned? If you have old email accounts, be sure to check them regularly. If I would have followed my own advice, I might have noticed the initial registration email that came from eBay (sent 2 days after the user registered the bogus account) welcoming me to the site. I sincerely wonder why eBay no longer requires an email address confirmation from those who open an account. If they'd have, the user would not have been able to make a fraudulent purchase - as I'd not confirmed the authenticity of the address.

I recommend in my books to let brands know when they have done something right; when you are pleased with their service. (They must get so sick of social media complaints, that a compliment usually brightens their day, and the reply with a "thank you." So next morning, I used Twitter to thank @eBay (and @AskeBay) for their CSR's excellent service. All I got back was the sound of crickets - no response.

Saturday, January 19

5 Things You Need to Know About Facebook’s Graph Search

The world’s largest social network making waves with launch of a new tool called Graph Search.

The tool essentially allows people to discover information based on data that Facebook has collected from its users over time. For example, someone could use Graph Search to discover information such as “restaurants in Chicago that my friends like” or “photos of me that I liked.”
While Graph Search is currently in a limited beta release, the tool seems to improve the social network’s lackluster search bar, which previously only allowed users to search for people or pages on the social network. Moreover, Graph Search has the potential to impact businesses on Facebook. Discover five things you should know about Graph Search below:

Facebook Graph Search Results

1. Likes Matter

Facebook Likes are now more important than ever, especially for businesses. According to a Facebook blog post, Graph Search can make it easier for people to discover and learn more about businesses on Facebook. This is because the search results are based on Facebook’s robust database, which includes information that has been shared by businesses and individuals alike. That being said, businesses with a large fan base will be more likely to turn up in searches for phrases like “restaurants in Chicago that my friends like.”

2. Engagement is Key

Aside from obtaining likes, businesses should focus on maintaining an engaging Page that includes quality interactions with fans. Since the search results are based on information that has been shared by businesses and individuals, interactions between a business and their fans can help the business score higher in the search results. Furthermore, Graph Search also makes interactions like check-ins even more important, because users could potentially search for phrases like “Places in Los Angeles that my friends have been to.”

3. Invest in your Page

Facebook’s blog post states that the best thing businesses can do for their Page is to continue to invest in it and make sure that it is complete and up-to-date. Items like the name, category, vanity URL and information within the “About” section of a business Page can help make it easier for people to find the business on Facebook. Additionally, Page owners should make sure that their business’s address is correct because this information could help someone discover a local business when they are searching for places in a specific location.

4. There are No Graph Search Ad Formats…Yet

As Graph Search becomes more widely available, so will the speculation of a new ad format from Facebook. However, the social network confirmed in their blog post that there are currently no new ad formats available for Graph Search. However, it is important to note that Pages and apps can still use the Sponsored Results ad format to show up in the search results for all Facebook users, whether they have Graph Search or not.

5. Sign Up to Try It

Graph Search is currently in a limited beta release, which means that you must sign up for a waitlist to gain access to this tool. According to Facebook, the rollout of Graph Search will be gradual, starting with a very small number of users. This means that the company is still working out some of the bugs in order to provide the best search results possible to its users before the tool is available to everyone.
Original Post by Allison Howen

Thursday, January 17

Do You Use Cloud Computing? Survey Finds Americans Confused

A whopping 95% of those claiming they never use the cloud actually do so via online banking and shopping, social networking, and storing photos and music.

While “the cloud” may be the tech buzzword of the year, many Americans remain foggy about what the cloud really is and how it works. A national survey by Wakefield Research, commissioned by Citrix, showed that most respondents believe the cloud is related to weather, while some referred to pillows, drugs and toilet paper. Those in the know claim working from home in their “birthday suit” is the cloud’s greatest advantage. The good news is that even those that don’t know exactly what the cloud is recognize its economic benefits and think the cloud is a catalyst for small business growth.

Survey Highlights:
  • 95% of those who think they’re not using the cloud, actually are
  • 3 in 5 (59%) believe the “workplace of the future” will exist entirely in the cloud
  • 40% believe accessing work information at home in their “birthday suit” would be an advantage
  • More than 1/3 agree that the cloud allows them to share information with people they’d rather not be interacting with in person
  • After being provided with the definition of the cloud, 68% recognized its economic benefits
  • 14% have pretended to know what the cloud is during a job interview
The cloud is what powers today's business and social sphere online, are you using it to  your best advantage?

Study graphic courtesy of

Tuesday, January 15

Prepare for the 2013 U.S. Postal Service® Price Change Jan. 27

Beginning Jan. 27 the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will introduce a First-Class Mail Global Forever Stamp at $1.10 (20 stamp sheet for $22), and is among new mailing and shipping changes for the new year. Here's the short take on the changes:
  • Parcel Post® is now called Standard Post and is ONLY available at the retail counter. (Parcel Select is a comparable mail class for Endicia customers)
  • First-Class Mail International Parcel is now called First Class Package International Service.
  • International Electronic USPS Delivery Confirmation® will now be available, and FREE, for First-Class Package International Service and select Priority Mail International packages (only on shipments to Canada, 19 countries to be added in April 2013)
  • Express Mail International Flat Rate Envelope weight limit has been reduced from 20 lbs to 4 lbs
  • Express Mail International now includes the first $200 of USPS insurance
  • Optional expedited delivery of USPS packaging is available for $2.50
  • Commercial Base discounts are growing in 2013.
  • First-Class Mail 1 ounce stamp is increasing by $0.01 to $0.46.
For full information on the new changes - and how to best use USPS mail classes for your business, click here to download a comprehensive PDF from Dymo Endicia

Small business gets commercial base discounts on shipping when they use electronic postage for their shipments. I use Dymo Endicia's Dazzle software and they have given me a discount link for my readers. Click here for a code for a free 60 day trial.
Note that the USPS receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

Tuesday, January 1

Best Practices: 10 Ways to Avoid Email Overload in 2013

Email is possibly the biggest time-suck for most of us. It's good to remind ourselves of the best practices now and then. I came upon this valuable post from 2011. The recommendations are as valid today as they were then.
Most people I know share a common complaint - too many emails! However, I observe many people creating extra work for themselves in their haste to plow through it all. The results include miscommunication, slow response times, and even more emails!
I'm generally on top of my emails and my inbox only contains the current day's messages. I doubt I'm any less busy than the average person, but I do follow a few simple tips.
  1. Think before you "Reply All"
    A boatload of our extra email comes from people hitting the "Reply All" button, even when "All" of us don't need to see the message. Only use this feature when necessary.   
  2. CC and BCC cautiously
    A close cousin of the "Reply All" problem is the CC and BCC. Copy someone who doesn't need to be copied and you risk having them add more unnecessary emails to your inbox.
  3. Read carefully before responding
    A lot of unnecessary email traffic comes from people sending partial responses to emails. In their haste to reply, they may miss a key detail. For example, I recently emailed a friend who invited me over for dinner to let her know I was available on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. I asked her to choose the day that worked best for her and her husband. She replied, "We can't do Friday, but we can do Saturday or Sunday." Ugh - now I have to send a second message and she'll no doubt send a reply. Two additional emails would have been avoided if she had simply selected the day that worked best for her.
  4. Write concise but thorough messages
    Think of a question your recipient may have about your email and include the answer in your message. A short, well-written email leads to less back and forth which ultimately reduces your email load.
  5. Describe what you want in the first paragraph
    Make it easy for your recipient to understand what you are looking for. Put any request for action or information in the first paragraph of your message so it won't be missed.
  6. Email isn't for conversations
    Look at the messages in your inbox and see how many are from the same conversation. Do you need to discuss something with a colleague? Pick up the phone and knock it out.
  7. Write descriptive subject lines
    The subject line should give the reader a clear idea of what the message is about so he or she can determine how quickly to read it. A descriptive subject line also reinforces what you are asking the reader to do.
  8. Set rules to automate email management
    Outlook and many other popular email programs let you set rules to automatically manage certain types of emails. For example, you can have all your email newsletters automatically routed to a "Reading" folder that you can check once or twice a week. This unclutters your email box and allows you to get to those lower priority items when you have a free moment.
  9. Use one program to manage all your email addresses
    Many of us have multiple email addresses, but that doesn't mean we can't get all our messages in one place. This allows you to manage just one email inbox instead of several. I have rules set up in Outlook that route messages sent to my secondary email addresses to special folders so they don't get mixed in with messages sent to my primary account.
  10. Check email only a few times per day
    Constantly checking your email every time a message arrives is a huge distraction and productivity drain. Instead, set aside blocks of time to focus on email and power through your messages. Force yourself to make a decision about each message (respond, file, or delete) rather than just leaving it sitting in your inbox for later. You'll find this approach allows you to write better messages, get fewer responses in return, and dramatically reduce the number of emails in your inbox.