Ain’t No Party Like a PERQ Launch Party

If you’re involved in the Indianapolis tech startup scene, you already know about Verge, the startup community made up of entrepreneurs, programmers, and investors. We come together once a month, hear a few pitches from some exciting new startups, drink beer, eat pizza, and network with new people (and old friends).

Tonight was an especially huge night for Verge, because we were being hosted by PERQ, the new company formerly known as CIK Enterprises. They were hosting us because they were launching their new corporate identity and look. This was a mega launch party, the size of which I have not seen in Indianapolis in my nearly six years of doing social media and tech stuff.

PERQ was created when CIK consolidated several different companies they owned, and created this new enterprise. The previous three companies served clients in the newspaper, automotive, and retail industries. Because of this consolidation, they’re combining all forces to create a new marketing technology solution — FATWIN — to offer “business-branded games, contests, and sweepstakes with direct mail, email and advertising campaigns to attract in-store and online traffic.”

I first became acquainted with CIK and one of their companies, Tri-Auto Enterprises, when I worked at a local direct mail company years ago. In fact, I bumped into my old boss on the shuttle ride over from the parking lot, who was there for the PERQ launch. He hadn’t heard of Verge, so I was able to fill him in on what it was all about.

Employee in PERQ collaboration space

See? At first glance, you probably thought it was a real bookshelf too.

Not only were they launching a new company with new branding, they had a new look to their office. Everyone who attended got the grand tour of the office, including the conference rooms (complete with Legos for brainstorming, or at least looking creative), the open concept desks, the giant warehouse space turned meeting and collaboration space, the gym and weight room, and even the video broadcast booth. The whole building is so big, they even have Razor scooters for people to ride, like some sort of inter-office scooter share program. TKO Graphics created several of the wall decorations, including a gigantic bookshelf wall that I kept mistaking for a real bookshelf when I saw it from the corner of my eye.

All in all, it’s a gorgeous new space, and I kept wishing I worked there just because it looked so awesome. I might even be able to, because according to their press release, the company plans on hiring 30 new employees to deal with all their new growth and to help promote their new FATWIN technology.

FATWIN is an interesting new product that lets people enter promotional contests held by different companies using the service. From what I can tell, I can either join a company’s FATWIN promotion, or I can join FATWIN and join different companies’ promotions from there. My data is used only by the companies whose promotions I join, and they don’t sell it to third parties. From a data privacy standpoint, I appreciate this approach, because I can give my data only to the companies of my choosing, and not have to worry that some fly-by-night company is going to start spamming me two weeks later.

According to the FATWIN website:

FATWIN is a resource for people who love to win. It’s for people who love to play games, love to enter promotions, and hate to sign up for free stuff over and over again. Our goal is to be as transparent as possible — and for you to have a great experience while winning great prizes and discounts from your favorite brands.

For more information on PERQ, you can visit the website at . You can also follow them on Twitter at @perqmarketing.

Photo credit: PERQ

6 Benefits of Evernote for Bloggers (GUEST POST)

Whether you blog about marketing or cooking, Evernote has a lot to offer. As a suite of software and services focused on “notes,” Evernote gives you a tool to save any information you need, from sentences and photographs to webpages and voice memos. It syncs info across devices, makes organization easy, and saves you time. Have you thought about all the ways this tool can benefit bloggers? You should. Here are six specific ways to use Evernote to improve your blogging efforts:

Evernote Blog Template1. Build Common Templates: If you’re like most bloggers, you write posts that follow specific formats. For food bloggers, that might mean photos with text, followed by a list of ingredients and a list of directions. For business bloggers, that might mean an introduction, followed by main points in an outline. Whatever the case, if you use a common format, why not create a template that you can easily copy from and fill in when you write new posts? This makes your writing more efficient and your processes simpler.

2. Save Post Ideas as Notes: Make it easy to track ideas for blog post topics by saving them in Evernote as notes, with as much information as you can at the time. Whether you save the idea on your phone while you’re on the go, or on your computer while you work, the ideas get saved in one single place. Anywhere you access your Evernote account, you’ll find them. This means when you start writing a new post, you don’t have to waste time trying to drum up new topics or wrack your brain looking for that idea you had earlier: They’re all saved and waiting for you.

Evernote Blog Drafts3. Write Blog Drafts: Maybe you don’t have time to write a whole blog post, but you’ve got several topic ideas stored in Evernote and a half hour to kill. Start writing a rough draft for one of the topics and keep it saved there. When you are ready to publish a post, most of the work will already be done for you.

4. Save Inspirations: Read an article that you’d like to reference later? Save it to Evernote. Find a blogger who inspires you? Save the link to Evernote. With Evernote, you have an easy way to clip quotes, emails, Tweets, photos, links, articles, and more—all in one streamlined place. If you tag all of these notes with the same tag, like “inspirations,” for example, finding them is as simple as searching that word or phrase.

Evernote Stay Motivated Notebook5. Share Ideas with Co-Bloggers: If you blog with other authors, make it easy to share ideas with each other by doing it through Evernote. The tool lets you share all content publicly or share it particularly with the people you select on social networks or via email.

6. Stay Motivated: There’s a reason so many bloggers abandon their sites over time—without regular encouragement or results of some kind, blogging can get discouraging. Be proactive against these feelings by setting up a note dubbed “Encouragement” or “Comments from fans.” Whenever a reader emails or comments with an encouraging word, save it in your note. Then, when you face those feelings of inadequacy or frustration, remind yourself of what’s been good.

Your Thoughts

Do you already use Evernote? Why or why not? If you’re looking for a way to stay more organized and productive, there’s no better time to try Evernote than now. Download Evernote to your devices at Evernote.com today.

Guest author  is a writer for Straight North, a Web development company with headquarters in Chicago, providing SEO, Web development and other online marketing services to B2B clients.

Why I Don’t Like Pinterest

I don’t like Pinterest.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s a cool site, and I like the community it’s building, and the sharing that’s going on. I also like the back end SEO that’s happening, and what it’s doing for web traffic.

But I just don’t like it.

I’m a words guy. You know, these things you’re reading right now. They give me context. I get meaning from words that I don’t get from pictures. They express ideas and educate me. Pictures can’t do that nearly as well as words. And Pinterest, as a collection of photos, doesn’t always give me the context and meaning that I need in order to understand why you thought that particular photo was important.

As I’ve said before, a word is worth a thousand pictures. A picture of a baby has a different context and meaning for me than it does for you. Pin a picture of a baby on your board, and there could be any number of reasons why you did it. It’s your child, it’s your niece or nephew, it’s you as a baby. Whatever. Right now, it’s a picture of a baby, and I have no idea why you think it’s interesting.

“But you can read the description and board title to figure out the context,” you’re saying.

That’s right, I can read the description and title — made up of words — to figure out the context. Without your words, that’s just a picture of a baby.

Why did you think this was interesting? Where did you see this? What’s the story behind it? Is that you when you were 14 months old? Is that your nephew about to dump a bowl of cereal on the floor?

You have 500 characters to explain this all to me, but most comments I read are usually “too funny,” “WANT!”, or “that’s a deal breaker, ladies!” so I have no idea what was so interesting about the chicken sleeping in the kayak converted into a hammock.

Basically, if you’re not putting words with your photos, I have no idea what’s so important about what you just pinned, so I don’t click it, follow it, look at it, or pay a lick of attention to it.

It would be nice if Pinterest could include the websites where the photos were pinned from, or let you highlight important text to include with your pin. It would be great if people would put more than one or two words describing the photo. It’s not that hard, is it? Answer the question, “I like this because it _________” and tell everyone why that particular item caught your eye.

(For the record, writing “grapes” under a picture of grapes is not helpful. I can see they’re grapes.)

Like I said, it’s not that I think Pinterest is a bad thing. It’s a cool site, and I use it occasionally to share pictures of stuff I want (making it the most expensive Christmas list manager ever created), interesting ideas I’ve found, or funny photos and captions that made me laugh.

But as someone who thinks in words more than pictures, I need Pinterest and its users to give me a little context about what I’m seeing. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of pictures of food, clothes, and last night’s Oscars fashion.

No Bullshit Social Media: No Tree-Hugging, Kumbaya BS

The following is a guest post by my fellow author and good friend, Jason Falls. It originally appeared on his Social Media Explorer blog.

Now that the world knows Erik Deckers and I have written the soon-to-be-published No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing, we’re beginning to do a lot of interviews. The first question we’re typically asked is, “Why did you write this book?” While that question is somewhat answered in the promotional video (see below) we recorded for the book’s spiffy new website, I thought it might be wise to dive a little deeper into that reasoning here.

No Bullshit Social Media cover

Available at NoBullshitSocialMedia.com

As you may have seen on the Exploring Social Media infographic Social Media: Bridging The Gap we published last month, the stark reality of the marketplace is that too many businesses, especially small businesses, aren’t using social media. Heck, 44 percent of small businesses don’t even have a website! Only 27 percent of small businesses use Facebook. Just 18 percent use LinkedIn. The numbers are similarly staggering for the use of SEO techniques and online advertising. An astonishing 65 percent of small businesses — many brick-and-mortar retail shops — say that mobile marketing is not valuable to them. And this one floored me: 68 percent of businesses update their websites no more frequently than once per month. (See the infographic for the various sources of that data.)

While I’m sure Erik and I could have penned, “No Bullshit Digital Marketing,” and frankly, we may have to, we wanted to deliver the business possibility for social media to the masses. Business owners, marketing managers, executives … the people who are running these companies who don’t use or see much reason for using social media, mobile marketing or Internet marketing at all … they need to see that you can use social media marketing with business in mind. You can plan for success. You can establish goals.

I’ve said a few times I think this might be the first book that looks at social media marketing through a strategic planning filter, like you would other communications channels. We’ve stripped away the tree-hugger, Kumbaya bullshit and laid out the seven drivers social media can fuel for your business. We’ve collected case studies and examples of how others are using social media to drive those seven areas and we’ve put it all together into a book that hands you a blueprint for success in the social realm.

In my opinion, the book should have been written and published two years ago. But fate/timing/whatever got in the way. It might be a little late to the conversation for some of you, but I’ll guarantee you it isn’t for the mainstream business owners and executives who are showing up in those statistics as not getting it.

My professional mission at this point in my career is to make social media marketing more accessible. I help individuals do that through my learning community and question-answer site at Exploring Social Media. I help companies do that individually as a social media marketing strategic consultant. I try to translate that when I give talks and speeches as a social media keynote speaker.

No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing is another way Erik and I can evangelize what we do and make social media marketing more accessible to those that need it most.

Download a free chapter at NoBullshitSocialMedia.com and pre-order your copy for a mid-October delivery today. We’d be honored if you did.

Video Review – HTC Thunderbolt 4G and Verizon 4G Mifi

I had a chance to review the HTC Thunderbolt 4G smartphone and the Verizon 4G Mifi unit, thanks to Verizon Wireless and Kyle Communications, Verizon’s PR firm here in Indianapolis.

Right after I reviewed the video, and griped for several seconds about the battery life on the Thunderbolt, James from Kyle Communications showed up to pick up the phone, and told me the reason the battery life is so short is because this is a 4G unit, and it’s carrying a bigger load. Some people have said the Samsung unit has a better battery life, but James says that’s because it’s still a 3G unit. He says Samsung’s new 4G Fascinate will have similar issues. However, they have an extended battery available at Verizon, although James didn’t know much about it. My only concern with the Thunderbolt, other than the one I stated in the video, is that the battery life could be an issue if you find yourself in a place where you don’t have any access to power. Otherwise, you’ll want power cords in your car, your office, and your home just to make sure you don’t run out.

Do you have a Thunderbolt or a Samsung Fascinate? What have you found? Do you use a Mifi? Love it or hate it? Let me know what technology you’re using, or what technology you would like me to review, and I’ll see what I can do.

Update

After I posted this video, I received an update from my new bestie, Michelle Gilbert, the Verizon PR genius who arranged for me to review these units. (She can be even more geniuser if she can arrange for me to do a two year review of the Xoom.) Here are some corrections she offered, and I’m just posting them verbatim.

With respect to the 4G mobile hotspot device, you are correct that when you tether it to your laptop (for charging or any other purpose), you make it a private connection. If you charge it in the wall, however, you can still use it as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

I also wanted to address your concerns about the battery life on the Thunderbolt and your conversation with James. James is correct that a 4G device works harder than a 3G device, so battery life may be impacted. With that being said, however, I have used both devices and do feel that the Samsung DROID Charge has stronger battery life. I think it boils down to what operating system does a customer prefer – HTC or Samsung? Both are great devices. I do agree with you that Thunderbolt users should invest in an extended battery and car charger.

For your blog post, I’m not sure if you want to clarify, but there is no 4G Fascinate. The Samsung 4G smartphone is the DROID Charge.

After Michelle’s clarification, I am convinced that I’ll stick with the HTC and just get the extended battery. And given the fact that I take my laptop with me everywhere I go, I can always plug the USB charger into the computer and charge up the Thunderbolt that way. Plus if they made one for the mini-USB, I would even consider getting a hand crank charger.

Thanks again to Michelle for the great information, and for letting me try out these new devices. Looking forward to getting one of my own.

Video Book Review – Get Seen, by Steve Garfield

I recently read Steve Garfield’s Get Seen: Online Video Secrets to Building Your Business (New Rules Social Media Series) (affiliate link) because of my growing interest in video, especially as it relates to citizen journalism and crisis communication.

Get Seen is a great book for this, since Steve pretty much made a name for himself as being “that guy” when it comes to video blogging, scoring an interview with Congressman Duncan Hunter — scooping CNN in the process — and Jimmy Fallon, getting a press pass to a Barack Obama rally, and having videos appear on BBC and CNN. He’s got the knowledge and experience to tell you everything you need to know about creating fast videos with a small camera and your laptop.

If you have a hankering to do video, Steve’s book can be a little bad for you, because he talks about all the different cameras he’s been using for the last several years, making you want at least a couple of the cameras he’s got. I’m going to stick with my little Flip camera right now (I’m part of 12 Stars Media’s You Do Video program), but now I’ve already started looking at some new options to include lights and an external mic jack.

So check out the video, check out the book, and see if you can start adding video to your business or personal blog.