Sunday, February 3, 2013

Reminder about New Site

Thinking you haven't seen any new posts from me lately? That's because I've moved to my new site, Still the same blog, just a different url...but I had to keep this one up to keep the links intact. Confusing and not well-thought-out in retrospect, yes, but onward and upward, right?

So if you missed my movie review post for 2012, it's over there, and the site looks much fancier there too, IMHO.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Why You Shouldn't Redirect Your Blog to a New Domain

A few weeks ago, with much fanfare and angst, I launched my new website Read that post if you care why, that way I don't have to re-hash it here. I then learned the ins and outs of editing DNS records, changing and screwing up RSS feeds, and all kind of fun stuff. Finally got it all squared away...only to realize that now any blog post or website that linked to a post I'd written on this blog resulted in a broken link because, while I know how to edit a DNS record, I don't know and don't really care to spend the time to find out how to make it so all the links also redirect--if there even is such a thing.

So guess what? I undid the redirect. Now I have two, redundant-ish sites, but hopefully the link problem has been fixed.

I'm still learning the ins and outs of blogging on Squarespace 6, and I'm also swamped at work so not really blogging much for fun anyway, but when/if I do find time to blog, it will most likely be over there. So if the thought of missing my scintillating posts fills you with dread, you might want to subscribe to the new blog.

I gotta say, I'm definitely a creature of habit and I miss the clunky ease of blogging on Blogger.

See you on the flip side!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My Experience With Facebook Ads. And, Shocker, it Wasn't Good.

We all know by now that I am no fan of Facebook. Privacy "glitches," constant changes, total lack of regard for what users want, no accountability to anyone....those are just a few of the reasons I hate Facebook. Of course I realize I'm a total hypocrite because despite these fails, I continue to use the service, and even my daughter tells me "stop complaining about Facebook on Facebook." I get it. Yet I continue to complain, because I continue to have bad experience after bad experience, and I don't trust them for a hot minute. Have you heard the latest privacy fails? Private messages showing up on people's timelines (Facebook denies it, of course, yet I personally saw it on my own timeline and know many others who saw private messages on theirs too). Messages posted in secret groups being posted in Facebook widgets on public pages. Or Facebook doing their unique spin on analytics--if the numbers aren't favorable, change the metric--so if people aren't clicking on Facebook ads, let's redefine success from clicks to impressions. I'll digress.

At any rate, despite my personal distaste for Facebook, my professional use must continue, and what that is starting to mean more and more is pay-to-play. I'm fine with that, actually--if businesses want to be seen or advertise on Facebook, then they should pay. So I was trying to create a Facebook ad yesterday to do some testing. Created the ad, set up the campaign targeting and details, and clicked "place ad." Nothing. Back to the "create an ad" page I'd started on. Confused, I checked my ad manager--only old ads there, this one hadn't gone through. Tried it again. Same result. And again, and again, and again--probably about ten times in all between yesterday and today. Still--no ad.

I would think that a company that generates 100% of its revenue from ads would make it easy to place those ads. And that there would be some mechanism for "abandoned carts" or ads that were created but didn't go through. Or that there would be some easy-to-spot "contact us" feature. Or, hey, how about a phone number to contact someone for help right when you're setting up the ad?

The thing with Facebook is that unless you spend $10k a month on ads or work for an agency, you're SOL. Want to spend money but have problems trying to create an ad? Good luck getting help with that.  I went through the generic ads help steps, ending with sending Facebook a message describing the problem I'm having and received the autoresponder "we have received your email and will respond to your message soon." Guess we will have to wait and see what "soon" actually means...will update the post when I hear back from them.

Update: After two days, this was the response I received from Facebook:

"We're aware of the problem with the 'Place Order' option and hope to resolve it as soon as possible. I apologize for any inconvenience. However, you can still create the ad if you don't choose to 'Review Ad' first. Directly, after creating the ad, choose the 'Place Order' option, and your ad should be created."
No wonder their stock is down yet again--kind of a problem if a company whose ONLY way to make money is selling ads is experiencing problems with the "place order" function for ads.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Is Feedburner Really Shutting Down?

If you're reading this post via email subscription it most likely looks different that posts used to look. That's because I've switched subscription services from Google Feedburner to Feedblitz, due, in part to freaking out over last week's frenzy of speculation that Feedburner is shutting down after a glitch showed all follower counts to be at zero, and in part out of curiosity about Feedblitz. There has been a recent rash of people switching from Feedburner to Feedblitz, fueled by either Feedburner suddenly not working or uncertainty about Feedburner's future after they closed down the Feedburner Twitter account and announced that the Feedburner API was officially deprecated as of May and will be shut down on October 20, 2012.

For people whose blogs are a source of revenue or business, losing thousands of subscribers is a huge deal and it's probably worth it to pay to use a more robust service, not to mention a service that actually responds to customers--Google has yet to comment one way or another on all this speculation about whether or not it's going away. But for someone like me, who blogs because I enjoy writing and that's about it, and whose blog is not a source of revenue and who also has only a few hundred subscribers, switching to a paid service is not a fact it may be just plain stupid/vanity. Regardless, I was curious and, admittedly, freaked out by all the chatter about Feedburner disappearing, so I'm doing the 30 day trial of Feedblitz. 

I have to say that, with all the doomsday speculations about Feedburner just disappearing on October 20, I'm skeptical that Feedburner feeds will just all stop working. I think it's important to realize that Google just says that the API will be shut down on October 20, not the service is disappearing on that day. This apparently does not mean that your RSS feeds won't work anymore after October 20. There is a difference between a feed and the API of the feed (read the comments on that post). So all this the-sky-is-falling-and-you-better-switch-to-Feedblitz-today drama is probably unwarranted. Says the girl who just switched to Feedblitz, I know...which is partially why I'm writing this post. I succumbed to the mass freakout and now am paying for something out of my own pocket that I used to get for free, with no apparent benefit for me. Am I hoping that by the time the 30-day trial period is up I've had an epiphany and realized some great benefit to paying for Feedblitz? Of course. Am I confident that will happen? No.

I will say this--the main benefit of Feedblitz, as I understand it, is the email marketing feature. I have to say, Feedblitz's website is the MOST confusing website I've ever seen. Honestly--I defy you to try to figure out what the service costs and what features are included. It says "prices starting at $1.49 a month," which apparently only applies to email subscribers. It talks about custom features like branded email campaigns--but I swear I've clicked every link on the back end of my account and can't for the life of me find where to customize any email anything. It could definitely be that I am supremely stupid, but I'd like to believe it's not that. I sort of see where you can create a custom newsletter, but don't see any way to test it without sending to all subscribers, so I'm passing on that experiment.

There's definitely a lot of hysteria going around about Feedburner disappearing, but if you stop to pick through it all, it appears that Feedburner isn't actually going anywhere. So, if I had to put money on it, I'd have to say that October 20 will probably come and go and Feedburner will still be working on October 21. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

No Images to Pin? No Problem!

Getting to the Point

(I wrote this for the Socialfish blog, but reposting here)

While Pinterest is a natural fit for brands whose websites contain a lot of images--like retail, fashion, food, bridal, etc--associations for the most part probably don't fit that bill. Most association websites are almost exclusively text, and many are none too pretty either...sorry, but, truth. Yet with Pinterest's popularity increasing steadily--in July, Pinterest had 23 million unique visitors--the temptation to establish a brand presence there is strong. But just setting up a Pinterest account doesn't guarantee results--you have to have content to pin, right? And with no or only a few images on your org's website, you might feel like your hands are tied. Or, you might have some images but find that when you go to pin them, all you get is the "no images detected" message.

But fear not--there are workarounds. 

In the case of Pinterest not detecting the images on pages you're trying to pin, Pinterest's product designer explains on Quora that if a site is using Javascript to load images into a page, Pinterest won't see the images. He suggests right-clicking on the image, copying the url, then adding that url to a new pin. Granted, when I tried it, it didn't work...but such is the nature of Pinterest, sadly.

But you still have options. My favorite go-to Pinterest resource is Shotpin, a Chrome extension. Granted, it only works in Chrome, but it's good enough and I pin enough that it's made me switch from Firefox to Chrome for everything. Here's a good tutorial on using Shotpin which saves me having to explain it--but basically it's easy and lets you do a screengrab of part or all of a webpage and create a graphic of it to pin. Here's an example of a pin I created from Shotpin:

If you just can't fathom using Chrome, you can try, which creates a screenshot of a webpage to pin. Or I also love Shareasimage (formerly PinaQuote) which lets you highlight text from a webpage and creates a pin of it which you can then link back to whatever page you want (note: for this example I used the pro version, which costs $6.99; the free version doesn't allow you to change background or text color, or font).

Another workaround would be uploading images directly to Pinterest, then editing the pin and adding the url to whichever page on your site you're trying to share. You can also create cool Pinterest-worthy images with text on them using Pinwords.

So before you go spending a ton of time and money having images created for each of your org's web pages, try these workarounds.

Photo by katerha on Flickr

Friday, September 14, 2012

What Verizon Doesn't Want You to Know About Their Internet Service

So you know from my last post about the troubles I've been having with Verizon internet for months. For months, I have dealt with the internet in my house dropping throughout each day. Inconvenient and not ok since I work from home part of the time. My husband and I have spent hours and hours troubleshooting the issue, on the phone, waiting for service calls, setting up a new router, corresponding with Verizon. So imagine my dismay when the Verizon service tech who visited my house this morning told me this:
"I'll be honest with you--Verizon knows what's causing these intermittent service interruptions but they don't want to fix it until enough people complain. It's not your equipment, it's a "pawn card" (not sure if that's spelled right--I didn't ask the guy to spell it) that Verizon needs to replace in their equipment but they don't want to do it until enough people complain. So I can look at your wires and pretend to fix something, but the reality is that there's nothing I can do or fix--your internet won't work right until Verizon replaces the [pawn card] in their equipment. I go on these service calls every day, knowing full well what the problem is and that Verizon needs to fix it, and pretending to fix something when in reality the truth is that there's nothing wrong other than that Verizon needs to replace that card. So nothing I can do will make any difference."
Then he got in his truck and drove away. Didn't so much look at one thing at my house. Not for one second.

Are you kidding me Verizon? I've spent hours and hours of my time dealing with this in one way or another for months and months, including 35 minutes on the phone the other day troubleshooting my router, and reserving a four hour chunk of my day today for a service call, and this is what I get? A personal messenger from Verizon telling me that Verizon knows their service doesn't work right and doesn't care? That Verizon knows that people working from home are losing productivity and wasting time troubleshooting something that's in their power to fix, but they're not going to fix it until they're good and ready?

That is unacceptable. Verizon is spending all this money marketing a service that they know doesn't work right but they're willing to gamble on wasting customer's time until they decide it's enough of an issue that they need to actually fix it? They're making me--a paying customer--and thousands more just like me--spend their time on this crap when they already know what's broken, but they're just not ready yet to fix it? And instead they're fine having people like me reserve a four-hour chunk of my day to have a tech come to my house, tell me this, and drive away?

I'm seriously at a loss here. And Comcast's service better have improved, because I have no other choice than to switch to Comcast now!

UPDATE: apparently this is a known issue and something that's happening with many Verizon customers, based on the number of posts about it on Verizon's forums.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Why "Social Media Centers of Excellence" Are Not Excellent for Customers

I have Verizon internet (and TV, and phone) at home. For the past six months or more, we've been having issues with the internet dropping...but only intermittently. Every day, for part of the day, it works--but every day, for parts of the day, it doesn't. Annoying, especially when you're trying to work and your kids are trying to do homework, no?

A few months ago, after realizing the issue wasn't going to spontaneously fix itself, I got my husband to call Verizon to schedule a service call. I LOATHE phone customer service and avoid it at all costs. The tech came out, did what he thought would fix the issue, and he gave us his direct number and said to call him if it wasn't fixed. It wasn't fixed...but because the issue was only intermittent and because I hate dealing with customer service issues, I procrastinated calling him back because it meant yet another day of juggling schedules and being stuck in the house for a four-hour window. Finally, after another month of intermittent outages, I called him...only to be told that since a month had gone by, we would have to re-initiate the issue with Verizon to get him to come back. So my husband called from work, was put on hold for an eternity, then was finally told that he had to call from the home phone because before they could send a technician out they had to troubleshoot the issue via the home phone. Seriously?

So I did what anyone in my shoes would have done--went to Verizon's Facebook page and complained -how arbitrary this one-month-then-go-back-to-square-one rule was, as was the sit-on-hold-then-be-told-you-have-to-be-calling-from-home thing. And, as is becoming part of the playbook for customer service now, within a few minutes I received a message from the Verizon social media person asking what a good time would be for someone to call to help me. He called--introducing himself as "Verizon social media"--and helped me. Said if it wasn't fixed to send a Facebook message back and they'd send me a new router. It wasn't fixed, I sent the Facebook message, and they sent the new router. It still wasn't fixed. I figured I'd have to call and get the technician to come again. Called. Sat on hold for 10 minutes, then spent 20 minutes with the customer service agent with her S-L-O-W-L-Y giving me directions on different things to troubleshoot, none of which were working. After 35 minutes, exasperated, I said "can't you just schedule someone to come fix it?" and she said "no, I can't--we have to do all this troubleshooting first before I can schedule a service call." I said I had to go to a meeting; she said I'd have to call back later to finish it before I could get a technician to visit my house. 

Again, I took to Facebook, sending the social media person a message expressing my frustration. She sent me a message right back "I can schedule a technician to come to your house--what day is good for you?" I wrote back, and a few minutes later she wrote back confirming the day and timeframe for my technician visit.

Why such different script from Verizon's customer service people and their social media customer service people? Why is there one set of procedures for the regular customer service people--excruciating "troubleshooting" exercises over the phone before they can schedule a technician--versus the social media customer service people? Being a social media person, I suspect it's because social media is marketing and customer service is customer service. I've written about this concept before--a bunch of times--because I'm kind of obsessed with the weird dynamic between customer service and social media, and how they're sort of the same but also worlds apart in many ways. Why is it ok with companies that the customer experience with customer service versus social media customer service is so vastly different? Why was the Verizon person I dealt with on the phone so surly, slow, and unable to help me while the social media person polite, super-fast, and able to help in exactly the way I needed, in the way I needed? How are legions of burnt-out customer service reps going to magically transform into perky social media customer service people? How long will it take until the new clutch of eager social media people turn into burnt-out customer service people? When will brands realize that the customer experience with the two being so vastly different is not a good thing?

In order for social media and customer service to meld together into the much-revered "social media center of excellence" model, brands are going to have to address this disconnect and realize that while the whole social customer service thing might look excellent on the inside and get the company all sorts of accolades in terms of the whole social business thing, if the customer's experience is still crappy some or most of the time, then it's not excellent. Checking off the box of social media customer service while leaving traditional customer service untouched is ultimately a recipe for failure, because a confused customer isn't necessarily a happy customer.