Tag Archives: New Business World

Starbucks is Re-Imagining the business…again

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

This week Starbucks continued to add value to its stores and more Re-Imagining seems to be in the forecast. A few months ago Starbucks did the smart move of offering free WiFi for everyone (see article below) and on Wednesday they took it one step farther with a Digital Starbucks that features free web content if you sign on to their WiFi service while you’re in the store.

(Free WiFi at Starbucks)

Now when you use the free WiFi service in any Starbucks you can also read a digital version of the day’s Wall Street Journal, New York Times, or the USA Today. The New York Times requires software download of a reader, but the USA Today loads up its own reader and retains the exact look of the paper copy. The site also includes Yahoo! news and GOOD content.

In addition to news, the Digital Starbucks offers access to a selection of entertainment, wellness, business/career, and local online resources. There is also a page to access most of the functions found on the Starbucks website. It seems apparent that Starbucks has teamed with AT&T, the WSJ, NYT, USA Today, and several others to offer this value-added service. Recently all Starbucks stores received new labeled newspaper stands with the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today in the top three shelves with the local paper given the bottom shelf. In my October tour of stores in Houston, Boston, Denver, and Reno I have seen more papers sold out than I have ever seen at a Starbucks store. Obviously the collaboration is a win-win.

A screen shot of the DG Wellness page

While some information has been sent out regarding the new online features most people have not caught on to the major remake of the log-in page and the new free media resources. That will change over time and I expect Starbucks will see a positive increase in store traffic as customers become aware of what they can access for free at their local store. I have already noticed high occupancy of the key ‘power’ tables (tables next to a power outlet) in almost every store I’ve visited since the free WiFi service started on July 1st.

Starbucks After Hours
The value-added virtual Starbucks is small change compared to what may be coming to some Starbucks locations. As reported in this Monday’s USA Today, the company has been testing wine and beer service at a Seattle location. The three-month remodel of a standard store resulted in a cafe-type look and feel, moving away from the glorified fast food feel of most coffee houses. The move is designed to generate more late day revenue when coffee sales die down. There is little doubt that local bars may find a Starbucks too much to compete with as it creates a middle ground for those like getting out in the evening, but seek a relaxed atmosphere free of loud music and single men on the hunt.

While I remained concerned that Starbucks is allowing accountants have too much say in store operations, I have to congratulate them on bringing value-added service and innovative ideas into the forefront. The winner is the customer … the only person that matters.

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Knowing when it’s over or beyond over

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

There comes a time in every relationship when you start suspecting problems, and then there is the point when you know it’s over. In the past two weeks I’ve discovered that I’m in a relationship that is not only over, it’s become adversarial. I can’t say I’ve been unaware that there were problems, but I have become dependent on her and it was just easier to ignore the signs than to confront her. Now she has begun a campaign of sabotage and I’m forced to do something.

I’ve played this game before. It’s always the same story. First she is unbelievably helpful and at times she surprises me with her intelligence. But then I begin to rely on her and that’s when things go south..or sometimes north, but it goes wrong regardless of the direction and then you end up alone in the rain somewhere in the Pacific Coastal range with no cell phone signal…but that’s another story.

It was Father’s Day when we met. Her name is Samantha, and she has a clear, well-enunciated voice. I stayed up late with her that first night and I couldn’t wait to take her for a ride in the car. I was impressed with what she knew and it felt like love. Then came the little mistakes. Little warning signs that should have told me that she wasn’t as perfect as I thought. Then she changed. It seemed like she was deliberately misleading me. I became frustrated, but I told myself that maybe I had expected too much.

Then last week came the proof. This time it was intentional. This time it was malicious. I was driving in the early morning in a Nor-easter rain storm to the Boston airport. It was dark, I was stressed, and my plane was not going to wait for me if I got lost. Still, I was 90% sure of where I was going, but I had her there in the car calmly reassuring me that I was where I needed to be. Then it happened. I knew I had to stay on I-90 through the tunnel to get to Boston’s Logan Airport. The airport is basically on an island so there are not a lot of options on how to get there.

The Other Woman

She said it and I didn’t imagine it. She told me to exit I-90 and go south on a road that would have taken me away from the airport. Had I obediently done as she ordered I would have been scrambling for at least 30 minutes to try to get back (you have to know Boston roads to understand why) to the airport. My sweet, innocent Garmin Nuvi 265 GPS device had turned on me and was deliberately trying to make me miss my flight. She is evil!

Now I know that she is out to get me and it makes driving stressful. Did she give me the right exit, or is she just messing with me again? I know it’s all over between us, but I have a hard time letting her go. Damn you Sam!

If you see me driving and yelling when no one is in the car, be cautious … who knows who is in the driver’s seat.

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Dear Teresa Laraba, SVP of Southwest Airlines Customer Service

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

Teresa Laraba
Senior Vice President Customer Services
Southwest Airlines

Dear Teresa:

Last Friday I felt betrayed by Southwest Airlines and while the outcome of the event was not horrible, the stress it caused me has profoundly effected the trust I place in your airline. I also felt that some of your key people failed in their duty toward customer service.

I have been on 28 Southwest flights since the beginning of August and the one that was the longest was last Friday’s flight from Boston to Reno. I was on the flight for almost eight hours. I knew it was going to be a long flight, but I always pay for Early Bird boarding so that I can get a window seat and settle in. I have relied on this service to make the ‘open seating’ policy less of an ordeal, especially on long, full flights where the last to board are the Big Losers who have to sit in the middle seat.

The Boarding Pass of Shame

The day started out stressful as a major storm hit the northeast and I had to drive through heavy rain, in the dark to get to the airport. After getting to the airport, gassing up the car, and turning it in, I took a sigh of relief as I went to get my boarding pass. I had early boarding, which was critical on a flight that would be five minutes short of 8 hours on the same plane. I finally found the TSA line and as I stood there I looked to see where I would be in the ‘A’ Boarding Group. I was shocked to see that I was in the ‘B’ Boarding Group, and that I was at the end of the ‘B’ Group.

I got through the security line and went to the Gate Counter. I asked the gate agent at the counter, (who seemed like she was in a bad mood at 6:30 AM in the morning,) if this was a mistake. She said that there was a ‘computer glitch’* and that all Early Boarding passengers lost their Early Boarding status. She told me I would be refunded $10.

(DEFINITION: Computer Glitch – One of our computer programmers applied a change to the system that screwed everything up, and while it was human caused, we’re going to make it sound like a mechanical problem, so we don’t have to take responsibility for the error and actually do something to make it right.)

Southwest Airlines doesn’t seem to understand that when you fail to do what you promise, giving back the money you took in exchange for that promise is not making it right. Giving money back for a service not performed is what you are legally obligated to do, it’s not doing me a favor. It is essentially saying, “We’re not going to try to screw you out of your money for our failure to do our job.”…thanks a lot.

So I was going to sit in the middle seat for an eight-hour flight because Southwest screwed up and that was your ‘best’ customer service response. I complained further and the gate agent reluctantly said she would let me board at the end of the ‘A’ group. That was a good half measure at a solution, but I still don’t know why she didn’t offer it when she first admitted the error.

I was still frustrated so I called your Customer Service line. I was met with the same cold, uncaring, “..we’ve had a computer glitch and you’ll be refunded your $10.” When I told her that I was going to be stuck on the same plane for eight hours she acted like she didn’t believe me. I then helped her with the math and explained the three time zones we would be crossing, to which she said, “Oh, yes, that is eight hours.” In her defense she did suggest that I could talk to the gate agent, but I had already done that with little results.

I’ve flown SWA a lot recently, and I’ve come to trust the Early Bird boarding system. I used to try to pull my boarding pass at 24 hours before boarding in order to get a decent seat with limited success. The Early Bird boarding option has made all the hours in a loud aluminum tube where I have no rights, no say, and no real food, … bearable. BUT, on the longest flight of 29 (tomorrow is #29), the system failed me…big time. What I’ve learned from this not only is the Early Bird boarding system unreliable, that when there is a problem, Southwest does not, 1) recognize the significance, or attempts to minimize the problem, and 2) offers no reasonable solution unless you really complain.

I do have three positive experiences to report that kept this flight from being a disaster. First, I was able to get a window seat and that kept me from going over the edge. Second, another SWA employee, (Mark, I think) who actually loaded the passengers on the plane, recognized that the loss of the Early Bird boarding passes was a major problem. He made it clear that anyone with Early Bird boarding would be allowed on the plane at the end of the ‘A’ Group. He admitted that it was a big problem and he apologized several times for it.

That was it! Admitting it was a major problem, apologizing for it, and then attempting to make it right was the key to showing that someone cared. The gate agent and the phone ‘customer service’ showed a lack sympathy or concern. Your ‘customer service’ staff has become too good at minimizing the problem and being ‘professional’ by not caring.

The third positive came from the flight deck. We boarded the plane to sit there for an hour so someone (a professional mechanic) could come and tape up an exit sign that was hanging down. However, the pilot (possibly the co-pilot) came out and personally explained, multiple times what was going on and during the flight he came out and walked the plane explaining where we were in the flight. He cared enough to show his face and give us the news, bad and good.

I don’t understand why your customer service staff is so uncaring, leaving the rest of the employees at SWA to pick up their slack? I will likely continue to fly SWA because we really don’t have a choice anymore, but I will go back to pulling my boarding passes 24 hours in advance, even with my Early Bird boarding fee, just because I can’t trust your system to do what it supposed to do, and because when it fails, your CS staff could care less.

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What I’m Not Buying This Year

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

Tis the season and there are a lot of political candidates out there selling their version of what is wrong with this country/state/county/city and how they are going to fix what ails us. This year is different from most because it seems that a lynch mob has taken over a prominent role in politics and like most lynch mobs they don’t need facts, they just need someone to be angry at and someone to blame.

It would be easy to label the people behind this political lynch mob as ‘stupid’, but that is probably overly harsh. These people are driven by emotions, not a lack of intelligence, so stupid is not the correct term. I prefer to describe the lynch mob as people who have a Lack Of Critical Observation Skills (LoCOS for short.)  This year the LoCOS are trying to sell a lot of garbage and I’m not buying it. For example:

Nevada: The best at doing it wrong

LoCOS:  Lower taxes will improve the economy
To the LoCOS who are selling the load I have one word. Nevada. Nevada has no Income tax. Nevada has no Capital Gains tax. Nevada has no Corporate tax. Nevada has no Inventory tax. Even conservative business groups rate Nevada as one of the most ‘business-friendly’ states. Nevada is to business what the Bunny Ranch was to male ego.

According the LoCOS argument, Nevada should be awash in new business. Nevada’s economy should be booming. Nevada should be the poster child of the low tax concept.

The fact is that the State exposes the Lo Tax/Mo Biz as a myth. Nevada is Number ONE in unemployment (2nd place Florida is over a full point better than the Silver State.) Nevada is Number ONE in crime. Nevada is Number ONE in housing foreclosures. Nevada is consistently among the lowest in unbiased education rankings. Nevada is proof that lower taxes does not make for a better economy.

(Article: Nevada’s State of Disaster)

LoCOS: Business is better at running our government
Let’s remember that it wasn’t government that put us in a recession but business…BAD business. Government was an enabler, in that it stopped regulating and monitoring the unbridled greed of the incestuous investor-run business world, but at the end of the day it was business people who made all the decisions. The corporate executives chose to ignore the obvious result that would happen from their greed and dove head on into unethical practices that doomed our economy.

Greed is inherent in business. Greed is why business exists. There is no ‘care for fellow citizen’ in the business world. Business is based on competition, winners and losers, and often the losers are not the weakest, but rather loser’s are the one’s with morals. Business only keeps to a moral compass when there is an unbiased arbiter oversees its activities. That is the role of government.

This year we are seeing the perversion of investor-run business with clearer eyes. The Chamber of Commerce has abandoned their mission of promoting good business in the community in favor of attacking local governments and promoting only those candidates that will remove the protections for honest business and our citizens. It is ironic that anyone would suggest that business, with its greed-driven motives and proven track record of unethical practices, should replace good government.

Don’t get me wrong, a strong economy needs good, healthy businesses, but good, healthy businesses need a strong government to create and monitor the rules for which guide and protect all. The leap of logic of the LoCOS, that our government should be run as a business, is as absurd as saying that FIFA needs fewer referees on the soccer field.

LoCOS: The trillion-dollar debt is bad
The LoCOS must have Alzheimer’s.

I’m not in favor of a large deficit, especially when it involves sending US dollars to finance the destruction of another country …. but I’m really not in favor of is a Depression. That is what we faced in early 2009. Business had raped our economy through outrageous, unregulated practices and we were on the brink of an abyss that had no bottom. Again, business, not government caused our economy to fail. Initially, our country let big banks suffer the consequences of what they had done, but it quickly became apparent that what was about to happen was the massive collapse of the entire economic system, which would have forced the United States government to take over the day-to-day operations of almost all of our major financial institutions.

Cheney's Folly: The start of our debt problems

The alternative to a nuclear meltdown of our economy was to lend money to those institutions, help initiate controlled purchases of ailing banks, and invest government money in key assistance programs. Was it a bailout? Yes, but it was investing, not buying, which meant we would get the money back in almost every case.

The government also invested money in the mismanaged auto industry that, if not preserved, would have sent us into Depression-era unemployment overnight. Yes, it increased our nation’s debt. A debt that had gone from surplus in President Clinton’s years, to a deficit under George Bush. It would have been better if we had not spent so much money on Cheney’s overseas folly and already been in the hole when the house of cards of bad business fell, but there was no choice. The decisions made in late 2008 and early 2009 were necessary and save our country from disaster.

Have we recovered? No. But the LoCOS rage over a big deficit is being driven and financed by the major corporations that would prefer the citizen forget what really happened. I wish business hadn’t forced us to use trillions of taxpayer’s dollar to remedy their greed, but we had no choice.

LoCOS: Government is bad
Government is really, really good providing it is run by reasonable people who truly care for the citizens … all the citizens. There is one difference between civilization and anarchy and that is government. Every time I hear the LoCOS point out an example of bad government I can think of a hundred ways that government has made our country great. I mentioned to a person that the airlines need to be regulated again and they pointed out how, under government regulation, an airline was forced to maintain a route to a small city that was not profitable. Yes, that is tough, but what about the scores of lucrative routes that government regulation handed that same airline on a silver platter? I’m really weary of the single exceptions to how great government has been in making this the strongest country in the history of the world. Single exceptions do not make an argument for destroying our country.

Government is the foundation of our society and the only people who don’t benefit from a strong government are the greedy and unethical. When we were in school we would have rather had no teachers telling us what to do, but that wouldn’t have made our education better. It’s time we stopped making the argument of a 5th grader…and time we started respecting what a blessing it is to have a government that keeps our society from devolving into anarchy.

The Face of the LoCO People

LoCOS: Electing stupid people is smart
This one mystifies me. A candidate from any other party would be laughed out of politics for saying or doing something stupid and yet candidates for the LoCOS wear their stupidity like a new hat.
LoCOS candidates are avoiding the media, saying one thing, then changing their story. They scream about illegal aliens and how they are destroying our country, then it’s revealed they were employing them. They dress in Nazi uniforms. They steal other people’s work and claim it as their own. They take campaign money and pay their personal bills with it. They have to explain to people why they are not a witch. They threaten violence on people, yell about almost anything, deceive, and often outright lie…and the LoCOS cheer on.

I know that the quality of candidates of the LoCOS is a reflection of the lack of respect they have for our country and government, but isn’t prima facie evidence that the LoCOS can’t really be trying to improve our country when they are represented by the worst of the worst?

LoCO S: Illegal aliens (=Hispanics) are destroying this country
First, let’s remember that a major portion of the United States (California, Nevada, Utah, southwestern Wyoming, western Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas belonged to Mexico until the mid-1800’s. We took the land from them at gunpoint and paid fifty cents on the dollar for the land. I could make a strong argument that Mexican nationals are not really the illegal aliens in Alta California, Nuevo Mexico, and Tejas, but I will let that dog rest.

(Article: America’s Hostile Takeover of Mexico)

Regardless of the history of Mexico and the United States, the fact is that a typical tactic of a lynch mob is to find a symbol (person or group) that has little or no opportunity to defend themselves and present them as evil. This is a tactic used by the KKK, the Nazis, and every ultra-right wing, nationalistic, racist group. It doesn’t matter of whether the targeted group is guilty of anything, just that they, or no one else, is able or willing to stand up and challenge the accusations. Mexican immigrants are the perfect target for a group like the LoCOS.

The facts are that:

  • Most Mexican undocumented immigrants lead quiet, peaceful, law-abiding lives in the United States (a fact that the LoCOS lie about)
  • Mexican undocumented immigrants are working jobs that no American citizen wants to do
  • That the United States is the primary enabler of the drug wars in Mexico (we buy the product and sell them the arms)
  • Mexican undocumented immigrants can’t file for Income Tax refunds (which most would get if they were citizens) so the United States collects and keeps all the money deducted from their pay.

But according to the LoCOS, they are pure evil and responsible for our all our economic and societal ills. In Arizona, a sheriff’s deputy called that he was under attack by Mexican drug smugglers and was shot. He became the hero of the LoCOS.

Deputy Puroll's wound

Despite a massive effort, no drug smugglers were found. Now it turns out that the wound was from a bullet fired at close range (not from 25 yards as he claimed) and likely self-inflicted. Almost no one questioned the story of the deputy at the time, despite the inconsistencies in his account. Why should they, blame it on the Mexicans. Naturally, the story has to be true!

To me, the whole issue of ‘illegal aliens’ is a tornado in search of a trailer park. The damning terminology, the use of single examples, and falsified facts all indicate that the LoCOS need to create a threat and it the Muslims are too far away to pick on so the target is Mexican nationals.

The New Testament of the Bible has clear instructions on how a Christian is behave. Jesus said to love thy neighbor as thyself. The Apostle Paul says, “…as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another..” (1 Thessalonians 4:9). The LoCOS often boast of their devotion to Christ and then desecrate his teachings by their un-Christian attitude towards those of Hispanic descent.

I’m not buying it.

LoCOS: Threatening our government and the electorate with armed rebellion
Several members of the LoCOS, including LoCOS candidates have indicated that ‘some people’ may be mad enough at our government to invoke ‘their Second Amendment Rights’. I don’t care how you say it, to suggest that some people are going to take up arms against their fellow citizens (if the LoCOS don’t get their way) is wrong. In this country we vote, and we don’t take up arms to enforce the LoCOS will on the majority. Anyone who suggests this is a threat to our Constitution and to this country. Mad or not, there is a line that cannot be crossed over.

I know that everything I said here will not make any difference to the LoCOS. In fact, they will be outraged that I spoke out against their unbridled illogical arguments. You can’t reason with a lynch mob. But sometime in the future we will all look back on this and say, “What were the LoCOS thinking?” The problem is that they are not.

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Your Privacy Rights on the Internet: Read before you write.

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

I have had several discussions with people who have a fear of the Internet and Social Media tools. The common issue that arises is regarding privacy, which to me is an interesting concern. Being concerned that you’re giving up your privacy if you use the Internet is, to me, a Homer Simpson moment.

I’m not sure where anyone got the idea that writing something and sending it out over a public system of servers, visible to almost anyone, and recorded for all time would be private, but for those of you who have that impression, let me read you your rights:

Your Right to Privacy on the Internet

  • You have a right to stay silent.
  • You have a right to not participate in Internet/online activities.
  • You have a right to consult an attorney before you participate in any Internet/online activities.
  • You have the right to stay in your house, block up the windows and never go out into public.
  • If you choose to participate in any Internet/online activities, anything you say can and will:
    • be considered a reflection of your public image
    • be available for anyone in the world to access
    • be recorded for the remainder history of the civilized world
    • be used against you now, or in the future
  • If you choose to NOT participate that will NOT prevent:
    • People from talking about you on the Internet
    • People using your image for almost any purpose
The Internet, and Social Media tools like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn allow people to communicate in a way we’ve never been able to communicate before. It is not intended for private discussions, but it is an open forum. That makes some people uncomfortable, and while I understand that, I also have to wonder why people have a need to say something they are not willing to say publicly?

There is still a time and place for a personal, one-to-one conversation to discuss matters between the two people, but isn’t that better to be done in person? Privacy is not what one should expect when using the Internet, but it is the place for ideas and concepts to be discussed in an open environment that values the input of all. Yes, sometimes the stupid people have louder voices and win the day, but at some point people will look back and learn who was behaving stupidly and who was really correct.

Here are four things I try to keep in mind when participating in online activities:

  1. Sometimes I’m going to say something stupid. I’m human and I will have to buck up and take responsibility for it.
  2. Sometimes people are going to ridicule what I have to say. That doesn’t mean they are correct and it may be a reflection of their poor judgement, not mine.
  3. By participating I will learn more than I could if I did not participate. Sometimes the lesson will be difficult, but that will usually mean I will learn more.
  4. Social Media is not the alpha and omega of life, but it is one of the most powerful communication tools ever conceived.
Now you have been read your rights… you can take it from here.

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Social Media 3Q 2010 Update: Who Uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, & MySpace:

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

The third quarter 2010 demographics of Social Media users according to Google’s Adplanner services has a few surprises. Facebook actually dropped from 550 to 540 million users in the third quarter, and Facebook users over age 54 dropped from 16% to 10% in the last six months. Based on the data from the 2nd and 3rd quarters there is a significant slowing in the growth of the major Social Media tools.

Among the numbers are the interesting age group distributions of each of the networking sites. The data gives important clues of what each site is being used for in addition to who is using it.

Facebook’s Fire Cools
No one can dispute Facebook’s impact on the world. It is BIG, and with millions of posts and interactions each day, the influence of its users is the envy of every marketing professional. Traditional media professional and other old people will be tempted to look at the 3rd quarter data and declare that the Social Media ‘fad’ is over and on the decline. That would be a statement of ignorance.

Facebook 3rdQ 2010 DAILY visits

Facebook’s growth could not continue indefinitely and its amazing growth in users from 2008 to the start of 2010 was being fueled by a viral exploration of a new media that allowed people to connect in a way they never had before. Now that exploration has calmed and I believe we are seeing the coming of age of Social Media.

The drop of 10 million users during the third quarter is only significant in that it shows a leveling off of the growth. The average time on the site is over 23 minutes, which is much longer than the other three major U.S. Social Media tools (MySpace 14:40 mins., Twitter 13:10 mins., LinkedIn 9:50 mins.) That is important as more time spent means more interaction and more influence by users and advertisers.

Facebook reaches almost 57% of the people in the United States (35% worldwide) which is a staggering statistic. If USA Today could reach 57% of Americans (without giving the newspaper away to every hotel guest) and know that the readers were spending over 23 minutes looking at their paper they would probably be the only newspaper in the United States… and mega rich. As of March 2010, USA Today has a circulation of only 1.8 million compared to Facebook’s over 65 million visitors (based on cookies.)

3rdQ Facebook Users by Age

1stQ Facebook Users by Age

One statistic that keeps bouncing around in the Social Media world is that “women over 55 is the fastest growing group of Facebook users.” That it is old data. While the over 55 group had climbed to 16% at the end of March 2010, it is now the fastest shrinking age group and Facebook users under 18 years old have been the fastest growing group during the last six months.

Finally, 57% of the Facebook users are women, which is about the same as six months ago. That seems to confirm that Facebook is about ‘social’ networking and making personal connections. Facebook continues to be the place where buying decisions are influenced through small group interactions. Business and Marketing people will find that if they try to manipulate these discussions it will eventually backfire on them. Facebook is where business should LISTEN, not talk.

Twitter 3rdQ 2010 DAILY visits

Twitter Continues to Pause
The biggest surprise in the 3rd Quarter with Twitter was that it did not break the 100 million user mark. At the end of the 2nd Quarter it was at 96 million users, which was up by 16 million from the 1st Quarter. However, Twitter only grew by 2 million and now stands at 98 million users.

Twitter’s daily visits have leveled off for the last six months, and some might see this as an ominous sign for the hyper-fast post Social Media tool; however, this is deceiving as many Twitter users, (like myself,) don’t go to the Twitter site to use the tool, but rather use an application, like TweetDeck, to interact on the site. Thus the visit count would not be recorded as a site visit.

Twitter’s lack of significant growth in the number of users may be do to a continued lack of understanding of the value of the Tweet world and a period of constant ‘Fail Whales’ in the 2nd Quarter and early 3rd Quarter. The service has seemed to address the major problems in system overloads, but lately has had a return of a few service interruptions in the past few weeks. Obviously, if Twitter continues to have problems it won’t be able to survive in an environment where reliability is oxygen to users.

As for the lack of understanding of the value of Twitter, the service will struggle to grow until people can learn that the impact of Twitter is not in the posts, but the conversations and the URL links to other blogs and webpages. Twitter is like Headline News for new ideas and concepts. Often posts reveal a new approach or cutting-edge information that won’t be in the traditional public arena for months. That is why I still see Twitter growing if they can rid themselves of service interruptions.

3rdQ 2010 Twitter users by Age

1stQ 2010 Twitter users by Age

One interesting development in the latest data is the shift in the age demographics. Twitter seems to have made a shift to younger adults. The 18-34 age group is up by 16%, while the 35-64 age group is down by 9% from six months ago. Also, teenagers (under 18) have dropped by 6% since the 1st quarter and now make up only 4% of all Twitter users. The apparent dislike for Twitter among teenagers is a clear age defining characteristic. I have had two separate teenagers say to me “You’re not on Twitter, are you!?”

Apparently Twitter gives you cooties. Who knew?

MySpace Back From the Brink?
I have predicted the end of MySpace for sometime, but in the 3rd quarter it did something bizarre … it gained users. It had dropped 14 million users from the 1st to the 2nd quarter and then it gained one million users back in the 3rd quarter. MySpace now stands at 67 million users. Not earth-shaking, but certainly noteworthy. LinkedIn would sacrifice several interns to have that many users. MySpace also has more women. Female users consist of 64% of the MySpace population.

MySpace 3rdQ 2010 DAILY visits

The reason? Well, no other major Social Media tool lets you search by gender … and age … and height … and race … and body type … and sexual orientation … are you getting the picture? MySpace is a social dating site as much as anything else and lonely people make up a lot of our world’s population. So maybe MySpace has found its niche as a romance network and that will stop the freefall of the past two quarters.

3Q 2010 MySpace users by Age

3rdQ 2010 MySpace users by Age

Yes, there are more teenagers on this site than most (14%), but 63% of the users are between 18 and 44 years old. One caveat. MySpace has limited the ‘find-a-friend’ search function to give the results of people age 18 and over. That is a smart move to protect minors; however, some teenagers have simply listed themselves as an age of 18 or older to circumvent the limitation. I caught a few teenagers that list themselves as 19, but on their main page description they indicate their real age. This is likely why the number of ‘under 18’ users have dropped from 34% to 14% in six months.

LinkedIn Drifting in Niche
The 3rd quarter statistics show that despite millions of people looking work, the business person to business person website of LinkedIn is not growing. It is at 41 million,
which is actually higher than the end of 2nd quarter, but the same as the end of the 1st quarter.

LinkedIn 3rdQ DAILY visits

Like MySpace, LinkedIn has found its niche. Essentially, LinkedIn is a business-oriented website that provides a job exchange service. Most users are using the networking website as their digital résumé in order to attract job offers. In the Tom Peters ‘Re-Imagine’ business world where branding is a key element of survival, LinkedIn is Mecca for self-promotion.

Unfortunately, LinkedIn is not as successful as Facebook and Twitter in two-way interaction. Both of those Social Media tools do not have as much as of an ‘agenda’ by individual users as LinkedIn. Users of the business-oriented network seem to spend more time professing what they know and don’t spend as much time listening to others. This is the traditional media model of one-way communication, which is the style of communication that Social Media has displaced. For some, the self-promotion run amuck style of some LinkedIn users is a turn off that may hurt the site in the long run.

3Q 2010 LinkedIn user by Age

1stQ 2010 LinkedIn users by Age

It will be interesting to see how LinkedIn will fare as the business-caused Recession of 2007-09 eases and people are employed again. LinkedIn could be a key to a sudden labor shortage in 2012 as those companies with the best opportunities will be able to target and recruit candidates through LinkedIn, leaving other employers to either compete or settle for what’s left over.

Age and gender on LinkedIn reinforce the business-world orientation as more males (57%) are users and the distribution of the age groups reflects the working world. Interestingly, while LinkedIn still has more users over 54 years old (15%), this is 7% drop from the 1st quarter. That is offset by an 8% jump of the 24-34 year old users in the last six months.

4th Quarter Predictions?
I believe we are seeing a refinement of each of the big four Social Media tools. Facebook has become the social sharing network, Twitter is the thought-provoking, learning network, MySpace is the social relationship network, and LinkedIn the branding and résumé network. The demographics are settling in to reinforce the existing nature of each of the networks. Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn will likely end 2010 about where they are now unless something viral either cause a rush of new users, or sends people running away. Twitter still has potential significant growth, but I don’t see that happening in the 4th quarter.

The volatility of the Social Media networks have made it difficult to understand what they will eventually represent in our world; however, now that there seems to be a calming of the major networks, the value and purpose is becoming clearer. That will allow the big four to lock in their market; however, it will also open the door for other networks to identify areas of opportunities and weakness. My prediction is that 2011 will be the entrenchment of the Social Media, followed by more competition by other networks seeking to improve or offer alternatives to the established services.

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Richmond Embassy Suites: The best at true Hospitality!

by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

In August I stayed in hotels in seven different cities (Dallas, TX; Bloomington, IL; Chicago,IL; Minneapolis, MN; Norfolk, VA; Richmond, VA; and Virginia Beach, VA..) In a previous post I expressed my displeasure with pay-for-Internet at the Millennium Hotel* in Minneapolis, which was slightly unfair as the hotel was a pleasant, although completely expected, experience. As a people warehouse the Millennium Hotel fits the mold that is typical of most business traveler-type hotels. However, out of the seven hotels of which I was a guest, there was one that made a big impression on me, the Embassy Suites in Richmond, Virginia.

(*Millennium Hotel: Go Away)

The main entrance the Embassy Suites in Richmond

The Embassy Suites hotel in Richmond, Virginia is not a flashy, Vegas-type hotel. From the outside it is a modern, yet modest building tucked back from busy streets; however, access to the Interstate is nearby. Like many hotels it is surrounded by a massive asphalt parking lot; however, the entrance is behind a landscaped island of trees. The great thing about the foliage is that it creates the sense from the outside that this hotel is not just a people warehouse like so many others.

After entering the hotel one doesn’t have to hunt for the Registration Desk as it is positioned in such a way that it oversees the entrance area, but it doesn’t intrude into the path of a guest walking to their room from the parking lot.

The Inner Courtyard

The striking feature of the hotel is the inner courtyard. I have seen this design before, but it was a refreshing change from institutional interior designs of most people warehouses. The open interior gives a community feel to the hotel rather than the impression that you just walked into a U-Store-It facility, as is the feel of most hotels. The interior landscaping and flowing water features create a tropical environment. This hotel was number six for me during my August travels and it was a refreshing change from the five previous corporate institutions of I had visited.

My room was also vastly different from my previous guest experiences. This was a true ‘suite’ and not just a room with a bed. There was a clearly defined living space with a television, desk, couch, and bar area. The bedroom was in the rear of the suite with a door that would allow privacy if two people were in the room and one wanted to watch television or work while the other one slept. The bedroom had a counter with running water and its own television. The bathroom was in the transition area between the living room and the bedroom offering easy access from both rooms. The entire suite is a brilliant design.

Of course the Internet was free (my minimum requirement) and I had no problems making a connection. If needed, I could have easily made the suite my home base. It is a comfortable living and working environment. I would have had no concerns about hosting small meetings in my room. I had everything I needed except for my Starbucks Chai Tea.

The Embassy Suite's Dining/Reception Area

One of my issues with most hotels is the assumption that people don’t want to interact with other people when they stay in a hotel. I’m as reclusive as most, but to visit a city and never come out of my hotel room is what creates that ‘warehouse feeling’.

At the Richmond Embassy Suites the open feel of the courtyard was put to good use by encouraging guests to congregate twice a day for a free manager’s reception each evening and free breakfast each morning. The reception offered adult and non-alcoholic beverages along with a variety of choices of snack items (hors devours.) The breakfast was as good or better than the breakfasts I’ve eaten at eaten at most Sunrise Rotary Clubs. Those who have eaten a breakfast at a Rotary Club may think that may not be saying much, but I typically pay $14 to $15 to eat a Rotary breakfast and this was free. The free gatherings were the most ‘value-added’ service I have experienced in a hotel.

From the few interactions I had with the hotel staff it was obvious that the Chief Executive of this property, Kathleen Lyons, and her staff understood the meaning of the word ‘guest’. I was always treated with respect and a smile. It was apparent that they were pleased that I choose their hotel over the other options in Richmond.

Giving great customer service is not that mysterious, but it requires that everyone from the bottom (no offense intended, Ms. Lyons, but in my world that means you) up to the top (the maintenance and housekeeping staff) must enjoy what they do and enjoy working with people. It was clear that the Embassy Suites in Richmond is not run by ‘management’, but managed through leadership. Bravo to Ms. Lyons and her team!

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