Businesses and Integrating Social Media

imageA year or so ago, I wrote this to help managers in mid-sized companies  understand the best ways to train employees on how to use social media to interact with customers.  Clearly, I suck at the subject so take it as a outsiders view point. 

Before using social media, most employees generally want training on how to engage customers, especially if they grew up pre-internet or don’t use it personally.  The most preferred way individual training.  Unfortunately, in most companies this scales poorly.  There is so much turnover that it is expensive to keep everyone up to date with newest networks, let alone how to use Facebook or Instagram.  It also limits the learner to established practices.  This limits their options and discourages them from exploring new ways to communicate with customers.

Many companies fallback to webinar training, but this is usually a terrible medium for learning complex ideas.  This type of training often take the worst aspects of traditional classroom learning such as being a passive listener and having to attend at a fixed time.  Add to that a student needs to stare at PowerPoint slides on a tiny 17” screen while listening through tinny speakers it a wonder that anyone would attend unless forced. 

There is still a place individualized training and webinars but other options work better.  Some of the best idea come from podcasters and YouTube video bloggers.  Many are entrepreneurs with their livelihoods at stake.  Therefore, most tend to be focused on increasing attendance.  Here is what they many successful ones do:

1. Keep the message short and focused. 

People find the best training sessions are up to 5 minutes long.  Studies show that people on phones watch training sessions for about 3 minutes and tablets/computers for 5 minutes. 

Short lengths help keep people’s attention.  More short content offers increases the likelihood of covering something people need simply by chance. 

Serialization provides more excuses to publicize content.  This is similar to how tweets aren’t often about the content.  They are about keeping the message in the front of the consumer.

The problem is that short content is often harder to do.  Instructors spend more working a 3-minute speech than an hour-long one.  This increases quality.

Percentage of video watchedviewingpercentageSource: Wistia.com

  1. Make highlight reels.

Take snippets the important ideas from long-form content and post it on the content intranet.  This is common in the public policy sphere.  A creator will make an hour-long video, take snippets out, and post the best parts as short form content.  Some will even create separate short pieces and condense the material still further (sort of like an ad or highlight reel.)  

  1. Practice just-in-time learning.

Because most businesses are cyclical, create and publicize content when learners need it, during peak times of the year.  For instance, at a bank, more employees will want to give savings advice during tax season.  

  1. Ask questions before producing content.

Participation is higher in session where employees know it will cover something they are interested in learning.  In a hour+ long training, few people ask questions.  Sessions cause mental fatigue, especially those in remote locations when the temptation to answer emails or play solitaire is strong.

Gathering feedback before production gives the trainer an idea of what people want to know.  It also gives time for people to think about what they want to learn.

  1. Market it.

Content is worthless if no one knows it exists, market it.  Ideally, there should be multiple posts per week about how to do things cycled on the intranet.  Even if it is a repeat, post it.  Few employees will know that it is a repeat and even if they do, there is no harm with a little refresh. 

  1. Build a community.

If the company is really serious about using the internet to communicate with customers, build a internal community.  Make it a one stop shop.  Start by adding all available training and links to corporate social media presences.  Next, have employees write about personal experiences.  Make this a user listening post.  Use forums, surveys, Q&A, and anything to keep interest.  This will also help trainers and experts by giving a single place for research.

  1. Be passionate.

Nothing is more boring than listening someone reading a script or going through the motions.  If it is boring to the poster, imagine what it like for others.  Training should be interesting to the trainer firstly.  Otherwise, it is not worth doing.

  1. Use multiple mediums.

People learn in different ways, so it is important to mix up training by using multiple mediums such as live training, audio, webinars, videos, blog post, LinkedIn requests, etc.  Together with many short pieces, this has several benefits:

  • Helps to track what works for the audience.
  • Risk of failure is lower, so it allows trainers more freedom to experiment. 
  • Allow for creation of meta-training.  This means creating categories of training based ideas and not on the content type.  Some of the better MOOCs do this.

Use video and live feeds and examples to liven the presentation.  When using video, produce audio and text versions of content.  Despite MTV mantra, video didn’t kill the radio star.  The great aspect of audio is learners can multitask (think audio books.)  Short posts are great to drive traffic to existing content and offer bite sized training to boot.  Post snippets from live training sessions can help reinforce ideas.

9.  Test your audience.

Short quizzes or surveys after the content can reinforce content.  Even if the content is short, ask questions after it to reinforce the material and to gather feedback on how well the content was conveyed.

10.  Be Committed

The weakest part of an social media strategy is management.  Most C-level executive want to engage customers online, but don’t put resources into help employee do it.  The results is lackluster with many employees jumping in at the start and two months in the effort is forgot about, to the detriment of the customer base. 

Nor do many engagement their employees or customers to provide an example.  Without this engagement, interest will wane.

2016 ISU Professor/Administrator Pay Breakdown

Illinois State University - FIREI was doing a little research on teacher pay and came across the Illinois Board of Higher Education site, which lists the compensation of all professors and many administrators.  With is in hand, I through it into Tableau and profiled Illinois State University (ISU.)

 

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ISU is top heavy.  It pays the administrators and unit directors more than other institutions.  They also tend to pay their professors and adjuncts less than most other institutions. 

 

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ISU also uses many more atypical (likely adjunct) teachers.  There are almost twice as many part time instructors than other public universities.  This is likely because it is a teaching college as well as having a vocational/technical bent.  Bringing in people with real world experience can improve learning.  It is also why the pay for instructors/lecturers’ pay is low. 

 

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Excluding the lower paid people, the mix is fairly typical with a few more associate professors on average.  With instructors removed, the median salary is $80,700 vs other universities $83,400. 

 

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When looking at a Pareto chart of compensation, there is a budge of low paid instructors with compensation in the $10 to $30K range.  There is another bulge around $80 to 120K.

Overall, the administrators and high positioned people at ISU are well paid compared to other universities.  It also relies on part-time and adjuncts more than others.

Want to play with the data and compare it to other schools?  Go here: 2016 ISU Professor Pay Visualization.

Walking Around Peoria

Saturday was the first time this fall that the their was patchy frost on the ground.  Hopefully, this will bring out the colors in the trees.

 

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It frost soon burned off as I walked around Miller Park.  It turned out to be a nice day for color hunting.  Good day for traveling around Central Illinois, so to Peoria.  I choose the locations mostly because I never be to them.

 

Luthy Botanical Garden

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At the side entrance to the Luthy Botanical Garden,  there is a statue of R.G. Le Tourneau.  Inscribed underneath is “Mover of Mountains”  likely because he operated several large machinery operations in the early 20th century.   This piece of art would totally be at home in Rapture.

 

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The gardens are small and tucked away behind the Peoria Zoo.  Not as grand as U of I’s Allerton Park and large as Rockford’s Sinnissippi Garden, none the less it is nice to see cities trying to build places that have natural beauty.  Few people must come to visit because even though it was a nice day, there were only a half dozen other people on the grounds.

 

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Picture from behind the green houses.  The greenhouses themselves look like they have seen better days. 

 

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Bet this looks awesome in the spring with the flowers blooming.

 

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The garden themselves have many sculptures and other works.  Not sure what this represents, but it looked neat.

 

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Lemons as large as a softball.  Wish I could get ones this large at the store.

 

Springdale Cemetery

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Outside of Civil War burial sites and other national burial site, Springdale Cemetery is one of the largest cemetery’s I have ever walked in.  Hilly and heavily forested it is quite picturesque.  This is at the top of South Center.  The cemetery is in the process of turning the area back to prairie.

 

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This is near Orchard Hill.

 

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The Glen.  Because of the hilly terrain, many of the gravestones have shifted because of rain run off.  At night, this should give the area a creepy appearance of an old cemetery.

 

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There is a pet cemetery called Whispering Woods that allows special pet a comfortable resting place instead of being buried behind the garage or in landfill.  There were cat, dogs, and pair of bears. 

 

Donovan Park

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This park was once a golf course.  The conversion must have happen in the last few years because many of the greens and sand traps are still visible through the overgrowth.  Neat feature was that the 60s style golf signage is still in place that gives the park a unique feel.  On the grounds is Northmoor Observatory.   I wonder how good the view is given the light pollution around Peoria.

Increase Virtual Memory for Stat Programs

In my work, I run many models using gigabytes and larger datasets.  Even with 32GB of RAM, sometimes programs crash for lack of memory.  Since it is unlikely that my work machine will receive a memory upgrade in the near future, another option is to expand Windows virtual memory.  While this is unlikely to speed up the formulation of results, allows programs more memory space to run models.  

This workflow is for Windows 7.  It will work for Vista, but some of the steps are slightly different for 8 and 10.

 

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  1. On the desktop, click Start
  2. Type control panel

 

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  1. If the Control Panel looks like the above picture, click View by: > Small icons

 

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  1. In the Control Panel, click System

 

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  1. In System, click Advanced system settings

 

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  1. In System Properties under the Advanced tab, click Settings…

 

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  1. In the Performance Options popup, click Advanced tab
  2. On the Advanced tab under Virtual memory, click Change… button

 

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Now there are various ways to change it.  This system has two drives. 

The C: drive is a smallish Solid State (SSD) drive.  While increasing the memory allocation here provides the fastest access time, there isn’t much space in a 256GB drive.  I normally either leave it as [System Managed] or remove it all together to increase space for programs.  If you are going to set it manually, try not to use more that 20% or so of the drive. 

The D: drive is a large traditional hard drive.  Because of its 2TB size and the fact that programs do not install here, it is a good place to store swap disks.  Again, the size should take up too much of the drive unless it is the only thing that will be on it.  Try 64GB to 128GB start and go larger if programs continue to crash.

  1. Click the drive name
  2. Click Custom size
  3. Enter the initial size (MB)
  4. Enter the Maximum size (MB)
    1. This don’t need to be the same, but I like symmetry.
  5. Click Set button
  6. Click OK to close the Virtual Memory Window
  7. Click OK to close the Performance Option Window
  8. Click OK to close the System Options window

Generally, Windows will ask for a reboot.  Do it at the first possibility to enable the suggestion.

Note:  For best results, if you use a traditional hard drive, defrag it first to give Windows a large contiguous block of space on the drive.  It may reduce thrashing.  This step is not necessary on a SSD.  Happy quanting

Samsung vs Internet

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Samsung seems to be taking tips from TheDonald and attempting to silence parities and stiff people who have been affected by the fire prone Note 7.  You think companies would have learned that controlling the narrative rarely working on the Internet these days.

There are just too many people with access and too few public relations employees to fight them.  Instead, an obscure modder get their 15 seconds of fame while I and much of the world wouldn’t have even know it existed.  It shouldn’t be surprising that they treat their potential buyers as poorly as they treat their employees.

Link: GTA 5 – EXPLOSIVE Samsung Galaxy Note 7?! (GTA 5 Mods Showcase)

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Fare Thee Well Acme

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Well it happened, the last true comic book establishment, Acme Comics, in the B-N area succumb to Amazon and electronic comics.  While I never frequented it often, people that I know have many fond (and not so fond) memories of spending their youth purchasing comics, Heroclix, and toys from this place as well as Metropolis, which went out of business over a decade ago.

I guess Babbitt’s Books has stepped up of offer subscriptions to satiate your comic fix.  Seems like an odd idea for the store.  I frequented the Babbitt’s more for non-fiction and stuff for school.

Learn from Other and Don’t Reuse Passwords

imag0741_crSigh, another day, another hack.  Clinton’s campaign chief John Podesta had his email hacked and displayed for all to see earlier this month.  That was bad enough, but miscreants noticed his password saved in an email.  They started to look for other accounts that used the same password finally ending up deleting everything in his Apple account and posting embarrassing tweets on Twitter.

John failed to follow two simple security protocols.  Never reuse passwords and do not put them in an email.  Emails usually have no encryption and anyone can read them when sent through the internet.  Saving the information in a document is almost as bad because malware can harvest these if a piece of hardware becomes infected.  It also a pain to keep synced with all devices unless stored in DropBox of other file shares.

A Simple Security First Step

Keeping track of more than a handful of id and passwords is pain and nearly impossible on today’s internet.  So, use a password manager.  Several of today’s password managers such as LastPass and KeePass integrate seamlessly into desktops and mobile devices.  To find one that meets your needs, Likehacker or PC Mag sites have some good information on how the software works.

Remember to make the password on the manager unique and easy to remember you will use it daily.

Changing Passwords

If you are using the same password in more than one in place, stop.  If there is a breach, especially if it is your email account, then all other sites become vulnerable.

It is tedious to change passwords on all of the web site you access at once.  To break up the frustrations start in this order, doing a bit at a time:

  1. Protect your email and phone. A breach of one these leave all accounts venerable to hacking because of the password reset options sites have.  A stolen phone without a password or other lock leaves your virtual life open to snooping.
  2. Accounts holding financial information. Bank accounts are most important, but this group also includes sites such as Amazon or your power company since they store credit card information.
  3. Social sites. This includes social media sites such as Facebook but also other sites that you regularly use to communicate with others such as forums.  It is embarrassing for a spammer to hijack your account and start spamming fake Nike or pharmaceuticals to your friends and family.
  4. Anything else. Update other sites as you log into them.

Other Security Ideas

  • Occasionally check the news to see what sites have breaches.  Have I been pwned is a good side to check if your email address or user name are in lists of stolen accounts.
  • For important sites, use two-factor authentication. This can come in form of a text message sent to your phone, an email, or an app downloaded to your phone.  Even if someone gets your password, they will be unable to get into your accounts.
  • Don’t share accounts with others. Find out a way to give each person a unique log in.  As a bonus, the personalization features stay unique to you.  No longer will you receive cartoon recommendations when you use Netflix.
  • Don’t share passwords with anyone for any reason. Legit tech people will next ask for one.
  • Password-protect your phone. It is your most important piece of technology and is the center of their lives for many.
  • Do save password in the browser.  It is hard to move from one machine to another and malware can read it if installed.
  • Install an ad blocker.

While taking these steps won’t make your digit life hack proof, it makes you a more difficult target and just like locking your front door, it raises the time and hassle it takes do to something to you.  It is worth a few hours of investment for some extra protection.

Ad-blockers Improve the Surfing Experience

free-image-download-blank-not_allowed-signA few weeks ago, someone I know contacted me and said they received a message when visiting a site.  It said their computer was infected and to call Microsoft.  This was a common scam where less savory internet elements buy ad space on sites to con the unwary into calling or downloading malware.

This is an easily alleviated problem.  Just install an ad block extension to the browser.  They block a common vector of viruses, scams, and malware that often piggy back on malicious ads.  This happened to me a about 5 years ago when an ad on Dillert.com downloaded malware to my machine.  Fortunately, the hackers only wanted the gold in my World of Warcraft account.   Ever since, all of my browsers had ad blockers.

Ad blockers also have another use.  They make the web a cleaner, less flashy place.  No more loud blinking ads.  No more ads breaking up content.  Below are the versions I normally use and install on people’s machines to improve their browsing experience.

 

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Icon of uBlock Origin

For Mozilla compatible clients, uBlock Origin seems to be the one of the better ad-blocker extensions.  As my main browser, I have tried at least a dozen of them and found it to be a little lighter on my machines.  It also plays well with the other add-on installed in the browser such as NoScript, Disconnect, and EFF’s Privacy Badger.  I also feel it is a good one for people who have little knowledge of how browsers work.

The only issue is that a few sites like Forbes will block access to their site, but most ad laden sites don’t have much in the way of original content so there is no real loss.

 

image  Chrome

imageI use Chrome at work over Internet Explorer because users can install plug-ins without administrative rights.  Again, uBlock Origin is the one of choice.  Given the closed nature of Chrome, it runs a bit rougher than on Firefox but most users will not notice it.

 

image Internet Explorer 11

imageBeing hard to code for and growing obsolete, there are few addons for IE 11.  When I reluctantly need to use IE, I use Adblock Plus (ABP.)  It works fine but is slower because IE is just pain to use compared to faster and newer browsers. 

Also, I don’t really endorse ABP.  The company who writes the software acts in a scummy way.  Advertisers can pay to have ‘acceptable’ ads show through.  However, there are few decent alternatives. 

 

image  Microsoft Edge

imageEdge in Microsoft’s new browser that is available on Windows 10.  Despite the hate, it is actually a decent browser.  It was recently made better when Microsoft started to allow extensions.  Like IE 11, I don’t use it much because it doesn’t have the extension pool I need yet, but when I have to surf on it, I use AdBlock.  I choose it because it was the most downloaded extension not out of any well founded research.  Overall, I don’t have many complaints except that it sometimes causes odd style sheet changes to web sites where uBlock Origin doesn’t on other browsers.

 

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I have no idea what is good since I don’t use Macs.  Fortunately, Apple recently updated the browser to allow ad blocker.  Quara users have a decent list to try with some being on my own list.  Remember that Safari isn’t the only browser available.  Installing the extensions above in Firefox or Chrome will work just as well.