technology

How Accessibility Has Changed Marketing

I was recently chatting with a friend about required reading for English Majors, namely Dickens. “I don’t think Dickens was that great,” he said. “Well…he’s not fun to read” I conceded (this from the girl who read A Tale of Two Cities for fun in 8th grade). “What if his stuff only became so popular because like 10% of the population was literate back then?” And I had to admit, I’d never really considered it before.

This conversation, combined with a recent post from Seth Godin discussing the recent increase in people/businesses using video in their marketing, has made me think a lot about changes made possible by resource accessibility.

We have more formats.

Once education and literacy were available to a larger population, there was a wider variety of published material. Just look at what we have today: tabloids, magazines, novellas, newspapers. Then the internet happened, which was a great equalizer in terms of marketing. People were eventually able to publish their work online once blogging platforms like Wordpress came around. And as social media sites became popular, people didn’t have to necessarily write anything of length anymore to be heard. A sentence now can literally be seen by millions, or at least has that potential.

We have more equality.

The act of marketing and selling goods online has become easier for small businesses. For instance, Google offers tools like Google+, maps, and analytics to anyone with a website. These are great resources for smaller businesses who don’t have a team of people dedicated to market research and analyzing web metrics. We’ve written more about Google+ for small businesses and Google analytics for anyone who wants to delve deeper into those areas. (And if you want someone like us to ‘just do it’, we do that too.)



We need less skills.

You no longer have to be technologically savvy to put your “stuff” out there. As Seth’s article points out, you also don’t have to be a skilled photographer anymore to get Instagram accolades. You don’t need to be able to code to have a website, or get a television contract to have people watch your videos. With the help of a smartphones in particular, all of these activities are accessible to the greater public.

When copy exploded across the web, the professional copywriter felt threatened. Anyone could write, and anyone did. When photography was added to the mix, the professional photographer felt threatened. Everyone had a camera, after all. –Seth Godin

First accessibility happened to text, then it was links and photos, now it’s video.

More recently, video has become the newly accessible medium for all. According to this article written last year, people don’t expect high production value on videos shared via social media. These videos can get away with having a home-video level of production quality. Some ideas for live video (the kind that can be streamed as you record and get published as-is) include product demonstrations, “Ask Me Anything” sessions, and more.  If you do want to add a bit of production, there are some relatively cheap options out there like iMovie or WeVideo. You may have to pay a little, but it’s significantly cheaper than outsourcing to a different company entirely to do your editing.

Distributing video is also easier, since you don’t have to haggle over advertising space or air time on t.v. YouTube, Periscope, Facebook, and all of the other social media sites make it easy to upload videos (for free!). Again, people aren’t necessarily expecting anything cutting edge in terms of production in these places. People are consuming as quickly as you’re producing.

As the world of online marketing becomes more accessible, the better it is for small businesses. Although many of these things (video, analytics, general website maintenance) require some time and training to be done well, it’s worth the investment. Accessibility means we’re all learning together and that’s pretty cool.



Unplugging or Overcorrecting? Online Life in Moderation

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of things go by about “unplugging” or generally disconnecting from technology. As a person who spends a considerable amount of time on computers/the internet personally and professionally, I understand why this is appealing. But, as a person with a tendency toward addictive behaviors, part of me wonders if this cycle of adamant unplugging symbolizes a binge/purge cycle of sorts (one that I get caught up in pretty frequently). Does it have to be an all or nothing, black and white situation, or is there a happy medium?

It turns out, there’s A LOT of information that starts up around 2012 that discusses societal dependence on technology/social media, and their detrimental effects on all aspects of our health.



Psychological Health: The attachment to social media and electronic devices is thought to breed negative emotions, including (but not limited to) envy, jealousy, anger, sadness, and fear. Recently, social media has been named the culprit in a rise of eating disorders in the UK. There’s even studies that equate social media addiction with drug and alcohol addiction. Our brains think we’re reaping rewards when we scroll through our newsfeed, so we get in the habit of doing it because apparently it feels good, to a point.

spill-cellphone-ecard-1

And yet…this article presents a counter argument that suggests our unhappiness comes from the way we’re using social media. If used in a different way, it can actually be beneficial to our mental health. There are blogs, forums, and other online resources that someone who is struggling (but not quite ready to reach out to someone close yet), which can be encouraging and act as a nudge in the right direction. Technology can provide opportunities for outreach and research, and there are even games designed to stimulate certain areas of the brain (creating to help combat symptoms of depression/anxiety).



Physical Health: I’m not an M.D., so I can’t tell you whether sleeping with your phone on your pillow is going to give you a brain tumor, but I can speculate that it isn’t healthy to do so.

Look Up & Away. In 2002, my 7th grade class in Milbridge was fortunate enough to be among the first round of students in the state to receive Mac laptops as part of the MLTI grant. This was also the year that my eyesight went from ok to practically non-existent. That was the year I had to get glasses for nearsightedness. I’m sure there were other factors contributing to this blindness onset, but as with any average 12 y/o, eyeball straining wasn’t on my radar of “Things I need to concern myself with.” Give your eyes some breaks in between typing and

Stretch and Stand: Studies are now showing that sitting for hours on end is actually pretty terrible for you. Go figure, huh? For those of us with jobs requiring a lot of desk time, it can be difficult to not be sitting all day. Some are able to combat this with standing workstations, others make a point to get up and walk around to break up the day.

If standing/moving isn’t possible for you to build into your work life, take a look at some stretches and yoga poses that help ease tension in your back, shoulders, and neck.

Perhaps ironic, I saw this go by on Facebook.

Perhaps ironic, I saw this go by on Facebook.

There isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” solution here (but hey, is there ever?). Chances are, if your relationship with technology/social media feels unhealthy, you’re the only one who can say for sure. If you’re checking your ex’s-best friend’s-step sister’s-dog’s- uncle-twice removed’s Facebook page more than once a day, perhaps a little social media detox would be a good idea. And yes, it’s kind of rude to snapchat your best friend about the latest Kardashian drama during family dinner at your Grandma’s house (quadruple point reduction if your phone isn’t even on silent). Think of some ways to reevaluate your relationship with social media/technology. For instance, as a kid my mom imposed a one-hour per day t.v. rule on us (and we lived to tell the tale). Maybe you put time limits on your technological devices, or only allow yourself to watch Netflix when you’re at the gym (which is also a great workout motivator). Maybe you’re the type of person who needs to detox for a bit and slowly reintegrate things back into your life. It’ll probably take some experimenting before you find feel like you’ve found a happy medium, but ideally you’ll be much happier overall once you’re there.



Tech Thursday: Health and Social Media

Since around 2012, there have been an increasing amount of studies/articles going by about social media’s harmful impact on our psychological/emotional health. Even technology in general gets a bad rap for causing these and physical ailments. Most of the proposed solutions involve detoxing or unplugging altogether, but what about finding a happy medium? That’s what this Tech Thursday is about! A solo host by Kassie this week.



4 Ways You Can Introduce Technology to Your Current Job Description

integratingtechinyourjobLearning more about technology involves not only research but application. And I think that’s where a lot of people fall short in terms of increasing their tech skills.

The question is, if you already have a full time job, how are you supposed to increase your technology skills within it? Here are some ideas we’ve had about that (all things I’ve actually tried in less technological jobs than I have now!)



1) Propose a technological solution for a non-technological problem.
Let’s say you hear your boss mentioning the uptick in customer service phone calls related to the release of your latest product. You could offer to create an orientation video showing the product’s features or FAQ section for the website addressing specific concerns after interviewing several customer service representatives. Make sure you get permission from your supervisor before you do this (and get your actual work done!), but in demonstrating you can solve problems with technology, your boss will be much more interested in your next idea. And if what you do becomes a hit, you might find yourself with a modified job description!

When I used to work at a school, there was lots of technology but none of the teachers were using it. So rather than another memo, I started a monthly ‘Tech Thursday’ for the teachers. They could come after school and for an hour learn about something technical, like setting up the LCD projector or using iMovie. I’d try to make it fun, like giving out a prize to the person that could set up the LCD projector the fastest. School leadership was appreciative that I tried to help them tackle the issue and I got a once a month excuse to learn something new.

2) Do volunteer work with a technological slant.
Many jobs not only allow but compensate individuals for doing some kind of volunteer work. Consider a volunteer opportunity with a technological slant that is related to what you want to learn, like teaching a computer course at the assisted living center, running a robotics team at your local middle school, or redesigning the website of a local non-profit. This work will not only teach you your new skills but in teaching what you learn to others, you’ll solidify your knowledge.

In my old job at the newspaper, I volunteered at a local middle school starting a tech club called Zoey’s Room. I had to help the girls troubleshoot tech issues and had a lot of fun. On the days I did that, I just came in an hour early into work to get what I needed to done.



3) Find a technology mentor in your company.
Just because you work in the sales or accounting doesn’t mean you only have to associate with others in your department. Seek out a potential mentor in your company who has a more technical role, and offer to take them to lunch. When it becomes clear that you aren’t gunning for their job but simply want to learn more about, say, PHP programming, your new mentor will likely be excited about your interest. You can then figure out a structure that works well for you, whether it’s ‘learning sessions’ 30 minutes a week or collaborating on a company project together. Your employer will likely be excited about cross department collaboration and the potential that brings.

I’ve had many mentors since starting this business who are more tech savvy than myself. That said, a mentor relationship is one of give and take so I tried to use my skills to help my mentors out in return for their generosity with their time and knowledge. Like with Matt, I try to draft emails, manage projects and do other tasks to make his life easier while he teaches me about, say, advanced CSS.

4) Document what you learn.
Whether you record what you learn in a blog, on a Youtube channel, or even presentations you upload to Slideshare, documenting what you learn using technology not only increases your skills but allows the world outside your job to see you as an expert in your chosen technological field. This might turn into a new employment opportunity or simply a way to help others out not as far along in their learning process as you are. Either way, it’s good for you and the world. This blog started as a way, in part, to document what I was learning… and turned into something even more amazing than I could ever expect. But it wouldn’t have come my way if I wasn’t putting my ideas out there.

We live in a world where technology infiltrates almost every job… and if it doesn’t, there are easy ways for you to increase its role within your work. Get more tech in your work life, you’ll be smarter and happier for it.



Tech Thursday: Slideshows Part II

As promised, this week we’re delivering part two of the slideshow discussion.

So, you’ve decided that you want a slideshow for your website. There are hundreds of options out there, how do you even begin to choose? One way to narrow down the search is to determine what you want the slideshow to do (should it link to other pages, showcase pages from your blog, or be image-based?). You also want to have an idea about where it will be located on your website (will it drive the homepage, or be an item in a sidebar?).

Do some research before choosing a slideshow, so you aren’t heartbroken later on!

Over, Under, And Through: Dealing With Sexism In The Tech Industry

A couple weeks ago, Pax Dickinson got fired from Business Insider very quickly for some very sexist and racist remarks on his Twitter feed. For those of you not coming to this blog for vulgarities, I’ll include this tame one as an example:

paxdickinsontweetIn related but unrelated news, a couple of months ago, Bryan Goldberg launched a website for women which he said was the ‘first of its kind’. He got a lot of flack for implying that he needed to create a website for women. My favorite article from this online magazine aiming to target a smart, interesting, modern female demographic?

bustlearticleUgh.

These, and some other smaller news stories, have stemmed from this subculture of the ‘brogrammer’. This is the idea of a bro who is also a programmer, which as a group have been creating a similarly ridiculous subculture some have compared to Wall Street that women are choosing not to be involved in. (This isn’t just an opinion, there are actually less women in the tech industry then there was in the 1990s.)

Steve Jobs was considered a genius but why don’t we say the same of Marissa Mayer? Can you name any woman in tech besides Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg? (I can’t.)

What can we do about it? Well, you can do what I did and start your own thing. I largely get to stay out of that ‘bro’ subculture since I get to pick my coworkers (men and women who are not sexist). I also get to turn down work with sexist jerks that are potential clients (my female body parts generally scare them off anyway).

In Tina Fey’s Bossypants, which is one of my favorite books ever, she talks about women in the workplace in a general way and it is her advice I follow:

So my unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work, and outpacing people that way. Then, when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you.

If the answer is yes, you have a more difficult road ahead of you. I suggest you model your strategy after the old Sesame Street film piece “Over! Under! Through!” (If you’re under forty you might not remember this film. It taught the concepts of “over, “under,” and “through” by filming toddlers crawling around in an abandoned construction site. They don’t show it anymore because someone has since realized that’s nuts.) If your boss is a jerk, try to find someone above or around your boss who is not a jerk. If you’re lucky, your workplace will have a neutral proving ground—like the rifle range or the car sales total board or the SNL read-through. If so, focus on that.

Again, don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions. Go “Over! Under! Through!” and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing. Don’t care if they like it.

(If you want to read the whole excerpt, just go here. It’s better in a context and it’s not much longer than what I have above.)

So those of us women in industries where we aren’t welcome, let’s go over, around, and through… because this is how things get better. I’ll keep doing my thing and not caring if Pax Dickinson, Bryan Goldberg, or anyone else likes it.

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