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24 posts categorized "Education"

June 30, 2014

How SMS is Revolutionizing Emerging Economies

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Since 2007, individual farmers in developing countries are estimated to have made up to $4000 in additional profits and saved twice as much – and it’s all thanks to SMS messaging.

First trialed in India, and now being rolled out in other emerging economies, Reuters Market Light (RML) has had a truly revolutionary impact on the lives of rural workers since being introduced. This noble scheme was designed to level the playing field for remote farmers operating in a globalized marketplace. The service acts as a watchdog-cum-information-hub for agricultural commerce, issuing crucial information to people who may not have internet access.

It’s a far cry from the sophisticated mobile marketing tactics employed in the western world, but RML has demonstrated just how powerful SMS messaging can be in the absence of smartphones and web connectivity. Thus far, millions of farmers all over the world have received vital updates throughout the season, with information tailored to the specific needs of an individual’s profile. Information like regional and global market rates for crops; local weather data and disaster alerts; advice on increasing productivity and reducing risk, and other information that could have an impact on operational costs.

The scheme is intended to safeguard vulnerable workers against exploitative middlemen who seek to undercut them. There’s no shortage of compelling testimony to the efficacy of the work being done by RML. One story tells of a grape farmer who began exporting produce to Russia after learning of the country’s higher prices. It’s estimated that a staggering 1.2 million farmers in India are using the program to improve their chances.

RML offers a moving demonstration of how the humble mobile phone can help some of the world’s poorest people without the bells and whistles of the smartphones which proliferate among the world’s richest. SMS messaging, it seems, is powerful enough to raise living standards and brings some semblance of equality to a globalized economy. Kenya has used SMS messaging payment programs to reduce robbery statistics, with an amazing 25% of the country’s GDP now flowing through the M-Pesa system.

Studies indicate that introducing ten cell phones per one hundred people in the developing world can boost economic growth by 1%. RML, M-Pesa, and others are truly improving the lot of some of the hardest-hit regions on earth, giving citizens cheaper services, better access to crucial economic data, and ultimately creating greater expectations about acceptable living standards.

 

May 22, 2014

Canada Combats Bullying with SMS

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In British Columbia, schools in the Tri-Cities are preparing to launch a text messaging platform aimed at combating bullying. The service will be ready to go at the beginning of the school year in September, and will operate between the hours of 3 and 11pm.

The platform was presented to school trustees by the I Am Someone Society, an organization established to end bullying. To create the technology, I Am Someone partnered with BC211, a network that links users to community and government services.

Education authorities recognize the need for SMS messaging as a way to stay in touch with young people. The objective is to use text message conversations as a conduit to other means of support, such as phone or live counseling.

With scope for anonymity and arms-length communication, texting is often the most trusted form of engagement for teens and young people. A youth services coordinator in Port Coquitlam supported this notion during the meeting last week, citing compelling statistics regarding teen usage of SMS:

  • Girls between 13 and 15 send roughly 250 texts per day
  • Boys between 13 and 15 send roughly 175 texts per day

The coordinator described the texting platform as a ‘larger net for those youth that might have fallen through the cracks’ adding that SMS provided the best solution for teens who are unable or unwilling to make phone calls. 

The agreement between school trustees and the I Am Someone Society requires the data to be provided to the latter so they can analyze how the service is being used, how long each interaction lasts, the nature of those interactions, and other information that could help combat bullying in the future by identifying gaps in the network. If teens text in large numbers about a service that doesn’t exist in their community, the platform will highlight that.

The Mayor of PoCo is optimistic about the future of the service, hoping to see it rolled out in Vancouver and, ultimately, the whole of Canada.

May 02, 2014

Using Emojis in Text Marketing

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Remember the early days of Web 1.0? Every site had a garish color scheme. Pioneering html coders took a fast and loose approach to formatting. Most of all, those early developers were extremely limited in terms of the type of content they could provide. It was all huge blocks of text, presented in one of the seven or so fonts available at the time (none of them attractive).

 

Look how far we’ve come in twenty years. The inexorable rise of video and photo sharing apps like Instagram, Hulu, YouTube and SnapChat indicate an audience that overwhelmingly prefers visual content over plain text.

 

The evolution of an increasingly passive, content-hungry audience has thrown up some major challenges for mobile marketing campaign strategists. How do you keep visual content fresh? This is a particular challenge for small businesses who lack the budget to keep generating exciting new content.

 

Emojis are a fantastic method of adding some color and vim to your campaign without spending too much cash. Originally from Japan, these tiny pictographs represent emotions, objects, ideas and much more. In 2011, after Apple added them as a language option, their popularity had exploded.

 

Why are they so useful for mobile marketing campaigns? Well, even the very best writers can have their text misconstrued; not everything can be communicated through words. Emojis can convey certain emotions and tones of voice in a way that mere words cannot.

 

Emojis have been used with great success by a number of mobile marketing campaigns, including PETA’s Cruelty Beyond Words initiative. The target demographic was principally a young audience who tend to engage less with charitable causes. Realistic, vivid emojis have been used to encourage young people to share information about the initiative, with PETA supporters able to text a red heart emoji to 73822.

 

Branded emojis are helping companies and organizations of all stripes reach more of the 80%+ of US mobile users who send text messages. The ubiquity of texting makes it the perfect platform for mobile marketing managers to engage with audiences – especially younger people. And for important social movements, where images are often more powerful than words, emojis are becoming an essential part of the fabric of mobile communication.

 

April 09, 2014

5 Apps for Helicopter Parents

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Remember the old days? When kids were free to run wild without their every move being micromanaged by anxious parents? Growing up in the 80s, the best a worried mother could hope for was a call from a public telephone – if the mood struck her child.

Those days are gone. Between SMS messaging, smartphones and GPS, app developers have all the tools they need to help anxious parents keep tabs on their offspring. Kids, you might want to stop reading now. Grownups, check out our top 5 apps for making sure little Johnny is as safe as houses – and your house is safe from little Johnny!

iCam

Featured on Today, CNN and Good Morning America, iCam provides you with live feeds from any room in your house, direct to your mobile device. Each room must contain a running computer with webcams and the app installed. Probably unwise to use it instead of a babysitter, but it’s ideal for people on vacation who can’t shake that feeling that the house is burning down being broken into.

Kitestring

The ultimate in overprotective app, Kitestring can be programmed to track your whereabouts and ensure you arrive safely at your intended destination, at the intended time. Just like a worried parent, it checks up on you by requesting a response at a certain time. If you fail to respond, the app alerts your pre-programmed contacts via SMS messaging.

FBI Child ID

Created by the FBI, this app allows parents to store ID information and photographs of their children. The stored information can be quickly access in the event of the child disappearing. Crucially, it only stores info on the iPhone until parents need to send it to the authorities. The app includes shortcuts to 911 and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Find My Kids – Footprints

In the same vein, this app gives parents real time updates on their kids whereabouts. GPS has been applied to everything from vehicle navigation to mobile marketing solutions, but this is a world-beater in terms of providing parental peace of mind. Find out if your child is travelling alone and whether they’ve arrived at a specific destination.

Txt Shield

As kids grow up, concerns about sinister abductions begin to lessen. But parents of newly-driving teens have a whole new set of concerns. Txt Shield is one of a number of apps on the market aimed at preventing accidents caused by distracted driving. The app sends automatic replies to any incoming text messages based on how fast the mobile device is moving. 

January 16, 2014

3 Language Pitfalls to Avoid in Text Message Advertising

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Nobody wants to receive a text message that looks like spam. And a sure way to alert mobile users that what they’re receiving is indeed one of the many mobile marketing advertising campaigns that aren’t taking their precious time into consideration is by using language pitfalls. Hype, jargon and abbreviations are three critical language pitfalls that will turn your customers off from your text message advertising campaigns.

Here are some text message advertising examples of what NOT to write:

Hype
Using words like “awesome” and “amazing” just scream “spam” to your customer. If a deal or promotion is truly awesome (i.e. valuable to the consumer), then it will speak for itself. Be sincere and meticulous when choosing your words. Talk to customers how you’d like to be spoken to, with honest and realistic content that helps consumers make an informed decision.

Jargon
You will never alienate customers through the use of standard language conventions, but slang or jargon can certainly cost you a customer. In addition, it can come off as an unprofessional reflection of your brand. Use careful wording when addressing customers. Show them respect for being loyal and regard the relationship as a privilege. If you wouldn’t talk to your boss like that, don’t send it in a text message to a customer!

Abbreviations
Don’t assume that your customer knows what you are talking about. Using abbreviations can cause confusion, resulting in lower conversion rates. This is part of the general application of text message advertising: be concise, but be clear!

Testing campaigns can often eliminate these types of errors. Running a trial text marketing campaign can tell you if your test receivers are having trouble understanding the message or are turned off in any way to the language chosen. You may go through several versions of as text message advertising campaign before it’s ready to launch. However, taking the guesswork out of which messages are effective and which aren’t by obtaining throughout feedback regarding the language used, will prove ultimately more valuable to both consumers and the brand sending the message.

January 12, 2014

Schools Find Creative Ways to Use SMS for Updates

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Too often, mobile marketing practices are associated solely with retailers and other businesses who use the types of service offered by the likes of Ez Texting to promote special offers and issue reminders. But SMS marketing can be used for more edifying purposes than mere commerce.

Local and national governments already rely on texting to communicate with staff and voters. SMS allows them to streamline their communication process and keep people tuned in to the latest events. Now, schools and colleges all over the world have followed suit. Educational institutions are signing up to mobile marketing programs that help them improve the lines of communication between students and staff. In the process, they are creating a new culture of applying cutting-edge technology to a civic context.

A typical application of SMS in schools is notifying parents of a school closure due to extreme weather. Another use is minimizing truancy by sending texts to the parents of absent children. Other schools are using mobile marketing strategies to inform pupils of upcoming events.

In Scotland, Fife Council recently introduced bulk SMS messaging across all schools in the area. Their system reaches out to supply teachers in a staffing emergency, sends closure notifications and notifies parents of upcoming events. The rollout was so successful, Fife has won several awards for their innovative use of mobile marketing technology.

Cash-strapped schools with small admin teams are, arguably, some of the most well-suited organizations for harnessing the power of text messages. Firms like Ez Texting, with their affordable SMS marketing plans, are opening up the possibilities of this technology to groups of people who are not in the profit-making game. The example set by Fife Council demonstrates that the latest mobile marketing trends are not just for business – they serve the common good as well.

 

October 01, 2012

9 Classic Business Books that Aren't Actually About Business

Entry By Jason Brick

Ed. Note - Last week we posted 9 Classic Business Books You Should Have Read Years Ago — and this post is the followup. If you missed the first, we highly suggest you read it now!

Classic-business-books-not-about-business
Reading is an important form of education for most small business owners, but not all business reading has to be about business. Check out these titles, ostensibly in other sections of the library that can stimulate your business mind just as effectively.

  1. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
    This classic book of military strategy was recommended by Michael Douglas's Gordon Gecko character in Wall Street. You always knew business was full of conflict. This manual tells you how to win them.
  2. The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman
    Don't let the title fool you. This hippie-flavored text is full of actionable ideas for improving your personal effectiveness, focus, energy level and relationships with people.
  3.  The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
    "Machiavellian" means "brutally effective" for a reason. Another centuries-old book, this one describes how to run a principality for maximum gain. As it turns out, principalities and businesses aren't terribly different.
  4.  The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman
    A pop-scholarly work on globalization and modern communications, it's one of the best for wrapping your mind around how people work in this century. Business owners operating without his insights are at a disadvantage.
  5. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
    Gladwell uses case studies of successful ideas and businesses as the core of this book, but it's really about how people think and groups react.
  6.  Drive by Daniel Pink
    Pink spent years looking at the research on what really motivates people, and found some surprising facts. It will help you identify the kinds of incentives your staff needs, and how to apply them.
  7. The Book of Five Ringsby Miyamoto Musashi
    Where The Art of War discusses battle at the mass scale, Five Rings is about personal combat. Musashi's lessons can just as easily be applied to the "singles combat" of negotiations and meetings with human resources.
  8. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
    A guide to moving serenely through the tribulations of life. The Agreements -- Be Impeccable With Your Word, Don't Take Anything Personally, Don't Make Assumptions, and Do Your Best -- are equally applicable to successfully navigating the rough waters of business and entrepreneurship.
  9. The Elements of Style by Strunk & White
    When people say somebody is smart, most of the time they mean that person communicates well. Especially in this age of easy self-publication, social media, blogging and text marketing, knowing how to write is a skill all business owners need. This is the go-to book on the topic, recommended by the likes of Stephen King and "Grammar Girl" Mignon Fogarty.

These obviously aren't the only non-business books you can use for business. Other blogs have recommended everything from The Bible to Dr. Seuss. What reading would you recommend?

September 27, 2012

9 Classic Business Books You Should Have Read Years Ago

Entry By Jason Brick

Whether you read them while riding on the commuter train, kicking back in the hammock at your house, or streaming from an audiobook during your workout, learning the best ideas business has to offer will directly improve your company's bottom line.

Library

If you haven't read these books by now, you should make doing so a priority. If you have, consider looking into some other works by the same authors. 

  1. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
    Covey's insights into how to organize work and prioritize tasks has influenced businesses, academics and personal effectiveness gurus for decades. If you haven't at least heard of this one, you should probably get to know it immediately.
  2. In Search of Excellence by Thomas Peters & Robert H Waterman, Jr.
    A study of highly successful international companies, this book identifies eight key principals of business and tells you about this with a variety of case studies.
  3. The Practice of Management by Peter Drucker
    Trends change, but people remain the same. There's a reason this book on how to manage and treat your people has stayed in print for 67 years.
  4. The One-Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard & Spencer Johnson
    A newer book on how to handle your employees or team, this focuses on result-driven communication and fostering trust between yourself and the people who help you succeed.
  5. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber
    Gerber built an empire on teaching people how to systematize their businesses for best results with least effort. This book distills his most vital discoveries into actionable advice.
  6. Competitive Strategy by Michael Porter
    A theoretician writing about the real world, Porter managed to create a classic that changed not only business, but how business is taught. Sixty-three printings later, the book remains a must-read for those who want to grow a business beyond their local neighborhood.
  7.  How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
    Carnegie got it. He understood that most of success isn't skill set, knowledge or market -- it's knowing how to express your ideas and get other people excited about them. This book tells you how.
  8.  Secrets of Closing the Sale by Zig Ziglar
    No business book list would be complete without mentioning sales training by Zig Ziglar. This is one of his most comprehensive and best.
  9.  The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley & William Danko
    Though mostly about wealth management, this study of how people become millionaires is full of actionable advice for small business owners looking to make the most out of their profits.

Of course, books don't have to be classics to be worth reading. What are some more recent publications that belong on our bookshelves? Comment below with your favorites. 

Ed. Note - We will follow up this post next week with a collection of business books 'that aren't really about business.' Stay tuned!

September 26, 2012

Who is the Next Stephen Covey?

Entry By Jason Brick

Stephen_Covey_2010Stephen Covey died on July 16, 2012. If you run a business, you've probably heard of him. If you haven't, you've definitely heard some of his ideas. Covey is arguably the most famous and influential thought leader for business and work methods of the 20th century, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. His passing leaves a huge hole.


Here are some authors and thinkers who might be able to fill it.

  • David Allen Allen's Getting Things Done described a task management system that's being adopted about as eagerly as the 7 Habits. His consulting firm is running strong and he continues to publish.
    • Key Concept: Putting everything you need to do into a system means not spending mental energy worrying about what you haven't done yet.
  • Tim Ferris Ferris' The 4-Hour Work Week is about lifestyle design, time management and setting priorities. Though his business model isn't for everybody, his ideas certainly are. 
    • Key Concept: As much as 90 percent of our effort and time are wasted. Fix that and live a life free from "time famine."
  • Seth Godin Another business celebrity who started by founding a web boom company, he now writes a blog and dozens of books about how we view marketing, markets and our work. Seth has a cult following, and may be poised to break into mainstream success.
    • Key Concept: The ways of doing business we developed since the late 19th century aren't just outmoded -- they're dangerous.
  • Ken Blanchard Author of The One Minute Manager and Gung Ho, Blanchard is tactics to Covey's strategy. He offers specific, actionable advice about managing teams ranging from large businesses to the nuclear family. 
    • Key Concept: Management is a science, not an art. It can be taught and learned.
  • Michael Gerber Electing Gerber would be like electing a current vice president after an 8-year run by his presidential partner. The E-Myth, his core concept, is as nearly as popular and widely accepted as 7 Habits.
    • Key Concept: Systems are the best solution to running a successful business.

These may be the front runners, but there are plenty of other smart people in the race. Who would you nominate? Comment below. 

September 19, 2012

12 Common Sense Ergonomic Mistakes That Cost Your Business Money

Entry By Jason Brick

Ergonomics can feel like a capitalist's version of feng shui. Some "expert" offers to come in -- for a surprisingly significant amount of money -- and rearrange the furniture in a way that makes your business work better.

Doxy cares about my ergonomics

If you run a major plant or similar operation, it can be worth hiring a pro to organize your workflow. For the rest of us small business owners, simply avoiding the most common and costly mistakes is enough.

  1. Storing "Grouped" Items Separately
    If you have a task that requires both a widget and gizmo, always store the widgets and gizmos as close to each other as possible. Otherwise, that task takes extra time with every repetition.
  2. Cramped Work Spaces
    Working in a cramped, or otherwise restricted or uncomfortable, work space slows the work process and costs you money. It also makes repetitive stress injuries and similar maladies more common.
  3. Cheap (or Inappropriate) Tools
    If somebody has to drive screws every day, spring for a power driver instead of a hand tool. This saves time every day and cuts down on workplace injuries.
  4. Bad Floors
    Rough floors can trip. Too-smooth floors can cause slips. Folks on their feet all day should have an ergonomic mat to ease the stress on joints. Fixing this can be one of the cheapest ways to boost office ergonomics.
  5. Dim Lighting
    This one is obvious, considering how often it's ignored. Keep work areas bright enough to work in, and change light bulbs whenever they start to dim.
  6. Poor Work Space Arrangement
    Any given work station has a flow to it. If that flow is set up for maximum efficiency, it works well. If it's set up poorly, it costs money.
  7. Bad Lines of Sight
    The worst line-of-sight situations require you to hire extra people to keep an eye on the door, or on line workers. Make it easy for people -- including supervisors -- to see everything they need to see.
  8. Ignoring Hazards
    Most small business owners have done this once or twice -- putting off a repair that makes an area more hazardous than it should be. Don't do it, and if you are -- stop.
  9. Bad Storage Arrangement
    In your storage areas, put heavy and large objects on the lower shelves. Light, small objects go higher up. Any other arrangement takes more time and risks more frequent injuries.
  10. No (or Inconvenient) Ladders
    Some jobs just need a ladder or step stool. If you don't have one -- or if it's all the way across the facility -- your employees will try to make due with a rickety pile of boxes, or one of your wheeled chairs.
  11. Cheap Chairs
    If your employees will be sitting in chairs all day, make sure they're nice chairs. Back injuries and tendonitis are just two of the risks associated with cheap sitting space.
  12. Not Writing It All Down
    Your processes and policies are there to help people work safely and efficiently. If you don't write them down, it's hard to train new employees on how to do things the right way. It's even harder to discipline employees who don't want to comply.