What are QR Codes and Why Should You Care?

Perhaps you’ve seen them on the bottom of magazine ads, on plants in Home Depot’s garden center, in the windows of stores, or on realtor signs—QR CODES.  Those odd looking codes that look more like a maze or puzzle of some sort.

social marketing, social media managed services, help for small businessRealtors using social media, technology for small business, managed services for social media, help with marketing

According to Wikipedia: A QR Code is a matrixbarcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by QR scanners, and smartphones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.

QR Codes are like hyperlinks on our physical world!  You simply open the scanner app (see our favorites to download below) and with the camera on your phone, hover over the code to be taken to videos, websites, even a social media site. Try the two above.  They are no longer just black and white either.  If you go to QRStuff you will see a world of possibilities.

In real estate it can open up a home digitally, when no one is there to let you in physically.  No more crinkled or soggy flyers in a box. Scan a QR code on the “FOR SALE” sign and go on a virtual tour and then click the link at the end to connect with the realtor.

Stores can allow people to see inside even when they are closed.  Put a QR code on clothing tags and take people to a video that shows how to take an outfit from the office to date night or how to accessorize with great scarves.

To make your code, simply take the URL (web address that starts with http://), copy it and paste it into a site like QR Stuff or Kaywa to have it turned into the code.  Now download the code (usually as a PNG or JPG image file).  Now put it anywhere you’d like.  Let your creativity flow…how could use these hyperlinks in your business?  What’s the most creative use you have seen?  (Tell us in the comment area below)

Do you need a good QR/Barcode scanner for your phone? Here are a couple (FREE) favorites:

Android: QR Barcode Scanner

iPhone/iPad: QuickScan

Have more questions about using today’s tools to build your business?  I’d love to answer them.

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My Cell Phone Will Have a Place at the Holiday Table

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I’m so grateful for my cell phone and iPad that I’m setting a place at the table for them this Thanksgiving!  I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. I love everything about the digital world we live in. I love that I can find recipes and get ideas for beautiful table settings on Pinterest, compare prices and even purchase online, most of my holiday gifts, all while driving home from a ski day with the family (in the passenger seat of course).  I love being connected to lots of smart people who are generous with their knowledge, inspiration, and their witty comments.

Now before you call for me to put back into the strait jacket (yes I’ve been in one before for a photo shoot, and it was quite comfortable), let me explain.

crazy for technology and social media, gina schreck in strait jacket

We live in a connected world, and there’s just no way around that, unless you start sharpening your wood furniture making skills and get that horse and buggy I saw for sale on eBay, we are all moving forward in this technologically connected world.  WWW used to stand for World Wide Web, but today it stands for Whatever information we need, Wherever we are, and When ever we need that information.  I am constantly amazed, and extremely grateful that we are able to carry around a device that allows us to chat with family members, snap and share a photo of the puppy we just got, look up movie times and purchase tickets, and even connect with the chef you just saw on The Cooking Channel’s, Restaurant Takeover, and ask him for the Short Rib and Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie recipe you just saw and get a personal reply from him within an hour, so you could make it the next day! (HUGE thanks to Chef Derek Minkensky, who made me a superhero cook with my family.)

Shepher'd Pie Chef Derek Minkensky

I am grateful for technology and connectivity.

I have formed some amazing friendships with people that I have met online, via Twitter mostly, but through Facebook and even Instagram.  People that started out as just someone whom I shared a common interest with.  But through regular, short conversations online, our friendships grew.  In the past, friendships were nurtured through the weekly or perhaps monthly phone calls that lasted 30 min (or an hour in my case) hearing all about what they had been up to and just catching up on life.  Today, it is different.  I see that Donna is spending the day sitting on her porch swing through a photo she posts on Twitter or Facebook, and I comment back to her that one day we will have to meet there to have coffee.  She replies and tells me about a class she has the next day and I wish her good luck.  All that in 4 or 5 tweets.

Twitter Collage of friends of Gina Schreck

My mother’s new iPad has helped to start healing our relationship.  Yes, it’s true.  We have had a difficult relationship for a long time.  It would take years and a very comfortable couch for me to explain here, but let’s just say we rarely spoke.  We live a healthy distance apart —she in California and I in Colorado, so when, and if, either of us called (usually the obligatory holiday or birthday call) it was superficial and short, ending before it turned into negative stories about one family member or another.  It would drain me to even think about making those calls.  My mother usually heard about our family updates through my aunts or my sister, because of the short and regular conversations we all have on Facebook.  My mother refused to get on Facebook, saying it was a waste of time and that she would have to go into my step-father’s office and then remember her password to log in, and so the hassles kept her off.  However, she recently got an iPad and learned that Facebook opens up with the touch of an icon now.  With a bit of prompting from me and bribing her with seeing the girl’s engagement or high school photos that were recently taken, she got on.  She started slowly, liking or commenting here and there on a post of mine or a photo of the kids, and now she is sending messages and writing embarrassing messages everywhere!  We love it.  I was moved to tears last week, when I got a private message on Facebook from her saying, “Okay, I’m addicted.  I love being on here and getting to chat over coffee with you every day.”  It has been a healing tool.

connecting with social media

I love having clients that are more like friends because of how we share with one another on Facebook or other social media sites.  I don’t just know their business goals, I know about their dream vacation or that they are teaching a cross-fit class on weekends and buying a hot new red convertible.  These are the little social snacks that nurture relationship and deepen friendships.   

For all the bad press, being too connected gets, I raise my glass to my cell phone and iPad today.  I give thanks for Verizon, and every other carrier that allows us to be online anywhere, anytime and for anything we need.

Cheers to being connected!

cheers to technology and social media

If we are not connected, please do so on any social site you are on…I’m there!  I am grateful for each of YOU and wish you a wonderful Holiday season connecting with those you love!

social media marketing small business, hotels, social business

Tools For Living A Social and Mobile Life

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How does one juggle all the social sites they are on as well as manage to get any other work accomplished?  I know for myself, I could not survive being a mother, wife, business owner and main marketer for our company without being able to work on the go.  I live completely mobile. I can truly work from anywhere–and have held virtual meetings while sitting in my car in parking lots, attended client review calls while at the airport, and I write blog posts and create video pieces from anywhere I can whip out my iPad.  Answering tweets or capturing a great photo and posting immediately to Facebook for our business is a snap with the right mobile tools.

To survive the sheer amount of information we consume and contribute to, we can either chain ourselves to our desks for the next 87 years or we can make sure we have the tools in place to live a joyfully mobile life. So if you ask me, “Which is the most valuable mobile tool you have?” I would want to say my Galaxy S3 phone that allows me to use the mobile hotspot through Verizon and get a team of people on my own network, but then I would have to add my iPad that runs off that mobile hotspot from my car, near or far, in a train and in the rain, in a box with a fox and …okay you get it. I can work from ANYWHERE! I have hundreds of apps on that iPad that allow me to check website analytics in real time, blog to WordPress while sitting on top of a 14 thousand foot peak in Colorado, post tweets, Facebook updates or LinkedIn messages using Hootsuite, or entertain 8 year olds with my favorite game, Max and the Magic Marker. Apps like Dropbox allow me to access my documents, and with Sign-n-Send I can open and sign a contract before sending it back, no printing, scanning or pens needed.

working mobile, social media, living mobile

However, there are some key pieces that allow me to be successfully mobile that don’t get talked about as often. They are the tools that make the magic happen, like SUPER SPEED internet service, phone service that allows me to take calls from home or forwards them to my mobile where ever I am. They are tools that may not seem as sexy to some, but they work seemlessly so you don’t spens your time frustrated with great gadgets that don’t do what you need them to do.

I switched to Verizon Wireless almost a year ago because I needed a service that could provide a family of data-hogs with a plan that made sense while allowing me to work from as many locations as possible.  I needed reliable service for work and home.  I was asked a few months ago to join a cool team of Verizon customers to help evaluate some of the cool products and services coming out, and that is when I discovered the FIOS products that can make any home SMART!  FiOS offers super fast internet, that’s  more reliable (I cannot afford to have my internet down, EVER), crystal clear digital voice service for home and office phones, and amazing digital TV products that not only bring an awesome picture quality but continue to add features that make our televisions more social. Being a tech enthusiast, I love all the new innovative products that are rolling out through Verizon with a big focus on living and working mobile.  With the FiOS app on your iPad or mobile phones you can listen or watch programs on the go, turn on lights in the house while you’re gone.  I need the video monitoring service to check and see if that pesky bear is tearing up my bird houses again, or more practically, if it is the UPS or FedEx delivery truck at the gate before I get up from my desk.  These are just a few of the smart features that allow me to get more work done in an ever shrinking span of time.
mobile business smarthome living mobileSo to live and work successfully mobile, you need a smart phone and/or tablet that allow you to get everything done that you could if you were chained to your desk AND you need a back end system that supports that ALWAYS ON lifestyle.

So if you are struggling with finding the right tools to live the mobile life, or if you have wondered if it’s worth the investment to buy that smartphone or tablet, I would recommend making a list of daily tasks that keep you chained to that desktop and then evaluate which tasks could or could not be performed away from your desk.   The next time you are stuck for 20 minutes waiting for your doctor to call you in, or you are waiting at that soccer practice that was supposed to end half an hour ago, you will realize the value of working wonderfully mobile! A delayed flight is now super productivity time and a cancelled client appointment becomes great quiet time to work at the coffee shop down town.  With the right tools you can stay social everywhere you want to be!

What tools help you live successfully mobile?  What are the things that keep you chained to the desk?

@GinaSchreck

Survive Daylight Savings With These Tech Tools

Daylight savings, why do we do daylight savings, technology, time saving apps, social media for business

Only 74 More Clocks to ChangeSometime long ago, a group of government officials decided they would mess with people’s natural sleeping patterns and throw them off for weeks by telling everyone in most of the United States (except for people who live in Arizona and Hawaii) that suddenly in the middle of fall (used to be the last week in October, but it’s now the first week in November), the overworked citizens would be given an extra hour to sleep, or use however they would like.   But it isn’t a real gift, it is more of a loaner, because five months later (used to be in March but is now in April), that hour will be taken back, and the fine citizens of 48 states and a few US Territories will once again be out of whack!

Not only do we walk around for weeks completely off kilter, but the day after this magical time change takes place, people have to go around their homes searching for every clock they own to either make it fall back or spring forward, thus wasting the very hour they were just given.

So as you begin to take inventory of all your time pieces this week, I decided I would share some fun apps and tips to either save you time, or fill the time you will have after missing your flights and appointments.  Perhaps you should just throw all clocks away and start your own time zone!  I’d love to hear about the apps and tools you are using to save (or make up lost) time.

  1. Glympse (available on Android, Blackberry, iOS, Windows7) This app is for those of us who will be at least an hour late for every appointment because we set our clocks back an hour after our spouses had already set them.  Open the app and send a link via email or text message to the person you are meeting with and let them track you on the map.  It’s like watching Santa fly over Kansas on his way to your house via NORAD tracking.  Very cool.
  2.  GateGuru (available on both Android and iOS) This app will save you time while traveling especially when you have that one hour layover and need to find a quick bite to eat but you are hankerin’ for a Quizno’s sub.  Open up Gate Guru and the GPS will show you what exactly is available in that concourse and it includes reviews by other travelers!
  3. AutoPark (on iOS only) This is the app that will save you time and money.  As you walk around for the next few weeks not paying attention to where you are parking your car, AutoPark will help you find your parked car, tell you how much time is left on your parking meter, and will show you nearby services such as banks, car-washes, parking lots and more!
  4. Banking Apps (Wells Fargo; Chase; BofA and more) This is not our grandma’s Savings and Loan anymore!  We can save loads of time by taking our tasks on the road and it is safe.  Most banks today have mobile banking features that allow you to pay bills, transfer money and even find nearby ATMs all with your mobile device, and now we are seeing apps for many banks that are taking it further allowing you to even deposit your checks by taking a picture of the check with your phone!  WOW- you can get your banking done and go back to bed for another hour!

So as you FALL BACK on November 6th, be aware that you will probably spend the next few weeks recovering from the confusion that comes from not knowing if you really gain an hour or if you have you spent more time telling yourself “It’s really 5 o’clock right now, not 6.”  Remember when people tell you that time is your enemy, you can tell them that fortunately technology is your friend and together you have made peace with daylight and night time.  They won’t understand what you are talking about and you can just walk away…saving MORE TIME!

Gina Schreck, Shreck, Social Media for Business, Social marketing, technology

The Time Challenged, Gina Schreck

Gina Schreck is the President and Chief Hooligan at SynapseConnecting.  If you have time this week and need to chat with someone about your social marketing needs, give her a call…She’s got TIME!
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This blog post has been sponsored by CLEAR, the service that speeds you through airport security. CLEAR members save so much time at the airport, it’s like having Daylight Savings every time you travel! CLEAR, the (self-proclaimed) Official Sponsor of Daylight Saving Time, is celebrating the extra hour we get on Nov 6th with a series of travel and time-savings posts on their blog – and here, on my blog too.
Time saving technology, Daylight savings, Clear, airport travel
To help you see what CLEAR is all about, they are offering my readers a special 3-month FREE trial! Don’t settle for just one extra hour this Daylight Savings. No need to deal with unpredictable security lines, the stress of rushing to your gate, or the time you waste getting to DEN extra early. Click here to get your pass and try CLEAR’s enhanced travel experience for yourself. Just enter my code (CMNDST09) in the promo code field on the payment page.

10 Tech Tools to Be More Productive (and Maintain Sanity)

Armed with laptops, tablets, smart phones and 5 hour energy drinks, we should be able to complete that 4 hour work week that Timothy Ferriss says is possible. With social sites to update, apps to learn how to use and our actual job duties to complete, we just need a few more of those 5 hour energy drinks and 10 times what Timmy estimates, to get it all done!

Gina Schreck, Shreck, Social Media for Business, Social marketing, technology

Avoid Overload

I spend more time playing with and checking out apps than the average person and I’m sure I spend more time on social media sites than most as well, but that is our business. But if you have been feeling that technology, and especially social media sites, have invaded our lives like a swarm of locust coming in to eat our crops of time and productivity, you are not alone.  Even I get that urge to take out my bug spray and start crop dusting for locust.

Over the past few years, I have come to rely on a few tools that save me time and make packing a 60 hour work week into at least a 39 hour bag a little more doable. So here are the top 10 tools I feel will help you save time:

Smart Phone

This seems like a no-brainer, but there are still quite a few people who have not seen the value in switching to a smart phone. Having a phone that can access email, edit and send documents, take pictures, respond to questions on your social sites, post content as you see it to your social sites, and more, will save you from having to wait until you can get back to your computer to “get work done.”

iPad (or any other tablet for that matter)

We’ve heard the legends of the magical device that shoots out cotton candy rainbows (also known as the iPad), but once you start using it for more than a giant iPod to play music, you will discover that magic land for yourself.  Working mobile is now really possible when you have a device that allows you to check and respond to email, create and edit documents, including presentations and smart looking charts, make reservations for dinner without picking up a phone, join a Skype meeting with co-workers and update your social profiles with the touch of a screen….Can you say Magical Unicorns?  Now when you are sitting for 15 minutes waiting for your lunch appointment to arrive, you can be productive.  When you have that 30 minutes before your son gets out of football practice, you can get a chunk of work finished.  Slip it into your carry-on and pound out work on the plane, train or bus.  I believe these power tools are worth shelling out the $500-$600

Flipboard

We used to sift through newspapers and trade journals to search for relevant information and even clip articles to send to clients, prospects and friends.  Today you can have better, more focused content sent to you daily (on your magical tablet) and even send articles to those clients and prospects with a touch of a screen.  Flipboard is one such app that I can’t live without.  Each morning, I open to find custom information that is pulled from blogs, websites, social sites.  I can read it, share it, tell the app whether or not I want more of that same type of content or even more articles from that particular writer.  The app will update the content throughout the day so your virtual newspaper continues to feed you information as you desire.

WordPress app

It took me awhile before I actually started using this app and now I am getting great value from it.  This app (available on Android, iPhone, iPad) will allow you to blog on the go or even start a draft post when the idea strikes.  It’s wonderful!

Instapaper

I am surprised how many people still have not heard of Instapaper, but this is like having a folder filled with clippings to read when you have those in-between moments.  Install this app on your PC, laptop, and mobile devices, and then when you find a blog post that you want to read later, you simply click “READ LATER” in your browser or SAVE TO INSTAPAPER on your mobile devices.  Now when you have that 10 minutes of waiting time, simply open up your Instapaper app and read your “clippings.”

Dropbox

A favorite time saver for so many reasons. When you are working with several clients and want to simplify how you share and transport documents, graphics, and more, Dropbox is a must. We create a Dropbox folder for each client and then the community manager that works on that account has access to the folder as well as the client. Photos and articles can be dropped in the

Google Docs

Between Dropbox and Google Docs, the days of emailing “proposal version 1.7” “proposal version 1.8” back and forth are over. I have several people that I work with regularly but on different projects. Using Google Docs allows us to maintain one document that can be updated (even together at the same time seeing each other add or change information) and shared instantly. BIG time savings!

Hootsuite (or TweetDeck)

With content to post, read and respond to on LinkedIn, Twitter & Facebook, these tools are essential for saving time and staying on top of all of your social activities.  They both have similar features but Hootsuite allows teams that manage social media to collaborate and share duties.  Using the “schedule posts” features on either of these, you can plan ahead with many of your posts and then sprinkle in the spontaneous.

Evernote

This time saving app is like carrying around a trunk to throw everything in for your business. Snap a photo of a sign that you want to incorporate into your blog and save it in your Evernote Blog Notebook. Have an idea hit you while your stuck behind the train? Record an audio message and save it to an Evernote notebook. Add documents, graphics and even the kitchen sink…or a picture of the one you like. Unpack WHAT you want WHEN you want it…WHEREVER you are. This amazing tool is available on your desktop, iPhone/iPad, Android and Blackberry!

ManyMoon

ManyMoon is a wonderful project management tool whether you work alone and need those daily reminders of what needs to be completed to stay on task with your projects, or you work on a team and need to keep tabs on who has finished what.  This was part of Google’s lab tools and integrates well with all Google tools, calendar, docs and more.  (Not just for Google calendar either).  The fact that it is free makes it even more desirable!

Well these are my favorite apps and tools to stay organized and on task.  I’d love to know what your favorites are.