The Do’s and Don’ts of Social Networking for Professionals

By Tracey Dowdy

Navigating the waters of social networking can seem more fraught with peril than avoiding Somali pirates. Whether you’re an employee, a small business owner, or you run a multi-national corporation, cultivating and maintaining best practices in social networking is essential in today’s marketplace. Staying on top of what’s trending and how social media is constantly evolving is critical to your continued success.

These simple tips can help you get started or act as a check list for what you’re already doing.

Do separate the professional from the personal. This may seem obvious but photos of your kids, what you had for dinner last night, and your opinion of who should get voted off the island belong on your personal page. Your professional page is all about your brand. Have a clear vision of who you are and stick to that. Be that guy.

Do complete your profiles. If you don’t have time to complete your profile on LinkedIn how are you going to have time to take on a project for a client? First impressions are very important, so make it a priority to go through your social network accounts and ensure they’re complete.

Do keep your profiles up to date. Have you taken additional training? Moved beyond your original market? Changed your logo? Keep your profiles up to date and uniform. Again, it’s all about branding. You want to be consistent.

Do engage with your followers. Sites like HootSuite and PostPlanner are great for helping you consistently upload fresh content to sites like Facebook and Twitter but don’t rely on them exclusively. The key to social networking is in the name – social. There are lots of places on the web to gather news and information but your followers want to hear from you.

Don’t stay in your own bubble. Reach out to your followers. Endorse them on LinkedIn. Share content they’ve posted on Facebook. Retweet them. Endorsement demonstrates you value them as a client or peer and strengthens both your credibility and your network.

Do create a feeling. Social media is all about creating a feeling. Polar bears are actually quite deadly and the only animals that actively hunt humans. Geckos have nothing to do with insurance and garden gnomes don’t travel abroad. Yet those beautiful polar bears have made you choose Coke over Pepsi; that cheeky gecko has boosted sales for Geico; and that roaming gnome – who has his own Twitter account I might add – has achieved cult status for himself as well as significant market share for Travelocity. Never underestimate the power of feelings.

Don’t post without proofreading. Mistakes in spelling and grammar will make you look totally unprofessional. If spelling isn’t your strong suit, remember spell check is everyone’s friend, but even then be wary and check your work. As an example, my co-worker recently posted an endorsement of our colleague Elisabeth on our corporate Facebook page by describing her as having a “sweet and genital nature”. Suffice to say, proofreading is important.

#Don’tAbuseOrOveruseHashtags Tweets with hashtags perform twice as well as those without but don’t get carried away. Twitter itself recommends no more than two hashtags in a tweet but on Instagram, the rule seems to be the more the merrier. In fact, posts with eleven or more hashtags seem to do the best. But over on Facebook the rules change again as posts without hashtags rank the highest.

Do give credit where credit is due. Heard a clever quote? Found a brilliant marketing hack? Read a great article filled with valuable tips on social networking? Then by all means tell your followers but don’t forget to credit your source. Not only will it boost your credibility, you’ll have expanded your peer network by mentioning the author or creator of that content. On the other hand, presenting work as your own when it was created by someone else is plagiarism.

Don’t forget to have fun. Remember, social media is all about engagement and making connections. Stick to your brand and be professional but don’t be dry and boring. Be yourself and be conversational. Again, marketing and networking are all about relationships. Curate your online presence, be real, be relevant, and have fun.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Thursday, March 26: A Special WWEmoms Twitter Event

A Special WWEmoms Twitter Event

#WWEmoms

When: TODAY, Thursday, March 26, 2015
7:00 – 8:00 pm ET
4:00 – 5:00 pm PT

Join @WWEmoms and friends at 7 pm ET (4 pm PT) TODAY as we look forward to WrestleMania 31!
Get ready for WWE’s biggest fan event of the year! Join us as we help kick off WrestleMania 31 and showcase WrestleMania Axxess, the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, and all the community outreach events that highlight this week-long celebration!
RSVP and attend the Twitter event for a chance to win one of 10 WrestleMania Prize Packs courtesy of @WWE!

 (Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: WWEmoms) and include your Twitter ID
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed:  http://ow.ly/KxtAa 
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#WWEmoms) today between 7 – 8 pm ET
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for WWE.)

Best Apps for Personal Safety

By Tracey Dowdy

Whether you’re backpacking across Europe, walking across a parking lot late at night, or allowing your daughter to go to her first unsupervised party, personal safety is always a consideration. Male or female, young or old, we all feel safer when there’s someone there beside us.

Fortunately, even when that someone isn’t available, we still have options. Mobile phones can act as personal safety monitors and alert friends or authorities if we feel we’re in danger or we can’t call for help.

[Note: no app can replace experienced first responders; if you feel you’re in a real emergency or immediate danger you should always call 911.]

bSafe

bSafebSafe allows you to set up your own personal safety network from your contacts. bSafe offers Follow Me, which enables your contacts to virtually walk you home, and the SOS button, which when tapped immediately starts recording audio and video, broadcasts your location and (optional) sounds an alarm. Data (video, voice, location and time stamps) is stored on bSafe servers should you need to make a police report. You can set a timer to send a fake call for blind dates and set a timer that will trigger an alert if you don’t check in. (Free – iOS, Android)


Kitestring

kitestringKitestring is a web-based service that works through SMS text, so it works even with feature phones. Once you register at kitestring.io you can set up a customized message which alerts emergency contacts if you fail to check in within 5 minutes of a pre-assigned time. You can set a personalized keyword so that Kitestring will continue to work even if someone else has control of your phone. (Free)


OnWatch

onwatchOnWatch has six customizable alert modes that allow you to send a personalized message to friends, family, 911, campus police, or any combination of these with just two taps. Or set the timer before you go out and, if you fail to respond, your message is automatically sent to your pre-selected contacts. OnWatch is connected to your smartphone’s GPS so your location is tied to all messages. You can activate a flashlight, an alarm, and post messages to Facebook and Twitter. (Free download – iOS, Android; subscription $0.99/month, $9.99 annually)


Guardly

guardlyGuardly offers a free and a premium service. With the free version you can notify everyone in your emergency circle – family, friends, 911 and campus police – with a one-way alert. As an added bonus, you can place an emergency call while your phone is still locked more easily than you normally could. With the premium version, Guardly can immediately connect you to a multi-party conference call, private IM session and real-time location tracking during an emergency call. (Free download – iOS, Android; premium subscription $1.99/month, $19.99 annually)

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Friday, March 20: How to Buy Technology

VERIZON INSIDER TWITTER PARTY

#VZWBuzz

When: TODAY, Friday, March 20, 2015
3:00 – 4:00 pm ET
12:00 – 1:00 pm PT

‘How to Buy Technology’

Join @TheOnlineMom and the #VZWBuzz team at 3 pm ET (12 noon PT) TODAY as we chat about How to Buy Technology!
This week’s #VZWBuzz chat is brought to you live from Verizon’s brand new Destination Store in the heart of downtown Boston. Join us as we look at how to choose the right technology for you and your family, and how an innovative hands-on approach is completely changing the technology buying experience!
RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win one two (2) red Droid Turbo smartphones!
 Plus, join @TheOnlineMom and special guests on the live Video Recap right after the chat for two more chances to win a red Droid Turbo smartphone or one of the following great wireless accessories:
one of two (2) Chamberlain Garage Door Openers
a Nest Thermostat
a Mini Parrot Drone
a VivoFit Fitness Band
an iON Air Copy Wireless Scanner

(Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: VZWBuzz) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://ow.ly/KoLRj      
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#VZWBuzz) today between 3 – 4 pm ET
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon Wireless.)

Classic Games You Can Play on Your Smartphone

By Tracey Dowdy

Whether you’re feeling nostalgic and want to introduce your kids to the classic games of your childhood or just looking for a way to pass the time while you wait in line, these classic games have been re-mastered for your smartphone and tablet. As an added bonus, the app versions offer the features of the original game and they’re usually less expensive.

Board Games

Monopoly is actually banned in my house because my husband is ruthless, but for everyone else the app version of the game is a lot of fun. The free version offers everything you loved about the original board game or you can upgrade with in-app purchases to customize your gaming experience. (iPhone – $0.99, iPad – $4.99, Android – $1.99)

Mad Libs takes the original game and adds a soundtrack and sound effects.  Play solo or with a partner; save your story or share it with friends. The app includes 21 free stories, with new stories being added all the time. (Free with in-app purchases – iPhone, iPad, Android)

The Game of Life offers all the fun of the original but adds 3D graphics and music from your music library. Pass and Play with up to six friends and track your progress with the Life journal. (iPhone – $0.99, iPad – $4.99, Android – $0.99, Windows Phone – $2.99)

Scrabble allows you to play solo against the computer, challenge friends on Facebook, or choose both as you can play multiple games simultaneously. Use the “Teacher” feature to improve your skills, the in-game dictionary and word list or the Best Word feature to see your highest scoring word option. (Free – iPhone, iPad, Android)

Yahztee lets you play the classic dice game solo or with up to three friends. Choose different modes of play and save your game to come back to at a later time. (iPhone – $0.99, iPad – $2.99, Windows Phone – $2.99)

Video Games

What list of classic games would be complete without Pac-Man? The app version includes the original 1980 maze, plus an additional 9 mazes to challenge you. Use your touchscreen for swipe controls or use the online joystick to avoid the ghosts and munch power pellets. (iPhone, iPad, Android – Price varies based on version of game purchased)

Tetris Blitz is old-school Tetris with drag and drop or one-touch features to help you get the highest score possible in the two minute time limit. Play alone or in time-limited battles against online players. In-app purchases allow you to power up your game and earn higher scores. (Free with in-app purchases – iPhone, iPad & Android)

Tomb Raider Pack featuring Lara Croft lets you fight bad guys, solve puzzles and search for treasure in Atlantis and the pyramids of Egypt. The app version includes the original 1998 version of the game, plus two additional chapters. (iPhone, iPad – $4.99)

Secrets of Monkey Island brings back Guybrush Threepwood in his quest to become an infamous pirate of the Caribbean. Play the classic or Special Edition versions and take advantage of the hints to play better than ever. The original cast is back for the voice overs, and the score has been re-recorded and digitally re-mastered so the sound is as authentic as the graphics. (iPhone – $2.79, iPad – $4.99)

Sonic the Hedgehog is back! Race across seven zones to collect rings and best your enemies to save the world and defeat Dr. Eggman. The app version offers the option to play the original game or to play as Sonic’s friends Tails and Knuckles. Re-mastered sound and graphics means play is better than ever and new “Time Mode” brings a whole new challenge. (iPhone, iPad, Android – $2.99)

If the fast-pace of the game wasn’t enough, the soundtrack by Bad Religion and the Offspring could hook you on Crazy Taxi. Time is money and it’s up to you to race through the streets and rack up the most fares in 3, 5 or 10 minute game plays. (iPhone, iPad, Android – $4.99)

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

7 Apps for Planning a Spring Break Trip

By Tracey Dowdy

Planning a Spring Break trip can be equal parts excitement and dread. The promise of relaxation and getting away from it all can be overshadowed by the reality of expenses and scheduling. Whether you’re traveling alone or with family and friends, these apps can help you plan, stay within your budget and make the most of those days away.

TripIt

TripIt is a godsend for planners and laid back travelers alike. By pulling all your reservation information from confirmation emails, TripIt takes all those flight details, rental car agreements, hotel addresses and so on and creates one streamlined itinerary. Best of all, TripIt is fully functional offline which is ideal if you’re travelling abroad and roaming isn’t available. (Free – iOS, Android)


App in the Air

App in the Air acts as your flight concierge. TripIt integration means you won’t miss your flight, as any delays, gate changes or updates are sent to you in real time. The app makes it easy to manage your time by breaking each trip into 4 stages – check-in, boarding, takeoff, and landing – and creating a countdown so you know how much time you have to grab a snack before boarding. If you’re traveling with a group, you can track their flights as well. Once you’re back on the ground, links to local cabs are available to get you to your final destination hassle free. (Free but with in-app purchases – iOS, Android)


Mint

Mint makes sure your vacation regrets are limited to bad karaoke and questionable sushi by helping you stick to a budget. Few things can ruin a trip faster than realizing you’re spending way more than you intended. Set a spending limit before you leave and Mint will track your expenses in real time and let you know when you’re getting close or surpassing your limit. (Free – iOS, Android)


Google Translate

Google Translate may seem like an odd suggestion but the most recent update lets you have conversations in real time via Conversation Mode. Open the app, select the two languages you’d like to converse in, tap the microphone and speak. You can also translate street signs, menus and other text by using your phone’s camera. Simply hold the camera over written text and Word Lens immediately translates the text into English. (Free – iOS, Android, Windows)


XE Currency

XE Currency takes the guess work out of “How much is that in dollars?” You can convert over 180 currencies at up-to-the-minute exchange rates. The app works off line as well by storing the most recent rates. (Free – iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry)


WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a smartphone messenger that uses 3G or Wi-Fi when it’s available to exchange messages across platforms and is a great alternative if you’re only traveling for a week or less and don’t want to change your phone plan. Just switch from SMS to WhatsApp to exchange messages, pictures, videos or audio clips with family and friends. (Free – iOS, Android, Windows)


Viator

Viator is ideal for making the most of your trip while sticking to a budget. Whether you like to explore or are just looking for an alternative to the beach on a rainy day, Viator helps you find and book the best deals on local attractions, museums, tours or even popular local hangouts.  (Free – iOS, Android)

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Listening to Music in Your Car

By Robyn Wright

Most new cars now come with Bluetooth built in, so you can stream music from your phone through your car speakers. While this is very convenient for some, not everyone has a car with this feature. You can stream music in your car using other techniques, although you will still need a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone.

Check Your Owner’s Manual
The first step is to take a look at your car’s owner’s manual to see if it has any features that will help you stream your music. While newer cars often have Bluetooth, older vehicles could have an audio input jack. If you have one of these, just follow the instructions in the manual.

Bluetooth Auxiliary Connector
These little adapters plug into any AC outlet – like a cigarette lighter – and will stream music from your device through your car speakers. They are simple to use and require no special installation skills.

Bluetooth In-Car Speakerphone
These are small devices that clip onto your visor and connect with your smartphone via Bluetooth. Once they have been paired the first time, they will automatically connect in the future. While they are primarily marketed more for hands-free talk, they can also stream music. Some will allow you to hear the music through the speaker on the device, and others may have an FM transmitter that will send the sound to your car speakers. Motorola and Parrot are two of the more popular brands.

Hard Wired Bluetooth Adapter
Similar to a speakerphone, this device is hard wired into your car. Once installed, your phone will connect automatically when you get in the car. You can use an app on your phone for settings but it functions as though you bought the car with Bluetooth installed.

Each of these have their own pros and cons. Consider price, installation, car clutter, and ease of use when deciding which one to buy. Ask friends and family if they stream music in their cars and what they think of the devices they are using.

Robyn Wright is a social media specialist and blogs on her own blog, RobynsOnlineWorld.com, as well as several other sites. Robyn has a love for family, technology, food and lots of apps!

Best Apps for Streaming Music

By Tracey Dowdy

Sometimes I feel nostalgic for the days of huddling next to my clock radio waiting for CIGO 1410am to play the top 10, so I could record songs on my tape recorder and make an amazing mix tape. Then I come to my senses when I remember the sound of my mother yelling at my brothers showing up in the middle of “Hungry Like the Wolf.”

Radio has long since moved from the airwaves to online and accessing your favorite music is easier than ever. In fact, digital downloads may be declining but online music streaming is taking off. There are a lot of options out there, but here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular options.

Pandora

pandoraPandora is the granddaddy of them all. Launched back in 2000, Pandora has a relatively small catalog at only a million songs. Users choose a song and Pandora then creates a playlist of music from similar artists or genres.

Pandora has a limited number of customizable features but does offer options like social sharing, artist bios, lyrics, and the ability to personalize stations by liking or disliking songs, although you can only skip 5 songs per hour.

One unique feature Pandora offers is the option for users to create custom skins, so the look of their playlists can be as unique as their sounds.

Platforms: Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Roku, Sonos, Web, Xbox
Price: Free version with ads or choose subscription service Pandora One for $54.89/year or $4.99/month

Spotify

spotifyPandora may be the granddaddy but Spotify is the undisputed front-runner of streaming services, with 60 million subscribers, a catalog of over 20 million songs, and service in 58 countries.

Users choose an artist, an album or, with the premium version, a song and Spotify will create a playlist based on your choice. Paired with that extensive library, Spotify also features excellent audio quality, an offline option, social media tools, third-party apps and is fully compatible with iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows and home audio systems.

Users who opt for the ad-free premium service are treated to top tier audio streaming, the ability to download songs for offline listening and there’s no limit to the number of songs you can skip per hour.

Platforms: Android, BlackBerry, iOS, OS X, Windows
Price: Spotify Free for 10 hours per month/Spotify Premium ($9.99/month) with unlimited streaming/Spotify Trial – free for 30 days of Spotify Premium.

Deezer

deezerDeezer started in France back in 2007 and though it has 16 million users in 182 countries it’s just coming into its own in the American market.

Like Spotify, Deezer has a massive music library at 35 million songs. When users launch the app for the first time Deezer asks you to choose your preferred genres then Like or Dislike a series of artists. Because the library is so extensive, you can swipe for hours but whenever you’ve had enough, the app takes that information to create your custom playlist called your Flow.

The home page is called “Hear This” and features a constant stream of singles, albums and user-generated playlists, and its App Studio offers over 100 apps for everything from lyrics to chord extraction.

Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows, Windows Phone, OS X
Price: Free with ads or Premium subscription for $9.99 month

iHeart Radio

iHeartiHeart Radio is the only completely free streaming service in the mix, with the catch being it acts like a radio station in that you can choose a basic genre but you have no input on what plays. The upside is that it’s ad-free and the music is free. If you’re a “set it and forget it” kind of listener, iHeart radio is a great option and, with a catalog of 15 million songs, there’s little risk of getting tired of a particular song, which is a common complaint with traditional radio.

Platforms: Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Web, Windows, Xbox
Price: Free

Rdio

rdioRdio is arguably Spotify’s biggest competitor at this stage of the game, with a catalog of over 20 million songs, a user friendly interface, a strong social media element, and unlimited access through any browser or desktop. Couple that with features like Top Charts, Newest Releases or Heavy Rotation and the option of a family subscription and it’s easy to see why Rdio’s popularity is steadily growing.

One fun feature for users who opt for the ($10 month) mobile app is the ability for your phone to act as a remote control for Rdio on your computer, as well as the ability for your playlist to pick up where you left off across different devices.

Platforms: Android, BlackBerry, iOS, OS X, Web, Windows
Price: $5/mo., $10/mo. mobile, $18/month for family (Same as unlimited, but for 2 accounts; $5.00 for each additional account up to 5 accounts total.)

iTunes Radio

itunes-radioiTunes Radio is limited to Apple products or iTunes supported platforms but boasts a catalog of 26 million tracks. Like Pandora and iHeart radio, you have little control over specific song choices and playlists are created based on your preferences for artist, song or genre.

Platform: Apple TV, iOS, OS X, Windows
Price: Free with ads, free (no ads) with $25/year iTunes Match subscription.

Again, this is by no means an extensive list. Google is determined to make Google Music a serious contender in the streaming music business, and with Beats Music gaining attention for its superior sound quality and its partnership with Apple, we can expect big things. Consider your needs, your budget and your travel schedule – some are only available in the U.S. – and take advantage of the free trials many of these apps offer to see which one best fits your lifestyle.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.