Friday, April 27, 2012

Help Desk Hangouts: Getting to know Chromebooks

Editor’s note: Each week on the Google+ Your Business page, we’re putting you in touch with Googlers and users who can help you as a business owner get the most out of our products and features.

In our latest Help Desk Hangout On Air, we introduced you to Chromebooks — a fast, secure, netbook (did we mention fast?). During the hour-long Hangout, Google product specialists Adam Naor and Will Paulus walk us through the basics, and Chromebook user Eric Hunter shares his firsthand experience using it at his business. Miss the event? You can watch the whole thing on the Google Business YouTube channel. And, if you’re interested in learning more about Chromebooks, fill out this form to stay up to date on all the latest news and product announcements.

Check out the video description on the YouTube page for a minute-by-minute breakdown.

Some of the questions we answered during the Hangout:

I'm a big Word/Office suite user. How do I make the switch to a Chromebook? Can a Chromebook work with these files? 
They can be viewed in Google Docs, or even converted to the Docs native format. Or, if you’d like to run Office on a Chromebook, you can do so through our Citrix Receiver App (and a Citrix server), or try on of the Chrome webstore Apps like InstallFree Nexus.

What's does Google’s support for Chromebooks look like? 
If you are a business user, you have access to 24/7 email and phone support. If you’re a consumer user, you can contact a Chromebook ninja M - F between 5:30am - 7pm PST. Here’s some additional information.

What happens with a Chromebook when internet access is limited, slow, or spotty?
The moments when you’re offline are increasingly rare. But with Chromebooks, we wanted to ensure that you're constantly connected with WiFi or 3G. Chrome also supports HTML5 offline functionality that allows applications or websites that support these features to run offline. Hundreds of apps in the Chrome Web Store today work offline like Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, NY Times, Kindle, NPR, Angry Birds and more.

Where can I get a Chromebook?
If you represent a Business, School, or Non-profit organization, please fill out the form here, and a member of our team will get in contact shortly. If you are a consumer, you can obtain one here.

How does a Chromebook work with Google Drive?
Google Drive is going to be a core part of the Chromebook experience. We're building it to work seamlessly with your file manager and it will be coming very soon.

Would you recommend ChromeBooks as a software development platform?
Definitely as they have a terminal shell built in.

Be sure to join us for next week’s Hangout at 11 a.m. PDT Wednesday May 2, when we discuss AdWords. We’ll be collecting your AdWords questions early next week on the Google+ Your Business page.

Posted by Toby Stein, Google+ community manager

What We Have Been Up To...

We have had a busy week this week..hence the lack of posting. Mr. E learned to ride his bike on Monday. He was so proud of himself:o) He came running in the house yelling, "Mommy! I did it. I can ride my bike without training wheels because I believed in myself!"
He's so sweet!

 This is what he learned's called a Joey. It's small, wooden and doesn't have pedals. 
 It took 2 days on the Joey for him to get the whole balancing act down.
 We also had a field trip at the Botanical Gardens.
 They have a butterfly house at the gardens. E almost got one on his finger:o)

 Last night we went to the circus. This was the line into the door. There were people everywhere.
 Some strange and very dangerous looking sculpture outside of the arena.

 National Anthem Elephant

 This part scared me to death. Some of the females were a little temperamental. I said a little prayer for the lion tamer...I just knew he was going to be an evening snack.

We didn't stay for the whole circus. S.R. fell asleep, and the intermission was at 9 p.m. We heard it still had another hour after the intermission. 
Anywho, tomorrow I will be running in a half marathon with some friends. It's my first one, and I am really nervous...mostly of how much I will be hurting afterwards:o)
I am missing out on some super neighborhood yard sales tomorrow morning b/c of the race...BOO! I hope you all have a fantastic weekend! Say a little prayer for me;o)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Google Apps keeps music companies humming

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Enterprise blog.)

Music is a huge part of our culture at Google, and I’m really excited that the music festival season is just getting started. If you were at Coachella (which we livestreamed on YouTube this year) or have plans to go to go to another festival, you're probably just as excited.

Musicians, record labels, and music companies are using technology to do some amazing things, like producing on-stage holograms or experimenting with new online distribution models. It’s common for artists to launch their careers on YouTube, broadcast a performance on Google+ Hangouts, or connect with their fans using social media. But beyond the tech-coolness we hear a lot about, the music community is also taking advantage of technology behind the scenes - or rather, in the cloud - to develop their businesses.

I’m proud to say that some of today’s musical entrepreneurs are using Google Apps for Business. Whether it’s having the freedom to run a new indie record label, the flexibility to manage up-and-coming music artists on tour, or the ability to collaborate across the globe, Google Apps helps these teams focus on what they love the most - the music. We want to share three stories about awesome music companies using Google Apps to grow and evolve:

Music Clout is a startup formed by a group of guys with a die-hard passion for music. The idea is simple: create an online community that connects independent artists with music industry contacts and opportunities. They launched their company with Google Apps to make it easier to work together internally and with their team of contractors. Since their web development team works from Turkey, the combination of chat in Gmail and Hangouts allows them to instantly discuss website programming and other technicalities, while saving the team from high phone bills.

GHouse, a Boston-based record label, works with musicians from various genres, including electronic, reggae, rock, and country. Beginning as a side project by a college music student, it’s evolved into a full-time business. Initially, the team relied on a remote server and legacy software that were always stalling or crashing on them. They switched to Google Apps so that they could easily work together anytime, anywhere online, and on any device with Internet connectivity. With Google Docs, the team can easily share music tour dates and track all of their profits from the shows.

Founded in 2007, Fly South Music Group is an artist management firm out of Orlando, FL with satellite offices in Nashville and Los Angeles. The company set up Google Apps because it wanted a common platform for company email, calendars and documents that could be shared between all their clients, families, labels, tour managers and promotion coordinators. Today, it’s become essential to their workflow from scheduling to budget management with access to information from anywhere. This accessibility provides a whole new layer of transparency that keeps everyone in sync, especially while traveling around the world.

Google Apps has given these companies the built-in collaboration they need to communicate better, work smarter, and stay focused on bringing new talent and fresh ideas to the music industry.

Posted by Barbara Yang, Google Apps Team

Monday, April 23, 2012

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and...Re-think

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Enterprise blog.)

There are about 9,000 community curbside recycling programs and 3,000 community composting programs in the United States. I’ve been recycling since I moved to California in the 90's, and in the U.S. we’re lucky that many communities have recycling and composting services. But there’s still more to be done – we only recycle or compost 33% of the 243 million tons of trash generated each year.

I’m encouraged to hear about some of the cool ways that people and organizations are coming together to re-think how we can recycle, reduce, and reuse. In honor of Earth Day, we’d like to share the stories of three organizations that take recycling to the next level, using Google products to help.

Andrew Sell started out as a personal hunter/gatherer of “upcycled” products. There are a lot of companies that manufacture recycled products by recovering difficult-to-recycle materials from landfills and turning them into useful items, and the market continues to grow. Recognizing a need to connect the growing number of manufacturers with consumers, Andrew created an e-commerce website, HipCycle, almost a year ago in Ocean Township, New Jersey with the budget of a typical startup. 

Andrew, or Chief Hipcycler, chose to manage his new company with Google Apps due to low costs, ease of set up, and the ability to provide custom email addresses @hipcycle.comto employees, contractors and bloggers. HipCycle also uses Google Docs to track order statistics and share them with manufacturers, Google Calendar to keep the social media team aligned on topics and timing, and Google+ Hangouts to communicate directly with customers. Google Analytics provides data on site traffic and activity.

Not far away in Brooklyn, New York, Eva Radke identified another opportunity to eliminate needless waste. Having spent 15 years working in film, Eva saw two trends: a growing amount of waste and a general desire for environmental responsibility in the industry. After film shoots, large, awkward items like furniture are brought to landfills and Eva became passionate about finding a better way to use the waste.

In 2008 Eva’s passion became a full-time non-profit organization that collects waste from the film industry and sells or donates the goods to students and partner charities. For example, a women’s shelter receives bedsheets and towels from Film Biz, allowing them to free up their non-profit dollars to spend on education and therapy for its residents. Eva says she doesn’t know where she’d be without Google Apps. Since day one, she’s been using Gmail to stay up-to-date while traveling and Calendar to schedule everything from set clean-outs to school trips to donation drop-offs. Google Docs allows her team to edit documents together and they rarely need to use paper, which helps them stay even more green.

As the name would indicate, Cell Again buys and sells used mobile phones. With the rapid proliferation of mobile devices - and trend of consumers purchasing new phones every couple of years - there’s a seemingly endless quantity of second-hand cell phones. Tucker Nielson wanted to keep these phones out of landfills so he started CellAgain with just a few employees in Salt Lake City. The company has been so successful that there are now eight stores and 87 employees, which he expects to double this year.

With rapid company expansion plus growing franchise and wholesale operations, Tucker says that Google Apps has been his savior in terms of staying organized. Tucker set up Google Apps for on his own and uses Gmail to stay connected to his management team from his own cell phone. He also hosts nearly everything in Google Docs, including company manuals, shift schedules, timesheets, job descriptions and more. And Google AdWords helps CellAgain make sure that consumers looking for a refurbished cell phone can find their local franchise or kiosk.

Each of these companies help keep environmental impact low and Google is working to do its part as well. We’re a carbon neutral company, and Google Apps (and all the products in our cloud) have a "net zero" impact on the environment.

Happy Earth Day.

Posted by: Chris Farinacci, Senior Director, Google Enterprise

Helping your business play big on YouTube

With a global audience of 800 million monthly visitors to YouTube, every day can feel like you’re advertising in the Super Bowl, and one video can launch a business. To celebrate a growing number of businesses that have grown with YouTube, we are introducing our first-ever class of YouTube Marketing Ambassadors and making Google AdWords for video available to all.  

Our Ambassadors represent a group of 9 entrepreneurs who have used YouTube to “play big” alongside major brand advertisers. By creating videos that demonstrate their products, share what their customers say about them, or simply showcase how their business works, they’ve been able to drive sales and connect with new customers.   

Take Rokenbok Toy Company, for example. When owner Paul Eichen noticed that specialty toy shops were shuttering their doors, he started looking for a new way to introduce customers to his construction toy sets. Paul filmed and uploaded his first video to YouTube, and now it’s become his most effective form of advertising with 50 percent of all customers introduced to his products through YouTube.

To help even more businesses play big with video, today we’re introducing a number of new products, resources, and tools:

Google AdWords for video now available to all. Similar to search advertising - where you pay for clicks and set budgets with bids - we created a new model for video advertising. With Google AdWords for video, you only pay when someone chooses to watch your ad and you can create and manage video campaigns from the same platform as your search and display ads. You can create an account and start promoting your first video in less than 5 minutes. With AdWords for video you can:

  • Find the right audience: AdWords for video provides a range of options to reach the right audience. For example, you can promote your video by keyword to appear in YouTube search results, or you can choose to show your ad against content your customers are most interested in - such as sports or music. Connect with your audience on YouTube and the Google Display Network, which includes millions of websites. AdWords for video links to your YouTube account so you can easily start a video campaign with your existing videos.

  • Measure the effectiveness of your spend: On average, we’ve found that YouTube video ads drive a 20 percent increase in traffic to your website and a 5 percent increase in searches for your business (Google Campaign Insights, 2011). With AdWords for video you can find out how viewers are engaging with your brand during and after they watch your ad. You can see how many viewers watched your entire video, visited your website, stayed on your channel to watch another video, or subscribed to your channel, after viewing your ad.

  • Only pay for engaged views: With TrueView video ads you only pay when viewers choose to watch your ad so you aren’t charged when viewers skip your ad if they aren’t interested or have already seen your video. This means your ad budget is focused on viewers interested in your video. By displaying a call-to-action overlay on your video you can talk about a sale or specific offer to your viewers, share more information about your business, or drive traffic to your website.

$50 million in free advertising. We’re giving away $50 million in free Google AdWords advertising to help more than 500,000 businesses get into video. If you are new to AdWords, you can receive a $75 credit when you sign up. To put that into context, with $75 your video campaign can reach more than 1,500 of your most valuable customers on YouTube for one month. Request your free credit here.

Advertiser Playbook and support. To share best practices and tips on how video can be a core part of your business toolkit, we created a YouTube Advertiser Playbook. The Playbook covers everything from creating interesting content to promoting your video with ads. If you need help making a video, our My Business Story is a free tool you can use to create your first video. AdWords advertisers can also call our free phone support line, 866-2-GOOGLE, to get started with AdWords for video.

YouTube Ambassador program. To learn more about the YouTube Ambassador program please visit us on the Official Google Blog.

Hear more from Rokenbok Toys, one of our YouTube Marketing Ambassadors
If you have a video you want to promote, get started with AdWords for video. And, join our YouTube for Marketers page on Google+ to stay up-to-date on our latest video marketing innovations. Posted by Baljeet Singh, Group Product Manager, YouTube

Friday, April 20, 2012

Help Desk Hangouts: Engaging with your customers using social media

Editor’s note: Each week on the Google+ Your Business page, we’re putting you in touch with Googlers and users who can help you as a business owner get the most out of our products and features.

In our latest Help Desk Hangout On Air, we discussed how your business can benefit from engaging with customers via social media. A few of Google’s community management superstars — Jacky Hayward, Sarah Price and Brian Rose —  shared best practices for building great content, collecting feedback and communicating with frustrated customers. Miss it? No to worry: You can watch the full hour-long Hangout on the Google Business YouTube channel:

Check out the video description on the YouTube page for a minute-by-minute breakdown.

Some of the questions we answered during the Hangout:

Why spend time using social media?

First, think about your goals. Sarah, who works on the Gmail team, says she doesn’t see social media as “an end in and of itself,” but rather as a tool to help her reach her goal of connecting with users: “I want to help users learn more about Gmail, [so] I use social media as a tool to share information. I have a goal that I want to have relationships with the users, that they have a relationship with the company and each other, so I use social media as a tool to facilitate those relationships.”

How do you attract new followers to your social media content?

There’s no trick or gimmick. Post interesting, useful content. Be real, honest, genuine, open — and the followers will come!

What kinds of content work?

Don’t underestimate fun. Eye-catching rich media (photos, videos) are always engaging. Be mindful of time zones and when you’re sharing (do you usually get more engagement in the morning, at night?). Also, people love having a connection with you and your brand, which you can do with something as simple as highlighting or resharing content by a customer.

Why is identifying influencers important?

Whatever your area of expertise, research who's producing great content and starting conversations among that field’s community. Find out what your customers are interested in and get involved in those conversations. Figure out who the people are that drive those conversations and build relationships with them. Connect your customers to other customers when you can — engaging them with each other will help them learn more and engage more with your product and brand.

Any time management tips?

The stream of social media content being produced every minute is infinite, so again, be sure to focus on your goals. Ask yourself what is most important for you to do first and start there, rather than trying to do everything at once.

Be sure to join us for next week’s Hangout at 11 a.m. PDT Wednesday April 25, when we discuss how to get started with Chromebooks. We’ll be collecting your Chromebook questions early next week on the Google+ Your Business page.

Posted by Vanessa Schneider, Google Places community manager

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Getting Side Tracked....

This is what happens when...

these come in the mail:o)

End Tables

Good morning to you all! I am so happy to be able to sit upright in front of a computer right now:o) What a week we have had around here. E has a double ear infection and I have fluid on both of my ears..I tell ya, I feel a little more sympathy for my poor children when they end up with ear pain.
Today is the first day that I have felt like being up and moving around without needing to sit back down immediately for fear of passing out. 
So since I had a little bit of energy, I was able to finish these end tables I found at a yard sale last weekend.
 I didn't take any before pictures. But they were a cherry finish and in very good condition...just a few scrapes and bumps in a few areas..but REAL wood! I got a fantastic price on them. I had the paint on hand and all the other materials, so I didn't have to put too much money into them, thankfully.

 A little sanding, a little painting, a little more sanding, and some wax, and I'll have to say I am very pleased with the results. I wish that I had room for them in my living room, but I am a tad attached to the ones we are currently using:o)
 So, I have them for sale on a yard sale Facebook page...hopefully I can get a little out of them, so I can find more treasures this weekend;o)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Saw this on Facebook...

I just saw this on Facebook, and I died laughing...
...sorry if this isn't you type of humor;o)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Protect your business by understanding common phishing techniques

Last week we introduced you to the concept of Social Engineering - manipulating people’s trust to gain confidential information. Phishing is a type of social engineering that can also be targeted towards businesses. We recommend you educate yourself and your employees to safeguard against this threat.

Recognize the signs
Phishing is a technique used to obtain personal information. The most common way a phisher obtains this information is through a spam email which appears to come from a legitimate source (e.g. a bank, a credit card company) requesting certain action to be taken. The email will usually have a link which will lead to a fraudulent web page and may have a form requesting you to enter personal information.

What many small businesses don’t realise is that phishing can happen over the phone, too (called ‘vishing’). In this type of scam the ‘phisher’ will try and get the information they want over the phone by making some kind of false claim (e.g. your IT department has requested you update your security software). Once the caller has gained the consumer's trust, they may ask the person on the phone to log onto a website to download a file to help solve the problem. The file may be infected with a virus which would give the Phisher access to your personal information.

Once scammers have 'phished' out your information (or potentially even customer information), they could use it in a number of ways. Credit cards could be used for unauthorized purchases, or information might be gathered for an identity theft scam.

Keep your Google account secure
As a Google product user, remember Google does not send emails asking you to update your personal information. We also never call customers asking for their passwords or requesting they download any programs. If you think you've received a phishing email that's trying to trick you into thinking it is from Google, don't reply to the email itself. Instead, report the phishing email to us.

To add an extra layer of security to your Google account, you can enable 2-step verification (and see video below). You will enter a code from your phone, as well as your username and password - when you sign in. If someone steals login information through phishing or social engineering, the potential hijacker still won’t have access to your phone.

For even more tips on keeping your business safe online, check out our Good to Know website.

Posted by Katrina Blake, Risk Analyst

Lamp Revamp

Yesterday I picked up a pair of lamps from our local Facebook yard sale page for $5. They were brass, and not all that attractive, but they had a good shape, and were still in good working condition.
Since I am not a huge fan of brass, I knew that spray painting would be the best treatment for this pair.
I had been looking for matching lamps to go on either side of my couch since I had done some furniture rearranging recently.

So this is what they started out as. Basic brass lamps.
 I used my Cricut to cut out a vinyl design that I thought would work well with the decor of the living room, and attached it to the lamp base. I applied 3 coats of Krylon satin Ivory.

  Brass doesn't accept spray paint all that well, so I distressed a few areas on the lamps to camouflage any thin spots.
 And in case you are wondering, the lamp shades were purchased at Walmart. They were just under $10 a piece.
I am so happy with how these lamps turned out, and I got 100% approval from the hubs:o)

Yard sale season is in full swing now, so I will be hitting a couple of sales tomorrow morning. If you venture out, I hope you have great luck in finding treasures!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What I Am Pinning...

I have been completely clueless as to what to do with our bonus room for 2 and 1/2 years now. I think I am finally pulling some ideas together, and I wanted to show you some DIY built-ins out in blog-land that I am really digging.

Source: via Crystal on Pinterest

I also really like this little sofa table...

The hubs is sure to be excited when he hears what I want to do(comment dripping with sarcasm) Who knows, maybe I can put something together like this by myself;o)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Tour of Our Backyard

Last year, I shared with you all these wonderful screens that the hubs put together. They were put there because we had absolutely no privacy in our backyard. We have really enjoyed having them. We knew that after those were put in, we would want to do something with all of that grass.
 Back in the fall, the hubs and a few other guys helped strip out all the grass in this area to get it ready to turn into flower beds.
And after a ton of work during the winter, this is what became of it.
 He designed everything back here.
 Eventually the arborvitae will grow together, and there will be complete privacy.
 This is our little fire pit area. I need some new cushions for these chairs. Waiting for them to go on sale:o) And we are still trying to figure out what to do with all of that brick that is stacked up against the house...any ideas? And no, we are not doing a fireplace...too expensive:o)
 The kids love running across this little path. It's their "track" to run "super fast" on;o)
 This little stone patio was a splurge, but we really love it.
 The fluff of a dog sunning on my rug that I got for Christmas.
 The hubs put this cute little fence up around my garden a couple of weeks ago. This was supposed to be a project for next year, but a certain ball of fluff decided he wanted to eat the broccoli that I had planted in the garden...5 minutes after I had planted it!!
The fence will be painted white when the fall rolls around. 
I plan on putting some really pretty cascading flowers in the planters when the threat of frost is over.
 Last weekend we put in some netting for the peas to run up. I hope they do well. I plan to can them.
 This is our next area of the backyard to tackle...just down right ugly if you ask me. And this is the first thing you see when you walk into the back yard. We have plans, though...Oh yes, we have plans:o)
We really love our backyard and I hoped you enjoyed the tour:o)
Happy Tuesday!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mr. Sock Bunny

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter. Ours was a bit uneventful. Both of the kids had kind of a down weekend. E had a fever all day Saturday..have no idea why. And S.R. has had a bad cough and runny nose. We just hung out at the house all day while they tried to feel better. 
So while they were recovering, I needed something to do with my hands. 
I grabbed a pair of socks that were too big for S.R. and transformed them into a little bunny.

 An arm-less bunny, but he's still a bunny. E saw his little tail and said, "aw look, he's got a powder puff." Too cute;o)
I'm hoping to make a few more of these as soon as I find some more socks;o)...and they will have arms!!!
Happy Monday to you all!!