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Is Social Media Impeding Economic Recovery?

In Local News on September 26, 2011 at 8:20 pm

 

 

 

 

 

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines

Recent changes to the social media website, Facebook, has its 800 million users, shall we say, apprehensive. Constant updates to the software on our personal computers is nothing new, but now that such technology has become a pivotal tool in managing our professional and social networks, people get worried when it changes even slightly.

Social media has become such a perceived necessity, that entire industries are evolving whose sole purpose is getting business professionals connected on Facebook or Twitter. Unfortunately, some important business axioms are being put into question by the very existence of these virtual networks.

When I first went into business, sometime in the early 1990’s, there were two things you had to do to let people know you were out there. First, you ran an ad in the local newspaper. After that, made sure everyone you knew was aware of your new venture and helped to spread the word.

Growing up, my family had our own business – several actually, so I guess I come by my diverse careers honestly. I remember my dad and brother always slowing us down from whatever we were doing because they had to stand and talk to people.

I just wanted to get the job done and get home. What I didn’t know then, but thrive on now is that they were actually developing long-term relationships with customers and vendors, albeit far informally. Actually, they probably didn’t know what was happening either, chalking it up simply as a friendly conversation. But now, we refer to that kind of face-to-face, personal business contact as, “networking.”

Networking occurs when people of mutually beneficial needs and resources interact. It requires a willingness to listen and learn about the other parties to determine how you can be of assistance to them. In return, they will be receptive to your needs and respond in kind.

Building a solid business network takes time and effort on the part of all involved and some are more fruitful than others. Virtual or web-based networks offer only exposure with limited or no credibility. Online testimonials from colleagues and customers can help, but until a potential client gets some face time any relationship you might develop will be short lived.

As businesses continue to struggle in an ever-floundering economic environment, social media could actually be impeding recovery. Facebook and LinkedIn might make it easier for professionals to connect with potential markets, but moving from a visibility stage to something more profitable takes far longer because you can’t develop a level of understanding or trust over email.

In my opinion, it’s just not possible to reach the same level of credibility over a broadband connection that you do sitting across the table from someone over a cup of coffee. It might seem old-fashioned and time consuming, but truly successful business people still venture from behind their computer screens, shake hands and learn about their clients and vendors first hand.

As a freelance business writer and publicist, I get nearly all of my clients by personal referral. I frequently advise clients to build a social media presence, as I have. Although I have made extensive use of the technology, almost none of my work has come as a direct result of using social media.

Running a sustainable business takes the skill of a farmer, not a computer hacker. You have to plant the seeds – lots of them. You need to nurture them and have the patience to cultivate them until they grow into a crop that can be harvested. If you don’t understand the analogy, you could be in trouble already.

While I never expect to get new clients through my social media contacts I do stay in touch with them that way. I also use various social media sites to promote my column, books I’ve authored and client work; more for exposure than anything else. If your own business is struggling, and you’re considering working with a marketing specialist, take a nickel’s worth of free advice.

Anyone insisting that you jump into the social media maelstrom without recommending a healthy dose of in-person networking is not giving you good advice. Social media has its place, but nothing will ever replace a sharp coat and tie or a hand shake to seal the deal.

Gery L. Deer is an independent business writer and marketing specialist based in Jamestown. Learn more at http://www.gerydeer.com.

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Address Unknown: Saving the Postal Service

In Business, Economy, Jobs, Local News, National News, Opinion on September 20, 2011 at 7:03 am

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines

 

Cell phones, text messages, email, Facebook; the list of personal contact options is virtually endless and growing daily. Is it any wonder then that it seems like the only things mail carriers leave in the mailbox are bills and junk mail? And now the United States Postal Service is on the verge of shutdown.

In July, faced with a $5.5 billion health care bill owed to the federal government, Postal Service officials announced plans to stop Saturday deliveries, shut down some 3,600 service locations and lay off more than 200,000 employees. If the debt is not paid by September 30, 2011, the agency will be in default and forced to shut down.

On Monday, President Obama announced a plan to save the Postal Service and its employees from insolvency. In addition to other stipulations, the plan includes the previous idea of discontinuing Saturday mail delivery and also allows the U.S. Postal Service to use $7 billion from an overfunded pension account to avoid financial collapse.

Unnamed officials in the Obama administration have admitted that the president’s relief package, at best, would provide only short-term solutions.  So the question now is whether the Postal Service, as it exists today, should be saved at all?

Constant rate increases and regular customer service complaints add to the already tarnished reputation of the USPS. Sometime in the 1990’s, postal mail became known as, “snail mail,” for the agonizingly slow rate at which a letter travels compared to electronic correspondence. Sending letters or parcels overseas or through priority service can often require complicated and confusing forms and fees, any of which can change without notice.

However, while the Internet has caused the decline in overall postal traffic, it has also helped the Postal Service – and the consumer. Priority and Express mail, as well as flat-rate shipping, are far less expensive than competitive services through UPS or FedEx making it easier for online stores and auction sellers to deliver their products to customers.

Unfortunately, low cost shipping services have done little to shore up declining sales of first class stamps. As with most other government services that are hopelessly mismanaged and over budget, the Postal Service has continued to operate outside its means, and now the mortgage, so to speak, is in foreclosure.

As much as they politicize the idea and protest against it, each blaming the other for badly spent tax revenue, Congress and the White House continue to pour cash into failing programs and badly managed agencies filled with waste and redundancy. The Postal Service is no different. But what can be done?

It seems as though it would be impractical to completely eliminate a federal postal service, but perhaps the time has come to scale it back and adjust to the times. But even if a trimming of the fat occurs in time, it will still mean more unemployed workers and perhaps an increase in the cost of postage.

Besides USPS employees, millions of other workers would be affected if the Postal Service were to be shut down. Mail room employees, print shop and direct mail workers, delivery drivers and mechanics would all be out of work.

Losing mail service would also have a harsh effect on the elderly and the poor inAmericabecause of limited internet access and education. Many of senior citizens still pay all of their bills by mail and send hand-written correspondence to family and friends. Plus, alternate methods would need to be found for inviting guests to weddings and other formal events and paper greeting cards would eventually become a thing of the past.

Rather than looking for a complete solution to the Postal Service budget issue, government officials are too busy running for office. Politicians – including President Obama – desperate to keep their government jobs in 2012 have done little to directly address deficit problems at the post office. Instead, it has been thrown into tax reduction plans and budget talks as what can only be referred to as an afterthought.

The time to make a decision about the fate of the Postal Service is now. If congress does nothing, the agency will go bankrupt. In the meantime, the clock is ticking and Americans really don’t want to have to pay for another bail out.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist based in Jamestown. Read more at http://www.deerinheadlines.com

 

 

Jamestown Serves Up Fun And Beans This Weekend

In Entertainment, Local News, Media, State News on September 13, 2011 at 3:42 pm

That is, if the street paving is done.

Downtown Jamestown comes to life this weekend for the annual Jamestown Lions Club Bean Festival.  the festival kicks off at 5PM, Friday September 16 and continue through Saturday night, September 17th.  A parade, beginning south of town off of Waynesville-Jamestown Rd. will begin at 6PM and travel east on W. Washington St. (US 35).

The festival includes vendors of all kinds, kiddie rides, games, bean soup and corn bread, local bands, pancake breakfast, car show, ham and blanket game, $2,500 raffle, bingo and more.  In addition, the newly refurbished Jamestown Opera House will be open for tours throughout the weekend.

Planning and preparations continue though the small town has been undergoing major road repairs. For several weeks, most of  North and South Limestone Streets (St. Rt. 72) have been excavated making travel hazardous, even to the town post office. The festival is centered at the intersections of SR 72 and US 35 in the middle of town.

 

 

 

9/11: Oh, the humanity.

In Media, National News, Opinion, Politics on September 5, 2011 at 6:52 am

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines

I don’t know which is harder to believe; that it has been ten years or that it really did happen. Unprecedented in the history of the United States, the events of September 11, 2001 changed lives around the world.

The savage, heart wrenching images of that morning are forever emblazoned into the collective memories of a generation. A horrible tragedy set against the clear, blue sky of Manhattan. Those of us watching from other parts of the country felt it right along with New Yorkers; the tragedy, the helplessness, the pain, the destruction, the hot, debris-filled wind that would sweep over our nation and rock us to our very core.

The day before the attacks, I had returned to Ohio from a week-long trip in Las Vegas. A co-worker heard on the radio that there had been some kind of bombing in New York City and was frantically trying to find information about it on the Internet. But CNN’s website would not come up, neither would CBS nor NBC. In fact, none of the major news sites were available. Millions of hits at once knocked down the websites before any of us could find out what had happened.

Retrieving a 3-inch color television from my truck, several of my colleagues huddled around my desk trying to get a look at the replay of the first plane flying into one of the World Trade Center towers when the unthinkable happened. A second plane ripped through the remaining tower and it too burst into flames. Shock and silence settled over the motley crew of engineers and technicians gathered around the tiny screen.

Ten years later, we’ve all seen those images over and over again, from virtually every angle. We’ve been deluged time and again with eye-witness interviews and video of the brave emergency response teams trying desperately to save as many lives as they could in the midst of utter chaos and destruction.

Many of the morning television news programs originating from New York had instant coverage of the disaster. Reminiscent of Herbert Morrison’s anguished report from the site of the Hindenburg crash, live broadcast reporters were overwhelmed by pure emotion, moved to tears by the terror they witnessed. Morrison was the radio announcer on the scene in Lakehurst, New Jersey that day in 1937 as the great Zeppelin exploded and crashed to the ground.

Sent by a Chicago radio station to cover the airship’s arrival, the recording of Morrison’s immortal delivery and genuine disgust for the disastrous scene before him became the prototype for how broadcasters would report tragedy and war for decades to come. I wonder, at times, how he might have described the scene that day in New York but I believe his most famous phrase is more than sufficient, “Oh the humanity.”

Actually, even after the hundreds of news stories about the terror attacks, it’s difficult to fathom what else could be said to describe one of the worst days in American history. I can say, though, that I believe the days that followed 9-11 brought about an amazing spirit of survival and determination in our country.

From unmitigated calamity arose an unparalleled sense of unity and patriotism. Americans had spent the last half-century bickering amongst themselves over political and social issues. For the first time since the Second World War, we had a common enemy, even if we were not yet sure who it was. What we did know, however, is that the United States would recover, as a people and a nation; and we did.

On the tenth anniversary of that fateful day, all Americans send thoughts, prayers and best wishes to the families and friends of those who perished in New York, at the Pentagon and in the fields of Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania. Nothing can return their loved ones to them but they will be forever remembered by a nation.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist based in Jamestown, Ohio. Read more at http://www.deerinheadlines.com