GM Is Getting Into E-Bike Biz

General Motors is getting very serious about helping city dwellers, get from point A to point B, without typical major transportation or problems.

The American car manufacturer is actually going to introduce two electric bikes early next year.

One bicycle will be a compact, the other will fold. No details on features and pricing. This is just a heads up.

While GM engineers are designing the bicycles, the company still doesn’t have a brand name.

If you are interested in creating one for the car company, click here.

Content To Commerce

I have spent the whole day talking to tech clients, and potential clients, about new ways to bring innovative products to market. I have seen the future, and I believe the old traditional ways of retailing do not work.

I have watched too many companies work their buns off convincing Best Buy or Amazon, to carry their new products, only to see them not sell. If start-up companies don’t have millions of advertising dollars to drive traffic into stores, or to e-commerce sites, then many products fail. Major brands suffer too. They cannot afford big budget promotions for every product they introduce.

Most retailers today do very little to support the products they sell. It’s not that they don’t want to. They just don’t have the promotional budgets. In fact, retailers charge manufacturers so much money to sell their products that most companies can’t afford them anymore. Department stores and big chains charge for the real estate space on retail floors, displays, and promotions. The costs are staggering.

The digital world now presents new opportunities to market products directly to the consumer.  A growing number of online editorial sites now allow companies to market and/or sell to targeted audiences. They call them affiliate sales programs or integrated marketing. They are done subtlety and in good taste. In-house publication writers create the copy and “buy now” clicks are featured adjacent to stories.

Before you start screaming that you don’t want ads disguised as stories, publications clearly mark them as  “sponsored content.” They also limit the number they run in each issue. By the way, native advertising (subliminal or blended) content has been around for years. It’s just becoming more popular.

The big appeal is that publication sites have millions of readers who are exactly the target audience manufacturers are looking for. No more, “we will build it and they will come.” That’s not true and unrealistic. Why reinvent the wheel? If online publications already have tremendous built-in audiences, then companies who have something to sell should take advantage of these enterprises.

I’m not a fan of “sponsored content” even though I bought wrinkle cream (which works) from a daily newspaper and shoes from a fashion magazine. In both cases, the products were properly positioned to catch my eye. It’s true that I don’t want to read a publication filled with “sponsored content,” but a story or two, doesn’t bother me.

I am also encouraging clients to run special videos, sponsor social influencers posts, create online campaigns and get involved in all kinds of digital sales opportunities. The key is to get the potential customer to buy almost immediately.

Until retailers can start reinventing themselves to provide sales environments that support manufacturers, the digital editorial will be the chosen alternative.

Paranoia “Likes” Syndrome

Steve and Lois

We thought it wouldn’t happen. We felt we were successful and confidant enough to handle the competition. We promised ourselves we would never get caught up in the social media groupie lifestyle.

We did. Steve Greenberg is a monthly Today Show contributor, and TV personality on 20-plus morning news shows around the country. I am, (Lois Whitman-Hess) the co-owner of HWH PR, and author of DigiDame.

The two of us often commiserate that we don’t get enough “likes” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to show the rest of the world that we matter. We are both proud of our accomplishments, but not with the number of likes we get. We know we are not alone. Millions of people feel the same way.

We decided to explore this topic on Lying on the Beach, our podcast. After listening, please share your thoughts with us. We are looking for a rationalization as to why we are so addicted to social media.

Click here to hear our podcast.

It’s All About The “Likes”

I’m in the thick of things when it comes to social media. I handle a lot of the content that gets posted for clients. Yet it took me by surprise when a music agent recently told me that young artists are just not taken seriously if they don’t have a big following on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. That means record companies, movie studios and casting agents are more concerned about how popular an individual is, than the talent he or she possesses.

Unlike when we were in the prime of our careers, most young adults are expected to have a fan club if they want to get ahead in life. It doesn’t matter what business they are in. Handlers and/or superiors want to know that, if needed, the talent or employee, can send out a tweet and engage personal support.

In our day, we were judged for our capabilities. We would focus on improving our skills. Today, people in the workforce have to worry about improving their talent as well as building a loyal following. I can’t even imagine the pressure for anyone in the job market who needs to prove he or she has the power and impact.

A recruiter friend also told me that those who have a sizable fan club on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, should immediately list it on top of their resumes. Where, once we would describe our “experience,” the show offs post their high ranking numbers. They are immediately perceived as industry personalities.

I know it’s difficult for people of our age to believe that this is the way business is done today. It may be sad, but it’s true.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

There’s a new trend on social media that has become a big fundraiser for ALS, the debilitating neuro-degenerative disease. You probably know it as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

It’s very exciting to watch friends, family, and well known personalities take the “Ice Bucket Challenge.”

You can’t scroll Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram without seeing someone getting doused with ice water and then nominating others to do the same. Those who refuse to take the challenge are asked to make a donation to the ALS charity of their choice.

Pete Frates, 29, Beverly, Mass., along with his family, helped to make the “Ice Bucket Challenge” go viral. Frates has lived with ALS since 2012. He is working with The ALS Association’s Massachusetts Chapter. Frates was a Division 1 college athlete with Boston College Baseball.

Using the hash tag #IceBucketChallenge, the challenge has attracted thousands of followers. The ALS Association announced “it has hit $10 million in donations. Specifically, as of Saturday, August 16, 2014, The ALS Association has received $11.4 million in donations compared to $1.7 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 16). These donations have come from existing donors and 220,255 new donors to The Association.”

Be sure to watch the videos. You will be surprised who you will see.

Social Media Gets Too Social


The cartoon above was meant as a joke, but as far as I am concerned that is exactly the direction we are headed. Technology today allows users to share info with others more than ever before. Every company and service wants in on the action. Continue reading

We are not Too Late for a Second Career

Just when a friend of mine lost all hope of getting a job at 68 years of age, he was offered a CEO position at a financial services company in Raleigh, NC. Ken had been out of work for eight years and just could not land a position. Prior to that, he held sales and marketing positions at various companies. We would sit on the phone for hours bemoaning our fate. All the good jobs and assignments were going to younger people.

Then one day Ken’s granddaughter introduced him to several social media platforms, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, others. He started to socialize online the way he used to network in person. He dedicated himself to only posting info that made him look desirable for a high ranking position: 1-Business stories he found in his daily readings about a targeted niche. 2-Short, positive thoughts about changes in the specific industry he was interested in. 3-Inspiring comments about recent industry speeches and activities that he posted on other people’s blogs, podcasts, videos and group discussions.

Ken’s main goal was to appear knowledgeable and ageless. He carefully scrutinized every sentence he posted so that he always appeared positive, hopeful, and determined. There was never an attitude, a need to show-off or self-righteousness. It was all about presenting himself as a confident individual who knows how to get things done.

He was very disciplined about his postings. Ken made himself extremely visible and consistent. One day he received an email from a member of the board of a medium-sized financial company in Raleigh that mostly deals with real estate investments. The email was an invitation to a roundtable discussion about the stock market being held at company headquarters. Other outsiders were being invited too. He had to pay for his travel. All else was comped.

He went. When Ken came back from the two-day meeting he was a new man. Not only did he feel refreshed and enthused, but he felt relevant for the first time in years. His participation in social
media gave him the business degree he never got. He taught himself so much about what was happening in business today that he actually became more knowledgable than many executives 10 years younger than himself.

Ken used the time away from the daily grind of business to actually become a strategist. The roundtable discussion in Raleigh was really an audition for all those who were invited to participate. Ken got the highest marks because he was the only one who understood and appreciated how to use today’s digital assets.

Today, Ken travels to Raleigh every Monday through Thursday and works from his home in Alpine, NJ on Fridays. He plans to work until he drops. He said he spent eight years in a forced retirement already and was miserable. These days he feels more alive and satisfied. While he doesn’t have much time to BS with me anymore, he doesn’t miss a day of being a voice online. He is gaining more traction than ever before and is teaching his grandchildren social resume skills that will be their calling card in the future.

One Day This Guy Is Going To Buy The Jets

Some of you know who Gary Vaynerchuk is. If you don’t, let me help your pronounce his last name, Vay*Ner*Chuk. Gary is the ambassador from the digital community who explains to the rest of us how the world is changing because of social media. I urge you all to watch this video so you are prepared for changes that are about to take place. His clients are Oprah, the NFL, and Coca Cola.

Gary starts off by telling his own remarkable story and the choices he made. He then discusses specific cases in social media that should change the way we think and react. Warning: the video is filled with the F word. He usually doesn’t swear so much but maybe he is going through one of these “let me test the waters” stages.

Turn a deaf ear to the curse words and really listen to what he has to say. He will explain why we are living in such a dramatic time yet many people don’t know what to do with it. Don’t be one of those people. Absorb his words. If you fully appreciate what he has to say, you will probably pass this video on to someone else who is in business today or to those who can’t figure out why their kids are not calling them back.

Gary started with nothing not too long ago and his goal is to buy the Jets. There is not a doubt in my mind that he will accomplish his goal. Tell me what you think.

A Do-It-Yourself Digital Funeral

I grew up believing that you judged a person’s life by the size of his or her funeral. I remember when I was 13, there were over 25 cars in the procession at my grandfather Jake’s funeral. When we were sitting Shiva someone said, “That was a really good funeral. A lot of people showed up.” I felt so proud. Over the years I have been to small and large funerals. I snickered at the small ones thinking. “The guy was no good.” I also remember counting the ‘get well” cards in the hospital room when my mother was sick. We would make a list of the do-gooders. Those who did not send one were carefully recorded as “shitheads” and were no longer considered part of the inner circle.

That was 44 years ago. A lot has changed since then. When my mother was 58 and my father died, she started to realize that her favorite and most important sport, “people collecting” was not all that important. The same woman who was the centerpiece of my old neighborhood, now only wanted to be with her closest girlfriends. That threw me for a loop because I was a second generation “people collector.” Sometime after that, I started to feel the same way as my mother. When she died (pieces of me died too) a tough skin formed around me as my brother and I opted for a grave side ceremony for a limited group. I felt I had grown up and didn’t need a lot of people getting in my way when all I wanted to do was think about the loss of my mother.

That was my attitude for the last seven years until today. We attended a funeral for my friend’s father. It was at Riverside Chapel on the upper west side and there had to be over 1000 people in attendance. It was in the main Chapel and no less than a dozen people got up to speak. The running time was over an hour. The accolades were plenty. Judging by the speeches of his four adult children, their spouses, the nine grandchildren, his law buddies and community leaders, my friend’s father deserved a standing ovation. They said everything he did was surrounded by a meal. When he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer six months ago, he said he was in the mood for “Chinese.”

I panicked sitting in the Chapel. Maybe I wanted a big crowd so others could see I wasn’t really a “bitch.” Reality set in very quick. I am a “bitch.” I worked hard at being a “bitch.” The years of dealing in the fast lane trains you to be a “bitch” or get “bitched” at. I am not saying that there is not a soft, giving side to me, but day- to-day I err on the side of bitchiness.

The big question is how am I going to be a draw when I am dead? I thought a lot about it today, then moved on to something else when I got back to the office. About an hour ago I was on Twitter when I spotted a tweet from my girlfriend last Friday announcing her father’s death. It was less than 140 characters and it simply announced his death and the funeral arrangements. I then saw the same post on Facebook and Linkedin. My girlfriend is well known in the digital community and one post from her was instantly recognized by hundreds, if not thousands of people. I am not going to ask her, but she probably did a few email blasts, text messaging and other social media call outs.

When I thought about it, I had received my notification by email. There is no question that my friend’s father deserved the attendance of every single person in that room. But for us late bloomers who are not so revered, we can put together a social media/marketing plan that can really pull in those numbers. I have to get more followers on Twitter, more fans on Facebook and more connections on Linkedin. Maybe, I can go after friends of friends and relatives of relatives. I can also join meetups, online book clubs, and take senior courses online. That could easily add another 100 or so. As you can see, I have a lot of work to do. If that is not a good reason to live a lot longer, tell me what is?

What’s The Story With Instagram?

I don’t know about you, but I do not have any artistic talent. I can’t draw, paint, or sculpt. I always wanted to, but just don’t have the skills to create something that would be worthy of showing in public until now.

Along comes Instagram, a free photo sharing application for both iPhone and Android, which allows you to apply a digital filter to your mobile pictures that changes the entire look of the composition.

You can now create photos that just two years ago you could only do using expensive digital photo editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop.

Yesterday, I discussed how my cousin Milo changed the look of his photos with a new filter being offered by Olympus on their digital cameras. When I saw what he was doing, I quickly dug out my two year old digital camera — the Panasonic Lumix — to see if I could do the same thing. I abandoned my camera over a year ago when I found myself using the iPhone for most of my photo needs. As I quickly found out, since most of these filter features are so new, my two year old digital camera was now outdated.

Once again, a smartphone app comes to the rescue. There are many apps being offered today on iOS and Android formats that allow you to creatively alter photographs. One of the most popular apps is Instagram.  Instagram became widely popular because it offered the amateur picture taker the opportunity to alter photos in a number of different ways and instantly exhibit them on Twitter and Facebook. While Instagram photos can’t compete with the shots cousin Milo takes with his Olympus camera, it certainly is perfect for the average smartphone user who wants to get creative.

I guess that is why Facebook paid $1 Billion to purchase Instagram this past April.

Click on Instagram (shaded) above for some amazing facts about the company.

Straight shot taken by David Nieves

With Instagram’s Amaro Filter

Straight shot by David Nieves

With Instagram’s X Pro Filter