Thursday, April 26, 2012

DO WE GIVE UP OUR PRIVACY TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA? This week Bob wonders if privacy is a thing of the past in the age of social media.

 It was bound to happen. I just read that some employers are asking employees for their social media passwords. Of course, this has ripped open legislator arguments on both sides of the fence. I heard it's Bill, H.R. 3309, would prevent employers from demanding workers' social networking usernames and passwords and would have allowed the FCC to act on behalf of employees and their privacy. It was unceremoniously shot down in even hit some regional courts. I read about this in a post on The Atlantic website (Your Facebook Page). The post said that a proposed the House. The upshot? Right now, any employer can ask any employee for his or her social media passwords.
Fortunately, the practice of employers asking for social networking passwords is not widespread. But it does raise the question, "How private is your social media information, and should you retain the right to this privacy?" I've heard both sides of the issue.
On one side, there's the ACLU. They compare requesting passwords to opening someone else's mail. An ACLU spokesperson said, "You'd be appalled if your employer insisted on opening up your postal mail to see if there was anything of interest inside... it's equally out of bounds for an employer to go on a fishing expedition through a person's private social media account." Good point, right?
On the other side, the argument is that employers are within their rights to require drug tests and personality tests of their employees (I agree with this; it protects the safety of all employees). The argument goes on to suggest that just as students have a reduced expectation of privacy while they're at school employees have a reduced expectation of privacy while they're at work. Yes; to some degree. But, how far can employers go?
I've always felt that, as individuals, we have our right to self-expression, and we'll seek employment where we feel comfortable with people who seem like us. That said, I believe that, as adults, we have an obligation to think before we post anything that may embarrass us or those close to us. In that way, if we're obligated (for reasons of national or local security, or for the protection of our business) to divulge our social media passwords, we'll feel comfortable with the outcome.
It seems that many people feel the same as I do about this issue. A recent (Feb. 27, 2012) Pew Study: Social Media Users Active in Protecting Privacy, found that users are more active in managing their social media accounts. Compared to 2009, a higher percentage of users deleted people from their “friends” lists, deleted comments made by others on their profile, and removed their names from photos in which they were tagged.
ONE LAST THING...  A note about data mining: Be careful. Facebook has been accused of data mining, which Wikipedia says is "analyzing data from different perspectives and summarizing it into useful information that can be used to increase revenue, cuts costs, or both." Many believe this is an infringement on their privacy too. Facebook's revised privacy policy does offer users tools to prevent third-party websites from getting personal information. But, it's up to the user to apply these privacy settings. The information to protect your identity is out there, and it seems that more of us are using it. Have you ever changed your Facebook page for security reasons? If so, why?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

HEALTHCARE FOLLOWING THE TREND OF SMART PHONE APPS. This week Bob turns to the Shamrock team for news about an app for patient insurance cards.

A recent Google search suggests that nearly half (46%) of American adults are smartphone owners (as of February 2012). That's an increase of 11 percentage points over the 35% of Americans who owned a smartphone last May. And healthcare providers are taking notice of this increasing trend for smartphones. One healthcare app for smartphone users is called a Mobile Healthcare Card Web Services App. This easy-to-use app will make carrying insurance ID in your wallet or purse obsolete.

Remember when healthcare insurance providers would send a plastic or paper card? The card went into a user's wallet or purse, ready to be handed over when a healthcare provider requested it. That's if it didn't get lost somewhere between wallet and healthcare provider. (Did you ever lose your insurance card and frantically search for it before an appointment with your healthcare provider?)

With this new app, it's impossible to lose your card and it's easy to present it to your healthcare provider. All the app user has to do is whip out his or her smartphone, click the healthcare card app with insurance information, and email or fax it to the healthcare provider.

ONE LAST THING... Healthcare delivery is complex. With mobile technology, delivery of healthcare insurance information doesn't have to be complicated. If you or one of your clients may be interested in new ideas for mobile delivery of healthcare information, give Shamrock a call.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

DON'T FEAR THE TAXMAN. This week's post is hosted by Shamrock's President, Tim Connor

"...If you drive a car, I'll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat.
If you get too cold, I'll tax the heat..."
                                Taxman, The Beatles

This being pay-the-taxman-week, you might be interested to learn how some municipalities are making it easier for residents to pay utility bills and residential taxes — and to be happier about paying them, too. You heard right. If there's a quicker, easier way and a system for checks and balances to ensure the bills have been properly processed, everyone — the municipal system and the people they serve — will be happier.

A few years ago, a smart strategic Shamrock team and I developed UBill Advance. We came to realize that, with an increase usage of everyday technology, customers expect more options in bill payment. The good news is UBill Advance offers a variety of bill-paying options. It can handle credit card or electronic funds transfer debits (commonly known as e-checks), and an extended range of payment services. These services include the ability for customers to make payments without registering and to schedule future payments automatically. Consumers can choose to print their bill, view archived copies of previous bills, and pay the bill electronically.

Services such as UBill Advance pay off handsomely for municipalities, hospitals, utility companies and lending institutions. For example, Aspen Marketing Services, working in conjunction with Fiserv and Qwest Communications, conducted a study (impact of e-bill payment) and found that a bill-paying system can result in lower customer turnover of between 15 and 25% as well as a significant lowering cost of delivering bills.

Some aspects of UBill ( include:
  • Customized statements at a fraction of the cost
  • Management and tracking of customer payments
  • The capability to bill via print and mail or Internet
  • Improved revenue cycles
  • A greater return on investment
  • Collection of payments quicker

ONE LAST THING... Taxes, community services and bill paying are inevitable. An easier way to do so, while not priceless, makes the process much less painful.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

pURLs OF WISDOM. This week Bob discusses direct marketing security issues.

I'm not the wise man of direct marketing, but I know some pretty smart people at Shamrock who can offer some sound advice. For example, I've learned that while new marketing techniques such as social media, QR codes and mobile may be new and exciting, direct marketing is the granddaddy that still draws a huge percentage of cold cash for marketers. Direct marketing continues to be a smart strategy for targeting a specific audience and learning more about those interested in your product/service. I've also learned that it's the marketer's responsibility to guard the security of the recipients’ personally identifiable information and to provide secure transactions. So, I guess the operative word is "smart".

Several good people at Shamrock sent me to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) website. I'd say it's a smart move to take advantage of DMA's advice. The DMA site explains how marketers can be vigilant about protecting consumers' security online and they offer clear guidelines. Here are just some of the sound direct marketing practices offered by DMA. Check their website for more (Security Guidelines):
  • Establish information security policies and practices to assure uninterrupted security of information systems.
  • Create and implement staff policies, procedures, training and responsiveness measures to protect personally identifiable information handled in the everyday performance of duties.
  • Employ/Reassess protective physical safeguards and technological measures to support information security policies.
  • Inform all associates and providers that handle personal information of their responsibility to ensure that their practices maintain security consistent with your information security policies.

Direct marketing is so powerful because it provides the ability to make a campaign personal, relevant and timely. And Personalized URLs (pURLs) enhance this power of direct marketing. A pURL is a personalized web address (such as that directs the recipient to a landing page. PURLs can neatly merge an email or printed communication with a fully personalized online customer experience.

While pURLs are a great direct marketing resource, as marketers we have make sure they're safe – from hackers and other online intruders. Online safety becomes an important issue when pURLs are included in offline formats like postcards or other types of mail. On one hand, the pURL address must be easy for the recipient to type correctly, but it’s important to prevent others from easily working out the recipient's pURL address and accessing personal data. There are steps marketers can follow to reduce the risk of a customer's data falling into the wrong hands. (At Shamrock, we follow a whole list of to-do's when we set up direct marketing security for customers.) The first and most important step is to get a security certificate. Secondly, keep customer-updated details in a separate database that can be checked and cleaned before being overwritten to your main database. A third obvious, but critical step, is to make sure each customer's pURL is unique to that customer. I've been told that accidents happen, so it's always best to double-check.

ONE LAST THING...  It's safe to say that, as direct marketing has become more accessible online, the number of hackers and phishing expeditions has grown too. Think about the measures you're taking to protect the identity of your online direct marketing customers. Are they as safe as possible? If you're wondering, call us and speak with one of our pros.