Getting Started With Email Marketing

Getting Started With Email Marketing

Getting Started with Email MarketingEmail is a part of many marketing budgets, strategies and concepts for big businesses. If you’re just starting out or are looking to expand your current online marketing efforts beyond the basics of social media, it’s time you made email marketing part of your next campaign. From determining whether you should send out newsletters or retargeted emails, getting started with email marketing can seem a bit overwhelming.   Here are some of the questions you may be asking yourself, and the answers.

How Do I Create a Database?

Before you get in to the design or messaging, you need to have a list of emails that you’re sending your email marketing campaigns out to. If you don’t have contacts to send your campaign messages out to, there is no way you’ll be successful. In order to create a database to use for your email marketing efforts, you should:

  • Start by collecting and organizing the emails of past and current customers. You may already have these, but if you don’t a call or direct mail card can help you head off in the right direction.
  • Ask for an email address in exchange for an offer. A basic clipboard on your counter or form on your website, that says “Sign up here to receive discount coupons via email!” or “Sign up here to get our free Newsletter via email!” will get your list going.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t ask for too much information up front; you could scare someone off. All you really need is a first name and email address. The rest of the information you ask is up to you, but the more information you require the more likely someone is to say, “No thanks.”
  • Have a privacy policy in place. Let customers know how you plan to use the information they provide. Look at similar sites and companies to get a feel for what you should be doing – including getting the permission of customers to send them emails.

Should I Use HTML or Plain-Text?

If you have no experience in email marketing campaigns, creating and designing brand new one may seem overwhelming. However, there are a number of tools out there to help you get started. MailChimp has a number of resources available for those getting started with email marketing. When it comes to the design of your email campaigns, consider:

  • Testing the email before you send. HTML emails can look different than expected when they are opened. Run the test on a few different free email services such as Yahoo!, Gmail, MSN and Hotmail to make sure it’s what you expect.
  •  CSS vs. HTML vs. Plain-Text. CSS doesn’t work too well in an HTML email, HTML images are sometimes ‘broken’ and plain-text is the most consistent. However, HTML is more like the world we live in – colorful and full of imagery – and is often considered the best method for email marketing campaigns.
  • Keeping the design simple. Place your logo in the upper-left hand corner, keep your call to action above the fold and avoid adding so much pizzazz that the important things get lost. Using a few images is great, but keep your message in mind!

What’s the Message?

What you hope to get from your email marketing efforts will contribute greatly to what your message should be. If you’re looking to showcase a product or indicate an upcoming event, your message needs to be a compelling reflection of that. Keep in mind why you’re sending these emails out and gear your content towards the right audience.

  • Your call to action, which is based on what you want those receiving your emails to do, needs to be above the fold. This means having the CTA in sight, without any scrolling necessary, when someone opens the email.
  • Be interesting! Put yourself in your customer’s shoes to consider what they want to read and receive in an email. Your tone, content and design all need to reflect this. Track the results of your efforts to see what is working best with your audience.

Is There Anything Else I Should Know?

Yes, of course there is! Email marketing takes some time and isn’t an overnight process. Always include an opt-out option and stay up to date on your results reports. Knowing what is successful and what isn’t is the best way to move forward.

  • Make sure you send emails from a non-personal email address. Instead of sending out blasts from janedoe@xyz.com, consider info@xyz.com, newsletter@xyz.com, etc.
  • Segment your audience. Your campaign may not apply to everyone in your database so organize each person by different demographics including age, location, interests, conversion likelihood, etc.
  • Send your emails early in the week. Emails typically have a lifespan of 3 days, so sending out your messages on Monday or Tuesday will often be better than sending out on Friday. Of course, it depends on your audience.

An email marketing company can help you with your email campaign efforts. But, if you’re more of a DIY marketer, take each of these questions into account and make sure you have a plan in place before sending any emails out. There are a number of resources, including HTML email templates, online for free. When it comes to getting started in email marketing, you need to have a goal and related call to action, design, and overall messaging in mind. Remember, this is a branding opportunity and you need to make the most of it.

Author Bio: Erica Bell is a small business writer who focuses on topics such as web design and online marketing. She is a web content writer for Business.com. 

The views and opinions of  this post are solely those of the author of the post. Mozy does not specifically endorse any of the commercial products or services mentioned in this post.

 

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Desktop KVM switches add convenience to using more than one computer

If you’ve got two or more computers — say, a desktop and a notebook — or perhaps two desktops and a notebook — or three notebooks — switching among them can be a nuisance.

It’s particularly a nuisance if you want to be switching back and forth among systems during over a session, like if one is your “business production” system, another is your testing platform, plus you’ve got a notebook for when you travel.

One way to do this is to use “remote desktop/remote control” software like GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, TeamViewer, VNC, or the many other offerings. These programs let you manage your computers via WiFi or Internet connections, or even from a smartphone or tablet like an iPhone or iPad.

If your computers are going to be right next to you, another option is a KVM — K for Keyboard, V for Video, M for Mouse (or other pointing device, like a trackpad or trackball) — switch.

A KVM switch is the computer equivalent of the input selection button on your television that lets you toggle between the cable, DVD player, or that old VCR.

A KVM switch lets you connect multiple computers — how many depends on the switch — and with the touch of a button, change which computer the keyboard, display and mouse are connected to. Unlike using remote desktop programs, only the computer you want to use has to be on — or you can have multiple computers on, and be switching among them like you do among windows within a given computer.

Many data centers use KVM switches to let IT admins connect to several machines from a single terminal. But KVM switches can be useful for office, home office, and home users as well.

To connect up a office/home KVM switch, you plug your keyboard, mouse, and display (some KVM switches support two displays) into the back. You then connect a KVM cable between the KVM and the computer — typically, the KVM cable includes a video cable, two USB cables, and A/V cables. Connect the KVM power supply, and, optionally, plug peripheral(s) into the KVM’s front-side USB ports — and you’re ready to go.

I’ve been using KVM switches for more than 25 years. While I typically only have one computer running at a time, KVM switches are a great convenience when I’m testing a new machine or need to access my travel notebook.

Though data-center-grade KVM switches can cost up to several thousand dollars, office/home-class KVMs are much less expensive.

KVM switches start at around $20 for two-to-four-machine switches. For example, NewEgg.com is currently listing the “IOGEAR GCS612A MiniView Micro PS/2 Audio KVM Switch with Cables” for $25.99 (MSRP $29.99). A four-to-eight port KVM that supports two video monitors and with other features may run you several hundred dollars — and would be worth it.

Don’t hesitate to bargain hunt for slightly older machines — but check the notes at the bottom of this article, and also see whether the price includes a set of cables

The KVM switch I’ve been using for the past five or more years is an IoGear MiniView Symphony.

KVM Switch

It’s got four ports, meaning it accommodates and can switch among up to four computers.

KVM Switch

It has two front-side USB ports for peripherals. Pressing a computer selector for a few seconds switches these USB ports to that computer. It also has a four-port Ethernet switch built-in.

KVM switches don’t seem to wear out, but they may not meet the requirements of your newer computers or displays. In particular:

1) Older KVMs may not connect to Windows 7 machines.

2) Older KVMs may not support the video resolution you need.

While remote-desktop software may be the wave of the future, KVM switches are an inexpensive, easy way to meet for basic needs of switching between systems.

 

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Cloud Links of Interest – September 17

Why the iPhone 5 Launch Will Be the ‘Biggest Upgrade in Consumer Electronics History’

Why the iPhone 5 Launch Will Be the 'Biggest Upgrade in Consumer Electronics History'The iPhone 5 launch isn’t just going to be big, according to Topeka Capital analyst Brian White, it’s going to be the “biggest upgrade in consumer electronics history.”

White lists a number of reasons why he thinks the iPhone 5 will be a big hit — bigger screen, LTE capability, faster processor, iOS 6 — but in the analysis he misses the wood for the trees, according to an article on ZDNet.com.

He fails to mention that the vast majority of Apple customers don’t care about the hardware specifications at all. It’s going to be big because it will be the first major redesign of the iPhone since the iPhone 4 was released back in June 2010, ZDNet’s Adrian Kingsley-Hughes writes.

“Consumers like a redesign because it means that their new handset doesn’t look like everybody else’s handset,” writes Kingsley-Hughes. “To people who like to pore through endless specification sheets and hardware teardowns, it seems odd that people will base their purchasing decision on something as simple as a product looking different, but they will.”

New App MindMeld Heralds the Era of Anticipatory Computing

Shouldn’t computers know what you need without you having to tell them? A new app from Expect Minds and entrepreneur Tim Tuttle called Mindmeld hopes to think ahead and help deal with more and more data, according to an article on GigaOm.com.

MindMeld is an iPad app that uses Facebook’s open graph and identity to help create quick audio or video conferences. Add a few people and start talking. But here is where things get interesting: As you speak (or other participants speak), the app listens and starts surfacing information pertaining to what you are talking about, according to GigaOm.

Om Malik writes ”For instance, if you are talking about an upcoming meeting with, say, someone like [Malik], then in near realtime, it would show you my Wikipedia page, surface my recent blog posts, show GigaOM location on a map, and other such information. And as fast as the topic shifts, the system brings up relevant information for that new topic. Sometime in the future, the company will be able to access data from your Dropbox or Google Docs account and when it does, Cisco’s WebEx division should reach for a proverbial bottle of migraine medicine.”

Tim Tuttle started Expect Labs, the company behind the app, two years ago to develop a platform that would “continuously pay attention to what happens in your life and pick up ambient information and then start to surface relevant information.”

Tuttle believes computing habits are evolving from desktop-bound to completely mobile, essentially changing usage behavior for users everywhere.

Cloud Computing Revs Up the Auto Industry

Cloud computing has already changed several industries and the next stop looks like the auto industry and the driving experience as we know it, according an an article on CloudTweaks.com.

Three main areas of the automobile industry could experience the greatest impact of cloud computing: partnerships and integration, the manufacturer-dealer-customer chain and auto infotainment.

 

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Life in the Cloud

Be sure to enter to win a 1-year free MozyHome account by leaving a comment on this post, telling us how you use the cloud!

These days data is always available to us, never no more than a click or a tap away. Cloud computing is quickly becoming a mainstream part of everyday life, and we find ourselves banking, updating Facebook from our phones, sending emails from taxis, and backing up our data — all because of “the cloud”.

We’ve talked about this all-knowing cloud before, reviewing how to make your important information available to you online, how you can use cloud backup to customize your Android phone, how the cloud is helping accountants, and even how the cloud is relaxing concerns about when employees are arriving or leaving the office.

So, what is cloud computing? Let’s take a look.

Life in the Cloud

(This image was grabbed from our “Life in the Cloud” infographic)

There are quite a few cloud computing companies that play a major role in our every day lives, including Google, Facebook, Pandora, Netflix, and Twitter. Each of these companies stores a variety of different information in the cloud, including some information about you.

Where do these companies store all of this information?

Cloud computing companies store users’ information in giant storage centers called “Data Centers“. Data centers contain row after row of servers filled with hard drives with your data on them.

Data Centers

(This image was grabbed from our “Where Oh Where is the World’s Data Being Stored?” infographic)

These data centers are secured with various types of security (both physical and technological), to ensure that your information can’t be access by someone coming into the data center, either in person or via the web.

Because your information is stored in the data center, you can access it using any device that has the ability to connect to it (your laptop, your iPad, or your Mom’s typewriter. Ok, just kidding on the last one.)

I want to get in the cloud!

So, have you decided it’s definitely time to upgrade and enter the cloud?

If you’re still holding out and you need more convincing, here’s a recent post on 5 more signs that it’s time to upgrade and enter the cloud (and yes mixtapes do make the list).

If you’re ready to join the digital age, want to help you on this exciting journey. Trusting your family pictures and your tax documents to a someone you don’t know well can be an unnerving experience. We’ve put together some guides to help you make sure you’re considering all the factors when choosing a cloud backup vendor.

After reviewing these posts, you’ll feel much more confident in evaluating and choosing someone to trust with your important data.

Mozy has made it very easy to access your files (whether backed up OR synced) via your computer, your mobile device, or a web browser on a friend’s computer. Currently backing up over 90 petabytes (What’s a petabyte?) of data for over 3,000,000 home users and 80,000 business, Mozy is the leader in cloud backup and storage. We’re big fans of the cloud and the amazing things it lets us do. We’ve put together this guide to help you learn more about cloud computing and what it can do for you. We promise that once you’ve tried it, you’ll never go back. We hope you’ll consider the online backup leader for all your cloud storage needs.

Enter to win a 1-year free MozyHome account by leaving a comment on this post, telling us how you use the cloud! (Comments must be submitted by 9/28/12, winner will be emailed.)

Bluetooth headsets, what to look for?

Bluetooth HeadsetOne of the most essential accessories for your cell phone is a Bluetooth headset — one of those little metal-bug-like things that fits in (and perhaps over) your ear, allowing you to chat without having to hold the phone up to the side of your face, or have a wire dangling between your head and one of your pockets.

Bluetooth headsets are useful for working with your mobile phone, tablet, or notebook computer and they cost anywhere from $15 to $150. Obviously, they’re not the same. So what should you be looking for, feature wise?

Based on having tried/used a dozen or so over the past several years, here’s my advice:

Staying Power

An earpiece that won’t stay on your ear won’t last long. If it’s going to fall off and get lost, it’s a bad investment. You’re moving your head around as you walk, talk, get in and out of your car. If it falls out easily, it could be minutes or miles before you even notice it’s missing.

My current favorite with this in mind are SoundID, which has a clear plastic earloop. I also like the Jawbone, but its earloop can come loose from the headset too easily. I’m partial to earloops, and to earloops that can’t detach, or at least not without some effort.

Comfort

If you’re going to be wearing this for hours at a time, it’s got to be comfortable enough, even if you wear glasses.

USB Charging Port

This isn’t as much of a problem as it was even a year or two ago, when Jawbone, Plantronics and others had proprietary, and often annoying charging ports. Thankfully, now almost all mobile vendors (other than Apple) have standardized usage of smaller USB ports, so your tech travel kit is likely to include the right cable, and if it doesn’t, you should be able to borrow or buy one easily enough.

Sound Quality at the Other End

How do you sound to whoever you’re talking to? How’s the sound cancellation — can you talk quietly in a crowded coffee shop, or as you walk by a leaf blower? You’ll need a testing-buddy to check this with, and you may want to ask a friend to wear the headset so you can hear what they sound like.

The various vendors tout a range of continually evolving noise cancellation and other audio features. Whether they make a difference — and if they do, enough to override other considerations — only you can decide.

Usability

Bluetooth headsets don’t have a lot of controls – basically, on/off, answer/end call, volume, and maybe sensitivity. Some have voice-control. Are the buttons/controls easy for you to reach up and use? Or are you making more mistakes than correct reaches?

For out-of-office use, you’ll probably also want something relatively unobtrusive — small. In the office — or if you don’t care — you may prefer a Bluetooth headset with a boom mike, either short or long, which can pick up your voice better. Similarly, you may look for one that really is a headset, meaning it has some over-the-head loop, rather than just stick-in-and-over-your-ear.

Now all you have to do is not lose the headset when you’re now wearing it…

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Beyond “My Documents” — Organizing your files to make things more findable

Beyond My DocumentsLike the stuff in your office, closets, bookshelves, and everywhere else in your physical life, the number of data files on your computers (including cloud storage and online backups) keeps growing.

If you use your computer for business purposes — and even if you simply use it a bunch for personal reasons — that means you quickly have too many files to simply have all in one directory, just like your bills, correspondence, and other paperwork really need to be organized.

Tools like Windows 7′s built-in indexing, or the “Find” command in your file manager, may make it surprisingly easy to find a file quickly, similar to how Google (and other web search engines) help you find online stuff.

But, just like there’s no substitute for good labeling and organizing your paperwork into named folders and file drawers, that’s no substitute for good practices in naming and organizing directories and files, so that you can find things later on.

One reason is you may not remember the right keywords to search for. Another reason is you may have to look through a drive or directory using a different machine or OS — or a cloud back-up — which doesn’t have that index, or support as easy searching within files.

I’ve used two methods that since I started with computers — going back to the pre-Windows days of DOS, and working on Unix systems:

  • Giving files and directories self-explanatory names
  • Organizing my directory structure in a logical manner

A directory called STUFF, or NEW, isn’t helpful. Especially if I haven’t look at it recently. Directory and file names should tell you exactly what the file is. For example, I give directories names such as:

  • AA_WORK (current projects — I’m using the “AA_” to force these alphabetically at the top of the directory listing)
  • AA_ARCHIVES (projects I’m done with)
  • AA_PERSONAL (home, health, family, etc.)

For files, let’s work through a recent project of mine, a review of Bluetooth Keyboards. I called the finished product “Dern-TabletPubs-Review-BluetoothKeyboards.doc” and the invoice that goes with it “Dern-2012-137-TabletPubs-03-Review-BluetoothKeyboards.doc.”

Of course, there are also several files associated with the writing of this project:

_assign-TabletPubs-Review-BluetoothKeyboards.doc
_sources-TabletPubs-Review-BluetoothKeyboards.doc
notes-TabletPubs-Review-BluetoothKeyboards.doc
xcr-TabletPubs-Review-BluetoothKeyboards.doc (xrc is my shorthand for an interview transcript)

Notice that each document contains the project name (Review-BluetoothKeyboards) and the client name (TabletPubs — a pseudonym, of course).

As a freelance writer, I keep a directory for each client. Within each client, I maintain a directory for each project. Within TabletPubs, I have:

  • Feature-TabletsInEnterprise
  • Feature-Windows8-MythOrMenace
  • Review-BluetoothKeyboards
  • Review-FunAccessories

My general point: I should be able to know, or at least have a good idea, of what a file and directory are about from their names — and if for some reason I find a file in a place I don’t expect (typically because the application saved it in the wrong place) I can quickly figure out where it should go.

And, equally, I should have a good chance of finding the directory or file based on a name search, without having to search inside the files. (I’m not opposed to searching file contents, but that can often turn up way too many matches.)

Directories for active projects are in the directory AA_WORK. Once a project is finished, I move it to AA_ARCHIVES.

Anything else about my business other than projects is in AA_ADMIN, such as CONTRACTS (with a sub-directory for each client), INVOICING, RECEIPTS, TECHSUPPORT, TRIPS.

The same applies to non-business stuff, e.g. under my PERSONAL directory, I’ve got directories like CAR, DIRECTIONS, DOG, HEALTH, HOUSE.

One last tip: I also use this organizational approach to simplify and reduce my file backup requirements. Stuff I want backed up goes in one set of directories. Stuff I don’t care about, like manuals I’ve downloaded, articles I want to read, presentations I was sent for articles I was doing, vendor press kits, all go under one top-level directory like STUFF2SAVE_BUTDONTBACKUP.

Of course, I periodically rethink how I’m labeling and organizing my files — often as new topics and groups of things emerge. The same is true for my paper files, my shoeboxes of electronic doohickeys, etc. But generally, I’m able to find something quickly enough, so it must be working, at least, for me.

 

September is National Preparedness Month

The concept of being prepared is a bit like insurance – it doesn’t really matter and you don’t really need it until something bad happens. Because it’s not always an urgent need, it’s easy to forget about it.

MozyHome customer Beth Lutz found this out when her home caught on fire and she lost valuable family pictures:

“It’s easy to imagine the impact of a disaster on the physical items in your home or business, but we often overlook the value of what’s stored on our computers, servers, and tablets,” said Dave Robinson, VP of Marketing at Mozy. “The irreplaceable photos, videos, financial documents, and business files on your laptops and servers are just as susceptible to fire and water damage as the furniture, printers, and file cabinets. Both are important and need to be protected.”

Mozy recommends a few simple steps to make sure your digital assets are protected:

  • Store copies of important physical documents in a safe place locally as well as offsite.
  • Sign up for an online backup service – to protect everything important on your computer.
  • Make sure your antivirus software is up to date.
  • Consider investing in an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) if your area is prone to power surges or failures.
  • Scan important physical documents so you have a digital copy as well.
  • Keep a hard copy list of your important passwords, and consider using a password manager program.

Disaster can strike businesses, too. Pelindaba Lavendar farm in the San Juan Islands lost their building to a fire:

No matter the emergency, September is an ideal time to get started with your preparation. A good place to start is the FEMA checklist found at www.ready.gov. Mozy’s secure online backup offers you peace of mind, knowing that your files are protected in the case of a disaster.

 

Links of Interest – September 3

New iPhone Not Expected to Slow Android Growth

Despite the highly anticipated release of Apple’s iPhone 5, analysts expect Google’s Android mobile operating system to continue to dominate the smartphone market.

Android already leads the market, accounting for approximately 60 percent of all smartphone shipments in the first half of 2012, according to an article on PCMag.com. But even with the forthcoming launch of the next-generation iPhone, Android market share is expected to grow to 70 percent of the global market in the second half of the year, Digitimes Research senior analyst Luke Lin estimated.

Contributing to its growth, several major Android handset vendors like Samsung, Huawei, and ZTE are starting to increase shipments, while second-tier and regional vendors are “aggressively” launching new entry-level Android handsets in China, Lin said.

See Every Hurricane of the Last 150 years on One Map

HurricanesWith hurricane season upon us, one mapmaker offered up an informative and visually impressive look at hurricanes that have struck over the last century and a half.

If it looks a little odd at first, it’s because this hurricane map offers a unique perspective of the Earth; Antarctica is smack in the middle, and the rest of the planet unfurls around it like the petals of a tulip, according to an article on msnbc.com.

The effect is not only informative — more than 150 years of hurricane data show that certain regions are consistently in the storms’ crosshairs — but also visually arresting.

Mapmaker John Nelson, the user experience and mapping manager for IDV Solutions, a data visualization company, said that this oddball point of view was the best way to tell the story of the data.

“When I put it onto a rectangular map it was neat looking, but a little bit disappointing,” Nelson told OurAmazingPlanet. But the unorthodox, bottom-up perspective allowed the curving paths the storms make across the world’s oceans to shine, he said.

Sick on the Road? Try the Grocery Store

If you’re planning one more trip before the end of summer, it might be a smart idea to familiarize yourself with some ways to cope with ailments while in a foreign land.

Some physicians, pharmacists and scientists have suggested grocery items available almost anywhere that can help cure several ailments, according to a recent article in The New York Times.

“You don’t need to pack a medicine chest on holiday,” said Dave Harcombe, a pharmacist in Doncaster, England. “I rely on traditional medicine to pay my mortgage,” he added. “But in certain cases, home remedies are as good as drugs. There’s a place in the world for both of them.”

Harcombe used his travel experience and that of his customers to create a list of items that he posted on silvertraveladvisor.com. Debbie Marshall, editor of the site, said the response has been enthusiastic. “It is well worth knowing some of the healing properties of common foods when traveling,” she said, noting that acquiring and using conventional medicines in certain countries can be complicated. “Pharmaceutical labels may be written in an unfamiliar language, quantities can be ambiguous and quite often nature has a remedy that will bridge the gap until more conventional aid can be found.”

Some of these over-the-counter remedies help combat upset stomachs, bug bites, poison ivy and what to do when you’re having trouble with your contact lenses.

Super Mario Bros. ‘Demake’ Boasts Atari 2600 Graphics

Call it an artistic step forward while relying on graphics from the early ’80s.

An old-school style is making a comeback, and “demakes” are apparently all the rage.

“Demakes” adapt modern games to the standards of older platforms, sometimes even programming them for dead hardware, such as the Atari system.

Atari Age forum member Sprybug spent his free time demaking Super Mario Bros. as an actual Atari 2600 game, according to an article on Dvice.com.

If you thought Super Mario Bros. looked bad on the Nintendo Entertainment System, wait until you see what it would have looked like on the Atari 2600. In its current demo form, the graphics are fairly decent for an Atari 2600 game, although Sprybug admits there are some problems with collision detection.

So far, Sprybug’s Super Mario Bros. demake has 16 levels (World 1-1 to 4-4) stuffed into a compact 32k file.

 

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Ways Back to College Has Changed Since the 80s

September means many things to many people.

For football fans, it’s the beginning of how they will shape their lives for the next five months as the NFL gets its season underway.

For the parents of youngsters, it’s a small sigh of relief as school once again resumes, bringing more of a set schedule to their children and more peace to the household.

Here at the Jersey Shore, it means the fist-pumping, club-going crowds that unfortunately represent this scenic stretch of coastline return to points north, a sort of migration carried out under the power of Escalades and new Camaros.

Ways Back to School Has ChangedAnd for a good percentage of those who graduated high school in the spring, it means heading off to college and entering one of the most important phases of a young adult’s life. While nearly all colleges and universities are physically the same as they were in the ‘80s and ‘90s, there are some pretty significant differences in how incoming freshmen from decades past and those who are a part of the class of 2016 settle in to campus life.

Here is a look at the differences between heading off to college in the age of Facebook and text-speak  and going off to college in the awesome ‘80s.

Keep It Light

In the ‘80s, things were bigger. Hair was bigger (although it still is at the Jersey Shore). Microwaves were bigger. TV’s were bigger. And PCs were bigger and something your girlfriend’s nerdy older brother had in his bedroom (along with Dungeons & Dragons posters). Moving into your dorm room in the ‘80s required some heavy lifting, as it seems electronics of the ‘80s defied logic and physics (how could a black-and-white TV with a 13-inch screen require three people to carry it?)

Flat-screen TVs of today can be carried under one arm while keeping your other hand free to take video of your first steps on campus while simultaneously checking out your new roommate’s Facebook photos.

Make a Connection

Keeping in touch with family back home and friends now scattered throughout the country once required breaking out pen and paper and finding a stamp (a “stamp” is something issued by the government that allowed you to send something hundreds, even thousands, of miles away for just pennies) and mailing a letter.

Or if you really wanted to summon the wrath of your parents, who just shelled out $1,500 for your first year of university schooling (yes, things were cheaper in the ‘80s), you’d dial up your buddy at UNLV, talk on a land line for 20 minutes, and rack up a $75 phone bill (yes, some things were more expensive in the ‘80s).

Today, there really is no disconnect. Communicating is for the most part cheaper, and something you can do instantaneously. Perfect for requesting more Top Ramen or a regional delicacy from home, such as pork roll. Pork roll is a Jersey thing, often traded like a precious metal on faraway campuses.

Book Smart, Pound Foolish

Doing research and writing papers used to require a bit more heavy lifting, from the 42-pound word processor used to churn out Psych 101 papers to the 8-inch-thick book on Chaucer checked out from your school’s library.

Of course, students today still use books and libraries, but there is a growing reliance on, and acceptance of, using tablet computers for everything from note-taking to conducting research to actually replacing college textbooks.

Fashion-Forward

One would like to say the fashion of the ‘80s remains just where it belongs – 30 years in the past and seen only in dog-eared photographs in some forgotten box in the attic. But what’s old is new again, and from neon sunglasses to polos with the collar raised, elements of the ‘80s are alive and well at today’s institutions of higher learning.

Let’s just hope these don’t make a comeback.

Fast facts from August 1986 and August 2012

Weekend Box Office:

1986: Stand By Me, Top Gun

2012: The Expendables 2, The Bourne Legacy

Top of the Charts:

1986: Madonna, “True Blue”; Top Gun Soundtrack

2012: Taylor Swift, “We Are Never Getting Back Together”; Flo Rida, “Whistle”

Car of Choice:

1986: Chevrolet Celebrity; Ford Escort

2012: Ford F-Series truck; Toyota Camry

Cost of Annual Tuition, Private, Non-Profit Four-Year School:

1986: $10,000

2012: $35,000

Siri, Texas Ranger

In the 1967 classic film “Cool Hand Luke,” one of the main characters, the Captain, utters one of the most classic lines in cinema: “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

It’s a phrase that lends itself well to a number of circumstances. Like Apple’s Siri.

Siri, the voice-activated digital assistant on the iPhone 4S, was last summer’s must-have smartphone feature. This summer? Not so much. To back up this claim, see what the New York Times had to say about Siri last summer compared to this summer.

Last year, the Times’ David Pogue was clearly taken with Siri’s responses to certain questions. His headline: Siri Is One Funny Lady.

“If you don’t laugh at some of Siri’s responses, there’s something wrong with your funnybone,” Pogue wrote then, in response to these tidbits:

You: “I need to hide a body.”

Siri: “What kind of place are you looking for?”

Siri then offers you a list of choices like Reservoirs, Metal Foundries, Mines, Dumps and Swamps.

You: “Who’s your daddy?”

Siri: “You are. Can we get back to work now?”

You: “Open the pod bay doors.”

Siri: “I’m sorry, Joshua. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Sure, the responses were funny the first time, but as time wore on and the benefits of Siri waned, the dynamic with Siri also changed. There was a failure to communicate. Just see how the Times switched up its tune.

Last month’s headline: With Apple’s Siri, a Romance Gone Sour

Writer Nick Bilton chronicled how things went south between him and Siri.

“We met at an Apple product announcement in Cupertino, Calif. She was helpful, smart and even funny, cracking sarcastic jokes and making me laugh. What more could a guy ask for?

“Since then, we have had some major communication issues. She frequently misunderstands what I’m saying. Sometimes she is just unavailable. Often, she responds with the same, repetitive statement.”

Funny, but true.

With the next iPhone release expected somewhere in the near future, let’s hope one of the improvements made to the otherwise stellar device involves Siri. After all, she was released as a beta, meaning there were bugs to be worked out and a conceded room for improvement. She could use a bit of an upgrade.

But before I write her off completely, I figured I’d ask a few questions not so much for their humorous aspect, but in the event you find yourself in a do-or-die, “Walker, Texas Ranger” style situation. Walker, if you remember, was a character played by Chuck Norris who somehow always found himself battling it out with an assortment of Japanese gangs or corrupt parole officers.

Me: “How do you untie knots?”

Siri: “Checking on that for you. How about a Web search for ‘How do you untie knots?’”

Google pointed me to a climbing site and a YouTube video on how to untie a square knot. At least she understood the question.

Me: “How do you unlock a trunk from the inside?”

Siri: “Hmmm. Let me think. How about a Web search?”

A Web search turned up a helpful wikihow page titled “7 Tips on How to Escape From the Trunk of a Car.”

Walker would be impressed. I’m sure he would’ve benefited from having Siri as a sidekick. Which isn’t a bad idea if this voice-activated digital assistant gig doesn’t work out. Siri could always help Chuck Norris battle bank robbers and prove the innocence of the wrongfully accused.

One final question.

Me: “How do you stop Chuck Norris?”

Siri, in a beautifully redeeming moment, came back with a video. That video was called “You Can’t Stop Chuck Norris.”

Smart lady.

Image Credit: Chuck Norris Action Jeans / Sarah B. Brooks / CC BY 2.0