ModSquad’s Guide to Twitter Chats

The first use of a hashtag on Twitter was in 2007, over a year after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sent the first ever tweet.

At the time, Chris Messina, now the Developer Experience Lead at Uber, thought it would be a great way to organize and distinguish group conversations. He likely had no idea how hashtags would proliferate nearly every social media platform! From live tweeting TV shows, to displays of solidarity, to celebrations of International Coffee Day, hashtags have served to fuel conversations around every topic imaginable.


H
ashtags Make the Social World Go ‘Round

This is certainly true for Twitter chats, where Twitter users gather to discuss a designated topic, all using the same hashtag. These are different from a Twitter party, which are one-off events often conducted by brands or influencers. Twitter parties are typically organized to promote a new product or celebrate a holiday or event, and usually involve prizes or giveaways.

Twitter chats, on the other hand, are more like networking events. They happen on a regular basis (usually weekly) basis and typically last an hour, during which topical questions are posed to guide the conversation. Every Twitter chat has a designated host, who posts questions and moderates the discussion; some chats are hosted by brands, while others are hosted by individuals (typically influencers in their area of expertise).

We at ModSquad participate in a number of Twitter chats, both for ourselves and on behalf of clients. We consider them “oldies, but goodies” – as new social media platforms have emerged, Twitter chats have stood the test of time as effective ways to gather a community for a meaningful discussion. Some of the ones we find ourselves frequenting lately have been #bufferchat (hosted by Buffer), #sproutchat (hosted by Sprout Social), and #hootchat (hosted by Hootsuite), which often discuss topics related to the things we are passionate about: social media, customer engagement, community management, digital marketing, and so much more.

Twitter chat topics run the gamut, with new chats popping up all the time. Whether you want to connect with others around a personal passion like food and travel or a career-specific topic like advertising or customer service, chances are there’s a Twitter chat for you.


W
hy Participate in a Twitter Chat?

group-835427_1280There are many benefits that come out of taking part in a Twitter chat, especially if you become a regular participant at specific chats. For individuals and brands alike, Twitter chats are a great way to engage with industry peers and others with similar interests. You may find yourself sharing your own experience and insight, learning from others, or both! Through these conversations, you will find new accounts to follow, as well as increase your own follower count.

Depending on your industry, Twitter chats can be an effective method for generating new leads and building relationships. You never know who you might encounter during a Twitter chat — a brand looking for the services your company provides, a user who ends up actively retweeting your content, or even a qualified candidate for a job opening you’ve just listed.

Above all, they’re the perfect context for sharing your expertise in or experience with a specific subject. The organic flow of conversation gives you opportunities to provide insight that on its own would come across as self-promotional or lacking context. Some chats will even provide the list of questions before the chat, allowing you the chance to prepare your answers ahead of time and spend more of your effort during the chat engaging with other participants.


H
ow to Participate in a Twitter Chat

First, you’ll want to find a chat that is within your area of interest. There are a number of great resources for finding a relevant Twitter chat, including:

  1. AllTwitterChats (recurring Twitter chats, listed by day, time, and chat hashtag)
  2. TweetReports.com (recurring Twitter chats, filterable by details like hashtag, topic, day, and time)
  3. Twubs.com (list of user-submitted chats, both one-time and recurring)

Next, you’ll want to check the host’s handle and confirm that week’s topic. If the questions have already been shared, take some time to think about how you’ll respond, or even craft some responses ahead of time.

As the chat is set to begin, prepare to monitor the chat in real-time to keep up with the conversations. While there are lots of social media management softwares you can use to monitor hashtags, mentions, and the like, we actually prefer using native Twitter to monitor chats (but you can use whatever makes you most comfortable).

We recommend having 3 separate browser tabs open:

  1. A live monitor of the chat’s hashtag. Feel free to copy the URL below, and just replace the bolded portion with the chat’s hashtag (minus the hash sign).

    https://twitter.com/search?f=tweets&vertical=default&q=%23modsnotcubes&src=typd

  2. Your notifications. This will help you keep an eye on any retweets or mentions you might want to reply or otherwise engage with. You’ll also see all the new accounts following you as a result of your participation in the chat.

    https://twitter.com/i/notifications

  3. The Twitter account of the chat host. While their tweets will show up in the live monitor, having their main feed open in a separate tab will ensure you don’t miss any new questions as they’re posted.


D
os and Dont’s: Twitter Chat Best Practices

DO let your followers know ahead of time that you’ll be participating. Since your tweet velocity is likely to increase during that hour, it’s good to give your followers a heads up. It also gives better context to the answers you’ll be posting and may even encourage others to join in.

DO use the chat’s hashtag in every tweet (including replies). In addition to providing context to your tweets, this ensures your tweets will be visible to the chat host and participants, allowing them to engage with your tweets. A number of hosts will also post recaps after the chat has concluded, and by using the hashtag and providing valuable insight, you increase your chances of your response being featured.

DO be professional and personable. As with all social media posts, your tweets are a reflection of you and your brand or organization. While Twitter chats typically promote a casual atmosphere, your tweets should still have proper spelling/grammar and be consistent with your brand voice.

DO engage with other participants. After all, it’s a Twitter chat, not a Twitter Q&A. In addition to answering the questions posed by the host, replying to others and liking or retweeting their responses is essential to acquiring new followers and building relationships. Even a short “Agreed!” or “Great point!” can go a long way in showing another Twitter user you value their insight. Be sure to acknowledge when others take the time to reply to you, too; a like or retweet can suffice here, but we recommend continuing the conversation whenever the opportunity arises.

DON’T be overly self-promotional. While some Twitter chats will offer you the opportunity to promote your own website, blog, or product/service, avoid doing so when it’s not prompted or perfectly relevant. Participants are unlikely to click away from the chat to visit your website, and doing so outside of your initial introduction can come across as disingenuous.


Y
ou’re Ready for Twitter Chats. Now What?

Now that you understand the who/what/where/why/how of Twitter chats, use the resources we linked above to find one you’re interested in.

Want more help? We’re happy to share additional tips! Drop us a line and find out how we can help your brand improve its social presence through Twitter chats and other community engagement strategies.

 

Aliza Rosen
Digital Strategist

 

Test Your Olympics Mettle (See What We Did There?)

If you’re like us, your excitement for the summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro is reaching a fever pitch. We’re buzzing about the upcoming games here at ModSquad, with our Mods all around the globe rooting fervently for their homelands to take home the gold.

If your company is anything like ours, you’ll want to be up-to-speed on everything Olympics for your daily chitchats at the virtual water cooler. If you want to drop some cool info nuggets into your next sporting discussion, you’re in luck. This quiz will not only test your Olympics I.Q., but will provide you with meaningless trivia that will impress even the biggest know-it-alls at your company! Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

1) Which of the following is not an actual Olympic sport?

A. Race walking
B. Dressage (equestrian)
C. Shooting
D. Ten-pin bowling

olympicrings_0802162) The five rings of the Olympics Rings represent…

A. Five major fields of athletics
B. Five continents of the world
C. Five philosophies of the ancient world
D. Five Guys Burgers & Fries

3) What percentage of an Olympic gold medal is actual gold?

A. 0-25%
B. 26-50%
C. 51-75%
D. 76-100%

I always get super-hyped about the summer Olympic games. My favorite part of the Olympics is how the world seems to come together and we are reminded that no matter what our politicians are doing, we are one people and a global community.
— Melanie Lara, Campbell, CA

4) Which of the following sports have been dropped from the summer games?

A. Baseball and softball
B. Canoe slalom and canoe sprint
C. Judo
D. Shooting

5) Which of the following film directors has not been responsible for an Olympics opening ceremony?

A. Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later)
B. Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardener, City of God)
C. George Miller (Happy Feet, Mad Max: Fury Road)
D. Zhang Yimou (Hero, The Great Wall)

In the opening ceremonies, I love reading the stats about each country as they come out and seeing the pride as they all walk together. The way the ceremonies use the history of the home nation as inspiration for the musical theme is amazing!
— Rebekah Good, Ravenswood, WV

Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakoon 26) Female Thai gold medalist Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakoon holds the record for longest name by an Olympic champion. Her name was too long to fit on the scoreboard, and she was listed as “J”. In which sport did she compete?

A. Badminton
B. Boxing
C. Taekwondo
D. Weightlifting

7) Which of the following films did not follow the adventures of Olympic athletes?

A. Cool Runnings
B. Eddie the Eagle
C. Miracle
D. Rudy

I love watching athletes like Eddie “The Eagle,” Eric Moussambani (the swimmer who had only learned to swim eight months before the games), and, of course, the Jamaican bobsled team.
— Alfie Gonzalez, Titusville, PA

8) What is the official restaurant of the Olympic games?

A. Chipotle
B. McDonald’s
C. Panera Bread
D. Subway

9) Which member of the British royal family has won an Olympic medal?

A. Zara Phillips, equestrian
B. Alfred the Great, 1,500m
C. Queen Elizabeth II, hurdles
D. Prince George, discus

10) Composer Leo Arnauld’s familiar “Bugler’s Dream” has long been associated with the modern Olympics. However, in recent decades, the “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” (below) has taken its place as an enduring musical representation of the world’s sports heroes; who composed it?

A. John Philip Sousa
B. Aaron Copland
C. Leonard Bernstein
D. John Williams

 

Answers:
1-D; 2-B; 3-A; 4-A; 5-C; 6-D; 7-D; 8-B; 9-A; 10-D

Sources: CBS Sports, CNN, Top End Sports

Atos at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi looking at Bolshoy Arena with Olympic rings” by atosorigin is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Olympic Rings” by JL08 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Mod of the Month – July 2016

For much of North America, the beginning of July is full of celebration — Independence Day for the United States, Canada Day for our neighbors to the north, and summer vacation for many. For our global team here at ModSquad, we look equally forward to the end of July, as this is when we get to announce and celebrate our latest Mod of the Month!

This month, we are proud to highlight someone who is known by his colleagues for his social media and customer support skills, adaptability, and ambition. Our July 2016 Mod of the Month is the multitalented, creative, and entrepreneurial Mitchell W!Mitchell_JulyMOTMa

An experienced customer service professional, Mitchell joined forces with ModSquad in August of 2014 (happy early Mod-iversary, Mitchell!) and works primarily on social media engagement projects. For our client Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Mitchell engages with airport guests via Facebook and Twitter to ensure their travel needs are met and their experiences fantastic.

One of the things that makes Mitchell is such an outstanding Mod is his wealth of experience in customer support. Prior to his work with ModSquad, Mitchell spent close to eight years working in various customer service roles in retail and healthcare industries; e-mail, live chat, phone, in-person support — you name it, Mitchell has done it and done it well.

Mitchell feels most comfortable working in social media strategy and community moderation projects, and he prides himself on his reliability.

“The most important thing is being available to the team. The project managers know that they can email me or ping me on Skype at any time and I will do what I can to step in and support them. Being available makes it easier for them to do their job, which makes it even easier for me to do mine; as a result, everyone, including the client and customer, is happy.”Mitchel_JulyMOTMb

Mitchell’s hardworking attitude and drive carry over into the rest of his life. Not only is he running his own production company, but he’s also pursuing his Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA), concentrating on Leadership.

“My doctoral study (dissertation) is on Transformational Leadership Strategies that Foster Diversity Management. I am currently in the proposal phase, and I look forward to finishing sometime next year.”

Despite his busy schedule, Mitchell also finds time to spend with his family and pursue his favorite hobbies: reading, directing and writing screenplays (primarily dramas, thrillers, and satirical comedies), and engaging in social activism.

Mitchell’s skills, dedication, and professionalism have not gone unnoticed. Here are some of the wonderful things some of our project and account managers had to say when asked about their experience working with Mitchell:

“MITCHELL IS A TOTAL ROCK STAR. Total. I’ve never been so impressed with a new Mod before. He dove right in during a quick launch and has done PERFECT work since the beginning. The work is so great that whenever I see a fellow PM need someone good, I send his name to them (but only because I can’t fill his hours with my own projects). He’s always there to help us out with additional shifts and is crazy reliable. He works early morning shifts, late night shifts, weekend shifts — if you need him, he’s there.

“Mitch is an excellent Mod on an ever-changing project. Mitch is one of the best at taking new information and putting it into action! I know that when I put out an update, Mitch is going to read it and put it into action immediately. No questions asked.

“Additionally, he’s quick to help out his fellow Mods when they have questions, follows every procedure perfectly, and does fantastic work!”
—Michelle Ramage, Project Manager

“Mitchell has knocked my socks off. He has shown that he truly cares about the work, the community, and the client. He’s thoughtful about his engagement moderation practices, and goes beyond to troubleshoot, escalate, or find the right information to keep the community happy and well-informed. He’s respectful of privacy, and is clued in on the needs of the project. He is on two of my projects right now, and I’m so thankful for that.”
—Izzy Neis, Director, Digital Engagement

“Mitchell is a social media wonder! He is always ready to dive in and learn the ins and outs of a brand, and he really gets brand personality. We really appreciate his enthusiasm, and I’m sure our fans and customers do as well!”
—Geneva Hopwood, Assistant Project Manager

“Mitch has been a superstar since beginning his work with ModSquad. Whenever there was a situation that warranted extra special attention, I knew I could put him on it and the customer would be in good hands. He goes above and beyond what’s asked of him, and not just with customers, but with other Mods as well. I consider myself lucky to be able to work with him. He’s been a huge asset to all my teams.”
—Michelle Bacon, Project Manager

“Mitchell is an awesome Mod. He’s very project smart and dependable. If one of his fellow Mods needs a second set of eyes on an issue, Mitchell doesn’t hesitate to jump in.”
—John Madon, Assistant Project Manager

Aliza Rosen
Digital Strategist

From the Mods: What To See and Do In My Town (Latin America Edition)

With the imminent arrival of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the world is (slowly) shifting its attention away from their Pokémon Go screens to the Latin American region. We’re doing the same here at ModSquad, offering a glimpse into the everyday lives of Mods based in the region. From Mods in Brazil to those in Mexico and Central America, we’ve got digital-engagement pros stationed all over the Latin American region working on exciting projects.

But how do they enjoy their downtime? To learn more about the Mods and their countries, we asked these Mods to tell us about their home towns, revealing what visitors typically do when they arrive — and what they really should be doing. That is, if they can pry their eyes away from the games (both Olympic and Pikachu-related) long enough…

Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

What people typically do: Visit a few tourist attractions. Those with local friends get to know where locals go, like bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and hidden corners of the city.

What they should do: Most people aren’t far off from what they should be doing. But please, definitely try the original Brazilian-style BBQ in the city we think of as the Barbecue Capital. There isn’t a single soul (vegetarians aside) that won’t start drooling and eating like a Neanderthal when they taste it — all while using the most creative slurs to complain about why they don’t have this kind of food back where they came from!

—Marcio Lopes

São Paulo, Brazil

What people typically do: Tend to walk around and view the sights from the outside, rather than digging deeper.

What they should do: People should enjoy the variety that this city has to offer. Go to bars, shows, coffee houses, plays, museums, and stores. Meet our people and study our history. Looking at this city from the outside doesn’t enrich your traveling experience that much; this town doesn’t have a lot of beautiful design. The beauty emerges once you involve yourself with our people and culture. The essence of São Paulo can be found in its variety, its people, and its opportunities.

—Debora Ferraz

Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico

What people typically do: Get some carne asada and some ice cold beers! People enjoy the local grilled beef fajitas and some ribs.

What they should do: Did I say carne asada? There are also a couple of old classic joints that you must try, like Lonches el Popo and Hamburguesas Rio. We also have a very nice golf course at our local club, Campestre Ribera del Bravo. On a side note, beware of the salsas — they are very spicy! We are a small city just across the border from Laredo, Texas, so we get to have the best of both worlds.

—Cesar Gonzalez

San Salvador, El Salvador

What people typically do: When people come to the city, they usually enjoy going out at night. There’s a popular place called Paseo El Carmen, which is a shopping and entertainment district where you can listen to a rock band playing live in one place, dance some salsa and merengue next door, and walk a few more steps to find a little restaurant with great local food and soft music. Most restaurants have the option to stay indoors or dine outdoors. Some street artists offer such creations as paintings, necklaces, wristbands, and shirts with local themes.

What they should do: Visit El Volcán de San Salvador. With an elevation of 1,893 m (or 6,211 feet), this volcano offers great weather (around 19ºC/67ºF), which is nice for a city with temperatures around 30ºC or 86ºF) and an impressive view of the city and Lake Ilopango. There are several food options available at the top of the volcano, serving corn-based dishes, hot and cold drinks, local cuisine, pasta, seafood, and more. Most of the restaurants have large gardens where people can walk around, appreciate different types of flowers and plants, and take pictures of the amazing view of the city. But what people really enjoy in this trip is a hot cup of coffee, probably the best coffee you can have in the country.

—Alex Vasquez

Lourdes, La Libertad, El Salvador

What people typically do: Visit Playa El Tunco. Our city is actually very small, and there isn’t much to do for tourists here, but people normally go to the beach, which is 20 to 30 minutes away. At Playa El Tunco, it’s very common to run into people from different countries. It has a relaxed atmosphere — people just hang out on the beach. No chairs are needed, just a cooler full of beers and perhaps a guitar, and people will just sit around and enjoy the night.

There are a variety of restaurants; some offer live reggae performances and cold drinks, others offer pizza from wood-burning ovens. There’s also the traditional seafood. It’s a surfing hot spot, with good waves, surfing lessons for a very reasonable price, and great people.

What they should do: Visit Ruta de Las Flores, or “the Flower Route.” Tourists may think that the only place worth visiting in La Libertad is the beach, but I would encourage them to take this trip to Ruta de Las Flores. The name comes from the plentiful wildflowers that grow along the road, and there are officially four destinations included in this Ruta: Juayua, Apaneca, Ataco, and Ahuachapán. To be honest, the most interesting area is Juayua. This town is quiet during the week, but the weekend is a different story. Tourists from Guatemala and many other countries gather around the plaza to listen to live music and enjoy the famous food fair that takes place every weekend. There you can also sample many dishes and have some drinks; it’s paradise for food junkies.

In Juayua you can also visit the seven waterfalls, a series of small waterfalls that form several swimmable little pools. Just keep in mind that you will need to walk 15 to 20 minutes from the plaza to get there. But the forest, the great weather, and the waterfalls themselves make the trip totally worth it.

—Jose Martinez

Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico

What people typically do: This city is known as the City of Eternal Spring, as we have a year-round temperature of 29ºC (84ºF). It’s an hour away from Mexico City, the nation’s capital. People from Mexico City typically come and rent a weekend house if they want a quick getaway; it’s pretty close, and we don’t have the horrible traffic jams that they do in the capital city.

Cuernavaca is a city made to rest. People here are friendly and you won’t be bothered by the stress or pollution of big cities. It’s the perfect getaway if you just need a quick break. The city also offers a lot of history regarding the Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortez, who ordered a palace built right here. You’ll also find several parks, pubs, clubs, and restaurants where you can enjoy Mexican culture to the utmost.

Close to Cuernavaca you will find two small towns where you can take a day trip. One of these towns is Tepoztlán, where in addition to typical Mexican food and drinks (such as mezcal, tepache, and pulque) you’ll find an exciting hike that will eventually take you to the view of the town and a pyramid on top of the mountain. Yes, a pyramid!

The other nearby town is Tequesquitengo, which has a big lake where people enjoy water-skiing, parachuting, paragliding, and other extreme sports favored by adrenaline junkies. It’s also great if you simply want to relax, sunbathe, and have one, two, three, or as many beers or tequilas as you can handle.

What they should do: You certainly can’t go wrong with a day trip to Tepoztlán and a good barbecue next to the pool here in Cuernavaca. You can enjoy the sun and weather all year round. And please, if you visit, do not miss my house! While it is not as historic as the city, you’ll always find a place to crash for a few days or months. We start charging rent after the second year. 😛

—Daniel Ménez

Project Manager of the Quarter – July 2016

It’s not every day we dedicate an entire blog post to one of the the amazing project managers we have here at ModSquad (in fact, it’s every quarter). Today, we’re excited to shine the spotlight on the one, the only Michelle Ramage, project manager extraordinaire. Loved by coworkers and clients alike, Michelle is known for keeping projects and teams running smoothly, with her professional attitude, unparalleled dedication, and off-the-charts organizational skills.

GoPackGoMichelle is what we at ModSquad call an “OG” – she started as a Mod in October 2007, just a few months after the company was founded, and was soon promoted to the role of project manager. In a “right place at the right time” scenario, Michelle met our CEO, Amy Pritchard, as part of a shared online community. A stay-at-home-mom at the time, after the death of her father in 2007, Michelle joined ModSquad with a desire to keep herself more occupied, and the rest is, as they say, history.

“Amy Pritchard saved my life. She got me out of this crazy, dark spot I was in, and nine years later here I am with not only an important, rewarding, and truly fun job, but I’m doing it with some of the greatest people I have ever known.”

Having been part of active, diverse online communities herself, Michelle’s instincts and work as a Mod contributed to her success as a project manager, applying her firsthand experience with the same work she was requesting of her team. Michelle’s dedication to her team is one of the things that makes her such a standout manager:

“As a PM, I have two daily goals:

1.  To make sure the client is receiving the very best work out of my team. This is huge.

2.  To make sure that my teams know what they’re doing and how to accomplish it, and that I’m here to back them up when they need. We are all only as good as our team.”

For our client Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Michelle leads a team that’s taking care of social media engagement and community moderation for the third-busiest airport in the world. To ensure the satisfaction of both the client and their customers, Michelle thoroughly trained our Mods on processes, tools, and appropriate brand voice.

She also reviews her team’s activity on a weekly basis as part of our dedication to quality assurance, highlighting where her team is excelling and providing additional coaching to improve performance. She also provides the client with weekly reports on the team’s activity and meets with them regularly to ensure their happiness.

“I’m a pretty hands-on person in general, but without a doubt, I feel quality assurance is the most meaningful task I do. I spend a lot of time on it, making sure that my teams see the great things they’ve done each week and know where they need to improve if they have to.”

Michelle is also the project manager for Dryer Vent Wizard, a client for whom we develop social media content and strategy to reach new customers about a service they probably don’t know they need. (Read all about our work with Dryer Vent Wizard in our recent Company Spotlight.)

“I love when I get to tell our client week in and week out that we have found nothing but positive reviews and kudos for their company from customers all over the nation.”

Current ProjectIn her spare time, Michelle loves to knit and crochet, and she openly admits to her obsession with yarn. She’s also an avid reader and TV watcher (especially when a football game is on).

When we asked others at ModSquad what they think of Michelle, there was no shortage of praise. In fact, she even received a postcard recently from a Mod in Paris that said simply, “Best! PM! Evar!”

Here’s what some of our Account Managers and executive team had to say about Michelle:

“I’m lucky enough to have Michelle Ramage as my PM on two projects and they both run like clockwork. Michelle is dedicated, organized, and efficient. The clients love her and appreciate her great attitude and work ethic. I’d be lost without her!”
– Donna McKee, Account Manager

“Michelle is Ramage is amazing – super dedicated and you can always count on her.”
– Jason Ferguson, Director of Client Services

Best-PM-Ever“I have had the privilege of working as a Mod on one of Michelle’s projects. She is organized, extremely knowledgable, and was very supportive of me, as I was a n00b to moderation and engagement. From the other side of things, as a PM that my team and I support, she is very detailed, follows defined process every time, and is always always a pleasure to work with. And, of course, who can resist the little jabs at her rabid Packer devotion?”
– Gina Miller, Director of People Operations

“When I joined ModSquad, despite Michelle’s busy schedule, she was always available to show me the ins and outs of every tool and process I needed to learn. Ask an inch of Michelle and she’ll give you a mile. She is so approachable for anything from a last-minute request to a friendly chat.”
– Aliza Rosen, Digital Strategist

“Michelle devotes all her effort to her projects to make sure things run smoothly. I think that’s what a PM of the Quarter is all about.”
– Jay Biros, Account Manager

“Michelle Ramage is a godsend. I’ve had her on several projects, and I know – I know – that when I need something done, and someone to be 110% cognizant and proactive, Michelle will get it done. She has a great rapport with her team, she’s a fantastic note taker and administrator, she really thinks about the client and the heart of the project, and is not afraid to communicate needs to improve her team or the project. She’s smart, strong, talented, and a true example of leadership and dedication – to her team, clients, and the company.”
– Izzy Neis, Director of Strategy & Engagement

Aliza Rosen
Digital Strategist

Client Spotlight: Dryer Vent Wizard

DVW LogoThis month, our Client Spotlight shines on Dryer Vent Wizard, a franchised system that offers dryer vent cleaning, inspection, and installation to homeowners throughout the United States and Canada. With 15,500 dryer fires reported annually, the company provides an important service that most of us might otherwise let fly under the radar.

To spread the word about Dryer Vent Wizard’s important work, Vice President Jason Kapica turned to ModSquad to help with customer engagement on social media channels. We recently spoke with Jason for a closer look into the services provided by the company, and how social media plays a vital role in connecting with their customers.

Tell us about Dryer Vent Wizard. Why do people need your service?

There are multiple reasons, the scariest being to prevent a dryer fire. The home-based dryer was designed to be positioned on an outside wall with a short dryer vent going outside. Now you see laundry rooms in central areas of the house, or upstairs, with longer dryer vent runs. Often the dryer is not producing enough force to clear out the vent. When you’re drying clothes, you’re not just blowing warm air through the vent, you’re getting rid of lint. As the vent gets clogged, the dryer has to work overtime, and you’ll feel the unit getting hotter. Sometimes they just quit drying altogether, or it may take more cycles to dry clothes. There’s a lot of lint inside the dryer as well, if it’s not properly ventilated. It can cause damage; the dryer can overheat or catch on fire. It’s easier to get the vent cleaned every few years.

DVW - Spotlight

Efficiency is another reason. If you have to run a dryer two or three times, your electric bill will go up, and your dryer won’t last as long. Then if you buy a new dryer, it will be working just as hard as the old one, because your vent is still clogged. That’s the main reason that people get their vents cleaned. You may also have mold growing, or water may build up and start coming out of the ceilings or walls where the vent is run. With most of the dryers we service, the vent system is not up to code. Many people go to Home Depot and put that foil material behind the dryer, and it’s not up to code. That foil won’t contain a fire; in fact, it will actually help spread it, as it burns easily. There’s supposed to be a rigid metal vent from the dryer into the wall. We replace the foil material with a much safer vent.

When did the company start?

This is our tenth year of franchising, and we started a few years before that, in 2004. Our founder, Dave Lavalle, also founded the Mr. Handyman franchise, which is pretty large. Soon after leaving that, he got involved with dryer vents. We have about 80 locations and 75 franchisees. We go all the way from the East Coast to the West Coast, and up into Canada.

What brought you to ModSquad?

When I joined Dryer Vent Wizard almost four years ago, we had 50 franchisees. We were doing well sales-wise, but there was a huge opportunity to do even more. I saw social as an area that wasn’t being taken advantage of. We did websites and search engine optimization for our franchisees, but I had the idea to do more in social media for them. You see all of these young people, millennials, buying houses now, and they’re all potential customers. They’re all on the Internet, using social media. I knew we wanted to go in that direction. I reached out to see what ModSquad, and a few other companies, could offer. ModSquad was head and shoulders above the others.

Can you share your experiences with ModSquad?

Five or six months into the relationship, I think things are going very well. We love the help that we get with our postings, and we love the reports we get every week. We also like the reputation management we get, the constant monitoring of comments about Dryer Vent Wizard locations on Yelp, Facebook, HomeAdvisor, and so on. It’s very valuable. If you’re not on top of it, there’s the potential for it to negatively affect your business.

ModSquad has been very helpful for our franchisees. When we get a new franchisee, we’ll work together to boost Facebook posts for them to potential customers in their territory. If the franchisees are experiencing a slow week, we boost a post in their area to get more appointments in their calendar. As a result, we’ll see an increase in visits to the franchisees’ websites, and we’ll get calls at our scheduling center to set up appointments. We’ve been very happy with the results that we’ve seen so far.

UEFA Euro 2016 Has Our Global Team Cheering

If you are a sports fan, you know that UEFA Euro 2016 is in FULL effect. Whether you call it soccer or football, it is one of the most exciting sports on the planet (ok, so that’s my opinion, but it is). My father played for 25 years. I grew up watching local matches and getting caught up in the sportscasters’ excitement. Remember this year’s Iceland win? The excited Icelandic sportscaster could be heard around the world!

Here at ModSquad, we are a global thread of Mods and lovers of sports. We reached out to Mods across the world to get their firsthand account of how they will be enjoying the UEFA games. Take a peek at how some of our Mods are taking in the UEFA Euro 2016 matches.

Enjoy and GOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLL!

Will you be watching the matches this week and upcoming weekend?

Of course I do! I watch football every time I have the chance to.” -Kevin TrostdorfSnapchat-8755787601817775512

“I have been trying to watch all games since the beginning! Football is life, football is love! After the end of the National Championship and Champions League, we footballs fans become like orphans. But then, we brace ourselves for Euro 2016 with hope and renewed excitement.” -Abdu Samad Syed

“Of course! We’re down to the quarter-finals, and that’s terribly exciting! No way you can miss it! :D” -Tanya Brandi

“Of course! Me, my sister Eva and my mother always follow all the UEFA matches from the qualifying rounds to the final.” -Anna Galletta

“I don’t usually watch football (or, like we call it in Italy, calcio), but it’s impossible not to know what’s going on in the matches.” -Lara Greco

icke“YES! I am watching the UEFA Euro since it starts, almost every game. If I cannot manage to watch a game, I watch the highlights. I love to watch football (soccer) even in the normal season here in Germany.” –Chantal Bigall

I’ve just watched the first and (most probably) final match of this competition.” Elena Pedoto

Who are you rooting for?

Up until now I would have said Iceland, since it is refreshing to see that a team with almost no professional players can come so far in the tournament… but unfortunately they are at the moment 2:0 behind against France.” -Kevin Trostdorf

I’m usually watching the game at home, for the exception, of course, of the opening of the Euro 2016 and France first match taking place in my city – Paris. I just couldn’t miss going to the stadium! It was such madness in the stands during the whole game. The last 10 minutes were simply AWESOME: we were all yelling, supporting our team until we lost our voices, especially when Dimitri Payet scored for France the victory goal 1 minute before the end!” -Abdu Samad Syed

“GERMANY! We will be the UEFA Euro Champion 2016, you will see 😉 And Iceland. This guys are AMAZING!”Uefa support -Chantal Bigall

Italy, of course! 😉 But since my boyfriend is a Viking, we’ll be rooting for Iceland too!” -Chiara Pichierri

Obviously, I was rooting for Italy.” Elena Pedoto

“Italy! And Iceland ;D” -Anna Galletta

“I am rooting for Italy (of course, ehehe), but also for some of those countries nobody usually believes in. Go, Iceland! You’re doing amazing!” -Lara Greco

The reason I am rooting Iceland even though I am German is really simple. Denmark has not qualified. Now I do believe that for someone who does not know me, this statement makes no sense at all ;-). My dad was Danish, so I always cheer Denmark in any international things from football, to Olympic Games, to Eurovision song contest. Whenever Denmark is not involved like this time, I replace them with a country from the area. I am not too keen on the Swedish team, plus a friend of mine is the bassist of the world famous band Pollapönk which is an Icelandic band, so decision of whom to replace Denmark was really simple for me.-Regina Weiss

I’ve got Italian and Belgian blood, so of course, I’m going have to root for both of them! If I’m very, very lucky, they’ll both get to the final. One can dream 🙂” -Tanya Brandi

Where do you watch the games? Home? Pub?

I watched the past games mostly at home, but the games next week I will watch probably at a pub or public viewing.” -Kevin TrostdorfDarwinIT

I always watch the game at home, with my sister and my mother. My dog Darwin always sleeps around the area the TV is in but when there’s a goal and we start shouting, he jumps up and looks at us wondering what happened. We’re pretty loud fans! -Anna Galletta

I’ve watched the game at my place, with friends!” Elena Pedoto

“We will watch the final either in our flat or with neighbours. We will do a BBQ before in the garden, but if it’s raining I will prepare an indoor picnic for us. I will of course cheer for Iceland. ;-)” -Regina Weiss

Usually at home, or in one of MANY public places where the matches are aired in Italy! Train stations, public squares, airports etc. UEFA Euro Championships are a huge thing here! 😉 Talking about airports, two days ago I was in Berlin, waiting for my flight, and I watched Italy vs. Spain with the other people waiting for the same plane. It was so fun!-Lara Greco

I am watching mostly at home, alone or with friends. I only watched one game on the public viewing here in town. It is common here to watch the match at a public viewing. Thousands of people, one big screen and all are making a big party while the match. When Germany scores, all are happy and screaming. I love that. Good example is Berlin which is hosting the biggest public viewing in Germany.” -Chantal Bigall

“Gotta stay at home for them! Best to watch it with the entire family cheering :)” -Tanya Brandi

Thank you to Charlotte, Lara, Tanya, Chantal, Kevin, Regina, Chiara, Anna, Elena and Abdu for your contributions and sharing the love of the game.

Have you been tuning into this year’s Championship? Leave a comment to let us know who you’re rooting for!

Blagica Bottigliero
VP of Digital Media

Twitter’s New Dashboard – Empowering Businesses to Improve Content and Customer Service

With its newly released Dashboard app, Twitter is taking a big step in providing businesses of all sizes the tools they need to better serve their customers. Launched on June 28, Dashboard provides free, native – that is, within the proprietary Twitter platform – support for a number of important tasks brands previously turned to external, and often expensive, tools to accomplish.

Through Dashboard, businesses can:

  • Monitor mentions and keywords
  • Identify and engage with relevant industry conversations
  • Schedule tweets
  • Manage scheduled tweets across desktop and iOS devices
  • Draw inspiration from customized tips and best practices
  • Optimize your content with analytics

While numerous social media management platforms exist for these purposes, many companies don’t have the time or budget to invest in additional technology. These new native capabilities available through Dashboard make it easy and efficient for businesses to better engage and support their customers.

Why monitor brand mentions or keywords?

When we at ModSquad begin working with a new client, many are surprised to see how much conversation about their brand is happening on Twitter without them knowing. Twitter notifications will alert you to engagement with your tweets and mentions of your handle, but we digital detectives know many users discuss brands, products, and services without including the company’s handle in their tweet. Whether they’re praising or complaining, these tweets are equally as important for brands to address as those that tweet directly to their handle.

While customers who tweet about your company rather than at it may not expect a response, they may also just not know you’re active on Twitter. By replying to them, you’re not only recognizing their comment – thanking them for their praise or helping solve a problem – you will often gain a new follower, too!

Previously, you would have to actively perform separate searches to find the latest tweets containing those specific keywords. With Dashboard’s filters, you can create a customized feed of tweets that include any of your specified keywords and hashtags; you can update these filters as often as you want and even hone your feed to exclude words or phrases you don’t care about.

Free up time by scheduling tweets

Unless you’re like us and perpetually plugged into the digital world, you probably aren’t online at the times when most of your customers are. The ability to schedule your tweets allows you to ensure your message gets out at the best possible time without you having to be online to send it.

Cross-device management allows for immediate response

Perhaps you’ve sold out of a product you were planning to promote, or there’s been a change in brand direction. Or, in the terrible, but unfortunately all too real, scenario of a tragedy or disaster somewhere in the world, it’s appropriate for brands to “go dark” on social media, so as not to come across as insensitive to current events.

While scheduling tweets ahead of time is convenient for those who prefer to “set it and forget it,” unexpected situations can arise in which a scheduled tweet could do more harm than good if it were to go out as planned. Access to Dashboard from your iOS device (and in the future, Android) means you can quickly reschedule or remove tweets before they go out.

Analyze previous tweets to improve future content

A number of our clients depend on us not only to moderate and support their social media communities, but also to create engaging content for their brand. Part of our content creation process includes analyzing performance of previous content

  • Do followers seem to reply more positively to tweets with images?
  • Have early-morning tweets driven more likes and retweets than mid-day or evening tweets?
  • Did use of a specific hashtag help increase impressions?

These are just a few of the many factors we consider when fine-tuning future tweets to make the greatest impact. Dashboard’s analytics give users a rundown of their tweets’ impressions and engagement and how their audience is evolving and engaging. Additionally, integration with Twitter Analytics puts Dashboard users one click away from diving even deeper into the data – details like link clicks, hashtag or profile clicks, media engagements, and more.

Set up your Dashboard

Dashboard is currently in beta and open to all U.S.-based businesses. Have you tried it yet? We’d love to hear your thoughts on it! How are you using it for your business? What features do you love or think should be added? Let us know by commenting below!

Aliza Rosen
Digital Strategist

Mod of the Month – June 2016

It’s hard to believe June is nearly over. Along with celebrating the official start of summer (at least for those of us north of the equator), it’s also time for our favorite type of celebration: announcing our June 2016 Mod of the Month!

We’re thrilled to introduce our latest honoree, a Ukraine-based world traveler, writer, and all-around rockstar (yes, literally) — Anna V!

Anna-MotM0616bAnna came to ModSquad just over a year ago, inspired by our company culture and the flexibility to continue pursuing her passion for travel. And what a year it’s been! Anna has supported a variety of projects here at ModSquad, including current work as a moderator for Topps, a sports and entertainment company with a series of apps and collectibles for which we provide community moderation. Anna is also a Team Lead for one of our online gaming clients, answering Russian customer inquiries, training and shadowing new Mods, updating internal resources, and ensuring her team has the information they need to help customers. Prior to joining our team, she spent three years providing customer support and community moderation for a music production company.

In her spare time, Anna keeps busy with a multitude of hobbies. She has a passion for music and is the lead singer for a Russian rock group. Anna also loves to write poems, songs, novels and travels as often as possible – she’s visited 12 countries in the past 3 years!

Anna describes herself as modest, kind and funny. We couldn’t agree more – the empathy with which she interacts with customers makes us proud to have her on our team!

“Personally I think kindness and personal touch is something that this world badly needs now and I do my best to treat everyone as I’d love to be treated.”

In her time working with ModSquad, Anna has proven her passions for customer support, teamwork and a good challenge. Though her teammates are spread across the globe, she has no trouble coordinating with them to ensure client and customer needs are met. She is eager to learn from those around her to take on new responsibilities and find new ways of solving problems.

It’s clear to anyone who works with Anna that she truly loves working at ModSquad (and we love that she loves it!).

“I am very grateful and happy I’m here. Our community, our team, the way we handle projects, the incredible effort of project managers to make workflows smooth and easy for everyone, every single agent’s dedication and ability to jump into a project and handle challenging tasks effectively with amazing cooperation – I’m still impressed by it.”

Anna’s dedication to customers’ well-being has not gone unnoticed by the staff here at ModSquad, and many of our Project and Account Managers regularly sing her praises.

“Anna is THE ideal mod. Precise. Attentive. Smart. She can flawlessly do her own load of work and help the rest of the team. Helping is not something she LEARNED. It’s just the way she is. She truly CARES – about the team, the project, about you as a person. She has never missed a day of work. Never. Ever. The quality of her work is spectacular. Players adore her, too!

Anna is the kind of person we want in this company, and not just for the quality of her work (which is flawless). She’s the embodiment of positivity, with a light sense of humor that just makes dire situations better. She’s always calm and even just typing you can picture her smiling.

She’s simply amazing, and I’d gladly trade a couple of vital organs to keep her on my project! Every project should have their Anna, but we got the original!”
– Lara Greco, Project Manager

“She is a stellar agent and steps in wherever necessary. Anna is always motivated, always willing to go the extra mile (training new agents, taking on additional tasks, providing guidance to her fellow mods etc.), notoriously reliable, super flexible and highly professional.”
– Yvonne Zimmermann, Project Manager

Aliza Rosen
Digital Strategist

Enough With the Brysterics, Let’s Brelax!

The counting officers had barely finished hereby certifying the number of votes cast and rejected in last week’s Brexit referendum before anxious ModSquad employees in Northern Ireland began asking us if they would keep their jobs. Just last summer, we announced our selection of Derry, NI over Dublin, Galway and Berlin as our first operations center in Europe.

Certainly, the United Kingdom’s membership in the European Union was an important factor in that decision.

Understandably, many of our 80 employees in Northern Ireland are shocked and worried about Brexit. While the UK electorate voted to leave the EU by 52% to 48%, the numbers were much different in Northern Ireland, where 56% voted to remain. In Foyle, where our Derry operation is located, the vote was an overwhelming 78% to remain.

More than England and Wales, perhaps, the citizens of NI feel a close connection to the rest of Europe. The Republic of Ireland’s border is only four miles away from Derry, and NI has strong cross-border arrangements with the rest of the Europe. In total, NI has received more than £1.5bn in funding through EU regional, peace, agricultural, and social programs. There were very compelling reasons to vote to remain.

On the other hand, British sovereignty and freedom from burdensome regulations are compelling reasons for leaving. As an American commentator pointed out:

The EU has a flag no one salutes, an anthem no one sings, a president no one can name, a parliament that no one other than its members wants to have more power (which must be subtracted from national legislatures), a capital of coagulated bureaucracies that no one admires or controls, a currency that presupposes what neither does nor should exist (a European central government administering fiscal policy), and rules of fiscal behavior (limits on debt-to-GDP ratios) that few if any members obey and none have been penalized for ignoring.

After all, this was the same EU that reportedly tried to require that restaurants present olive oil in factory packaged bottles with a tamper-proof “hygienic” nozzle and printed labeling in line with EU standards. No olive oil jugs allowed!  Sure, the Leave camp may have exaggerated claims that the EU bans recycling tea bags and kids from blowing up balloons, but the fact unelected bureaucrats in Brussels even have the power to impose rules like that is enough to consider leaving.

With good arguments on both sides of the debate, we’re taking all the clucking and handwringing with a grain of salt. Yes, the financial markets are rattled, but the stock prices of public corporations hardly affect a private services provider like us. The pound has plunged to a 31-year low against the dollar, but most of our clients pay us in dollars. So it’s bad for our NI employees – those overseas vacations just got more expensive – but a strong dollar isn’t bad for the company.

Instead, there are three factors that will probably determine our resolve to continue our investment in NI. They are European integration, the free movement of workers, and most importantly, peace and stability.

Yes, the UK’s membership in the EU was a key reason we selected Derry, NI. With our primary goal being to expand our client base in Europe, it’s imperative for us to have a location that is respected by the rest of the continent, geographically accessible, and culturally relevant. Membership has those privileges, but hopefully a Brexit doesn’t change that. Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland are not EU members, but they are certainly part of Europe (i.e., blue areas in Risk) and they have negotiated separate agreements to access the EU’s common market. They just don’t have the same interference (or benefits, depending on how you look at it), as full EU membership.

Probably the most appealing feature of EU membership for an outside company is the free movement of workers. EU citizens are entitled to look for a job in another EU country, work and reside there with their families without needing a work permit, and stay there even after employment has finished. As a service provider, knowing we can easily hire from 27 other countries, especially from the Republic of Ireland right across the border, is a critical benefit. Yes, it’s unsettling to hear stories that the leave vote may have been fueled by irrational xenophobia, but again, Iceland and Norway have negotiated their own rules for the free movement of workers, and it will be important for the UK to do the same after a Brexit.

Thirdly, it’s crucial that a Brexit not disrupt the peace and stability in the region. The referendum has revived calls for a united Ireland, and the UK’s membership in the EU has helped mollify Catholic nationalists over the years. We don’t have a dog in that fight (although the Republic of Ireland’s 12.5% corporate tax rate is pretty sweet), but it is important that the debate remain democratic and peaceful.

Finally, doesn’t Parliament need to actually vote on this? So what if a majority of people that day voted to leave?  In America, the only thing we vote for by national popular vote is American Idol.  We don’t even let our people vote directly for President, much less on complicated international trade arrangements.  Apparently, yes, the MPs will take a vote in November, and there’s certainly no guarantee the Brexiters will carry the day.

So yes, there’s anxiety, but except for death and taxes, nothing is certain. Even if there is a Brexit, everything might be just fine. Let’s Brelax!

Mike Pinkerton
COO | General Counsel

Mike Pinkerton leads the company’s business and legal operations. He earned his law degree at LSU, where he studied the civil law system, and spent a semester in Aix-en-Provence studying comparative law between the American and European law systems.  

Localization: The key to a global social media presence

With the prevalence and accessibility of digital marketing, it has never been easier for consumers to connect with their favorite brands, and vice versa. Beyond the world of digital advertising, companies are flocking to social media, blogs, and influencers as ways to find and keep loyal customers. It’s easy to get excited by all of the possibilities presented by digital marketing – particularly social media – for those looking to reach an international audience.

Social media can help to foster a special, personal bond between a company and consumers. Through platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, brands can strengthen their relationship with customers and present new deals, products and contests. Posts on social media sites are able to be less formal than traditional advertising or email marketing messages, often including quotes, puns, jokes, and pop culture references. This casual tone highlights the human side of a brand, allowing consumers to more easily feel connected to it.

Complications arise, however, when companies look to expand their presences to new cultures and languages. Brands will often create new social media pages corresponding to these new target demographics and hire translators to rewrite their existing posts. What is important to remember here is that there is quite a difference between translation and localization.

Through translation, text is converted from one language to another, often word-for-word. Localization, on the other hand, converts the overall meaning of the text to ensure the original intent comes through.

Brands need to focus on localizing – transferring meaning from one language to another, so that the overall message resonates with each distinct audience. Directly translating content often gives customers an empty, disconnected feeling, because they don’t trust that the content was written with them in mind. It is very difficult to foster a loyal customer base without adapting to the cultural differences that make our world so diverse.

Instead of attempting to create universal content and avoiding cultural differences, embrace them to create special bonds with your customers. Use the wisdom of your employees – or the experience of a global team like within ModSquad – to provide deeper cultural insight and understanding. You will no doubt create a better experience for both the consumer and the company.

Remember that unlike traditional advertising platforms, social media is a two-way street. Speak and be heard, but also be ready to listen and adapt to your community’s needs. That reciprocity will put you one step closer to establishing an effective social media presence.

Benjamin Steenholdt
Mod

What To See and Do In My Town (Executive Edition)

Over the past six weeks, ModSquad’s Mods, Project Managers, and Account Managers have all contributed insights into the towns which they call home. We’ve had a great time compiling these guides, as we’ve read first-hand accounts of local hot spots in cities and towns all around the world from our ModSquad family. Now, the ModSquad executive team gets its chance to share their takes on what visitors typically do when they come to their home towns — and what those visitors really should be doing.

El Dorado Hills, CA

What people typically do: Visit the state capitol.
What they should do: Go whitewater rafting. It’s more adventurous and exciting — and really very fun! However, the ex-civics teacher in me, along with my degree in political science, tells me to advise that you visit the state capitol… and then go whitewater rafting!

—Gina Miller

Oak Park, IL

What people typically do: The Frank Lloyd Wright tour.
What they should do: I highly encourage visitors to tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio and homes throughout Oak Park — it’s a must do! I also suggest they check out the Ernest Hemingway Museum, which is a nice walk from Wright’s studio. You can not only see the incredible artifacts from the Hemingway family, you can also go across the street to Hemingway’s birthplace and tour his home. Another must see? Our trees. That’s right: Oak Park is declared a national arboretum. Oh, and we’re also home to John Mahoney, Bob Newhart, Betty White, Kathy Griffin, and Cecily Strong (of SNL fame). We produce many comedians. Recently dubbed the coolest suburb outside of Chicago, we’re a quick trip on either the CTA or Metra trains from the center of Chicago. A walkable 4.7 square mile town o’ fun.

—Blagica Bottigliero

San Francisco, CA

What people typically do: People normally visit the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, Lombard Street, and Union Square, to name a few of the many popular destinations. All of which I recommend.
What they should do: While San Francisco is well known for its liberal community, hilly terrain, Victorian architecture, scenic beauty, summer fog, and great ethnic and cultural diversity, most people don’t realize that San Francisco has a rich history and wonderful appreciation of the military as well. So take the time to visit Fort Point in the Presidio and the adjoining lands of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The Spanish were the first Europeans to settle the area in 1776, building the Mission San Francisco de Asis (what today is called Mission Dolores) and a military post near the Golden Gate named El Presidio Real de San Francisco. In 1821, Mexico gained independence from Spain and housed their troops in El Presidio. Then in 1846, the United States claimed California, and in July of that year the U.S. Navy raised the flag over the Presidio. When the Gold Rush started in 1848, there was a need to build a series of coastal defenses, including Fort Point at the foot of the Presidio. Fort Point was so important to the history of the city that when it came time to build the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1930s, they changed the design of the bridge to preserve the fort. Today you can visit Fort Point for free, climb to the top, and look up under the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s the best place for unique photos of the bridge and the bay. Plus, the military bunkers and buildings around the Fort and throughout the Presidio are full of history. If you have time to walk some of the trails connecting them, you’ll see the best views of both the city and the Pacific Ocean. These wonderful hikes also offer the opportunity to see abundant wildlife, from gray foxes and coyotes and to sea lions and whales.

—Mary Lex

New Orleans, LA

What people typically do: Go to the French Quarter.
What they should do: Go to the French Quarter.

—Mike Pinkerton

Austin, TX

What people typically do: A lot folks come to Austin for various festivals, to hit the town on a weekend, or for business. They’ll generally stick to the usual spots (downtown or Sixth Street) and don’t venture out beyond that.
What they should do: Check out the many food options: breakfast tacos, world class BBQ, Tex-Mex, queso, Mexican martinis, food trucks galore, Amy’s Ice Creams, or one of the many restaurant options around town. Some amazing grocery stores (Central Market and Whole Foods’ flagship store) and a growing number of breweries are worth a visit.

Cool off with water activities and swimming holes! Visit Barton Springs, Wimberly Blue Hole, Krause Springs, or Hamilton Pool. Paddleboard or kayak Lady Bird Lake, boat on Lake Travis, or tube down a river with friends, just to name a few of the better-known options.

Live music is everywhere, seven days a week! Austin is known as the live music capital of the world, so take advantage of the many music venues around town. There’s music for all styles; just pick up a copy of The Austin Chronicle to see what’s going on.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Austin is a great place to chill, take things in at your own pace, and hang out with friends and locals. I think the main thing is to explore the many unique activities and neighborhoods that Austin and central Texas have to offer

—Steve Henry

Playa Del Rey, CA (the westside of Los Angeles)

What people typically do: Surf, walk the beach, or go to the airport (we’re a stone’s throw from LAX).
What they should do: Have a campfire on Dockweiler Beach, surf (bring your wetsuit), and watch the gorgeous sunset! Get there early and stake your claim (holiday weekends are beyond busy). Go north a bit to Marina del Rey and take a boat cruise with the family, or get sailing lessons on the weekend. Hang out on the Venice pier and watch the fisherman battle the seagulls and pelicans. Walk up the Venice boardwalk, past legendary Muscle Beach; just be sure to protect your wallet. Check out all the street performers, artists, hippies, and whackadoos (careful of the man with the two-headed turtle — I’m pretty sure his “shop of wonders” is a trap of sorts). Walk a few blocks inland and enjoy the tranquil neighborhood lining the Venice canals. Check out Abbot Kinney Blvd. and watch all the wealthy SoCal versions of hipsters spend heaps of money on white T-shirts. All snark aside, it is a seriously adorable street in Venice, filled with shops and great food. Keep an eye out for celebs; it’s like a non-stop “Where’s Waldo” game. The westside of Los Angeles (Playa, Marina, Venice, Santa Monica, etc.) are all great for tourist ease, scenery, and fantastic people watching. There’s now a train that comes directly from downtown L.A. to the Promenade shopping area (a stone’s throw from the famous Santa Monica Pier). It takes about 50 minutes from downtown, but it’s brand new and a smooth ride.

—Izzy Neis

Washington, DC

What people typically do: Everyone who visits D.C. for holiday goes to the Smithsonian Museums, the National Mall, and the monuments.
What they should do: All of these are amazing things to do, and I highly encourage them, but it’s worth taking an extra couple of days to see some of the other wonderful places in the area as well.

First, if you plan far ahead, you can get tickets to visit the White House or the Capitol, but it takes planning and some luck, so as soon as you know you might come to the area, jump on that.

Second, the live performances in D.C. are fantastic. We may not have Hamilton, but the Kennedy Center has everything from hip-hop dance contests to high opera, while the 9:30 Club has some of the best bands in the world come to a space that literally used to be a movie theater. I’ve seen everyone from Adele to Cowboy Mouth to Snoop Dogg to The Word and have never been farther away than 80 feet.

Third, outside of D.C., there are still some wondrous sights. If you’re flying through Dulles airport during the day, you should plan to see the nearby Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (part of the National Air and Space Museum). It has five times the space and half the crowds of the Air and Space Museum downtown. If the Space Shuttle Discovery, an SR-71 Blackbird, and the Enola Gay aren’t enough to get you excited, you can also ride in a VR dogfight or take in a movie in one of the very few laser 3-D full-sized IMAX theaters anywhere. That’s not even counting the area’s 185-mile-long walking and biking trail or the amazing bike trail to Mount Vernon, home of President George Washington.

—Lucien Parsons

Bay Area, CA

What people typically do: Go to the beach.
What they should do: Go to the beach, duh!

—Amy Pritchard

Alumni Spotlight: Cosette Paneque

Alumni SPOTLIGHT_CosettePaneque_pic3This Alumni Spotlight brings us to the land down under, where we recently spoke with Cosette Paneque, a former ModSquad project manager who spent three years with the company. Cosette describes how she took the many skills she honed at ModSquad and brought them to Australia, where she’s doing important work for a national non-profit and additional rewarding work for a community-management firm.

What was your background prior to ModSquad?

Prior to joining ModSquad, I was working as an office manager. The owner had let me take on the management of their website and I was really enjoying that. I was also in the process of returning to college to complete my degree.

What brought you to ModSquad?

Alumni SPOTLIGHT_CosettePaneque_pic1I stumbled across the ModSquad website one day and recognized some of the images as being from Second Life, where ModSquad has a virtual office. I was in Second Life at the time and I really loved it. When I explored the website further and learned that ModSquad helped manage events and places in Second Life, I thought that was really cool and that I’d like to be doing that. I had a good job and wasn’t looking to make a change, but I bookmarked the ModSquad website.

Why did you join ModSquad? 

I decided to return to college and finish my degree. That required a more flexible schedule than the Monday-through-Friday, 9-to-5 job I was working. I revisited the ModSquad website and I liked the idea of working from home and setting my own hours. And the work seemed fun and interesting.

What were your thoughts as you worked for ModSquad?

I couldn’t believe my luck. I worked from home, set my own hours, and worked with amazing clients and great people on some fantastic projects.

I’m bilingual and began doing Spanish-language live-chat moderation on Facebook games, which was fun, and I quickly moved into a variety of work and project management. My teams moderated content on websites, forums, and social media, translated content for games and virtual worlds, and managed regions in Second Life. I count myself lucky for having worked for ModSquad. It was career changing.

Another enjoyable aspect of working for ModSquad was the relationships. Despite working remotely from home and rarely (if ever) meeting face-to-face, we connected online and in Second Life. We got together, threw virtual parties, talked over our computers, and had fun. I made a few friends at ModSquad and I still keep in touch with them.

What did you learn from ModSquad?

The most important thing I learned was how to manage people. At ModSquad, I went from a Mod to a project manager. When you become a manager, you’re not only managing a project, you’re also managing people to get the best out of them for your project. My teams and my own managers taught me a lot about what it means to be a good manager and a good leader.

How was it working with the other project managers?

I learned a tremendous amount from my project managers. I learned how to be direct and strategic and I learned about processes and how to manage projects, clients, and teams. It wasn’t always easy. In fact, sometimes it was really hard! Ultimately, I found that I was always supported. When I didn’t know how to reach out, my managers and other bosses reached out to me.

What skills did you take away from your time here at ModSquad that you wound up using on later jobs?

I moved to Australia in 2012. By then, I had acquired a lot of valuable skills and I was well rounded as a community manager. I had worked on websites, forums, social media, and virtual worlds for a variety of clients including Kabam, Change.org, Warner Bros., the U.S. Army, and Animal Jam. Among my best skills are developing strategy and governance for online communities.

I’m still living in Australia and have completed my degree in English and Women’s Studies. Since my time at ModSquad, I’ve continued learning about community management and the ever-changing online culture. Today I manage the online community for Breast Cancer Network Australia and also work for a specialist online community management company.

Poor Customer Service Leads to Missed Revenue

As you may know, ModSquad — a provider of outsourced customer support to premier brands — got its start providing digital engagement services within the virtual world of Second Life. In the nine ensuing years, we’ve worked with most of the top game companies around. It’s an industry that’s near and dear to our hearts. That’s why I was so disappointed to have a miserable customer-support experience with a mobile game with which you’re probably familiar.

The game and company name will be unmentioned (to protect the guilty!), but know that this is a game from one of the top game studios, not some trivial upstart. App Annie gives the game in question a high rating; it’s actually one of their Editor’s Choice picks. But it’s not a top-grossing game, and I think I stumbled across one of the primary reasons.

I’m not a hardcore gamer by any means, but was using this game as a pleasant diversion when I needed a quick mental break. While playing the game on my mobile phone, I ran across an issue with an in-app purchase and I needed help. (No, it was not that I was stuck on level two, wiseguys…)

Now, if you’re using a mobile device, you need to be able to ask for help within the app you’re using. You shouldn’t realistically be expected to run to the nearest desktop to ask for help. Yet for some sadistic reason, that’s exactly what this company seemed to expect from their players. Because when I accessed their Help page, it directed me to their non-mobile-friendly website. Talk about a downer, especially when you have to fill out a form. If they’d been smart, not only would a help section been embedded in the app, but it would have automatically pulled in some of my information, such as device, OS, app version, and, oh yeah, recent purchases.

After the frustration of expanding the page to access form fields, typing out my information, pinching the page to move to the next field, and repeating this process, oh, several dozen times, I sent off my digital cry for help. And, boy did I need a drink.

Thankfully, the gaming gods were apparently in a merciful mood, as I received a quick response. A very, very long auto-response, as it turned out. I plowed through this email with all of its not-so-helpful suggestions and decided to follow the provided link to see if I could find a resolution. Guess what? It was a dead link, leading to a 404 error page. My nerves were getting fried, and I had the choice of either smashing my phone in frustration or reaching for another drink. It was an easy choice.

After taking the edge off, I took a deep breath and descended further into Dante’s next level of Hell, e-mailing the company back to let them know that their auto-missive provided no relief whatsoever. I waited. And waited. 12 hours went by. 24 hours. 48. Nothing. Crickets. I emailed again, asking for a credit this time on my in-app purchase. Finally, days later, I got a note from this high-end, major game company saying, “Since we haven’t heard back from you, we’re closing this ticket.” At this point, I ran the risk of going off on a full-blown bender. So much for my mild pleasant diversion. With fun like this, I’ll stick with work.

And since my work depends so heavily upon the first-class customer support that ModSquad offers its clients, it baffles me how a company like the one in question could so completely drop the ball on providing even a semblance of competent support. There was no embedded support and limited ability to access their game hub (which didn’t support mobile usage). Their scripted auto-answer was irrelevant to my question, and included dead links. And when I followed up again directly on a purchase, I didn’t hear back for days, with the issue going unresolved (to this day).

There’s tremendous opportunity for companies to enhance their customers’ mobile experience and up-sell users. Last year, people who spent money within their free-to-play mobile games plunked down an average of $87 on in-app purchases. That’s just $5 less than those gamers who play on traditional PC and console players, the ones we think of when we imagine hardcore gamers. With that kind of money on the table, it’s just irresponsible to ignore your mobile audience with inept service. Obviously, I wasn’t going to spend any more on in-app purchases for this game — or likely any other game from this publisher. That’s lost revenue.

We live and breathe great support, and have a long history of working with the top gaming companies. So it irritates me to no end when I hear of stories like this. But to have lived through it… Don’t get me started. Where’s my glass?

Mary Lex
SVP Business Development

What To See and Do In My Town: Project Manager Edition

Who says Mods have all the fun? After enjoying our recent posts in which our Mods gave us the lowdown about their home towns, our Project Managers wanted in on the action! Now it’s their turn to offer up the skinny on what visitors typically do when they come to their home towns — and what those visitors really should be doing. Here’s how things look over in PMville.

Belle Chasse, LA

What people typically do: Go on historical, ghost, swamp, and plantation tours. Visit for Mardi Gras (we’re 15 minutes from downtown New Orleans).
What they should do: I’d recommend the historical and swamp tours. Louisiana, particularly New Orleans and the surrounding cities, has a lot of historically rich places to see. From the amazing French Quarter to some of the hauntingly beautiful plantations, there’s a history lesson to be had just about anywhere one would visit here. There are some great lessons from some of America’s darkest hours, from the times of slavery to harrowing tales of how some of the population banded together to survive Hurricane Katrina. There is a rich cultural history all over the area and anyone interested in history, like me, would absolutely love the many different tours available.

There are also a lot of places to kick back and relax with a cold one in your hand and hear live jazz bands playing. This town really likes to celebrate all of its history and all it has overcome. Rightfully so, if you ask me.

—Sarah Wells

La Crosse, WI

What people typically do: Drink, go river boating, enjoy festivals (Oktoberfest, Wienerfest, Applefest, Riverfest, Irish Fest, Airfest, Artspire, and the Beer, Wine & Cheese Festival).
What they should do: Visit the downtown area and the bluffs. There are great places to eat, beautiful locations, and concerts.

—Brandon Stroede

Grass Valley, CA

What people typically do: People generally come to the town for its history of mining, wine tastings, annual events, and concerts at The Center for the Arts. Many are just passing through on their way to Nevada City.
What they should do: Grass Valley has many great hikes spread throughout, and most are hidden gems that run along the river. We try to get out and about on the weekends to explore the various trails around here. While hiking along these trails, you may discover wildlife, a unique rock formation, and maybe a waterfall or ten. Wildlife is teeming in this area, and the weather couldn’t be better in the spring. This could also go for the surrounding areas. It’s an excellent location for outdoors people.

—Mike Poe

Austin, TX

What people typically do: Visit the Texas Capitol Building and The Bullock Texas State History Museum. Check out the local music scene, especially during SXSW or the ACL Music Festival. Spend time at one of the lakes. Party on 6th Street. Go to UT sporting events or happenings at the Formula One race track. Try some of the more famous local restaurants like Franklin Barbecue or Uchi.
What they should do: I generally agree with the list above. Austin does a pretty good job of selling its best attractions and events. I‘m not a big fan of 6th Street, but I understand the appeal for those who enjoy the bar scene, especially on Halloween. Although Franklin and Uchi are certainly worth the experience at least once, there are dozens of other amazing restaurants in town to enjoy as well. It’s a great city for foodies, including great food truck experiences. There really is a lot of musical variety all year for any music lovers.

For those spending more than a few days in the area, check out some of the smaller neighboring towns in Central Texas. There are many great wineries to visit, and they all offer tastings. The small towns are also great for antique shopping and sightseeing.

—Rob Simpson

Delray Beach, FL

What people typically do: Go to the beach or visit nearby Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
What they should do: Plan their trip around one of the many festivals held in downtown Delray Beach, such as the Garlic Fest and Craft Beer Fest. The beach is fun and all, but I think a true shining point in my local community is how they go all out for the festivals that are always being hosted downtown. There are local artisans who set up booths, local restaurants offering all kinds of unique eats, games, music… You name it and it’s probably there. The festivals are a unique and fun adventure, typically lasting only a day or two. The beach will still be there tomorrow! Take advantage of the local community coming out and offering their best!

—Danielle Ditto

Kalamazoo, MI (Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo!)

What people typically do: When people come to Kalamazoo, they usually check out Bell’s Brewery and Kalamazoo Beer Exchange for the most awesome drafts that will wet your whistle. The Water Street Coffee Joint has the very best hometown roasted coffees from all over the world. The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts displays a plethora of art, from local to exotic. Wings Event Center is a great venue where you can attend events, concerts, and K Wings hockey games throughout the year. And then there’s Henderson Castle: This gorgeous, historical landmark is so much more than an Inn. If you want to feel a blast from the past, or get your Steampunk on while you rest, this is the spot for you in Kalamazoo.
What they should do: Along with the locations listed above, visitors should most definitely check out The Kalamazoo Nature Center. Bring your kids or just be a grown-up kid when you visit. It has been one of my most favorite places since I was about four years old. There’s a great animal rehab group here, where thousands of animals have been rescued and rehabbed back to health for as long as I remember.

In early September, you must come to the Kalamazoo Annual Street Rod Nationals for all the street rods that line the roads and parking lots. If you love fancy, classic, beefed up, shiny vehicles, this is the one thing you can’t miss. I look forward to this event every year. The entire county is chock full of the best eye candy I’ve ever seen.

From Broadway shows to musicals, Second City to Panic! At the Disco, you’ll find the best entertainment on the campus of Western Michigan University’s ginormous Miller Auditorium. I hope you all get the Kalamazoo experience some day!

—Cathy Mort

Locust Grove, VA

What people typically do: Not much, since it’s a rather small town. But we are about 20 minutes from Fredericksburg and 90 minutes from Richmond. It’s a lake community, so folks go to the lake a lot during the summer.
What they should do: Go see the sights! We’re close to D.C., Shenandoah National Park for the mountains, and Richmond for the state capital. And the beaches are a short drive from here. There’s so much to do and see, I can’t narrow it down to just one thing. I love the mountains in the fall, the ocean in the summer, and the diversity of food and things to do in the nearby cities. Virginia is a beautiful place. I love it here!

—Tammy Lander

Tunkhannock, PA

What people typically do: We usually get visitors for the yearly Airing of the Quilts, Founders Day, and the Wyoming County Fair.
What they should do: They should be camping, hiking, canoeing down the Susquehanna River, visiting the Saturday Farmer’s Market, leaf peeping in autumn, and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. There is definitely something to do all year long. We are located in the beautiful Endless Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania, and the great outdoors is definitely the place to be!

—Suzie Owen

Santa Fe, NM

What people typically do: Head to the plaza and eat as much amazing green and red chili as is reasonable for a human.
What they should do: Go to Meow Wolf and explore the House of Eternal Return, an immersive, psychedelic art piece about a house that’s been uprooted in time and space. You can literally spend an entire day crawling through fireplaces into fairylands, sifting through computer files, and finding secret rooms without fully discovering all the clues and tricks. Plus there are mushrooms that change color and play music when you hit them. What’s not to love?

—Tasia Karoutsos

Acworth, GA

What people typically do: We’re a small city, so most visitors likely use it as a stopover before going to Atlanta, Kennesaw, or other larger cities.
What they should do: Head to Lake Acworth! There’s a gorgeous lake and dam nearby that offers canoeing, fishing, and more fun. In a state that doesn’t have beaches (former Southern Floridian here), the lake would be the next best thing!

—Kelly Clendenning

Newport News, VA

What people typically do: There are many interesting and fun activities in Hampton Roads (Newport News, Hampton, Williamsburg, Norfolk, and the surrounding areas). You can visit Colonial Williamsburg and nearby Busch Gardens, the now-decommissioned Fort Monroe in Hampton, the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, and quite a few military museums. Our local paper has an attractions list that shows all these and more.
What they should do: When visiting Hampton Roads, definitely go and see all the tourist attractions. There is so much history in this area that should not be missed. Because of the military presence, this place is a melting pot of people from all over the world. The diversity of people and their cultural influences is what makes this area so interesting. I really enjoy all the niche communities in the area. There’s a large and active tabletop gaming community and many comic and novelty shops that host Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Magic the Gathering, Pokémon, and other game events. Hampton Roads is also home to quite a few anime/gaming conventions. And there’s a large community of fellow programmers that get together to host hack-a-thons, creating useful civic projects to help the community.

There are also a lot of small restaurants that have some amazing foods! My favorite has to be Rocky Mount Bar-B-Q in Newport News, and their Monday night deal on southern barbecue pork made with vinegar. It’s pretty awesome; juicy and so tasty.

—Carla Lincoln

Oconto, WI

What people typically do: Camp, fish, be outside. Unless it’s winter; then they come to drink alcoholic beverages, because it’s Wisconsin. Actually, they probably still fish while drinking. Fish. I’m going with people go fishing.
What they should do: Bring in more take-out (ha-ha). Please, someone bring good take-out to this town! There’s awful take-out in this town and it’s dinner time! (Just kidding. I live in a town with a population of 4,000. There isn’t much to do but camp and drink.)

—Michelle Ramage

Mod of the Month – May 2016

While we’re sad to see yet another month go by, we’re thrilled to take this last day of May to share with you our latest and greatest Mod of the Month: May 2016! This month’s honors go to none other than Kellie C!

Mod of the Month May 2016 KellieKellie has been with ModSquad for nearly two years (come October). She’s been a remote customer support representative for ten years, and one of her older colleagues recommended ModSquad.

“I applied, and here I am! I couldn’t be happier. I love this company.”

Currently, Kellie is a crucial member of our CS team for a busy project. She’s an ace when it comes to communication with customers and providing top-notch support. And it doesn’t hurt that she enjoys writing too!

Kellie defines herself as offbeat, impulsive, and a perfectionist. And while all three adjectives may have some truth to them, we feel they should only be applied to Kellie in strictly the best of sense. Her offbeat nature is due to her unique creativity, her impulsiveness is driven and quick to assist, and her perfectionism is a testament to her dedication and unyielding hard work.

Mod of the Month Kellie FamilyKellie married her high school sweetheart, Tony. They had lost touch after high school and met up again about six years ago. Four years later, they were married. Kellie has two smart, beautiful daughters, a charming stepson, and a four-legged baby named Willow (a Shar-pei). Together, Kellie, Tony, and the kids live about five minutes from where Kellie grew up.

As for hobbies, Kellie loves to write. She’s an anime fan (notable favorites: Naruto, Bleach, and Trigun), and she loves singing and cooking (both together and exclusively). Kellie has a sweet tooth, and a penchant for baking cinnamon rolls.

Above all, Kellie is thoughtful and empathetic, both at home and at work.

“I think relating to customers on a personal level and really, truly empathizing with them on a genuine level is by FAR the most important part of my job. It goes a long way in solving an issue for a customer when it really feels like you are treating him or her with personal attention, and you actually understand what he or she going through.”

And one of Kellie’s proudest moments at ModSquad happened recently:

“We had an extremely irate customer email in and leave a negative app store review (not to mention it was our very first review ever). I was able to resolve her issue on my own, and she even changed her review on the app store due to my interaction with her. On Monday, the client’s senior management reached out to me personally with kudos. It made me very proud, and also extremely happy, not only for the job I had done, but also because I had saved the client from that negative attention.”

Kellie, you are a fantastic Mod, and we’re grateful for all the hard work, dedication, and support. Congrats, newest Mod of the Month!

Kellie is the bee’s knees. Kellie is an outstanding leader on my project. She works on Tier 2 support and handles relationships with our client’s partners and customers. She always goes above and beyond to help other team members out, and I can tell how much she cares about the success of the project and the client. Our client loves her because she dives deeply into issues and isn’t afraid to ask tough questions to seek a positive experience for their customer. She also sets a high mark of efficiency while still maintaining empathy and quality in her interactions.
– Matt Ramsey, Project Manager

Kellie is doing amazing work on one of my projects. A senior VP from the client reached out to congratulate us on her work (she made his wife happy with some excellent customer support work) and to see how far along we are in the cloning process.
– Michael Marcantel, Account Manager

Kellie has been a godsend one of our projects. She is always offering to help the other team members, she interacts well with the client, isn’t afraid to ask questions to get procedures ironed out and keep everything up to date, she helps come up with macros for new problems that crop up, etc., etc., etc. She’s great (times infinity)!
– Danielle Ditto, Assistant Project Manager

Kellie is a great worker and goes above and beyond what is asked of her. She is able to work independently without needing someone over her shoulder to make sure she is on task. She may not be on my team any longer but she was great to work with. I would love to have her back, but I know I would face the wrath of her current PMs. LOL!
– Kerri Seguin, Project Manager

Izzy Neis
Director of Engagement & Strategy

Jason Ferguson
Director of Client Services

From the Mods: What To See and Do In My Town (U.S. Edition, Part 2)

We’re back with another installment of ModSquad’s guide to our individual home towns! You’ve already heard from Mods in the United States and around the world. We’re back in the USA, asking Mods across the country to weigh in on what visitors typically do when they come to our home towns — and what they really should be doing. Here’s the scoop from those in the know.

Green Cove Springs, FL

What people typically do: It’s a very small town, so people are typically visiting friends and family, attending one of the nearby football games (Jacksonville Jaguars or University of Florida Gators), or going to the Players Championship golf tournament. People come to fish, golf, and visit nearby towns with much more to see or do. Being a military town, we have Camp Blanding, Naval Air Station Jacksonville, and Naval Station Mayport within an hour’s drive.
What they should do: Take some time to get to know the history of Northeast Florida, visit any of the parks located on the St. Johns River, and go to St. Augustine and Amelia Island. There’s a lot of history in Northeast Florida, both American Indian and Spanish. The St. Johns River is an American Heritage river. St. Augustine is the oldest city in the U.S., with many unique, eclectic cultural attractions. Be sure to sample or buy the local produce and seafood. There are still quite a few small, family-owned produce and livestock farms and local fishers. Depending on the season, you’ll have access to a great selection of fresh foods.

—Deborah McGrath

Ravenswood, WV

What people typically do: Ravenswood is a fairly small town of under 4,000 people; there are no big shopping centers or movie theaters and we have no sports teams here to cheer on apart from our local school teams. Ravenswood at one time had more churches per square mile than any town in the country, so I’m guessing a lot of people just venture out to go to church! One fun fact: The land our city is on was once owned by George Washington!
What they should do: I think people who visit Ravenswood should spend more time at our park and museum. Riverfront Park is an excellent way to get away from technology and enjoy the river and nature. It’s nice to sit at the park and watch boats, waterskiers, and even barges cross by on the river, with trains running down the tracks behind us, both usually carrying coal. Our big Octoberfest celebrations are held at Riverfront Park. More locals should take advantage of it. The Washington Western Lands Museum holds a lot of river travel artifacts and old business displays. A nearby tourable 19th-century house gives visitors a great look at how our ancestors lived, reminding us that they’re not just names and dates on a family tree but real people who lived, loved, and struggled to survive the problems of their day.

—Rebekah Good

Chicago, IL

What people typically do: They go to the Taste of Chicago (or just “The Taste”) or any other event happening at Millennium Park, Navy Pier, or the Magnificent Mile.
What they should do: Ask a local for great places to eat and things to do. My recommendation: Hit up Half Acre Beer Company for some beer and eats, or stop into Bad Apple across the street for a huge list of beers, ciders, mead, and great poutine. A short cab ride away is Lincoln Square, where there’s great shopping and restaurants, including my personal favorites, Gene’s Sausage Shop and their rooftop BBQ in the summer, or Hopleaf’s delicious food and brews. Want things for kids to do? All of the Chicago Park District parks have an online listing of events that include things like craft fair make-and-takes, games, carnivals, or free outdoor movies! You don’t have to shuffle through an overcrowded event to pay for expensive tastings to get a great Chicago experience. Look up what’s going on all over the city. Chances are, a really cool festival is happening in a neighborhood that has tons of things to do and won’t cost you a fortune. The real Chicago experience involves seeing the diverse cultures and interests celebrated all throughout the city and hanging out with the great people who live here.

—Katie Carson

Atlanta, GA

What people typically do: Go to concerts, sporting events, and see the standard tourist attractions.
What they should do: Visit Buford Highway, one of the most culturally diverse areas of the country. You can find more than 1,000 shops and restaurants owned and operated by people from all over the world. We definitely feel privileged to be surrounded by such diversity and great food! Great dining is definitely something people don’t think of when visiting Atlanta, but the unique combination of cultures and the creative drive of those in the entertainment industry has allowed for the one of the most unique dining experiences around.

—Melissa Kamphuis

Eugene, OR

What people typically do: Attend sporting events. Eugene is home to the University of Oregon, and traffic comes to a standstill when the Ducks are playing. People also tend to visit the area wineries and craft breweries and enjoy biking, hiking, whitewater rafting, and other outdoor sports.
What they should do: I’m all for them doing all of the activities listed above, especially visiting the wineries and breweries. But I’d also urge people to check out our lively foodie/restaurant scene, local music venues, and our numerous outdoor cultural festivals, especially the legendary Oregon Country Fair [http://www.oregoncountryfair.org/]. Eugene has a storied history as a hippie Mecca, primarily because it was the hometown of author Ken Kesey, who invited all his hippie friends to come hang out. That spirit is still very much alive and well to this day, and you can get the best exposure to that culture by hitting the outdoor festivals, especially the OCF [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0eV2LXd_RI].

—Ellen Brenner

North Babylon, NY

What people typically do: Summer fishing trips are always enjoyable. Visit the Fire Island Lighthouse, which is known to be haunted. Many just take the ferry over to Fire Island and relax on the beach.
What they should do: All of the above! Just have fun and enjoy the scenery! I’d also recommend visiting the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, approximately one hour away from the Bablyon area. They’re known for their rehabilitation of injured sea life. It’s always touching to hear about a sea animal being released back into its environment, which is the goal of the Aquarium. There’s a lot do do there; you won’t be bored!

—Pat Campo

Marathon, FL (in the Florida Keys)

What people typically do: Most people tend to drive through to Key West or visit Sombrero Beach and the Seven Mile Bridge, which are all worth doing. They also tend to visit the commercial aquariums within the Keys, not knowing that there are actual rescue/rehab/release programs in the area.
What they should do: Visit The Turtle Hospital and the Dolphin Research Center. Both are rehab facilities and not commercial. The Turtle Hospital rescues injured sea turtles and rehabilitates them until they can be released. If they’re in good health but cannot be released safely, they are kept or transferred to other facilities, in order to spread awareness about the various endangered sea turtle species. I used to work for them! The Dolphin Research Center does similar, witht their focus being on dolphin research. I live right next door to them, and their dolphins are kept in the ocean with pens that allow the dolphins to have wonderful enclosures that aren’t tanks. They have also helped The Turtle Hospital when their own tanks weren’t big enough for a leatherback.

—Sierra Rush

Locust Grove, VA

What people typically do: Tour the battlefields and wineries.
What they should do: Spend some time exploring all there is here. We have the Germanna Visitor Center, with its amazing history about a family settling from Germany. We have the Wilderness Battlefield, which is the site of the most deadliest battle in the Civil War. Stonewall Jackson was wounded here, and Grant and Lee walked through here. There are numerous haunted spots. George Washington first lived here before Ferry Farm. It’s amazing. History needs to be embraced and respected. People died for our freedom, and we should never take that for granted.

—Sharon Corner

Kickstarting a Masters in Minecraft

When we were scouting potential sites for our European Operations Centre (Dublin, Belfast, Galway, Berlin), we met a lovely gentleman by the name of Mark Naguraski. Mark was one of our hosts in Derry via Invest Northern Ireland.  He was the festival director and CEO of CultureTech at the time, and he is a very good ambassador for Derry and its active and growing digital sector.

Since that time, Mark has put together an amazing opportunity for youth through his company MakeMatic… a Minecraft Mastercourse! His team will teach a variety of cool techniques and tools for creative builders. In honor of their Kickstarter program launch, we had a Q&A with Mark about his passion for the program, Minecraft and youth, and utilizing Kickstarter as a platform.

What inspired the idea for building a design Masterclass for youth using Minecraft?

We’ve done a lot of work with young people over the years and Minecraft has been an amazing engagement tool. Young people are already familiar with Minecraft and love to challenge themselves to create even more amazing creations; this feeds a natural curiosity to learn new skills. Our job is to help young people learn those skills but also make sure that they are transferable. Learning to create 3D models for example is not just a skill that kids can use in Minecraft, it’s something they could use in animation, design and architecture. For a lot of the kids who will take this class, this will be the first time they’ve been exposed to these subjects.

Can you share a bit about your personal experience and viewpoint of Minecraft?

I started working with Minecraft through an annual digital festival that I ran for 4 years. We had invited some Minecraft YouTubers to take part in the event and there were literally lines around the building to get in. Then we started taking it out into schools and saw kids coming in early and staying after class to work on their projects. Ultimately Minecraft is simply an open platform where players can build their own creations – and check out amazing things other players have created. Why it works so well, and why it’s got something like 100M players worldwide, is that you can start with absolutely no knowledge and be building right away. And once you’ve developed your skills there’s no limit to what you can create.

How has your experience been designing the course and using Kickstarter to support and promote it?

Designing the course has really been about collaborating with our tutors. These guys have been building in Minecraft for years and doing it for some of the world’s biggest companies. They’re also passionate teachers and love sharing their skills with other players. It’s been great fun trying to unlock what they know and finding a way that we can get that knowledge to young people through the masterclass videos.

Coding, UI design, and engineering are a few of the platforms that kids can conquer through Minecraft. Can you speak a bit about your experience with students, and how the education and entertainment factors in the game may help propel futures?

We believe that the first step in any learning experience is engagement. If young people want to learn then teaching becomes tremendously easier. We’ve seen that when we’ve used Minecraft in the classroom, at events and in the sample video classes we’ve made. Using Minecraft allows us to put coding, design, 3D modelling and all kinds of other skills in the context of a game young people love, meaning we have engagement from the very start. Learning becomes natural and self-motivated.

What are some of the creative inspirations you drew on as a kid? And what have you seen kids gravitate to most, both in your program and in Minecraft itself?

I’ve always been a bit of an omnivore when it comes to creative inspiration. I love books, museums, movies, music, design, science – anything where people are taking new ideas out of their heads and making them come to life in the real world. I see that same vibe around Minecraft, kids can come up with some of the most amazing and unexpected ideas – Minecraft helps them turn those crazy ideas into something real. That’s the whole point of what we’re trying to do.

Why do you think Minecraft draws such a diverse range of fans?

Minecraft offers something for players at all skill levels. If you’ve never played the game before there’s a real sense of achievement in building that first mud house. And if you’ve been honing your skills for years, you’re constantly challenging yourself to create even bigger and better builds.

We’re so excited for Mark and the Minecraft course. If you’re interested in learning more about the program, please enjoy this voice (or click this link to visit the Kickstarter page).

Izzy Neis
Director of Engagement & Strategy

Why Summertime is a Good Time to Prep for Holiday Sales

Just like that, May is nearly over. I don’t know about you, but I’m still in pre-summer shock. Where in the world did the last five months go? As quickly as the first part of the year went by, so will the next few months. If you’re in retail or any online commerce business, summertime is actually the perfect time to get ready for Q4 activity. I used to think that September was the safe time to plan for the holidays, but I quickly learned I was wrong. Some of our clients are already chatting about shoring up processes for the November rush.

Here are three tried-and-true tips we know will help guide your eCommerce ship in Q4.

Line up your bench. When the holiday shopping extravaganza hits, you’ll want the best team possible at the front lines of your customer service experience. This is the time to test out new project leads, service providers, and other partners. Role-play with your customer service team. Are their responses pleasant? Did the consumer receive a prompt and thorough response? You don’t want to find out those answers during the crunch period.

Find new customer advocates. Use social listening tools to see what consumers are talking about now, from competitors and product features to day-to-day woes. How can your product can help those consumers? What can you glean from these trends to make your customers’ shopping experience better? Use all of this information to improve Q4.

Introduce new products, then test and learn. Have you thought about adding a new color to a SKU? Planning a limited-edition video game perk? Taking the time during the off season to dip your toe in the product innovations pool will enable you and your team to see what your community is saying. You’ll be able to fully understand if a new idea doesn’t work, well before you’re in the thick of the holiday shopping gauntlet.

Soon you’ll look at these steps as standard issue and part of growing a business. Ideally, you are practicing some sort of optimization throughout the year.

Blagica Bottigliero
VP of Digital Media

From the Mods: What To See and Do In My Town (International Edition)

We recently asked our Mods to introduce us to their home towns, and presented a great roundup of responses from colleagues across the United States. Now we’re focusing our attention on our global network of Mods, who live and work in more than 50 countries worldwide! We’ve asked our Mods in countries far and wide what visitors typically do when they visit — and what they really should be doing. Move over, Rick Steves… there’s a new group of travel guides in town.

Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

What people typically do: Honeymoon, go to the casino, and see the Falls.
What they should do: Check out the Butterfly Conservatory, the Botanical Gardens, and hike the Gorge. We have some stunning scenery in my city. The Butterfly Conservatory features butterflies from around the world that fly loose in a contained area; they might even land on you! The Botanical Gardens are maintained by horticultural students and are beautiful. The Gorge (or the Escarpment) has trails that run right to the Whirlpool Rapids, where you can stand near — and feel the power of — the Niagara River.

—Natalie Klein

Vienna, Austria

What people typically do: Most of the tourists in Vienna visit such old (and pompous) buildings as Schönbrunn Palace, the Austrian Parliament Building, St. Stephan’s Cathedral, or the Belvedere. The number of tourist attractions is incredibly long and you can shoot thousands of photos in just a few hours.
What they should do: There’s nothing wrong with seeing those sights, but if you want to a enjoy a little Viennese flair, you can’t do better than to sit in a café. I’m not talking about Starbucks or one of its imitators, but a real Viennese coffeeshop — a café. There you can sit for hours sipping a cup of joe, soaking up the atmosphere, eavesdropping (if your timing is right) on locally composed piano music, reading the paper (you’ll probably find The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today among the free choices), chatting up the other guests (lots of Viennese speak surprisingly good English), or simply indulging in people-watching. It’s a brief Viennese-style diversion from hectic city life. Afterwards, have a typically Austrian confection like a Sachertorte or a slice of Esterházy torte. If you still want to play tourist, you can end your day with a ride on the giant observation wheel, a Viennese landmark that’s quite involving.

—Yvonne Zimmermann

Berlin, Germany

What people typically do: People who’ve never visited Berlin before generally spend a great deal of time visiting the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, and various other sites in a city many tourists know from James Bond and Jason Bourne movies.
What they should do: Forget the tedious monologues of an army of Teutonic guides and the stress of surviving the U-Bahn whilst simultaneously avoiding the pickpockets. Visit the Computerspielemuseum (the Museum of Computer Games)! This was the first permanent exhibition in the world dedicated to video games. It first opened its doors in 1997 and was an immediate success. With more than 300 interactive exhibits, the museum covers all facets of gaming from Pong, Dungeons & Dragons, and the Atari to today’s latest hits, pleasing old-timers and newbies alike. The bravest visitors can even play a game on the notorious PainStation, where the loser receives mild electric shocks. Come one, come all to the Computerspielemuseum! The double-decker tourist buses can wait until your next visit.

—Nils Sturman

Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

What people typically do: Visit the Playdium arcade and the Port Credit pier and marina, where there are a lot of nice places to shop and eat. People also take in our large parks and conservation areas.
What they should do: Scoot over to Toronto to visit the CN Tower, or take a 45 minute drive to Niagara Falls. While I love my city, we are central to a lot of great vacation attractions.

—Sheila Lewis

Nancy, France

What people typically do: Most of the time, tourists are coming to the city to see Place Stanislas (Stanislas Square). Without a doubt, it’s a very nice place to visit — this UNESCO World Heritage site dates from the 17th century. There are two other squares in the same quarter and from the same century, Carriere Square and Alliance Square, that tourists often take in.
What they should do: You can find gated medieval streets and old houses from the 14th century just behind Stanislas Square. If you pay attention, you’ll spot nice details all around the old town. Nancy is also known for its artistic movement, referred to as Art Nouveau and Art Déco; if you like this style of art, don’t miss the Ecole de Nancy Museum. If nature is your passion, check out the monkey and ponies at Pépinière Park or visit the botanical garden, even if it’s a little outside the town center.

—Charlotte Benoit

Gatineau, Ontario, Canada

What people typically do: Visit Parliament Hill (in Ottawa, right across the river).
What they should do: Visit Gatineau Park. Just minutes from downtown Ottawa, this slice of wilderness is virtually untouched, other than its network of walking, jogging, riding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing trails.

—Marcel Beaudoin

Infographic: How Customer Service Affects Business

Consumers are no longer making purchasing decisions in a bubble. They don’t have to rely on word of mouth and, if they’re lucky, a review in Consumer Reports. With all of us plugged in, Borg-like, to the Internet — particularly social media — you’re never more than a few clicks away from finding out what people really think about a company or product.

Here at ModSquad, we’ve built our business over the past nine years on the idea that providing top-tier customer support is key to any professional entity’s success. Allow us to break down the facts as we illustrate our reasoning. (And who doesn’t love a good infographic?)

ModSquad Infographic - How Customer Service Affects Business

 

From the Mods: What To See and Do In My Town (U.S. Edition)

With a network of 10,000+ Mods all over the world, you’d be hard-pressed to go to any corner of the globe and not find a ModSquad representative nearby. With our teammates plugged into so many towns, cities, and regions, we thought it would be fun to find out what they think are the highlights of their locales.

In the first installment of this series, we’re focusing on Mods in the United States. From the East Coast to the West Coast, North to South, we’ll find out what visitors typically do when they come to our home towns — and what they really should be doing. Nothing beats travel tips from a local! Without further ado, let’s set out on our virtual road trip.

Nashville, TN

What people typically do: Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and walk down Broadway.
What they should do: Taste some Nashville hot chicken and hear jazz and bluegrass in Printer’s Alley. Broadway is very tourist heavy, but just off to the side is Printer’s Alley with better music and history. Hot chicken is just the best thing ever to eat when out on the town.

—Kevin Dubenbostel

New Orleans, LA

What people typically do: Hit Bourbon Street and the French Quarter.
What they should do: In addition to riding the “drinking” float on Bourbon Street, our guests should try a po’ boy with a pineapple Big Shot, test their luck at Harrah’s casino, taste a snowball (yes, it’s different than a snow-cone), take the Riverboat to the Westbank, and hang out on the shores. New Orleans is a gumbo pot of many cultures, sites, and people. Once you taste the city you won’t want to leave, but when you do, New Orleans steals a piece of your heart. Try the city from the eyes of a local. Laissez les bon temps roulez! (Let the good times roll!)

—Shay Goudia

Virginia Beach, VA

What people typically do: Go to the beach.
What they should do: Visit the historical sights just outside of Hampton roads (i.e., Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown) as well as the amazing historical parks (i.e., First Landing National Park). And don’t miss the Aquarium and Chesapeake Bay. There is so much history and culture in this area. This is where the country began. Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown have historical areas where you step back in time and see how life was for them at that time. The Aquarium in Virginia Beach is filled with local wildlife and displays how this area evolved through time. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has parks that are educational and fun for all ages.

—Wanika De Doelder

Longwood, FL

What people typically do: People generally come to this side of town to visit the beautiful Wekiwa Springs reservation. This is an absolute gem of a town nested on the outskirts of Orlando, “The City Beautiful.”
What they should do: Nothing! It’s Florida! Because you don’t “do” in Florida, you just live!

—Amanda Hayworth

Indianapolis, IN

What people typically do: Go shopping downtown or see the Indy 500.
What they should do: Give the state parks a try. We might be a pretty flat state with no hills or mountains, but we have amazing forests and some pretty neat cave systems.

—Kay Schneider

Council Bluffs, IA (across the river from Omaha, NE)

What people typically do: Keep on driving.
What they should do: Visit the zoo! It’s been named the best in the world (for real!), and it’s awesome.

—Susie South

Washington, DC

What people typically do: Visit the national museums.
What they should do: Sure, the museums are worth a visit, but make time to see the gorgeous state, county, and city parks all over Virginia. It’s so amazing that these wonderful parks are so close to our capitol, are decently funded, and have great information and helpful staff. You’ll be blown away by all the animals and history in each park.

—Michael Marcantel

Chicago, IL

What people typically do: Eat Chicago food, pizza, Italian beef sandwiches, and hot dogs.
What they should do: Go downtown! There’s a lot to see: Lake Michigan, museums, many cool buildings, and tons of shopping. Take in a concert or a Cubs game. Even with all there is to do in Chicago, it seems like everyone who comes here wants to eat and eat! I guess I’m spoiled by the Chicago food!

—Janice Wiodarek

Seattle, WA

What people typically do: Visit the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and Pioneer Square.
What they should do: Seattle is known for its many different neighborhoods, each with their own feel and flavor, so they should be explored and experienced. The typical tourist fare mentioned above are all pretty much in close proximity to one another in the downtown area of Seattle. It would be a shame to spend all of your time in this one area when the city has so many different and quite eclectic neighborhoods to check out. I would definitely suggest Ballard, Capitol Hill, and Freemont (with its famous troll). With so many different neighborhoods to see, you’re certain to find something different and delightful in each and every one!

—Corey Clemans

Miami, FL

What people typically do: Go to Miami Beach, particularly the South Beach area. Some go clubbing on Ocean Drive. Others go jet-skiing or scuba diving. Many visitors go to the Everglades to take airboat rides, some take in alligator wrestling shows, and others visit the Florida Keys for fishing and water sports.
What they should do: Take a food tour! If you’re the exploring type, go experience the city on your own or with a tour group; some tours cover cuisine samples from different countries. Miami is more than just great beaches and nightclubs; it’s a city with large communities from different countries and cultures. These groups bring their own food, celebrations, and music. The larger communities are mostly gathered together in certain areas of the city, like Little Haiti (Haiti), Little Havana (Cuba), and Little Managua (Nicaragua). Name the country and it´s here. Be sure to tour historic Miami.

Visit the great buildings from the ‘20s in downtown Miami, like the Cultural Center and the Freedom Tower. See the Art Deco buildings in South Beach. Stop into the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum, the Holocaust Memorial, and a Spanish Monastery that was built in Segovia, Spain in 1141 and later dismantled, brought to Miami, and rebuilt in 1952. In addition, the city of Coral Gables is a great place to visit more buildings and homes from the 1920s, such as the popular Venetian Pool. The luxurious Biltmore Hotel once housed Al Capone; Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller used to dive form the upper floor into the pool. In the Coconut Grove area, visit the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens if you want to travel back in time, and check out the Planetarium and other historic buildings from the city’s early years.

—Matilde Sanabria

Client Spotlight: Trion Worlds

This month, our Client Spotlight shines on Trion Worlds, a fun and energetic game development company that offers a diverse range of engaging escapism, from the popular online role-playing game Rift to their latest release, Atlas Reactor. We were delighted to speak with Linda Carlson, the company’s director of community relations, as she offered a peek behind the curtain to learn about how the makers of some of our favorite games interact with their player community.

Tell us about Trion Worlds. Sounds like a fun place to work!

Trion logo artWe are a company that makes games that we want to play. Everyone here is a game player, from people in finance on up. The CEO is a huge game player as well! Passion for gaming is extremely important here. We’re not a huge company, so our focus is on making games fun and accessible, at a fair price.

We have a large variety of games, everything from Rift, a traditional MMO model, to Atlas Reactor, which is more non-traditional. It’s amazing—we need to come up with new words to describe it. It’s doing extremely well in beta testing. We have a great collection of established, successful games, and we always have new ones in development.

Who makes up Trion’s community?

Atlas ReactorThe audience varies by game. With Rift, the average player is probably ages 28 and up; a lot of people in their 30s and 40s play Rift. The long-term game appeals to older audiences. Other games skew younger. Devilian and Atlas Reactor appeal to males 18 – 24. Rift and ArcheAge have a large number of female players. The tone of each game varies tremendously. Trove is highly competitive and fast-paced, and skews younger. Also, those who advance to the endgame and continue playing the game a long time tend to skew younger.

Talk a bit about how game companies interact with players.

Typically, any game company will set up a forum. We also maintain a presence on social media — Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and sometimes Instagram. Our forums are still the main place where we hold long, measured discussions with players. Twitter is more in-the-moment; it’s there and gone, it’s instantaneous. Facebook offers a little more interchange of ideas, but it’s more ephemeral; people don’t see last week’s posts. Forums and Reddit are best for more long-term interactions.

Reddit is run by the player community. People voice their opinions and are not subject to a game company’s rules or moderation guidelines. They just have to meet the requirements of Reddit’s volunteers.

DefianceForums often skew to the negative. Happy people are busy playing the game. But if they run into problems, are unhappy with a change to a game, or are dissatisfied, they want the company to hear of the trouble. And when people are unhappy with a game — or if something happens to make them angry — they often don’t express themselves in a civil fashion.

We used to have a community manager looking after our forums. But what happens when they go home at night? They can’t just relax and watch television, because they’re worrying about what was going on in the forums. They’d have to wake up during the night to check on things, or someone would text them if there was a problem. Is something important happening that they need to convey to the dev teams? Same thing on weekends and holidays. The community manager was stuck moderating and forwarding feedback. This had to come to an end. We had to obtain external moderation.

RiftModSquad offers the best combination of value for money invested. The people on the front lines, from moderators to customer-service agents, will make or break a company, in quiet ways that may not even show up on spreadsheets at the end of the year. But they have a huge effect on the players’ perceptions of how our company supports its game and players.

How has it been working with ModSquad?

I’ve been working with ModSquad for six years. I started at Trion last year, and already had a ModSquad relationship from an earlier position. Our community managers no longer have to focus on tasks that just anyone can do, like moderation. They can now focus on actual engagement, problem solving, and carrying issues forward, instead of dealing with day-to-day minutia and maintaining the tone of the forums.

We have such a good rapport built up with the Mods that we don’t need regular meetings. We always keep in touch via Skype. Now we get more time off and can sleep in peace, knowing that if something goes wrong, we don’t have to worry about it. We know ModSquad will take care of it.

ModSquad Celebrates Cinco de Mayo

While the common misconception is that the fifth of May is Mexico’s Independence Day, it is not (that’s actually September 16th). What May 5th actually commemorates is the Mexican Army’s victory over the French troops at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Even though the day has seen celebrations in the United States as far back as the first anniversary of the battle, the fifth of May generally goes by unnoticed in Mexico. The celebrations were primarily California-based until the 1950s, finally picking up nationwide traction a few decades later. Unfortunately, a primary reason for the date’s current popularity can be attributed to the savvy marketing of beer companies and the like, which promote Cinco de Mayo as a day to imbibe.

While some revelers may take things too far, with inappropriately themed celebrations that do little to honor the memory of those Mexicans who fought for their country, we like to take this day to acknowledge the many contributions to modern culture that come from our neighbors to the south. And we offer a nod of the head to those Mods located in the United Mexican States (the country’s official name!). On this fifth day of May, we asked our team:

How do you acknowledge Cinco de Mayo?

In my city, Cinco de Mayo is seen as a time to showcase local Mexican culture. We regularly go to our church on the Sunday before Cinco de Mayo to watch traditional dance and music performances. Everyone from two-year-olds to people in their 80s and 90s perform, tell stories, and prepare the favorite traditional Mexican dishes of their families. — Mary Lex

I usually look for a local festival, where we can take in musical performances, try different foods, and browse arts and crafts. We’ll also sometimes stop into a local restaurant or grill up fajitas. — Steve Henry

Mexican food and beer and, of course, you have to sing (mostly not actually traditional) Mexican songs, badly. (But that’s all my singing.) Dia de los Muertos is the real awesomeness. — Lucien Parsons

Others keep things low-key, marking the day by incorporating Mexican elements into their meals. Of these folks, we asked: What foods and drinks do you enjoy on Cinco de Mayo?

I can’t really cook Mexican food, so Cinco de Mayo is always a time for me to explore foods I’ve never tried with friends. I might never remember how to say the dishes’ names again, but it’s always delicious and a fun time. — Jay Biros

It’s the only time of year I make a point to drink a Mexican Beer. — Beth Ryan

I like to grill fajitas with good old Goya Mojo marinade, and of course drink Mexican beer. But that’s also every day, so… — Rich Weil

I go with the classic margarita with salt and chips, along with salsa and guacamole. — Gina Miller

Chicken Mole, of course. My favorite Mexican dish for a celebration. Then guac, chips, fiery hot salsa, and my famous nachos (famous inside the four walls of my home). — David Wohlwend

Customer Service Via Social Media is a No Brainer

I’m a big believer in efficiency. Whether it’s the way my house is organized or the web tools I use, efficiency typically means time and money saved. Which then leads to a happy household or online community. And you certainly want a happy customer community – they’re the actual people who not only take the time to buy your product or service, but expect some type of resolution if they reach out to your company for assistance.

I’m happy to report that in 2016, this blend of social media and customer service channels is finally coming together. Perhaps not as quickly as I’d hoped, but it’s getting better. This Forbes article spells out the takeaways that every social practitioner should keep in mind:

  • Blending social and customer service automatically increases customer satisfaction metrics.
  • Having a a one-stop shop for your customer service efforts also enables a faster analysis of NPS and CSAT scores.
  • The addition of Twitter to a customer service platform (with its one-click Direct Message) is a no-brainer, illustrating how seamless your social media and customer service efforts should be.
  • Providing a somewhat public communications stream with users isn’t scalable, but taking the message to a private setting shows the public that you did make an initial connection with the consumer and that you’re looking to another means to solve the problem. Bottom line, you are solving the problem.

Today’s teams often have difficulty with budgeting for social CS in a way that assures a prompt response to as many customers as possible. I always tell colleagues and clients that I’ve been there. From who “owns” social media (the whole company does; the sooner you get that, the better) to when consumers expect a response (within the hour on social media, within a day via e-mail), there are a slew of logistics that need to be sorted out day to day. Once you have the corporate structure worked out, then you need to work with your partner agency to implement the new processes. I get it, it’s tough.

The most important decision you can make in all of this is to just get started. Do this by finding a champion within a member of another team; talk about your social media and customer support channels. To be blunt, looking at social media as just a marketing challenge is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Yes, you can and should use social media platforms to promote your campaign, any seasonal pushes, and other activities. But just as you invest hours planning for the promotion, hiring the talent, and spending the media dollars, you should similarly be investing time and training into an evergreen customer service approach on social media.

We know how to do this. Give us a call.

Blagica Bottigliero
VP of Digital Media

Mod of the Month – April 2016

The beautiful month of April is nearly over. And although we hate how quickly time moves these days, we do love that the end of the month brings about our favorite time for celebration — naming our official Mod of the Month for April 2016.

We are delighted to bring to you our newest honoree, an expert chemist, gamer extraordinaire, family man, and most notable Canadian, Mr. Marcel B!

Marcel has been with us for five years now. He started with ModSquad in the late summer of 2011.

“I remember because I had moved into my new house the year before and, when I had my initial Skype interview, I was thinking how lucky I was. My old house had, due to some significant rainfall and poor sewer drainage, about 6 or 7 feet of water in the basement, where my office was. Now, I have spent some time in the Canadian Military (30th Field, Royal Canadian Artillery) so I am able to adapt to most trying situations, but I am not sure my military experience would have enabled me to deal with ‘Skype interview when under 6 feet of water.'”

IMG_6451Prior to his time with ModSquad, Marcel had been a long-term volunteer for the Wizards Of The Coast forums. He started as a super-engaged (and helpful) forum member, and when they rolled out the 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons, he was approached by their Community Manager to be a VCL (Volunteer Community Lead). After a time, he was recommended to the moderation team. Unfortunately, as Marcel lives in Canada, it turned out he was ineligible for the position. So luck, location, and the community manager at Wizards of the Coast brought him to ModSquad.

“I looked at the website and was impressed with the *extremely* wide range of companies that they work for, so applied there. The rest is, as they say, history.”

With ModSquad, Marcel is part of our elite Scan team. He also an important mod for a few of our top clients. His projects range from console game companies, to eCommerce businesses, community forums, and social platforms for large destinations.

“[Within my work] the most important task I do for my projects is the ability to rapidly switch from one persona to another. As a part of the Scan Team (*cough* ELITE *cough*), I have clients with wildly different ‘personalities.’ Some clients allow us to engage with the customers/communities, showcasing a brand’s tone/identity or ‘my’ personality in our responses. For example, social media and community moderation is all about knowing the tone that the client wants AND the experience with the brand the customer should have. Determining these factors and crafting the best content response is key in our role as mods, and what makes us ultimately successful in the end.”

And even though he is often found working in customer support and community moderation, he feels most comfortable with social media.

“I spend a lot of non-work time on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, as well as some more specific topic-focussed communities like Gamers with Jobs.”

On the more personal side, three words Marcel uses to describe himself are: “silly, junk food, and jogging.” Clearly, he has a good sense of humor.

IMG_6393Marcel seems to have quite the busy offline life these days. He has a beautiful family (note his lovely daughter in the photo to the right). He spends his daytime hours in another field of work (chemistry). Summertime in Canada means training for the Canada Army Run 1/2 Marathon. He loves reading (science fiction and fantasy, especially urban fantasy like the Dresden Files and The Iron Druid). His bookshelf is almost ready to collapse under the 4 feet of roleplaying games he owns (mostly Dungeons and Dragons versions, but also FATE, Dresden Files RPG, Pathfinder, Nights Black Agents, Spycraft, d20 Modern, Numenera, The Strange). He also owns a large collection of barely-played games on both his laptop and XBox 360 (which he’ll dig into when he gets a free moment).

Marcel’s dedicated to his teams, projects, clients, and ModSquad shows in the pride he has for his work.

“My proudest moment comes from a very specific project: ReachOut. This was a project that involved forums moderation of kids (14-24) who needed to talk, for any reason. Some kids were there because they were being bullied. Others had been abused. Others had attempted suicide. Others were confused about their sexuality or gender. Still, there were others that were very sure of their sexuality/gender, but had problems with people not accepting things in life, or about them. Some kids were just having a rough day. And while there were extremely tough moments now and again, it was also wonderful to see notes from our PM or from the community saying things like, “Thanks to the mods, I am still alive right now and am getting the help I need.” (Dammit, there are some serious onion ninjas hiding in my office right now.)”

Thanks to mods like you, Marcel, who keep the midnight oil burning for our communities and clients. We couldn’t be more proud!

Marcel is one of those rather quiet mods that just go about their daily routine with excellence, and never need much guidance or help. But that is one of the reasons he is so awesome. He is so knowledgeable, and so dependable, that you never have to worry about a thing when he is working a project. He is one of the first to help another mod with a question, and he’s been fabulous with our newest Scan Team members, coaching them, joking with them, making them feel a part of the team. I think Marcel is an outstanding mod that deserves to be recognized! 
– Teresa Moore, Project Manager

No matter what, he is always there to help everyone, any time of day. He is extremely knowledgeable and always on the ball with everything, including how to use different programs. If there is ever a problem, Marcel is right there letting us know. He is an exceptional mod. Very lucky to have him on my teams!
– Nicole Mohr, Project Manager

He’s always been a rock star on projects he worked for me. One of the best Scan team Mods: notices and reports trends, most dependable, quick learner, picks up urgent coverage requests, helps out the rest of the team with questions and what-not, and he has been with ModSquad a long time. You can rest well at night, knowing Marcel is on your team.
– Cathy Brown-Mort, Project Manager

Last month I thought, “Marcel joined a new project while on vacation, received training, has not worked a single shift, but has helped out his fellow Mods with second opinions, guidance and overall awesomeness on his down time. If that isn’t MotM material, I don’t know what is.” And now, a month later, he continues to help out his fellow Mods with second opinions, guidance and anything else they need on his downtime. He is fantastic. FANTASTIC.
– Michelle Ramage, Project Manager

Marcel always does a great job for my project on the Scan Team. His QAs are always spot-on, but this week he had some particularly difficult cases and did a great job handling them and escalating them.
– Suzie Owen, Project Manager

In addition to him being an excellent mod, a great reason for Marcel to be MotM is because his last name contains every vowel in the alphabet.
– Susie South, People Ops

Marcel B is wonderful… he originally was chatting with Pinkerton on Twitter… we hoped he spoke french but we loved him anyway! He’s been a mainstay since Sept 2011. A LONG TIME!! He was also part of the 30th Field, Royal Canadian Artillery Regiment AND if that wasn’t enough, he has a PhD in Chemistry…. he does this job in his “downtime” to “have fun”!!!
– Gina Miller, Director of People Ops

Izzy Neis
Director of Engagement & Strategy

Jason Ferguson
Director of Client Services

The 5 Deadly Sins of a Job Hunt

As Director of People Operations for ModSquad, a large part of my role is recruiting. I review many e-mails, cover letters, and resumes, and I reply to Facebook posts or Tweets asking about opportunities with ModSquad, so I’ve seen many approaches to job hunting. The best advice I can give job seekers? Be professional; treat your job search like a job in itself.

It’s interesting (and distressing) to see how many people submit applications filled with typos and grammatical errors, or coming from completely inappropriate personal e-mail addresses. Regardless of the job, whether it’s customer service or sales, in order to be successful and move ahead in your career, you need to demonstrate professionalism. That begins with your first contact with a potential employer. These tips may seem obvious, but I see applicants commit these job-hunt sins daily.

1: Thou Shalt Not Make Grammatical Errors

Hiring managers may get hundreds of applications, so you want to make a strong first impression. Don’t give them an easy reason to drag your resume into the recycle bin; nothing says “trash this” like a resume chock-a-block with grammatical and spelling errors.

  • Proofread your resume and cover letter.
  • Read it out loud to make sure it reads well.
  • Have a friend review it as well.
  • Use capitalization. Don’t send a resume in all lowercase because you think it looks cute; it will more likely annoy than impress.
  • Posting on a company’s Facebook page or Tweeting them doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use grammatically correct, complete sentences.

Sample Sinners (with identifying material redacted): The ModSquad applicant who, while touting his writing schools, said that he attended the [redacted] Scool of Writing.

2: Thou Shalt Be Professional In All Thy Communications

Give all replies and communications with your potential employer your utmost attention. The application process may involve many e-mails back and forth. Every message you send could send the wrong message if you’re not careful. You even need to consider the source of your message; your e-mail address could make or break your chances

  • Don’t reply on your mobile; there’s a good chance you’ll be distracted or mistype. Even if you state “Please excuse typos” in your signature, no one will.
  • For the love of all that’s good, don’t use “text speak.” (“Can u pls tell me how much the job $$? Pls call me bk tmrw. Ty.”) If we see that, we’ll just LOL as we TYR (that’s “trash your resume,” ICYDK).
  • Sell yourself to the future employer by emphasizing your skills and what you can do for them. Saying “I need help finding a job that will pay a decent hourly rate. I have a lot of bills and not enough income to cover them” just tells us that you can’t stick to a budget. It doesn’t help make your case.
  • Use a professional-sounding e-mail address; if you don’t have one, set one up as you start your job search. I can’t tell you how many unfortunate e-mail addresses we talk about internally. Be aware of cultural colloquialisms; for example, kkkkathy@ may not be the best e-mail prefix to use in the United States.

Sample Sinners: Believe it or not, we recruiters don’t necessarily enjoy receiving e-mails sent to our work accounts from ticklemelots@[redacted].com, partyqueen4evah@[redacted].com, or an e-mail that shows the sender’s name as “great f***er” (without the asterisks, unfortunately). We’ve seen them all and shake our heads every time.

3: Thou Shalt Use a Cover Letter and Resume

In this day and age, it might seem like a cover letter and/or resume is archaic. Not so! Always tailor the cover letter to the company and role you’re seeking. Almost daily I receive cover letters addressed to a different person or company. This lack of attention to detail is almost an immediate dismissal. Your resume should be customized to showcase the work experience and skills you can bring to the role in which you are interested. A few other notes:

  • It’s okay to use a resume template off the Internet, but remember to proofread it. Don’t copy someone else’s mistakes.
  • Having a bullet point like “Sold over [dollar amount] and exceeded sales goals for [year]” does not necessarily help your case. Illustrate how those skills might translate to the potential employer.
  • It should go without saying that your cover letter and resume should be error free and grammatically correct. But we’ll say it again anyway.

Sample Sinners: When applying for our customer service and moderation opportunities, there is no need to include a picture in a bikini; it won’t help. Yes, this actually happened. 

Lest we not forget the ModSquad applicant who listed her job responsibilities in her previous role as a manicurist: “Step 1, I wash my hands. Step 2, I dry my hands. Step 3, I walk back to my table…”

4: Thou Shalt Use LinkedIn Correctly

LinkedIn is a vital tool in today’s job-search environment, so learn how to use it. The site offers many tools that you can utilize without your current employer knowing you’re looking for a new job. Here’s how to get yourself set up correctly.

  • Update your profile with the latest information and a current professional photograph. Don’t use that great picture of you holding a red Solo cup, and don’t use a shot where you’re cropping out your best buddies.
  • More than likely, potential employers will Google you and review your online presence, including your LinkedIn page. Make sure there isn’t anything you don’t want a potential employer to see.
  • Maintaining an up-to-date LinkedIn profile tells us that you’re detailed, thorough, really interested in opportunities, and not just taking a half-hearted approach to your job search.

Sample sinners: The many who reference their empty LinkedIn profiles on their applications.

5: Thou Shalt Update Your References

Nothing frustrates a recruiter or hiring manager more than getting an email bounce-back or a disconnected number.

  • Ask your contacts to be a professional or personal reference for you.
  • It’s good practice to let your references know to expect a call; otherwise, they may get a call for which they’re unprepared or choose not to return.
  • Let your references know what type of job you are looking for and what skills you offer, so they can highlight your positives and help sell you to the hiring manger or recruiter.

Sample sinners: Let’s just say it can be a struggle to get a reference from someone who doesn’t speak English (many of our Mods are bilingual, but not everyone in our department is). Beyond that, one call we can’t forget wasn’t exactly a reference call. We found ourselves trying not to seem too shocked when we called an applicant for a background check and heard him try to explain away his murder charge. Same issue for the guy with the Internet solicitation charge…

Here’s a bonus tip: Keep in mind that employers receive thousands of resumes. Most recruiters and hiring managers already have busy schedules and must find time to review applications. While it can be appropriate to follow up your application, burdening them with multiple e-mails will not have the endearing effect you may hope. It’s just a balancing act. Yes, it can be frustrating when you don’t hear back, but you may be one of hundreds (or even thousands) of applicants. Demanding a reply or update will only make you seem entitled rather than thorough.

Keep these five sins in mind when starting your next job search; refrain from these grievous errors and follow these simple tips, and you’ll be ahead of the pack!

Gina Miller
Director of People Operations

Alumni Spotlight: Guido Schenkel

In this Alumni Spotlight, we catch up with Guido Schenkel, a former ModSquad account manager who started with the company in 2010. Guido now works as head of player experience and localization at Wooga, a popular mobile-game developer. We asked Guido about how his linguistic skills brought him to ModSquad and how he balanced working on accounts with very different needs and styles. And we learned why “I didn’t hate it” is practically the highest compliment one can receive from Guido!

What was your background prior to joining ModSquad?

guido-gamescomI joined ModSquad when I was in grad school, so I had virtually no related professional background. I had, however, worked as a freelance translator for a number of years prior to joining, which was helpful for some aspects of the job, such as localizing community posts on the fly.

What brought you to ModSquad?

ModSquad came to me, really. They tracked me down through an online network for professional translators and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Why did you join ModSquad?

I love games. So an opportunity to work with some of the biggest names in gaming while supplementing my measly grad student income more or less on my own schedule was pretty much a no-brainer at the time.

As you reflect on your time spent at ModSquad, what are your thoughts?

The first project I ever worked on for ModSquad was also one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had. It involved screening and evaluating community-generated video content for a social multiplayer game. I remember telling friends after I started that this was the first job I didn’t hate. (For the record, I also don’t hate my current job.) In many ways, this part-time job (which I didn’t hate) and the experiences and skills I took away from it were the gateway to a career I don’t hate. I left academia and still work in games to this day, both for good reason. Coming from me, that’s pretty high praise.

What did you learn from ModSquad?

Pretty much everything. The various projects I worked on for ModSquad, in various different roles, allowed me to build up skills and experience in community management, player experience management, project management, people management, and account management and enabled me to hone them alongside some of the leaders of the industry. I still benefit from lessons I learned—good and bad—working on ModSquad projects on a more or less daily basis. 

Did the flexible scheduling help you out?

When I started, it was absolutely invaluable. Contrary to popular belief, grad students have very busy schedules, and being able to get in some work hours more or less where I could fit them was fantastic. While it wasn’t as essential to me anymore after the end of my studies, and while the hours in my current job are anything but rigid, having almost complete control over my own work schedule (from home) is one thing I definitely still miss sometimes.

How was it working with the other project managers?

I’ve learned a lot from other ModSquad managers, both from my peers and from my supervisors. Specifically, Matt Hostler pretty much taught me everything I needed to get going both in terms of technical knowledge, industry knowledge, and people management. And Rich Weil has definitely been one of my biggest professional mentors overall (but don’t tell him I said that).

After working with some of ModSquad’s big-name clients, what skills did you take away from your time here that you wound up using on later jobs?

Working closely with so many different clients (from some of the biggest names in games to small, agile startup ventures) was definitely one of the highlights of working for ModSquad. It allowed me to gain insights into the inner workings of a much larger number of different developers and publishers than I would have had the chance to do working at any one specific gaming company. The experience of dealing hands-on with a large variety of different approaches to community management and customer service has, I believe, been a unique asset in my professional development and has helped me a lot in advancing my career.

The only downside I can think of in this context is that having to quickly switch between the demands of sometimes very different clients could at times be challenging, when I had to juggle a number of different projects at the same time. But at the end of the day, what I was able to take away from it has been nothing but beneficial. Not least, I’ve also learned that I personally prefer being able to work closely with all stakeholders involved in the making and running of a game—something that can be difficult at very large companies, where different departments are sometimes very far removed from one another (both structurally and even geographically). It’s something I now really enjoy being able to do in my current position at Wooga.

Why do you think the ModSquad strategy is optimal for both Mods and clients?

In this increasingly fast-paced, globalized market, in which things like flexibility and scalability are becoming ever more important, it’s become next to impossible for individual companies to manage their own customer base in all aspects and at all times without help—especially if that customer base stretches across various languages and time zones. With its focus on recruiting and operating remotely, ModSquad is able to effectively bridge this divide for its clients and provide localized, flexible service as needed.

Gina Miller
Director of People Operations

Project Manager of the Quarter: April 2016

Every so often we like to showcase some of the amazing management talent we have here at ModSquad — and today is one of those days! We are so proud to share with you Michael Bradd-Koger, our newest Project Manager of the Quarter. Michael has been with us at ModSquad for about three years now. Jay Biros, one of our talented Account Managers, was a friend from a previous work experience and recommended the job to him. He came in and was a perfect fit for our company.

“It’s been home ever since!”

Michael Bradd-KogerMichael is serious, ambitious, and methodical, but he’s also quite goofy and fun. In his spare time, he wakeboards, snowboards, loves to cook, hike, and head to various sporting events.

Long before his time at ModSquad, Michael was a lifeguard at Walt Disney World in Orlando. It was the job that helped transform the idea of customer service, and how important quality, empathy, and support are to customers and community. After his tenure with Disney, he worked with Jay Biros at a call center where one of his top clients was Barnes and Noble. And while he’s finishing up his degree at University of Central Florida, he works with us on some of our biggest accounts, like Lokai and the Wharton School of Business.

“As a PM, my main goal is to satisfy my client. To me, the best way to do this is to find passion in whatever project I’m currently working on. This involves making it personal and putting myself in my clients’ shoes. I’m constantly asking myself, ‘If I was the client, how would I want this work to be done best?'”

In his leadership role, he finds teamwork to be at the core of success with his teams.

“To me, the most important task I attend to daily is supporting my team and making sure they know I’m there for them. This is especially important since we work remotely; at times, you can feel like you’re alone in the workplace. At the end of the day, the Mods are on the front line. Supporting them and providing them with everything they need to succeed is key.”

Aside from his role as a project manager, he is also one of our top-notch consultants for Zendesk implementations and troubleshooting.

“There’s no better feeling then meeting a client with a need, whether that be building their Zendesk and Help Center or helping them with workflows to better streamline their support. A lot of times they come to us stressed and worried, but they always leave happy and in a better place.”

Michael is one of the best, most involved project managers we have. He is so very appreciated by his teams, his coworkers, and his managers (and beyond). ModSquad is a better place for having him on board — so thank you, Michael!

My client had a bad experience with a CRM provider, but Michael BK was able to correct some omissions and guide their team in a proper set up and integration of their tools.  The client was extremely appreciative and couldn’t sing Michael’s praises high enough!
— Michael Marcantel, Account Manager

Mike is the type of manager that every Mod wants to work for and every client wants on their side. He’s passionate about providing top-notch service, easy to work with, and always looking for ways to improve.
— Jason Ferguson, Director of Client Services

One of Michael’s clients had a customer call in because they hadn’t received a product. Turns out she had ordered a going-away present for her Marine husband who was about to depart for Afghanistan from a look-alike website instead of our client’s. The client wasn’t available to take a call at the moment, so Michael reached into his own pocket and bought the customer a new one from our client’s website and had it overnighted so that it would arrive before he deployed. That’s amazing dedication to our client’s reputation, to our military servicemen, and to providing unexpectedly amazing client service.
— Lucien Parsons, Head of Services

I have had the pleasure of working with Mike before I came to ModSquad at a call center. I knew ModSquad would be a great place for Mike to grow and do great things. Once his projects came to a close there, I had to make sure he came along with me on this wild ride. Mike has become a big part of our helpdesk consulting team. He is also a thoughtful and caring project manager for all of the clients he gets to work with. Mike makes my job easier, and I can’t be more thankful for that!
— Jay Biros, Account Manager

These Are a Few of Our Favorite Memes

Memes… They’re basically what the Internet was invented for, after cat videos and flame wars, of course. We love a good meme as much as anyone, so we figured we’d have some fun and share some of the team’s favorite memes. Passing around fun content to one another is a great way for our remote team to keep in touch with one another in a light-hearded manner. Whether we’re blowing off steam or just solidifying bonds, memes and picture gags like these keep us close. We all speak the universal language of laughter!

Some of these may be familiar to you, while others are more current. Either way, we hope this collection of funny images helps brighten your week.

The top tickets for our customer-support agents are easily password and login issues. So what better place to start?

Carrel

Office Space

Where would we be without our morning coffee? Still in bed, most likely.

Coffee

Two goals

Let us introduce you to the meme team:

Dogs

Sometimes we’ll crush it with our jokes; other times, not so much.

Crush

Double meme

Sometimes we just like to celebrate our individuality. (That’s a nice way of saying “our craziness.”)

See Me

Our stay-at-home Mod parents can relate to this!

Sleep in

Oh, the irony…

Truck

What do you see here?

Lake

And now, a couple of figures who must feel a real pain in the butt.

Bunnies

Car

We just can’t…

Otter slide

Escape

What is Normal

True confession bear

Mallard

And no collection of memes is complete without a tip of the hat to Grumpy Cat and Honey Badger.

grumpycatnope

Honey Badger

Along with Why Cat and Mr. Chow…

WhyCat

MrChow

The Hidden Economic Cost of Outsourcing

Economics gets a bad rap — it’s often referred to as “the dismal science.” But let’s face it; when it comes to critical business decisions, it always comes down to simple economics.

For companies considering how to scale mission-critical business operations, like customer support, the economics often point to outsourcing. Outsourcing support can mean a low financial entry barrier, flexible coverage options, and an opportunity to adopt industry best practices. Combined, these benefits can make the decision seem like the best financial option.

What are less obvious are the hidden costs that are incurred when you hire a traditional outsourcer. Selecting such a vendor can undermine your cost reduction efforts by underserving both you and your customers. So while the choice to engage a service provider is clear, you’ll want to make sure you select the right provider, avoiding the hidden trap doors that some outsourcing providers may spring on you.

Here are some of the questions you’ll want to ask when considering who to turn to when scaling your mission-critical services.

Am I really saving on fixed costs, or is my service provider just spreading that expense across multiple clients?

Many companies perceive an economic benefit to passing operations on to an outsourcer who can spread the cost of infrastructure across many clients. After all, that alleviates the need for in-house infrastructure such as facilities, furniture and fixtures, IT, and telecommunications equipment. Sounds great — on the surface. But most outsourcers are still passing that cost along to their customers! They have large monthly fixed cost to cover, and their bills will reflect that, with their fixed costs becoming your fixed costs for the duration of your contract. You don’t get to depreciate the expense. Look for an outsourcing provider who is committed to sparing you the expense of supporting a dated service model and cost structure.

Does this provider offer the tailored services that I need, or will I have to pay for extemporaneous services that don’t help me, on a schedule that’s not ideal for my company?

Some outsourcing firms — picture the older, more monolithic companies — have a static methodology when it comes to serving clients. They’ll offer set-in-stone services at prices and schedules that have proven to work for them. Great for them, not so great for you. Why pay for services that aren’t tailored to your exact needs?

Can this provider scale up and down at a moment’s notice, to coincide with the ever-shifting needs of my business?

It’s often difficult to match the scale provided by an industry specialist who works with many clients. Traditional outsourcers have the resources on hand to grow with your business, when you need it. But that doesn’t mean that you’re able to scale in a way that is best for you. Traditional outsourcers think scale means expanding your existing processes. But really, scaling is not about “doing more of the same” — rather, you have to look to innovate your existing process to meet new customer demand. Scale means looking at those new customer cases as an indicator of long-term trends and rapidly tailor your existing processes to respond to those trends. The right outsourcer will not only have more and varied resources on hand, but also the business intelligence necessary to regularly re-evaluate your business climate and adjust accordingly.

How can I be sure this provider will be able to react to changing customer needs as my business evolves?

Just as scalability requires flexibility in your support processes, so do changing business conditions. Traditional outsourcers offer you a large technology and resource pool to supposedly react to changing market conditions. But do they make it easier for you to adopt these solutions? Outsourcers traditionally lock clients into standardized processes under long-term contracts that either specifically prevent or charge quite a bit for changes. You need to make sure that you have the flexibility to add or reduce resources, change resources, modify your support processes, and adopt new integrated technologies, without being penalized for wanting to adapt to the needs of your customer base.

Now, we may be biased, but it’s apparent to us that strategic outsourcing makes a lot of sense from an economic perspective — but only if you choose the right type of provider. You can avoid the hidden costs of outsourcing if you:

  • Make sure the outsourcer is not bound by the same overhead that you’re trying to avoid,
  • Can deploy a customized solution that meets your exact needs,
  • Will be able to scale up and down, on demand, as your business changes,
  • Will be comfortable modifying resources and processes over time, with no penalties, and
  • Are not unnecessarily locked into long-term, multiyear contracts.

Partnering with a firm that employs a more modern and flexible economic model provides not only a path to greater savings, but offers the peace of mind to know that these savings will continue to be found as your business continues to evolve and thrive.

There’s nothing dismal about that science — it sounds like a win-win situation to us!

David Wohlwend
Sr. Director of Finance and Accounting

Steve Henry
VP of Interactive Services

A Great Combo: Food Trucks and Digital Media

‘Tis spring, a time when a foodie’s fancy turns to … finding fab food carts on their phone!

ken-kesey-statueThe city of Eugene, Oregon, where I make my home, has been experiencing a massive upsurge in foodie activity in recent years — from new, experimental restaurants to wine-tasting rooms and craft breweries… Not to mention a stronger effort to collaborate and engage the community via digital. This is especially crucial for Eugene’s burgeoning fleet of food carts and trucks, who depend on digital media to let their customers know their latest location. Many of these mobile food businesses make heavy use of Twitter and Facebook, both on their own accounts and in groups like the Eugene Food Carts Facebook group.

Last year saw the launch of the Street Food Eugene app, brainchild of Dave Wagenheim, owner of the Viva! Vegetarian Grill food truck. The app itself is available for both iOS and Android devices, and is simple and no-nonsense — showing a location map, hours, and contact info for each participating food cart or truck. I’ve used it myself innumerable times to check on some of my personal favorites, like Da Nang Vietnamese Eatery and Lani Moku Grill.

danang-sandwichBoth the food truck scene and its digital engagement are perfectly suited to Eugene, with its storied history as a hippie homeland (Ken Kesey hails from here) as well as the presence of the bustling University of Oregon and a fledgling high-tech industry. All of these demographics — hippies and their hipster descendants, hungry Oregon Ducks, and toy-loving techies — adore the informality of food trucks and the fun of hunting them online. So as the winter rains begin to let up and the flowers begin to bloom, let the outdoor feasting begin!

Ellen Brenner
Project Manager

Mod of the Month – March 2016

April is a day away, spring has sprung, and it’s time to announce our newest Mod of the Month. We’re very honored to announce Rabbit K. as the March 2016 inductee to the Mod of the Month Hall of Fame!

904014_4504749212240_1774604099_oAnd it’s quite appropriate too, as April marks Rabbit’s two-year anniversary. She started with us in 2014. She was referred to us by her friend Cindy Peloquin, who happens to be a fellow ModSquad Mod.

Rabbit has been an essential customer service team member for our client MoviePass, and serves those same duties for a newer fashion-focused client. While she’s equally comfortable in all customer- and community-centered disciplines at ModSquad, phone support is where she really shines.

Before coming to us at ModSquad, the majority of Rabbit’s experience was in community outreach and in-person customer support. It was not until she was trained at ModSquad that she found her strength in online and phone-based support (she knocked our socks off with her strength and compassion).

20151127_170334 (1)To put it in Rabbit’s own creative descriptions (emphasis on creative), Rabbit shows wonderfully high levels of sanguineness, tentativity, and teamsmanship. She truly loves life and finds ways to make everything bright and unexpected (in the best sense). Rabbit is a naturalist at heart, with a background education in biology and animal husbandry. Her spare time is spent lovingly tending to her little in-home menagerie.

At ModSquad, she really stresses the importance of communication and camaraderie with her teammates and managers, and thorough communication with clients and customers. To Rabbit, providing clear and concise information to a customer is as necessary as swiftly addressing inquiries and issues.

By effectively communicating on all fronts, we can ensure we’re providing the best experiences for our clients and customers. — Rabbit K.

Rabbit also enjoys helping to build resource documents and finding new ways to streamline processes for the best and most efficient customer experiences — making our involvement in that interaction a highlight, instead of a hassle.

When Rabbit first started at ModSquad, she pulled late-night hours at the office. Her favorite ModSquad memory dates from her first year, when a mild earthquake hit the Sacramento office in the wee hours of the morning. Being a California native, the lightly rolling floor and the swinging lights didn’t phase her too much, but some of her coworkers were not as experienced. Once the fear subsided, she watched as lively phone calls were made to friends and family. Adrenaline really spiced up the collaborative work environment that morning!

Rabbit is adored by many of her coworkers and managers here at ModSquad. Her thoughtfulness, hard work, and dedication to improvement on projects really makes her a prime example of a hardworking and well-respected Mod!

I’ve worked with Rabbit on more than one project, and she always offers phenomenal QA. When I have extra tasks that need to get done, she always steps up and takes them on for me. She has also been really vocal and helpful with new agents to help them whenever they have any questions. Rabbit is also super flexible whenever I need to make adjustments to the schedule to help with coverage. Always pleasant to work with!
— Shawna Neilsen, Project Manager

Rabbit is a happy, quirky little force of nature. Rabbit has got that cool-headed thing down cold and is virtually un-ruffle-able. I’ve heard her handle the most inappropriate comments from a customer on a call and not even skip a beat. She has a wonderful attitude and a strong work ethic. She’s not afraid to ask questions until she has everything right, and once she’s got it down, she dives right into helping out others.
— Crystal Litzau, Project Manager

Rabbit! She is a super Mod! She’s one of the most reliable, dependable, and capable Mods I’ve had on a project.
— Cathy Brown-Mort, Project Manager

I hired Rabbit for my Office project a few years ago and she was always one of the top performers. Her work ensured that we maintained high quality even during chaotic moments on the project.
— Josh Hagood, Project Manager

Rabbit kicked butt back when she was with shared services, and she is still keeping up that work ethic.
— Jay Biros, Account Manager

Rabbit, you’re a force of nature — in name, excellence, and hard work! We’re very honored to have you as a part of the ModSquad team. Thank you!

Izzy Neis
Director of Strategy & Engagement

Jason Ferguson
Director of Client Services

Name Days – Celebrating Around the World

Did you know that there is a whole other type of holiday that is recognized around the world? And did you know that only people with certain names can celebrate them?

ModSquad is a global company. We have Mods around the world who collectively speak up to 50 languages and celebrate a variety of holidays.  One of those holidays, and one I celebrate every year, is my Name Day.

Name Days are special days during which people named after a saint or significant moment in history celebrate. Think of it as a bonus day to celebrate being alive, versus a plain old birthday. My name day is ‘Blagovec’ (blag-oh-ves), which is celebrated on April 7. My family is Macedonian; as such, we have extra days to celebrate, in addition to the Name Days celebrated by many Balkan countries in honor of saints. Like the holiday itself, my name has as its origin blag, which means blessed or sweet. Yes, friends. I’m a sweetie, all right!

When I first learned that other countries celebrated Name Days, I wasn’t too happy. There I was, about six years old, and learned that other people had extra days to throw parties. Of course, I got over it. The closer I looked at how other places celebrate Name Days made me proud to be a member of this special little club. In Macedonia, people are allowed to take off a day of work to celebrate Name Days.

To all of the Mods who live everywhere from Greece to France to Romania, I wish you all a Happy Name Day!

Blagica Bottigliero
VP of Digital Media

Dishonest Digital Engagement and Emails (Not) With @Zenefits’ Parker Conrad

By now we’ve all heard about the problems over at Zenefits.  Reports of a rambunctious culture, office partying, and stairwell sexcapades is especially embarrassing for a company like Zenefits, which operates in the world of employee benefits and human resources. Perhaps more troubling are the allegations it quickly skated its sales reps through state-mandated insurance training courses. While those accusations about Zenefits may have come as a shock to some, it wasn’t a surprise to us after being on the receiving end of some silly and blatantly obvious dishonest digital engagement.

Back in February 2015, I received a solicitation email from Zenefits.  Like all companies, we have potential vendors reach out to us all the time, and we do our own fair share of email marketing outreach.  What was unique about this email, however, was that Parker Conrad, the founder and CEO himself, wanted to personally speak with me.

Parker 1

Wow, the Parker Conrad!  Zenefits is the hottest startup in Silicon Valley, recently valued at over $500 million, and the founder himself is taking time out of his busy day to request a personal call with me or someone at ModSquad.

Not so fast.  Our CEO, Amy Pritchard, had earlier received a very similar email, and we weren’t buying that Parker Conrad had any intention of getting on a sales call.  Nevertheless, we were genuinely interested in the product.  So we played along and replied that sure, we’ll speak with “you.”

Parker 2

At that point, we expected to get an email from a Zenefits sales rep, introducing himself or herself and saying he or she was filling in for a very busy Parker Conrad.  That would have been annoying, but expected.  Instead, we got a reply email from the counterfeit “Parker Conrad” saying, “I was hoping to connect you with one of my advisors — would you be open to that instead?”  We got the double down and bait and switch!

Parker 3

Amy joined in and we continued to have some fun with the proxy Parker Conrad, exchanging no less than four more sets of emails, subtly needling the imposter for pretending to be the boss.  We even sent a copy of the emails to what we hoped was Parker Conrad’s real email address because we couldn’t fathom the CEO would actually condone this dishonesty.

Parker 4

Undeterred, faux Parker claimed every time to be the real deal, toiling away on his keyboard, but that he was just too darn busy for a call or a face-to-face.  Again, could we just speak with a (possibly unlicensed) sales representative???

Parker 5

Eventually the joke got old, we reached a stalemate, and we parted ways.  In the end, the dishonest digital engagement by Zenefits made it impossible for us to outsource an important human resources function to them, and we never did get that demo.  Of course, Zenefits should have known better than to try and pull one over on a digital engagement company like ModSquad.  Our community managers and forum moderators are constantly fighting the good fight to keep our clients’ forums clear of sock puppets, astroturfers, spambots, ban evaders, and other dishonest digital engagers.

Most of our encounters with sock puppets – online fake identities – are when they try to post links to commercial spam like pornography, pirated movies, and live events.  These nefarious clickbait companies have very elaborate scripts, or spambots, that can quickly auto-generate hundreds of threads of spam on unknowing forums.  Things can get out of control on the forum in a flash if moderators aren’t there to put a stop to it.  In addition to spam, sock puppets may try to circumvent a ban or a suspension we imposed for bad behavior, or to advance a political agenda.  All of which can significantly detract from the regular users’ forum experience.

In our fights against this dishonest digital engagement, we often use our partners’ language filters to detect and reject the spam before it’s ever posted.  Or we may require new members to verify their legitimacy with a CAPTCHA or an email confirmation, to serve a probationary period, or be limited in the number of threads they can post to prevent flooding.  When we suspect new accounts may have circumvented the filter, we match up the IP addresses with those on our ban list to weed out the scoundrels.  And of course, we spend a lot of time eyeballing the boards, looking out for any behavior that violates the community’s terms of service.

Rest assured, sock puppets of the world, if and when you try to infiltrate or spam a forum moderated by ModSquad, you will be stopped.  It’s what we do!  As for Zenefits, we are pleased to hear it has made a new commitment to best-in-class corporate governance, compliance, and accountability.  And to Parker Conrad, even though you aren’t with Zenefits anymore, know that Amy still does want to grab that coffee with you.  The real you!

Mike Pinkerton
COO

St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland

We recently presented a look at how St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in the United States. Now we turn our focus to our friends in Ireland to see what they make of the big day. This report comes from Kevin O’Neill and Clair Loughrey at the ModSquad European Operations Centre, located in Derry, Northern Ireland.

St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) is recognized all over the world as a celebration of everything Irish, but of course no more so than here on the Emerald Isle! It is truly a day to be enjoyed, and people in Ireland do so in many ways. There will be parades held across the country, with people gathering in seas of green to get involved in the festivities. Others will choose to spend the day in their local pub, playing and/or listening to traditional Irish music and enjoying a few pints of Guinness whilst watching the yearly GAA Club finals on the TV. We’ll be celebrating in the office as well with our own festivities!

If anyone fancies a quick hop over the pond, Derry will be celebrating with four days of events, kicking off on the 17th and going right through to the 20th. In addition, a few of St. Patrick’s most avid followers may continue to celebrate well into the following week. This year’s theme is The Land of the Little People; highlights include the St. Patrick’s Day Spring Carnival parades, the Ubuntu Festival of World Traditions, the LegenDerry Food Festival, the Little Folk Fest, a Pixies Paradise, and much more to keep everyone entertained during the holiday.

It wasn’t always like this. Until the 1970s, St Patrick’s Day was a minor holiday in Ireland. The feast day would be acknowledged by a celebratory mass, and families would gather together with a meal and family activities. It wasn’t even until 1996 that the first St. Patrick’s Day festival took place in Dublin.

For us, as children, a typical St. Patrick’s Day would have consisted of mass in the morning, with our tinfoil-wrapped shamrocks pinned to our best (and only) green jacket or dress, followed by a gathering in the village to watch our local band parade through. The rest of the day was typically dedicated to visiting relatives, although sometimes we’d go on road trips to view larger parades; it was always a great family day out. It was also the one Lenten day during which that we were allowed to break our promises (cue stuffing your face with any sugar-coated or chocolaty treat you could get your hands on until completely stuffed).

Things changes as we got older; we’d share stories about how we celebrated the day as young adults… if only we could remember some of it!

Whatever you have planned for St. Patrick’s Day, we hope you have a great time. From everyone here in the Derry office, Sláinte! Here are some Irish phrases to help you navigate the St. Paddy’s waters.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! (singular)
Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!

La ale-lah pwad-rig son-ah ditch

Shamrock
Seamróg
Sham-rogue

A pint of Guinness, please.
Pionta Guinness, le do thoil.

Pine-tah Guinness, le doh hull

Give me the same as the man on the floor!
Tabhair dom an rud céanna mar atá ag an fhear ar an t-úrlar!
Toe-er do un rudd kear-nah marr ah-ta ig un arr air un urr-lar

St. Patrick’s Day in America

Last year, I transferred over to Derry, Northern Ireland, to head up ModSquad’s new European Operations Centre. Being here helps me work more closely with many of our European clients, as I collaborate with them on strategic planning. I volunteered to transfer to Northern Ireland for the chance to work in a new environment and a wonderful opportunity to visit Europe, to which I had never travelled.

Growing up in the South, there wasn’t a big Irish-American community, certainly nothing like what big cities in the Northeast have. Our Irish heritage teachings were minimal at best. So when it came to St. Patrick’s Day, the most our teachers passed along was that the holiday was about leprechauns, pots of gold, and shamrocks. That’s what all the decorations were about, in any case. The children took it as a day to legally pinch anyone not wearing green.

St. Patrick's Day ParadeSo while it is possible that children in such cities as New York, Chicago, and Boston actually learned something about Ireland and perhaps even St. Patrick, the rest of the nation focuses on the parades (where apparently everyone is Irish for a day) and the drinking.

Having done a little research for this article, I see that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the holy trinity to the pagans in Ireland when he was attempting to convert them to Christianity. So we carry on that tradition by either wearing shamrocks or dressing in green, although I’m sure most people have no idea why.

I also recall the story of St. Patrick driving out the snakes from Ireland, but as many people like to point out, Ireland never had snakes. So at some point in history, the pagans of Ireland become associated with snakes. Again, this is not anything that people feel compelled to educate American children about, at least outside of private schools.

As I got older, everything I saw about St. Patrick’s Day was based around parades and drinking. The stereotypes ran amok and were prodded along by news stories and TV shows that mostly showed the Irish in a very narrow focus, usually nothing positive and certainly not with any historical depth. St. Patrick’s Day in America is pretty much an excuse to get hammered. Pretending you are Irish allows you some farcical reason to drink, drink a bit more, and, when you’re done with that, drink even more. This seems to be the case for most of America outside a few big cities with large Irish populations. There, they celebrate the good works the Irish have done, and continue to do, in America. For years the police and firefighters, traditional bulwarks for those of Irish ancestry, proudly led the parades, letting the citizens know who their public servants in underpaid and dangerous jobs were.

Now that I’ve settled in here in Ireland, I look forward to learning more about St. Patrick and other touchstones of Irish history, and to see how this celebration of Irish culture should be properly done.

Michael Marcantel
Account Manager

MODSQUAD AND GDC INVADE SAN FRANCISCO

It’s that time of year again, when the top dogs and cool cats of the game industry descend upon the city by the bay. This year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) runs from March 14 through 18 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, and ModSquad will be in the house! We spoke with SVP of Global Operations Rich Weil about the annual summit for everyone who’s anyone in the game biz.

“GDC is a fantastic show in a great city,” enthuses Rich. “It provides a unique opportunity to see the top pros in the business and hear what these veterans have to say. It’s consistently the show for networking and catching up and learning new things about the industry.”

In addition to participating in the “Reddit vs. Forums” panel on the community management track, Rich is looking forward to bringing a few colleagues to the madness that is GDC. “We’re very happy this year to have a record number of ModSquad folks attending the show, including some long-time game industry veterans like Lucien Parsons. It’s awesome that our presence at GDC and similar industry shows continues to increase. We’re growing along with the game industry!”

Former ModSquadder Guido Schenkel (now Head of Player Experience at Wooga) will also be on hand at GDC, and will be joining Rich in a panel discussion at a related conference. “GDC gets more diverse all the time, branching out into ever more areas of the gaming industry with a multitude of VR events and an entire summit dedicated to Free-2-Play, which is of special interest to me,“ says Guido. “This year, my personal highlight will be representing Wooga on a panel at the 2016 MORE Summit, where I will discuss the ins and outs of outsourcing with Rich Weil and colleagues from Zynga and Crowdstar.”

While Rich notes that GDC “gets bigger and better every year,” there’s one old standby that he’s particularly looking forward to. Is it the free swag? The food and drinks? Nope! “They set up an arcade of classic old video game,” reveals Rich. “It’s always my fave!” You go blast those asteroids, Rich. We won’t tell a soul.

If you’re milling around Moscone next week, keep an eye out for our crew. You might just see Rich, Lucien Parsons, Izzy Neis, and Matt Hostler. Make sure to say hi!

When a Company Decision Goes South in Social Media

Do these sound familiar to you?

“Let’s just put this ad in this magazine publication. It will get great reach.”

“This tagline is hilarious. Let’s tweet it! Hurry, get it out before the end of the day!’ 

“Who is this journalist to write this disparaging comment about my company? I am going to school them on Twitter.”

While all of the examples mentioned above start in different places (conference rooms, advertising meetings, hallways), they each have something in common – social media fallouts. We are firm believers that social media activity is lead by being a digital detective. It’s imperative to understand a client’s consumer base while extrapolating scenarios after a message is put into the world.

Let’s review the “oopses” that resulted from each of the examples I cited above.

1.     Bloomingdale’s

Social Media DecisionFor their holiday 2015 campaign, Bloomie’s ran an ad with this copy: “Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking.”

The Internet erupted when sight of this ad hit the Facebook and Twitter feeds of the masses. Did Bloomingdale’s executives who approved this not see the negative repercussions of such a statement? The PR and digital communications that ensued after this ad ran dominated social conversation for weeks – and not the kind of conversation Bloomindale’s wanted.

The takeaway: If you work on the creative end of a brand, think about every angle in which the public would take your copy and images. It’s understanding that you may be working in a brand silo, with the blinders on surrounding brand tone, feel and image. At the same time, how is this type of image and tone you’d like potential customers to match.

2.     IHOP

IHOP is known to have a tongue in cheek personality, but they may not have understood what a descriptor such as ‘flat’ would really mean. Their tweet — “Flat but has a GREAT personality” — pushed people over the Twitter edge. Did IHOP intend for this message to mean a woman’s body? Was this message meant to have two meanings?

The takeaway: Getting approval for a brand tone to be quirky or “out there” is a tremendous social media achievement. In many organizations, getting the color schema of a Facebook cover photo takes long enough. This is where I throw in a big however. The giggle or snicker you may get for thinking of some copy that you know could push buttons and offend your consumers isn’t the best route to take. Oh sure, any PR is good PR, right? Wrong. Not when it comes to building the trust of your consumers. Once you lose that, it takes more time and money to get it back.

3.     HP and the Financial Times 

What happens when an executive at a global company doesn’t like something that a reporter wrote about the company CEO? Let’s find out.

Recently, a Financial Times reporter wrote her opinion on some news that HP CEO Meg Whitman shared. The head of marketing and PR for HP then went on to write a letter back to the reporter and appeared to threaten the pulling of advertising dollars because of the reporting outcome. True, this entire exchange did not happen over social media, but what the reporter did next would spill into public purview.

First, the reporter used her column to respond to each point made by the HP executive. After the article was written, the reporter then used Twitter to express what she had done, while calling out the HP executive. The entire world was now exposed to not only the initial communication between the executive and the reporter, but HP had to deal with bad press and come up with an explanation for the words of their executive.

The takeaway: It’s so easy to copy, paste, and submit anything and everything. Every major corporation should conduct a bit of training with their teams to remind them as to how quickly anything they say in a digital fashion can be redistributed.

At the end of the day, strategies for your consumers may start and end in the analog world. Somehow, good and bad, social media usually takes hold of those strategies and leaves it to the public to decide whether it was a good strategy in the first place. I encourage you to work with as many members of your teams and build scenarios around how your marketing campaigns translate online.

Blagica Bottigliero
VP of Digital Media

Mod of the Month – February 2016

Happy first day of March!  And while February seemed to fly by, we’re so happy to introduce the most recent addition to our celebrated Mods of the Month team… the wonderful Talia G!

angieandIsouthernshowTalia started with ModSquad in October 2012, and is proud to have surpassed her third year with the team.

ModSquad came to Talia’s attention in a rather interesting way. She had moved to North Carolina with a job transfer for her husband, and within six months the company eliminated his position. To make matters worse, her son was having difficulty at school with bullying.

At the time, Talia was a member of the Charlotte Mommies online community. After sharing her predicament with the group another mother introduced her to ModSquad, and subsequently recommended her to our teams. After a few important conversations with key members of our team, Talia was deemed a perfect fit.

The kindness of someone I had never met in real life shows there are still good kind hearted people out there. ModSquad still remains a blessing to our family.

Talia is trustworthy, compassionate, and eager. She has become an important member of many teams and projects. Aside from her presence on our celebrated scan team, Talia has worked with PBS, Harper Collins, Linden Lab, and many others. And while she loves providing great customer service (“Customer support is the the number one priority. I used to tell my staff a happy customer is a return customer and that is what we want!”), she flourishes in community management and moderation.

As for her personal time, Talia enjoys the challenge and gamification of couponing.

I am that person with the coupon binder. My favorite buy with coupons happened the day my daughter and I found a very expensive brand-name comforter. With a combination of coupons, store credits, and clearance options that $120.00 comforter came home with us for a grand total of $12.93. I had one happy daughter who posted that all over social media! 🙂

disneyepcotfamilyShe’s also a big Disney buff, and is excited about vacations to the good ole “happiest place on earth” Disney World. But even with Disney and couponing adventures, she (above and beyond) adores being with her family – the time she spends with them is beyond priceless as her husband has a rare terminal cancer called Myelofibrosis.

Talia is selfless, hardworking, and a great representation of our company’s heart. 

Talia does something magical everyday. She is one of the most dependable mods I have ever worked with. What I really appreciate about her, is when she is unsure about anything, she asks rather than make even a small error. Talia is always willing to help out another mod with questions they may have, and is proactive with new mods, often letting them know that she is available should they have questions about any project.
– Theresa Moore, Project Manager

I absolutely love Talia!!  Dependable, hard working, dedicated. The best of the best. She is everything and more!
– Nicole Mohr, Project Manager

Talia keeps providing top quality work, even though she’s been going through terrible things in her personal life. She’s always worried when she needs to take time off to go to the hospital no matter how many times I tell her that her family is more important!
– Josh Hagood, Project Manager

Talia has worked on a few projects of mine in the past and was always a stellar mod in every way. She is a mod that I would like to clone.
– Cathy Brown-Mort, Project Manager

Talia reliable, savvy, does the work the way we ask for it to be done. Talia rocks!
– 
Susie South, Chief Moderator

Talia, you are a champ! Thank you for all that you do. We’re so glad to have you on the team.

Izzy Neis
Director of Engagement & Strategy

Jason Ferguson
Director of Client Services

The Modern Parent

From the Facebook view of things, parenting seems to be a conglomerate of fun kiddy shenanigans — cute posts of adorably incorrect choices made by a cherub-faced child with scissors and newly cut (yet jagged) bangs; funny conversations had with a tween, and 2 a.m. “look how precious he/she is after he/she finally fell asleep” snapshots. Parenting may look like a breeze in social media, but they often omit the real moments of horror (“What did you do to my walls?!”), confusion (“How did you get your finger stuck in your overalls strap?”), and frustration (“If this grocery store tantrum goes on any further, I’m going to pull my hair out.”).

AVOiD THE HUNGER GAMES: PLAN DINNER IN ADVANCE

While social media posts are great for finding the humor in the situation, you still have to deal with the aftermath of the moment. Take, for example, how you still have to make a wholesome family meal after you’ve spent the day at the auto dealership because this tiny person snuck scissors into the car and shredded the seat belts.

Here are some of my favorite go-to sites for cheating time and diving into advanced dinner planning:

  1. Yummly:  Along with a recipe box, Yummly also categorizes your shopping list to get you through the grocery store even quicker. Great addition: All diet restrictions are considered.
  2. eMeals: Along with an organized grocery list, you’ll easily plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For those on a budget, you can see what items are on sale that week. (There are also options for paleo and vegetarian meals).
  3. Cozi: The app allows you to store recipes and apply the meal planning to the family calendar. Bonus: the shopping lists and a to-do lists can be shared with others.
  4. Menu Planner by Drew Mobility: Looking for a simpler solution? This app allows for daily and weekly meal planning options. You also have the ability to link with a particular chef for more meal ideas.

CHILLAX WITH THESE MEDITATION APPS

Okay, so it’s now the end of the day, the meals have been prepared and cooked, and the minors of the household are now in bed. Time for some quiet “me” time, am I right? There is an app for that. Grab your headphones, put your child’s monitor on video, and embark on some calming moments of peace and tranquility:

  1. Insight Timer: For both beginner and experienced meditators, enjoy the app’s guided meditation or adjust your Tibetan bell preferences and zone out to eight different styles of tones.
  2. Calm: The name says it all! There are 7-day, 10-day, and 21-day programs to help you gain calm in your life.
  3. Headspace: Take ten minutes out of your day to train and learn the foundation of meditation. Track your progress and learn of different ways to destress.

You are the modern parent hero! While social media posts help show the fun, adventurous sides of parenting, it’s your coordination of the many large and small details of every day that are truly noteworthy.

Have any tips, sites, or apps you wish to share? Please don’t hesitate to leave suggestions in the comments below! Share the wealth of knowledge.

Kaci Jones
Mod & Busy Parent

Client Spotlight: messageLOUD

It’s a wired world in which we live. With each passing year, we rely more and more upon our ability to be plugged in, wherever we are, 24/7. The digital world doesn’t come to a halt when you need to drive somewhere, but trying to stay connected while on the road can be illegal… or deadly. Now, a new app offers a way to keep you plugged in while remaining safe and sound.

feature_graphicThis month, we’re shining our Client Spotlight on our energetic friends at messageLOUD, a relatively new company that offers the only app in any OS that reads both texts and e-mails out loud. We sat down with Garin Toren, founder of messageLOUD, to learn a little more about how this ingenious creation will make busy commuters’ lives easier and safer.

Tell us a bit about messageLOUD’s mission.
teen-driver-300x200Distracted driving is the leading cause of teenage deaths in the United States, with 10 teenage deaths per day. That’s 3,600 deaths annually in the U.S. alone. This problem is so big, but it doesn’t get the attention that other issues get. It’s hard to know why.

The goal with messageLOUD is to use technology to solve a real-world problem. We may not be able to fully solve problems like drinking and driving with technology, but we can use technology to fix distracted driving.

How so?
home_screen_small_revThe act of trying to multitask while driving stems from people’s fear of missing out. People pick up their phones to check e-mail, texts, and messages because they want to know what’s going on. It’s easy to get into that cycle of picking up your phone and reading it in the car. That’s why 26% of all car accidents are a result of distracted driving.

So we thought, why not create a solution that falls within the accepted safety standards in a vehicle? The problem with many tech companies is that they’re too far on the wrong side of the leading edge—customers don’t adopt their tech because it’s too advanced, or it may be so advanced that their solutions contribute to the problem they’re trying to solve. I could name one such product in this space that’s so complicated to use that it’s even more distracting than directly checking your messages yourself.

For our solution, we knew that listening to things in the car is safe, as is touching things like the radio, indicator buttons, or gear lever. Cars work on touch. After all these years, there’s never been a piece of legislation calling to put an end to people listening to things like radio or podcasts in their car.

So we put those two factors together—using safe actions like touching and listening to tackle the problem caused by real-time messaging.

How does it work?
messageLOUD-screen3 CopyVery simply, turn on messageLOUD, put it in Drive mode, and incoming messages will be read to you automatically. Most users, once they’ve read the message, do nothing. We do offer control with full-screen gestures (delete, call back, and dismiss), or you can set up an auto-responder for texts that lets the sender know that you’ll get back to them when you’re finished driving.

messageLOUD pulls in text and instant messages and supports 99% of all emails. We’re about to add WhatsApp functionality, Facebook Messages is coming in a couple of months, then Skype a few months after that. And if it’s warranted, we’ll look at the Telegram Messenger app later this year.

How did you start working with ModSquad?
For us, working with ModSquad was a really important decision. First of all, we conducted extensive product testing, three months of global testing. Many apps are done on the cheap, and they’re buggy. We’ve been incredibly stable since launch.

The same thinking went into the support side. Most apps offer poor customer support, if you manage to get a reply at all! Our goal was to have e-mail responses to customers in less than one hour. Working with the Mods is allowing us to reach that goal. And the feedback from the customer base has been fantastic.

Sounds like you have a hit on your hands.
messageLOUD-screen1We set lofty goals and our first few months have blown past those targets. We’re expecting even more pickup in the business market, from the road warriors who are driving to business meetings or sales calls. The average American drives 102 minutes a day, which is just dead time. With messageLOUD, you arrive at your destination with a clean inbox. All for less than a cup of coffee per month per user. We’re super-thrilled to have found a technical solution to this real-world problem, at a price point that’s palatable to the consumer.

Alumni Spotlight: Char Ferrara

In this Alumni Spotlight, we catch up with Char Ferrara, a former customer service lead who started with the company in 2011 and rose to the position of ModSquad Account Manager for many of our clients. We asked Char to share her recollections of joining ModSquad and working with various teams in a dizzying array of industries, and her key takeaways from her time with us. She has many fond memories of her ModSquad associates, and we can certainly say that the feeling is mutual.

What was your background prior to ModSquad?

1

I worked in customer support and technical support for close to ten years before I joined ModSquad. Initially, I did customer support for an anti-virus software company, then moved on to tech support for a kids’ online game. That’s where I met one of the vice presidents at ModSquad. Right before joining ModSquad, I worked in banking for seven years, doing both customer and technical support.

What brought you to ModSquad?

At the time, the company was looking for a project manager to come in for a new client. I’m very honored that they thought of me for this position and invited me to apply. I knew this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I just could not pass up. Yes, I loved the idea of being able to work from home, but I also saw ModSquad as an opportunity to grow in my career in terms of experience, management, and leadership.

As you reflect back on your time spent at ModSquad, what are your thoughts?

There was never a dull moment and no two days were exactly the same. There was always something happening and I loved the challenge.

What did you learn from ModSquad?

It was very interesting working with so many clients in so many different industries — from robotics to gaming to e-commerce, sports, photography, music… the list goes on. I learned a great deal about how different businesses worked, what tools they used, and so forth.

Did the flexible scheduling help you out?

2As a mother of two young boys, a flexible schedule is extremely important to me. After my first son was born, I dropped my hours from full time to part time at the bank where I worked so that I could spend more time with my son. I was hesitant to go back to working full time after I joined ModSquad, but the flexible schedule made it so much easier for me to balance my time between work and my home life.

How was it working with the other project managers?

Everybody at ModSquad is awesome. I truly miss working with everyone, from account managers to project managers, the management team, and the Mods. A lot of great people. A lot of great talent.

Why do you think the ModSquad strategy is optimal for both Mods and clients?

ModSquad is a great choice for someone who’s looking to supplement their income by working a handful of hours per week, or for someone who would like an opportunity to advance in their career. There are so many opportunities within ModSquad for those who want it and are willing to put in the work. For clients, ModSquad is extremely flexible and can work with just about any situation given to them. They really can do anything, and they will do it well.

Gina Miller
Director of People Operations

Best Sites and Apps for Learning Languages

Whether you’re trying to read that traditional Italian recipe, or because you desperately want to sing along with that Finnish metal band you like so well, there many reasons to explore a foreign language. As one of the many proud multi-lingual mods at ModSquad (I have three languages under my belt), I am fascinated by tools that help people expand their range.

The following is a list of my personal favorite websites and apps for learning another language:

Lang-8
This program isn’t nearly as famous as it should be. Lang-8 is a blog-like platform where you are free to write entries on whatever kind of topic you like. Natives speakers will then be able to correct your post and add notes on grammar, tone, and other colloquial improvements. Additionally, you’re more than welcome to return the favor by checking out posts in your native language!

Memrise
In Memrise, you can find the most diverse resources for language learning. Choose from a wide variety of courses uploaded by users, or you can create and upload your own. Courses are usually a balanced mix of grammar, speaking exercises (with voice recognition), and other interesting features.

Livemocha 
If you’re looking for a more comprehensive experience in language learning, then Livemocha is the place to go. The website not only gathers language courses and exercises, but also gives you the opportunity to join a very active community, where you can chat in real time with people from all over the world!

DuoLingo
DuoLingo is probably the best choice for a busy person who can only spare a few minutes a day to their language-learning project. It is available in both website and app form. You choose your own language, choose the language you wish to learn, and then get started. The program provides comparisons of both languages, starting from very simple and useful sentences, gradually adding bits of grammar and more complex topics.

So, if you’ve always wanted to learn something new, but couldn’t stomach the idea of big, dusty books – these websites are a good place to start! Which language will you learn next?

Lara Greco
Project Manager