Category Archives: Social networking

Help in the Garden through Apps! The Down and Dirty!

iPad mini

iPad mini (Photo credit: patrick-allen)

This was written by Jane Milliman and I felt it was worth sharing! By all means if you find an app that you have found to be helpful, I’d be glad to hear about it!  We’re always looking for ways to make our customer’s gardening experience a positive one!

Fortunately, a few apps for both Android and Apple users have generated positive reviews and the even better news is that two of the better ones are free.

The Gardening Guide from Mother Earth News (free onApple and on Android, as Garden Guide), Gardening How-To (free on iPad and Android) and Landscaper’s Companion — Gardening Reference Guide ($6 on iPad andiPhone, $5 on Android) are all worth downloading.

The Landscaper’s Companion wasn’t created by a gardener, but the app’s developer, Dave Stevenson, and his researchers have landscaping and gardening experience with botanical gardens and the United States Department of Agriculture, among others.

The companion is an encyclopedia of sorts, with more than 20,000 plants and vegetables listed. You can browse an alphabetized index that is separated into 16 categories, including houseplants and vegetables, for instance, or you can search by name.

The search feature is nicely designed. You can enter “cucurbita pepo” or “zucchini” or “summer squash” and the software will find the same vegetable.

Each plant page includes a profile with the plant’s zone, growth rate, water and sun requirements, color and typical height and width. The descriptions are basic but include important elements — like whether the plant has thorns, for instance — that would help a gardener prepare for a planting.

You can also narrow the search criteria if you specify the zone, height or color of a plant, among other features. If you live in an area with deer, you can also filter results to show only plants that are deer-resistant.

On each plant page you can leave notes for yourself, e-mail the description or add photos of your own. In another section of the app, you can review only those plants that you marked as favorites, or review every note you have recorded.

Not every feature of the app is built with this same attention to detail.

You could spend hours perusing the 14,000 photos in the “Plant Images” section, for instance. Unfortunately, some of that time would be wasted, since you can sort the images to include only plants in your particular zone, but you can’t sort in other meaningful ways.

If you could filter out all but the plants that needed full sun, for instance, or those with red flowers, the images would be more useful.

While the Landscaper’s Companion is encyclopedic, it’s not highly useful as a how-to guide. On that front, the Mother Earth News Gardening Guide is considerably more helpful, at least for vegetable gardeners.

The app makes good use of archival materials from Mother Earth News, an environmental conservation magazine that publishes organic gardening tips, among other pieces.

The guide includes tutorials on growing about 20 different types of crops, like carrots and tomatoes, and the advice is excellent.

The carrot tutorial, for instance, offers overviews on the different varieties, how to plant them, when to harvest and how to generate and collect seeds. The “Growing Tips” section includes a range of information that will appeal to serious and more casual vegetable gardeners alike. (Carrots grow best in soil with a pH balance of 5.8 to 7.0, it says, then adds: “Before pulling carrots, use a digging fork to loosen the soil just outside the row.”)

The techniques section is equally helpful, with 23 in-depth tips on disease prevention and planting self-seeding crops, among others.

The app is free, which is great, but it wastes valuable space with advertisements for Mother Earth News. No ad-free option exists for current subscribers or those who would rather pay for the app.

Flower gardeners who own iPads have a solid option with Gardening How-To, which is built on content from the magazine of the same name, published by the National Home Gardening Club.

Users receive four free issues of the magazine in iPad format, which yields dozens of features and smaller stories on flower gardening and information for vegetable and fruit growers.

Unlike many other apps, Gardening How-To isn’t strictly confined to biology or design. Articles on new plant varieties and building flower beds sit alongside more conventional growing tips.

You can take the iPad into the yard for guidance, as long as the device is in a zippered plastic food storage bag. That way the screen is protected yet still reacts to your touch.

Graphically, Gardening How-To is far more polished than Mother Earth, with beautiful photography and interactive elements like animated graphics, audio and video. (All those interactive elements and glossy photos add up to a slow download, so start the download at bedtime.)

Unfortunately, I found nothing as good as this for iPhone or Android users, who must pick through a thicket of poorly rated choices — often for $1 or $2 — to get what they need.

Given that we are still in the early days of apps, this looks like a case of the software engineers grabbing some quick bucks before being crowded out by more established gardening publishers.

So until those publishers get serious about mobile technology, gardeners will have to pull lots of weeds to find something good.

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I received this from a friend that read it online at opennhort.com.  It’s fantastic and should make all independent garden centers think about their customers. Also…to those that shop at the big box stores…remember the lil’ guys out there where you will receive the personal assistance and someone WILL remember your name when you walk in but may not have that big parking lot!

 

You know Her: she’s a great customer. She ADORES plants, devours every issue of Better Homes & Gardens, and spends Her winters pining away for the first signs of spring thaw so she can eagerly attack Her garden plans. She drives the nice-but-not-too-nice car, knows your staff by name, and wouldn’t dream of shopping for Her garden anywhere else.

Um, yeah. There aren’t 10% of Her out there anymore.

NewsFlash: She’s already cheating on you. And if she isn’t, she will.

Honestly? She likes you well enough, but she’s gotten bored with you, the spark just isn’t there anymore. She used to be surprised by something new each time she came in, she was inspired by your lush and lavish displays.

The recession-era you: with paint from two seasons ago, staff reductions, and merchandise constriction, well, you’re a little less alluring.

You’ve become predictable, and not in a good way.

She’s already shopping at Nordstrom for Her shoes but Costco for Her paper towels. She’s smart enough to see the grower’s truck when it stops at the Big Box store on Tuesdays with fresh product, which, golly – looks fairly much the same to Her eye.

She’s using more coupons these days, because austerity is ‘in.’ She’s savvy enough to price shop the essentials online. And even if you’re closer… well, your staff are more harried and distracted than ever, your parking lot is tight, she can’t get to your store after work…

Can you make Her feel special again? Can you give Her the thing she values most – Her TIME – back? Can you delight Her? Make Her life easier? If not, then you’re just 5% better than the other guys – and they’re 20% cheaper.

And she’s smart enough to do the math.

Just admit you’re wrong…it happens

 

This was sent to me by Spring Meadow Nursery and it was so on target…I had to share it! Enjoy!

Being Wrong
No one likes to be wrong.  But if you’re putting anything out into the wider world, not only will you be wrong at some point, but someone will point it out to you.  If, for instance, you write a newsletter or produce a catalog, every bad link and typo (and actual errors) will be noticed and reported back to you. 
And that’s OK.
If you aren’t making mistakes, you’re not trying to move ahead.  And if you’re not trying to move ahead, you’re falling behind.  It’s like introducing new plants; some are good, some are not-so-good.  A great plant might be wrong for your climate, production system or customer base.  But a nursery that doesn’t make an investment in new plants will eventually be holding a nursery stock auction.  Don’t let fear of failure keep you from growing new crops, or you will be behind your competition and stuck with an inventory of plants that no one wants to buy.
Umair Haque takes an even bolder tack in his ‘Fail Bigger Cheaper’ blog post.  He might be a little extreme in some of his statements, but the central premise of budgeting some failure into projects is a good one.  If you absolutely, positively can’t fail, you can’t try anything new.
Now, telling someone they are wrong or that they have failed is another subject.  While accepting correction gracefully is important, giving it graciously is just as essential.  

Right or wrong, be kind to one another.

I’m Sorry, Did you say Something?

I attended a presentation last night that a gentleman named Marvin Montgomery gave to our local association. It really made me think about the way I react to people sometimes.

Now my job is to sell, that’s what I do. I sell plants. I am the sales manager. BUT after listening to Marvin….my thinking has been altered a bit. (or a lot!) He says people don’t like to call themselves “salesmen” and I agree. (actually I never had thought about it like that before)  We all know how we cringe inside when we pick up the phone and it’s someone somewhere trying to sell us something and most of us hate it!

“People buy from people they like and trust.” Boy is that ever true! Building relationships….how many times have we heard that when we’re dealing with social media…after all…that’s what we’re all doing out here…we’re building relationships!

LISTEN….one of his biggest suggestions to us was to listen to our customers, listen to our family, listen to our friends…..SHUT UP AND LISTEN!  Think about how many times people are talking to us and we don’t really hear what they say.  You are nodding and portraying all the body language that you’re engaged but are you?  I know I could do a much better job at this!  He said that most of us are just waiting for our turn to talk when were in a conversation with someone instead of really hearing what is being said to us. We’re busy getting ready for “our turn”…very good point! Personally this will be something I really try to improve on, especially with my family and my friends! I think it’s going to take a lot of practice!

Anyways…I just wanted to share what I learned last night and if you ever get a chance to listen to Marvin Montgomery I think you’ll be impressed!  He was just written up in the Cleveland Smart Business magazine (February 2011) and has spoken for the Ohio Landscape Association, Nursery Growers of Lake County Ohio assoc. and many many others!

     Overall, I guess Marvin’s advice is something we’ve heard before but did we really listen and do something about it?  It never hurts to hear how to be a better person, salesmen, friend, spouse, etc. again!

Oh to Twitter or not to Twitter, what is a girl to do?

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 So here I am, day two into our industry’s biggest trade show and I sit here at the end of the day, with the State of the Union going on the TV and finding myself perplexed again. Here is my dilemma….

I have attended three classes and seminars on the social medias out there. After the first two, I was happy to jump into Facebook and try my hand at blogging. (although there never seems to be enough time!) and was glad to know that Twittering isn’t something necessary for someone in wholesale…..well…then I attend a class yesterday and guess what???  NOT!

I was informed, that absolutely, I should be twittering or tweeting or whatever! I really asked the moderator if she was sure! I told her that I didn’t feel that there was anyone out there that could possibly be interested in whatever I had to tweet and what exactly was I supposed to tweet about?

The moderator was very patient with me and said that if I shared, people would follow and that people following would eventually lead to new relationships being built and that from these new relationships, would come new leads and sales some day.

 So…what did I do? I came back to the hotel room and set up a twitter account! Now…my issue, is what to twitter about! I would definately say, that more seminars will be in my future and I ask for your help!

As a sales manager of a wholesale nursery in Perry, Ohio, what do you want to hear from me?  What’s new? What trends are out there? How do I plant a rain garden? Can you picture me scratching my head cause that’s what I’m doing! I so want to be the “someone” you turn to for information that you’re interested in and yes, I want to build relationships with anyone interested in gardening, birds, landscaping, perennials….but I don’t want to be that person that just rambles to ramble so give me your ideas! Bring em on!

   I love plants, I love people and the people that love me….they say I know my stuff and that I really love to share ideas so please…join me!

Don’t just make it “Another Year”

For those of you that are following my blog….you will kind of find this one out in left field but New Years is fast approaching and I see so many emails and comments on my LinkedIn that talk about the future year ahead and I couldn’t help but add my thoughts!

  Make 2011 a year to remember!  So many people spend lots of time coming up with “to do” lists for the coming year or “goals” or that awful word “resolutions” but come a few days later…..back to the grind!

STOP! Think about what really makes you happy. Is it your home, your car, your family, your work, your hobby….what is it that makes you tick? Everyone down deep wants to be a better person but in order to be a better person to others, you must be happy inside.  Share your best attributes about yourself with others, really get to know someone new, do for others (and I don’t mean writing a check!), make a friend, start a new project….again…things that are going to make YOU happy inside.

I know some of you are out there going BLAH BLAH BLAH….another cheerleader out there in the webworld but just think about it. Everyone is so rushed all the time, running from here to there, but when it comes down to it….life is about living and being a good person and enjoying it all at the same time.

Take the time so smell the roses, step back and focus on the beauty around you every day, stop complaining (no one wants to hear it anyways!), SMILE, share, and LISTEN to the people you love or even those you don’t! Stargaze, watch the water on a lake, birdwatch, take a look at the sky, check out a tree you drive by everyday, people watch! Seriously, GOD put it all there….take  a look, a real close look and I think you’ll be amazed to all that we take for granted and don’t appreciate enough!  We’re all guilty!

If we all take 5 minutes everyday to just sit back and LOOK and get tuned in…imagine the possibilities! I wish you all the best this coming year!  Thanks for taking the time to read my post (if you’re still with me here at this point!:) and have a great day! Be safe and well.

Annette

Can we talk? Social media for me?

After attending yet another class on the importance of social media in today’s business….this was sent to me and I wanted to share it!

Social Nation Building Done Right: How Companies Can Successfully Harness the Power of Social Media Based on years of experience, Barry Libert writes a book to discuss not only the importance of building a social nation, but also how to get it right.
Waltham, MA (November 2010)—When social media first came on the scene, companies couldn’t wait to get on board with the new trend, because they saw it as a way to expand their brands and grow their businesses—and, of course, they had high hopes for return on investment. Now, fast-forward several years. Today, many of these same companies have hired employees devoted to using social technologies but are now faced with answering the all-important question, Now what?
            “There’s no denying that social networking has worked for some companies and been a flat-out flop for others,” asserts Barry Libert, author of the new book Social Nation: How to Harness the Power of Social Media to Attract Customers, Motivate Employees, and Grow Your Business (Wiley, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-470-59926-6, $24.95, www.socialnationbook.com). “Most companies are confused about what social networking really is and about how to successfully leverage it.
            “The good news,” he continues, “is that these companies don’t have to give up their goal of building a successful ‘Social Nation,’ as I call it. They simply have to change the way they think about it and develop effective strategies. Primarily, they have to learn it’s not about technology, as is commonly assumed…it’s about community.”
Libert knows what he’s talking about. After all, he’s the chairman and CEO of Mzinga, a company that provides social software to businesses. Quite literally, it’s his job to be social media savvy. And he’s adamant that before you start building your own Social Nation, you need to have a well-researched game plan. In fact, it’s that knowledge, gathered through years of Mzinga’s real-world experience, that prompted him to write Social Nation, a sort of social networking best practices manual.
            “There’s no denying that people know how to use tools like Facebook and Twitter—they just do it to no avail,” Libert explains. “What they should be doing is focusing their attention on their customers, partners, and employees. Listening, acknowledging, connecting, and rewarding these people—and implementing what they have to say. I can’t stress enough that social networking isn’t about accumulating followers for the sake of having them—it’s about building a community that brings real value and true ROI to your company.”
            It almost sounds too simple—but when faced with skepticism, Libert points out that a focus on building community spelled success for his company’s clients long before the advent of Facebook. To date, Mzinga has worked with hundreds of companies to manage a total of 2.5 billion interactions a month through online communities.
            Ready to rethink your own company’s social networking strategy and start seeing some real value? Then throw out what you thought you knew about social media and read on to learn what really works in the land of social networking, as explained in Social Nation:Build your own community. “Social Nation” is a catchy phrase, sure—but what does it really mean? Well, social is the construct of wanting to belong with another, and nation is being part of something that has purpose. Taking that into account, then, your company’s social networking goal should be to bring like-minded people together in order to achieve a common purpose. “It’s all about connecting people who need to be connected, allowing them to become a part of your company experience,” says Libert. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Technology is important, but it will never be a substitute for community. If you want to see growth, you’ve got to develop a social network that helps people grow, engages their minds, satisfies their unmet needs, and connects them to one another.”
Don’t broadcast but share. Talking to someone whose conversation is constantly “me-me-me” isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time…and that principle also holds true in the world of social networking. It doesn’t matter how frequently you update your company’s status or blog about its achievements if you never deliver information that your followers actually want and need to hear.
“Always remember to create and disseminate quality content that helps people make good decisions, improves businesses, and enhances lives,” advises Libert. “They want to read about topics that are actionable and applicable—so we always make sure our clients at Mzinga are providing their constituents with information, tools, and tips on subjects that are of interest to them.”
Don’t be a guest in someone else’s home. Think about the differences between a house and a home. A house is only a structure—but a home is a place where you feel like you belong. That, Libert insists, is the difference between joining random social media sites for the sake of doing it and embracing and building a truly social business.
Realize that might does not make right. Just as your company should avoid disseminating “me-me-me” information via social networking, it should also avoid dominating the conversation. And make no mistake—a symbiotic two-way conversation is exactly what’s going on here. A successful Social Nation always lets its community be part of telling the story, from start to finish. Look at it this way: Employees, customers, and partners are essentially volunteering their time and energy to serve as developers, sounding boards, and advertisements for your company. They want to belong—so let them, and listen to them.
“Recently, a company came to me and asked what they needed to do to become the leader in their industry,” Libert recounts. “The first thing they had to do, I told them, was to stop trying to ‘lead’ everything! Instead, make it your goal to be the definitive ‘community.’ This will draw people in, and it will turn them into raving fans.”
Social Nation tells the stories of companies that have embraced this shift to more open, social business models in substantive ways, forging new paths to workplace collaboration, product development, customer relationship management, brand loyalty, innovation, and profitability.
To help today’s business leaders apply similar practices in building their own Social Nations, the book offers a complete toolkit, including:
Seven principles for generating a positive return on your social business strategy, which highlight the roles of corporate culture, open leadership, online etiquette, recognition and rewards, and measurement in today’s networked world;
An online skills assessment for identifying talents against defined characteristics and traits, as well as prescriptions for how to develop new social competencies and incorporate them within existing leadership strategies;
Guidelines to follow and common pitfalls to avoid for putting Social Nation principles into practice, including frameworks for establishing symbiotic relationships with employees and customers, suggested use cases and business processes where collaboration can pay dividends for businesses and their customers, and how to turn obstacles into opportunities.
“What businesses should be doing is focusing their attention not on social media itself, but on how they can use it as a channel in every facet of their business to establish the genuine connections that are increasingly becoming the new path to profitability,” says Libert. “As a business leader today, your job is to make sure these things happen, and I believe Social Nation can help you get there.”