Saturday, August 21, 2010

Have you checked in?

Places.  As of a few days ago, it has a new meaning for a lot of people.  If you have a smart phone and are accessing Facebook then you've probably already figured out that they launched a new feature called "Places".  It just rolled out and is wrought with controversy.  

If you haven't a clue what I'm talking about, let me briefly fill you in.  Places allows people to announce via Facebook exactly where they are.  "Checking-in" and announcing where you are isn't a new idea. Companies like Foursquare, Gowalla and Whrrl have set the groundwork for this and users have been posting their check-ins on Facebook.  Seems only natural that Facebook would try to cash in on the craze.

Some people love this idea but I'm just not sold on it.  I know a ton of people using Foursquare and Gowalla and I often joke that it's like an announcement that people can go rob your house.  You're obviously not there.

Although Places isn't available here in the Quad Cities yet, it will be soon.  When it is, I'm curious how many people will flock to using it.  Me?  Not a chance.   At least not until they work out some things.  While other location-based social networking programs allow you to personally check-in and work to achieve various titles, Places allows other people to check you in also.  That kind of freaks me out.  Friend or not, I'm not wild about the idea of someone else having control of announcing to their friends where I'm at.

But as much as I hate the idea of location-based social networking, I find myself drawn to Whrrl.  At Whrrl, it isn't just about the check-in features; that's only one small part of a larger picture.  On Whrrl, you're able to upload pictures and create stories related to your check-in.  It's a very cool feature that I've used for both marketing campaigns as well as personal digital scrapbooking.

So how is it that I swear I won't use location-based apps yet I throw praise at Whrrl?  You see, I can check-in, take advantage of specials and promotions, participate in recommendations people make, make recommendations of my own, join societies, create societies, post pictures and create slide shows yet not lose all my anonymity.  Whrrl's "Just Me" option is what makes all the difference.  No matter what I do, I'm able to choose the level that I want to share with Whrrl members, as well as whether I want to share on Twitter or Facebook. I'm also able to go back later and amend the privacy settings of a check-in to make it more (or less) public.

Over the course of the past month, I've found myself more and more interested in it.  A Whrrl contest even prompted me to create a society of my own.  After participating in various car-related activities, I decided to create a society called "Under the Hood".  I couldn't find any society that involved automobile maintenance so I created Under the Hood and added the following description to it: "When you neglect your automobile, it will begin to neglect you! Don't forget about general service, oil changes, tires, car washes, window repairs, paint... It's all about taking care of our vehicles."  Automobiles... That's what the Under the Hood Society is all about.  If your business offers car-related services or sells car-related products, check out the merchant program to see if Whrrl can help drive customers through your door.

As a social media participant, you may decide that location-based services are a waste of time.  You may find that Foursquare, Gowalla or one of the other services is best for you.  You may decide to go with Facebook's Places feature. For me, I'll stick with Whrrl.  It's well rounded, thought out and offers a lot of cool features.

...Now I'm waiting for all my favorite merchants to discover the benefits of it, too.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Back to School with Bonus Box Tops

It's time for the kids to head back to school. As much as they love each other, they're ready to not be in the same house with each other 24x7. And as much as I love them, I'm ready to have a quiet house for at least a few hours a day.

In preparation for back to school, we're stocking up on all the things we need. School supplies, clothes, shoes, backpacks... all those essentials.

Then the other day, I received an email from the school. The lunch schedule for August.

As I surveyed the schedule, I remembered that my girls aren't fans of all the cafeteria food. Miss M takes a lunch about 1-2 times per week and Miss K about 3-4 times.

Then I realized that I hadn't given any thought to lunches. A trip to Sam's Club was in order.

Perfect timing, too, because MyBlogSpark had a back-to-school campaign for General Mills and Sam's Club. Heck, figured I would be there anyhow so I might as well participate in the campaign!

General Mills has provided bonus boxtops on participating General Mills products. 6 extra box tops on each. While this might not mean much to parents without kids in school, those of us who do have kids greatly value the Box Tops 4 Education program.

I had some of the information in hand from MyBlogSpark but wanted to confirm with my local club since I didn't recall seeing anything in the local paper. We headed to the Sam's Club in Davenport, Iowa and I spoke with Linda at the customer service desk. Despite being very busy, she didn't mind spending a few minutes answering my questions.

While the schedule will vary by club, our Sam's Club organized their event to coincide with Iowa's Tax-Free weekend. That's this weekend! For people who upgrade to or sign up for a Plus membership from August 6-13th, they'll receive an additional 150 bonus box tops. 150! That's the equivalent of 150 boxes of Hamburger Helper. As an added bonus, our Sam's Club will include a free pepperoni pizza or rotisserie chicken to introduce you to their "Fresh" departments.

So why a Plus membership instead of a regular? Well, for one, the hours. You are allowed into the store when regular members are not. As someone who has done this, I have to say it's the best way to shop... quiet... not crowded... and often free coffee at the front door. Check out the membership page, but among other things, you also can participate in their eValues program.

I put together a Whrrl story to show you how our trip went!

Not sure if Sam's Club is your thing? They're having a free open house this weekend (Aug 6-8) for you to test the waters! That means no membership required and no add-on fee.

In the meantime, here's a chance to win a $25 gift card to put toward your next purchase at Sam's Club. Keep reading at for details on how to enter!

Disclosure:  As a thank you for participating in this campaign, I was given a $25 Sam's Club gift card by Sam's Club and General Mills through MyBlogSpark at no charge. In addition, they offered to upgrade my account to a Plus Membership to take advantage of the bonus boxtops but I declined since I already have a business membership. They will still provide the bonus boxtops.  In addition, an additional $25 gift card was supplied for the giveaway. No additional compensation was received.  I've been a long-time Sam's member so the statements, comments and photos provided here are my own and were not impacted by MyBlogSpark or General Mills. Sam's Club, however, can take credit for the great service and club that make me keep coming back!