Social Background Checks Okayed by the FTC

Searching for employment is a stressful task – never mind if there is a great or poor economy and job market. It can take a long time to find the jobs you think you could be qualified for, send off the resumes, never mind the waiting game you have to play once you’ve sent off your resumes for qualified positions.

Then the phone call or email comes, inviting you into the office or to hop on a conference call for an interview. You fix your hair, put on your best outfit, go to the interview, and thirty minutes to an hour you walk out of the office building or hang up the phone feeling like you’re on top of the world. Deciding that you need to celebrate, you go home, make a sandwich, and open up your Facebook page.

There they are – those pictures from Spring Break in Mexico, staring back at you like a black thumb on your otherwise perfect record. It was just one night and you were celebrating your recent accomplishments. Surely your potential employer won’t look at this page to make a judgment on your ability to perform the job.

Actually, there is a very good chance that your potential employer might just do that in your background checks. The US Federal Trade Commission has given the OK to Social Intelligence Corporation to archive up to seven years of your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube movements to be used as part of their background investigation services. The FTC has also ruled that this information can be used as part of a potential employer’s determination to hire you for a job or not.

According to the ruling, if your employer uses Social Intelligence to perform the background checks and one of your social media updates (or, well, many) is the reason for you not getting a job, you must be notified as to why. You are then allowed to dispute the records if you feel the social faux paus was through “no fault of your own” (whatever that means)

The ruling means that not only do you need to be aware of what you’re putting on social networks; it also means that you need to be aware of your privacy settings. Facebook, in recent months, has been in the spotlight about changing their privacy settings and the access that third party advertisers have to your profiles and pictures.

We talk a lot about online reputation management and how to protect yourself against websites that are created to make your business look bad or reviews that are left on products and services that are designed to paint your business in a bad light. This ruling from the FTC means that we all have to step back and take a look at our personal reputation management, and know what is out there about us as individuals. Do you know what photos are tagged with your name? How about Twitter or YouTube? When was the last time you did a Google search for yourself and what did you do about it?

Think Twice … Then Think Again

There are a hundred blogs out there that talk about using Twitter for business and what an effective tool it is for customer service. I think that sometimes, we often fail to draw the correlation between using Twitter for business and using Twitter for ourselves. Personally, I have separate Twitter accounts for business and me, and I’ve been known to tweet a certain cable company a time or two for assistance. Why? Because I can get better service from their Twitter account than I can over the phone (which is another blog for another day) but sometimes, I let my fingers fly before I really think about it. I’ve seen people just lose it on businesses before and I try not to do that. I’m learning, as I go along, how to think before I tweet… and then how to think again. Next time, before you tweet, ask yourself:

  1. If this were sent to my business Twitter account, how would I feel? Would I feel attacked – like I haven’t been given a chance to correct the issue, before finding some nasty @ replies to me? I know you’re upset and you feel like you haven’t gotten outstanding service, but if it’s the first time you’ve contacted the business about the issue, give them a chance to fix your problem, before you get upset.
  2. What am I really upset about? Is this a problem that you are continuing to have with the business that never seems to get fixed correctly? Take my cable company issue – it’s the same and only problem that I ever seem to have. The same problem over and over again leads me to Tweet.

If you can’t give yourself solid answers to these two questions, then you should probably walk away from your computer. Blasting a business for the sake of blasting them isn’t going to get you very far and it’s not going to do you any favors. I think we have all been guilty of saying something that we didn’t mean to say and Twitter is a really powerful tool for connecting with the people we do business with – but that doesn’t mean that sometimes, we don’t say things that we shouldn’t. Do you think before you Tweet?

Kaitlyn Interns At AccuConference: Week 2

Week Two of our blog series from another one of our interns.

Post Written by: Kaitlyn

It is my fourth week at AccuConference. I am slowly adjusting to the whole 9-5 grown-up schedule. It hasn’t been bad; I’m just not a morning person. Other than that everything is great. One aspect of the office that I definitely have begun taking advantage of is the shelves and shelves of snacks in the break room. They don’t have some dinky vending machine where I have to pay 75¢ for a tiny bag of chips. It is literally three tall shelves, as well as the refrigerator, completely stocked with granola bars, chips, candy, popcorn, mac’n’cheese, water, cokes, energy drinks…and it’s all free. These people know how to keep their workers happy.

Aside from constantly stuffing my face, I’ve learned a number of things during my few weeks here. In terms of myself, I have learned that I am better at business writing than I thought I would be. I think it still surprises me when I email one of my writings to Byrd and he tells me he likes it. I just never imagined myself being decent at anything like that and it turns out I have a bit of a knack for it. I have learned a multitude about search engine optimization, linking, and keyword search. I have also learned the importance of continuous discovery. As soon as Laura and I got here, Byrd had us log in to Google Reader and subscribe to a number of blogs belonging to marketing specialists with innovative ideas. These people talk about new marketing strategies and tools, link building, SEO, important communication news and announcements, and everything in between. Books are recommended to us many times a week, and we watch videos of popular speakers who make presentations on new ways to look at things. I have learned that no matter how old a company may be, there is always room for improvement and we should always be open to learning how to change things up.

On new office developments, Laura and I got our own desks last week. I have a sweet corner desk facing two windows. Being the first set of interns, there wasn’t an established spot for us to sit, so we had been working in the conference room. Everyone was glad to do some rearranging and get some desks set up for us. My thought was, “We’re the interns, shouldn’t we be the ones doing the grunt work?” But everyone had stopped what they were doing and jumped up to move furniture around. This evidence of everyone’s great desire to help each other out becomes more obvious to me each day that I’m here.

In the meantime, I am kept busy typing out content for the website, writing articles, and composing marketing messages to be viewed by customers. The best part is that the things I write are actually being used for the business. It’s exciting to see my work portfolio growing and to know that I already have so much to show potential employers when I begin job-hunting for my future career.

Laura Lee Interns at AccuConference: Week 2



Week two of our blog post series.  This one is written, produced, and directed by our very own Laura Lee. 

Things at Accuconference are good these summer days. I’ve been moving up in the world of telecommunication, having been recently upgraded from the conference room table that I shared with fellow intern Kaitlyn to my own desk, complete with lamp, monitor, and a great third floor view of the parking lot baking in this 100+ degree weather. Things are great. I am learning my way around the building, with the bank being on the main floor and the the deli housed up on the sixth floor. I am pretty much set, and if they would allow me to I would set up camp right under my desk. That would save me the gas money! Rumor has it that the building management here gives out free hot dogs around the fourth of July, and to a cheap college student who’s survived finals week on Ramen and yogurt, this is heaven. I’m learning a lot about what I would like to do for my own career by being in a professional environment day in and day out this summer. I’m realizing that the environment here at Accuconference is dissimilar than anything else I’ve experienced. (You might have guessed that after you read about the free hot dogs). The culture here is different. Of course, the setting is professional, but the atmosphere is implausibly laid back. Whether its people playing practical jokes or ordering lunch together, this place is thriving with goodwill.

I swear to you: I have not made coffee once. (Okay, I made it one time, but it was for Kaitlyn and she’ll be getting the bill later). Instead of grinding beans in the office break room, I’ve been writing up news articles, like the one I wrote about a Fortune 500 company’s recent moves to becoming one of the first that relies solely on alternative, renewable energy. I have even tried my hand at writing a press release. (Epic, epic fail. Hey, practice makes perfect right?) I’ve also contributed to blog postings on the company’s website. Take that, world. It’s good to actually feel of value to people.

This company gets creative with their marketing strategy. Every business should, but when you deal in a market that sells conference call software, it’s either sink or swim when it comes to creativity. Therefore the people here strive to be up to date on the newest marketing ideas, especially on the internet, which has become the platform for everything. Ever counted how many times you hear the phrase “just Google it” in one day? I hear it about 20 times a day. And no, it’s not because I hang out with a bunch of unintelligent people. It’s amazing how quickly the internet changes- just last week the VP of Marketing at Accuconference let break with the news that we needed to change our tactics, because the way we were currently marketing was already outdated. As a Marketing major, I am seeing that in my own career I will be forced to be flexible and be ready to change my tactics at a moment’s notice if I choose to follow a path delving into search engine optimization. To be honest, that thought is a little unsettling. But it’s cool to see this kind of stuff come to life, off the boring print from my school text books.

Was Marketing the right major for me? Am I the type of person who can succeed at this? I have a hunch that I will get a pretty good idea this summer interning. As long as I don’t fry in the heat! And with the right amount of luck, I just might become the next marketing queen of the world. (That would take a lot of luck!)

Communication Pitfalls

I love to talk – and truthfully, sometimes I do it too much. It’s not that I can’t shut up it’s just that I love to be a part of conversations and I have a lot of opinions. Sometimes, it doesn’t always promote great communication between me and the people I am speaking with. I came across this really great set of tips of 10 mistakes we make in conversation and after reading through them, I feel pretty bad, because I’m guilty of all of these at one point or another. Truthfully, everyone is and we usually notice it at some point during the conversation. This is a really great compilation of the kinds of mistakes and communication pitfalls we can run into when we’re trying to talk to people, but what happens when you realize that you’re feet first into a conversation and you’ve been breaking all the rules?

When you feel the conversation breaking the rules, how can you refocus and gain control of yourself so that you can walk away feeling like everyone involved in the conversation was able to contribute instead of just listening to you? Here are three tips to correcting the mistakes you might be committing in polite conversation.

Let’s take the having to be right mistake that a lot of us make. We can easily mistake discussion for debate and feel like we have to win a conversation in order to sound convicted in our principals. Instead of defending your own position, try to understand the other person. Ask open ended questions about why they feel the way they do – you’ll gain another person’s perspective, you’ll be sharing information, and you might learn something about the other person in the process.

Many of us are guilty of not listening when engaged with others. It’s not necessarily that we are actively disengaged; rather, it could be something as simple as the human brain is guilty of being distracted by our own silly train of thought or something shiny. There is never any guarantee that you won’t lose listening to the other party, but there are some things you can do to keep your focus, like always keeping eye contact with the other party. If you don’t look at the shiny stuff, you’re less likely to get distracted by the shiny stuff.

Who hasn’t been boring a time or two in conversation? I’m certain I’ve bored the pants off people and I freely admit it (ask my husband). It comes from the need to speak, to seem engaged in conversation that there can be no such thing as a comfortable silence and we must speak. So with this need, we speak about anything we can think of from our cats to the state of our shoes and frankly – that can be painfully boring for some. If you find yourself talking to someone who is obviously bored out of their mind (falling asleep while standing up is a good indication) do one simple thing: be quiet. Finish up your story in one sentence and then immediately move to the next subject. Here’s a thought: ask the other party a question that would encourage them to contribute.

The truth is that when it comes to communications, we all make mistakes. Everyone who is reading this has been guilty at one time or another of one of Henrik Edberg’s wonderful list of mistakes. The difference is that people who don’t recognize the signs of these mistakes being committed, they usually keep making more. What communication mistakes are you guilty of making and how have you corrected the behavior in the middle of the conversation to get things back on track?

Internet Explorer Nine BETA & AccuConference

Just as a quick public service to all of our customers out there, we’ve been notified that some customers who are using IE 9 are having some trouble when trying to use our services. The problems stem from those who are still on the BETA version of IE 9. If you’re having problems with IE 9, you simply need to install the full version in order to be fully operational with our services. If you’re not sure how to find out if you’re on IE 9 BETA or the full, completed version, you can find that information under “About Internet Explorer”.

Interning at AccuConference : Kaitlyn

Here is the second installment of our intern series, this time from Kaitlyn. The three of us take really great pictures too -- this was me sitting on our Yoga ball and falling. Laura saved my life. Thanks Laura!

My First Week at AccuConference


I felt like the phone interview was going well. I always love phone interviews. I was in my pj’s, I was sprawled out on my bed, and I was getting decent responses from my answers. No suits, no awkward longer-than-ten-seconds-straight eye contact, no sweaty handshakes; what could be better? And then I was blindsided. It hit me like a sack of bricks. The question you never want to hear in an interview, “So what is the other company you interviewed with that you’re waiting to hear back from?” Silence. I was definitely not prepared for that.

After I sputtered out the answer to the question, I sat there speechless. Without knowing what else to do, I chuckled nervously and referenced my still being new to this whole internship scene and said that I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do during the summer. After a few more moments of conversation, the phone call was over and I laid back on my bed thinking. I just told David Byrd, the VP of Operations at AccuConference, my potential employer, my potential boss, that I was waiting to hear back from another company. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Rookie mistake. I should have pounced on that internship. I weighed my options:

Option #1- go through my second phone interview with the other company, which I may or may not receive an offer from, which I may or may not like.

Option #2- accept the internship with AccuConference, risk being the object of all the office snickers because of my rookie mistake, and forgo any chance of internship with the other company.

Option #3- pack up and move to some remote country where they don’t even know what the word “internship” means.

After much deliberation, I chose Option #3…

Just kidding. I chose #2.

Day One. My first day of work at AccuConference. Considering my…interesting phone conversation with Byrd, I was, needless to say, a bit nervous. It probably didn’t help my nerves that I just kept circling the Bank of America building trying to find where the heck this place was located. After a quick phone call to the office, I discovered they were located inside the exact building that I had been circling. Wow, Kaitlyn, really? As I waited for the elevator, the images were piling up in my head. A huge office with divided cubicles, phones ringing off the hook, glaring fluorescent lights, typical water cooler in the corner, multiple hallways with confusing turns, and horrible bosses riding my case asking, “Did you get that memo?” I took a deep breath as I turned the handle on the door to the office.

I’m standing in a single, open room. There are cubicles, but not small confining ones. Home décor lamps on each desk to light the room in a comforting manner. No water cooler. From what I can see, there’s just one hallway disappearing around a corner to the breakroom. No stiff-suited horrible bosses in sight. “Hi, Kaitlyn. I’m Maranda.” I finally get to meet Maranda! My contact that I’ve been emailing with for almost a month now! She introduced me to everyone, gave me a tour of the small office, and showed me where I sit. I surveyed the room of people. Everyone was chit chatting to each other and smiling. No angry employees who looked burnt out by their job or annoyed with the world. Everyone was pretty laid back. I didn’t get a tense, negative, or stressed vibe from anyone. Next, I met Laura, the other summer intern. She quickly involved me in some speedy, daily administrative work that we perform each morning. My first day had begun.

Hmm. Nothing at all like I had expected. In fact, AccuConference was the complete opposite of what I had imagined.

One thing I never envisioned was being of actual value to the company and genuinely being involved in the work they do. I’ve heard countless stories from friends who completed summer internships during which they contributed nothing at all to the business. One friend worked for an oil company and completed one hour of data input each day and then spent the remainder of his time browsing Facebook. Sure, he got paid a lot of money, but he learned squat. As soon as I walked through the door at AccuConference, I knew I would be valued. I wasn’t going to simply be the coffee-girl or the errand-runner. This company was really going to count on me for something and I was really going to learn something.

My first week was anything but boring. I helped with conference calls, I wrote content for the website, I wrote drafts for customer emails, I met the CEO, I met and had meetings with the VPs, I learned about search engine optimization, I listened to customer service calls, I met Byrd’s dad, a local entrepreneur, and discussed the differences between marketing and sales, I put together thank you packages to be mailed out to customers, and, probably most importantly, I learned about the company’s serious interest in customer service. What I find to be most admirable is, despite AccuConference’s slightly smaller workforce, the members of the company are able to manage such a large number of clients and go above and beyond for each individual customer. I feel privileged to work for a company from which thank you notes and thank you packages are sent on a regular basis. If only I could receive a cool package from every company I did business with…that would be pretty awesome.

Perhaps my first Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 job will be a greatly enjoyable experience, or perhaps I will never manage to train my body to get used to the grown-up schedule. Whatever the case may be, I’m eager to stretch my soon-to-be-college-graduate wings and soak up everything I learn here at AccuConference. I will be as a sponge. I’m looking forward to discovering new things about myself and what I’m capable of, and also I’m looking forward to showing AccuConference what I can do (I wouldn’t be able to do that at a company that hired me solely to pick up their dry-cleaning).


Interning at AccuConference: Week One

This summer, we've taken on a Cowboy and an Aggie into our office -- also known as our interns Laura and Kaitlyn. As part of their summer program, we've asked them both to write a weekly blog on how they feel and what they are learning. Laura's first impressions are written below and Kaitlyn's is on the way. I will also be providing some insight, as this is my first teach expierence with interns and I'm sure I have a lot to learn. 

Blog by Laura - First Week at AccuConference. 

One word. Internship. Something I’ve heard so much about, and how it’s incredibly essential to obtain one. And here I am, currently in the most sought after position a college undergrad can get. The one week that I’ve spent as an intern at Accuconference has been unlike any other. When I arrived here on my first morning of my summer internship, I had a mixture of feelings. I was excited and a bit nervous as I rode the elevator up to Suite 318. I was looking forward to putting faces to the names, because my interview process had all been done remotely. What if they weren’t who they said they were? Dear Lord what had I gotten myself into? I had done my homework on the company beforehand by perusing the website, but it didn’t tell me anything about the company culture. Was everyone going to be super formal and professional with their business suits, ties, to-do lists and agendas or laid back? Either way, I knew that I really wanted to learn more about marketing in the ‘real world’.

I rehearsed the line I was going to use when I got to the receptionist’s desk on the other side of the front office door. (Hey, they told me to be honest). But as I walked in for the first time, I was totally disconcerted. Instead of one desk gracing the front entry, I found myself looking at Accuconference’s complete customer relations department staring back at me. Here. We. Go. When they told me small over the phone, they had meant every word. But what I’ve learned very quickly (and this one I’ve had to learn over and over) is that it’s not about the quantity; it’s all about the quality. This small company is so closely knit that they are able to seamlessly work together in a small space and simultaneously output quality customer service. The quality of this company was obvious to me, from the amount of thank you cards strewn across the office from their customers, and the effort put into making business personal with their numerous clients (I got to try my hand at this one- whoop whoop!).

The word on the street when it comes to interns is that we do three things. Get coffee, cover the phones, and suck up. This summer (even with the already triple degree heat here in Texas) has been like a breath of fresh air, blowing that common idea away. Interning should be an opportunity to learn more about what you want to do for the rest of your life (scary, scary thought) from what a company teaches you and I think I applied to the right place for sure.

Because Accuconference is a small business, I was instantly included in what they were working on for marketing as well as the business of the company. I have been incorporated in operating some of the company’s scheduled conference calls, writing new content for the website, I've collaborated with others on an email campaign to bring in new business from our old customers, and within 48 hours of my first day, I had helped with a publication on the Android Marketplace. Seeing my own work out there on the internet for all to see is exhilarating! I was so proud of being a part of something that cool, so I immediately showed everyone after leaving work. Unfortunately no one was excited as I was- except my mom- but counting her is cheating. I’m still going to find a way to impress everyone else out there though… I just have to figure out how.

The Responsibility of an “Expert”

In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, sometimes we get thunderstorms that prompt tornado warnings and sirens, sending families and pets into the bathroom or underground to take cover. Weather both fascinates and scares me, so when there’s severe weather in the area, I’m always on a local station website. Some of these sites include chat programs where volunteers, usually storm spotters or chasers, help the public to understand when and where these storms will be moving.

They aren’t meteorologists but their experience makes them a trusted source. Imagine my surprise when one of these trusted sources began to talk about how he personally didn’t feel like there was much of a tornado threat in our area, despite active watches in the area. He’s trusted, certified, and understands how the weather works. On Tuesday night, there ended up being 13 reported tornado touch downs in our area which made his comments very irresponsible.

When you call yourself (or get called) an expert, it puts you in the position where you become responsible for communicating accurate information, no matter what the subject.

Anytime you consider yourself to be an expert, you have to respect that title, and use it to educate your clients, customers, or people looking to you for advice.

For example, we are considered to be conference experts, but that is only because every single one of our operators is trained the exact same way with all of our products. This is to ensure that a customer can speak to anyone and always get consistent information. We also try to educate our customers so that they know and understand how a product works, or what additional features might be available to them. We can walk you through setting up your first conference from start to finish, and even suggest any of our services that might help you get a little more from the service.

Since we are experts in our field, we take it very seriously, and if you’re in the position where you feel like you are “expert” enough to make yourself publically available, you better respect that. How do you stay true to the trust that your customers and clients have given you?

4 Areas of Presentation Planning

Even though it can be a crazy time right before a presentation, we need to be prepared. Step one in quality presentation planning is…

Don’t wait until right before the presentation to prepare for the presentation!

Past that vital tip, to make sure everything is set and all our bases are covered, we need to have done our due diligence at least the day before. For some insight on these preparations, I found some presentation planning tips on that are separated into four areas. Let’s look at the highlights:

Presentation – There are two points here that I think are important. First make sure our introduction is an attention grabber and explains our objectives. Second, the closing summary needs to tie it all together so the participants know what we wanted them to know.

Delivery – I like and dislike this section. I like that we should check out the presentations site beforehand. I don’t like that we need to rely on notes and visual aids. If we’ve got the first line covered—“Are you knowledgeable about the topic…”—then the rest will be fine. Though it is a good idea to do dry runs to be familiar with any technology to be used.

Appearance – Practice is a good thing. Practicing how we will present as much as possible is a very good thing.

Visual Aids – Are these supports for our points—or a distraction? Are they easy to read? We remembered NOT to use bullet points, didn’t we?

Does this checklist help you? What would you add to the list?