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Houston company pays out $50K+ to settle age discrimination lawsuit

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) This latest age discrimination lawsuit offers an important lesson for businesses to consider in their employee management and care

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A diverse range of employees sit at a table, with learning about how to avoid age discrimination.

Burrow Global Services, LLC, a Houston based company specializing in engineering, construction and plant safety, will pay a former employee $50,960 to resolve an age discrimination claim. In addition, Burrow Global will be required to update its policies regarding the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, provide training to its employees and regularly report to the EEOC concerning discrimination.

The EEOC’s suit against Burrow Global

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, in 2017, a new manager was hired over a division of Burrow employees who were working in Baytown, Texas. The new manager was in his 30s. Within a few weeks of starting, this manager began making comments about retirement to a design coordinator who was in his 60s. The design coordinator had no plans to retire and had worked with Burrow since 2014.

The manager made the decision to terminate the employee, stating a “lack of work,” but not long after the employee was fired, a significantly younger person was hired. This person had no formal education beyond high school, while the original employee had a 4-year college degree. With all these pieces together, it’s understandable that the employee in question would be frustrated and upset and the EEOC had to follow up.

The ADEA prohibits age discrimination against employees older than 40

The EEOC attempted to resolve the situation through its administrative conciliation process, but filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in 2020. “The ADEA protects workers age 40 and over from adverse actions taken by employers on the basis of age,” stated Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Houston District Office. “We will continue to bring lawsuits to enforce the law in instances where age was a cause of an adverse employment action.”

The lesson for businesses: Train your management staff about age discrimination and don’t make decisions based on age. The EEOC will hold your business accountable.

Dawn Brotherton is a Staff Writer at The American Genius, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. Before earning her degree, she spent over 20 years homeschooling her two daughters, who are now out changing the world. She lives in Oklahoma and loves to golf. She hopes to publish a novel in the future.

Real Estate Marketing

Do your customers a favor and quit using ‘no-reply’ emails immediately

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) No-reply emails may serve a company well, but the customers can become frustrated with the loss of a quick and easy way to get help.

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no-reply email face

Let me tell you a modern-day horror story.

You finally decide to purchase the item that’s been sitting in your cart all week, but when you receive your confirmation email you realize there’s a mistake on the order. Maybe you ordered the wrong size item, maybe your old address is listed as the shipping location, or maybe you just have buyer’s remorse. Either way, you’ve got to contact customer service.

Your next mission is to find contact information or a support line where you can get the issue resolved. You scroll to the bottom of the email and look around for a place to contact the company, but all you find is some copyright junk and an unsubscribe option. Tempting, but it won’t solve your problem. Your last hope is to reply to the confirmation email, so you hit that trusty reply arrow and…nothing. It’s a no-reply email. Cue the high-pitched screams.

Customers should not have to sort through your website and emails with a microscope to find contact information or a customer service line. With high customer expectations and fierce ecommerce competition, business owners can’t afford to use no-reply emails anymore.

Intended or not, no-reply emails send your customer the message that you really don’t want to hear from them. In an age when you can DM major airlines on Twitter and expect a response, this is just not going to fly anymore.

Fixing this issue doesn’t need to be a huge burden on your company. A simple solution is to create a persona for your email marketing or customer service emails, it could be member of your team or even a company mascot. Rather than using noreply@company.com you can use john@company.com and make that email a place where your email list can respond to questions and communicate concerns. Remember, the whole point of email marketing is to create a conversation with your customers.

Another great strategy for avoiding a million customer service emails where you don’t want them? Include customer service contact info in your emails. Place a thoughtful message near the bottom of your template letting people know where they can go if they’re having an issue with the product or service. This simple change will save you, your customers, and your team so much time in the long-run.

Your goal as a real estate practitioner is to build a trusting relationship between you and your customers, so leave the no reply emails behind. They’re annoying and they might even get you marked as spam.

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Real Estate Marketing

How to keep your website optimized for digital assistants & voice searches

(MARKETING) With the use of voice searches and digital assistants on the rise, it is more important now than ever before that your website be optimized.

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Women typing on laptop representing leadership.

Voice control’s effect on web content

One-in-five mobile users rely on voice searches to find information or control their devices according to a recent study. Considering many cars now enable you to control your music, messages, and email through voice, this isn’t too surprising. What does it mean for web content though?

With the rise of digital assistants and talk-to-text, should web content be re-evaluated to ensure it is compatible with Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and others?

Deep learning

Digital assistants have certainly contributed to the rise in popularity of voice searches, talk-to-text, and deep learning. Deep learning is an artificial intelligence (AI) process that imitates the workings of the way the human brain processes data and creates patterns for decision making. Deep learning is a subset of machine learning in AI that has networks that are capable of learning unsupervised from data that is unstructured.

Deep learning is a type of machine learning that uses complex systems to carry out their “learning processes.”

Given the complex algorithms and “learning” involved for deep learning to be fully functional and optimal, it’s not surprising that voice searches are on the rise; the more it’s used, the better it “learns.” Every day more and more people are choosing to say what they need, rather than type it out. With this rise, also comes the need for entrepreneurs and businesspeople to optimize their SEO and web content for voice searches. How can you ensure your site is compatible and flawless optimized?

Phrases instead of keywords

The first thing you should keep in mind regarding your content is how voice users search for content. Instead of searching for one or two keywords, voice users typically ask a question in the form of a complete sentence. For example, you might hear someone say, “Hey, Siri. What’s the best way to make chocolate chip cookies?” Then, Siri might respond with a recipe. How does Siri know what you what? Deep learning.

How does Siri know what to show you? Deep learning and website optimization.

Soon, instead of focusing your SEO on selected keywords, you may be focusing on key phrases (also called long-tail keywords) which will likely answer the questions a voice user would ask. By humanizing your content by thinking about your answers in full sentences, you’ll be one step closer to optimization. For example, think, what would a consumer likely ask in order to find me? Do I have the answer to these questions on my pages and SEO? Not sure what to ask or answer? Answer the Public is a great tool for helping you dig deeper into your content and gets things optimized. In addition to re-evaluating your SEO, you may want to develop questions you think searchers might ask and then include the answers in your Q&A content (thus, making your site higher up in the result ranks).

Mobile friendly/Covering your bases

Another way to make sure your site is ready for voice searches is to make sure it is also mobile-friendly. Google recommends responsive web design, along with several other points you may want to consider to ensure your website is mobile-friendly. Wondering if your site is mobile-friendly? Google developed a test to help you. Simply click here, and enter your site’s URL in the box and it will let you know if your site has passed the test.

If your site does not pass, Google will suggest what could be changed to make your site more mobile friendly.

Also, keep in mind mobile users will often reference microdata, like a business’s location, phone number, price, and more (think: when people speak the phrase “find near me” or “nearby.”) You can ensure voice searchers can find you by making this information easily retrievable for digital assistants by creating a comprehensive sitemap for your site, including your address, relevant contact information, directions from main highways, etc.

Understanding digital assistants

One final thing to keep in mind: Siri and Cortana are not search engines. They default to Bing to collect and collate web-based results. Google Now, will, of course, collect from Google. Given the popularity of both Siri and Cortana, is there a possibility that Bing will outpace Google?

Probably not, but you do want to make sure that you are optimized for both search engines or your business might lose out on voice searches.

If you want to ensure you do not miss out on Siri and Cortana users, you may need to do a bit of research on what works best on Bing. For example, Bing prioritizes local results, whereas Google gives the most popular topic priority. Google is better at semantic search, while Bing is better with specific keywords. Again, both are useful search tools, but if you want to ensure maximum traffic, you should be aware of the difference. (Side note: some tech-savvy users know how to re-program Siri and Cortana to pull from their favorite search engine, but I do not think the larger majority of users choose to do this).

The future of voice searches

Technology enthusiasts are absolutely going to continue to use their keyboards for some things, however, voice searches are on the rise simply because they are more convenient. If the trend continues, and I think it will, it is a worthwhile step to have your site already prepared and optimized because as the capabilities and value of voice continue to grow, so will the need for marketers to evolve. Emphasis will need to be placed on sentences, phrases, and topics rather than keywords. And the demand for mobile-friendly sites will be paramount. What do you think – is your site optimized for digital assistant and voice searches?

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Real Estate Marketing

How to post your panorama photos on Instagram without cutting corners

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) If you have lamented at not being able to get panorama photos to show in their full glory on Instagram, well, grind your teeth no longer.

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panorama

Now I’m not usually one to post stuff on Instagram, But the pictures I do take on occasion tend to be panoramas. I just wish it was easier to share them in their full glory. If you’ve ever tried to upload a panorama picture to Instagram—or if I’m being honest, any interesting horizontal picture—then you’ve likely run into issues.

Yes, you can include the whole photo in a single post, but in most cases, you have to zoom out so far to fit it all in that it’s impossible to see all the amazing detail you were trying to preserve in the first place.

Turns out, there’s an easy way around the problem: a multi-post panorama. Or more accurately, a seamless multi-post panorama.

To create one, you’ll essentially upload your single image as multiple images, similar to how you would create a slideshow on the platform, except as a person scrolls through it will look like they’re just panning across that single picture.

There are great directions by photographer influencers Becki and Chris. You can (and should) watch their YouTube tutorial below:

Create a SEAMLESS Multi Post PANORAMA for Instagram

Ever wonder how to post multiple seamless images to create one giant panorama using Instagrams multi post carousel feature? That’s a mouth full. Today were s…

Here’s an overview of how to make it happen:

First, open your image in your favorite photo editing software. They suggest Lightroom, but you can use something else as well.

You ultimately want each photo you upload to have an aspect ratio of 4:5 and be 1350 x 1080. That means you’ll need to do a little math. For a two-image photo you’ll multiply 1080 x 2, which will get you to 2160. That means you’ll want to crop your original image to 2160 pixels wide; that way when you chop it into two pictures, you’ll have two images that are 1080.

After that, put it into Photoshop. Unlock the background layer, then select “View” from the top of the page followed by “New Guide Layout.” You’ll want to make sure it says “Custom” as the preset and then go to the section labeled “columns” and select the number of images you planned on making. In this case, we’ll pick two.

Make sure the “Gutter” box in that section is set to zero.

Close that out, then select the slice tool. At the top of the page, you’ll see a button that says “Slides from guides.” Click that and your image will be sliced into two equal parts.

From there, you’ll just need to “Export” and then “Save for web.” Make sure you’re exporting those files as JPEGs. You may also want to go ahead and resize them to 1350px high so Instagram won’t compress them on its end.

Once they’re exported, put them on your phone however you choose, and then they’re ready to upload to Instagram!

Now that sounds simple enough but I don’t have fancy programs like Lightroom, and Photoshop, but there is a cheaper, quicker, and easier way to do it all on your phone!

First download an app called Photoshop Mix, it’s free but does require a quick email account sign up. Once the app is open, you add a new project by clicking the plus in the top right corner, and then choose image on the next screen:

panorama 01

After selecting your image select crop on the top left side, and then custom in the bottom middle.

panorama 2

Just as mentioned above you might have to do some math to get your pixel dimensions just right, but the suggested size is 2160 width and 1350 height. The panorama I took would be longer than the 10 photos allowed in the Instagram multi post, so I just settled for 2, but had to do some math the above instructions didn’t include.

If you want a photo that is too large but still get all of it on this feature you can take the original height and divide it by 5, then multiply the answer by 8 to get the width you want to change your image to. The height universally stays the same.

Once you have your size right click OK, and then on the check mark at the bottom right of the next screen.

panorama 3

Now you want to get the picture inside the boundaries you just set, this can be a little annoying having to change your image size with your fingers but try to get the whole thing inside the blue lines that will pop up. Clicking on the dots in the corners and dragging them will be a little easier to make it the right size.

After you get the image just right, next you want to upload the photo to your camera roll by clicking the upload button on the top bar and then selecting camera roll.

panorama 4

Once that’s done then you open another project, and grab the image you just downloaded, once again go to crop and custom. Then set the width to 2360 and the Height stays at 1350.

panorama 5

Basically this is creating half a canvas for your whole photo to fit on, so now you drag your image all the way to the right until you see the blue marks on the left side, upload that to your camera roll, then repeat in the opposite direction, and upload the right side of the photo.

panorama6

So now your images are created, and to the size they need to be, next is getting them into Instagram. Hit the plus in the box at the bottom middle, and then on the next screen make sure to hit the 2 opposite arrows before selecting multi-post. Then you just have to select them in the right order, select your filters if you want them, and hit share!

panorama7

So that is how you create a seamless panorama in instagram! Here’s a video on how to do this in case my instructions and pictures didn’t help.

It looks like a lot of effort, but it’s actually really simple once you try it a few times—and it can lead to some pretty awesome-looking Instagram multi photo posts.

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