AARP and Best Buy's Geek Squad recently announced a new partnership to help AARP members take full advantage of all that technology has to offer them. Members pay $169.99 for one year of unlimited tech support and guidance -- a 29% discount off the normal price, and members get a contact number and their own queue.
Geek Squad agents get special training to assist consumers with a broad range of tech fluency -- so they're equipped to help the senior who is already on Pinterest and skyping with their grandchildren as well as AARP members who are looking to buy their first PC.
"It's very important for [Geek Squad agents] to remember the fact that yes, we will often spend Friday nights reading a computer manual...but not everybody does that," said Geek Squad covert agent Derek Meister ("covert agents" are online support agents, we learned in our interview -- the guys who will be especially useful to seniors who don't have easy access to a local Best Buy. Users can "drop off" their computers with a covert agent for tune-ups and virus scans, among other services, from the comfort of their homes).
It turns out more than half of those already subscribed to The Geek Squad's tech support services are between the ages of 55 and 64, according to Meister. "One of the only generalizations you can make...is that there aren't any generalizations," Meister says of his older clientele. But he admits that "we do see a fair amount of intimidation," and noted the 2009 AARP study that found that 33 percent of boomers are frustrated by their technology. (The study also found that 24 percent of younger people surveyed reported the same).
So what are boomers and seniors looking for in the tech world? Meister says they're investing in smartphones and tablets (Meister himself purchased an iPad for his mother, since it's "nice and simple" and suited to her frequent travels). They're also accessing The Geek Squad's services for help with existing technology that isn't living up to their expectations. Across the board, printer malfunctions are one of the biggest tech complaints. They also want to get on board with social media -- and get more out of their existing gadgets.
And what should they be taking further advantage of? Skype, Meister says. "We live in a world where most of us are separated...and don't really have time for those family get-togethers," he observes -- so video-chatting is a great solution for Christmas dinner or just keeping in touch. He also thinks the internet is an untapped resource for many, and not merely as a vehicle for maintaining social ties.
"There's a lot of not just great information but great resources online," he said. Internet users can get the information they want about healthcare and other concerns, if they only know how and where to look, as well as pay taxes and get tax refunds online, for example -- a particularly useful app for the housebound, Meister notes.
On that note, one of the coolest parts of the AARP-Geek Squad partnership, we think, is the education component. AARP members can get one-on-one training over the phone, so they are not merely shown or told but really know how to take advantage of all these great tools. Some of these trainings include internet safety and how to use a digital camera.
"One of the things that we like to say...is that tech skills are only 49 percent of what makes an agent. It's actually 51 percent people skills," said Meister. "Part of our whole purpose is not just to fix that computer for you, but actually make you feel comfortable with that technology. When we really do our job, you don't have to see us again any time soon."
Check out The Geek Squad's 8 tip for taking advantage of social media:
On <a href="http://instagr.am/" target="_hplink">Instagram</a> (iPhone and Android, free), users take photos from their daily lives and have the option to apply a variety of filters to enhance or touch-up their images. Users then have the ability to share their images on various social network sites as well as Instagram's own social network. Users also have the ability to "like" other users' photos and share with their own friends. BEST FOR: The application is best for those wanting to share the daily images of their lives. As Instagram has grown in popularity, many users can share their photos on multiple social networks. It's a great way to share your latest craft project or vacation adventures with your family and friends. TIPS & TRICKS: Photos from Instagram don't have to stay in the online realm. Users now have the ability to easily turn their filtered photos into actual photos on canvas using CanvasPop or even into desk calendars with the app Calendargram (iPhone, free), which would make great gifts for all of your loved ones.
<a href="https://plus.google.com/" target="_hplink">Google+</a> is a social networking site that encompasses a variety of features, including Google Hangouts, an online spot that facilitates group chat and the "+1 button" that allows users to show your personal endorsement of an informative article or an interesting item. Google+ allows you to categorize your contacts into a variety of groups called circles. With circles, you can choose what groups can see what you post and what you share. If you want to talk about a family get-together, you can share it with your friends and family circle, but not your professional colleagues. BEST FOR: Google+ is ideal for those who want to share content-rich information. It has features for sharing personal documents and photos, articles and can connect users via text chat and video chat. The social media network also has over 40 games where you can connect with friends and share your scores with your different circles. TIPS & TRICKS: Google Docs has recently been integrated into Hangouts, the video chat feature of Google+. Now users can pull up their documents while using the video chat feature and you can even share your screen to make for a productive and basically face-to-face conference.
<a href="http://pinterest.com/" target="_hplink">Pinterest</a> is a virtual pin board where users can "pin" images on a variety of topics, such as home décor, recipes, and apparel. Pinterest users then create boards to house the images, so users may have one specific to anniversary planning, birthday parties, favorite recipes or quotes, for example. The cyber-version of "vision-boards," users have the opportunity to browse and share images. BEST FOR: If you're constantly surfing the web to collect ideas, it can be difficult to remember every site you visited or how to keep up with all of your bookmarks. With Pinterest, the "pinning" can be added to your internet browser easily and you can start collecting all of your favorite images. TIPS & TRICKS: Need some quick gift ideas for your grandchild's first birthday party or your son's promotion and not sure what you're looking for? Pinterest has segmented categories for price ranges in their gift section and you can quickly click on the image to take you to the product information and you can order right from your mobile device or computer.
<a href="https://twitter.com/" target="_hplink">Twitter</a> is an online, micro-blogging social network channel that allows users to share and read posts up to 140 characters. Users can follow friends, celebrities, news distributors, companies and other organizations to keep up with daily news, the "it" celebrity or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. BEST FOR: Twitter is a great way to quickly receive news and catch updates from your friends, family, favorite sports team or news outlet. You can create different lists to separate your personal friends from the entertainment world from breaking international news. TIPS & TRICKS: To help you create lists, Twitter has a suggestions feature that provides categories such as music, fashion, technology and government. With these suggestions, you can have a complete list to keep you up-to-date on these areas. Also remember, watch what you tweet, especially if your information is public. News and broadcast networks could feature you on their show if you interact with them online.
With "more than 10 billion visits per month and the Facebook user hitting the site an average of 68.7 times every month," according to <a href="http://thefinancialbrand.com/22917/facebook-youtube-twitter-linked-in-traffic-comparisons/" target="_hplink">The Financial Brand</a>, most people are familiar with the social networking site. A <a href="http://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/general/socmedia.pdf" target="_hplink">recent study from AARP</a> amongst people age 50+ showed that 23% of those surveyed either used or frequently visited Facebook, which was by far the most popular social network amongst their age group. One thing to keep in mind is that Facebook has seen changes recently with Timeline, meaning users need to familiarize themselves with the different privacy policies that accompany the modifications. BEST FOR: To best use Facebook, remember to keep in mind what you want to share. Check your privacy settings and if you need help, remember that Geek Squad is available 24/7 online at geeksquad.com to help you navigate the changes. TIPS & TRICKS: Did you know you can now use Facebook to connect you and your friends through text message? If your Wi-Fi or internet connectivity is off, you can still contact your friends and family via Facebook. You can turn on text messaging so your contacts can use Facebook Messages to send you texts. Also, once you have activated text messaging through your Facebook account you can send a text to 32665 (FBOOK) and in the message, write msg and the name of the person you'd like to Facebook message and it will send to their inbox! For example: msg Joe Smith How are you?
<a href="http://www.linkedin.com/" target="_hplink">LinkedIn</a> is a social networking tool focused on professional networking and building business relationships. The tool can be used to network and has informational tabs that compile your personal industry's top news for the day for quick reference. BEST FOR: LinkedIn can be used to connect professionally and also as a supplement to the traditional resume and business card. You have the ability to expand and personalize your descriptions and skills that you sometimes leave off in hard copies. You even have the option of adding a video onto your LinkedIn profile to give you an extra boost in impressions. TIPS & TRICKS: Frequently check your LinkedIn to see what your contacts and colleagues are up to. It's a great way to stay connected professionally.
<strong>Watch who you "Friend" and "Follow."</strong> On many social media sites, people can request to follow or friend you. If you're not comfortable with strangers having access to your social media information, depending on the social media tool, you could have the option to allow them access to pre-approved sections of your profile. <strong>Privatize your profile.</strong> Geek Squad can show you how to take advantage of the privacy settings offered by social media sites. By marking your page as private, people have to request you as a friend or ask for your approval in order to "follow" you on Twitter or view your complete Facebook profile. Social media websites generally undergo changes a few times every year, and most of those facelifts affect privacy settings in some way - though users may not be directly alerted of those specific changes. If you notice changes on social-networking site homepages, it's a good idea to revisit your privacy settings, perform a quick internet search to learn more or ask a Geek Squad Agent to give you the scoop.
<strong>Beware of your posts!</strong> Always remember that any content you post on the internet will be there forever, for anyone to read, store and republish. Remember that this information is stored somewhere, likely in multiple places. <strong>Avoid sharing personal information.</strong> License plate numbers, house numbers or other addresses as well as specific names of schools, workplaces or towns should be not shared on the internet. Information can be used like pieces in a puzzle to paint a bigger picture of you. <strong>Always take a second look.</strong> Just because the screen says your friend John has sent you information doesn't mean John is actually the person who did. Scams often run rampant on social media sites, so beware of any unusual messages. For example, hackers disguise messages to your contacts claiming to need money after being robbed or having lost money in a foreign country. <strong>Trust your gut. </strong>If it doesn't "seem right" it probably isn't. Things free or too good to be true are just that. Social networking sites have been a breeding ground for fake antivirus software ads, so avoid any type of free antivirus offers.