Jive Talkin’ at Cerner Corporation

Social Business Collaboration Tools Leveraged by Cerner Corporation

Lance Yoder shares how Cerner corporation uses social intranet software to improve internal communications

A large number of communications professionals and other business managers wanted to learn more about the social intranet today by hearing how industry giant, Cerner Corporation, introduced the Jive platform to its 10,000+ employees and numerous clients, business partners, invited guests-researchers and industry experts. The presentation was titled, “Using Social Business Tools to Improve Internal Communications” and was presented by International Association of Business Communicators colleague, and Cerner Program Manager, Lance Yoder.

As a past employee of large organizations, I find this rather fascinating. How can these multinational companies improve internal communications? How can they improve communications with customers, vendors, industry experts, etc.? Based on how curious people from organizations without sophisticated social intranets, Cerner must be on to something.

For me, a one person communications consultant, I want to to know how these tools might affect smaller businesses, which are important clients to me. Can small businesses use them now, or is it, for now, a tool for larger companies with deeper pockets and the personnel to operate the tools.

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Communications professionals listened attentively and had many questions for Cerner Corporation’s personnel in regard to its social intranet collaboration software

If I can learn about such trends as they occur, hopefully I will be a more valued consultant to small business enterprise.

Top six branding mistakes by small businesses

In working with entrepreneurs and small businesses, I often find they have some serious problems with their logos and branding graphics. They contact me because they need some help with a website, a brochure, email blasts, blogging, etc., but what they really should do first is fix their corporate identity.

Branding mistakes graphic

If the corporate identity is really bad, then creating a new website, featuring that branding, is like painting rotten wood on a house. It looks better for a while, but pretty soon the rot is again showing through. Here are my top six branding mistakes:

Home-made logos

When you’re just getting started, paying for someone to develop a professional logo and branding seems incredibly expensive. And surely you can pay $25 or so for a logo software program and do-it-yourself. Or why not pay an online company $150 or so “to create the best logo possible.” Too often you truly get what you pay for, and that ain’t saying much!

Use of cliché stock art

Everyone now knows how cheaply you buy stock art on the Internet. So obtain some cheap online art of a globe, or a bar chart, or an arrow, or a puzzle piece, or a leaf, or an oak tree. You’re golden now, you’ve got an instantly recognizable form that says your company is global in its service area, builds sales volume for its customers, is solid like a hundred-year-old oak tree, solves puzzles, etc. Unfortunately, those shapes are overused and have become cliché.

Meaningless taglines

How often have you seen a tagline for a company that doesn’t mean anything? Sony has a tagline of “Make. Believe.” It doesn’t tell us what the company does, how the company is different from competitors or what it stands for. It’s rather meaningless. If you can take a tagline and use it for any other company, then it doesn’t have much punch. How about, “General Motors. Make. Believe.” It’s equally meaningless for the auto industry. A company’s tagline should be a memorable phrase that concisely captures the essence of your company’s business purpose or value proposition. It should complement and reinforce your company name and logo graphics. I’m a pragmatist when it comes to taglines. I really think they should relate to what you do, how you do it and be concise (less than 10 words).

Poor color scheme

Blue is my favorite color. I would like to have a logo and website featuring the color blue. Roughly half of the people say blue is their favorite color. About half of all contact lenses sold are tinted blue. So guess how unique having blue in your branding colors is? Not very. Actually, the mistake I see most often is choosing dark colors, often 2 of them to be the branding colors. Black, when combined with dark green, dark or medium blue or gray can be problematic with logo graphics. They are too close together in the color palette and can be a bit gloomy.

Too complex

Facebook logo example

Facebook’s logo uses a friendly, all lower case font treatment and is simple, yet memorable.

Overly complex logos can just be too busy to efficiently communicate your brand. Watch out for lots of swirls and multiple images, an excess of embellishments, odd shapes or patterns. You can easily overload the audience with too much visual stimulation. I once tried to help an entrepreneur who was starting a home inspection business. He had a satisfactory name for the company, and my art director came up with a simple, smart graphic representation of a house. The client kept asking for more details for the graphic. Shouldn’t we have a door? What about windows? Pretty soon the simple graphic was overloaded with details!

Perplexing font choices

The font used for a business name is critical. It must be easy to read. Don’t make the audience squint to figure out the name of your business. The font should reflect the personality of the business, yet be appropriate for the industry and target audiences. Some of the best brands just use the font and minimal graphics. Facebook, for example, uses all lower case characters in a simple and recognizable manner.

Poor branding can result in catastrophic outcome, or at least hamstring a business until it corrects the branding. Your branding graphic should be:

  • Simple – easy to read/interpret.
  • Memorable – sticks in people’s minds.
  • Professional – not amateurish or home-made.
  • Unique – not confusable with another organization’s brand.
  • Timeless – think Coca Cola.
  • Versatile – can the branding graphics be used in a variety of mediums?
  • Appropriate – can the audience relate to the brand?

I’ve stated my opinions on branding and logos. What say you?

Online Reputation Management

SERPS matter when your reputation is online and “on the line”

Reputation Management Graphic

A company’s reputation can get disheveled with a single bad comment on directory or review website

People are talking about you and your organization online. They’re talking about you on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and perhaps even Yelp. You can find out by “Googling yourself” or your business. The search engine result pages (SERPs) from Google, Bing, Yahoo and others will tell the story. What shows up on the first page? Hopefully your personal or business website, or your blogs are right up there toward the top. Your social media presence is usually good, too, like your LinkedIn profile or your YouTube account.

Unfortunately, that first, or second, page might display a negative review of your business, or perhaps your name and/or photo is displayed because someone shared a less than flattering photo with you in it. Maybe you said something that was captured in an article or on video that you didn’t intend to be for public consumption. None of us are exempt from making mistakes, or being criticized – whether it’s fair or not. It happens all the time and today it can be oh so easily captured on the Internet.

How to mediate online reputation mishaps

Since we agree, “stuff happens on the Net,” what do we do about online reputation mishaps? You could hire a service if it makes economic sense and you desire third party expertise. If you’re like me, you want to be more hands on with such an important matter. And not everyone can afford an online reputation management service. Let’s take a look at the ways you can do most online reputation management yourself.

Monitor your search results daily for negative reputation posts

Set up free “Google Alerts” notices for keywords like, “your business name,” “your full name,” and perhaps common misspellings of those terms. You should also monitor your competitors using Google Alerts. Besides reputation monitoring, you might gain good competitive insights on your competitors. Consider using a paid alert notice, if you don’t feel the free Google Alerts feature is satisfactory. Monitoring is the most important step in the process of online reputation management. If you want a positive and clean online reputation, you must monitor.

Claim or take ownership of our local listings

Like it or not, there are numerous directory and/or review sites on the Internet. You probably have at least a basic listing on many of them. They’ll include your business name, industry or category, address, phone, website, etc. The information might even be correct, but you never know until you take a look. You should claim some of these directory/review profiles. Claiming simply means signing on the directory/review site as the owner of the business. It’s usually free and allows you to include current information about your business and upload an image, such as your logo.
Review sites may have additional features, such as display advertising, that are revenue producers for the site. You are not obliged to buy those add-ons, and they may or may not be worthwhile for your business. Most directory/review sites offer free statistics on visits to your profile, and a way to respond to negative comments. On a site like Yelp, be thoughtful when responding to negative comments. Consider responding “publicly,” “privately,” or not at all. Quite often, my best advice to clients is not to respond – the risks often outweigh the potential rewards. There are a number of directory/review sites. Some of the more important ones are Yelp, Google+, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, Yellow Pages and Angie’s List. Of course, you’ll want to monitor them, which is relatively easy to do once you claim your profile.

Encourage positive customer reviews on popular local business directories

With the proliferation of business review sites on the Internet it’s become paramount for businesses of any size and type to have a thoughtful strategy to encourage positive Internet reviews and manage their Internet reputation. Reviews tend to get high placement on SERPS. Here are few ideas that can be tailored to your business and comfort zone:

  • Call or send personal message to customers you believe will give positive online reviews for you and your business. Ask them to join the review site and say something positive about you or your business.
  • Invite people who “like you” on Facebook, link with you on LinkedIn, etc. to make positive comments on one or more review sites.
  • Invite customers to respond to an electronic survey (like Survey Monkey) and ask positive reviewers if they’ll post a favorable comment on a review site.
  • Put a link (and words of encouragement) on your website to review sites. Make it easy for people to click and get to your profile on Yelp, Google+, Yahoo Local, etc.
  • After delivering stellar service or making a transaction sale, personally ask the client if they’ll post a favorable comment on a review site. The worst they can say is “No.”
Health club reaches out image

This health club reached out to happy members on Facebook, requesting them to post positive comments on Yelp

Add and share appealing content

This is my personal favorite – maybe because I enjoy creating content. Add news/blog posts at least monthly. Continue to add/share content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other social media outposts. If you cannot get a negative comment removed from a review site, like Yelp or Yahoo Local, then it will probably continue to be indexed on SERPS (i.e., show up on searches for your company name or personal name). The best way to mitigate those negative comments just happens to be the best way to market your business on the Internet. Proactively publish content that is interesting and useful to your audiences. “How to” articles, white papers, interesting anecdotes, etc. are all great things to share. Some people like to curate relevant content by finding remarkable content from around the web and share it in their blog or via an email newsletter, like MailChimp. Success means pushing any negative comments down from the top of SERPs (off of Google’s page one).

Diversify your online presence

I most often recommend that people and businesses only have the number of social media outposts they can reasonably manage. However, additional social media outposts can further add to your online footprint and help push any negative search results down the page. Consider adding other social media, such as Twitter, Slideshare, Quora, Pinterest, Flickr, etc. Some experts say to create “personal hubs” that link to your social media profiles in order to further diversify. “About me” and “BrandYourself” are noteworthy providers, both with free versions of their product. You could also create a free blog, using your full name as the domain name. WordPress and Blogger are popular and free blogging platforms.

Send out press releases to electronic media

Distributing electronic press releases offer a low cost and easy way to obtain publicity, website traffic and reputation management in an “all in one” online package. Search-optimized press releases can rank highly in Google, Bing and Yahoo searches for pertinent keyword searches, giving your organization another opportunity to own a top Google slot. Your press releases should incorporate keywords relating to your business and can be distributed to local publishers as well as online newswire services. Topics can include:

  • Industry-related trends
  • Problem/solution case studies
  • Testimonials
  • Availability of white papers or “point of view” articles
  • “How to” guides

After distributing your press releases, be sure to further leverage them by bookmarking them on Del.icio.us, Digg, Technorati, StumbleUpon and other social bookmarking websites. Mention them on your other social media outposts, like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to boost your search engine reputation management effort.
It’s very important to actively own or at least influence top Internet search results because it’s rather difficult to push down negative content once it’s indexed. The good news is that the steps you take are also good SEO practices in general.

(I help people and businesses with online and traditional marketing communication services. I’m particularly experienced at serving financial service, professional service and small businesses. Contact me for more information.)

KCIABC’s 2013 Business Communicators Summit

Chakisse Newton image

Chakisse Newton presents communications tips to Kansas City’s International Association of Business Communicators

Speaker and communications consultant Chakisse Newton offered business communicators “practical tips and techniques to improve every communication, whether written or verbal, professional or personal,” at KCIABC’s 2013 Business Communicators Summit. The whole day included breakout sessions on topics from “Integrated Online Marketing” to “Understanding Mobile Content Marketing” to “Developing Your Professional Presence and Get Results.”

Digital Sandbox to Support Tech Company Startups

Digital Sandbox Kansas City image

Digital Sandbox Kansas City will support IT entrepreneurs in Greater Kansas City area

I was invited to the official announcement of Digital Sandbox KC, an unprecedented partnership among private companies, universities and government agencies to spur development of local IT-related start-up businesses. Maria Meyers, director of the UMKC Innovation Center and the driving force behind the Sandbox concept, announced the 15-member Advisory Board to Digital Sandbox KC. The event was held at the historic Union Station of Kansas City and the meeting room overflowed with people, all wondering just the Digital Sandbox would mean for our community and them personally.

According to the multitude of speakers, “Entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to brainstorm and problem-solve with top people from the private sector corporate partners to find marketable applications for new discoveries, as well as ‘orphan technologies’ from both corporate- and university-based development labs.

Maria Meyers of UMKC Innovation Center image

Maria Meyers, of UMKC Innovation Center, addresses the “Digital Sandbox” crowd

In terms of eligibility, all ideas related to IT are welcome; but the Sandbox will have four key focus areas:

  • Data center and cloud operations,
  • Big data and data analytics,
  • Mobile applications, and
  • Data security.

It’s an exciting announcement, let’s hope it lives up to its promise!

Content Writing: 500-Word Content Posts for as Low as $325

Yes, really, you can hire me, an experienced content writer, to write your news or blog posts of 500 words or less for a little as $325 per post. The offer is for clients willing to commit to a six-month (up to one year maximum)

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Need help with your online content?

agreement where we add 2 posts per month. I will take the topics you provide, get your viewpoint on the respective topics, research and write the post. One edit is included after the first draft is presented.

Unless you prefer otherwise, I will insert the post into your content management system’s posting system and do basic SEO tweaking, such as completing the title, post summary and keyword fields. Provided images can be added a small additional cost.

Who can benefit from this special offer for content writing services?

Blogging or posting news items on a regular basis is vital to succeeding in the online, or inbound, marketing game. Organizations that can benefit by retaining Lofstrom + Company services, includes:

  • Organizations already committed to inbound marketing that seek external, professional writing services,
  • Organizations that are not yet fully engaged in online marketing, but want to put together a quality inbound marketing effort,
  • Organizations that know they should have an online marketing initiative and want some help with startup and content writing.

Additional online marketing services available

Depending on your present level on online marketing sophistication, you may benefit from additional online marketing services. Although excluded from the special copywriting offer, they can be packaged and priced if you so desire. Such services might include:

  • Editorial planning. I can help you create an editorial plan and create a calendar with planned post topics and “send dates.”
  • Keywords. Keyword tools can help online marketers find specific words and phrases that are most relevant to your searchers and search engines. I can help you create relevant list of SEO-friendly keywords for your organization.
  • Image Sourcing. Images are great for posts, but they’re not always easy to source. I can help you acquire low-cost, royalty-free, stock photos, manipulate the images in Photoshop (if needed) and place photos within your posts.
  • Social media outposts. It’s important to use your social media outposts, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, to share new content on your website. I can insert snippets of copy and images so your social media community will be alerted to your website’s new posts.
  • Analytics. Digital marketing has given us loads of data, but what does it all mean? I can help you turn your Google Analytics data into actionable information.

Let’s get started!

Does this sound like a good deal to you? I think it’s an incredible offer to have your blog and news posts written by a skilled and experienced content writer. Please don’t hesitate, contact me, and we’ll get started .

PS: Do you want to see samples? Contact me and I will email you a few samples. Let me know the type of topics you’re most interested.

Content Marketing Tips for 2013

To start the new year, I combed the Internet for content marketing tips and trends. The folks at Social Media Examiner have a great list (26 Essentials for Blogging Success: What You Need to Know) for those of us interested Tips Jar Imagein online marketing. My favorites in this list include:

  • #4 Website/blog Design Elements. Simple ways to make sure your website/blog has a smart, professional design.
  • #6 Text formatting. This one gives sage tips on formatting the body text of blog posts.
  •  #9 Images in Posts. Suitable and properly placed images enhance your blog posts and improve SEO.
  • #13 Mobile Friendly. A reminder that mobile reading/viewing of Internet content is an avalanche rolling your way – be sure your web content is mobile friendly.
  • #18 Reputation Matters. Negative online posts about you or your company can be devastating. You must be aware of your reputation and defend it.
  • #25 YouTube Video. Add a YouTube account and video posts to your website for those who enjoy video and, of course, boost your search engine “findability” factor.

What do you think of these ideas? Do you have a good list to share? Let me know!

Enhanced LinkedIn Company Pages Can Build Your B2B Brand

EnhanLinkedIn logoced LinkedIn company pages, introduced several weeks ago, intrigue me. I must admit that I barely had a LinkedIn company page before this past year or so, and I kind of wondered if it was worth the bother. Aren’t we mostly looking for people, not companies?

Then it donned on me that I have been finding old friends and work associates by searching LinkedIn via the company or organization name. And in marketing your business, even a small one, isn’t it important to share some of the magnificence of your company on the “world’s largest professional network” for businesses? Of course, you’ve no doubt said, “Yes,” to yourself, and now want to know how you can build your company’s brand on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn company pages are the most underutilized tool within the social media outpost.

If You’re a LinkedIn Company Page Newbie

If you don’t have a company page or you have one without the newer LinkedIn company page features, then you must first build out your company profile. It’s really not very difficult, but it does take some time and effort.

Start with the LinkedIn Banner

Hopefully you know a bit about selecting and sizing images or graphic elements, or you have someone to help you with the banner image. The LinkedIn banner area is quite wide and the image should reflect your company in the best possible manner. It can be as simple as your company logo (that’s what I did initially), images of people or places, or even a clever graphic design. FYI, your banner must be 646 x 220 pixels in size in order to fit the LinkedIn banner field.

Build out your LinkedIn profile and services

Click on “Edit Page,” and fill in details on your company’s size, its web address, or URL, company description, company locations and other details. Designate yourself (and/or others) as a LinkedIn company pages administrators, so you and they can add company updates. Include key services and descriptions of services and products on your company profile. The “overview” tab displays a summary of your company and includes your most recent “shared” post, and lists all employees that are linked. Next you can fill out the individual services and products section. The first product or service listed in the products and services section of the LinkedIn Company Page will be displayed first, so lead with your strongest offering. It’s perfectly acceptable to use content, or copy, from your website, especially if it is accurate and well written.

Company Updates are an Effective Way to Reach Your Constituencies

LinkedIn has made update streams more relevant for participants. Companies are more able to share status updates, career opportunities and more with interested LinkedIn members.  Share your company news, upcoming events, job promotions, pertinent industry articles or posts, YouTube videos and more.

If you used the blog linking tool like me, beware it’s been removed, so company posts, individually entered and shared, are the way to stay “front and center” with fellow members and followers. Moreover, targeted updates allow you to segment company followers and share specific updates with specific segments.

Involve Employees in LinkedIn

When employees are LinkedIn members they can add or edit a position on their profile, and specify your company as the current employer. They must choose the correct company and LinkedIn will then list them on your company landing page with other current employees. Your company page on LinkedIn is directly impacted by your employees and how they behave on LinkedIn. It’s crucial to advise employees on how to make the most out of LinkedIn in order to further leverage your LinkedIn presence. In fact, it’s so important that it could (and will) be a blog topic of its own.

LinkedIn Careers Page

LinkedIn’s “Company Pages” includes a Careers tab, where jobs you post via “LinkedIn Jobs” will be displayed. Up to five jobs can featured (displayed) on your Career Page home screen. A fee is charged for your LinkedIn job listings, but it is competitively priced and has a powerful reach. Whether or not you pay for a job listing, be sure your company profile includes information about the culture and types of work performed at your company.


Many organizations are under-utilizing LinkedIn, especially company pages. It’s not too late to get in the game. The updated company profile pages make it easy to access the information you and your LinkedIn links want, and a more powerful way for businesses to nurture relationships with customers and targeted prospects. Does any of this sound a bit daunting? Want some help? Please contact me by phone (816-942-8887) or email today!

Digital Online Annual Reports Becoming Commonplace

As a writer of annual reports and other financial documents, I’ve noticed the trend of online annual reports, a digital or electronic format. However, I wondered just how far the “digital online report” has come in the last few years and set out to learn for myself. Since you found this post, perhaps you, too, are inquisitive about the digital online annual report. Here’s what I discovered.

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Full HTML annual reports leverage Internet technology

About one-third of US annual reports are digital

According to a 2010 Annual Report Trends poll from Craib and Blunn & Company, about 32% of US companies publish an online HTML version of their report.

Nexxar, a Viennese company “devoted to the topic of online reports,” states that 42% of 2011 annual reports in North America and Europe are online.  Nexxar research indicates that online reports overtook PDFs, at 38%, in 2011.

Multiple formats for annual reports

Online annual reports can be of several types:

  • HTML online annual reports are designed for online reading using Internet technologies like html and micro websites (versus printing), and may include video, audio and interactive elements.
  • PDF annual reports had been the standard bearer of offering online financials, but are losing favor, or least becoming the second banana to html reports.
  • Flip book style reports typically are print layout pages converted to images (JPGs) and allow one to flip through the gallery in a magazine-style fashion.
  • The hybrid annual report, per Nexxar, has become popular in recent years. Parts of the report, such as the financial notes section, are available as a PDF while the front half of the traditional print report is full HTML. Organizations find this a cost-effective balance of reporting technology. Some criticize this approach as being a poor mix of technologies.

Benefits of HTML annual reports

Trends indicate that that the HTML annual report is slowly but surely becoming the status quo for annual reports, especially for publicly traded companies. Benefits of the HTML online annual report include:

  • Speed. Interested parties can get to a number of web pages quickly, and are increasingly adept at finding what they want on an html website. In today’s need for speed era, downloading a PDF and then flipping through pages is too time consuming. The flip book may not require a download but are also more time consuming than HTML.
  • Accessibility. Online annual reports are accessible anywhere one has an Internet connection. Mobile devices, like smart phones, iPads and tablets are playing an increasing role in content consumption. These devices are made for interactivity, and HTML reports are quite adaptable for screen size. Some do question the actual viability of content-heavy annual reports with the small screens of many smart phones. Best practices call for the extensive use of audio, animation and video, versus long pages of text and data.
  • Multi-media. The HTML annual report allows a company to tell its story and communicate key messages through a combination of words, images, video and audio.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO). The phenomenon of the Internet is the ability for an organization to be found by the thousands and from just about anywhere. A digital annual report has a better opportunity for successful search engine optimization than a PDF report or flip book.

What financial reporting mode is best for your organization?

Publicly traded companies’ annual reports

In my opinion, publicly traded companies need to take a hard look at the HTML annual report. You’re competing for institutional and retail investor’s attention, and you need to be current with Internet technology as adapted to the annual report. You may want or need to keep a print layout version, too. There certainly is a place for the tangible document in communicating your company’s challenges, strategies and financial results.

Nonprofit organizations’ annual reports

Nonprofits don’t have to produce an annual report, but many feel compelled to communicate how they have progressed in meeting their missions and how they have stewarded their resources.  Nonprofit annual reports generally do not disclose detailed financial data, but do include a financial highlights section. An HTML nonprofit annual report, and the likely increased expenses, may be construed as an unnecessary cost. However, those costs may be justified in how the use of multi-media can tell the compelling stories of the nonprofit.

Private companies’ annual reports

Private companies are just that, private, and tend to shy away from revealing what they consider to be internal information. So, creating an online resource with private information is generally inappropriate. We do see some large, private companies provide snippets of financial data, such as overall revenue, number of new locations, number of locations closed, etc. Private companies with employee stock plans need to share certain information to those employees, but typically prefer print communications that is selectively shared. I have seen private companies create documents called annual review, which contain some financials and often include stories and visuals of their products and services in action.

Need help with your financial or annual report? Please contact me for a free 30-minute consultation.

Google Fiber Puts Kansas City on the Fiber Map

I attended the initial Google Fiber launch event in my hometown, Kansas City, Missouri,

Google 3 dimensional visual

Google's imagination 3-dimensional data highway uses automobile traffic to compare current Internet broadband speeds to Google Fiber, which is 100 times faster. Gary Lofstrom, online marketing communications professional, admires Google Internet data model.

held on July 26, 2012. It was quite an event, with seemingly every issue covered, from having ample parking with shuttle buses, Google emblazoned umbrellas in case of rain, soft drinks and chairs for guests waiting for the doors to open. Oh yeah, Google Fiber means participants can have Internet access that is approximately 100 times faster than the current high-speed, broadband access. Yes, 100 times faster, and Google had numerous visuals to help attendees understand how fast that is.

Google promises us endless possibilities. Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Access, also introduced Google Fiber Television, a new cablelike video service. Customers will use a set-top box like a DVR that can record eight shows at once, store 500 hours of HD programming, and acts as a Wi-Fi router.

Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Access photo

Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Access, presents Google Fiber to an Internet knowledgeable crowd

Prices are $120 per month for the total package, Google Fiber Television, $70 per month just Fiber Internet and there’s even a way to get fiber connected and pay no monthly fee for current average speed broadband (about 5 MBs). For the latter, Google does charge $300 for installation and promises to deliver the slower Internet access for seven years.