Tag Archives: Small Business

10 Key Tips for Social Media Security

12 Jun

The hacking of mass accounts on a social network is something that seems to be happening a great deal recently, with LinkedIn being the latest victim, after having 6.5m of its users passwords stolen. Prior to LinkedIn, Twitter suffered a similar hack, and Facebook way did too.

Social media profiles have become the target of social media hackers who use that data to further spread their maliciousness or gain access to your more sensitive data. It is always worth remembering that you can become a victim at any time. Not a day goes by when we don’t hear about a new hack, and with 55,000 new pieces of malware generated a day, security never sleeps.

With the latest security threat to LinkedIn fresh in our minds, here are 10 key social media security tips.

1. Think before you post! Status updates, photos, and comments can end up revealing more about you than you intended to disclose, and you could end up feeling like some silly politician as you struggle to explain yourself.

2. Think twice about allowing applications that request permission to access your data. You will be allowing an unknown party to send you email, post to your wall, and access your information at any time, regardless of whether you’re using the application. Before you decide if you want to allow the application access, make sure you know exactly what the application is!

3. Don’t click on short links that don’t clearly show the link location. With URL shorteners like bit.ly (and many more) are becoming increasingly common, it’s easy to forget that such URL’s can also be used by criminals to dupe you. Criminals often post phony links that claim to show you who has been viewing your profile. If you’re unsure about a link, you can test unknown links at SiteAdvisor by simply pasting the link into the “View a Site Report” form on the right-hand side of the page. Alternatively, if you use Hootsuite, you can see the extended URL or a shortened link by simply clicking the ‘+’ sign next to the shortened URL.

4. Beware of posts with subjects along the lines of, “LOL! Look at the video I found of you online!” When you click the link, you often get a message saying that you need to upgrade your video player in order to see the clip, but when you attempt to download the “upgrade,” the malicious page will instead install malware that tracks and steals your data.

5. Geolocation apps such as Foursquare share your exact location, which can also let criminals know that you aren’t home, so reconsider broadcasting exactly where you are. Remember, apps like Foursquare still allow you to gain check-in points without having to disclose your location on your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

6. Always use an up-to-date browser. Older browsers tend to have more security flaws, and it is very simple and quick to update your browser to the latest version.

7. Choose unique logins and passwords for each of the websites you use. Yes, it’s a bit of a hassle to have different passwords for EVERY site you use, but it’s the best way to limit your exposure if (and probably when) a particular site you use gets hacked. I’m a big fan of password managers, which can create and store secure passwords for you.

8. Check the domain of the website to be sure that you’re logging into a legitimate website. So if you’re visiting a Facebook page from a link in an email, make sure the URL of the site is actually ‘www.facebook.com’ and not a site which looks like Facebook. Hackers often duplicate websites with the exact same design, and once you log into their fake site, they have your real login and password within seconds. This principle also applies to online banking websites, so be extra careful!

9. Be cautious of any message, post, or link you find on a social network that looks at all suspicious or requires to login again once you’re already logged in.

10. Make sure your security suite is up to date and includes antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-spam, a firewall, and a website safety advisor.

BONUS TIP: Take the time to understand your privacy settings! Select the most secure options and check periodically for changes that can open up your profile to the public. Facebook is renowned for continually changing its layout and one such change could result in information that was once private, now being public!

Have you ever had in social media security issues? Or do you have any additional tips? I’d love to hear from you!

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Is It Really Worth Linking Your Personal Twitter Account To Post All Tweets To Your LinkedIn Profile?

29 May

I have recently started to see a lot of my LinkedIn connections link their personal Twitter accounts to their LinkedIn profile, and allow it to push all of their tweets to their LinkedIn profile. Linking your LinkedIn and your personal Twitter account may seem like a good idea to begin with: It’s a function which exists to make your life more efficient and save you having to post the same updates individually on each platform, however LinkedIn’s option to link your Twitter account should not be taken lightly, and is something I would advise against.

I must point out that my opinion on linking your personal Twitter account to your LinkedIn profile mainly applies to those who tweet a lot, about many kinds of topic. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing! It’s natural to do this, and Twitter is a wonderful online platform for sharing information, links and opinions on a large variety of topics.

But it is worth remembering that unlike Twitter, the greatest strength of LinkedIn is that the audience is there specifically to gather useful information that helps them, or their business, to grow professionally. If you focus your message on that audience’s needs, you’ll have a tremendous opportunity to serve as a resource to them – and maybe ultimately have them choose to do business with you, or refer others to you.

However, if you constantly bombard your LinkedIn users with updates of tweets related to TV Programmes, Sports or any other personal interests you have, the LinkedIn user who has connected with you on a professional level will not find any of this content relevant, and the user can choose to ‘hide’ your updates, which means any updates you make in the future that are relevant to your professional connections could easily be drowned by the amount of other ‘irrelevant’ updates you have posted.

The same applies to updates which show you replying to other tweets where LinkedIn users don’t have the context of the larger conversation to make sense of it. Although your Twitter followers will appreciate this, chances are your LinkedIn connections will not.

If you have the two criteria below, I feel it is worth linking your personal Twitter Account to your LinkedIn Profile:

1. You only tweet a maximum of two/three time a days.
2. You only tweet about topics related to your profession/niche.

There will be occasions when you post tweets that you would like to appear in your LinkedIn profile as well, and you can modify your settings so that when you include the hashtag “#in” your tweet will automatically be posted on LinkedIn. This is the best alternative for those who tweet a lot, but not only about work.

It’s always important to be as professional as often as possible on LinkedIn and this is a simple way to avoid annoying your business connections while still being able to update your LinkedIn status with relevant information.

If your LinkedIn stream isn’t relevant, people will begin to ignore your updates!

What are your thoughts on linking social media accounts?

Social Media Campaigns: Case Studies of the Biggest Fails of 2012 (So Far)

8 May

As social media continues to evolve, there is no set formula that defines a perfect campaign. While there are some great social media campaigns being run by companies, there are also plenty of campaigns being run which highlight how running a social media campaign isn’t easy, and there can be downfalls. Many individuals and companies are learning this the hard way, and it’s good to learn from other people’s mistakes so we don’t end up making them ourselves!

Here are some case studies of such failures that have occurred this year, along with the key lesson learnt from each failure.

1. McDonald’s #McDStories

In mid-January, McDonalds launched a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #McDStories. McDonald’s asked users to post nostalgic stories about their experiences on Happy Meals, however, the #McDStories campaign quickly took a whole different turn very quickly as users started using the hashtag to instead share horror experiences and shock tales. From poor work conditions to appalling food quality, McDonald’s campaign turned negative attention back to itself.

Here are just a few examples of tweets on the #McDStories Hashtag:

The Lesson:
Social media campaigns always contain a measure of risk, where perception from users cannot be controlled. McDonald’s suffered from this, with the hijacking of their hashtag campaign. While companies, to some degree, can attempt to anticipate reaction from customers, at times it is simply impossible. In general, companies need to prepare contingency plans, and have a strategy for when social media fails. This is also a great example which shows that no-one, not even a global restaurant giant, can control conversations on the internet.

2. Reddit & Woody Harrelson’s ‘Ask Me Anything’

At the start of February, Academy Award Nominee Woody Harrelson hosted Reddit’s ‘Ask Me Anything’ (AMA), where users can ask questions to individuals who have a unique story or occupation. While the AMA’s are generally used to promote thoughtful dialogue and discussion, Harrelson’s AMA chat took a different approach – Reddit users quickly got the impression that the movie star was simply using the site for nothing more than marketing purposes, and Reddit users lashed out. There was an enormous amount of backlash fired against Harrelson, his publicists and his upcoming movie, and Harrelson became infamous in Reddit history ever since. Google ‘Woody Harrelson’ today and ‘Woody Harrelson AMA’ is still the most popular search term!

Here are a few of the comments directly from Harrelson’s AMA:

The Lesson:
The main reason why this campaign failed so spectacularly is because of Harrelson’s (and his publicists) failure to understand his audience. Reddit is a social news website which possesses a dedicated audience that is very sensitive towards marketing attempts. With AMA threads, Reddit users expect an honest dialogue, providing an open forum between the host and the audience. When using a social media platform, it is vital that you carefully understand the community and how they work.

3. Chris Brown’s Post-Grammy Tweets

One of the big winners at the 2012 Grammy Awards was R&B singer Chris Brown, who won an award for Best R&B album. After the Grammys, Chris Brown celebrated his victory on Twitter, by sending out tweets to his followers. But instead of thanking his loyal fans for their support, he instead focused his updates towards his haters, attacking them with disparaging remarks and F-bombs. Given the singer’s already shaky reputation, these tweets further solidified the controversy around him.

The Lesson:
Given the shareable nature of social media, public perception and reputation can change at the drop of a hat. A single tweet can quickly spread to others, whether it is good or bad, especially if you are extremely influential within your respective industry, especially if this occurs from a business/company account. By posting such remarks, Chris Brown’s tweets turned some fans against him and had them commenting on his temperamental nature instead of the Grammy win itself. While the tweet was later deleted from Brown’s account, it lives on through the hundreds and thousands of retweets it received, which can’t be deleted.

4. Toyota’s #CamryEffect Campaign

During the Superbowl, Toyota planned a major Twitter campaign meant to promote the Camry. Creating a number of Twitter accounts labeled @CamryEffect1 through @CamryEffect9, Toyota intended to engage users by directly tweeting them. However, this had the opposite effect: users accused Toyota of bombarding and spamming them with unsolicited messages. Though Toyota quickly suspended the accounts, this campaign still resonates as an example of a failed, large-scale endeavour.

Here are some examples of the spam tweets it bombarded users with:

The Lesson:
In Toyota’s case, mass spamming was not the main problem, though it definitely added to their woes. Instead, it was the content itself that caused the uproar. In order to engage users, your tweets need to be interesting and intriguing, motivating users to retweet the message. However, the content used in the #CamryEffect campaign gave a self-serving and promotional impression. The bland, spammed messages and poor timing became a recipe for disaster for the major automobile company.

What lessons have you learned from these social media fiascos that you will apply in your own social media and PR efforts? Do you have examples of any similar fails from which we can also learn?

Overwhelmed By Social Media? Start Small To Win Big!

17 Apr

Are you still meaning to start your social media plan? Or perhaps you just haven’t had the time or maybe you’re waiting until after your next project. Maybe you’ve been secretly wishing social media would go away by now! Whatever the reason (or excuse), getting started can be the hardest part. Other than finding the time to start your campaign, I find that most businesses are simply overwhelmed by the high volume of social media information and the constant changes.

Don’t let that hold you back, because social media is NOT going away anytime soon, so here are my five simple tips to get started!

1. Set realistic expectations.
In case you haven’t heard, social media is not magic. You will need to be realistic about your goals and expectations, about how to measure them, and when to make changes. Be sure to set a clear goal such as “use Facebook contests to increase traffic to my store by five percent in the next three months.” Setting a blanket goal such as “more customers and more money” will just leave you feeling defeated.

2. Start small.
One of the biggest mistakes I have seen business owners make is trying to take on too much, too soon. Rather than setting up 10 accounts to keep track of, pick one or two to start. Monitor and track your progress, and once you have a feel for what’s working or not working, make changes as necessary.

3. Set a date.
Set a date for launching your brand on social media. Using this date as a focal point, start planning backwards, so you can assure you will meet your time-frame.  Be sure to build up yourself, and your current audience, for this launch date!

4. Devise a plan for going forward.
Now that you have everything in place, the biggest step will be maintaining your presence. First, block out some time in your daily calendar to keep up with social media marketing. Take that time to check out what your audience and peers are posting, write your content, monitor your competition and strategize ways to keep your content fresh and relevant. For the latter, I recommend a monthly editorial calendar. This will help you focus your content on a specific topic, which is great for both consistency and determining what to post.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
One great thing about social media is the ability to solicit feedback from others. If you have a question about a Facebook page for your business, or you’re not sure if you are on the right track, you can throw it out there on your newsfeed and allow your peers to answer! LinkedIn has a great Answers tool which is perfect to gain help from experts.

If you get stuck, remember the golden question to ask yourself:
“IS THIS OF VALUE TO MY AUDIENCE?”

If you’re unsure on how to get started on executing any of the tips mentioned above, and would like to see how your business could benefit from expert guidance in adopting social media effectively, I’d love to hear from you.

3 Ways Social Media Can Destroy Your Business

3 Apr

If you’re a business owner (or a marketer for your company) and you take part in social media, have you thought about if the way you’re using social media is actually helping or hurting your business? There’s a huge fallacy out there about social media which revolves around the thought that if a business is involved in social media, it automatically means that their business is benefiting from it.

The truth, however, is very different. Your business only benefits from social media if you’re using it correctly and you’re properly engaging your followers. When social media isn’t used properly, it can destroy your business.

Business owners don’t sign up for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and/or any other social media platforms to ruin their business. Sounds so obvious, right? Although the intention going into things is usually good, it doesn’t take long for things to take an ugly turn. One mistake, one customer, one instance of accountability being questioned is all it can take for a business to suffer a loss. There’s no office door to hide behind and there’s no receptionist to turn people away that you don’t want to see – when you’re on social media, everything’s out there and transparency is the most vital part of the process.

I know this all sounds terrifying but before you go running for the hills and as far away from your social media accounts as humanly possible, remember that it’s extremely important to know the downside of social media. If you’re not aware of what can happen, then you’re not going to be aware of how to prevent it.

Once negative information is out there, it’s out there for good, which is why preventing a social media disaster is the only fool proof way of making sure that it doesn’t happen to you.

If you’re still not convinced that there’s anything to worry about in regards to social media, here are 3 of the most common ways that social media can destroy your business.

1. The Public Argument

Scenario: A customer confronts you on your social media account in regards to something that they’re unhappy about. You try to politely respond and correct the situation but the customer isn’t having any of it. No matter what you say or do, the customer can’t be made happy. You start to get worried about what other followers are making out of the situation and the small confrontation turns into a full blown argument where you’re defending yourself and your business to the customer.

Lesson: It’s natural to want to defend yourself but if at all possible, take it out of the public eye. You can suggest that you’re only further able to help the customer if they email you or call you. If they’re not willing to do that, your other followers will at least see that you made an effort to take care of the problem but the customer refused. If you argue, it’s never going to portray your business in the best light. Before you know it, your little argument with your customer is now plastered on other profile pages and on other social media networks. It can take a long time to recover if you become defensive on social media and sometimes it’s hard to recover at all.

2. The ‘Silent’ Type

Scenario: This is a real life scenario that happened to me. A few months ago, a business that I was loyal to (a certain mobile phone company who shall not be named) changed their pricing structure and I became unhappy about it as a lot of people naturally do if prices go up. But it wasn’t simply a small increase; it was a pretty large jump that made it almost impossible for me to continue my customer relationship with the company. However, as I had been a loyal customer of the company for several years, I wanted to make it work if it was at all possible.

Knowing how powerful social media is, I turned to one of their social media accounts once I never received an email response from them (which was the company’s first mistake). If I would have received an email response, the issue could have been discussed privately. I did receive an immediate response on their social media account but it was a complete run around and the answer provided didn’t make any sense at all. I then pushed for additional information and received no reply! I tried a couple days later and once again, no reply. Was I just being ignored? It felt like it!

Lesson: There are businesses out there that when confronted by customers on their social media accounts, they fail to address any issues. If they do attempt to address them, it comes in the form of a vague answer that’s not even relevant to the question asked. If you’re not taking care of your customers in front of dozens, hundreds, thousands or even millions of social media followers, then your other followers can get the impression that you’re just going to ignore their problems as well. No one wants to deal with a company who refuses to address customer service issues.

3. The Desperate Company

Scenario: It’s pretty easy to recognise the businesses who use social media and fall under this category. You may even know of a few. It’s the over the top “please, please, please buy my product,” and/or “I am the best at everything”. This is the “I am going to shove my business down your throat every single second of every single day until you buy something from me (or block and report them)”.

Lesson: People are sick of the desperate companies who do nothing but spend all day flooding your streams with advertising. No one wants to deal with an over pushy business who cares more about making a sale than they do building engaging relationships with their customers via social media.

There’s a fine line between marketing and being too pushy. Your followers want to be engaged, they want to learn and they want to trust you before forking over any cash. It’s not the quickest route, but it’ll help keep your business on good terms with the rest of the social media community.

Remember, on social media, everything is transparent. From the way you handle customer service to your personal thoughts and feelings. By knowing what can happen, you can prevent it and that gives you the power to be more successful if you’re using social media as part of your online marketing strategy.

Social Media ROI: “ROE” is the New ROI!

27 Mar

When I consult with clients for the first time, many of them ask, “What’s going to be my ROI with social media?”

This question always leads to me starting off with a disclaimer: Social media is not magic! It’s not just another advertising channel and it is definitely not a one-way ticket to immediate profits. Social media is a form of communication; a platform for building relationships. And, like most relationships, it can take time, effort, and energy.

Marketing managers are increasingly being put under pressure by senior management who want their respective company to “be on Twitter,” but many seem to forget that social media is actually a communications tool and that consistent action must be taken to engage a following.

Compare measuring social media ROI to the task of calculating the ROI of a business card. Conference attendees rack up hundreds of business cards, but how do you calculate the ROI of all of the business cards that you hand out at a conference?

Just like a Facebook fan or a Twitter follower, a business card merely represents potential — so, you can’t accurately measure the ROI of a business card, just as you can’t measure the value of a Facebook fan.

This concept shouldn’t seem new, though, because traditional marketing, such as email marketing and telemarketing, runs by these rules. Marketers don’t ask, “What’s the ROI of this email newsletter?” Instead, they ask, “What’s the conversion rate for our email campaign?” And telemarketers don’t ask, “What’s the ROI of a phone call?” They ask, “What’s the conversion rate of our sales calls?”

Social media should be treated the same way. You can’t just ask, “What’s the ROI of social media?” You have to ask, “What’s the ROI of specific activities that we engage in via social media?” This is more commonly known as the Return on Engagement, or the ROE.

While traditional ROI may be hard to track in this networking, word-of-mouth, virtual world of Social Media, ROE is a trackable and measurable metric. You can count the number of clicks, tweets, retweets, posts, comments and, more as a simple way to gauge the interaction you are having with current clients, client prospects and potential referral sources.

These numbers are crucial as they allow you to look at how engagement on one social network can justify increasing your presence onto another, in addition to the number of people you’ve connected with in your conversations and the types of conversations and revenue generating opportunities you uncover along the way. Today, we can even track the social contacts that convert. With all this information, you’ll be able to calculate your ROE.

So, stop solely focusing on Return on Investment and remember that unlike traditional marketing methods, social media isn’t a one-way channel that starts and stops with the single hope that there is more business at your doorstep at the end of the run.

Social media is a way to build the relationships that establish trust and enable people to feel comfortable buying from a business. Return on Engagement is a measurable and long-term metric which will give you a much clearer picture of how having an online profile on social networks is important for your business.

How do you evaluate the ROI of Social Media? Is it a question that you have been asked before? If so, how did you answer it? I’d love to hear your views!

Managing Social Media as a Small Business Owner

28 Feb

If you’re a small business owner, social media can often feel like a pain, and it can be hard to keep up with the ever-changing social media landscape. Here are a few tips to help overcome the obstacles and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed with social media.

1. Time: Don’t try to do it all

Small business owners often wear many hats (and in some cases, they may wear all the hats) and it can be easy for marketing (including social media) to be pushed down to the bottom of their to-do list.

By setting small goals, you can slowly build social media into your daily routine. Remember, a strong social media presence doesn’t require you to have to participate in every single social network out there. Instead, start by selecting the appropriate social network that resonates most with your target audience. For example, If you are looking for professional referrals, target LinkedIn. If you want to show off your store, post photos on Facebook.

2. Engagement: Stop trying to just sell. Converse with your audience!

Social media is not traditional one-way advertising. Pushing sales messages and expecting the audience to flock, will NOT work! Think about it – All you have to do is put yourself in your customers’ shoes: If your favourite company/brand did nothing but push sales messages to you all day long, how long would it be before you’ve had enough and you decide to unfollow them?

Remember, social media is similar to using a telephone, not a megaphone. And telephones are meant for dialogues, not monologues.

Social media is about building relationships and starting conversations. Small business owners have to discover their niche and USP (Unique Selling Point), and then decide how to generate brand awareness by offering stimulating and insightful content which allows their audience to engage with them.

3: Budget: Consider the cost of time, not just money

Most small business owners look at the cost of things in terms of the amount of money it will cost, and because social media is free, they think it’s cheap, and easy to do. Here’s the thing: Social media is not really free. In fact, the costs are of the highest value: time! Many small business owners realise they need to hire help, but also realise that it’s costly. As a result, many decide against it, especially those who feel that marketing is not a “necessity.”

This may sound like a plug for my own business, but take it for what it is: hiring a social media consultant to help you define how best your business could effectively use social media, can provide you with a great strategy which allows you to create an effective presence without the costs of hiring a full time employee to do the same thing.

4:  Transparency: Be a person, not just a brand

Small business owners are much better at achieving transparency than those in the corporate sector. However, if a business owner doesn’t understand engagement, it’s possible that transparency is lost as well.

Your social media audience wants to see the person/people behind the brand. This is a great opportunity for small businesses to remove those filters and humanize their business.

What makes YOU and your business unique? What do you enjoy? What are your fears and dreams? These are questions we can all relate to, regardless of whether we can identify with your product or service.

What obstacles have you faced? Are there barriers that you’ve overcome and can share?