Friday, January 31, 2014

A Monster List Of 30 REALLY DUMB Online Personality Disorders

We all know one. ‘That guy’ – a person in one of your online networks that makes you go “not again!” or “is this woman for real?!”. We’re talking about social media personality disorders. People who don’t understand how the online world works but ignorantly abuse it to fulfil their objectives anyway and succeed in p***ing people off.
Social Media Golden Rule: “Do not do unto others online what you would not want done unto you in the real world.”

Here’s a comprehensive mix of idiots in no particular order. Enjoy!

# 1. The follower-buyer

People who buy followers on Twitter. Really?! REALLY???!!!! Years ago when Bebo was a teen paradise some kids found ‘cheats’ to get more loves on their profile. Grown adults buying followers is just in-excusable and really stupid. What can be gained by buying followers from profiles that add no value? Somebody tell us, please.
Buying followers on Facebook is misguided too. Chances are these ‘followers’ aren’t real people to begin with. They are probably virtual avatars in false accounts being generated in the social media equivalent of a sweatshop somewhere in Central or South Asia. Nice!

# 2. The troll

Ah yes. The troll. Someone who enjoys provoking thoughts of hatred by posting off-topic rubbish in online forums and threads. They’re everywhere. From online gaming to news sites. The unfortunate part is that they’d simply love to see this post as we’re giving them credit. That’s their kick. Winding people up. Ignoring them is the cure!

# 3. The spammer

Please, please, please, please, pppllleeeeeaassseeee buy this. Please… A little like the troll, they are hijacking conversations everywhere. Of course email is also another weapon of choice. A major recommendation when getting mails from Uganda asking you to cash in on your millions is just to actually respond and wind them up. Don’t click on any links and it’s actually best not to open the mail at all, but sometimes temptation overcomes us and a hilarious conversation is born. My personal favourite is asking them to buy me a dog. “But I don’t want a million dollars, I just want a poodle?”. Slowly but surely they get abrasive and angry. Very funny. Really creeping up on Twitter too with people asking you to buy followers.

# 4. The keyboard warrior

You’re so brave right now. Hiding behind the keys talking macho and abusing people in the thread. The rule is, don’t say anything online you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.

# 5. The circle jerker

Twitter seems to be worst for the circle jerk. The same bunch of people telling each other they’re great over and over. Oh no, please, YOUR conference was better or your post was just so refreshing. The exact same thing will be bounce back to them in a few days. LinkedIn is a bit like that. Endorsing people for skills that you know they’re not good at or even better, endorsing them for skills when you actually don’t know that person. A good experiment is add one skill what you have absolutely NO knowledge of. If people endorse you, then you know it’s baloney.

# 6. The waffler

Again LinkedIn is the king when it comes to this. Some people need to think before they post up content on their profile. My favourite is one guy in our network had ‘specialities’ in absolutely EVERYTHING. Reading his profile would make Larry Ellison feel insecure. The funny thing is that people actually switch off straight away so doing it is self-defeating.

# 7. The random bandit

Not everything is ‘random’. Facebook posts like this get under our skin, “Just bumped into Connor and Elish on the way to work. So random.” No it’s not random considering you live in the same area and take the same bus route. Please look up the definition of random.

# 8. The LinkedIn sales douche

Similar to our spammer, these guys just add you without knowing you or putting a personal message together when they invite you to connect. The answer. It’s called ‘decline’ or ask them how you know them and why they want to connect.

# 9. The pointless SUPER NEEDY status addict

Why tweet that you’re tired? No one cares. Why post up on Facebook that you’re ‘so excited’. Finish the status. Why are you excited? These posts really bug us and these people are just looking for attention. Nine times out of ten, if you ask they’ll come back with some smart-ass response like ‘You’ll see in time’. No we won’t. We’ll have forgotten about it in five minutes.

# 10. The Friday feeler

Friday memes. “Yay it’s Friday.” Nothing wrong with these except that every company and everybody out there is doing them. We should create memes and release them on Facebook on a Friday that say ‘Yay, only two days until Monday morning’. Be original with your content or people will not engage.

# 11. The acronym addict

Like WTF is with these people? People who use acronyms make me LMAO. LOL. IMHO, they should not be used! TTYL. Ugh…

# 12. The not sharing is not caring type

Don’t you just hate it when people share photos that say things like ‘If you don’t share this, you have no heart’? You have a heart right and you didn’t share? Perhaps you realise that sharing these photos won’t solve a problem that people are already aware of. It’s like the chain letters of social media! Get off your ass to make a difference.

# 13. The SEO expert

You’re an SEO expert ya? Well when why are you PMing me on every platform out there when I’m ranking as number 1 on Google on all the main search terms. Do your research or even better, please stop.

# 14. The miracle doctor

You have magic pills that will make irresistible to the opposite sex? Wow. I too am going to perform a miracle. I’m going to make you disappear by blocking you or by adding you to my spam folder.

# 15. The way too personal toucher feeler

Have you ever had a friend post something on Twitter or Facebook that made you go “NO! They did not post that?”. A regular occurrence is people slamming their family or quarrelling with family members online. Keep it classy. Keep it offline.

# 16. The business ‘friend’

Stop adding me as a friend if you’re a business. That’s wrong. You shouldn’t have access to my info like that. If a business does it to you just tell them in a friendly way that they shouldn’t of or report the page! There’s even tools provided by Facebook to merge over contacts from a personal page to a business one.

# 17. The text message speaker

Don’t use ‘gr8’, ‘u’ etc. on Facebook or any social network. You have characters. Use them. Twitter sometimes to be fair you have to shorten things, but otherwise no.

# 18. The instant natterer

Instant chatter can turn into instant natter when people won’t go AWAY on instant messaging. It’s a great way to chat but when you’re busy and ask people politely to come back to you later but… they just keep pinging. Would you poke someone over-and-over in the face when they ask you to stop? No, you wouldn’t so don’t do it online either.
What’s worse are the IM chats from someone looking to alleviate their loneliness and boredom (understandable), yet (and here is the real crime) they are not forthcoming with anything interesting to say and expect you to do all the work in the conversation. Here’s an example;
  • Hi!
  • (Me) Yes?
  • Just saying Hi! What you up to?
  • (Me) Thoroughly swamped at my desk right now (Big Hint)
  • Oh..Did you have a nice weekend?
  • At this point I scream silently into my double espresso.
  • (Me) Nothing much. You?
  • Oh.. Nothing….

# 19. The social media immunity type

This personality believes there are two sets of rules. One for them and another for everyone else. They may have some credibility and status in the social sphere but don’t follow the rules. They believe that the 18 personality types above are disgraceful but think they have immunity from the behaviour because they simply think their status means they can exercise the exception to all the rules. Nope. You can’t.

# 20. The Parent Trap

As one of us is a parent, we can of course understand the insatiable desire to share the overwhelmingly cute pics and antics of our offspring. It is indeed tempting, but people who over-post their children’s antics and images can be off-putting if not displaying downright dangerous Social Media behaviour.
  • Parents who reveal too much information about their child’s name, address and whereabouts are running the risk of placing their kids in danger online and offline.
  • They don’t realize other people could really be more interested in grown up thoughts and opinions on other topics too. EVERY post on Instagram, FB or Twitter doesn’t really need to be all about your child.
  • And don’t get me started on people who use their children’s pics as an avatar… I confess I do post about my kid and family events but try to keep them to relevant circles.

# 21. The Emoticon Junkie

Yes you discovered the Emoticons and yes, I am glad you know how to use them, but more than one in every other message / sentence / line? There is a part of me – the part that is no longer in high school – that actually gets irate at the sight of too many emoticons in a message. Call me literary and old fashioned, but I occasionally yearn for a conversation with someone who is able to articulate emotion using the written word.

# 22. The Stalker – Toxic Bachelor

This one I hope, all the girls can relate to: (says Elish)
Nope I am not going to connect with you on LinkedIn or Facebook etc., because
a) You just sent me an introductory message telling me how much you love my smile and what a pretty lady I am on LinkedIn of all places.
b) I can tell by your existing Facebook profile of connections that you collect pretty gals only.

# 23. The LinkedIn over-endorser

I am flattered that you think I am an expert at ..(Insert your skill here).. but really? You live on the other side of the world and we have never done any business together. If you want my attention or my business I actually am compassionate enough to read a simple message. In totality this behaviour just leads to Endorsement Inflation and makes the ones I do have seem not quite as valuable any more.

# 24. The Foodstagram Glutton

We have all seen them, the steady stream of innocuous cups of coffees, pastry, lunchtime sandwiches and plates of nouvelle cuisine or even worse really mundane looking bistro food. It’s not that we have never done it ourselves, it’s just that we don’t want to see EVERY single boring meal go through our Instagram, Foursquare and Facebook feed. We love foodie pics better when you practise some quality control. Try posting the special stuff mostly like that once in a lifetime visit to your dream Michelin Star restaurant, that super spread you made all by yourself, food art or star quality dishes. (Stay tuned for an upcoming post on the foodstagram debate)

# 25. The Social Media Anxiety Sufferer

Don’t be a victim either. Don’t fall prey to the self loathing and creeping notions of inadequacy when scanning the seemingly superior lifestyles of others across your social media sites. Too much exposure to crafty pinterest pics from Martha Stewart types can make you break out in a sweat over your lack of creativity.
Your inability to recreate origami masterpieces at the last party is not a sign of failure. LinkedIn makes us wonder where we went wrong on our inferior career history and Facebook statuses rife with social butterflies or travel plans can give you FOMO ( fear of missing out). Don’t forget other people can have shitty grey lives too, they just don’t advertise that bit as much.

# 26. The preacher

While this post is about these heinous personality types, it shouldn’t give rise to people actually going out of their way to find and provoke people who are guilty. Don’t preach and don’t slam or insult other people. Lead by example only. That’s it. Don’t preach, just practice and don’t think you’re better than everyone else because you do, online or off.

# 27. The Conference Hashtag Pirate

Doesn’t it really annoy you when people hi-jack a conference hashtag to advertise? There you are scanning the feed to see who’s saying what and to find out if you can meet-up with anyone of interest. There’s plenty to meet up with using the hashtag alright! A lot of them are not actually there, but waiting in an apartment nearby to discuss more elements involved with more ‘traditional’ professions. It’s not all seedy. Some people are just plain spamming. If you’re not there or can’t add anything to the topic being discussed at that time, just leave it alone for the rest of us.

# 28. Online Bullies

OK, so we somewhat covered this in the ‘Keyboard Warrior’ except this takes it to a whole other level. People who are racist, sexist, sectarian etc. online. Hurling abuse is one thing. Insulting a whole ethnicity doing it is another. Plenty examples out there that I’m sure you are aware of. No way are they getting ‘airtime’ on this post.

# 29. The Content Stealer

You post something up. Then low and behold, someone posts it 5 minutes later on Facebook. But… they don’t share it. They blatently steal it from an obscure source you’ve been following. It’s especially noticeable if it’s old content. Stop stealing. Either share, RT or just find your own material bub!

# 30. The Two-facer

Yes, we know. It’s not a word. But these people agree with everything you say offline every time you meet yet project a totally different attitude and perception of things online. You do realise we follow you yes? So why congratulate us on a post and then diss it online thinking we won’t see? Perhaps you should invest in some common sense!
Not convinced? This video might get you thinking
Time for some fun! In the comments below, tell us about some really annoying personality types you’ve encountered AND give us an example of what kind of posts or behaviour they do. Really looking forward to seeing (and laughing at) what you have for us!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

10 Simple Ways To Fix Almost Any Computer Problem

Have you ever been stuck with a computer problem you don’t know how to solve? But you’re not a computer person. The phone keeps ringing, the emails are stacking up, people keep asking you questions but you’re stuck with some computer problem and it has just screwed your whole day. You’re afraid that if you try and do anything you will only make matters worse.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could fix more of these problems yourself? You are not asking to be an expert and fix everything, just to fix the basic day-to-day annoying problems that seem to occur every now and then.

This article is going to teach you the secrets of how computer people fix things. It’s going to give you some basic guidelines to follow so that you can fix at least some of the problems, some of the time. It’s going to give you the secret of how computer people think.
The truth is, most of the time computer people don’t know the what the solution is any more than you do. The secret of how computer people fix problems is that they have a greater number of things that they will try until they find something that works. Most of the time computer people are just semi-randomly clicking on things and searching for answers until they find the first thing that works.
Don’t be afraid, use the process outlined in this article and you too can be a computer person who is able to solve tall problems faster than a speeding mouse.
Remember to bookmark this post because it will help you solve almost any computer problem and please share it if you find it useful.

# 1. Restart

When in doubt restart. If it has worked before but just stopped working for no apparent reason then you might want to restart the machine. You don’t need to do this for every failure, but if you haven’t got anything else to go on, this is something quick and easy you can try. For example if my home Internet connection stops working the first thing I do is restart the Wireless Router that connects our household to the Telecom company.

# 2. Google

If you have a specific error message, or can trigger the problem with a repeatable sequence of actions then the next most productive approach is probably to Google It, because chances are, someone else has already had the problem before you.
Google can be great at giving you the answer very quickly but it doesn’t always work so the trick is to have a quick look in Google and then move onto some of the other techniques below.
Don’t go beyond the second page of search results and probably only select 5-10 likely looking pages.

# 3. YouTube

If your problem is more of the “How do I do Something?” kind, then try YouTube. There are lots of different tutorial videos that have been recorded showing people how to use various applications.

# 4. The product website

If your problem is related to a particular product, application or company then start with their website next. Dig around on the product’s website and look for things like;
  • Support
  • FAQs
  • Forum’s or Community pages

# 5. Contact Support

If things have gotten to the point where you have to submit some sort of support request here are some tips on how to make it as easy as possible and so that you get the right response as fast as possible.
If your available support is via Email, or Forum Post then use this template to explain your problem.
  • Start by explaining what the problem is with a high level overview.
  • Include the related product names with version numbers. You can generally find the version number of a program by looking under “Help > About” on Windows and “Apple Menu > About” on Apple machines.
  • Steps to Replicate. Then include a numbered list of the steps to replicate the problem and most importantly what you expected the behaviour to be.
  • Close with the question you want answered
  • Remember to use the magic word “please”
Support Question Template
When you need to write down your problem here’s a problem description template you can use. It will save you time and money if you can quickly and accurately describe the problem.
<Overview of the problem>
<Products and Version Numbers>
Steps to Replicate 
  1. 
  2. 
  3. 

Expected: <what you expected to happen>
Actual: <what actually happened>
<Close with the question you want answered>
Before you click send. What you will often find is that while you are writing the support email you often think of other things to try or uncover the possible solution even before you’ve clicked the Send Button. The act of writing the problem down helps your brain to think about things differently.
Telephone support If you have access to Telephone support here are some additional tips.
  • Don’t get angry
  • Use a headset if you’ve got one and keep your hands free
  • You need to walk through their script, it might be a little frustrating but (hopefully) the scripts that they are using have evolved to cover a number of different problems and following the script is actually the fastest way to solve the problem.
Big Company Support Channels. If your problem is not related to a particular product or application but to the computer itself you may need to use one of the following support channels.

# 6. Try it on a different machine

Is the problem unique to one machine, or are you able to consistently repeat it on different machines? If the problem doesn’t occur on a different machine then you might want to try reinstalling the application, or start looking for differences between the two machines.

# 7. Try another web browser

If the problem is happening with a web application then you might want to try using the web application from a different browser. For example a button that you can’t click in one type of browser might work in a different browser. This happens because browsers are not consistent with each other and often the developers don’t test every path through their application with every kind of web browser.

# 8. Read the manual

Occasionally, every now and then when the planets and moon are in the right alignment “The Manual” might actually be a good place to look. The problem with reading the manual and the reason this step has been pushed down the list is that often;
  • It’s wrong or out of date
  • It’s badly written
  • It uses language you don’t understand
  • The answer is spread between two different places in the manual

# 9. Ask someone you know

Reach out and ask someone who might know. This is another quick and easy way of solving the problem (it’s also my wife’s preferred approach).
  • Your kids
  • The most technical person you know
  • Your Twitter/Facebook followers

# 10. Hire an expert

You’ve tried your best but now it’s time to bring in the expert. You won’t win every battle but at least you tried and sometimes it’s a more cost effective use of your time to pay someone.

Conclusion

The next time you have a computer problem be brave. Don’t be afraid to have a stab at fixing it. You now have the tools and knowledge of a computer expert. Computer people don’t know all the answers, they just have more ways of finding the answer.
The biggest thing that stops most non-computer people from solving computer problems is the fear of looking dumb and breaking things. When it comes to computer problems we are all dumb, it’s only the computers that truly know what is happening. Don’t be afraid to ask the dumb questions.
The reason that kids are so good with technology is that they are not afraid. They push buttons until they find something that works. They have a thirst to understand how the world works. As we grow older we grow fearful of making mistakes, looking dumb, and eventually we just don’t even try anymore.
Embrace your inner child, go forth and fix your own computer problems.
Have a look at this web comic called The Tech Support Cheat Sheet. It’s supposed to be a joke, but it’s so close to the truth that it actually works.
You don’t need to sit dumbly, staring at the computer screen wondering what to do. Take control and solve your own computer problems.

How To Create A Home Office When You Don’t Have A Spare Room

Having worked from home for over six years, people come to me often asking for advice on the topic. With more people working at home than ever, despite Yahoo’s protestations, these questions have become more frequent in the last year.
People usually start by asking for basic advice, and I give it to them straight:
Create an office and use it only for work.
Objections come quick and heavily after I levy this advice. Some protest the cost — they cannot afford another computer — but given PC prices these days that falls mostly on deaf ears. If you can’t justify investing $400 or $500 on your home business, how can you expect to succeed? Yet most people understand that, so it is not the most common objection.
What people most commonly say is that they don’t have a spare room in which to house an office. There might seem to be no way around this problem, but there absolutely is. You have to change your concept of what you consider a room, and you’ll have to make some cosmetic changes to a larger room in your house, but you can quite easily create a home office literally anywhere in your home.

This is my home office. It sits in the corner of the main room in my one-bedroom apartment. When I lived alone, I used to work at a desk in my bedroom. Since my bedroom now sleeps two, that has become impossible. Chances are if you are married or living with a significant other, working in your bedroom is equally impossible for you.
What can my home office teach people who need to construct one, but who don’t have a dedicated room to do so? I’ve broken it down into three fundamental features.

# 1. Close off the area

When I first moved in with my fiancĂ©, my desk faced the corner. I got this from Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing. Problem was, there was nothing that could close me in. My office space is fixed and limited, as I imagine yours might be. Slapping the desk in the corner seemed like the simplest solution to a simple problem. Yet one problem persisted during this time: it never felt like I was “going to work.”
While my brain understands that work is something we do, and not somewhere we go, years of conditioning have made it tough to do work if I’m not at work. When I redesigned my office area, I kept in mind the idea that the area needed to feel like an office. That meant putting walls on at least two sides of me, rather than just one. It also meant creating something of an entrance, a place I’d have to step through — thereby signifying that I was going to work.
Perhaps you possess the necessary discipline and don’t have to convince yourself that you’re at work before you can start doing work. I know a few people who can work like that, but in my experience they’re the exceptions. Creating an office atmosphere is the first key to a productive home office. Close off your area, and it will seem as though you’re going to work at the office. It’s not quite as good as a dedicated room, but some of us don’t have that luxury.

# 2. Give yourself working space

When I assembled my office, I got lucky. My fiancĂ© had a drafting table that she didn’t need, so I had a desk with plenty of surface area ready to go. When you need room for two monitors, an external hard drive, an external speaker, a keyboard, a notepad, and a physical inbox (can’t stress those enough), you certainly need plenty of surface area. In the picture above you can see my old desk, which just was not large enough for the job. It has been re-purposed, and helps close off my office. But for the task at hand it is not suitable.
While a drafting table works for me, I actually don’t recommend anyone go buy one for their home office. Unless you absolutely need an adjustable height, it’s an unnecessary expense. (And since the table is incredibly difficult to adjust while you have computer monitors sitting on it, you probably won’t use this feature much anyway.) What I recommend is that you go get some lumber from the Home Depot and follow some plans for building a desk. It’s not only cheaper, but it will allow you to create a desk perfectly tailored to your needs.
You don’t have to follow this advice. You can work with whatever desk you have, even if it has little to no working space on it. But I have a feeling that after a few months of working this way, you’ll understand the value of having an adequate working surface.

# 3. Use modular storage

You might have the skills to build a desk, but chances are you don’t have the skills, or the patience, to build drawers into it. Yet, as I learned very early on, a desk without drawers leads to unmanageable clutter. At that point a large, comfortable working surface turns int a mound of papers, gadgets, cords, and other detritus that is better stored out of eyesight. The trash bin might be a useful place to start, but you won’t throw out everything.
I recommend three types of modular storage to help you keep your non-office office organized.
  • Storage drawers. You can buy multi-sized plastic stackable drawers on the cheap at any big box retailer. They’re great, because they fit right under your desk. You can stack small ones on top of large, giving yourself virtual drawers for your custom desk.
  • Physical inbox. You might not see it in the picture above, but I keep a wire inbox on my desk at all times. We work in an increasingly digital world, but every at-home worker will have an ample amount of physical items to process. Having a single physical inbox helps keep everything in order.
  • Filing crate. We all need a place to file away documents that we don’t need to access regularly. A simple filing crate, along with hanging file folders, will suffice for nearly everyone.
At some point in the future perhaps people will separate the idea of going to work from the idea of doing work. But the great majority of people who work from home previously worked in an office. They were also raised with the idea that work is a place that you go in addition to something you do. As long as that mindset persists, at-home workers need to adapt. By creating a dedicated office that is set off, that contains ample surface working area, and that utilizes modular storage, will be a more productive environment than a desk in the corner of the room.
We don’t all have spare rooms to house an office, but we can still make an office out of any space in the home – even a one-bedroom apartment.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

When a person comes to your site to buy your product or service, or even just to browse through what you offer, he or she usually has several concerns:
  • Is this company legit?
  • Does it work as advertised?
  • Will I get my money’s worth?
  • What if I am unhappy with my purchase?
These and others oftentimes prevent a client from buying, or at least delay the decision-making. The good news is that there are a number of simple but proven risk removal techniques that, when implemented correctly, may have an immediate and dramatic effect on your online sales.

Five risk removal strategies that apply to almost any web-based business:

# 1. Try before you buy (shareware model)

Shareware, as the Wikipedia definition goes, is proprietary software that is provided to users without payment on a trial basis.  By letting people download and try the software before buying it, the shareware industry was able to successfully compete with large companies who already had recognized distribution networks, sizable marketing budgets and established reputation. Even one-man operations, like Eugene Roshal’s WinRar, were able to reach the audience of hundreds of millions of end-users by employing this simple strategy.

# 2. Use the freemium model

As SaaS (software-as-a-service) grew more and more popular, the freemium model became what shareware used to be. In some ways, both models are similar – you get to try the software before committing to a purchase.
However, with freemium services, the basic plan is free for life. It is an important distinction because this lets free clients get “addicted” to the service, which eventually increases conversion rate. Typically, 2% – 4% of those who sign up for free plans end up becoming paying clients.
Second, if your basic (free) plan is as good, if not better, as most paid options available in the market, you can become a leader even in a mature market as quickly as a single year. See Bitrix24, Asana or Hootsuite for inspiration.

# 3. Let customers pay only if they like your work

If you need a new business name, domain or slogan, services like PickyDomains.com offer a convenient solution. You place your order, start getting suggestions and pay (anywhere from $50 to $150 depending on the service you need) only if you decide to use one of them.
99Designs offers similar terms for design projects. Of course, neither money-back guarantees nor spec works are new inventions. However, in “creative” niches like naming and design where the risk to pay a lot of money but end up with work you don’t like and can’t use is quite high, this risk removal approach allows you to stand out in the crowd.

# 4. Guarantee results where others can’t

There are several business niches where there is simply no way to guarantee results, like public relations, for example. 99% of PR agencies will be happy to take your money, but the first thing they’ll tell you is that results aren’t guaranteed. This is what makes companies like PublicityGuaranteed.com or LondonPRAgency.com stand out. They bill their clients only for articles that come out in the press or are published online.
By doing this, they are taking the risks from their clients onto themselves, which in itself is quite risky as they might end up doing lots of work for no pay. If this is the path you choose, make sure to take only clients you are 100% sure are worthy of your time.

# 5. Let the client set the price

When the writing load became too much to effectively accomplish alone, a good friend of mine tried two services to find freelance writers – Elance and oDesk. The sites are pretty much identical, except for one thing: Elance has a $25 assignment minimum. With oDesk, however, he could set his price to as low as $5. As a result, he created a lot of small $5 writing assignments, and from those that submitted paid trial articles, he selected those writers whose work he liked best.
To this day, he has spent over $3,000 on various projects via oDesk. His Elance total stands at $50 even though the site’s writers are probably as good as oDesk’s.
There are a number of web businesses where the “name your own price” model plays a big role in their success, like Priceline, for example. A big part of the popularity of AdWords lies in the fact that each client decides how much to bid on a particular word for the sole reason that they alone know how much it’s worth for their businesses.

Conclusion

There are other risk removal techniques out there. Some may better fit your business than others. If you think it’s worth your time, Google “prospect theory,” “loss aversion” or “Daniel Kahnemann” to get scientific explanations to why avoiding risks is hardwired in the human psyche, and to get more ideas on how to integrate risk removal into your marketing campaigns.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What To Look For When Hiring A Webmaster For Your Company Website

A business’s website is a crucial component of their marketing efforts and needs to be updated with the latest information and products that their business offers. When chosen properly, a webmaster can turn a business’s site into a very profitable tool.
The webmaster should be able to look after all the key aspects of a site including the design, its development, server management, and web marketing. If you feel you are spending too much time working on your website and not enough time focusing on the part of your business that you actually enjoy, it may be time to consider hiring a webmaster.

Below are a few things to look for in a webmaster for your company website.

# 1. Impressive portfolio

Look for someone who has experience with building websites from the ground up. Make sure to take a look at their level of design and programming functionality.
  • If their portfolio doesn’t impress you, chances are, neither will they.
  • Ensure that all potential candidates are at the very least, equipped with an updated and impressive portfolio.
  • Go for a professional who is well-versed with the latest techniques and trends in graphic design, website building, and coding.

# 2. Timely delivery

A great webmaster is able to consistently deliver projects within the given time-frame. Even if the webmaster is expensive to hire, your company will save money in the long run if he or she is capable of doing more in a given period of time.
  • Your webmaster should also be able to implement changes in a timely manner.
  • Whether you’re updating property information on your main website or simply adding product photos to a blog, you need it done quickly.

# 3. Responsiveness

Another important quality of great webmaster is their ability to handle request submissions in an efficient manner. A good webmaster should be able to respond to submitted requests on time.
  • A complex website project may involve an entire team of professionals including web designers, web developers, coders, copywriters etc. A good webmaster should be proficient in getting on well and acting responsibly with the team working on the project.
  • Hire someone that does webmaster work as a full time profession rather than a part time hobby. Your turnaround time will be much quicker with someone who is available during regular business hours.

# 4. Knows your business

You may not find a webmaster that has an expert understanding of your industry, but strive to find someone who will take the time to understand your business. It is important they know what you are trying to accomplish with your site so they can implement your ideas effectively.

5. Technical expertise

Having someone that is accountable and can take care of all the technical aspects of running a website can save you a lot of headaches. Experience with servers, databases, and domain configurations are essential for any webmaster.
Your webmaster needs to understand about keyword research and integrate the words your customers are using into the copy and the coding of the website. This will again result in more visitors, more customers and more sales. Take these suggestions into consideration the next time you find yourself looking for a webmaster for your company website.

Securing Your Mobile Payment System

“In February, about half the retailers polled by the National Retail Federation say they will use a mobile device as a cash register within a year to 18 months, compared with 6% that use them now.” Not only is it cheaper, but convenient.
However, while convenience is a significant factor in the popularity of mobile credit card processing, security has been an issue with retailers and customers alike. With over 270 password hacks in 2012 alone, everyone has reason to be concerned with any form of online transaction. Still, as a mobile retailer, there are a variety of security options for your mobile payments.

Third Party Security

The most important aspect of mobile payment security is ensuring that your customer’s data is safe and secure in your hands. Because security has become a hot topic within the industry, many third-party payment companies are now offering safer payment options.
  • Encrypted swipe: Many card readers now have multi-layered swipe encryption which follow PCI DSS standards. This means the card data is protected from the moment it’s swiped in, all the way through the payment process.
  • Counterfeit card identification: An authentication process that checks cardholder data and the host and session, ensure that the card being used isn’t counterfeit.

Digital Receipts

After a digital payment it makes sense that you would send out an e-receipt. Well, these have been notoriously unsafe in previous years. Mark Johnson, president of Loyalty 360 told MicroBilt.com, “These email addresses now can be as valuable as a credit card number because they have huge data insights into the individual.” However, utilizing new technologies, you can reduce a hacking risk significantly.
  • NFC validation: The most common way for a hacker to gain information includes emailing the retailer for personal information. To avoid this, you can use NFC validation which will check the information against their data base.
  • Barcode: Including a barcode on your e-receipt that will identify the exact transaction and personal information.

Mobile Payment Security Basics

If nothing else, it’s important that you’ve taken care of the basics before taking any mobile payments. There are simple ways to protect the data on your phone that can make all the difference.
  • Use only one device for payments, and use it for nothing else. Phones are susceptible to being lost, and you decrease those chances by having a payments specific device.
  • Use a password for your phone. While this is a basic security tactic used on most personal devices, it’s your first line of defense if the phone is misplaced.
  • Enable remote swipe in case the phone is lost. This way you can ensure that whoever finds it won’t be able to access any important info.
Accepting payments on your mobile device is a smart way to make more sales in a convenient and cost effective manner. However, it’s important to address the issues surrounding security, for both you and your customers. Whether you make a few basic device changes, or investing in secure scanning equipment, it’s important that your customers feel safe purchasing with you.

CRM #Fail – What Goes Wrong And What To Do

You no doubt know the statistics, they’re freely available, and widely shared – 50 to 80 percent of CRM implementations FAIL. Not just statistics plucked from the air, but those put forward by Gartner and Meta Group, respectable analysts who know their stuff. That’s up to four in every five CRM implementations.
So, what goes wrong? In this post I’m going to look at why CRM implementations go wrong – and it almost always involves the purchaser.

General Motors and the Customer Service Issue

This example dates back to 1999, but it is of absolute relevance to today. GM’s commercial mortgage branch had become a leader in business real-estate loans, but needed a CRM implementation to increase automation, boost efficiency, and boost intelligence for call-centre staff.
Where the implementation failed was at a very early stage. Indeed, the consultants implementing the system failed to define WHO the users were – a basic error that resulted in errors further down the line throughout the implementation.
By introducing an automated voice response system, they hoped to increase efficiency, but the system was never mapped to GM’s internal structure, resulting in drop-out, customer attrition and ultimately, a fall in revenues. Indeed, 99% of customers simply hit “0” to talk to an operator. Not only did they fail to understand WHO would use the CRM system, they failed to understand their customers. Nobody wanted to go through an automated system for commercial mortgages. Credit cards, perhaps. But this… not at all.
The lesson learnt here was that CRM success depends very much on understanding who is using the CRM system, mapping it to those people, and ensuring that it actually benefits customers, too. This early design methodology seeps into later implementation stages – it is crucial that implementation be built around people, not processes!

The Anonymous Multi-CRM Problem

This is a problem that I have seen several times over, but most notably in one major telecommunications business with a sales presence in over 50 countries around the world. A blanket approach to CRM was attempted, with a single implementation across every territory.
The result? None of the sales people around the world used the global CRM, and pockets of sales people were buying up their own CRMs on company credit cards, and using isolated little environments of small business CRM systems. Some clubbed together, some worked in isolation, and there were at least ten CRM systems all working independently. The global CRM stood idle.
What went wrong here? Well, everything, but principally, there was a lack of communication from the top, followed by a lack of training in order to enforce the global CRM. Equally, there was a lack of understanding about the CRM’s target audience – the sales teams. Different cultures around the world, with different requirements required a more flexible approach than a blanket enforcement of one CRM solution.
The result was greater fragmentation, and greater inefficiency.

Cigna Corporation Lose Members

The Healthcare division at Cigna Corporation faced a number of problems at the start of the century, having spent $1bn on implementing CRM and IT systems. The result of the problems they experienced was that membership fell by nearly 1 million due to poor customer service, and the company made a loss of $398m.
What went wrong? Principally, it was down to misconceptions: misconceptions about scope, scale and cost. The business tried to rush through the CRM implementation without fully acknowledging the scale of the problem they already faced. IT systems were already two decades old, with several isolated units holding isolated units of data.
Naturally, the CRM implementation attempted to bring that data together in order to handle customer transactions, processing and billing in one central location. The problem was that professional business solutions providers were not consulted, and the project was rushed through. Migration and implementation problems resulted in customer dissatisfaction, and negative brand exposure.

Lessons to be Learned

CRM implementation fails not because the CRM isn’t up to scratch – it fails because goals, users and customer groups are not clearly defined. It fails because organisations rush to implement without considering business-wide impact, and it fails because users fail to engage with the product – often as a result of the previous reasons.
This infographic from Preact lists 11 ways to ensure CRM is planned correctly in order to avoid CRM implementation failure, and establish long-term value, but in short the message is simple: plan, define & communicate. Failure to do so results in CRM #fail.

A Successful Business Through Effective iPhone Apps

Today’s business world has been transformed thanks to the emerging business trends along with technological advancements which have led to the development of various business development applications to boost our businesses.
Mobile applications allow business owners to track their progress and facilitate them to share docs, access CRM and even to manage their projects through their mobile phones.

iPhone as a Business Grooming Tool

It is interesting to analyze how iPhone has changed the prospects of conducting business. From managing your calendar to dictating voice memos to organizing your contacts, an iPhone is used as a business grooming tool by millions of users worldwide. People consume 79 minutes a day on iPhone applications. iPhone can be used to groom your business through its various applications and can also save valuable time which can be spent on other business related issues.

Stay in touch with your Business Contacts

A number of iPhone applications can allow you to always stay connected to your business contacts in your network. One such iPhone application is Contactually which allows users to make use of reusable email templates which also automatically updates the contacts’ information including their names, companies, job titles and makes it easier to follow your business contacts. It can also be used to send your personal introduction to any contact in your network.
 Desk is an iPhone application which creates a single inbox for all your customer complaints and inquiries from various social media channels, live chat and email providing an easy solution for managing your business contacts’ queries and issues.

Converting Voice to Text

Dragon Dictation is an iPhone application by which you can create text messages or create emails. You can also update Facebook or Twitter profiles. A top-notch iPhone application, this application saves valuable time when you are busy and your business is always on the go.

Scanning and E-mailing from anywhere

Genius Scan is an iPhone application which is designed to maintain a track of your business cards or other business documents while you are traveling or simply on your way back to home. By using the iPhone’s camera, it can scan documents which can also be emailed later.

Developing an iPhone Application yourself or Hiring an Expert

The future of your business is in your palm really and how you employ your iPhone applications in order to further develop your business depends on you and your willingness to groom your business with the upcoming iPhone application developments. The question arises whether you want to develop a business grooming iPhone application yourself or will you hire a developer to design it for you.
You might be the best judge to understand what your business needs are but if you do not possess the technical skills to put them into practice, then it will be a good idea to ask an expert to help you in creating the the right business iPhone application for you. With the help of the right kind of business application for your iPhone, you will surely run a smooth and successful business.

 



Monday, January 27, 2014

How To Achieve A Sustainable Social Media Strategy? Just STOP!

Social media is one of the most talked about buzz words of the 21st Century – and rightly so! It has transformed the way we (customers) think and you (businesses) act! It’s no longer as simple as going to the local store for the product we want/need. We now research the social media options available to us, ask our peers what they think of it and then we see where we can purchase it to get the best value.
Social media has altered the relationship between brands and consumers – in a good way for us (the consumers) and in a daunting way for you (the business) because it means you have to build a relationship with us!

To achieve a sustainable social media strategy – just use STOP

If a business decides to have a social media presence then it must be well planned, realistic objectives and most importantly it must be sustainable. No point having a social media plan for 2 months, sticking to it and seeing the return (or not!) then just “logging on to post a status update or tweet whenever you get a chance” –  it doesn’t work like that!

# 1. Strategy

Every business needs a business plan, as well as a short term strategy. This is also true for social media. Your social media strategy should not be a standalone plan, it should be a part of your overall marketing approach. Back up your online efforts with offline campaigns, and vice versa. Create a realistic plan in order to reap the return on investment of your time, resources and in some cases money invested into this social media effort.

# 2. Track

The key to any social media (or any digital marketing in fact) is to measure the success/failure of your objectives and goals. While social media is for the most part free, you are investing your time – which in itself is valuable. And so, if an element of your plan isn’t working, or isn’t working as best as it could – then by tracking your social media you will be able to see this and tweak it before time is wasted and damage is done to your brand.

# 3. Objectives

What defines a successful social media campaign? 5,000 twitter followers? 1,000 Facebook fans? Or maybe just 1 sale via your website? No one can tell you what success is…that is up to you. In order to be able to tell if your social media efforts are fruitful, you must set clear realistic goals (also known as Key Performance Indicators – KPIs) and so, if you are not achieving then stop wasting valuable time on that particular element of your plan and tweak it to until it works.
Of course, if you are not reaching any of your goals then perhaps you are being unrealistic and aiming too high? Or maybe social media just isn’t for you and your brand? Consider other digital marketing techniques such as email marketing.

# 4. Pick

There are hundreds of social media sites – it is unrealistic to say have a well run profile on ALL (or even on the top 5: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+) so pick 2 and do them well, only large organisations with marketing departments can afford to allocate human resources and large budgets to growing established brands on all five social networks.
So, social media has become one of the most daunting tasks facing businesses in recent years. Why? Because it takes time, effort, dedication as well as thinking outside the box. However, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages – if social media is done well!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Finding Happiness In A World Full Of Passwords

Relying on username-password combinations seems so last decade (last century?) these days. With smartphones able to do facial recognition and thumb readers as options on laptops, passwords feel like they should be phasing out.
In the meantime, the passwords we’re choosing aren’t very secure. A recent SplashData report shows the top-three most popular are password123456, and 12345678. One has to wonder why there aren’t more security breaches with that kind of non-security. Just how worried should you be about keeping your life online?
Passwords

Hackers

Recently, millions and millions of users have been affected by security lapses, resulting in hackers gaining access their accounts on such sites as Yahoo Voice, LinkedIn and eHarmony, among others. Even a lone reporter, Matt Honan, using strong passwords, fell victim to a hacker when social engineering at Apple and Amazon resulted in his Twitter account getting compromised and his iPhone, iPad and MacBook were remotely erased.
It seems there isn’t a month that goes by without a significant security breach, and those are just the ones you hear about. Imagine a hacker gaining access to your account by getting the last four digits of your credit card number from Amazon, and then turning over to Apple and using that information to gain access to your whole Apple world. All without having to guess one password.

Sticky Notes

There have to be better ways to protect yourself. Being online 24/7 doesn’t help matters here, as nearly every site has their own rules for what makes a good strong password, and nearly every site requires one. The way we’ve learned to cope with the password madness, writing them down on little sticky notes, isn’t helping, either.

Password vault software

That’s where password vault software comes into play. As the name might reveal, a password vault is a safe location to store all your unique passwords for each site. The passwords can be auto-generated so they don’t match dictionary words, and are literally long strings of random characters. You just have to remember the password key to the vault. Then, unlocking the vault will unlock your passwords when you visit each site.
It actually is that simple, but you have to make sure the vault software is available when not on your home machine, otherwise you can’t log into any of the sites and your access control mechanisms turn out to be worthless.

Two-phase verification

Beyond password vaults, many of the larger sites, mostly financials, are now relying on two-phase/multifactor verification mechanisms. When logging in from an unrecognized machine, the username-password values are no longer sufficient to gain access. You typically must provide an identification code that is sent to a so-called trusted location, like via text messaging to your registered mobile phone number, voice calls again to a registered phone number, and even snail mail when there isn’t a trusted alternative. The latter isn’t a quick option, but it suffices when no other options are available.

Recovery from a security breach

How quickly you can recover after a breach truly depends on the safeguards put into place before matters get out of your hands. Beyond just making sure backups are current, there are other alternatives that can help with the big picture. Relying on something like Microsoft SharePoint to store your documents for collaboration is an alternative. Basically, safeguard your information away from your machine in addition to on your machine.
The key part here is that you need multi-user access. With the right processes in place, a content management system like SharePoint helps keep the goods secure and out of the hands of the hackers and also helps your users access content nearly anywhere. Just be sure to set up the associated SQL Server host on a separate server from SharePoint.

Conclusion

Until biometrics become more common, username-password combinations are pretty much here to stay. There may be a second or third authentication factor for some websites, but the bulk of sites only rely on passwords for security. Do check out password vaults for the generation and storage of your strong passwords, and remember that using password is a good way to get hacked.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

5 Website Tools To Help Run Your Business Under A Budget

“We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.” – Marshall McLuhan. Having the right website tools is especially important online, where we have access to a myriad of tools and what others think about them. You’ll only be as effective as the tools you use. Even tasks that take a lot of time and effort will be effectively simplified if you have the right tools.
Here are 5 website tools to help you effectively run your online business under a budget:

# 1. Easy WebContent


We all know how important having great web design is. For its simplicity and its capabilities, everyone uses WordPress. After all, the majority can’t be wrong – especially when they’re 70 million+ people. Unfortunately, WordPress isn’t necessarily for everyone, especially if you’re a small business operating on a budget or a startup without much to spend.
While the WordPress CMS is free, it costs a lot to have a professional look and design for your website; you don’t have control over the free themes unless you’re good at coding and you can only get a design unique to you by going for a custom webdesign; with some web design firms you can easily see yourself spending in excess of $5,000 to get a custom WordPress design.
While there are premium themes being sold for less than $100, the same themes are being downloaded and used by thousands of other people so it doesn’t really help you stand out. If you don’t have the $3,000+ to spend on a custom design, Easy WebContent also has a site builder and a host of premium templates you can customize to your taste to have a great blog. This is also supported with an HTML editor in case you already have your HTML website hosted on another server.

# 2. PostJoint


No business can thrive online without effective marketing. One of the best ways to market your business online is by guest blogging; you give a blogger free content in exchange for a link back to your website and some exposure. This alone can be more effective than most forms of advertising.
With guest blogging, writing the content can be very easy but reaching out to bloggers who will accept your guest post takes time and effort; PostJoint simplifies this by serving as an intermediary between the blogger and the guest blogger. You select the blog of your choice, submit quality content that meets the criteria of that blog and that gets published.

# 3. KissMetrics


Analytics is something very important and powerful that most online businesses ignore. Building a successful business isn’t just about having a clean design and marketing. Most importantly, it’s about testing every action and every change you make to see what is giving you the best return on investment.
Unlike basic analytic tools like Google Analytics, KissMetrics helps you monitor important metrics that can influence your business growth; it can monitor anything from how many leads you get as a result of a particular campaign to what traffic source leads to the most conversion. It also ensures each user is properly tracked and as a result makes sure you don’t waste your marketing efforts.

# 4. Informly


This newly-launched tool gives you access to almost all of your online stats in one dashboard. Whether you want to monitor your Google search positions, your Kissmetrics data, your AWeber or Mailchimp subscription growth and email analytics or the performance of each article you publish, Informly is for you.
With Informly, you have all your online dashboards in one place and you don’t have to worry about logging in to various dashboards and accounts every day before you know what is happening with your online business.

# 5. Bufferapp


Bufferapp makes it easy for you to streamline your social media marketing. Instead of having to spend hours managing your social media profiles every day, Bufferapp gives you a platform that allows you to do it all in one place.
Every online business not using social media is making a huge mistake; irrespective of the size of your business, social media can work for you. Take Cisco for example; Cisco was able to save $100,000 in product launch expenses and still break previous records by focusing on social media as opposed to doing things the traditional way they used to. Bufferapp makes social media easy for you without having to spend the huge bucks.
What tools do you suggest for your website?

Friday, January 24, 2014

iPad For Productivity

Do you struggle with Productivity? Are you unsure what IT systems you should have in place? Would you like some insight into what may work as an alternative to the traditional systems? Well then, this might just be the post for you!
Productivity, a measure of the efficiency of production, can also be referred to as a measure of output from a production process, per unit of input. It is the ratio of what is produced to what is required to produce it. Usually this ratio is in the form of an average, expressing the total output divided by the total input.

A misunderstood buzzword

Productivity has become quite a buzzword in recent years, and is often referred to in terms of time management, stress management, employee assessment and self-development. It is clear that we can only be as “productive” as we believe, and it is often mistaken for effectiveness, whereas it is merely a measure of efficiency.
“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker
This is one of the many reasons that people often fail to be as effective as they intend to. I have discovered it is more than the WAY we do our daily tasks, be they business or personal based. It has as much to do with HOW we tackle those tasks. With this in mind I began to explore the value of changing my IT strategy in terms of doing computer, online and personal tasks (like writing this blogpost).

My story

I had been operating with a laptop and large external screen for working in the office, and then taking said laptop with me as I travelled or worked away from the office (in training for example). However, most of my training is with Microsoft systems, and as I use mainly Apple products, this posed a major problem, which I solved by buying a Netbook to take with me on the days I needed Windows. I had previously tried virtual PC and VMWare with little success.

It’s amazing what technology throws up for us. With the onset of BootCamp, Tablets and the App Store, my IT systems have been transformed. I now carry an iPad (that fits in my handbag), laden with productivity Apps for when I am away from the office, and all of the tools I need to manage my email, calendar and contacts and create documents in a space that I specifically don’t have to secure (the “cloud”).

So what are the major benefits to re-addressing our IT systems as a small business?

  • We can move our work to the cloud (or iCloud)
  • We (and our Accountant) can manage our books remotely
  • We can access email, calendar and contacts through the cloud
  • The cloud can be infinitely safer for the small business owner
  • The iPad and certain other tablets allow for complete productivity
  • A tablet / phone is far lighter than the lightest notebook
  • We do tasks in shorter spurts than previously, and tablets allow quicker access to apps
Another major breakthrough for me personally was the fact that an iPad can only display one app at a time. This has completely cut down on having 20 tabs open in my browser, and allows me to focus on one task at a time.
So while looking for productivity tools to download, I realised that actually the iPad itself is a supreme productivity tool, in terms of effectiveness. [I have yet to find the perfect solution to allow me work with both OS systems, without using a separate machine to the iPad. The Netbook still has a spot in the office for now, and also fits in the handbag]
Have you changed the way you manage your IT systems as a small business owner?
Please share your suggestions below…

Why Social Media Are Not a Strategy

Are you in business to be popular? Connected? Engaged? You are, or at least you should, be in business to make profit. Because that is what business is about. You may have chosen to be an entrepreneur for many reasons, but if you don’t have a profit you don’t have a business. It really is that simple.
There are many compelling blog posts and snazzy videos that strongly promote the notion that social media are imperative to the success of business. These posts usually incorporate something along the lines of “Social Media, can you afford not to?” Well, I want to put it on record that yes, many businesses can absolutely afford not to “do” social media. In fact, I would go so far as to say that for some businesses, engagement in social media is actually damaging.

The Personal Hygiene Analogy

If personal hygiene were an analogy for marketing, then social media would be perfume. To put this bluntly, perfume is no substitute for the fundamentals of personal hygiene. You need a 365 bathing plan, and perfume is no substitute for that.

What are social media?

The answer is partly in the question. Media, being the plural of medium, are ways to store or communicate information. There are many flavours of media:
  • Newspapers ~ print
  • TV stations ~ broadcast
  • Social media ~ digital
Social media can, like any other media, be used to achieve certain personal or business objectives. And used wisely, these media can work very well for business, but only as part of an actual marketing strategy. It will not work for every business and it is time to be honest about that. A radio advertisement will not work for every business, and it is ridiculous to presume that social media will work for every business. You need to pick the media that is most relevant and appropriate for your business. Sparkplugs on Facebook? I don’t think so.

What Social Media is not

  1. A Business Plan
    There are many components to a business plan, but frankly some businesses are so busy faffing around with social media that they’ve lost sight of the bigger picture.  How does your business make profit? What products or services should be sold to optimise profit? These are some of the big questions that need to be answered before you can develop a business plan or a marketing plan or even dream of engaging in social media. For a business, there are really only two business numbers that matter – Cash and Profit.
  2. A Marketing Plan
    You need to define your brand and identify your customer before you even begin to draft a marketing plan or select marketing media.
  3. A substitute for relevance
    The number of followers you have in any social medium is not an end in itself. Neither is building a community, engagement levels or indeed, (social media aside), the  number of website visitors you have. So many businesses focus on their social media metrics that they forget about the cost of acquisition of a customer or about the profit margin that they should be making. Social media needs to be relevant to your business objectives. There are many worthy and relevant business objectives for social media other than sales, such as brand building, awareness marketing and customer service. These all contribute indirectly to profit. What you and your followers do when they engage with you or visit your website is what is really relevant, not the number of followers that you have.
  4. Free
    Social media are not free. Even if you do not allocate an employee or outsource this function, it takes time to create and collate content, to broadcast it and to engage with your community. Time spent on social media can have a massive opportunity cost, if it diverts a business owner from focusing on making profit.

The Social Media Mantra

The bankers’ mantra is well known:
“Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity but cash is reality”.
Here’s my adaptation for social media, which I’ll call “The Social Media Mantra”:
“Followers are vanity but profit is sanity.”

What do you think?

Social media are not a strategy. They are, well, a collection of mediums. It seems likely that social media are here to stay. The popularity of individual social media networks may wax and wane, but people have an inherent desire to be connected and social media fills that personal need. However, when it comes to business, relevance is the name of the game. What do you think? Is it really relevant to every business to be using social media?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

10 Reasons You’re LinkedIn, But Still Not Tuned In!

LinkedIn is recognised as the B2B social media with a staggering global membership of over 120 million people.
It should be the place where savvy business net workers hang out, connect and form serious business relationships, right? I’ve considered for a while that the average LinkedIn user is the least sophisticated when compared with users of other social media, why might this be the case?

Well, perhaps because a larger part of the LinkedIn user base is made up of traditional business people, this traditional mindset is naturally going to try to employ more direct sales and marketing tactics on LinkedIn. I could continue to speculate but I’m not sure I would be any closer to the answer. So instead here are my 10 Reasons You’re LinkedIn, But Still Not Tuned In:

1. # You’re using your profile for your business

LinkedIn is a business networking tool. Remember people network with other people so ensure that you are using your profile in the correct manner, profiles are not for a business. Tip: You should use the companies page to add your business.

2. # You use the generic message to connect with people

Are you simply too lazy to add my name or give me a reason to connect with you? Just think about the message this sends out to everyone that you attempt to connect with! What does it say about you and how you represent your business?

3. # You indicate that someone is a friend even though they’ve never met you before

Again, this is sheer laziness when it comes to connecting. Claiming to be someone’s friend when you have never met that person before is both stupid and insulting.

4. # You try to sell stuff via the messages

OK, so now we have connected and what do you do, of course, you try to sell me and your other new connections stuff via the messages. Honestly, ask yourself! what are the chances?

5. # You abuse your contacts, by using them as a personal e-mail marketing list

Remind me again, when did I sign up to be on your e-mail list? Oh, that’s right I didn’t so stop abusing your connection with me in this manner.

6. # You automatically post all your tweets to LinkedIn

LinkedIn and Twitter are different communities with different expectations and cultures. Why then would you want to post all your tweets to LinkedIn?  Surely it’s better to be selective and share only tweets that contain #in or #li. Tip: You can change these settings at any time be clicking “Edit” next to your Twitter account name.

7. #  You ask for recommendations from people you don’t even know

If I don’t know you and if I haven’t worked with you previously, how can I in all honestly publicly vouch for you? I can’t so please don’t embarrass yourself by asking.

8. # You would rather spam than become an active member of the groups.

Groups provide an opportunity to engage and start to develop meaningful  businesses relationships, yet many prefer to spend their time spamming the discussions instead. Why join a LinkedIn group if you don’t really want to become an active member?

9. # You post promotions and jobs in the discussions section

Groups have three tabs where members can post under, they are:
  • discussions
  • promotions
  • jobs
This may seem fairly self explanatory but unfortunately it’s not for a great many people.

10. # You’ve created an account but you don’t use it

It continually amazes me the amount of people who go and set up their LinkedIn account and then just leave it unused and unloved. For all the ways that people continue to misuse and misunderstand LinkedIn, it remains a global networking platform full of opportunities for smart business people.
Thank you for reading,

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Being Aware And Safeguarding Against Direct Attacks

One of the major issues facing companies’ technology infrastructure is safeguarding their data against direct attacks.
While large organizations have robust security measures in place, all it takes is one careless or uninformed employee placing much of this critical data at risk.
  • Crackers and identity thieves are creating more sophisticated spyware applications that can leave even the most diligent companies at their mercy.
  • Phishing techniques have also become more complex as these computer criminals have stepped up their efforts in order to profit off an organization’s neglect in creating robust security measures.
Many of the direct attacks that make the nightly news tend to happen because an organization failed to configure their security systems correctly. Even though most firms take extra precautions to ensure that their network systems can withstand a variety of threats, one wrong setting within the security software can be exploited.
Spyware software developers have learned to create their applications to target specific weaknesses in both computer software and in the people using these systems. What may appear as a regular process within a program may actually be a piece of malware that has been disguised to act like part of the normal application or operating system.
It is likely that more advanced computer professionals or those employees working within the information technology department will be able to discern against faulty program instructions. Casual or less experienced users may be completely unaware of a direct attack.
Much of the latest threats that have been designed to be able to learn the weakest part of a computer system, be it a specific person or a security glitch within an application. Utilizing advanced social engineering techniques, a web site that may appear to be valid is in fact a clever phishing tool that can be used to extract sensitive data or install malware on an unsuspecting user.

Computer crackers are relentless in their attempt to gain from successful companies.

Whether the goal is to gain financially or obtain critical information from the organization, the techniques these high tech criminals employ can fool even the most experienced individual.
  1. Organizations need to establish comprehensive and frequent training opportunities for their employees to ensure that no one is performing actions that may risk the entire company information system from direct attacks.
  2. Helping less informed employees know how to recognize phishing websites and methods used to install spyware on a computer system can help provide another level of protection against these menaces.
  3. In addition, organizations should routinely review configuration settings within the security applications to prevent any unexpected access by cyber criminals.
We would benefit massively from going ‘smart‘ with their handsets and using apps for two reasons:
  1. they love mobile phones as they can talk and text on the move
  2. their work requires huge amounts information regardless of the sector e.g. a tillage farmer needs detailed weather information in order to know when to sow or spray etc.
Traditionally, farmers were not great with desktop technology but the smartphone provided the opportunity for them to get techy with familiar hardware.

Smart Phone technology for an unlikely audience


We learnt a few key lessons about how you introduce smartphone technology into even the most unlikely of audiences and help them to genuinely benefit:

# 1. Make sure it’s not TOO smart

Make sure that your selling points are about the features and what they deliver for the end-user, not about the technology behind it and how they are delivered.

# 2. Social Media and Email

Are the members of the audience regular users of social media?  If so, download these apps for them and make them aware that they have been using ‘apps’ all along.  Explain that the simplest of programs like Microsoft Word are applications and that this new word ‘app’ is just a term for application.  No need to be super techy to understand this one

# 3. Personal: News, sport and most importantly specialist interests

Find out what kind of interests your audience have.  e.g. what sports do they like? Which is their favourite team? Now get them to download apps for that team, film or whatever they are into.  If they think there’s fun in it for them they will bite.  Now just tell them that your app is also just like this, except for a different purpose.

# 4. Productivity: Saving Time and Money

Find out something that they hate doing.  Is there an app that helps them to save money or increase their productivity.  The goal is simple here, just show them that apps can save time – it’s not just necessarily another time consuming exercise in addition to their core tasks.

# 5. Ease-of-use

When explaining how to use the app, ensure that you explain why it is designed in a certain way.  If they buy into a design process, they will naturally feel more comfortable exploring your smartphone app e.g. we based the layout of our app on the control panels found on machinery and in milking parlours.

# 6. Not another device necessarily

Simplify the smartphone itself for them.  There is nothing overtly complex about the smartphone.  It is just an evolved version of the mobile phone.  Sending and receiving emails is no harder than sending a text.

# 7. Durability

A perception we come across all the time is the perception among some of the public that smartphones are just not durable, have terrible battery life and are less reliable.
  • If someone refuses to go smart, you can’t get them to use your app.  While the perception is not totally unfounded, tell them to go smart and simply charge the phone every night while asleep.
  • Also, Motorola has an ultra hardcore waterproof Android smartphone called the ‘Defy’.  This is a fantastic option for those that need something more rugged and work outdoors.

# 8. Redundancy of mobile phones

The old feature phone is becoming redundant.  It is inevitable that everyone will have to go smart at some stage.  If talking to someone who’s finding it hard to let go, tell them they have to make this move at some stage, then introduce your app as an example of the advantages of smart.

# 9. Android vs. iPhone

Don’t talk operating systems to people who don’t talk that language.  iPhone vs. Android vs. Windows etc. is intimidating and a shocking amount of people try to sell their app using this jargon to the non-believer.
Can you add to this post? How do you create an incentive to make people ‘smart’? Let me know.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

15 Ways To Win The SEO Battle

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” Search Engines use processes to identify content to match a user’s search query. Website owners use SEO in order to be identified by these Search Engines, and so increasing the traffic to their website and potentially escalating sales and profits.
All major search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing have such results, where web pages and other content such as videos or local listings are shown and ranked based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users.

Google

Google is the most popular Search Engine at present, Google logs 2 billion searches a day. However, it has never released full details of its SEO Algorithm (the actual process by which Google searches through websites). Below is a useful You Tube clip of Google’s Webmaster explaining how Google search works:
So, from experience and vast research over the last few years I have compiled a checklist which I use regularly (almost daily at this stage).

SEO Checklist

This SEO checklist includes the most essential checks that one should make before publishing a website online and should be updated regularly. SEO is a constant battle and requires constant monitoring and updating and so this check list will help to focus on the most important aspects.

 Keywords

  • Complete an extensive keyword analysis to find words relevant to the industry/product/niche.
  • Create high quality content which will be searched by search engines.  However, remember that this content must benefit your website’s users in some way. Pointless content dilutes your brand’s message. Ensure that content is added regularly – a blog/latest news section on website would aid this.
  • Add unique titles and descriptions to each page of the website.
  • Add important keywords to page titles, meta-descriptions and the HTML headings (H1-H6) Again remember that these will be seen by users to it is important to write these to entice the users further into your site.
  • Ensure all images on site have a descriptive ALT text included

URLs, Links and SiteMap

  • Include important keywords in URLS
  • Ensure links are SEO friendly. Use dashes as opposed to underscores in URLS
  • Create links from homepage to each page and vice versa.
  • Check that all links work, and bring the user to the correct page. Remove all broken links.
  • Registered domain name should contain relevant keywords if possible
  • Create XML and/or HTML sitemaps. Submit these to search engines and ensure these are updated regularly.

Analytics

  • Ensure Google Analytics account (or other web analytics package) set up and integrated with site by adding the tracking code on all pages of the website. To get full details of how to obtain the tracking code are, click here.
  • Develop a strong Link building Strategy for inbound and outbound links.
  • Monitor competitor websites
  • If using Social Media, make sure these are included on website.
SEO is a cost-effective method to acquire customers. There is no payment to the search engines for being indexed. SEO is useful for generating visitors to your website and so, boosts brand visibility and awareness.
Engaging in SEO forces website owners to have better websites because search engine crawlers recognise errors in code and so correct, valid code is a must, making a better website for search engine crawlers and users alike.
The constant battle of trying to get your website ranking highly in Search Engine results is eased if the basics of SEO are implemented. If your website isn’t search engine optimised, you are missing out!
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door” ― Milton Berle.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Better Web Apps Security With Threat Risk Modelling

Prevention is the best form of cure! This rule also applies when assessing a web application in terms of security risks or any potential to be hacked. Rather than adopt an ad-hoc approach, it’s better to plan out a structured assessment to identify and prioritise the important risks and threats. Such an assessment is known as threat risk modelling.
The appropriate time for this type of assessment is when you are in the initial stages of designing the application, even before starting to develop it. This will help save time and effort by identifying risky features that facilitate hacking as well as preventing wasted development effort on particular controls that are of little use to combat real risks.
There are different methods to complete threat risk modelling, each with their own benefits. So adopt a method that you find useful, but also one that follows the following principles.

How important is a security review

Threat risk modelling generally starts with a set of objectives, rather than a single one, to help assess the priority of the review, how much effort is required and to identify the important application(s) that should be covered by the review. To help identify an appropriate set of security objectives, you could consider the following categories:
  1. Financial – assess the level of potential financial risk if an application is hacked. For example, an online payments application has a greater financial risk than a brochure type website with ‘static’ content on a company’s products or services
  2. Identity – is a customer’s or staff’s identity at risk from being stolen. With certain applications, a user may be required to prove their identity in order to access particular services. In such situations, the application must provide sufficient protection so that this information cannot be compromised in any way
  3. Privacy and regulatory commitments – given the type of data used by the web application, varying levels of protection are warranted. For example, public comments on a blog are open for everybody to read, whereas personal data, as defined by the Data Protection Commissioner require greater protection to ensure that this information is secure. In addition, Regulatory requirements can influence what information is to be accepted via a web application. For example, Money Laundering regulations require that various forms of identification are presented, when making particular financial applications, so consideration needs to be given as to how this is handled using an web application – whether by hard copy via a related paper application or via a scanned upload
  4. Reputational risk – what would be the damage to your organisation if this web application was found to be hacked. The greater the reputational risk, the greater the need to focus on securing the application
  5. Application availability requirements – when an application is hacked, it generally needs to be taken off-line for a period of time to correct any damage caused by the hacker. To that end, if there is a service level agreement associated with the application that customers expect to be met or is required in order to provide a crucial public service, then this should lead to a great security prevention effort. This also relates to reputational risk, when a user wishes to access an online application only to find that it is offline due to a security breach, the user may move to a competitor for that service

Time for some deep analysis

With the objectives agreed and the important application(s) identified, it is then time to investigate each application in detail to list the features/functions that merit a threat analysis. It is best to start progressively reviewing each application from the top-down, starting with it’s architecture. After reviewing the architecture to identify potential areas of risk, move on to identify the functions and data flows associated with these areas of risk.
This analysis of the related functions and data flows involves reviewing;
  • What data is entered and viewed by a user
  • How data is sourced and displayed
  • All related authentication and authorisation functions that are completed within each function and data flow
  • The relevant design decisions and assumptions made by the application architects and developers

To correct the vulnerabilities, identify the threats

Knowing the detail of your application, you can then compile a set of likely threats which could occur based on current known threats. You can document these threats either by graphing them or by making a simple list. An example of a typical threat graph, taken from the OWASP guide is shown below.
Using a threat graph to plan better web applications security
From the graph or list of likely threats, the important weaknesses in the application can be identified. Once the specific weaknesses are known, remedies as shown in the green boxes in the threat graph can be designed and developed into an updated application.
In a follow-on article, I will discuss other elements of threat analysis, including the importance of understanding the context of threats, the type of hacker that you need to combat and different classification schemes that assist in prioritising threats based on their likely impact and context. Please share your comments below.