How to Avoid Holiday Cyber Scams

hacker_santaNow that we’re officially in the middle of the holiday season, there’s a flood of emails flying through cyberspace from family, friends, online retailers and charities. This heavy online traffic makes it easier than ever to sneak in malicious emails, targeting unsuspecting users looking to connect with old friends and find holiday deals. Whether it’s a phishing scam that is trying to snag your credit card number or a malware campaign that installs unauthorized code on your system from an email link, ‘tis the season to protect yourself.

Taking Precautions

So where, exactly, do these seasonal cyberscams come from? Many of these malicious Grinches send emails from fake URLs, disguising them to appear legitimate. Faux charities are another common scam designed specifically to take advantage of your generosity during the season of giving. Even friends and family may send what looks like an innocent forward your way, only to discover that they inadvertently launched some decidedly un-cheery, unpleasantness to your inbox instead.

However, if you take some basic online protective measures you’ll be in a lot better shape to avoid the latest cyberscams this holiday season:

  • Change your email settings so that attachments aren’t automatically downloaded. This gives you more control over what gets into your system.
  • Never open attachments or click URL links in emails from unknown or unverified senders. Even be cautious of known senders.
  • Remember that cyberscammers can spoof return addresses; their malicious emails might look like a holiday e-greeting from Grandma judging from the subject line alone. If there’s nothing specific in the subject or body of the message (i.e. “Check out the great Holiday pics I took!”), it’s worth verifying with the sender before opening the attachment.
  • Never respond to requests for financial information that arrive via email. Instead, visit the applicable site or account directly from your web browser to verify any claims.
  • Always research charities and other organizations before you donate a penny.
  • Keep your antivirus and anti-malware software updated and run regular scans to keep your system squeaky clean.  Also assure that patches are applied regularly to the operating system.
  • Listen to your intuition. If something seems fishy about an email, even if it’s from someone you know, don’t download any attachments or follow embedded URLs. Again, return addresses can be spoofed to look authentic and familiar, so use caution even with trusted senders.

Spread Cheer, Not Fear

There’s no better time than the holidays to wrap up a nice bit of malicious code masquerading as an online promotion for a major sale or a holiday e-card. That’s why the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT) has released a security alert that focuses specifically on how to avoid holiday-related cyberscams. Additionally, the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) offers a comprehensive list of suggestions on avoiding phishing scams that are good any time of year.

The holidays should be a time for celebration. Use smart online practices to help spread seasonal cheer, and stay safe this holiday season.

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Instagram for your company

SocialMedia_July29_CIt is safe to say that businesses should have a presence on social media. Many choose to be on sites like Facebook, mainly because of the large number of users and higher chance of gaining exposure. There are other networks out there too, like Instagram, that can help further enhance a brand. This is especially the case for companies with physical products who want a better way to visually showcase products or interact with customers.

Instagram is a social network focused around pictures. By downloading it onto your mobile device – Android and Apple iOS – you can take pictures, enhance them by applying various filters and share them on other social media sites, like Facebook, in a short amount of time. With more than 90 million regular users, there is a good chance that some of your customers are using this app.

If your business doesn’t utilize this app, now could be the time to look into it, especially since there have been two recent updates that make the platform more viable for businesses. The first being that you can now take, apply specific filters to, and upload short videos. The second being the ability to embed pictures directly into your website, blog or other online content.

With these new features, Instagram has become an even more valuable tool to businesses looking for another way to expand their social reach and brand. Here are four ways you can utilize it:

1. Run a customer photo competition
If your business sells physical products, why not start a photo competition where you encourage customers to take pictures of themselves using your products, and post them on Instagram. If you create a specific hashtag, they can add it to their photo and make it searchable too.

Doing this gives your products and company essentially free advertising, while enabling you to track how people use your products and where. Plus, it also gives you the opportunity to better connect with your customers.

2. Show off your products
Instagram has a number of great filters that make photos taken on mobile devices look great. If you are looking for a way to show off your products, why not take pictures of them and share these on Facebook or your website?

With the new video feature, you or your staff can even do short product demonstrations, which you then share on social media. This can be a great way to drive customers to buy into your brand, and may start conversations about your products. If you get lucky, the content could even go viral. Again, this is free advertising for you. Plus, there is no need to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for professional photos that are just going to go on Facebook, so why not save yourself a bit of money and use the phone in your pocket?

3. Capture events
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is taken very seriously by many businesses, and can include sponsoring various events. If your company is involved in community action then why not ask participants to take photos using Instagram, and tag your company using a specific hashtag.

You will get free exposure and could get some great pictures that you can share on other social media, or even your website.

4. Easily share pictures on different sites
With the recent addition of the ability to embed Instagram pictures into different websites or blogs, you can not only create good looking content, but content that will spark a conversation. If you log into the browser version of Instagram, and find the picture you would like to embed on your site, click on the Share button and scroll down to the bottom-right. You will see the embed code which you can copy and paste on your site or blog.

If you are looking for a good way to expand your brand online, whether it be through Instagram or any other platform, contact us today to see how we can help you connect with your customers in a whole new way.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

The key to viral content

BusinessValue_July22_CBusinesses of all sizes are becoming increasingly invested in social media. One of the reasons for this is because they have seen how content that has gone viral has helped increase the name and value of brands and spread a marketing message. Businesses looking to replicate this usually have no idea about how to go about viral marketing though. However, there are actually tips you can follow to make your content more likely to go viral.

If you are looking to create content that has a higher chance of going viral, there are a number of key things you should be aware of.

Why content goes viral
Before creating content that will hopefully go viral, you need to be aware of how and why content goes viral in the first place. At first glance, it would appear that this is determined simply on luck alone. In truth, however, although luck can be a factor this is only part of the reason. Content goes viral because it’s shareable. Think of the last time you were told about a viral video or ad. Chances are, you heard about it on social media, and if you didn’t the person who told you likely heard about it from there.

So, in order to go viral, content needs to be shareable, but not all content is share worthy. The question is, how do you create content that people will want to share? There are four factors you need to incorporate:

1. Content needs to be seen to be unique
The vast majority of viral content is unique, as it often offers something new. If viewers of your content get the feeling that what they are reading is something different, they will be, a) more willing to consume it, and b) more apt to share it, if they like it. An important reality to realize is that most content on the Internet is not wildly original – someone has done something like it before. Therefore, if you read an article or see a video that interests you, maybe try thinking how you can improve on this and make it more interesting, relevant and practical for your audience. The content likely won’t go viral world-wide, but it could go viral amongst your viewership, which is what’s important, as this consists of your customers and potential customers.

2. People share what makes them look/feel smart
There is a term associated with social media – social currency – that defines how a piece of content will make the sharer look. For the most part, content that makes the sharer look better, smarter and like they have something to contribute will be shared at a higher rate.

3. Content needs to be a trigger
In general, humans rely on triggers for action. These triggers are stimuli, like sight and sound that evoke memory and association with products. A good example of this in action happened during the 2013 Super Bowl, where the stadium lights went out for the better part of half an hour. Because it was dark, people didn’t know what to do. Oreo tweeted a picture that said, “You can still dunk in the dark.” This tweet was retweeted over 10,000 times in less than an hour – going instantly viral. This was a clear message that it is highly likely that the next time this happens at a sporting event, people will remember Oreo. What Oreo managed to do was capitalize on a trigger – it’s dark, reach for an Oreo.

In other words, if you can create content that capitalizes on common triggers, there is a higher chance that your content will go viral.

4. Content needs to be consistent
It is important to realize however, that not all content will go viral; there is still some aspect of luck involved. To further improve the chances of your content going viral, you should strive to be consistent. What this means is posting on a regular basis and ensuring that whatever you post is consistent quality wise. If you do this, your content will come to be seen as valuable over time, and more likely to be shared.

If you take small steps to make your content generally more shareable, you will see the number of shares increase, bringing about more business, or at the very least cementing your brand image and reputation.

Looking for more ways to get your business name out there? Contact us today and we’ll share our ideas with you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

5 safety steps to online shopping

Security_July22_CHave you ever bought something online? There is something compelling about browsing an online store, filling a virtual cart, checking-out and having it arrive on your doorstep a few days later. E-commerce is quickly becoming one of the most popular forms of shopping, but like everything else on the Internet, there are security issues you could run into.

Below are five ways to ensure that e-commerce transactions remain secure:

1. Watch what you share
Many security experts continually want about this for social media usage, but it is also relevant to e-commerce. Often, when you make an online purchase you will be asked to provide some personal information. This might include your shipping and billing address, birthday, etc. Did you know that many sites will often ask for more information than they really need to complete the order?

The reason companies ask for this additional information is often so they can get to know you better, and provide more relatable, targeted product recommendations. Some dubious sites may ask you for this information and later sell it to a third party. When purchasing online, you should be aware of what information that is required – usually indicated by an asterisk – and what isn’t. In order to remain as secure as possible, only share information that is absolutely necessary.

Beyond that, if you are planning to link a digital wallet to your mobile phone, you should be careful who you share or lend your phone to. These services are set to take off in a big way, and there has already been instances of people with digital wallets being duped by strangers asking to borrow their phones in order to find their wallet. It is a good idea to restrict wallet access and not store any valuable information on your phone’s hard drive. Instead, store it on a password protected cloud storage site.

2. Watch how you connect
People are using their phones, tablets and laptops for online shopping in an ever increasing number. This is largely because the devices are convenient and portable – you can shop from wherever you may be. But, what many people fail to realize is that they are connecting to public Wi-Fi if they are on the go. Sure, it is cool to be able to buy your groceries on Amazon from the coffee shop at lunch, but if you have connected to public Wi-Fi, your information is likely wide-open – anyone with the right tools can access it.

You need to be careful when you shop. Don’t enter any valuable or important information like passwords and credit card numbers while connected to public Wi-Fi. If your mobile device has a data plan, switch to that instead. Or, wait until you are connected to a secure network.

3. Verify all sites
When you are shopping online you should verify that the site is in fact legitimate. The easiest way to do this is to take a look at your browser’s URL bar, and more specifically the website’s address. You are looking for it to start with, https://. What this indicates is that the website has been authenticated as being legitimate. Most websites like Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, etc. all have https protocols. If you don’t see this in the address, you may be looking at a fake website.

If you are unsure, try entering https:// before the Web address and hitting Enter. You should also take note of this URL when you are checking-out, because if there is no https://, the site may be sending unsecure information and if that information is your credit card number then you really don’t want that to be the case.

If you are shopping from a new website, you should take time to look through the extra information like the About Us and Contact pages. Take note of the address and company names, then search for the company on say Wikipedia or Google, taking care to see if the address is the same. Another trick is to search the various social media services like Facebook and Twitter for accounts related to the website.

4. Don’t pay with your bank account
One of the benefits of e-commerce is that it is easy. Because of this, the number of users buying stuff online is growing exponentially. Banks are aware of this trend and have launched services that allow you to pay for transactions with your debit card. The problem with this is these cards are directly linked to your bank account, often with higher limits than credit cards. It can be incredibly tough to get money back if something happens, largely because as soon as you account has been debited, the money is gone.

Many people who shop online use a credit card. The main reason for this is because most banks and card issuers offer online shopping protection, which makes it easier to get money back should anything untoward happen. The best solution could be to sign up for a credit card that is only used for online purchases, and even linked to a separate bank account. This could minimize your losses should something happen. A debit card for an account that has a limited amount of funds in it at any one time can also be a way to protect your main money pot.

5. Don’t link accounts
For convenience, many online retailers like Amazon, Apple, etc. offer to store your credit card number. It is highly recommended that you don’t allow these sites to store your credit card numbers, especially if you use the same account name or email address as other accounts.

If you get hacked, and the hacker finds that you have say an Amazon account with the same username and password, they will likely go on a shopping spree, which could cost you time and money.

Taking precautions while shopping online is a good idea, and could help mitigate the risk of having your identity or money stolen. If you are looking for more information on how to be safe online, or how to ensure that your company’s online store is secure, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Email sign-offs – are they important?

Productivity_July22_CWhile email is without a doubt one of the most useful communication tools out there, it can be challenging to master. Sure, you probably write many a day, but because emails lack face-to-face communication, it’s easy for these messages to be read the wrong way, literally. One of the most troublesome areas people have is with the sign-off. Have you ever struggled with choosing the right words and deciding which is the most appropriate way to end your message?

When it comes to signing off in an email, you could use the same words over and over again but, it may not be correct for certain situations. A client who has made a complaint in an email, for example, may not appreciate an informal ‘Cheers’. This will likely come across as highly unprofessional.

So, what makes a good sign-off?
If you pause to think about it for a minute, you probably use only a few sign-offs again and again. While there is no major problem with this, you might be sending out the wrong message. The key to a good sign-off actually depends on a number of things:

  1. The reason for emailing - why are you replying, or emailing the recipient? For example, if you are sending a rejection letter, the sign off might be different than that of an acceptance letter.
  2. The tone - The sign-off denotes the tone of an email and can make the recipient view the whole content in a certain way. For example, ‘Cheers’ is perfectly ok in a personal email with good news but not when emailing a stranger on a business level.
  3. The salutation/greeting - In business writing, there is a generally accepted rule that the greeting used dictates the sign-off you would use. So a formal start demands a formal finish.

To make things a little easier, here are six of the most popular sign-offs and when they should be used, and where possible the greeting they should be used with.

  • Cheers - This is usually used to end friendly emails, usually among friends or colleagues. Most people will use this when they start an email with a friendly greeting like ‘Hey’. You can generally use this with people you know, but it be used with people/customers you don’t know well or where the email content is serious, or requires some gravitas.
  • Best - This is short for ‘Best Regards’, and can be used in a wide variety of situations. For the most part, it conveys a sense of friendliness and professionalism and is best used when you are replying/emailing people you know, but not necessarily that well. This is best used when you have started an email with ‘Hello’, or a neutral greeting.
  • Regards - This is probably the most divisive sign-off used. Some argue that it conveys a strictly professional manner and is ideal for professional sounding emails, while others argue that this has a slightly cold edge. You are probably better off avoiding using just ‘Regards’, and opting for the slightly more formal, yet friendlier, ‘Best Regards’. You can also use this friendly sign-off if you are emailing someone who you don’t know.
  • Sincerely - This is among the most commonly used sign-off by professionals. It is deliberate, concise and best for people who know what they are doing. If you are writing a formal email, or to a recipient you have not met yet, it is probably best to use this sign-off. Originally, in the days of actual letter writing, business English denotes that ‘Sincerely/Yours Sincerely” should be used when starting a letter with ‘Mr/Mrs’, whilst ‘Faithfully/Yours Faithfully” is used when correspondence starts with ‘Dear Sir’.
  • No sign-off - A growing number of professionals include no sign off at all. They just simply end an email, although some may include their name. This is perfectly acceptable, as long as you know the person you are sending the email to and if this is a non-sales/marketing related email. Often if you are sending a volley of emails back and forth, there is no need for a beginning or ending but simply write the body of the email. A good rule of thumb is to follow someone’s lead.
  • Thanks - This sign-off is probably one of the most popular and used by nearly everyone. It conveys a friendly and polite tone without being too formal. This can be used with nearly every greeting and is especially great for emails where you are asking the recipient to do something.

What message does the way you use technology convey to other people? Do you need to make the most of email communication? Get in touch and we’re sure to get back to you with just the right message.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Facebook Ads: all it’s cracked up to be?

Facebook_July22_CSocial media is without doubt one of the most popular communication platforms. Since its rise in the early to mid 2000s, it has proven to be one of the greatest ways for a business to not only improve their brand, but increase reach and exposure. There are many features that enable this, with one of the best being Facebook Ads.

Facebook Ads is a way for businesses and users to get their content and advertisements seen by other users. There are two main types of advertising on Facebook: Ads and Featured Sponsored Stories.

Sponsored Stories is content created by Facebook users, usually through interaction with your Facebook Page, or content your company has posted (liking, sharing, etc.). Because actions like this show up on user newsfeeds, companies can pay to have these interactions featured on friends of the friends they originally interacted with. The idea here is to increase who can see your content in the hopes of finding new fans or more specifically, new customers.

Ads on the other hand is similar to traditional advertising in that you create and have more control over the advertising content. You can control the imagery, wording, title and even who sees the content. This gives you a great way to create targeted ads that specific customers and users respond to. Hopefully bringing them to your Facebook Page or even website. There are four different types of Ad:

  1. Standard ad - These are the ads found on the right-hand side of most Facebook pages, including: The home page, Photos, events, user profiles, Pages, etc. When you place the ad, you can decide who gets to see it, and where the ad will link to (your Facebook page, or say your website).
  2. Page post ad - These posts on your company’s Facebook Page, that can be sponsored to increase their reach, or in other words who can see them. When you create a Page post ad, it will usually show up on user newsfeeds, but can also show up on the right-hand side of the window. Users can then comment, share and like the post as they usual. The main difference is that more users will see the ad, which brings your Page potentially more exposure.
  3. Mobile app install - If you have created a mobile app that is available for download in the Google Play or Apple App Store, and have connected this with Facebook, you can pay to have the ad show up on certain user newsfeeds, when they browse Facebook using either an Android or Apple mobile device.
  4. Sponsored result - These are sponsored search results that show up in the drop-down box when a user initiates a search using Facebook’s new Graph Search bar. This type of ad is only available to companies who have signed up for Optimized CPM ads.

A common question many businesses ask is whether these ads are actually useful and do in fact pay out. A recent study conducted by Internet advertising company AdRoll, which looked at the benefits and click-through rates (the number of clicks on an ad divided by the times it’s shown) of social vs. traditional search advertising such as through Google, has found that yes, ads do work.

The study found that ads that show up on newsfeeds have a click-through rate 21 times higher than targeted Web ads. What’s interesting is that the newsfeed ads have a click-through rate 49 times higher than ads that are posted on the right-hand side of Facebook. What this means for you, and companies posting ads on Facebook, is that your content will achieve greater exposure if it’s posted on newsfeeds.

If you are looking to learn more about Facebook and how it can help your business, you need to contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Big Data supports decision making!-

BI_July15_CAs a business owner or manager you likely need to make small decisions on a regular basis, and have likely gotten good at making them. There has also likely been a time when you have had to make a big decision that had a big impact on your business. This can involve a challenging process and is one reason why many businesses are turning to Business Intelligence (BI). While BI is popular, there is a new sector that is gaining business fans: Big Data.

You’ve likely seen or heard the term Big Data, but do you know what it is? Here is a simple definition, along with some examples and ways businesses can use it.

Define: Big Data
If you search for definitions of Big Data, you will likely come across something along the lines of: Big Data is data that focuses on harnessing and using new forms of unstructured data that move into or through a business with high volume, velocity and complexity.

But what exactly does this mean? Well, many find this definition vague, at best. We found a definition, an equation in fact, that better explains Big Data:
Big Data = Transactions + Interactions + Observations

Transactions
This is highly structured data related to events. It always includes: Time, a numerical value and refers to an objective, or objectives. Examples of this include, invoices, travel plans, activity records, payments, etc. The vast majority of this information is stored in databases and can be accessed quickly and easily, usually through SQL (Structured Query Language).

Interactions
This covers how people interact with one another, or with your business. This includes interactions such as Facebook posts and Likes, social feeds, generated content and even blogs. Basically, this encompasses any data you can collect through any type of interaction that this isn’t limited to business transactions. Many experts expect this part of Big Data to really take off and become more valuable as social networks become ever more integrated with our lives and the corporate world.

Observations
This is information gathered from the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things is associated with unique, individual things that have a virtual component that can be observed, and are connected in an Internet-like structure. Some examples of this include GPS coordinates from a person that visits your website on their mobile phone, or RFID chips in ATM cards. This data can be stored and potentially used to make better, more informed decisions.

When you combine these three things together, along with the data associated with it, you get Big Data.

Some sources of Big Data
Here are just a few of sources of Big Data:

  • SMS messages
  • GPS coordinates associated with mobile interactions
  • HD video, audio and images
  • Product logs
  • Affiliate networks
  • Purchase details
  • Facebook Likes and shares

Ways business can use Big Data
There are numerous ways small to medium sized businesses can employ Big Data:

  • To provide better service - You can use Big Data to better tailor products for individual customers based on their buying habits, Facebook Likes and even personal preferences such as favorite colors.
  • Identify key customers - It can be hard to identify who your key customers are, especially if your company has a large customer base. By using Big Data, you can better identify who your primary customers are and their demographics. This makes it easier to make customer oriented decisions and marketing strategies.
  • Identify new business opportunities - If your company is harnessing Big Data, you will be better able to spot upcoming trends and better equipped to predict if these will prove popular.
  • Identify potential problems - If you monitor social media feeds, incoming calls and forums, you should be able to pick up potential problems more quickly and easily. This gives you the chance to fix issues before they escalate and cause any damage to your business.

There are many uses of Big Data, and as the world continues to generate more and more data, it will become increasingly important to employ Big Data techniques in your business. If you are looking to learn more about this topic, or any other part of Business Intelligence, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Android security flaw uncovered

Security_July08_CThe security of devices used in the office should be a top priority for business owners and managers. It is easy to think that a fully functioning device like a mobile phone is secure, and most of the time it is. The thing to be aware of however, is that there are always hackers looking for security flaws in these products. The latest flaw highlighted happens to be on the Android system.

In early July, mobile security company Bluebox announced that they had discovered a large security flaw in the Android system. The threat centers around a trojan application that can gain access to application data including email addresses, SMS messages, etc, and can get service and account passwords. In other words, it can take over your whole phone.

The way this so-called trojan infects mobile devices is through an app. Hackers have figured out how to tinker with the application’s code, and implement the malware without changing the cryptographic features that are used by Google Play and other online stores to validate and identify apps.

What this means is that the changed app looks legitimate to Google, developers, our phones and us, but it really has malicious code embedded in it, code that could give a hacker full access to your phone. The good news about this is that it can be easily fixed with an update. The bad news about this is that it is up to device manufacturers to actually release the fix. This is because most Android device manufacturers basically own their own version of Android and need to push the update to owners – Google can’t do this. Beyond that, it is up to the device owner to actually update their phone when the fix is released.

If this sounds a little worrying, it should be, especially since this affects every device except for the recently released Samsung S4 Touchwiz. There are things you can do however to minimize the chances of your device being infected by this bug.

  1. Don’t allow your device to install apps from unknown sources - Think of Android apps as coming from two systems: Google Play and not Google Play. Any app that comes from not Google Play (e.g., Amazon app store or various stores not owned by Google) can technically be installed onto your device, as long as you have allowed apps from unknown sources. If you haven’t enabled this on your device, you should be safe. If you have, you should disable this immediately by going to your device’s Settings followed by Security and ensuring Unknown sources is NOT ticked.
  2. Only download apps from the Google Play store - Unlike other mobile platforms, you can download and install apps from almost any location on Android phones. While this may seem like a good idea, many of these external marketplaces don’t validate apps, so this is where you will find most of the apps with malware. Google Play does validate apps and will remove malicious ones if found, so play it safe and only download apps from the store.
  3. Always verify the publisher - Malware does still make it onto Google Play, so you should also look at the publisher of the app. When looking at an individual app, scroll down to the Developer section. There you will usually see a webpage, email address and security/privacy policy. Pay close attention to the name, email address and do a Google search for the developer. If you notice that they use a different email address on the site, or a spelling mistake, you should probably avoid the app.
  4. Look at the app download statistics - Finally, if you are still unsure, you should look for the app on your browser. Just navigate to the Google Play website and search for the app. When you find it, click on it and look at the right-side of the window. You should see ABOUT THIS APP with lots of information below. Pay close attention to the Installs graph. If it is an app from a big-name developer e.g., Google, there should be a high number of installs. If it is say a Google App and the number of installs is low (under 1,000) it would be a good idea to avoid it.
  5. Keep your device updated - If you get a notification to update your device, you should do so immediately, this will ensure that you have the latest bug fixes and could also introduce new, useful features.

If you are careful about what apps you install and take steps to ensure that you only install apps from the Play store, your device should be relatively safe. Google has announced that they have patched their cryptographic features on Google Play, so any new apps going onto Play should be safe from this particular exploit. There is a good chance that they will also correct this issue in a future update to the Android OS (likely 4.3), but older devices may be left out of the loop. So, as we have already told you a few times: Don’t install apps from outside of Google Play, and be sure to follow the tips we talked about above.

Should you require more information about Android in the workplace, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

5 reasons BCP fails

BCP_July08_CEach year there seems to be an increasingly large number of disasters that affect an ever growing population. It would therefore make sense to take action to prepare your business for disasters, whatever they may be. To prepare, most business owners or managers will adopt a Business Continuity Plan. While this is a good idea, there have been stories of these plans failing – something you probably don’t want.

Here are five common reasons Business Continuity efforts fail.

1. Inefficient communication
When it comes to business, one of the most important keys to success is communication. The same can be said for Continuity plans – if the plan and actions expected aren’t communicated effectively and understood by all parties involved, there is little to no chance that it will succeed.

To minimize this from happening, you should take steps to ensure that you clearly communicate, orally or through email, the plan with all parties involved. They should have on-demand access to it, and should be clear about what their role is and how they are expected to act. You should also take steps to ensure that departments and representatives are prepared and understand all aspects of the plan.

2. Lack of testing
When it comes to anything related to IT, testing and retesting is essential. Many businesses take careful steps to implement a sound Continuity plan that covers the organization, but they fail to test it to see if it actually works. This could be a costly mistake.

It would therefore be a good idea to test your plan in a number of situations at least twice to three times a year. It would be a good idea to do spot tests that involve all parties so they can not only get experience but find potential holes and issues that need to be addressed.

3. Lack of a complete plan
To be prepared, you must have a complete plan, that way you will be ready for almost anything. Numerous businesses have failed because they simply weren’t prepared enough. Or their plan lacked crucial elements that would have prepared their business for an eventual disaster. Other examples of failure due to lack of complete plans is the fact that companies focused on their systems only, and forgot to plan for their employees’ needs.

Planning can be tough. The best way to ensure that you are ready for disaster is to work with an IT partner who has experience in Continuity Planning. They will work with you to create a plan that your company can rely on.

4. Poor expectations
When planning for Business Continuity, you need to think outside of the box. Many businesses have solid plans, but these plans are based on assumptions like: The power will remain on, Internet and landlines will remain connected, Mobile networks will work, staff will come into work, other parties involved won’t be affected, etc. In smaller disasters, this could be the case, but in larger disasters you can bet that at least one of the above things will happen.

The best way to develop your expectations is to look at each scenario on its own, as you develop your plan. For example, how will you deal with Internet being down? Or, how will you operate with staff who can’t make it into the office or backup location?

5. No updates to the plan
Almost everyone knows that the world changes, often quickly. Yet, some businesses fail to acknowledge these changes and update their BCP accordingly. It would be a good idea to audit and update your plan on a regular basis, usually about once a year, to take into account any changes.

These changes could include new buildings next door, new equipment, new staff, etc. The key here is to ensure your plan is as up-to-date as possible.

If you are struggling with developing your Business Continuity Plan, or are thinking about adopting one, please contact us today to see how we can help your business be prepared for anything.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

5 LinkedIn tips to find customers

One of the most popular marketing tools is social media. These services give businesses the ability to connect with their customers and even find potential customers. LinkedIn is a social network that is largely aimed at professionals wanting to connect with their colleagues, but it could also be a valuable tool to help you find potential customers.

Here are five tips on how you can better connect with your potential customers on LinkedIn. While many businesses have a profile, the personal profiles of business owners and managers can also say a lot about a company and either boost or weaken your corporate impression. Think of your LinkedIn profile as not only representing you, but also your business.

1. Be easy to find
The problem with many individual profiles is that the owners use keywords that they feel make them look better. For example, many small business owners will use the word ‘Owner’ in their profile. This is a good idea, but it’s likely not what your clients or potential customers are looking for. If your company specializes in say fixie bikes, you can bet that your clients aren’t looking for ‘fixie bike shop owners’, they are probably looking for, ‘fixie bike providers’.

When optimizing your profile, and trying to figure out which keywords are best to use, try thinking like your customer. What keywords would they will use to find you or your business. If your profile currently doesn’t show up near the top in search results for specific keywords, try using different ones that you think potential customers might use. This will make your profile slightly easier to find.

2. Provide a reason to connect
Did you know that you can put headlines in your profile? These appear below your name and are meant to provide a summary of what you do, and why people should connect with you. This is a great space where you can drive interest in you and your business, so create an attention grabbing headline.

The best headlines briefly explain what you do, and also include one or two keywords, along with the local area you work in. For example, if you are a small business consultant in Missoula, in Montana, a attention grabbing headline might reads something like: “I am a certified small business expert who helps businesses in Missoula grow, and achieve greater returns on investment.”

It is beneficial to have a profile picture that is professional too, after all, LinkedIn is all about business. If you have a fun, or goofy picture, you may be turning off prospective clients, so it’s a good idea to keep your image as professional as possible. That doesn’t mean that you can’t inject some individuality in your profile but just be careful not to include any potentially off-putting quirks.

3. Write a good summary
All LinkedIn profiles give you the option to write a summary about yourself. Many professionals use this space to talk about themselves and their achievements. This may seem like a good idea, but the whole point of social networking is to connect with other people, or help them. You should use the summary to explain what sets you apart from the competitors, and how you can help the reader with their needs.

You can still list some of your experience here, as long as it makes you stand out. For example, 15 years of experience in managing a department is nothing to sneeze at, and you can use this to your advantage by saying something like: “With over 15 years of experience in managing the finance department of a growing small business, I have worked with many clients to help them improve…”

At the end of your summary, include a call to action suggesting that those who are interested get in touch.

4. Network
LinkedIn is a social network, and many users seem to forget that. A large, and arguably important, part of the platform is networking. This is how you increase your connections, and it does require a fair amount of work and input.

LinkedIn offers a ton of great groups and channels, many of which will fit your experience and skills. Take the time to join them, and interact with the other members. If people have a question that you can answer, go ahead and do so, be sure to post your own ideas and content as well. Over time, you will come to be seen as reliable, and if you start connecting with members, you will find your network grows.

Another way to develop your network is to add clients who have contacted you, or who you already work with. These contacts can be a great way to spread your network, and if you approach them at the right time, may even provide valuable testimonials.

5. Follow up
As with anything in business, follow up is crucial. When you make a new connection, either on LinkedIn, or in real life, be sure to connect with them in a timely manner. Once you have connected, a follow up message sent within a couple of days might be worthwhile..

The key is to be consistent. If someone asks you a question, and you don’t reply, they will think less of you. Taking a quick minute to reply will go a long way in creating valuable connections.

If you have a LinkedIn profile and would like to learn more about how to leverage it, please contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.