Monthly Archives: April 2017

Social Media for Business: A Marketer’s Guide

Social media networks are incredible resources for businesses looking to promote their brands online. The platforms themselves are free to use, but also have paid advertising options specifically for brands that want to reach even more new audiences. But just because your business should be on social media, that doesn’t mean you should be on every network. It’s important that you choose and nurture the social platforms that work best for your business, so that you don’t spread yourself too thin.

If you want to create a successful social strategy, you should familiarize yourself with how each network runs, the kinds of audiences you can reach on that network and how your business can best use each platform. We profiled the most popular social media platforms to help you market your business better.

Facebook is the biggest social network on the web, both in terms of name recognition and total number of users. With nearly 1.8 billion active users, Facebook is a great medium for connecting people from all over the world with your business.

And the site is not only the biggest network, but it’s also arguably the most versatile one. In the 13 years since it launched, Facebook grew from a simple website where college students could keep in touch into a multifaceted web and mobile social platform where anyone can connect with not just their friends and family, but also celebrities, organizations, businesses and more, thanks to the Pages feature.

Considering that Facebook has a wealth of options for any type of organization, it’s a great starting point for your business, regardless of your industry. You can use Facebook to share photos, videos, important company updates and more. Additionally, the site can be more low-maintenance than other social networks. Whether you post several updates a day or only a few a week won’t make much of a difference in what your fans think of you. To find out more about Facebook for business, check out our guide.

Twitter

With Twitter, you can share short text updates (of 140 characters or fewer), along with videos, images, links, polls and more. You can also easily interact with other users by mentioning their usernames in your posts, so Twitter is a great way to quickly connect with people all around the world. (The platform averages about 320 million active users worldwide and is one of the top 10 websites in the United States.)

Because of its wide reach, Twitter is not only a great way to market your business, but also an effective channel for handling customer service. For example, if you maintain an active Twitter presence, customers who are also active on the platform will seek you out to express concerns or share their praise.

If you have interesting content, Twitter is also a great tool for quickly spreading the word. Retweeting and sharing other users’ content is incredibly simple. Hashtags help boost posts, and if a user with a lot of followers retweets you, your content has the potential to go viral. But with Twitter, it’s important to remember to find balance. Don’t simply share your own links or media; instead, make sure you are also sharing a lot of interesting, relevant content from other Twitter users and from around the web, so your audience doesn’t think you care only about what your business is doing.

Check out our guide to learn more about using Twitter for business.

This platform allows users to save and display content by “pinning” digital bulletin boards, which can be organized by category. So, for example, a personal user might have a food board dedicated to pinning recipes, another board dedicated to photography and so on. The platform also has a series of special types of pins called Rich Pins, which brands can use to add special information to their pins, like product details and even location maps.

Pinterest is heavily visually oriented. Every post has to be an image or video, and like Facebook, it is also fairly low-maintenance in terms of post frequency. However, keeping your boards organized and search-friendly can be time-consuming. It’s also more of a niche network than Facebook or Twitter, so it may not work for everyone. Pinterest’s users are primarily women, and popular categories on the site are DIY projects, fashion, exercise, beauty, photography and food. That’s not to say that businesses outside of these categories can’t succeed on the platform, but it does make Pinterest an especially good marketing tool for businesses in those areas.

There are plenty of cool ways to use this platform to your advantage, and you can read more about them in our Pinterest for business guide.

Similar to Pinterest, Instagram is a visual social media platform based entirely on photo and video posts. The Facebook-owned network has more than 600 million active users, many of whom post about food, art, travel, fashion and similar subjects. Instagram is distinguished by its unique filters and photo- and video-editing options. This platform, unlike the others, is almost entirely mobile. Although there is a web version, you can’t take photos or create new posts on it.

Instagram is another platform where more-artistic niches excel, and it may not be the best fit for your business, depending on your industry. If you want to succeed with Instagram, it’s important that the person running your account have a good eye for detail and at least basic photography skills, so that the photos and videos posted to your account are high-quality.

And don’t be discouraged if your industry is underrepresented on Instagram; if you can find the right hashtags to latch onto and can post intriguing photos, you will most likely make it work. To find out more about using Instagram for business, read our guide.

Snapchat is another visual social media network, but unlike with its competitors, content on Snapchat deletes itself. Users can send videos and photos, available for up to 10 seconds at a time, to one another, or post content to their public Stories, which disappears after 24 hours. Over the past five years, the app has expanded to include chat, messaging, image storage, events and media content. Now, content can easily be saved and uploaded elsewhere.

The Discover feature, for instance, compiles popular content from notable publications like BuzzFeed and The Wall Street Journal. With over 150 million users, this app is designed strictly for mobile devices and cannot be accessed on the web.

Because posts are so temporary, there is less pressure to create superpolished content. You can also see how many and which specific users viewed your story. A small business will mostly likely utilize the platform for its Stories, but keep in mind that only users who have added you can view the story content. However, once you have an audience, the story feature allows you to easily create story-driven and interactive content.

YouTube is video-sharing platform with over a billion users, where people can view, upload, rate, share, and comment on content. Users are automatically assigned a channel, in which other users can subscribe to be notified whenever a new video is uploaded. Now owned by Google, the site is a huge hub for news and entertainment.

Created over a decade ago, YouTube has gone through numerous changes. For instance, users can now make money from Google AdSense, with the revenue dependent on the number of views on a video.

Many businesses on YouTube have a creative, visual or educational component. The platform is heavily driven by creativity in nature, so it’s important to have a tailored video editor producing content. However, your business doesn’t need a channel to market on the platform. There’s a subculture of vloggers, called YouTubers, who publish frequent videos and often maintain large audiences. Often, businesses partner with YouTubers for product placement, because these users already have engaged audiences.

Social Media Selling Solutions for Small Businesses

Want to turn your social media accounts into a profitable e-commerce business? Or use Instagram, Facebook and other platforms to boost sales? With social media selling, anyone can become an online merchant without having to invest in a website or give online marketplaces a cut of their profits. Social media e-commerce is a big hit because it lets you turn your social media accounts into online stores — and your posts into sales.

Here are 10 social media selling solutions to help you get started.

Let customers shop your Instagram posts. Olapic offers two solutions that aim to help you sell items and organize your social media marketing campaign. Olapic’s Tapshop turns your Instagram feed into an e-commerce storefront that links individual posts to product pages — you can even link to multiple products from a single photo. Additionally, Olapic’s Content Scheduler simplifies campaigns by letting you organize and schedule Instagram posts for maximum reach and engagement (this feature can also be used on Pinterest). An analytics tool is also available to track performance, conversions and ROI, so you can see what works and plan ahead for future campaigns.

Editor’s Note: Looking for information on social media marketing services for your business? Use the questionnaire below, and get quickly connected to our vendor partners to learn more about a customized strategy and pricing for your business:

Want to monetize both Instagram and Facebook? Soldsie can help. Its Instagram selling solution, have2have.it, lets followers shop your posts via a unique URL (have2have.it/yourstore). Just place the link in your bio to give customers easy access to a shoppable version of your Instagram feed. The Soldsie Facebook app, on the other hand, turns the social network’s comments section into an e-commerce powerhouse. Typically, customers make purchases on Facebook by messaging sellers or leaving their email address. Instead, Soldsie’s Comment Selling system eliminates all the back-and-forth communication by streamlining transactions. All customers have to do is comment under a photo to make a purchase, and Soldsie automatically adds the item to their shopping cart for fast, easy checkout.

Expand your online store with Facebook and Pinterest storefronts. Shopial takes products from your online store and features them on your Facebook Page and Pinterest boards. Just install the Shopial Facebook app into a new tab on your Facebook Page and Shopial will import products into a customizable Facebook shop. Shopial also works with Pinterest by making your products available as optimized Pins, essentially turning your Pinterest into an online catalog.  Shopial integrates with several major e-commerce platforms, including Etsy, Shopify, eBay, Magento, Amazon, Wix and TicTail, making it accessible to most online sellers. The company also offers Facebook Ads services, such as ad design and optimization to help you promote products and reach target audiences.

Even if you own an e-commerce website, cross-selling products on social media is a great strategy to boost sales. One service that makes this possible is Beetailer, which lets online merchants import their store into Facebook. After the initial migration, the system is basically hands-free — it requires no installation, configuration or maintenance, and products are automatically updated based on the website’s inventory data. Included in the service are marketing tools like campaigns and promotions, detailed analytics, and integration with existing checkout systems.

There’s more to hashtags than categorizing and finding similar posts. inSelly, an Instagram marketplace, facilitates the process by aggregating Instagram listings using hashtags, and then making them searchable to anyone around the world. Sellers can list items from their Instagram feed in three simple steps: upload a photo on Instagram, add the hashtag #inselly, and then log in to their inselly.com account to add product descriptions, prices and other details. inSelly also makes it easy for customers to make purchases. All they have to do is comment the hashtag #soldtome under the Instagram post containing the item they wish to buy. inSelly will then automatically send them a checkout link to complete the transaction.

Chirpify is another hashtag selling tool, but differentiates itself by connecting on- and offline channels with social media. It basically acts as the middleman that connects brands and consumers and instantly convert sales. It works by taking unique campaign hashtags — referred to as “actiontags” — and uses them to enable purchases across multiple social networks. Customers can find actiontags on social media, print, television and other marketing channels. All they have to do is post the actiontag on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to activate a purchase, participate in a campaign or take advantage of promotional offers, such as giveaways.

Designing Facebook Page campaigns can seem like rocket science for people who aren’t tech savvy. Heyo simplifies the process with a drag-and-drop campaign builder that anyone can use. The service works a lot like do-it-yourself website builders: Start by choosing a template, and then edit or customize elements to fit your campaign and brand. Whether you’re running a contest, sweepstakes, special deals or other promotions, campaigns built on Heyo can then be easily plugged into your Facebook page — no coding necessary.

How to Fraud-Proof Your Business, Inside and Out

Many small business owners mistakenly think that federal fraud regulations cover their business accounts in the same way that these regulations protect personal accounts. However, federal regulations that protect financial accounts from fraud cover only personal accounts, leaving business accounts out in the cold when there’s a cybersecurity breach. There is also very little protection when the source of the fraud is internal, such an employee with too much administrative access and not enough checks and balances in place. Here’s what you can do to keep your business’s bank accounts as safe as possible.

Hackers will often target email accounts to get their victims’ bank credentials. BC Krishna, CEO of online payment solution provider MineralTree, said that small businesses often fall victim to these fraud schemes.

“Small business accounts are the most attractive targets for cybercriminals,” he told Business News Daily. “Personal accounts often have small balances, and large corporations have tighter security, and fraud would be more noticeable. Hackers go after the weakest points in the chain: small businesses.”

Many business owners rely on outdated security tools and strategies that are ineffective against cyberattacks in the first place. Staying on top of current events and being aware of threats in an ever-changing security landscape are the first steps to preventing bank fraud.

“There’s too much trust in the system,” Krishna said. “People need to become more aware that just because it’s not happening in your own backyard doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen to you.”

You can protect your business from outside threats with the following methods:

System integrity. Equip your computers and other system components with the most up-to-date firewalls and antivirus software. This means protecting smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. Add to the protection level by executing daily backups of critical business data on every computer or server. If you use cloud storage, select a vendor with stringent security guidelines, and know your recourse if there appears to be a breach.

Two-step logins. To manage your bank account online, you generally need only your username and password. If those are compromised, anyone can get in. Set up two-step, out-of-band authentication, whereby a single-use code is sent to your phone or email for you to enter after you input your login credentials. Even if a cybercriminal intercepts that code, it will expire shortly after it’s sent, and your account will remain protected.

Device identification and geofencing. Ensure that your payment system allows transactions only from recognized, registered devices. Similarly, setting up a location-aware system that operates within a trusted geographical region can help keep cybercriminals out of your accounts.

Employee training. Hackers gain entry to your accounts using a variety of methods, including links in what appear to be routine emails from financial institutions or other companies with whom you routinely do business. Train your employees to report any email that looks suspicious. Other training should include running scans on portable storage devices, like flash drives, before opening files, and limiting personal use of company business computers and devices.

The other, and perhaps more dangerous, threat to business owners’ data security comes from their own staff. Internal fraud by employees is very easy to accomplish, so any company without sufficient monitoring systems puts itself at risk. Internal fraud can take the form of theft of money or product, misusing petty cash, or embezzlement. Here are some ways to protect your business from an inside threat:

Separation of duties. Businesses that utilize transaction verifications need to be sure that the person who sets up a payment is not the same person who approves it. This may be a bit of a hassle, but separating these duties will limit the chance of fraud by employees.

Background checks. For any employee who handles cash in hand, accepts payments from customers or clients, or has access to the company accounts, conduct a thorough background check during the pre-employment process.

Automated inventory systems. Theft of product or merchandise is equally as cost-disruptive and prevalent as misuse of funds. Control your inventory and know what you have by using automated inventory systems and frequently conducting spot-checks and partial inventories.

Audits. Using a third-party auditor protects your assets as well. Providing a fresh view on accounts, an auditory can more easily spot anything suspicious, resulting in an investigation as to root cause. Even if the problem is something as simple as an employee using the wrong account code, auditors can both protect your assets and find inconsistencies in procedure. Fixing these errors can improve not only monetary accuracy but also productivity.

Important Steps to Boost Your Business Cybersecurity

Hackers have set their sights on small businesses because they often have weaker cybersecurity and can unknowingly serve as entry points to much larger corporations that they may have as customers. In fact, a staggering 71 percent of cyberattacks occur at organizations with fewer than 100 employees, according to the Small Business Committee.

At the same time, it’s challenging for a small business to keep up with the wide range of potential cyberattacks. Small businesses often don’t know they have become vulnerable to attackers until it’s too late.

To help you navigate this cyberterrain, Business News Daily compiled the top tips and best practices from the pros on how to keep your business from falling prey to cybercrime.

Research has shown that unmanaged administrator privileges are some of the biggest IT security threats to an organization. Yet many small businesses still don’t take the time to set up the proper access limitations for nonadmin employees, especially when those workers are using their own devices. [Cybersecurity: A Small Business Guide]

“Security policies and mechanisms must be put in place for company data access from personal devices,” said P.J. Gupta, a mobile security expert and the founder and CEO of iPlum. “Tight control on who has the privileges to run which enterprise apps from which devices helps minimize the risk of data loss or corruption.”

Gupta recommended enforcing time-window and location-based fencing for controlling access to sensitive information.

Security needs to be an ongoing process and not just a single event, said Marc Malizia, chief technology officer for the managed cloud solutions provider RKON Technologies. The best security consists of a layered approach, he said.

To secure your operating systems, you should perform ongoing tests for vulnerabilities and penetration by hackers, Malizia advised. He also recommended installing specialized security software to look out for abnormal web traffic, block attempted logins from out-of-the-ordinary locations or unknown devices, and authenticate your online activities in real time by correlating behavioral analysis, device profiling and data feeds from fraud networks. Finally, businesses should layer in application firewalls in front of external-facing web servers to further block malicious traffic, Malizia said.

In the past several years, cyberinsurance policies have become an increasingly popular option for small businesses looking to protect credit card information, customer names and addresses, and other sensitive data stored in online systems. Cyberrisks aren’t typically covered under general liability insurance, so it’s important to find out which types of coverage are available.

“Cyberinsurance is not a one-size-fits-all product,” said Tim Francis, enterprise cyber lead at Travelers, a provider of cyberinsurance. “It’s hard to identify what a ‘small’ business is when it comes to the world of cyber. Traditional measures, like revenue and number of employees, aren’t good indicators of how much [risk] a company has in terms of data breaches. A small company can have very big exposure.”

Cyberinsurance isn’t a necessity for every company, but business owners should speak with their insurance agent about their options.