Online Marketing Blog: Cyber-Crime May be an Act of War Says the Pentagon!

Hollywood has long speculated and shown us how cyber crime could be serious. In our movies, we have become accustom to seeing the ultimate super villain not armed with guns, but with a laptop.

Well, it seems that Hollywood is meeting reality as the Pentagon has announced that hacking into the government is not only a crime, but can be considered an act of war.

Yep, a new way of looking things for sure eh?

For the first time, a hack can result in the U.S. dispatching military forces. Although the Pentagon said this is just to deter someone or something from attacking, it sure puts a whole new light on cyber crime and may even prevent the most experienced to think twice before hitting “enter.”

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the Pentagon is thinking of taking an “equivalence” approach when judging how to punish such an attack. Personally, it’s like the old “eye for an eye” philosophy to me, but you will have to decide for yourself.

Basically, they are saying if a cyber attack’s by-products equal the same amount of destruction that a military attack could, then the Pentagon would be allowed to respond with military.

I know I have said it once already, but I suppose I’ll have to say it again. Cyber crime is serious. And, as our technology evolves, so will the rules and laws that bind them.

If even the Pentagon is taking action, that should tell us something. So, be careful. Think before you Tweet or Facebook.  Realize that a simple prank may not look so simple to Uncle Sam.
 

Online Marketing Blog: Online Marketing Spend to Grow in 2012

In 2010, purse strings were cut, and everyone who owned a small business was preparing for the worst. The result was grim for most companies’ marketing departments as they were the first to go.

But, now, only one year later, AMI’s 2010 – 2011 U.S. Small Business Marketing Activity& Spending study is predicting that companies are going to spend, and in a big way!

And what are they putting their $36 billion into? Believe it or not— marketing activities.

Confused? Well, let me help you understand.

You see, most business owners have a tendency not to be –what I like to call—marketing focused. While it is simple to see how a business can profit from sales or production, the same cannot be said for marketing.

The value that marketing provides can usually only be determined over a period of time. And this is where the problem comes in. This often makes it harder to see improvement where improvement was made. As a result, most owners target marketing first and foremost in difficult times.

My thoughts on this? While sometimes budgeting is absolutely necessary, it is important not to make any decisions without analyzing what the repercussions will be. If you, as a business owner, stop marketing for your company, you have to realize that the same cannot be said for your competition, which is what most of the businesses who will be investing in marketing for 2012 have found out.

In any case, this report suggests that marketing is on the mend. Hopefully, the next time the economy takes a turn for the worst, owners will think twice before cutting what pushes their brand to the front in their customers’ minds.

Online Marketing Blog: Facebook’s been Twitterized!!!

They are calling Facebook’s new feature “Happening Now,” but it looks, acts and functions exactly like Twitter. The only difference I can see is that it’s on Facebook.

Experts say it’s an attempt to launch Facebook into real-time. And, although the Facebook community remains on the fence about this change, business owners are starting to see the advantage.

This is because Happening Now is geared towards “in the moment” things. It’s taking the appeal of Twitter and putting it on Facebook. The result is that businesses can now base the construction their response by a customer’s location.

Not following? Completely understandable as this is not Facebook’s normal thing. Let me break it down for you.

Say Bill is a friend of a restaurant’s Facebook. He eats a meal at the restaurant and likes it so much that he posts a good review to Happening Now. Because the new tool is in real time, the restaurant can automatically see Bill’s praise. The restaurant can choose to take further marketing action now. For example, they can send Bill a coupon via Happening Now for 20 percent off his desert.

Are we starting to see the appeal?

The only argument against Happening Now is that Facebook is not Twitter. And, if Facebook users wanted real-time, they would be tweeting instead of posting. Regardless of this response, it seems Happening Now is here to stay.

And if Facebook can convince its users that <a style="text-decoration: none" href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=personals.single.dating.free"><font color="#555555">tinder app</font></a> Happening Now is really the place to be, results could be dire for Twitter.

Online Marketing Blog: Show me the Money with Social Media Marketing

Whenever I talk to people about online marketing, “show me the money” is the phrase I often hear. People want proof it works.

Well, I have some— Movies, Egypt, Japan, Anthony Weiner, and so on. Enough said? Let me explain with the Movie example.

Moviefone.com’s list is out, and it includes seven movies that used viral marketing campaigns to promote their premieres. The list includes box offices hits like “The Dark Knight” to promising flops like “Snakes on a Plane.” The thing that remains constant about the films is that all of them have the money to show exactly how much digital marketing works.

So, how did they do it?

According their campaigns, the cause of success was intrigue and mystery. And, to me, that makes perfect sense. Those are the two big factors in a successful promotion. If you look at it from a business perspective, it’s always important to make whatever your selling something people can be curious about.

After all, you don’t just want to promote;; you want to generate a buzz.
 
Take the makers of “Paranormal Activity.” They attributed the success of their $15,000 film to social networks and rightly so. One of the things they did was simply encourage people to review their film in 140 character tweets. By leveraging applications like Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube and dozens of others, “Paranormal Activity” was able to gross over $193 million.

Proving once again that there is literally no limit of what one can do with an online marketing campaign… whether it be for a small business or a low budget film. You just need to be able to invest in it to make it work for you. The old adage of "gotta give some to get some" works best here.

Online Marketing Blog: Facebook’s Facial Recognition Software Breeches Privacy

You just got caught uncompromising picture on Facebook. Although you’re a bit irritated, you think to yourself, “It’s not a big deal.” After all, all you have to do is use the magical button called untag. Sure, the picture is still out there but, unless someone deliberately goes searching for it, it’s not connected to you.

Unfortunately, people are finding out the hard way that Facebook’s new gadget may surface embarrassing photos unintentionally. The program, called facial recognition technology, is supposed to help users tag their friends in photos. What it does is it constantly analyzes your friends’ Facebook albums and determines if any of the pictures look like you.

This is pretty impressive when you think about it… and also pretty creepy. While your friends will still be the ones doing the tagging, Facebook is pointing, specifically, you out. The problem with this is that some people are saying this makes Facebook the one sharing personal information by default.

Naturally, not everyone is ecstatic— especially the people who still don’t know how to manage their Facebook privacy settings properly. And, it certainly doesn’t help that Facebook didn’t extend any prior notice about the matter.

My suggestion? If you are feeling a bit weary about the consequences of this new program, it might be a good idea to disable it. Disabling on Facebook is rather easy, once you know what you are looking for. For this particular program all you have to do is follow these steps:

1. Go to your Facebook’s privacy settings.
2. Click on “Customize settings.”
3. Look for “Things to Share.” Under which, you will see “Suggest photos of me to friends. When photos look like me, suggest my name.”
4. Click on “Edit settings.”
5. Changed the “Enabled” to “Disable” and press “OK”

And, volia! You have successfully blocked it. Just keep in mind that technology is always changing, and it might be a good idea to check out your Facebook privacy settings more then every once and awhile.

You know, just for old pictures’ sake.

Online Marketing Blog: Fired Over a Tweet – Would You Do Differently?

The tweet was innocent enough, nothing like the recent fiasco of Congressman Anthony Weiner. All Vanessa Williams typed into her 140 characters is "We start summer hours today. That means most of the staff leave at noon, many to hit the links. Do you observe summer hours? What do you do?"

However, it was this tweet that resulted in Ms. Williams loosing her job. What gets to people the most about the situation is how severely it was handled. Instead of reprimanding Ms. Williams, they fired her, and people are yelling foul!
 
But was it?

There is a reason why the term “reputation management” is around. The damage that can be done to a brand online is the worst kind. It often turns viral, and the result is instantaneous. But there are ways to minimize this damage or eliminate it entirely, making a flipside to the argument. As in, if the company knew more about social media, then they wouldn’t have been so hard on Ms. Williams.

So, what should have they done?

I, personally, wouldn’t have fired her. According to the news report, Ms. Williams was newly employed. And, I don’t know how you feel about new hires, but I never expect them to know right away how to manage their job.

To correct this particular situation, all I would require her to do is a digital clean up. She needed to inform the online community other details, such as explaining that the only time employees leave early is after they complete forty hours. This solves the problem without costing Ms. Williams her job, and it also saves me, as the employer, the hassle of finding someone new.

But if anything is to be learned here, a situation like this demonstrates the need of social media training. Perhaps Ms. Williams wouldn’t have written as she did if she had been taught otherwise. Simple steps, such as developing a code of rules for one’s employees, can often be the preventive measure.

In any case, it is unfortunate that the lack of such costs people like Ms. Williams their jobs. Hopefully, in the future, we will see less of stories like hers as people get smarter about what to say and what not to say on social media channels.

(Of course, you can always call us to set up a training session to teach this etiquette to your employees – 🙂 )

Online Marketing Blog: Who are you Marketing to Anymore? The Largest Growing Social Media Users are in their 50’s & 60’s?

If your business has decided not to use online networking because it’s just a kid’s toy, you might want to take another look at the facts. The largest growing group is actually the Baby Boomer generation, consisting of people in their 50s to their 60s. And this means one thing.

The money makers are now online.

If anything, you should be thinking that that’s a dramatic change in your demographic. As a business owner, you will have to take a step back and re-examine your marketing plan. After all, you will no longer be tweeting the latest to teens. You will be dealing with adults, and that’s a whole different ball field.

So, what should you do?

I would recommend dialogue management. When you think about this, it makes sense. As a person, you wouldn’t use the same language around your mother as you do your friends, right? Well, it’s the same online.

Words like “Yo” or phrases like “Check this out” are probably not going to cut it anymore. You need to start using language in your 140 tweets or Facebook posts that will appeal to all. And a big part of that is staying away from young slang or old terms.

The key in all this is to keep your wording simple. And that will make everything easier, whether you are dealing with ma, pop or the kids.

Online Marketing Blog: Social Media is Free, Right? Wrong!

Let’s face it; in today’s world, the idea that you can get something for nothing is absurd. So, if you aren’t paying for it, what are you giving up? When it comes to social media, the answer is time.

Whenever you are promoting your services or products online, you shouldn’t be surprised to find yourself spending a bit longer then you originally planned. Answering questions and interacting with customers is an time-consuming job. And if you are doing it yourself, guess how many billion tasks are you leaving undone?

On one hand, it is fun. You know what you are doing is working when people respond back and engage with you. That ripple effect is proof, if anything else. On the other, you find yourself being more and more a social media manager, and it makes you wonder how on earth you are supposed to do, well, everything.
 
And this is why several companies— ourselves included –are encouraging business owners to budget for their online marketing activities.

The idea is that if you want your website to appear in search results, to connect to more visitors or start more conversations, you need to spend an enormous amount of time promoting that. If you find throughout the year that you can’t do it yourself, this calls for hiring someone and having a budget in place will solve that hiccup.

Whether you choose to do this or not is entirely up to you, but we can’t pretend that social media is free. After all, there is a reason for the saying that time is money. And, as a business owner, you must determine how much your time is worth to you. 

Online Marketing Blog: Business Turnaround Strategies that Work!

Remaining a viable business is tough in this economy. Fundamental challenges include managing cash flow,etc.  while ensuring that the pipeline of prospects remains full. So how can a business remain viable?

In theory, the answer is very simple. Just get more sales, manage your overhead costs, provide the best customer service possible, hire the best individuals, and voila, you have nothing to worry about.

In practice however, how do you do all that when business development cycles last longer, overhead costs remain the same, and competition is tougher than ever?

Well, here are three Business Turnaround Strategies that can help:

Focus on business development: If you want to remain viable, one of your top priorities must be business development. Building and keeping the pipeline full is an important activity that should take up most of your time as a business owner. Many business owners are not comfortable with cold-call but cold-emailing is another strategy that can be effectively used to create new leads.  Referrals are nice to have but allocate a bulk of your time on a regular basis to conduct active solicitation of new business. Strategies could include cold-calling, cold-emailing, or buying appointments or leads through third-parties.

Delegate non-essential tasks: We all like to be do-it-yourselvers because it helps us save money. But remember, if you aren’t a plumber by trade, then trying to fix a broken pipe by yourself ends up costing a whole lot more and takes longer than it takes a plumber-by-trade to do it.
Spend your time wisely on those tasks that utilize your skills the most. As a business owner, focus on working on growing the business and let others work on fulfilling the tasks of the business. Put a dollar value on your time and be wise about where you spend it

Leverage technology: Small business owners must take advantage of advanced technology to create efficiency and manage their time better. Some areas where you should consider investing in technology include semi or fully manual order processing, office staff spending too much time on the phone, doing manual data entry from paper to computer, matching data between two systems or between a paper and a computer based system, etc. etc.
 
Implement these strategies and you will be sure to see a difference in how your business runs, how much new business you generate, and how much efficiency is created over time.

Online Marketing Blog: Small Business Owners & Social Media Marketing – Is it Even Optional Anymore?

To invest in social media marketing or not to!!!

That is a question that most small businesses face when thinking about social media. But social media usage has skyrocketed and so of course everyone must invest. But how and how much seems to be more of a question.

Studies show that a whopping 70 percent of companies say they use social media, however most of them feel like it is more of experiment than a strategy. While they know that the goal is to maintain an online image, how to do that seems to elude owners.

Still, for those who haven’t jumped on the social bandwagon, 41 percent say they plan to, leaving little room to doubt that using online media is no longer optional for business owners.

In my humble opinion, the reason social media continues to be an experiment rather than a strategy is because business owners don’t seem to understand the value of marketing. Most business owners only think in terms of sales or leads. They don’t place as much importance on branding, networking, and forming a trusted network which can result in sales and leads. Let’s face it, marketing is loosey-goosey; it’s intangible; it’s nothing you can put your hands on; it’s….ok you get my point, right?

However, marketing is an important strategy that requires effort, daily focus (not weekly or monthly), and a comprehensive strategy that is all encompassing. What I mean by all-encompassing is that marketing needs to be multi-channel, multi-faceted. More about that in a future blog….

But just to close out this one, let me emphasize that online marketing is no longer optional. You gotta do it!