Business Banking E-Newsletter - November 2010
5 Facebook Posts That Can Put You at Risk
Surprising ways you may be putting yourself in danger
There was a big outcry recently when it was revealed that personal data of Facebook users had been posted to a database open to everyone. Facebook users, naturally, were concerned about their privacy.
Yet, every day Facebook and other social network users publish personal information that could put them at risk without thinking twice. "An awful lot of people think when they get online and communicate with their friends that they are invincible," says Adam Levin, chairman of Identity Theft 911. A seemingly benign post or piece of information could make you a target of identity thieves and traditional crooks. To protect yourself, here are five things you should avoid posting online.
Date of birth
Almost 60% of social networkers post their date of birth, according to a survey by Identity Theft 911. After all, most of us like to be wished a happy birthday. But resist the urge to post your complete birth date -- including the year -- on your Facebook profile just to get a lot of messages on your big day. This is valuable information for identity thieves. I know you're thinking only your friends see what you post. But if someone does a search for your name, that person will see your birth date if it's listed in your profile.
Child's date of birth
When you post "Happy Birthday to my sweet Susie, who turns 5 today," you're giving identity thieves valuable information about your child. When it comes to your kids, resist the urge to post any information about them.
Surely you've seen Facebook posts like this: "We're going to the beach next week. Can't wait." In fact, you may be guilty of it yourself, 18% of social network users post travel times, according to the Identity Theft 911 survey. Guess what? You've just extended an invitation for people to burglarize your home. Three men in New Hampshire burglarized more than 18 homes by checking Facebook status updates to see when people wouldn't be home.
If your address is on your profile AND you let people know when you're going out of town, well, you know where I'm going with this. Nonetheless, 21% of social network users post their address, according to the Identity Theft 911 Survey.
Mother's maiden name
It may seem like common sense not to post your mother's maiden name on a social networking site, but about 11% of the people who responded to the Identity Theft 911 survey said they did. Identity thieves will hit the jackpot if you reveal this bit of information online.
Not only should you avoid posting any of this information, but also you should fix your Facebook settings to control who sees what on your page. Use different passwords for social media sites than you use for financial sites, such as your bank or credit card site. Be careful about clicking on links on Facebook or similar sites because they could contain viruses that will secretly track your passwords, account numbers and other things.
Daily Rituals of Successful Entrepreneurs
Managing the daily grind of a small business while remembering to keep an eye on the big picture is a challenge for any entrepreneur. Experts say that's why it's important to establish daily rituals, something you decide to do every single day that will move the business closer to your ultimate vision.
"By having a specific ritual that's in line with your long-term goals, you're much productive," said Laura Waage, founder of Morphos Business Solutions, a Marietta, Ga.-based small business consulting firm. "A lot of entrepreneurs say they check voicemail and e-mail first thing in the morning, but it doesn't necessarily take them closer to their goals."
To create the most effective daily ritual, consider what will truly improve your business. "For some companies it may be a sales goal, so the ritual may be based more around the number of prospecting or follow-up calls they'll make every day," Waage said. Whatever you decide, be specific, write it down, and schedule it. You have to be clear about what you want to achieve.
Need more guidance? Consider the daily rituals that are driving the success of these three entrepreneurs.
Matt Lauzon, founder of Gemvara
Daily Ritual: Spread one snippet of success
Although Matt Lauzon just launched his company in February, he already has 40 employees. One of his goals: never be too far removed from his team.
"Even though I can't interact with everybody as much as I used to, I always want to give them a snippet of what's in my mind and what I'm excited about," said Lauzon, founder of Gemvara, an online custom design jewelry startup backed by $12 million in venture capital.
Whether it's through Twitter or an internal e-mail to all employees, Lauzon makes a point of sharing at least one of the company's successes every day. "Most of our employees go on my twitter page and read it several times a day, so it's been an unbelievable way to generate momentum," said Lauzon, 25. The positive blasts range from record-setting sales to new hires to inspirational customer stories.
How it helps: "It keeps our employees motivated, even in the face of challenges and crazy hours we're working; they feel like they're part of something big. The buzz also attracts new employees and increases exposure in the investment community."
Jeff Brown, founder of Blue Cod Technologies
Daily Ritual: Walk through the parking lot
When Jeff Brown drives into work every morning, he always parks in the last spot, the one farthest away from the office. But it's not to squeeze in exercise.
"It forces me to walk by every single employee's car and reminds me every day that our company is about creating a rewarding culture and environment for the employees that drive our business," said Brown, the 46-year-old founder of Blue Cod Technologies, which has 230 employees and revenue topping $20 million.
"During the day, I face all sorts of challenges and it's easy to lose focus on what's important." But Brown says this simple daily ritual always brings it back.
How it helps: "That morning walk through the parking lot guides my daily business decisions and keeps me true to our belief that people and relationships come first, above all else. Hiring and retaining great people creates more loyal customers and that's what has made us prosper, regardless of the market environment."
Zach Kaplan, founder of Inventables
Daily Ritual: Stand-Up Meetings
Entrepreneur Zach Kaplan is always looking for ways to improve the functionality of his company Web site, which sells small quantities of materials to research and development firms.
About two and a half years ago, he started the ritual of daily stand-up meetings, where everyone literally stands and "shares the most important thing they did yesterday and the one thing they're going to accomplish today," said Kaplan, founder of six-employee Inventables, a venture-backed company.
The idea is to break down a project, or in this case, software development, into manageable pieces that take a day or less to finish.
"Everyone also has an opportunity to chime in if there's ambiguity or they can help," he said. "The whole meeting takes about 10 minutes." Kaplan, 36, says the stand-up meetings are part of the Agile software development philosophy, which he read about and quickly implemented to ramp up the pace of company projects.
Why he does it: "By breaking down a project into bite-sized chunks, there's a sense of accomplishment every single day. It's a way to help focus and it builds momentum."
How to Create an Online Buzz
Small tips to help generate a big response
Social networking sites can be a good tool for entrepreneurs looking to spread the word on their businesses, but user beware: You could end up doing more harm than good.
Small business owners have stormed the online social media world to help promote sales and solidify branding. With free and unlimited access, social networking has become a key player in connecting with customers, monitoring competition and expanding professional networks.
The vastness of the online networking world can be daunting; here are eight tips to create a strong footprint in the social networking landscape.
Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
Internet marketing expert Giovanni Gallucci tells his clients to pick one to two networking sites at the start of their journey and really focus on learning how to work them.
“It’s a learning experience,” he says. “Spend six months learning the Web sites and using them as a marketing tool for your business. “Watch and listen. After that, reevaluate whether it’s beneficial to you.”
Gallucci says social networking isn’t a do or die situation: If you don’t want to do it, don’t. You are just setting yourself up for failure.
Do Plan Ahead
Before taking the leap into the social media world, make sure to prioritize your top business goals and identify your target audience, recommends Gail Martin, marketing expert and author of “30 Days to Social Media Success.”
“This will help you cut through the social media clutter and will enable you to feel confident in choosing the right sites and the correct message,” says Martin.
Don’t Become An Outsider
Make sure to read the rules and understand the culture of a social networking site before getting involved. Sites differ in what kinds of behaviors are acceptable, and it’s important to understand your audience before investing too much time.
“Take the time to get to know the other community members and listen to what’s being talked about and what the general tone of conversation is like before contributing,” says Martin.
Do Get The Company Involved
It’s important everyone in your company is a part of the social networking learning process, which can maximize your usage, according to Gallucci.
“Companies that can let employees do the work can get positive results,” he says. Your employees hear from your customers and can build relationships through the social networking sites.
Don’t Use Social Media As A Billboard
Maintaining your company’s identity and values online is important, says social media expert Joel Comm. Use the sites to help potential customers get to know the company by building relationships.
“Businesses are finding these sites to be a way to connect with customers and deal directly with issues and concerns they might have,” says Comm.
For instance, companies are using Twitter accounts for customer service. They can respond to customers’ questions and concerns immediately, while creating a genuine relationship with their customers.
Do Engage In Conversation
Comm says social networking sites are like the “water cooler of our time.” People turn to these sites to learn about your company’s products and what others are saying about you.
Meanwhile, you can bring value and expertise to the conversation, proving your company is a good place to do business.
Martin recommends viewing other members of the social media community as people, not prospects.
“The real power of social media comes when it’s used not as a broadcast tool, but as a medium for conversations, two-way dialogue and feedback,” says Martin. “Engage your friends and followers on topics related to your business. Find out what’s on their minds and what’s keeping them awake at night, and then look for ways to refer them to resources.”
Do Think Smart
Just as easy as they can build up your business, networking sites can bring down your business.
“Don’t forget that everything on the Web is public,” says Martin. “There are no secrets on the Web, so never say anything that you wouldn’t like to see quoted on the front page of the newspaper (or the top of the search results on Google). Slander and libel laws still apply, and the FTC still governs your claims.”
Do Use Social Media As A Supplement
“Social media is a great tool, but it’s not the be all end all,” according to Gallucci.
It’s important to integrate things like social media with the rest of your marketing strategy.
“Social media shouldn’t be your only marketing tool, nor is it a stand-alone solution,” according to Martin. “For best results, your social media should reinforce the messages and offers you provide through your Web site, traditional PR, direct mail and other marketing tools.”
How to Brand Yourself
An introduction on how to become your brand
Entrepreneurs have always been focused on building the brand names of their companies, and for good reason. How else would people know they exist, what they offer and even where they're located. Some entrepreneurs invest in expensive PR companies, hoping for publicity in mainstream news outlets. Others, such as bootstrapper entrepreneurs, use guerilla marketing tactics to generate interest with almost no budget.
We're living in a world where consumers and journalists alike are looking to connect directly with entrepreneurs and hear their stories. It's not just about what your company does, but why you started it, its purpose and your vision. Social technologies, such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter, have enabled entrepreneurs to become known, connect directly with their audience and build relationships on a global scale. As an entrepreneur, you need to become the brand.
Become an expert on something that relates to your business
Entrepreneurs looking to garner media attention, attract new clients and build their businesses should focus on becoming an expert in their field. For instance, Alexa von Tobel, CEO ofLearnvest.com, has branded herself as a personal finance expert for young people. As a result, Fox Business, The New York Times, and other media outlets have interviewed Alexa, which provides exposure for her company. Avoid establishing an expertise that's irrelevant to your corporate mission, goals, and vision because you'll be wasting your time. If you own a record label, it's probably not wise to brand yourself as a nutrition expert.
Establish a website or blog under your full name
The media and your customers both use search engines to research you, connect with you and potentially either do business with you or interview you. That's why you need to purchase your full name as a domain name (yourfullname.com). By developing either a static website or a blog under your domain name, you will own the first result for your name in Google and other search engines. This should be a separate site than your company's website. After purchasing your domain name, add your picture, a bio, your e-mail address and links to the rest of your online presence (i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter). This way, people can get in touch with you in their medium of choice. Claim your name before someone else does.
Learn how to be a good source
Find out which media sources your audience reads, listens to or watches, research the types of content they provide and locate the exact gatekeeper to pitch. You or your publicist can also e-mail journalists and editors in response to one of their articles, with a note that you are available to comment on future articles. If and when a journalist e-mails or calls you for an interview, respond with haste because they are typically on deadline for their stories. Answer their questions thoroughly, while making sure that you get your message across.
When you're interviewed by the media, you will always be able to promote your company through your byline, which will help build both yours and your company's brand. Once the interview is complete, send a follow-up e-mail asking if they have any more questions, and make sure you include your bio and your picture.
Generate brand awareness through networking
You should be connecting with other entrepreneurs in your industry using social networks, such as Sprouter.com, and commenting on their blogs. Networking is one of the best ways to become known in your industry. By forming relationships with people in your audience can grow your business and your brand long-term.
The four rules of networking that you should keep in mind are mutualism, giving, targeting and reconnecting.
Mutualism: You have to create win-win relationships in business, making sure that you don't benefit more than the other party.
Giving: Help someone out, before sking for anything in return. This makes people want to support you.
Targeting: You want to be very specific with the types of people you network with, in order to save time and to attract the right people to your brand.
Reconnecting: Never lose touch, that way networking contacts remember you when new opportunities surface.
These days, branding your company isn't enough. The world wants to hear what you have to say, If you aren't building your own brand, your company will suffer. If you want your company to succeed, become an expert in your field, claim a website under your own domain name, connect with the media, and build relationships with your audience.
Smart, Easy Ways to Find Customers
For too many people in business, prospecting for clients is like fishing with only a string and a pole. They know if they throw something out there, they'll draw attention. What they don't understand is that you must first be at the right fishing hole. And, second, that you have to use bait that the fish you're trying to catch like.
Let's address the right fishing hole first. Answer this question: Who is your ideal client? You should be able to list at least five criteria of your ideal client without even blinking an eye.
The answers might be something like this:
Between the ages of 25 and 35
- Living within five miles of my retail location
- Has school-aged children
- Drives at least 30 miles per week
If you can't list at least five characteristics of the people who you need to reach, your business isn't going very far very fast. To get your answer quickly, consider your top three existing clients. What do they have in common? The answer to that question will get you started.
Then, start picturing your clients. Are they grandmas? Business people? Teenagers? Start thinking about them as categories of clients. You just might have a service that teens enjoy, but who invests the money in it? Grandma, mom and dad. So you'll need more than one marketing strategy to make sales, won't you?
Next, you need to know how to reach these people.
If you sell to soccer moms, where will you find them besides soccer fields? Your list might look like this: grocery stores, gas stations, quick-stop stores, car washes, sporting goods stores. You can advertise on the bulletin board at the local car wash or grocery store--preferably ones that are close to soccer or baseball fields. Even better, sponsor a local kids' team. The parents feel obligated to use the services of those who help pay for uniforms, equipment, programs and the various fees involved in children's sports.
If you sell to those who earn very high incomes, where will they be found? Country clubs? The marina? Nice restaurants? Where should you advertise? Where they'll be found, of course. Okay, it might not be feasible to advertise at the country club, but you can certainly advertise in publications that'll be found there. Advertise where the other companies of your caliber advertise. Check to see if you can invest in the mailing list of everyone who docks a boat at the local marina. Mailing lists are often available if you ask at the right place.
No matter who your future product purchasers are, you can get the names of new ones from existing clients. All you need to do is ask. Don't ask if they know anyone, ask: "What other parents of the soccer players might have a need for new tires?" "Who do you most enjoy playing golf with at the country club, Mr. Stevens?"
Or, even better, offer existing clients special discounts or bonuses for sending in new clients. I'm sure you've heard or seen advertising where existing clients are offered a 10% discount or free car wash for sending in three new clients. They're given coupons with codes on them to hand out to others. You don't have to go crazy with this costing you money. You might offer a free $5 Starbucks gift card or a coupon worth a discount on the service of a neighboring business. Chances are that the neighboring business will reciprocate on your behalf. The key to bonuses is offering something good enough that the client will think is worth their while to find others to send your way, even if it's just in a passing conversation.
Once you wrap your mind around the information covered here, you'll know where to find the best fishing holes and what bait to use!