Dangerous spam

newsletter of social squidsLately there has been a lot of talk about hacking. Criminals are getting into corporate databases and getting people’s email addresses or even credit card information. For those hackers who get your email, they may send you something that can wreak havoc on your life.

We’ve all received suspicious emails without knowing whether to open them or not. If you’re in doubt, do not click on any links or attachments!

There is annoying spam, which is harmless. However, in the past couple years there have been more and more cases of dangerous spam. Cases of ransomware – holding your personal data for ransom – are the most frightening. Some breaches require software to be added to your computer in order to fight back.

Most of us are familiar with the Nigerian prince scam, but there are many others out there including lottery winners, tax scams, expired warranty claims, religious, fake contest winners and all kinds of other ways to bilk hard working people out of their money.

There are some easy ways to spot dangerous emails. If you receive an email from a credit card company, bank, investment firm or any other company where you do not have an account that talks about your account – that is suspicious. The content of the email may mention how your account is overdrawn or some other problem. You know you don’t have an account with them, so you can’t be overdrawn. Simply delete the email.

If you look at the first image, you will see an email I received recently. It claims to be from Wells Fargo. I no longer have an account with Wells Fargo, so that was a red flag for me.

dangerous spam is in your mailbox

Secondly, it says “Dear Member.” Banks always have a custom greeting that includes your name. That was red flag #2. The next red flag was the first sentence. It is not written in plain language. Banks are clear and concise with their messages. If there are misspellings (there are none in this one), that’s another red flag.

Absolutely, under no circumstances, click on an attachment if you are unsure of the sender!

In the second image, you will see that if you click on the sender’s name, you will see their email address. Obviously, that email is not coming from Wells Fargo. A real email from them would be from wellsfargo.com and not some foreign country. Sometimes they get tricky and have an email that might have Wells Fargo within the email address like wellsfargoaccounts@gmail.com, but if it’s not from wellsfargo.com, it’s not from them.

dangerous spam email

If you get what you think is a suspicious email and it’s from a company where you do have an account, don’t reply to it. Never click the link in the email if you are unsure. It can end up putting a virus on your computer. You can call them or go to their website and ask them if they sent the email. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

I used to try to report suspicious emails to companies when I received them, but found it was incredibly time consuming. Many times banks, cable companies, phone companies, etc. have places where you can report suspicious emails to help them put a stop to the activity. Unfortunately, most of the time, it is difficult to find that information on their sites. I have often reported suspicious emails to PayPal as their information was easy to find. You simply forward the suspicious email to spoof@paypal.com. The address for suspicious Comcast emails is abuse@comcast.net.

When you forward an email, it contains all of the header information (who sent it and from where it was sent) so the company can try to stop these people from hurting anyone.

There is virus protection software that will weed out at least some of the bad emails. Avast is a free anti virus program that works for Mac and PC computers. It used to be that Macs were such a small part of the home computer market that no one attacked them with a virus or malware. Today everyone needs to have some form of protection.

If you have older family members using email, it is important to let them know how to spot suspicious emails and to be leery of them. That demographic is the most vulnerable. Be safe with your emails and use common sense before responding to emails from large companies or opening any attachments.

Twitter analytics

Using Twitter analytics in business

Using Twitter for business purposes is a vital part of sales in today’s marketplace. Twitter analytics gives you insights to the people who are visiting your profile, looking at your tweets and responding to them.

As you use Twitter analytics month after month, trends begin to develop.

  • Who is retweeting my tweets?
  • Who is my most popular follower?
  • Which post did the best in the past month?
  • Did people thank you for following them, allowing their followers to see your info?

As these trends are formed, you have the opportunity to examine the stats to see whether or not you are hitting your target market by location, business type and sheer numbers of viewers. And you can see if they have improved or not from the previous month.

In the video below, get the scoop on how to find your Twitter analytics page and then how to interpret the information provided by Twitter.

Please subscribe to our new Vimeo page and look for more videos about social media coming in the weeks and months ahead. If you have a specific question, post it on the Vimeo page and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Twitter analytics from Social Squids on Vimeo.

A graphics primer

A graphics primer

Part 1: Design elements

Graphic design

As entrepreneurs or business owners, we all need to have graphics done from time to time. Having a professional graphic artist instead of using your own support staff or trying to do it on your own, can be the difference between an amateurish brochure that will end up in the recycle bin or something that really grabs the reader’s interest and is worth keeping.

Before you get started, you need to know what you want and how to ask for it. Here are some explanations of terms and techniques that are important to a graphic artist.

Don’t worry, there is no test at the end. It’s helpful for everyone to know the terms so you can tell your graphic designer what you want.

Photos

Let’s start with my pet peeve! Printed images and web images are completely different. Your logo artwork or photo can look amazing on your website, but will print like garbage if it is not the right format. Images for print must be a minimum of 300 dpi (dots per inch). Websites look fine at 72 dpi, but will print looking pixelated and awful. Websites require RGB (red, green, blue) color and printing needs CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black). Color printing is called 4-color process and prints all colors made up of percentages of cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks.

Graphic element

Anything that is in your project including text is a graphic element. This includes words, photos and artwork.

Author’s alterations vs corrections

Author’s alterations are when the client changes the wording rather than correcting an error. Generally those are not included in the quoted price. If you make changes, you will be charged for them. Your copy should be ready to go before you start the graphics. Corrections, however,  are always included in the price.

Camera ready art

Camera ready art is ready to go to the printer without any changes. Your graphic artist should give you camera ready art as the finished product, usually in PDF format for printing. Some printers prefer the original graphics file, but they can be quite cumbersome. You need to discuss with the printer what they require before the graphic artist gets started on the project.

Artwork stretching

I’ve seen people stretch logos or photos to make them fit into the page layout. You never mess with someone’s logo. Make your design fit the logo, not the other way around. The same goes for photos. You can crop and size them in a way to make them fit.

stretchy bee

Colors

Colors should compliment each other and not clash. Bright red on bright blue or green can do crazy things to your eyes and should be avoided. The easiest text to read is black text on light yellow. Generally speaking, soothing colors go with calm subjects and bright colors go with a more vibrant subject matter. If you are unsure about what colors to use for a project, you can always extract colors (there is a tool for that in most software, usually an eye dropper) that match an image or logo. For example, if a logo is purple and yellow, those colors can be used in the text. Please make sure they match perfectly or don’t use them. If they are close, but not exact, it is not pleasing to the eye.

White space

You do not have to fill every bit of space with text or artwork. White space is a design element that some people forget is available to them.

Negative space

Negative space is the area around or between the main focus of an image. The World Wildlife Fund logo is a great example of using negative space. You see the entire animal even though your eye has to fill in part of the outline.

Image courtesy of World Wildlife Fund.
Image courtesy of World Wildlife Fund.

Grid layout

A grid layout is commonly used for things like brochures. Everything is generally at right angles and the end product is pleasing to the eye. If you create something that looks slightly off kilter, it can be irritating to the reader.

Special effects

Too many special effects on one graphic element like feather (edges fade away), drop shadow (shadow behind the object), rotating, outline and inline can be distracting. You can tell by looking if it is too much.

Paper

Coated or uncoated paper (shiny or not) is another graphic element to your project. Depending upon the project, you may want different paper types (bond, laid, onion skin, etc.), thickness (card stock, paper, newsprint) or paper colors. Discuss paper choices at the beginning of the job because adjustments may be needed to get the desired effect. For example: Newsprint can only be printed on a web press and most printers do not have room for them. On a web press, the paper is in a giant roll and gets printed on one side or both sides, cut, collated and sometimes stapled as it goes through the press. Most presses do not use paper rolls, but sheets of paper that are cut to size after printing.

Bleed

A bleed is where text or an image goes off the page like on most magazine covers. You need a larger sheet of paper for printing with a bleed. After it is printed, the excess is trimmed away. While the finished product looks better, it usually costs more to print.

Summary

Some of the best examples of logos are elegant and simple. Think of the Nike swoosh, the NBC stylized peacock or the McDonald’s arches. The same simplicity can work for a brochure or any other graphic piece.

Next time we will discuss typography, the text for your project. Choosing the right font (typestyle) is important to the legibility and success of your printed project.

Contact Social Squids if you have a graphic design project like a corporate identity package (logo, letterhead, business card), trifold brochure, flyer, ad, newsletter or any other printed piece.

Website promotion tips

gain page views on websiteEntrepreneurs of all industries have websites, but many business owners have no idea how to draw attention to them. While certain marketing like SEO (search engine optimization) is best left to professionals, you can do some things on your own to help put your website on the map.

Some of these suggestions may seem like no-brainers, however business owners are not always well versed in the ways of self promotion. It doesn’t take a computer wiz to do some simple things that will significantly increase your website page views.

Website self promotion

Doing these basic tasks can help gain momentum for your web page and ultimately boost your sales.

Increased sales is what we all want.

  1. Make sure the search engines have your site indexed. The search engine bots (automated software) regularly reach out to websites, but adding them yourself lets you know for sure Google and Bing know about you.
  2. Post new blogs, pages or updates to your personal social media pages. Even if you have someone who posts for you, add some yourself.
  3. Email your friends about your website.
  4. Set up a Yelp page for your business and encourage your best clients to post on it. Your clients can also post reviews on your Facebook business page.
  5. Add link to your site in the signature of your email.
  6. Make sure your site and social media pages are on your business card, brochure and any other printed materials. This may seem obvious, but people who do not live and breathe digital technology often forget to include their website on marketing materials.
  7. On your personal Facebook page, add your website in the settings section.
  8. Write an article about your business for someone else’s website. Guest blogging gives your business a new audience.
  9. Participate in online forums (using your web address in your signature). This also helps lend credibility and shows you are an expert in your field.
  10. Yahoo has a section where people answer questions. You get points when people like your answers. Become a well-known expert in your field by answering questions in the topic that best relates to your business (add your website under your name in your credentials).
  11. Create a magnet for your vehicle with the website in large letters.
  12. Many local businesses have neighborhood bulletin boards, add your card or flyer (with website on it).
  13. Bonus tip: Many blogs and sites recommend creating controversy on your social media pages to bring attention to yourself and your website. I disagree. Yes, people take notice, but you also take the risk of alienating people who are fans now. Upbeat posts are best.

Go through the list and do the things you feel comfortable doing. If you have questions or need help, please contact Social Squids. We can assist with marketing, printed materials, websites and social media.

SEO insights

SEO insights

newsletter of social squidsSEO (search engine optimization) remains a mystery to many entrepreneurs and website owners. In truth, it’s rather simple. Search engine optimization is a way to help Google, Bing Yahoo and others find and classify your website.

By improving your SEO, your website can rise in the rankings. Without paying attention to it, your site may sink like a rock.

Using social media

You can help your SEO by adding a link to your site in your social media posts, e-zines, emails and newsletters. Make your social media content searchable by using hashtags and keywords in your posts.

Add your location and/or a map on your social media pages to let people know where you are. This is especially important for companies that have a local target audience.

SEO on your website

Make use of an SEO plugin for wordpress sites, or the the SEO feature on your web builder. Follow the guidelines the software suggests and your site will start to make positive moves.

Be sure to use your location in the keywords. Google and other search engines are used more by mobile devices than desktop computers now. Having your location will make you show up in the search when someone is nearby.

Make your blogs at least 300 words. It might sound like a lot, but search engines don’t bother much with pages that have little content. If the blog is really long, cut it in half and make it either two blogs or continue it on another page. If someone is interested in reading more, they will click to see the next page.

Use google analytics or some other tracking software to see where your page visitors originate. Do they come from your emailed newsletter? Social media? Searches? Or did they just type in the name when you gave someone your card? Once you know this information, you can make adjustments.

Blogs

Adding subheadings for your blog and pages is good for SEO.

Keyword density should be 5-7% for your page to be optimal. A construction company’s page might have “construction” or “building” as a keyword. Using a keyword in the first sentence and a few times on the page will make search engines happy.

Links, links and more links!

Get backlinks from relevant sites. For example, for your construction company, get your suppliers or clients to link back to your site. Search engines love backlinks.

Link within your site in your blogs and pages. If you mention a topic covered on a previous blog, link to it. If you want people to get in touch for more information, add a link to your contact page.

Link to other websites. If you are talking about making donations to a charity, provide a link.

SEO insights Social Squids

Images

Use alt tags for your images. If you use wordpress, go to the media library, click on an image and you can see where to add this tag. People looking at your website can’t see the alt tag, but it is in the code. If you have a photo on your site called Img_2005.jpg, search engines have no idea if that image even relates to your site. Adding an alt tag that says, “Baltimore area construction,” is more descriptive and helps SEO.

You can change the name of the image. Using Img_2005.jpg is not as good as new_construction.jpg. Add a description of your photo that is seen by the search engines and a caption that is visible on the site. You can do all of those things, but use different wording in each place.

Looking for a good SEO plugin for your WordPress site? I recommend Yoast SEO.  If this has gone completely over your head or beyond your abilities, you can contact me for additional information or a consultation.

Keep it Simple 

Keep it Simple 

Here is my latest Ink Slinger newsletter:

ink slinger

My mom used to call me the queen of the simple sentence – I thought I was simply being concise. As a senior in college I worked for a tv station and wrote for the 11:00 news. In only 15-20 seconds, I had to relate my story. That’s a mere 4-6 sentences.

In the world of social media, being the queen of the simple sentence can be a good thing.

Writing for websites can be tricky. No one wants to read any more. Bullet points and short statements are the only way to get someone’s attention and hold it. Long winded dissertations are no longer used in advertising, websites and never, ever in social media. The creators of Twitter made it 140 characters for a reason.

I took a class in graduate school where I had to take a complicated insurance form and condense the information into one page. Then it was shrunken down to a few paragraphs, and then to one paragraph. The paragraph was turned into a single sentence that summed up the entire document.

Try to do that with your company information. Can you? Take the content from your website and condense it down in stages until you have one statement. The result is probably very close to your elevator speech. If it’s not, then maybe your mission is getting lost.

How do you get your message across when no one wants to read?

  • Use bullet points!
  • Only say what is truly worthwhile
  • Infographics tell a story with images
  • Write down everything you want to say, then pare it down to the bare bones
  • Add images to your posts
  • Add videos to your posts
  • Vary sizes and fonts to make text stand out

Deliver your thoughts in a way that is short enough to read over a cup of coffee. Anything longer and you begin to lose people. Don’t let your true message disappear in a sea of meaningless words.

social media engagement infographic_

Twitter tips

twitter-logo-2Microblogging with Twitter is a fast way to get your message to a large audience. Messages move at the speed of light. Often times headlines that have not yet hit other news media can be found on Twitter. Here are some handy tips that will help you get the most out of this social media platform.

One of the best examples of putting Twitter to use is a food truck. As the food truck travels, the driver can tweet where he is and where he is headed. Followers can see when the truck is nearby and plan lunch accordingly. Most businesses do not move around like a food truck, but posting updates on what is happening with your business is something you can do.

Retweet and follow posts on other accounts every day. Retweeting other messages shows you are not just posting messages, but you are also reading them. You are engaged in the process. Retweeting is a nice way to assist your favorite accounts and it will come back around to you in a good way when you get some new followers.

Search for your competition, good referral partners, your target audience and influencers in your field. Once you confirm your cell phone number you can follow up to 2,000 accounts. After that, you can follow 10% above the number that follows you. The more accounts you follow, the more will follow you. Most celebrities do not follow back, so only follow your very favorites.

Using hashtags will help people find your message. If you use #SocialSquids in a tweet and someone searches for that hashtag, the message will be more easily found.

If there is way to use a trending topic in your tweet – do it. Trending topics are the most popular topics or hashtags at any given moment and are listed to the left of your Twitter feed. In your settings, you can adjust for local trending topics if most of your business or interest is local. The mention of a trending topic will get more attention to your tweet and you may gain followers.

By adding a photo, your tweet is more likely to be seen (just like with all social media).  If you are able to embed text in the image, you end up with a longer message than a normal tweet. Add a video and get even more attention.

Making an offer or announcing a sale for your Twitter followers, helps you measure how many people are seeing your message by how many people ask for the offer. Twitter now has its own analytics. See how your account is doing by visiting twitter.analytics.com when you are logged into your Twitter account.

Send a direct message to another account by using the @ symbol and the account name. If you use .@ it will be seen by many more people because it will be in your feed and the other person’s feed.

Always remember that once you tweet, even if you delete it, your message is out there in cyberspace. Be careful and proofread your text. Be sure about an image before you post it. There have been countless “whoops” tweets by celebrities that have gone viral, but your tweet can get you in trouble too.

Once you get the hang of the lingo, symbols and using only a few words to make your statement, you will discover the effectiveness of Twitter.

What would you do?

just sitting at starbucksLast week I found myself in an awkward situation. Maybe you have been there a time or two yourself. Here is my story…

This morning I am sitting in Starbucks for the second time waiting for someone who has not shown up. It is my second attempt on an appointment with this person and getting together was his idea. He seemed rather embarrassed when I talked to him after he missed the first appointment and here I am again. I really thought he would show up this time.

How many appointments do you make with someone and how long do you wait before you bail? This is someone I’ve known for over a year, but we will not be working together at this point. And, I feel like I can’t refer people to someone who doesn’t feel I am important enough to keep an appointment.

To make matters worse, one guy is talking loudly on his cell phone and a couple is having a conversation with someone on speaker phone. The loud guy is  talking to his appointment who did not show up either. I clearly heard him say, “That’s okay. Whenever you can get here is fine.”

I have resorted to my headphones, which I don’t like to do because I’m liable to start singing without realizing it. That will not be good in any way.

What is the protocol for being on time? 

In my opinion, you should always be 5-10 minutes early. That way you are never late. I get into panic attacks if I am stuck in traffic and I think I’m going to be late for anything, even if it’s just dinner with good friends and there is no time constraint. Maybe that’s just me.

In the age of cell phones that have alerts to let you know an appointment is coming up or reminders that can let you know you need to do something, there is really no excuse.

When I first contacted the guy after missing the first appointment, he doubted me, checked his phone’s calendar and admitted I was right. Ouch. Doubting me? That hurt right off the bat. I should have just said forget it, but I was hoping that we could at least share referrals.

If I’m going to be late, I text or call the person to let them know. I had an appointment last week and the guy was 30 minutes late. He messaged me three times letting me know there was an accident on the beltway and that he was trying to get to the appointment. However, this time I have been disrespected – and for the second time.

Last night I considered sending a reminder email, especially because he missed the first appointment, but I figured we’re all adults here and should be able to keep an appointment. Seems like I got that wrong.

I will admit, I missed a doctor’s appointment once. I spent the day with that nagging feeling that I was forgetting something, but couldn’t remember what it was. Two hours after the appointment, it hit me. I was embarrassed and felt terrible especially since I would probably be charged for it. Granted, that was years before Siri was around to remind me. I made absolutely sure I did not miss the second appointment!

Should I be insulted? I am. Should my feelings be hurt? They are. Should I just chalk it up to experience and enjoy my Starbucks latte? I should, but I can’t.

OMG. The guy I’m supposed to be meeting just walked in the door and sat down with someone else six feet away from me. Now I’m really mad and in a completely awkward situation. I have no idea what to do. I feel like a complete idiot. I am embarrassed, although I should not be. This is crazy. I should not have started writing this and instead left when I had a chance for a clean break.

Life sure does throw me curve balls. Did he see me sitting here with my headphones and typing away at my keyboard or was he focused on his OTHER appointment with the loud guy I heard talking on the phone earlier. Apparently, he forgot that appointment too. I am seething…

This has become too angry to be a blog. It has become a rant.

The guy didn’t even go up and get coffee, offering me an escape route. I am trapped like a wounded animal. Being generally non-confrontational, I am at a loss. I just want to escape with what little dignity I have. At least his back is to me as I contemplate my predicament.

What would you do if you found yourself in this situation?

How do you telecommute when the “tele” is not working?

when telecommunications are not possibleI found myself in a bit of a dilemma yesterday when my &#%$ cable/internet/phone went out right in the middle of a phone call with a client. With a large deadline looming, I was in a panic. It seems that every time I do have a problem with my internet, it happens during a big deadline.

What to do…

I refer to my neighborhood Starbucks my “branch office.” The branch office comes in handy when doing writing or website jobs. Unfortunately, for this job I need all of my old files in order to do the work. Starting with old ads, changing expiration dates or making other alterations, is part of what I do. In this case, I need to have all of my files handy.

This is where the cloud comes in handy. Too bad I haven’t quite made the commitment for a cloud company. I wrote some web content about the various cloud companies and it did more to cloud the issue for me. Pricing, storage space and ease of use are all considerations and I have not yet made a commitment. Lucky for me, things have been so busy lately, there has not been a lot of time to think about it.

But, the time is now. Putting off the decision will result in more stress. Who needs that? A decision will be made, and soon.

Like most graphic artists, I am not a fan of doing graphics on a laptop. The screen on mine is so small that it becomes frustrating, even if I connect a mouse to do some of the finer Photoshop movements. But when push comes to shove, a laptop will have to do.

My desktop computer is a Mac Mini. Those things are amazing. One time the power went out during a bad storm and I just unplugged my computer and power cord, and took them to someone’s house. By simply unplugging their computer, I attached my Mac Mini to their monitor, keyboard and mouse. Then I was good to go. My old files were on CDs in a binder that was easy enough to carry along. Using other person’s wifi allowed me to finish my job without moving any heavy equipment. It was relatively stress free.

A digital fax service, in my opinion, is much more useful than an actual machine when switching from laptop to computer to another location, etc. Many times I avoid printing anything (saving toner/ink and paper) by just looking at the fax on my screen.

Lucky for me, the internet was fixed back before I even figured out what to do.

Dealing with the computer illiterate

computer literacyYesterday I had a meeting with a prospective client about setting up a website. He is a very nice man, but really had no idea what a website does or why he should have one. He never thought about it before because he doesn’t really use a computer.

I see less and less of this type of person. Most people, even many of my relatives over the age of 80, at least use email and Facebook. Not this guy.

It was difficult explaining things to this man because I had to define the terms I was using as I went along. That often got me sidetracked. The man wants to sell something on his website that he makes by hand. He said he’d rather be working with his hands than using a computer. Obviously.

My explanations included how a search engine works and what it does, what Etsy.com is, Facebook, web hosting, domain name, etc. The poor man’s eyes glazed over when I talked about setting up a PayPal account so he can sell his products online. Of course, I had to explain what PayPal is and how it works. “How would I get the money?” he asked after a 10 minute explanation. I had to start from the beginning again.

Luckily, I am very patient. Years ago, I taught word processing in adult education. It was the same situation. The idea of switching from typing on paper to on the computer screen is confusing at first. I explained everything to this man as thoroughly as I could. I’m sure everything I said to him was a confused jumble in his mind when he left.

As a result of the conversation with this man, I have decided to write out some definitions/explanations to hand to people when I get together with them. It is my responsibility to explain what I do and all of the terms involved to a prospective client. I can either email (if they have email) or hand a prospective client the paper so when they go home and discuss it with people, they will have a better idea of what I do.