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.

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.

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.

We need more brains!

brains, not just for zombies any moreNo, this is not a post about zombies. Sorry if you thought that!

Have you ever had a great idea, but after pondering it for a little while, you are not quite sure if it will fly or not? It happens to me all of the time. I get all excited about some business or plan and then once I think about it for a day or two, I lose my momentum. Instead of letting great ideas fall by the wayside, why not bounce ideas off of another person and see what they think about it?

Brainstorming sessions are valuable in business. If you have someone you can trust with your secret business ideas, ask to have lunch, dinner or even coffee with them. Let them hear your idea and come up with ways it might work, or reasons why it won’t. Either way, you should take advantage of this significant resource.

The name Social Squids, came from such a meeting. My friend and I got together for coffee and I told her that I needed to come up with a name. She’s an illustrator, very talented and creative in her own right.

The starting point was the fact that I like animals, so we decided the name would have something animal-related in it. We brainstormed great name ideas, terrible ones, silly ones and eventually one of us – I’m not even sure which one of us it was – came up with Social Squids.

I kept doing this thing with my hands, wiggling my fingers and moving my arms outward. I was thinking about how social media reaches out into cyberspace. Not only did we come up with the name, we came up with the tag line too – We have far-reaching tentacles.

Paying someone for their opinion has its value, but brainstorming with one, two or a small group of people, will help you find problems, solutions, more in-depth ideas or sometimes cheer you on for your amazing business proposition.

So, find more brains. Bounce ideas off of your friends in the business community. Sometimes these ideas might seem impossible, but give it a try anyway. It can be an incredibly valuable tool for your business. Just be careful you share your ideas with people you trust and who are not going to take your idea and use it for their own.

We need more brains!

brains, not just for zombies any moreNo, this is not a post about zombies. Sorry if you thought that!

Have you ever had a great idea, but after pondering it for a little while, you are not quite sure if it will fly or not? It happens to me all of the time. I get all excited about some business or plan and then once I think about it for a day or two, I lose my momentum. Instead of letting great ideas fall by the wayside, why not bounce ideas off of another person and see what they think about it?

Brainstorming sessions are valuable in business. If you have someone you can trust with your secret business ideas, ask to have lunch, dinner or even coffee with them. Let them hear your idea and come up with ways it might work, or reasons why it won’t. Either way, you should take advantage of this significant resource.

The name Social Squids, came from such a meeting. My friend and I got together for coffee and I told her that I needed to come up with a name. She’s an illustrator, very talented and creative in her own right.

The starting point was the fact that I like animals, so we decided the name would have something animal-related in it. We brainstormed great name ideas, terrible ones, silly ones and eventually one of us – I’m not even sure which one of us it was – came up with Social Squids.

I kept doing this thing with my hands, wiggling my fingers and moving my arms outward. I was thinking about how social media reaches out into cyberspace. Not only did we come up with the name, we came up with the tag line too – We have far-reaching tentacles.

Paying someone for their opinion has its value, but brainstorming with one, two or a small group of people, will help you find problems, solutions, more in-depth ideas or sometimes cheer you on for your amazing business proposition.

So, find more brains. Bounce ideas off of your friends in the business community. Sometimes these ideas might seem impossible, but give it a try anyway. It can be an incredibly valuable tool for your business. Just be careful you share your ideas with people you trust and who are not going to take your idea and use it for their own.

Is your web contest too complicated?

I received an email from a company the other day about their upcoming contest. I’m going to show the actual steps you need to take to enter the contest, but also change any identifying information.

  1. From DATES OF CONTEST visit our COMPANY Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts to gather a daily clue
  2. Use your clue to find the hidden ITEM on our website
  3. Click the ITEM to receive the secret words
  4. Collect the words of the day for all 5 days to create the winning phrase
  5. Enter your submission on our website between DATES OF CONTEST for your chance to win 1 of 10 prizes!

contest too confusing?

I don’t know about you, but by the time I got to step three, my eyes glazed over and that was the end. I understand that this contest was developed to get people to engage in the company’s website and social media sites, however, most people are not going to spend that much time trying to win something. Maybe if the prize was a couple million bucks, people might do it. But this was for a basket of products that are worth a few hundred dollars at best.

Many companies use the “find the hidden item” idea on their website in order to get people to look at the entire site. That’s a great idea in itself, but adding all of the other rules of this particular contest makes it a little too complex for the average person. You would have to be totally devoted to the product in order to do this. And those people are already customers!

People may click on the first link and then lose interest. Once you complete all of the steps, you still only have a small chance of winning. Website visitors might find this scavenger hunt frustrating. That is not an emotion you want prospective customers to feel.

Sure, have a contest! That is a fantastic way to get people interested in your site and products. Intriguing people is the name of the game for online sales. But, when designing the contest, try to engage without annoying your page viewers.

To trade or not to trade

I am currently trading services with a client and considering doing it with another. Over the 26+ years of being in business, I have had the opportunity to trade with a lot of people. It does not always work out to be an even trade, and it doesn’t always end well.

So, trade or no trade?

Personally, there have been things that I could not afford that I really wanted. Every now and then, I found a situation where I could do work in exchange for whatever it was. Sometimes my clients had the same issue. They needed someone to write a newsletter or create a logo or for their company, but didn’t have the money to pay for the service. Usually, these were fledgling companies, like my own at the time.

Back when I first started my freelance business, I could almost always work a trade to my advantage. I traded for veterinary services, pet supplies, baseball tickets and plumbing work. Once I traded for maid services for about a year. That was beautiful, except the woman was always complaining that my house was dirty. Really? Isn’t that why you need a maid? I admit, I definitely got the better end of that deal!

Once I traded typesetting work for restaurant gift certificates. I used one gift certificate to take out a friend for her birthday. I used another to take another friend out to dinner. In exchange, she gave me a tv, a garden hose caddy and a tetanus! Yes, she was fully qualified to administer a shot (I had no insurance at the time). Things were a lot simpler back then. Ah, those were the days…

Not sure if trading organizations still exist, but I was a member of a one in the early ‘90s. The problem was, the monthly fees were due in cash and there was a cash charge for each transaction. I never did very well within that organization. I had hoped to trade for a chain link fence, but that didn’t work out for me. Direct trades worked better for me. The IRS says you have to pay taxes on any income, including trades. You are supposed to declare the value of the traded item.

Trading is a little different for me now. I rarely do it and only do it when I really want or need something. You might considering trading for your business, it can be a way to buy something when there is no cash handy.

Use images to your advantage

social media image is everythingIn cyberspace, much like real life, image is everything. Do you have your logo or a photo on all of your social media pages? The black silhouette on LinkedIn or Facebook and the empty egg on Twitter give people the impression that you are either new to the site or inactive.

A professional studio photo is best, but really just having some kind of image is better than nothing. Put your business logo if you do not want to show your face. If you do not have a logo, use a photo, illustration or icon of something that relates to your business.

If you repair cars, you could have a photo of a car. A chiropractor could show an image of a spine. Computer programmers can have an image of a computer. You get the idea.

Let your clients and prospective clients see that you are an active business and post on your page often. People love photos, videos and infographics. Instead of posting a statement, add an image to pique the interest of your audience. These images help to shape your brand. This is not just for your Facebook page, your website should have images as well.

You have only a few seconds to get the attention of your prospective client. Photos work really well to help grab people and keep them on your page.

Do you have Google Analytics? We’ve talked about this before. If you do, check out your website’s bounce rate. That is when a person only looks at your main page and “bounces” rather than looking at other pages on your site. In print media, this is the equivalent of someone reading a front page news story and then going to the page where it is continued. If they “bounced,” they would only read what is on the front page.

Are you grabbing people’s attention? If you are, you will have a low bounce rate. If not, you need to figure out what your prospective clients want to see and give it to them. Add images that relate and add them often to get the best response to your website, social media pages and blog.

Create content that gets attention

Frequent social media posts are recommendedOne way to attract people to your business is to create great content on your social media sites. Whether it is a silly meme or a serious article, you need to do things that bring awareness to your brand. The difficulty lies in making statements that get you noticed by your target audience.

Is it funny? People love looking at funny pictures and anecdotes. There is plenty of funny material out there, just make sure that you use something that is not copyright protected. There is nothing funny about taking someone else’s work and using it as your own. Silly situations that are highly unlikely or even impossible, make the viewer smile, which helps them to like you.

Inspire your target market. Sometimes the post can be a statement or blog that gives your audience something to ponder. Inspirational quotes are popular ways to get attention. Maybe the quote hits home with someone you know and want as a client.

Does your status update have the wow factor? If you post information that some people find unbelievable, but yet is true, you can attract a lot of attention. People, some of whom are potential clients, like to make comments on and forward posts that contain impressive information.

Other posts pull at your heartstrings. Sad puppies than need homes, veterans who are out of work or homeless people are issues that bring up emotions in most people. Those deep feelings bring attention to your post.

If your comments are not politically correct, you may end up with the wrong kind of attention. You want to make people smile or think, not incite a riot. Stay away from religion, politics and current events that are highly polarized. You can certainly post that information on your personal pages, but you do not want to alienate any group on your business pages.

All in all, people respond to content that pertains to them. If it is interesting, funny or emotional to your friends, connections, followers or people who like you, the relationship is there. Try to correspond with your audience as often as possible, daily if you can manage it.

11 ways to make the most of QR codes

QR code business facebook pagesoQR codes are popping up in all sorts of places. These weird, little, square symbols are the new way to take smart phone users to any web page. How can you use QR codes to help with marketing your business? Here is a list of ways you can make these scannable codes work for you.

Signage: There is only so much space on a sign. QR codes are found on large posters or signs in bus shelters, in bathroom stalls, on public transportation, schools, sporting events or other places where people walk past. Get more traffic by adding a QR code to your sign.

Advertising: Magazine and newspaper ads are using QR codes more and more to encourage people to go to the website of the business to get special offers and company information.

Borchures and flyers: Brochures and flyers can be found on retail counters, left under windshields, in doctor’s offices or handed to people. A QR code can give much more information or take potential clients to a video or slide show.

Packaging: This is a great way to go from someone purchasing your product to someone learning more about the business that produces the product. Get people to go from purchaser to devoted fan.

Name tags at events: Scan in business information about a person on the spot.

Business cards: There is barely any room to write much of a message on a business card. A QR code will let people read the whole company mission.

Real estate for sale signs: As potential buyers see a house for sale, they can stop and scan your QR code, which can take them to a virtual tour or lots of pictures of the interior before they decide to call the agent about the house.

Subscription links: If you have a brochure, sign or flyer and want people to sign up to be on your mailing list. A QR code will quickly get them to the right page.

On an interactive map: A map of an area can add QR codes for readers to get details about interesting landmarks.

On giveaway marketing materials: Key chains, refrigerator magnets, nail files and even pens have little space for more than a logo. Adding a QR code will take them to your site to see details about your business.

RSVP on invitations: Make it easier for people to let you know whether or not they will attend your event with a QR code for yes and another for no.

I need a QR code for my business if you need a QR code for your business.