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 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.

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.

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.

The new look of Pinterest

If you are unfamiliar with Pinterest, this is a social media platform for photos. Imagine a room full of bulletin boards. You see a photo that you find interesting and you pin it to one of the boards. That is the focus of Pinterest.

That is all well and good, but you probably want to know how can it help you grow your business. If you embed your web address in the photo using photo editing software, such as Photoshop or Picasa, your website will be on that photo forever. If people repin your photo, or post it to their own Pinterest page, your message will go along with the photo. You can also simply type a message with your web address in the comment section that goes under the photo. If someone repins the photo, they have the option of typing their own comment and your comment will be gone.

You can show what your business does and then pin that photo to your board. If the comment has a call to action, a person may be prompted to email or call your business. Of course, some businesses lend themselves to this visual medium. Others do not. People in the fashion industry, a retail business, real estate agent, etc. would do well with a Pinterest page for their business. Other businesses may not benefit as much from an account. If you can show before and after pictures of a service you provide, Pinterest would work well.

Most people use Pinterest for fun and not for business reasons, which is why getting your brand and message across is a bonus. If you can post non-blurry photos that are clever, funny, awe inspiring or amazing, you can attract people to your boards. Not all of your boards have to be business related.

When I was little and my brother and I would fight, he would often slap me up high and punch me in the stomach and say, “While you are looking up here (slap!), I’ll get you down here (punch!). He is five years younger, so I guess it was acceptable back then! My point is that while you have people looking at your pretty photos, you can sneak the punch in with your brand and message.

The new look of Pinterest was made to be more user-friendly. It was purposely made to look much different than Facebook, according to CEO Ben Silbermann.

Cover photos are now larger to help get your statement across. When you view the boards, you see the cover photo and four smaller photos of pictures within that board. The profile information is now across the top of the page instead of along the side. The profile photo itself is much larger. On the right side, you can see the latest people to repin any of your pins.

Social media year in review

jpg_2013_bursting_open_boxThis has been the most spectacular year for those of us involved in social media. The entire industry has grown in leaps and bounds. More entrepreneurs and companies are using it to help grow their businesses. Athletes, musicians and individuals are so involved in social media that they use it multiple times every day.

Here are some of the highlights of 2012:

  • Facebook stock goes public. Mark Zuckerberg gets even richer.
  • Facebook buys Instagram for a big pile of money.
  • Obama is called the “cool” president, has impromptu visit on Reddit and crashes the system.
  • Infographics are on the rise, using pictures and words to get a message to huge numbers of people.
  • Twitter had a record number of tweets during Super Storm Sandy.
  • Angry Cat and other fun memes flood social media.
  • Pinterest becomes 6th most popular social media.
  • Finding lost kids is enhanced with social media. Since it is incredibly fast, it gets the word out almost immediately.
  • Gangnam Style goes viral. Do you know how to do that dance?
  • Find lost pets, rehoming pets. Gets the word out faster and to more people than traditional methods.
  • The new MySpace – it’s bigger, better than ever and making a comeback.
  • Instagram changes policy, people get angry, Instagram changes it back in a matter of a couple days.
  • School shooting in Newtown, CN has social media ablaze with outrage, gun control opinions, tributes and an outpouring of emotions.

No one wants to read text these days. That’s why this list is a list, in bullet form. Infographics are snowballing in popularity because the graphics make it simpler than a paragraph of words, to get the information to the masses. People all over the world want instantaneous information and they do not want to spend a lot of time reading it.

The best thing that happened in 2012 with social media is that people now take this method of communication seriously – more now, than ever before. So, here’s to the end of 2012 and to watching social media grow even bigger than anyone ever imagined in 2013!

Instagram chief bends to pressure

instagram changing their policyThe people have spoken. After the deluge of people bombarding instagram over their recently announced policies to take ownership of all photos beginning Janaury 2013, they have scrapped the idea.

Instagram CEO, Kevin Systrom wrote, “The concerns we heard about from you the most focused on advertising, and what our changes might mean for you and your photos.”

While claiming that people misunderstood his intentions, Systrom continued, “Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010.”

Once again, this is proof of how powerful social media is. In just a matter of a couple days, the photo sharing app changed its plan. The announcement was made, people were appalled and began deleting the app or simply stopped using it.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, purchased the popular Instagram in 2012 for about a billion dollars in stock and cash. With over 100,000 million users, he could not afford for everyone to switch to another way to share photos.
Twitter is ramping up its photo sharing feature. It is now more flexible and user-friendly to compete with other apps. People can post pictures directly from the Twitter app. I often use this photo sharing feature when I am posting on Twitter.

When using a photo app to grow your business, there are so many options. During the past two days, I tried a number of other apps, but didn’t find anything that I liked as much as Instagram.

While Pinterest is a nice app, without the photo editing options Instagram has, it has a different focus. Pinterest is more about sharing photos you see on websites and less about promoting your own photos.

Since I am one of the multitude of Instagram users, I am thrilled that they will be changing their proposed plans. And I feel good about using the app again.

Instagram’s latest policy may cause them to go extinct

instagram will own photosAfter all of the great times we’ve had with Instagram, the latest news might be the end of the popular app. Starting mid-January, Instagram, which was recently purchased by Facebook, has the rights to use any photos posted on the app. They can even use the photos for the purposes of advertising their product or selling photos without even giving any credit to the person who took the photo. What’s up with that?

This is a perfect example of how social media can create change in a company. People have about a month to start bombarding Instagram with angry messages about how they want their photos to belong to them and not to be used or sold without compensation.

Recent updates have given more options to the Instagram app. They added another photo style and changed the look of the program. This is supposed to make it more attractive to users. But the idea of the program selling photos without compensating or even acknowledging their users seems a bit unfair. There are plenty of other companies, like Hipstimatic, will be happy to have new users switch to their product.

I noticed that a few of my Facebook friends posted that they closed their Instagram accounts today. National Geographic has suspended posting photos as of this evening. I have a friend who is a photographer for them and he makes crazy money on each photo. Knowing that Instragram can use photos for free that after they pay tons of money to their photographers is going to keep them from posting anything. Their pictures were honestly the most amazing things I’ve seen on Instagram [not including family stuff].

This situation is quite a big deal in the realm of social media. A lot of people promote their businesses by using this app, but are not going to give Instagram free access to photos they pay to use themselves.

You have until January 16, 2013 to quit using the app or accept the fact that your photos are no longer your own. There are other, not as popular photo apps, that can be used instead. Whether Instagram changes their policy may depend on complaints and whether or not people jump ship and stop using this app.

Online reviews

wmf_biznes-017-9-04Every business tries to get listed on the first page of the search. One of the many criteria in ranking companies is not as obvious as most, and that is to have a lot of reviews for the business. Even if there are a few not-so-great reviews mixed in, it still helps. The more people talk about your business, the better.

Every time you complete a sale or finish a service you should send something to your client. Whether they bought a publication, took a class, purchased some of your inventory or used your service, it is important to thank them. Non-profits use this technique all of the time. When you thank someone for a donation, they are more likely to donate again. The same holds true with your business. When you thank someone, they are more likely to buy again.

When you send the thank you, include a request for a review. This is especially important for your favorite clients or customers. When using Google Places and Yahoo Local, you can write a review for a business. Yelp is a site specifically for writing reviews. If you think people will have a hard time finding out where to put their review – find it for them. They may be willing to write a review, but they are not going to spend a lot of time searching around for the place to do it. Give it to them and make their life easier. All they have to do is click a link and they are right at the review page.

The length of reviews really does not matter. I usually only read the first paragraph or two. Usually after that, I’ve lost interest and it’s on to the next review. You can tell your clients that a brief review is fine. They do not have to write a complete essay about your business.

We all have clients who, at one time or another, are not happy with us and post angry reviews. Do not try to counterbalance that and trick the search engines by writing your own reviews! They can tell where the website’s ISP address is registered. In other words, they know it is you. Spooky, isn’t it? You can however, with most search engines, respond to reviews.

Your blog is a whole different ballgame. You can do whatever you want there, and that includes deleting comments you dislike. Some people may get a glimpse of the comment before you delete it. When logged into the blog, it too knows when you are commenting so be careful what you post.

On Facebook, you can remove unwanted comments, but when they are posted, they go out to everyone who likes the page. While it doesn’t stay on the page once you take it down, it has been sent and most likely seen by some people.

Obviously, the idea is to make all of your customers happy. Remember to always thank them. The happiest will tell their friends. If you can get people to post their favorable reviews on social media as well as write a review for one of the search engines, that is the best result you can imagine.

Affiliate marketing with blog and websites

What is affiliate marketing?

Have you ever seen ads on the side of someone’s blog? Or, ads on someone’s website? That is usually not paid advertising, but affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is when you put ads on your site and are paid a commission if someone clicks on the ad, goes to the site and then buys something. Much less often, you get paid per click or site visit. If you get paid per click, it is usually pennies rather than dollars.

If you use affiliate marketing on your site, you now have a way to generate income, hopefully at least enough to pay for the site. Most social media, especially Facebook, frowns upon affiliate marketing because they don’t make any money from it – you do!

Here are a couple sites that I recently started with affiliate marketing:

www.PetSaver.info

www.ExtremeCuteness.com

I started them on a whim, just for fun really. I purchased the domains from Namecheap.com, which is – you guessed it – really cheap! Most sites are about $3-10 a year. I know I used to pay at least $35 for each site before I transferred all my names to them. Namecheap also does hosting.

Once I set up the sites, I wanted to get some affiliate marketing on them. ChaCha’s affiliate program offers lots of links, quizzes and other fun things. They pay per click, between 1.5¢ to about 4¢ per click. It depends on what the topic is how much they pay. ChaCha is a website where you type in a question and a real person answers you, like a human Google. You will not get rich with this type of affiliate program unless you get a crazy amount of hits per day on your site. ChaCha’s affiliate program adds several new links every day, so you have to check it on a regular basis. There are links in a lot of different topics.

Amazon is another company that has a really popular affiliate program. They have a variety of ads you can use. Some of them even have a search feature so people can look for what they want to buy. You cannot change the size of their ads, which is one reason they have so many versions available.

Many companies have affiliate programs, but if you want to have several ads from different companies on your blog or site, you should go with a company that serves many affiliates. I went with Commission Junction. There are tons of affiliates listed on this site. There are credit card companies, cell phone companies, dog food, magazines – anything that might interest you. Most of them make you apply to them if you want to put their ads on your site. Some accept right away, others might take a week or two to give you an answer.

The reason that I originally discovered Commission Junction was that I wanted to use Vista Print, the popular online printing company, on my site. When I looked on their site, they sent me to Commission Junction. Unfortunately, they turned me down. But I found a lot of other companies that wanted to work with me. The database is very sophisticated on their site. Each advertiser has lots of ads that are in a bunch of different sizes to fit on just about any website. Most of the time, you have to accept the ad the way it is, although some can be sized to fit.

When someone clicks on the ad, you can set it up so that it opens in a new tab on the user’s browser, which I recommend because that way the browser still has your page on display too. You can also have it just go to the advertiser’s page without opening a new tab.

Clickbank is another affiliate marketing program. They give you a QR code that can be used as a link to the ad. We’ll save QR codes for another day, but they come in very handy as you can scan it into your smart phone and avoid typing the web address.

With all of the affiliate programs, they hold on to your cash until you reach a certain threshold. For most it is $50. Then you can withdraw the money and have it go to your PayPal account.

Is this totally over your head? If you are not well versed in web design, you might want to pass along the affiliate marketing information to your designer. You need to cut and paste code and that can be confusing for some people who are used to the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) type of designing – where there is no code knowledge needed.