Dealing with emails

Dealing with emails

newsletter of social squids
As a business owner, I’m sure you get a ton of emails every day just like I do. Keeping up with emails can take a good chunk of time every day.

Dealing with the junk

The first thing I do is clear out the junk. I set up rules (which you can do on a Mac) to send mail from spammers to my junk or trash folder and they’re gone forever.

I don’t unsubscribe from emails from people I know, but I get added to mailing lists all of the time and they are not emails I want or need. So I unsubscribe.

If you set up an account with a company where you buy things online, don’t subscribe to their emails unless you really want them. Many of them send daily emails, or at least weekly emails that can fill your inbox quickly.

You might get notices from social media sites, you can limit them by changing your setting in the social media site to not receive email notifications from them. Of course, don’t delete the ones you need. I like to know when someone messages my business pages so I can respond to them quickly.

Responding to emails

A good rule of thumb is to wait to open emails until you have time to answer them. Don’t open an email and think, “I’ll get back to him later.” Do it now and be done with it. People lose business every day because they don’t get back to people.

Make sure people know you are answering the emails and not a bot. Create a signature with your name, website, phone number and any other pertinent information they might need. That shows the sender you are responding and not an underling.

Put the sender’s name in the greeting (and always write a greeting) when you respond and be personal. If the email is coming from your website contact page, it’s just as important as a direct email.

Be sure to plan time in your schedule for responding to emails so you don’t get behind. They add up quickly and will end up costing you a good bit of time to get caught up again.

11 tips to make the most of your Facebook posts

newsletter of social squids

Grow your following

We all have Facebook pages, but getting new followers is can be tough. Here are some tips to increase your following and engagement of your posts.

1. This one is obvious. You can buy page likes. However, when you buy followers, they might not remain followers. Some will follow for a short period of time and then disappear.

2. Using the correct demographics for your business when buying followers can help with retention, but the further you narrow down your audience, the more expensive the ad will be. In the end, however, you get higher quality followers.

3. A good way to encourage post sharing is to have a contest where people have to share in order to have a chance at winning. You can pick a winner at random, use the funniest caption or come up with another way to pick the winner. Another contest idea is to have customers/clients post pictures with your products and pick the post with the most likes as the winner. Best snowman during a snowstorm, best Halloween costume, cutest pet, etc. are also good contest topics. The prize can be anything from your products, services or even a Target gift card. People love winning!

4. Respond to all of the comments on your posts, even (and especially) the negative ones. Explain your point of view in your return comment and then send them a private message trying to make them feel better. Many times the person who posted the negative comment will then post a positive one once they are appeased.

5. Combine forces with someone who has an adjacent or complimentary business to yours. Each of you post things and tag each other so that the post will appear on both pages. You will get some crossover viewers. It is especially helpful if you find someone who has more followers than you.

6. Become a name dropper! If you mention a well known business or person, eat at a popular restaurant or go to a function at a big night spot tag the person or business in your photo and/or post so more people will see what you have to say.

7. Make sure all of your social media pages have links on your website. It’s surprising how many people don’t do this.

8. Comment on other pages with meaningful content. Picking pages with lots of followers gets more engagement.

9. Add a link to your Facebook page to your email signature so everyone you email has a link to your page.

10. Figure out what is working? Monitor your results when you run an ad, have a contest or try another method of boosting your following. Look at the “insights” on your page to see if there is a spike in new likes.

11. Post often and consistently so people know you are seriously involved in your business.

*BONUS TIP* Don’t ask your friends to like your comments, ask them to like and SHARE your comments. When someone shares a comment, it goes to all of their friends and you can reach exponentially more people that way. This is the best way to get new fans, but is often the least used!

Good luck! Please keep us informed on how these tips are working for you by sharing your thoughts and ideas on our page.

How do you define success?

how do you define successAfter watching the Barbara Bush funeral on Saturday, I have been thinking about legacies. What will your business leave to the world? How do you measure whether or not your business, and you as a person, are successful? How do you define success?

We had a discussion in my networking group today about this topic. Of course, there is the money definition. A successful person is one who has a financially successful business, or is financially successful himself.

But if you look a little deeper and think about how you define happiness, the money is only one small component. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly helps make things easier. However, it’s not the barometer most people use to measure happiness or success.

People who have a happy family life consider themselves a success. Those of us who are lucky enough to work at a job we love, that gives us fulfillment – and yeah, money too – consider themselves successful.

Others define success as having enough money to travel and do the things they want to do in life with their families. Is a difficult thing to define, but it’s worth a thought.

Someone in the networking group mentioned that as we get older, our priorities change. The nice car, the house in the “right” neighborhood and other status symbols seem to lose their pull. People are less interested in things and more interested in experiences.

When it’s all said and done, your material things are not that important. In fact, there was a controversial article within the last year about how kids no longer want their parents’ stuff. Millennial have less desire to take those hand-me-downs over getting something new.

Living a good life, having good friends, being of service to your clients, loving your family – those are things that matter more than anything else in the end.

 

There’s something to be said for networking in person

networking

While I love social media and doing everything online, at the same time I see the benefits of networking and meeting people in person too. Social Squids can do work anywhere in the world as long as people pay in US dollars, but talking to people in the flesh, seeing their body language and shaking their hands creates a connection that just isn’t possible online.

Meetup and Eventbrite are good places to seek out networking events that might be of interest to you. Looking for you local chamber of commerce is another source of networking events where you can meet other marketing people or business owners.

Posting on social media sites and engaging with people on Facebook, Twitter LinkedIn and Instagram is wonderful. You have the opportunity to meet people all over the world and exchange ideas with them. You can have your brand get a lot more exposure than you would if you only concentrated on meeting people in person.

Of course, meeting and engaging with people in both ways is best for marketing yourself and your business. Just don’t forget about the human contact part of the marketing picture in your haste to get your message to as many people as possible.

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.

Fake news

avoid being sucked in by fake newsA couple weeks ago one of my Facebook friends posted a news bulletin announcing the death of an actor. I had seen the actor that very morning on live television and I doubted the post was real. A few of the person’s contacts doubted it as well. We all responded to the post saying we thought it was fake. She took it down immediately, but I’m sure many people posted the same story on their pages.

The 24 hour news cycle has its downfalls and fake news is the biggest among them. Social media users are confused about how to tell what is real and what is not. It is important to know that what you are sharing is real. We need to know the truth now more than ever.

There are a few ways anyone can verify if something is real or not.

At Social Squids, we love social media. When I see a rumor reported by someone on Facebook, I rarely take it at face value. Too many people, my own friends included, are taken in by fake stories and claims. If I see that someone has died or news of a plane crash or someone got a DUI, I immediately go to the two big social media sources for news – Facebook and Twitter. Twitter seems to scoop everyone on news so I generally start there. Is the news item trending?

I love Twitter, but sometimes they get it wrong too. After I check Twitter I go to trending topics on Facebook. Next I check the news media sites. If everyone is running the same story, I feel like it’s probably true.

If you can’t find a big story on CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC or Fox, it’s probably fake. Breaking news stories might not be online right away. But for the most part, the major networks know about breaking news almost immediately.

Try to find the original link or source of the story. Is it a reputable site? If you’ve never heard of it, that’s a red flag. The story might be a fake.

Is the news a parody or satire? Sometimes parts of stories like ones on The Onion are taken out of context and reposted as news. NewsMutiny and the Borowitz Report are also popular parody sites.

Clickbait is news that is a question or statement is so titillating that you feel compelled to click on it. You then fall down the rabbit hole and end up reading a story that never answers the question you originally found intriguing. It’s a form of fake news, a teaser headline with no actual story to back it up.

Other fake news might have a headline that doesn’t match the image or video. It may claim that one person was arrested, but the video is actually of different person getting arrested. It can also show a current story with images that are from a long time ago and obviously the two don’t match. These stories are both misleading and untrue.

Foreign URLs are another tip off to fake news. If it’s something happening in this country, but you can’t find the story on the major news networks, check out the URL of the article.

Be responsible and question everything you read. Verify news with multiple sources before you believe it. Try your best not to spread rumors that have no basis in truth. In the world we live in today, you have to be a skeptic.

Self-doubt, worry and emissions testing

stressing out at the emissions test

For the first time ever, I had my emissions tested well ahead of the deadline. So worried that I would not pass due to car problems I’ve had recently, I wanted to get it over with and find out what problems needed to be fixed.

Figuring that the week between Christmas and New Year’s would be a less busy time to take care of the emissions testing, I went yesterday. Wrong, it was just as busy as ever.

It seems that every time the car idles for a long time, the Check Engine light comes on and it costs a lot of money to fix it.

Nail chewing time

I pulled into the emissions center in total freak-out mode and waited in line with my car idling for over a half hour. They now have a self-testing area. After briefly considering that, I decided out of fear that I wouldn’t be able to do it and would end up in the line anyway. Probably should have tried it.

Traffic jams always make me feel claustrophobic and sitting in this waiting area with many lanes of traffic completely stopped did not help my anxiety in the least. I picked the first aisle because I would only be trapped on one side and that was a little better.

There was a guy in a car in the lane to the right of me that was turning his car off and then back on when it was time to move up one car length. I considered doing this, but didn’t. When he moved his car forward it was making a terrible noise. I figured I would be seeing this guy later in the “you didn’t pass” customer service area.

There were 5-6 cars ahead of me when I got in line. With each car length forward my stomach churned and sweat appeared on my forehead. I thought to myself that maybe I could turn on the heat full blast and it would keep my engine cooler. Not sure if that makes any sense, but the hot flashes took over and I couldn’t deal with the blasting heat even with the windows down.

Another car length forward and my palms were sweating. I couldn’t sit still. To my left I could see people parking and taking their paperwork inside where you have to go once you fail the test. I knew I would be parking there soon and wondered how long I would be in line inside.

A passenger in the car ahead of me got out and took a little walk. I wondered what she was up to or if she just needed the bathroom. She came back a few minutes later. And we moved up another car length.

At this point I was in a full out panic attack. Why? I would just get a paper that said what I need to get fixed. I was sure it would be pricey, then I would have to come back and go through this horror again.

Oh boy, the car ahead of me entered the testing area. My pulse rate was high, full sweatiness and I think my eyes were crazy.

My head was throbbing now. The person in front of me got her paper and the attendant waved me into the testing area.

I could barely speak. I handed the guy my paper and money. He was telling me to turn off the car and step out while he performed the test. I felt faint. Maybe I’d vomit. I knew I looked on edge, but I couldn’t calm down.

The attendant handed me back the paper and I knew what he would say.

“You passed.” He said with the causal air of someone who says that all day long. I thought I misunderstood him.

“Thank you…” I croaked.

“You’re good for two years.” The attendant said. I’m not a hugger, but I nearly leapt from my car and embraced that guy in a full bear hug.

Disbelief

Out of the emissions testing center, I pulled out in total disbelief. I slowly drove down the road thinking that I will wake up at any minute and realize that I haven’t had the test yet. I got to the traffic light, thrust my fist upward and yelled, “YES!”

Here’s hoping 2017 will be filled with moments that end with a fist pump and a “Yes!”

Comcast: A lesson in customer service

customer service by comcastI will start by saying, this is not the type of customer service we offer Social Squids. If we did, we would have no clients. This is more of a cautionary tale.

I’ve been a Comcast/Xfinity customer for about 30 years now. Not sure why. Many problems over the years, including the fact that none of my phone jacks work any more and all of the phone wires are a mess, have been a thorn in my side. Several lines were mixed up by a Comcast technician a few years ago and no one there seems to care. The only way I can use a landline telephone is to connect it to the back of the router. Most of the outlets have bare wires showing. They never even put the covers back on them.

However, this is another story…

A couple months ago I switched from an old tv to a new, high def tv in my bedroom. I didn’t think it would cost me HOURS of phone calls to Comcast to get an upgraded cable box.

I was watching my tv with the old cable box and it was not good. I knew I needed to call, but it was not a high priority.

Three weeks ago

It all started when Comcast called me. They said there was trouble in the area and my service was probably not working. I said phone, cable and internet were all working fine. The guy (heavy accent, not in the US) asked me to see if all of the connections were tight. I checked, although did not want to crawl under a table on the floor to check where the cable comes into the house. After putting me on hold the guy came back and said I fixed it. Wow. I didn’t do anything. Nothing was loose. In fact, he asked me to tighten the cable in the back of the modem/router, but it was so tight I couldn’t make it budge. So, yea! I fixed something that wasn’t broken.

While I had them on the line, I asked if I could talk to someone about getting a new cable box. I said I didn’t want to drive all the way across town to stand in line for an hour at the Comcast store to get a new box. They could send me a cable box and I could send back the old one. Sounds great.

I had a terrible time hearing the person. It was not a problem understanding him. It sounded like he was not speaking into the phone. I kept asking him to repeat everything because I couldn’t hear him. I should have hung up at that point. My bad!

Two weeks ago

I was walking my dog, George Karl and saw a neighbor. She said she received a package from UPS with my name and address, but it was delivered to her. I thought it felt too light and small to be a cable box. I had to carry it the whole way on our walk. It was a remote. Stupidly, I thought maybe there would be a separate package with the cable box. There was printing that said “1 of 1” on the envelope. So no other package was coming.

I called Comcast and spoke to a woman who told me that anytime I call and get someone with an accent, I should hang up and call back. She felt terrible about my problem – they are always sorry. She also said would overnight me a new box that day and I would receive it on Monday. I didn’t ask for her to send it overnight, she offered that.

Last week

Walking with my dog, the same neighbor said she received another package from UPS with my name and address, but delivered to her house.

Yep, it was another remote. This time it was a voice remote, marked package 1 of 1, so nothing else was on its way.

I called Comcast, out of breath from the walk and really angry, and asked the woman if she knew what the definition of insanity was. She said, “Yes, ma’am!” The definition of insanity I was going for is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

I told my story again and the woman said she would send a new box. She also told me that Comcast never sends anything overnight. The woman lied to me last week for no reason.

I said I would like to talk to someone else about my bill and why it’s so high.

After being on hold for several minutes, I spoke to Comcast person #2 for the day. She told me she could only upgrade my services and could not lower my bill in any way. She offered me a deal where it would be $2 a month less and I would increase my internet speed and get three movie channels. But – I would have to have a contract for two years. I said I wasn’t sure if I would still have Comcast in a month, I’m not signing a two year contract and if I get another remote in the mail, I’m canceling everything. She said maybe I should speak to another department where they could lower my bill.

Back on hold… and on to Comcast person #3. She was very nice. She found a newer plan, not a contract, my bill will be lowered by maybe $30-40/month. It was the exact same deal the other woman offered me for $2 less. I agreed to the deal. While on the line, she said she would check to make sure I would not get another remote in the mail.

I would like to add that I was told I’m getting some money back every time I talked to someone. But I think I’ve also been charged a delivery fee a bunch of times. I’m sure my bill will be messed up for at least another month.

I never heard from UPS when I got the other two remotes, but I received an email this time from UPS saying that an 8 lb. package was being delivered from Cox Cable. That sounded bigger than a remote and I was guessing it was the cable box.

Great, right? I looked at where they were sending this box. NOT MY ADDRESS. My name, my city, my state, my zip code, but not my street address.

Furious now, I called Comcast back. I spoke to Comcast person #4 for the day. He was great! He said, “How about we just send a technician to your house to bring the box?” I told him he was the smartest person at Comcast. (Spoiler alert) Maybe not…

The next day a Comcast technician came over. While standing on the sidewalk outside my house, he asked if I have a dog. I said I do. He absolutely refused to come into my house unless I sequestered my dog. Absurd! He was upstairs sleeping and totally ignores people.

When the guy finally came inside, he giggled like a school girl when I told him my story. He connected the new box in about 10 minutes, activated it and was leaving. I told him to take the two remotes. He told me I should keep them. I said, “You told me neither works with the cable box you gave me. Why would I want them?”

He insisted that I at least keep the batteries. I wasn’t interested in the batteries and gave him both remotes and batteries in the envelopes that came with them.

Happy, I enjoyed watching my new cable box that evening.

Yesterday, I received two emails, each saying that I have a UPS delivery headed my way from Comcast. Wait, what????

Today

I received two large boxes with Xfinity marked on them (see photo). They are both cable boxes with DVRs (didn’t order DVRs ever). I’m so angry and I’m afraid to call them for fear of what will happen next.

Post Script

In retrospect, I feel that the UPS email was a coincidence and probably spam.

A word for the ladies…

sexual harassment in the workplaceWith all of the talk about sexual harassment and abuse in the news today, I feel like I need to go off topic and address this issue myself. I was a victim more than once of this type of abuse when I was young. The men were not billionaires or famous, just predators who thought they could do anything and get away with it at work. And they actually did.

The first situation was my boss. He constantly groped, grabbed and pinched me every single day I worked, even when his wife was there. I was happy when she worked because I knew there would be a lot less groping on those days, but it still happened.

I thought no one would have believed me if I said anything. I put up with it because I needed the job. Unfortunately, I stayed in that job over a year until I found something else.

I was in college at the time and didn’t know what to do or who to tell. I felt like it was somehow my fault, like I somehow invited his abuse. I know better now.

My fears extended to going to the bathroom because I knew he would be standing outside of the door when I came out. I would have to try and dodge him every time. I rarely succeeded in escaping. Some days I worked 8-10 hours so it was impossible to avoid the bathroom. This person terrified me. He had to know I hated it and was afraid. Perhaps that made me more of a target.

My nightmares were of him groping me. I couldn’t escape him when I was asleep. Even now, I get goosebumps thinking about that situation and how horrible it was. How did I endure this?

I wonder how many other young women put up with similar predators over the years. I never told anyone at work about this because he was the boss. Who could I tell? Telling his wife was an idea, although I probably would have been fired and branded a liar. I wouldn’t be getting any job reference from them if I suggested the boss was a molester.

The second situation was while I was a student intern at a local tv station. I worked in the newsroom and loved every minute of that job. Writing news was a dream come true. That was, until my boss asked me to go get him coffee.

He rarely asked me for such a menial task and we didn’t have a coffee maker in the newsroom even though people guzzled it constantly. I had to go up to the vending machine, where the coffee was truly awful. Why anyone wanted it was beyond me.

As I went up the stairway, I was approached by a guy at least twice my age who worked in another department. He cornered me in the otherwise empty stairwell, pushed me into a corner, grabbed my wrists and asked me how I liked being helpless. I think he was about to kiss me when someone entered the stairwell.

I shoved him as hard as I could, heart pounding like a frightened rabbit and ran upstairs to the vending lounge. I was terrified to come back down with the coffee, but I did. I figured I would just throw it on him if he came at me again. That man assaulted me twice in the same stairwell during the two semesters I spent at that job.

I was so afraid of going up those stairs. The second time he cornered me, I said I was going to scream and he told me to go right ahead. Again someone unknowingly rescued me by entering the stairwell and I took off running.

I told someone at the station after the first time and they told me that guy was “harmless.” When I said it didn’t feel harmless they told me to stop being dramatic – and this was another woman. She basically told me to grow up and stop acting like a kid. I was about 21 at the time.

I’m much older and wiser now. No way would I take that these days. At the time, I didn’t know how to get out of the situation.

If you are reading this and you are a female, please tell someone if this happens to you. If they don’t listen, tell another person or human resources. Don’t just take it like I did. Times are, hopefully, different these days. Although I wonder if they are with the conversations happening this week.

And if you are a man, I hope you never take advantage of a young girl the way these guys did to me. Who knows what kind of scars something like this leaves behind?

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.