The Web For Business.com Blog

Internet marketing observations, perspectives, tips and tricks for your education and enlightenment.


Social media explodes. Here's how to take advantage of the heat.

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Internet Exploded!By now it shouldn't be any surprise that the internet "explodes" on a regular basis. Social media is ablaze with discussions and opinions about every kind of issue you can imagine. When I think of explosive topics, Rob Ford's challenges as mayor of Toronto come to mind, as do the recent allegations about Jian Ghomeshi.

The explosion of opinion online isn't surprising when you understand why people use social media. There's a lot going on in people's minds. As a business owner or someone who's responsible for marketing a business, having some knowledge of how and why social media explodes can be useful as you look at ways to better market yourself through these channels.

Here are some of the reasons people use social media.

  • Being social
  • Passing time
  • Entertainment
  • Relaxation
  • Gossip
  • Learning about other people

I've listed these six first, without comment, because I think they're fairly self-explanatory. I also think they are less important to most businesses. I'm not suggesting they're unimportant, but they're less important than these next two factors.

Social signalling

A post, tweet or status update says a lot about the writer. Every message is an opportunity for people to learn more about what is important to the writer and what the writer stands for. These messages are signals from the writer to the world that gives the reader an idea what the writer is all about. You can find out a lot about people by reading their social media posts. Information about a person's political beliefs, spiritual perspectives, parenting styles, fitness levels, financial status, lifestyle practices and more are all either on display or can be inferred from a person's post.

Imagine you were to see two posts from first-time Facebook users. One person posts a message in support of David Suzuki. The other posts a message in support of Stephen Harper. Most Canadians would, on the basis of ONE POST, be able to infer many characteristics about each of those writers. For many people, this is the point of social media. They want to let the world know what they think is important, and in turn, demonstrate what kind of person they are, or how they want the world to see them.

How do you want the world to see you and your business? What and how you post influences how clients and prospects see you. Keep this in mind as you post because you can use social signalling to your advantage. When you post messages that resonate with people's values and beliefs, you will be more successful in getting your message across.

Building communityBuilding Community

Humans are social creatures. We desire community. Creating community is a challenge, but social media platforms have given people the tools that make creating online communities easier.

Whatever social media platform you use, you have the ability to create a community. It makes sense to do this. Tie into people's existing interests by sharing information that pertains to their important issues. Discuss those issues. If you are able to create a hub of knowledge and experience for people, your social media impact will be much greater.

The challenge, of course, is to find out what your clients and prospects feel their important issues are. It's a challenge, but it's part of the marketing process. It's called research and testing.

These are only two ways social media's appeal can be used to advantage by your business. There are many more. What has been your biggest social media success? I invite you to share your experiences and leave a comment.

 

 

1 Word of Advice: Backup

Mark Kawabe - Friday, October 03, 2014

This morning, I installed Windows updates that required a reboot of my desktop computer. No problem. Done it a thousand times before.

Except this time, the computer didn't start up.

Something went click, the UPS chirped, then nothing.

I pressed the power button.

Nothing.

I checked all the connections.

Nothing.

Technology is such a huge part of our lives that we take it for granted. I don't think most people realize just how much they rely on tech. It's when things go wrong that we suddenly realize how important our smartphone, laptops, desktops or other devices are.

Fortunately for me, my work is not stored on my computer. It's stored on an external hard drive which is incrementally backed up to another drive as I work. My most critical files are backed up to a cloud storage system. It's not the most robust backup strategy, but it allowed me to easily hook up my hard drive to my laptop and continue on with my day while my desktop waits at the shop to be repaired.

Informal conversations with other entrepreneurs and small business owners reveal a startling lack of concern about backing up data. Some folks (the majority) never back up. Others back up to a second hard drive in their machine. Fewer still back up to an external device or the cloud.

I'm amazed.

In this era of cheap technology, it is inexcusable to not back up your data.

I'm not going to tell you how to do it as there are plenty of websites that will tell you how. I just hope my story provides one more reminder, one more reason, one more example that persuades at least one person to start making backups of their data.

Will you be that one? I hope so. More for your sake than for mine.

5 Ways to Identify a Phishing Attempt

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, October 02, 2014

Wondering whether that email's legitimate?Have you heard of phishing?

You've probably received an email purporting to be from your bank, or PayPal, or some other institution asking you to verify your personal information. How can you tell whether this is a legitimate email or not?

Here are a few simple tests.

1. The "Really?" Factor

Do you honestly believe your bank, or American Express, or PayPal or any other reputable institution use email as the sole method of contacting you about a security breach?

They don't, so right away, you can pretty much discount anything you receive of this nature. But if you're not sure, keep going. There's more!

2. The "Hover" Test

Often there will be links to a website for you to click on. Hover your mouse cursor over each link. Look for ones that do not go to the website of the institution you're dealing with. If the email is from PayPal, EVERY link should point to Paypal.com in some form or other.

Don't be fooled by an address that says https://paypal.com.securessl-server.ru

A proper URL to PayPal will have a / after the paypal.com part of the address. Most of the time, some links will be legitimate but there will always be at least one link (the one they want you to click on) that will take you somewhere you don't want to go.

3. Check Spelling and Grammar

I recently saw an email that had a subject line as follows:

"Re; Payp[al: Your account has been limited until we hear from you"

The rest of the message had spelling and grammar errors as well. Large companies like PayPal wouldn't send out an email with egregious spelling and grammatical errors. They just don't, so if you see even ONE error, assume it's a phishing attempt.

4. The Correlation Test

If you receive an email from a bank or credit card company talking about online fraud, check out that company's website. The fraud message you received by email should also be on their site. If it's not, the message on your screen is probably phony.

5. The Common Sense Test

If you received an email from a bank you don't even deal with, it's probably a phishing attempt. Banks you don't deal with don't randomly contact you asking you to verify your contact information. My bank hardly contacts me at all. Why would one I don't even deal with start sending me messages now? It doesn't make sense.

Phishing attempts are geared to play upon your fears and ignorance. By reading this, I hope you will be more able to easily spot phishing attempts. Don't click a link in an email unless you're sure it's a legitimate message from a company you currently deal with.

 

The Failure Right Under Your Nose

Mark Kawabe - Friday, September 26, 2014

A broken chocolate bar is disappointing, but not as much as a broken websiteHave you looked at your website lately?

I'm serious. If you have one, when's the last time you actually looked at it?

From time to time I come across websites that are broken in some way.

Here are a few things I've seen this week.

  • Videos that don't play.
  • Missing pages - linked to from recent blog posts
  • Entire websites that don't show up on iPhones (Flash-based sites)
  • Contact forms with impossible to read CAPTCHA characters

Sometimes things are broken because of a technical glitch. Other times, things are broken because of poor design. Either way, your website won't work as well for you.

My advice: every now and then, pretend you're a visitor to your own website. Poke around. Test it out. Submit a request to yourself. Sign up for your newsletter. Make sure things are functional and understandable from a visitor's perspective. Sometimes failure's right under your nose, just a click away from being discovered and fixed. You just need to look.

Think of it as house maintenance. Your homebuilder doesn't come by regularly to check on the condition of the house. A website developer doesn't check in to see if the sites they've built are working properly three months later.

You might think that everything online should just work. For the most part, things do. Then again, with all the interconnectedness we now have, sometimes technology doesn't play well together. A core WordPress update can break a plugin leaving your website in shambles. Popular tech devices may not support your website's technology.

Your website could be failing in its most important task: to get you more leads. Checking in to make sure everything works properly is one of the easiest things you can do to make sure your online presence is working properly for you. Grab a cup of your favourite beverage (or a bar of chocolate) and take a few moments to visit yourself online.

Here's to your website's health!

Who gets the domain?

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, September 25, 2014

When a business partnership goes awry, one thing that sometimes gets overlooked is who gets the business' domain name.

If one partner is keeping on with the business, chances are they assume the domain is owned by the business. This is not always the case.

When a domain is registered, it's often registered by an individual in their own name (the "registrant"). In this case, the registrar (company through which the domain was registered) has a legal agreement with the registrant. If that individual leaves the business, they can be nasty and take the domain with them.

My suggestion: if you're forming a business partnership, register the domain for the business in the company's name. That way if there's ever a split in the partnership, if one partner is planning to continue the business, they will still have legal access to the domain.

Disclaimer: This is what I've learned from my experience, but I'm not a lawyer. You may want to consult one to get more clarification on this isssue.

3 Marketing Words to Remember

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Online marketing is not a Sisphyean taskFeeling overwhelmed?

When I talk to people about their online marketing, I hear this all the time.

"I don't know where to start."

"Which is the best platform?"

"I don't have time to create content."

I get it. It's not easy. The idea that the internet levels the playing field between big and small companies is a myth because big companies have more resources than small ones. Marketing takes time, and that's often in short supply for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

My advice: stop worrying about doing things perfectly. Lists of "best practices" are interesting but they may not be best practices for you. One of my favourite marketing mantras is "Ready. Fire. Aim." This is how marketing works in my opinion. You ready your content or campaign, release it, then measure how successful it was and adjust accordingly.

READY

Getting ready means knowing who your audience is and preparing appropriate content for them. Content doesn't need to be writing. It can be pictures or videos, quizzes and contests. It doesn't need to be a major effort. Be creative! Content ideas are all around you, every moment of the day.

FIRE

Stop obsessing about your choice of platform to distribute to. Pick a popular platform and run with it to the best of your ability. Do you like Facebook? Fine. Use Facebook - as effectively as you can. Think Twitter's the thing? Great. Use Twitter - as effectively as you can at this particular moment.

Do you use software that can blast your update to twenty-five of the top social media platforms plus add it to your blog? Superb! Just get on with it already.

AIM

Save some time to see how your content fared online. What were the results? Did you get any likes or shares? Retweets or views? If you did, that's great. Figure out why and do it again. Were your results below your hopes? Figure out why and DON'T do it again.

People who are good at marketing didn't get that way overnight. Improvement only comes with effort. Just getting started is an effort, but once you're going, you have momentum. Keep on moving, keep on learning, keep on improving.

I wish you the best. Please share your stories of success!

Silence is NOT Golden

Mark Kawabe - Friday, September 19, 2014

Here's what silence sounds like online.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If your goal is to market yourself online, you're not going to get far being silent

What does silence "look" like online?

No recent website updates. When nothing's changed in over a year on your website (including your blog), what message does that send your clients and prospects?

No recent social media updates. Nothing new in a month or more on social media? Even a month is a long time in this era.

The online marketing world started with static websites, bulletin boards and email. With technology's advances, we added blogs and CMS systems that gave companies and individuals more opportunities to provide information to their customers on a regular basis. The development of social media has given companies hundreds of platforms on which to share their knowledge.

This is the blessing and curse of the online marketing world. Silence is measured by activity. A lack of activity says you have nothing to say or are inattentive. It may not be true. Many entrepreneurs and small organizations are quite busy running their businesses and taking care of their customers in the real world.

Even this real world activity can have some bearing on your online presence. Consider the various review sites that people can share their great experiences with your company. Those sites make up part of your organization's online presence.

I'm not suggesting that if your organization doesn't exist online that it will cease to exist. Thousands of businesses have virtually no online presence and yet, they're still in business. I am however suggesting your business will be enhanced by having a robust, well thought out and executed online strategy.

That means talking about what you do, sharing your knowledge and demonstrating your authority in your field of expertise. You can choose to be silent online, but I believe even a whisper is better than nothing in today's connected world.

Posting is Like Flossing

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, September 04, 2014

Floss - I mean post - for the long-term health of your businessThe quest to create new and unique content is a challenge for most people who have a website. We're all knowledgeable people, but sometimes knowing what to write about is confusing. My suggestion: read the news.

Every day, there is likely something in the news that you can share your perspective on. Why you agree or disagree. Share your knowledge and expertise. Let people know where you stand.

People do business with people who they trust. That trust is developed online one post at a time. Those pieces of information tell the story about who you are and what you stand for.

Working in the marketing field, there are always plenty of things to comment on. Sometimes I come across items through the mainstream media that are worth discussing. Other times an interesting article will be making the rounds on social media. If I'm really strapped, I look at what other marketers are talking about and share my own perspective on the topic.

I think of posting as something akin to flossing. It's beneficial to do, but because the benefits come over the long-term, most people don't do it. Regularly posting meaningful, self-generated content is a good practice. It shows people who you are, demonstrates your expertise and builds credibility. It can also benefit your search engine positioning, especially in long-tail search terms.

As with flossing, the payoff for posting is likely in the future. It's the kind of thing you would benefit from starting now if you want to realize the benefits down the road. An added bonus: if you post AND floss, you'll have a great smile to show your new clients.

Better Rankings in Google because of HTTPS/SSL - What You Need to Know

Mark Kawabe - Friday, August 08, 2014

A lockAn announcement from Google about issues that can affect search engine rankings has the power to keep people awake at night.

Google announced that they now include whether a site uses HTTPS/SSL in their ranking algorithm. There are probably thousands of webmasters scurrying to purchase SSL certificates for their clients' websites. In the near future, I expect a lot of spammy messages from domain registrars suggesting that their clients purchase SSL certificates so they can improve their rankings in Google.

This announcement means little to the vast majority of website owners.

Here's why:

  1. It will have low impact. Google said it is "only a very lightweight signal". There are more important things you can do to boost your search engine positioning than purchasing an SSL certificate for your site.

  2. It has a narrow focus. Google also says this change will have an impact on "fewer than 1% of global queries".

  3. Improper SSL application can hurt your site. Properly implementing HTTPS on your whole site will require testing, testing and more testing to get it right. Images, videos and content hosted by other sites may be blocked or will otherwise trigger a security warning to be displayed to your site visitors.

In my opinion, the vast majority of website owners do little to get better rankings in Google on a regular basis. The fact that Google is now factoring in HTTPS/SSL in their algorithm is interesting, but not interesting enough that I think site owners should be investing in security certificates in droves. There are many more important and effective things site owners could be doing to get more traffic to their websites.

For those wondering what some of those things are, here's a short list of items webmasters should be doing regularly if they care about their search engine rankings and/or getting more traffic to their websites.

  1. Add quality content to your website.
  2. Attract quality inbound links.
  3. Marketing the heck out of the content you've worked so hard to create.

If you're not doing at least one of those three things regularly, you don't need to worry about this latest change at Google. Simply put, you have more pressing things to concern yourself with. Covering the basics well before worrying about the more esoteric changes at Google will bring you more results than rushing out and installing an SSL certificate tomorrow.

Sir Richard Branson's Advice is Sound - So Why are You Still Struggling?

Mark Kawabe - Friday, August 08, 2014

Richard Branson's advice on how to market your business cheaply is currently making the rounds on social media. It's great advice. My distillation:

1) Know your core values - the reason why you do what you do -  and communicate them.

2) As an entrepreneur or business owner, you should be the one driving - and be the face of - your company's marketing.

3) Use social media to engage with your customers in an authentic and fun way and listen to feedback to understand how you can do things better.

4) Enjoy what you do and share that enthusiasm.

Wonderful advice. Very inspirational. I am momentarily uplifted.

Reality Check

I would add some items to Sir Richard's list. My suggestions are:

  1. Improve your communication skills. All of them. Practice speaking in groups. Enhance your writing ability. Focus on listening and understanding. Richard Branson would not have been effective if he were not a good communicator. He was a poor student academically and has dyslexia but has a great ability to connect with people. The ability to connect with others in a variety of contexts is a must for entrepreneurs.

  2. Be creative. We are all born creative beings. Our innate creativity often becomes suppressed by our parents, peers, educational system and sadly, by our own selves. Embrace creativity and open your mind to new perspectives. When you limit your thinking, you limit your growth.

  3. Persist. We may not have the resources or the natural talent or the charisma of Sir Richard, but we can choose to persist. If you truly believe that what you're doing is reflective of your core values and you want to make your own personal dream come true, then persist.

  4. Accept that you can't (or shouldn't) do everything. Branson didn't build his business empire on his own. He has had help all along the way. His mother re-mortgaged the family home to pay for unpaid taxes and fines that Sir Richard's record company racked up in 1971. Even though Branson is a visionary, there are many other people who have contributed to his current success.

    Building a team of people you can rely on for your business is crucial to your success. Chances are you can't do everything well. Focus on what you're good at and let your team help you with the rest.

Everyone knows the path of entrepreneurship is not easy. It's a special person who chooses this path. It's great to be uplifted by the many great thinkers of our time, but when reality strikes, it's you who is going to have to put in the countless hours of work to make your dream come true.