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We found this recently on a newsletter we receive from our local Chamber of Commerce and we liked what it had to say …

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There are lots of “experts” explaining the rules for marketing on-line and, while there’s value in good advice, when guidelines become rules, they need to be examined.  Here are five ‘truths’ you need to question as you use Internet marketing for your business.

#1-Social Media has changed EVERYTHING.
Hardly!  Yes, consumers now give more public feedback on your products or services, but leads still need to be generated and sales need to be closed. Before there was social networking there was REAL networking; face to face, at an event or meeting.  The only difference now is people talk about events using a different media.  Instead of two people around the water-cooler, now it’s a posting or a wall update or a tweet.  Same concept – just a different medium.

#2-You need to have a LOT of Followers. Not so!  Quality beats quantity any day, and you will always achieve better results by marketing to a small group of serious fans and supporters than trying to sell a one-size-fits-all product.  Sure, the more followers you attract to your blog or the larger your network, the better the chance of reaching a customer when they’re about to make a purchasing decision.  But don’t think that just because you don’t have an on-line fan base in the thousands that on-line marketing isn’t right for you.

#3-You can’t measure Social Media ROI. Of course you can!  There are hard numbers like the traffic social media sends to your website, and the conversion rate for that traffic.  (Your contact form should ask “How did you hear about us” and options should include Twitter, FaceBook, Google etc. to give you accurate counts).  And there are soft numbers like how many people viewed your latest YouTube video, or how many comments you’re getting on your blog.   There are tools you can use to measure the ROI social media generates for you.

#4-You can’t sell on Social Media. Very False! Dell has sold millions of dollars of computers and accessories through Twitter promotions.  Coffee shops use Twitter to take orders that are then ready when you arrive.  Companies promote themselves using location-based applications like ForeSquare or Gowalla.  This doesn’t mean you should just spam everyone you can reach (it’s the quickest way to lose followers or even get banned) but when you put the right message in front of the right person at the right time, sales happen.  And on-line and social marketing outlets reach customers when they are actively searching for you.

#5-You HAVE to be on Facebook (or Twitter, or have a blog…) Wrong!  You need to focus on the sites and applications that are already being used by your target audience.  Best way to determine this?  Ask.  Then be where your customers are.  (you should still reserve your space on as many social media platforms as possible, if only to keep competitors from claiming the space and to be positioned if trends change and a particular platform turns into a popular hang out for your audience)

There is no rule that’s right for every company, but one truth about any marketing initiative you undertake is this; provide value!  Every tweet, ad, posting, Point-of-purchase sign, or status update must provide value to your customer.

Although we are not a web design firm we thought you might find it helpful for us to open a brief discussion regarding some web site related IT concepts.

Business/company web sites can generally be split into two types:

“Information sites” : Often referred to as brochure sites

“Business transaction sites” : Where an actual commercial transaction happens and which usually has information about products and/or services as well.

Business transaction sites come in an incredible variety and richness of client interaction.  If you own such a site, you already know more than what we plan to share today as the vast majority of our clients own a brochure type site.

Many web designers have a low opinion of brochure web sites.  We believe that this low opinion is often unwarranted and sometimes comes from the desire of the web designer to build something more challenging.  In reality a good brochure web site will suit the needs of a majority of businesses, especially if you sell Business to Business.  Most consumer sales companies would benefit from a transaction web site.  There are plenty of good firms locally that are very capable to help you design a great transaction site.

If you are selling to businesses and if the majority of your sales are dependent on personal connections and relationships, a good brochure site can suit your marketing strategy perfectly. We are IT advisors, not marketing specialists, but we know that the vast majority of your prospects will visit your web site before they visit your store or office.  Your site becomes the first impression prospects get of your business – therefore a nice site is critical for your success.  Only one more marketing comment and then we’ll discuss more technical ideas – and it is that you must make all your materials consistent with your branding, especially your web site.  Make sure you get a good marketing advisor to help you get a great brand.

Once you have a good web site you want to bring prospects to your “doorstep” just like you want prospects to come to your store or office.  You have to make it easy for them to find you.  When you design your website make sure you ask your web designers and web programmers to build your site to be “Search Engine Friendly”.  Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a combination of programming techniques and file naming practices that make it easier for search engines to direct people to your site who are looking for the services or products you offer.

Your next website tactic is to advertise so that your site is “featured” by the many different search engines available.  This means that you acquire the rights to be featured (usually on the right hand side of the list of sites created by a search).  Again we recommend getting some help from a marketing advisor as the process of getting the best return for your advertising dollar is a combination of art and science.

First you need to choose what words your prospects will use in their search for your product or service.

Second you need to acquire the rights to be featured when these words are searched.  This is usually done by a bidding process that in itself has many variations by regions, time of day, and other market segmentation considerations.

The one thing we can assure you is that in today’s world it is likely the most effective form of advertising you can use… once you have a great web site.

Article Link

I know this is a subject that can be rather contentious with alot of people. We’ve encountered all different types of opinions on this subject….

Opinions range from “I just download music and don’t really think about it” all the way to “I know it’s illegal but who cares because the musicians are rich enough and won’t miss it” …

Very quickly the lines can be drawn with with Subjective/Opinion based arguments on one side and Objective/Fact based arguments on the other side …

We find that with this subject it’s no use getting into the debate based on Subjective/Opinion based arguments because they are just that … Opinions … and you’re often spinning your wheels trying to convince people either way.

Here’s the facts that we know for sure …

1) Downloading Music that you have not paid for or that you have not been given express permission to download by the publisher or artist is illegal and is an infringement of copyright law

2) LimeWire and other file sharing services are absolute cesspools for virus and spyware activity. A simple Google search of the term “limewire virus risk” reveals many examples

These two points are not debatable and are fact …

In our company we have had many examples practically of how LimeWire and other file sharing services have propogated virus and Spyware activity to the point where it renders machines useless and they need to scrubbed and reloaded.

This ends up sometimes costing hundreds of dollars in recovery costs which sure makes $0.99 or $1.29 a song on iTunes seem pretty reasonable …

Would love your feedback on this subject … feel perfectly free to disagree and we’d love to hear your opinion!

There are many different “pieces of the puzzle” in play when it comes to building an I.T. environment that effectively serves the needs of it’s end users …

If you were to “shadow” a typical end user in an organization, whether large or small, you would get some very interesting insight into just exactly how many separate and distinct tasks a person performs in a typical day:

  • Sending and Receiving E-Mail (both on their PC/Desktops/Laptops and their Mobile Devices)
  • Typing Documents
  • Printing
  • Accessing an accounting and/or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Application
  • Scheduling Appointments and Managing “To Do” lists …

Over time, as more and more is required of the typical end user, and businesses grow, the size and complexity of IT Environments at organizations, both Large and Small, has slowly, and sometimes quickly, increased ….

As users also become much more mobile it also adds another “wrinkle” into what needs to be considered when planning an effective IT environment …

What’s Going On In The Background …

So far we’ve only talked about the actual end user themselves. There is so much more that has to go on in the background from an IT Management standpoint in order to effectively and securely deliver these services to the end user …

It’s one thing to, for instance, offer up email services to a number of end users, but what about properly securing that email from Virus and Spam content? What about securing the content of those emails?

There’s also the issue of Backup of all the data that users will access on a day to day basis …

If there’s a system crash of some sort you have to know for sure that your data is both secure and easily recoverable in a way that minimizes business interruption …

Going Forward …

Organizations are always looking for ways to become more efficient and lean and they are looking for ways, where it makes sense, to reduce the complexity of their IT Environments, make it more secure and increase performance.

If you make cars, candy or furniture that is what you do best … you’ve invested the time, energy and resources to be the best you can at your craft and you take pride in that …

Technology is there ultimately to serve “you” … not the other way around …

There are a number of technology providers that offer services to help you reduce the complexity and increase the security of your IT Environment by hosting certain “pieces of the puzzle” offsite. These services are hosted in secure data centers where huge investments in performance and security have already been made so you don’t have to.

If you take advantage of these services the only thing you need to worry about is just connecting to the service and doing your job. There is no need to invest time and dollars yourself into all the infrastructure and security needed to deliver these services to your end users.

It all comes down to doing what you do best and letting others do what they do best …

SaaS (Software As A Service) offerings are available for E-Mail Operations and Security, Mobile Connections, ERP and Accounting Software, Office Documents and a number of other day to day business functions…

Every company and business environment is different and we recognize that and we also know that there is no cookie-cutter solution that applies to everyone…

However, if you ever find yourself not quite knowing if your data is secure, wishing performance was better or just wishing your entire IT environment was smaller and leaner then perhaps looking at a SaaS offering for certain pieces of your technology environment is a good idea, if only just to discover what options there are …

It would ultimately reduce your stress level and allow you to just concentrate on doing your job and “using” the tools as opposed to worrying about delivering, managing and securing those tools as well …

We’d love to hear your feedback on this subject and as always we’re here to help…

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This is a great article because it actually touches on a number of items related to Facebook. Some of these are real issues of security and safety whereas others are issues of social appropriateness and time wasting …

It’s a good read all around ..

Our company had a very difficult situation on our hands yesterday …one of our clients, a large hotel, had a rogue machine on their network that was spewing out Spam at such a torrid pace that Shaw (their ISP) shut down e-mail operations for the entire hotel …

This was all precipitated by an end-user getting a pop up on their workstation saying that they had hundreds of viruses on their machine and did they want to download something that would clean it…

The client clicked on the link to download what was being suggested … WHAM .. the hook was set and the machine started spewing out it’s garbage …

Tip #1 : If you ever get a prompt like this on a PC you are working on … no matter how legitimate, colorful, convincing or desperate looking do not under any circumstances click on it … call an IT professional to deal with it …

We first got wind of this issue when the client called and said they could no longer send email but could receive it just fine ..

A call to Shaw (their ISP) was made and we were informed that their “Senderbase” score was Poor and that this triggered and automatic shutdown of Outbound E-Mail (Port 25) traffic from the hotels site … This meant we had a machine on the network that had been infected with something.

We come to find out that Senderbase is the worlds largest email and web traffic monitoring network and it’s served up by Cisco who’s likely the largest provider and enterprises class security and networking products in the world.

This was an excellent tool that told us right away that we had a huge problem on our hands. We looked up the IP address assigned to the hotel by Shaw and immediately found out that we had a nearly 1200% increase in Spam traffic from that address …

Tip #2 : Try going to Senderbase and looking up the TCP/IP address assigned to your home/business and see how you rate. You can find out your TCP/IP address by going to http://www.whatismyip.com if you don’t already know it.

We managed to track down the offending machine by monitoring the Bandwidth internally and identified some major spikes in traffic from one machine in particular and we shut that machine down and will try to clean it or reformat it …

There’s some valuable things to be learned from an experience like this …. feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or feedback on this …

Article

Let’s face it … Vista especially did not make a really great impression with much of the end-user or corporate community when it first came .. or for that matter ever since that point …

Windows 7 seems to be getting much more favorable reviews than Vista did since it’s release and seems to be much more well received than Vista does …

Well it appears that the Windows XP that we still want to hold on to because it’s familiar is leaving us more exposed to vulnerabilities than it’s successors, Vista and Windows 7 …

Check out the article link above and let us know what your experience has been …