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July 17th, 2012

In the early days of social networks, there were only a few, it was almost easy to pick which network to be on, or even easier to dismiss social media as a passing fad. Fast forward to the present day, and there seems to be a social network for nearly everything. While there are a number of networks, five really stand out.

Here’s some important information about each of the top five, as of 2012, social networks, that as a whole make up social media.

  1. Facebook. With around 900 million users, Facebook is “the” social network for connecting with nearly everyone and has become one of the main forms of communication among the younger generation. In general, over half of users are between the age of 18 and 34, and spend an average of 405 minutes a month connected. If you’re looking to connect to customers, while driving brand awareness, your company should be utilizing this network.
  2. Linkedin. Linkedin is the social network for professionals to connect with other professionals, share their experience and find a job. There are around 150 million users, 55% of whom are between the ages 26 and 44 and spend, on average, 21 minutes a month logged in. If you’re looking to connect with your colleagues, other businesses or potential employees, this is the network that allows you to do so.
  3. Twitter. Twitter is the social network that allows users to announce, or find events going on nearby. With a 140 character limit, twitter is great for those who are efficient with their words, which is apparently over 550 million people. The majority of twitter users are between the ages of 26 and 44 and spend an average of 89 minutes a month logged in. Twitter is a great way for small businesses to broadcast announcements and promotions, with the goal of driving traffic to other social networks.
  4. Google +. Google + is the closest competitor to Facebook with many similar features. There are two major differences however. The first is the userbase is quite a bit lower, around 170 million users. The second difference is users only spend 3 minutes a month, on average logged in. If your business has a Google Places page, you’re already on Google +, and with recent changes to the platform, it should become a solid network to connect with your customers in the near future.
  5. Pinterest. Pinterest is the network to discover new content and products and is one of the fastest growing social networks. Founded in 2010 and coming to prominence in 2011, the userbase is around 11.4 million and growing rapidly. What’s intriguing about Pinterest is that users spend, on average, 90 minutes a month logged in, second only to Facebook. This network is a great way for companies to drive interest in their physical products.
These five networks are by far the most popular in terms of both users, time spent logged in and overall content. What social networks you use and why do you use them? We look forward to your comments below.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
March 29th, 2012

Most businesses have started to take social media seriously. They are spending time and effort developing their profiles and reaching out to customers. It makes sense for a business to have an online presence beyond their website. Are you taking advantage of all the available options the Internet has to offer? If not, it may be time to start.

Social media, once called a fad, has become the norm and is going to be with us for some time. A large number of companies already have an online presence, and are taking advantage of the benefits that social media can bring. Here are a number of things you can do to get your social media adventures underway.

Be Clear on Social Media It’s important that before you start looking into the different forms of social media that are out there, you are clear on what social media is, and what it isn’t. Social media is a way to meet people, and share content and ideas with them. For companies it’s a form of non-traditional marketing - think of it as soft marketing - it’s not meant to be the place where you flog your products, rather a place to develop interest in your company, so people will want to do business with you. By using social media you can show people who your company is, and connect with them on a more personal level. If you are clear on what social media is from the beginning, there’s a higher chance that you’ll be successful when you develop your online presence.

Before You Launch Into Social Media There are a number of things that your company needs to have either already done, or considered, before you jump in:

  • Have a website: It’s a good idea to have a solid website with information about your company, contact information, products and services. Most potential customers will look at your website after looking searching for you online, and before they choose to do business with you, so your website needs to provide the relevant information they are looking for. If you don’t have a website, or feel yours is lacking, it’s easier than ever to get a professional looking site. With a quick search you will be able to find some competent designers.
  • Get educated: It will be beneficial to educate yourself on current trends regarding social media. This can be done by simply going to social media websites, taking the free introduction tours and reading blogs related to the sites. Beyond that you should also research your competitors’ websites and Internet presence. Observe what content they have online, and more importantly: what they don’t have. It will also help to connect with and observe industry experts, see what they post online, and note the style and tone they use. This will help provide you with a sound knowledge base from which you can then create a more effective online presence.
  • Set goals: As with any step in business, you should have a plan with realistic goals. Aim for results that are achievable for your company. If you’re a small, local IT company that focuses on providing support for banks, don’t expect to have the same massive hype that Microsoft and Apple do. Clearly set objectives and review periodically.
  • Develop a focus: In real life, you can’t be all things to all people. The same goes for social media. You need to develop a focus on what type of online content you would like to share. You should aim to create content that your customers will want to share with people.
  • Stake a claim: You should to go to the main social media websites - Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube - and reserve your personal and business usernames. This is important because it will make you look more professional by having the same username across all sites, and users will be able to find you easier.
  • Ask for help if you need it: While some companies make social media sound easy, it can be deceptively hard to master. If you feel lost, or are having a tough time with it, there are knowledgeable consultants out there who are happy to help.
Time to Get Social When you feel you know what direction you will take, it’s time to start developing your online profiles. It can be tough to decide which social media tools to utilize. Unfortunately there is no right answer. Most small businesses follow the crowd, and this means having pages on Facebook and Linkedin. This does not mean that you should join these networks simply because they have the most users. It is recommended that you follow what similar businesses or direct competitors are doing. If they are on one service but not another, do the same to begin with, but be on the lookout for new social media sites, or features being added to existing sites.

One Thing to Not Forget There is one really important thing we can share with businesses thinking of pursuing social media: it isn’t a turnkey operation. You can’t just, “set it and forget it.” To be successful, you need to be active by posting updates, news, and above all interacting with the people who reach out to you. After all, they are your customers. If you do establish your social presence but forget to keep it up to date, you will be the company that’s forgotten.

If you would like help with your social media strategy, please get in touch with us. We’d love to hear from you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
January 6th, 2012

The use of social networks has changed the way many people communicate with each other online. In the same vein, internal social networks can also enhance communications within a given organization, but only if the right policies to govern its use are developed and implemented by the company it belongs to.

With the waves created by social networking in how companies do business nowadays, many have also utilized the same principle to develop internal social networks to enhance their in-house communications as well. However, the use of this new medium of communication also requires that companies develop new policies to cover its use.

One concern that may leave you apprehensive about creating an internal social network might be the fear that it could be abused by employees. However, reports have shown that introducing an in-house social network has produced generally positive results.

As long as company policies regarding the use of internal social networks are developed and implemented properly, employees will view such a network as an extension of the workplace, and will try to put their best foot forward. Such policies must specifically tackle the use of the internal social network, and many experts recommend revising existing company rules that govern the use of email, IT resources, and even external social networks. To be on the safe side, it's a good idea to consult with a lawyer to avoid any legal problems with the policy in the future.

Who's going to be in charge? Your managers, of course. Since the social network will be for company use, it follows that department heads should be given administrative duties and permissions which they will use for moderating communications and discussions in and pertaining do their respective sections.

While an internal social network can do wonders for your in-house communications, good policies and rules pertaining to its use will be what keep it working like a well-oiled machine.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 15th, 2011

The advent of social networking these days gives smaller businesses a bigger voice in the market, allowing them to rise to a level nearly at par with their larger competitors and elevating the playing field to a battle of efficiency, cost effectiveness, and quality service rather than advertising and marketing budgets.

One of the most difficult challenges smaller businesses face is having a bigger presence in the market. While many of these companies offer good, quality services at much more affordable rates, they are many times overshadowed by larger firms that have bigger budgets to spend on marketing, advertising, and the like.

Things have changed, though, with the advent of social networking. What was once a simple, social, get-to-know-each-other tool between people on the internet has now evolved into a tool that small businesses can take advantage of in order to get their voices heard.

The gist of social networking for business is the simple concept of reaching potentially millions of people at a mere fraction of what is normally spent on advertising and traditional marketing. The wide reach of social media allows businesses to find their voices and showcase what they can do. The playing field then moves from an unfair balance of advertising budgets to a battle of service quality and value for money, as it should be and many smaller firms can compete effectively in this arena.

There are many ways to tap into the social networking phenomenon to boost your online presence and aid in your marketing. If you are interested in knowing more about this, please contact us and we’ll be glad to assist you in developing strategies that fit your specific requirements and needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic Articles
October 7th, 2010

outlook social connector CMS Outlook introduces new application: the Outlook Social Connector. With the Outlook Social Connector, you can now connect your social networking accounts with your MS Outlook account.

Outlook has long been the staple in many business communications – it is truly one of Microsoft’s feats of genius given how prevalent it is in professional correspondence between businesses and organizations today.

In order for the platform to conform and adjust to current norms, the people behind MS Outlook have now integrated social networking into the entire system through what they call the Outlook Social Connector (OSC). What the Outlook Social Connector basically does is enable the user to connect his or her email account with his or her LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, and Windows Live accounts. You’ll be able to receive updates from these social networking websites through MS Outlook.

Outlook Social Connector is compatible with versions of MS Outlook beginning with 2003 and up, and boasts features such as adding friends into social networking websites through the new Outlook People Pane, as well as receiving updates from friends and contacts whose email address is also listed in their social network account. Also, like a social network, the OSC allows you to set privacy settings and select the kind of information you want made public.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic Articles
September 24th, 2010

hand holding phoneMany companies and businesses are maximizing the use of social networks and are now implementing internal versions for their company communications. And with the addition of these new platforms in a company, there is also a need to have the appropriate policies to manage them with.

One of these purposes is the creation of internal social networks which, in a nutshell, improve communication and information sharing within the organization. While some may worry about how employees will behave when such a mechanism is put in place, the results have generally been positive – employees view internal social networks as an extension of the workplace, and as such are usually at their best (albeit informal) behaviour.

Still, it is wise to have a policy in place that governs the use of your internal social network. Experts suggest drawing from existing IT / email / external social networking rules that are already in place, and simply extending and adjusting the policy to include points specific to the use of the internal social network. Also, it’s a good idea to consult a lawyer to avoid any legal obstacles or problems in the future.

Experts also recommend that department heads be given administrative duties in the social network, since smaller companies can ill afford to hire a person to manage it full time. So in the same way that a marketing manager, for example, handles the marketing department, he/she can also moderate discussions and topics within the social network that pertain to marketing and related issues.

Overall, internal social networks provide many benefits to companies that use them, but proper management and handling is needed. Always remember that unlike external social media platforms, internal ones are directly under your control and are a part of your organization – use them well in order to better and more efficiently achieve the goals you’ve set for them.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic Articles
February 18th, 2010

hackerIn a report by security firm Websense, an alarming rise in the growth of malicious websites was identified in 2009 as compared to 2008 – almost 225 percent. The study also found an increased focus among hackers and spammers on targeting social media sites such as blogs and wikis. Social media or so-called Web 2.0 sites allow user-generated content, which can be a source of vulnerability. Researchers identified that up to 95 percent of user-generated comments to blogs, chat rooms, and message boards are spam or malicious – linking to data stealing sites or to downloads of malicious software. Email also continues to be a target for malicious activity with tens of thousands of Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo! email accounts hacked and passwords stolen and posted online in 2009, which resulted in a marked increase in the number of spam emails.

For our clients on our Managed Service plans, we work hard to ensure your systems are protected from harmful or malicious activity coming from the Internet. If you’re not under our Managed Service plans perhaps now is a good time to talk – let’s make sure your systems are safe in 2010.

Related articles

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic Articles, News
November 6th, 2009

social networkIf you have decided to use Social Networking technologies for your business in your marketing, public relations, employee relations, or any other initiative, congratulations – it’s a good move. However, bear in mind that there are some issues you should be aware of before starting.

As we pointed out in a previous post, social networks allow people to create communities on the Internet around shared relationships, interests, and activities. In business, social networks can be used as tool for marketing, public relations, sales, customer service, employee relations, and more. Many case studies show how companies are able to use social network services to generate new leads, strengthen relationships with customers and employees, and improve their business operations.

Here are some guidelines for avoiding pitfalls when implementing a social networking campaign:

  1. Filter information. Actively filter personal or private or sensively information about yourself, your company, your employees and partners, and your customers from the information you or your employees post online. Make sure that none of the information you post is covered by any non-disclosure, patent applications, or contractual agreements, which could quickly get you into hot water.
  2. Provide value. Post only information relevant to your audience online. Before any post, ask yourself: Is this information interesting and useful to my audience, or does it only serve us? Your audience will quickly tune you out if you continually post marketing fluff and self-serving promotional ads.
  3. Be truthful. Be as forthright and honest as possible. Remember that these types of media are interactive and can quickly get around. You’ll find that unhappy customers and disgruntled employees are not shy in posting negative comments about you and your company for all to see – especially if they find you evasive or less than truthful.
  4. Be vigilant. Social networking sites are a target for malware, hackers, and all sorts of online fraudsters. Before joining a social networking site, make sure to read their terms of use and privacy guidelines. How secure is their setup? Are they vetted by third-party security and privacy assurance services? Will they share your information with third parties?  Do mechanisms exist to allow you to control who can and cannot see what you share online? Find out and to protect yourself.
  5. Provide clear guidelines. Take a cue from IBM and provide clear guidelines on what is and what is not acceptable, and who does and does not speak in behalf of your company. Make sure your employees know the guidelines and follow them. Let them know that whatever they post online can remain there for years to come and could come back to haunt them later on.

Despite the risks of using social networking services, there are risks of not using them as well. If you don’t shape your image on the Web, people will do it for you. Social networks make it quick and easy to set up a basic profile, and that’s the first step toward gaining control of your business’s reputation online.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic Articles
October 2nd, 2009

social networkingSocial Networking websites are usually associated with consumer services such as MySpace and Facebook. But did you know that there are literally dozens of social networking websites out there specifically targeted toward businesses? InsideCRM.com’s editors have compiled a list of the top “50 Social Sites That Every Business Needs a Presence on” which is available online at their website.

This list is divided into five categories:

  1. Social-Media or Social-Bookmarking Sites, which allow users to share their favorite websites or track and vote upon various online articles and resources.
  2. Professional networking sites, which allow networking among organizations and individuals for business purposes.
  3. Niche sites, which target a specific community of users in a particular industry, profession, or with specific shared interests.
  4. General social media sites, which have business applications such as the popular Twitter service.
  5. Job sites, which are geared towards recruitment and talent management.

Head out to InsideCRM.com to find out more.

Related articles:

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic Articles
November 25th, 2008

social_networking_big

As a busy small business owner, you may not have had time to learn much about social networks. Or, you may think that social networking is just a way that teenagers “meet” other teenagers through the internet using applications like FaceBook or MySpace. However, many small businesses have found that social networks are a great way to get new customers and retain existing ones. According to Forrester Research (November 2008), membership levels in the leading social network sites are as follows:

What is social networking?

Social networking web sites allow you to connect with friends, family, and colleagues online, and to meet people with similar interests. The largest social networking sites have millions of members. Common to most social networking sites is the viral nature of building contact or friend lists and sharing with them. It is an exponential process. Mary knows ten people who each know ten more people – and soon there is a network of hundreds of people communicating with one another about what is happening in their lives.

When new members join a social networking site, they provide profile information about themselves and their interests. They also have the option to join groups that have similar interests within the social networking space. For example, on MySpace there are 34 group categories, each with tens of thousands of separate groups. Many individual groups have over 10,000 members. People in the groups and forums provide information to one another about their experiences and thoughts. For a small business, the utility of social networks comes from these groups with similar interests. Here is a sample comment about a local dentist I found on a recent forum post:
“Awesome Orthodontist (name withheld)! He’s got a great staff and they all have a great sense of humor … I live downtown Dallas and it’s worth the drive”.
This type of unsolicited endorsement, read by potentially thousands of people, is worth much more than a paid ad. Social network members will trust words from people just like them more than they will believe slick advertising or yellow page listings.

Social networking success story

This recent news story illustrates the power of social networking: “Electoral triumph built on a Web revolution”. As Barak Obama considered running for President of the United States, he had a meeting with Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape and a board member of Facebook. Obama wondered if social networking could help him. “It was like a guy in a garage who was thinking of taking on the biggest names in the business,” Andreessen recalled. “What he was doing shouldn’t have been possible, but we see a lot of that out here and then something clicks. He was clearly supersmart and very entrepreneurial, a person who saw the world and the status quo as malleable.” The rest, as they say, is history.

How your small business can take advantage of the power of social networking

  • Tune in to what is being said about you on social networking sites.
  • If someone asks a question that is within your expertise – help them.
  • Track online comments about your organization or your products. If there is misinformation, provide corrections.
  • Register with LinkedIn – this is a site specifically committed to linking businesses and professionals.
  • Join in. Add your own comments to the blogs or upload short videos. Who is more qualified than you are to talk about your company?

Small business owners are very busy people, and monitoring and interacting with social networks may seem like another task on your already full plate. This is where your IT consultant can help. By setting up monitoring and tracking alerts on your system, you can optimize the time you spend on these important activities. Your IT consultant may also suggest software services that help you assess the return on your investment.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic Articles