Friday, December 1, 2017

Stay Safe When Using Public WiFi

Princeton Technology Advisors website development design SEO managed services WiFi
If you leave your home today, you’re bound to come across more free public WiFi hot spots than ever before. They can be great for getting work done, checking your email, managing your social media activity, and generally staying connected. However, public WiFi networks can also be a major security risk. Here’s what you need to know about using free public WiFi and how you can keep yourself safe.
Avoid Public Hotspots
Many WiFi hotspots are set up in public places by organizations that are willing to give you some free bandwidth in return for you supplying an email address or phone number. Never give up such personal information to get online. Also, it’s known that hackers can set up free WiFi networks to steal information from gullible people looking for free bandwidth. Instead, stick to the advertised WiFi networks that have been set up by a coffee shop, hotel, library, or whichever venue you’re in.

Stick to Using a Secure Connection
That little padlock that appears in your browser’s address bar when you are on a secure connection or website is especially important when you’re on public WiFi.

Princeton Technology Advisors website development design SEO managed services WiFi

Think long and hard before doing anything important across an unsecured connection. That's because it’s going to be much easier for someone else on the same network to grab account access information or data that’s transferred when you use an unsecured connection.

When using mobile apps, you’re at the mercy of the app developer for its wireless security. Stick to apps from big, well-known names while on public WiFi to limit the risk. Although, that’s not a guarantee of security.

Turn WiFi Off When Not In Use
When you’re finished working online, turn on "airplane mode" or turn off WiFi on your wireless device. That’s not only a good security habit to get used to when you’re using unsecured networks. It will also reduce your battery usage since your device will not be powering the WiFi radio.

Keep Your Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware Up to Date
Always keep your anti-virus and anti-malware software up to date. This is even more important when you are online using unsecured WiFi networks. Some public WiFi networks have been known to send ads while you browse. Good and current protection software will keep you safe from this type of malvertising.

Use a VPN
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when you are connecting to an unsecured WiFi network. A VPN routes your internet activity through a dedicated, encrypted server. When you have a VPN and you are online, you establish a secure connection to the VPN server, locking out anyone on the same network as you. All of your transferred data is encrypted between you and the VPN service provider.

VPN services, while extremely helpful, are not foolproof. Using a VPN can't protect you if you unwisely download ransomware or give up your data to a phishing attack. What a VPN can do is to protect you against snoopers on the same unsecured network looking to collect data for their later use.

Have Your Own Mobile Hotspot
The best protection from an unsecured WiFi network is not using one at all. Instead, use a mobile hot spot, or tether your device to your smartphone and use your wireless carrier’s data plan. Doing so gets you off the unsecured network. This is both safer for you, and you are not competing with others for public bandwidth. Make sure you have a data plan for your hot spot device that will support your online use to avoid data overage charges.

No matter what steps you take to try and stay secure, remember that public networks are inherently more exposed and unsecure than the ones at your home and place of work. If you’ve got banking or online purchasing to do, avoid typing in passwords, usernames, credit card details or anything else that could be of use to someone else who might be scanning the same network. Don’t be afraid to get connected while you’re in public. Just make sure you are careful when you do.


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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

What is Your Brand?

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room.” - Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon. Mr. Bezos' quote expresses the truth about branding. It's about personal connections and human emotions. Good branding increases the value of your company, and makes acquiring new customers easier. So, let's discuss how to create and promote your brand...
Your brand represents the sum of people’s perception of your customer service, reliability and reputation. Branding yourself means to develop a unique professional identity and message that sets you apart from others in your industry. Building a brand helps you to create trust with your target market, and it helps to create loyalty so your customers continue to keep coming back and provide referrals. Since your brand is in the eyes of others, you must promote and portray your brand in the way that is easy for them to understand, and how you want to be known and remembered. Here are the 4 things that are most important to your prospects and customers:

Who are you?
Your brand starts with you since it is you. Start by taking an objective personal inventory. We all think we know ourselves pretty well. However, a personal inventory is an essential step in building your brand. Start with your passions: What makes you want to dig deep to deliver? What are your talents? What areas don’t interest you? Where are you weak? Understanding what you are best at is understanding you and your brand. Then, you should be able to briefly introduce yourself in layman's terms, not with business titles and terms, so it's easy for others to understand. As for me, "I am an information technology consultant with my own company, Princeton Technology Advisors".

What do you do?
While “What do you do?” may seem synonymous with “Who are you?”, it really is more of the next step of defining your brand. So, the answer must be different. Most people respond to that question with what’s printed on their business card. Starting with your job title can be presumptuous because it tells the other person that you assume s/he knows what it means. That person may not. Instead of defining yourself by your role, do so in terms of how your role impacts the others: Your clients. That does a better job of opening the door to a conversation. For me, I say, “I provide information technology solutions and training to small business and non-profit organizations with little or no in-house technology resources.”

Why is what you do important to others?
In the end, you may be working to serve your own needs. To that end, and to be successful, you need to serve others. You need to demonstrate to your clients that you provide what they could not provide for themselves. You need to define for your clients the types problems you understand uniquely well, and the solutions you can deliver uniquely well. What I offer that is important is, "I help make it easy for you to understand the meaning and value of the technology your organization needs".

Promote Your Brand
Once you create your brand you need to build and promote it. You should be writing, teaching and speaking about your areas of expertise on a regular basis. Write articles for professional journals, social media sites and blog sites. Speaking and teaching engagements are opportunities to be seen and heard. Start small and keep building. You may not land high-quality engagements immediately. But if you keep at it, you'll build your following and get invited to speak at bigger and more notable venues. People will begin to develop the confidence that you are the expert they must engage with if you write, teach and speak about your areas of expertise.

Show your audience that you have expertise in your field and that you are willing to share your knowledge with them for their benefit. Then, people will be saying wonderful things about you when you are not in the room.


Click here to contact me regarding this or any other blog topic. Also, I welcome comments, which you can post below.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Keep Safe from Computer Hacking

Computer hacking is identifying weaknesses in computer systems or networks, and to exploit those weaknesses to gain access. People who engage in computer hacking activities are called hackers. While many hack out of simple intellectual curiosity, some have less noble motives and are interested to steal or change information, or conduct destructive activities.

Who Are the Hackers?
Computer hacking is very common among teenagers and young adults, although there are many older hackers as well. Many hackers are true technology buffs who enjoy learning more about how computers work and consider computer hacking a kind of “art” form. They often enjoy programming and have expert-level skills in one particular technology. Their intentions are not nefarious.

Some hackers are professionals hired by organizations or governments. Their role is essentially to commit acts of espionage or disruption against other organizations or governments.

Some companies actually hire computer hackers as part of their technical staff. These individuals use their skills to find flaws in the company’s security system so that they can be repaired quickly. In many cases, this type of computer hacking helps prevent criminal hackers from gaining access to the company's system.

Why Hackers Hack
Hackers hack because they can. For some hackers, breaking into someone's computer is simply a challenge. They may not specifically intend to do damage to the computer. The thrill of simply gaining access is often enough. Some are eager to gain notoriety by demonstrating they can defeat a computer system. While others have criminal intentions, such as stealing information which they can sell or to cause damage systems.

What I need to Protect from Hackers
You need to protect your data. If your computer is hacked and the contents of the hard drive are deleted or destroyed, you can always reinstall the operating system and other programs. Your data is most important, and you must protect that accordingly.

Ways to Prevent Hacking
  1. Update your operating and other software from the manufacturer frequently, if not automatically. This keeps hackers from accessing your computer through vulnerabilities in outdated programs.
  2. Download up-to-date security programs and associated security definition files, including antivirus, anti-malware, and anti-spyware.
  3. Implement a strong password policy:
    • Use the 8+4 rule for your passwords. That is, the minimum length of your password should be 8 characters. Plus, include at least 1 of each character in these 4 categories:
      • Upper-case letters
      • Lower-case letters
      • Numbers
      • Special characters (e.g. !, @, #, $...)
    • Change your passwords often - about every 60 days.
    • NEVER share your account user ID or password with anyone.
  4. Use 2-step authentication for any online service that offers it:
    • The first step is entering your user ID and password.
    • The second step is that the service you just logged into will send you a random code to your personal device (e.g. phone, tablet, or laptop). Once you receive the code, you will enter that in the appropriate place on the screen. That means a hacker would need both your user ID & password and your personal device to access your account. Adding two-step verification adds only a little time to your log-in process, and could potentially save you a lot of trouble.
  5. Look out for suspicious emails. A lot of hacking attacks are performed through malicious email. "Phishing" sends victims seemingly innocuous emails that will lead victims to fake websites asking to update their personal information. Check the email address from the sender to see if it matches the website you think it’s from. For example, emails from Microsoft typically end with "...@microsoft.com". It should not look like "microsoft@another-domain.com" or "...@mmicrosoft.com" (extra character), etc.
  6. Keep sensitive data off the cloud. When your data is in the cloud, the security is managed by the cloud storage company. Don't assume their security protocols are as diligent as you need. When using cloud storage solutions, use those that offer encryption. Encryption encodes the data which can only be decoded with a specific key. Stealing encrypted data files is virtually useless.
  7. Don't download email attachments (e.g., pictures, games, electronic greetings) unless it's from someone you know. They may contain programs intent on causing harm.
  8. Backup your data regularly. If a hacker accessed your computer and decides to delete or encrypt your data. You can recover your data from your backup.
There's no way to 100% prevent your computer from being hacked. Hackers continue to hack and look for computers with vulnerabilities. However, being vigilant and diligent will greatly reduce your risk, and keep your computer and data safe.

Click here to contact me regarding this or any other blog topic. Also, I welcome comments, which you can post below.


Friday, September 1, 2017

Should I Open a Presentation With a Joke?

Steve Martin
An "ice breaker" is an activity in public speaking that is designed to immediately engage the audience and to get them ready to hear what you’re about to say. Many presenters attempt to “break the ice” by starting their presentation or speech with a joke. So, let's examine if that's really the best thing to do...
Why a Joke?
There’s a good reason that the established wisdom around public speaking tells us to begin with a joke. The right joke can get you off to a roaring start. It establishes common ground between you and the audience. It relaxes the audience and gives them permission to participate in the discussion. And it relaxes you. 

Getting a big laugh at the beginning of your presentation is tremendously reassuring. However, your audience will be made up of many people with different experiences and sensibilities. It's possible that some may take the joke out of context. In that case, the misplaced humor can come back to hurt you and your presentation.

Jokes NOT to Use
Sarcasm - This is generally used to mock someone or to give pain. Since that is typically not the primary goal of your presentation, do not use sarcasm in your presentations.

Offensive jokes - These are generally meant to offend and upset people. Because your audience is not attending your presentation to be offended, you should not make offensive jokes.

Jokes that require long, complex set-ups - If you have not yet bonded with the audience, they may not be willing to listen to a long set up. In some cases, these can confuse your audience, who may start wondering what your presentation is actually about.

Jokes That Can Work for You
Modest jokes - A light chuckle is often better than a failed belly laugh, especially at the presentation's beginning. Don’t feel like you have to bring the house down right way. Especially since you are actually not giving a presentation meant to be a big laugh.

Self-Deprecating jokes - These allow you to poke fun at yourself, and can work well at the outset. They express a certain level of trust you have in your audience, and you can show that you are accessible to them.

Gentle, topical jokes - Find a joke that relates to something that will already be on the minds of audience members. Jokes about the venue, a minor technical issue with your presentation, the theme of your topic, or a timely piece of pop culture should go over well.

In Summary
Humor is extremely powerful when used effectively. A good joke can loosen up your audience and make them more receptive to you as a person as well as to your message. Be aware that humor can have a negative impact on your audience. A bad joke can be worse than no joke at all, which can cause you to lose your audience before you really get started.

Click here to contact me regarding this or any other blog topic. Also, I welcome comments, which you can post below.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Social Media: A Real World Success Story

Who do you think recently is the most successful user of social media for professional promotion? Politics and political issues aside, I offer that President Trump is that person. Primarily, he uses Twitter as his platform of choice for communicating directly to his audience. However, 2nd to him might possibly be me!
I was recently interviewed for the "Secrets of College Planning" show on Princeton Community TV by Anthony Uva, the show's host. We discussed Information Technology topics that would be helpful to high school aged students looking to enter a college or technical school after completing high school. The broadcast date for my appearance was Friday, May 19, 2017. Since the broadcast, I learned that my appearance twice registered in the Top-10 list of broadcast views for Princeton Community TV shows in June and July. In fact, my appearance was the station's number 1 show for July. Why was that?

Princeton Community TV is a local television station with a dedicated following of viewers and show hosts. Being local community television, it of course has a relatively limited broadcast range and limited viewership. However, they do post their programs on their own Princeton Community TV Vimeo channel, making the shows available world wide via the internet. Vimeo is an internet based video hosting website which allows users to upload and share video content. That was my key to getting my show robust attention.

I used several social media platforms to announce my appearance on the show. My platforms of choice, which I regularly use professionally, are LinkedIn, Twitter, Email Marketing and blogging. In LinkedIn, I posted that I appeared on the TV show to my network connections, and to each of the LinkedIn groups where I am a member. I emailed my entire list of over 1,600 email contacts, and I tweeted. The result of my social media campaign increased viewership to my appearance on the show via Vimeo, I generate additional traffic to my own website, and I even received a few requests asking of my availability to speak with prospective clients.

Social media is a tremendous resource for growing your professional brand awareness and your business. When you have a presence on social media you are able to promote your professional brand by quickly sharing content with a wide audience. In addition, you make it easier for your customers to find and connect with you. Not only does social media help you direct people to your website, but the more social media shares & likes you receive, the higher your search engine (SEO) ranking will be.

Social media is a big topic and there are many relevant platforms. If you are new to using using social media, it may even seem overwhelming to start. But, it does not need to be. Think of the old joke, how do you eat a 1,000 pound elephant? The answer of course is, one bite at a time. So, start using social media in the same way. Start with only one platform. Use that for a while and until you get comfortable with it. When you are very comfortable, add another social media platform. As for which social media platform to start using, use the one that you determine your audience members (prospective customers) use. Also, look to use the one that your competition uses the most since they are already communicating with your prospective customers.

Click here to contact me regarding this or any other blog topic. Also, I welcome comments, which you can post below.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Search Engine Optimization: On-Page vs. Off-Page

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a digital marketing strategy focused on growing visibility of your website in organic (non-paid) search engine results. SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings and increase awareness in search engines. There are many aspects to SEO, from the words on your page to the way other sites link to your website on the web. Let's begin to look at On Page and Off Page SEO...


Why Your Website Needs SEO
The majority of web traffic is driven by the major search engines (e.g. Google, Bing, and Yahoo!). Although social media and other types of traffic can generate visits to your website, search engines are the primary method of navigation for most internet users. Search engines provide traffic to your website from people looking for what you offer. Traffic to your website can provide income, exposure and promote your brand. If the search engines cannot find your website, your website is functionally irrelevant. Thus, you miss out on the opportunities to drive traffic to your website.

How Search Engines Search
Search engines perform two major functions: crawling and index building. The result of crawling and index building is what allows the search engines to rank websites and match users with the most relevant results to their search:
  • Crawling - Search engines have automated robot programs, called "crawlers" or "spiders". The purpose of these programs is to run all the time to reach the many billions of web pages and documents. Then, it sends the information it finds back to the search engines.
  • Index Building - Once the search engines receive the web page information from the crawlers, they decipher the relevant information from them and store that in massive databases to be recalled when needed for a search query. Index building is the process of organizing and relating all of the information in the massive databases.
Keywords
Keywords are the words and phrases that internet users type into the search box of a search engine to find websites that match for what they are looking. They are very important for every website since they drive targeted traffic to your website. When done well, using the right keywords can greatly increase website traffic.

On-Page SEO
On-page SEO refers to the content on your actual website pages. Your focus is the act of optimizing different parts of your website with relevant keywords, which will affect your search engine rankings. Some of the the biggest factors in On-Page SEO to consider are:
  • Title Tags - Put your targeted keywords in the title tag of each page on your site. 
  • Headings (H1 tag) - Headings are usually the largest words on the page, and for that reason, search engines give them a little more weight than your other page copy.  Work your target keywords into the headings of each web page. But, make sure you accurately reflect your page content.
  • URL Structure - Put keywords into your web page URLs if possible. However, do not change any of your current web page URLs just so they have keywords in them. That's because the SEO you have already earned will become broken.
  • Alt Text For Images – This is text that isn't visible to the website visitor. Search engines crawl images as well as written content. So, inserting some relevant keywords that accurately describing the image will help search engines understand your web page's content.
  • Page Content - The content on your web pages needs to useful to people. It needs to be easy to read and provide value to the end user. Be sure you create content on your website targeting the keywords that will be relevant to online searchers and search engines.
  • Internal Linking - Linking internally to other pages and documents on your website is useful to website visitors, and it is also useful to search engines.
On-page SEO ensures that your website can be read by both potential customers and search engine robots. With good on-page SEO, search engines can easily understand what your site is about, navigate the structure and content of your website, and rank your website accordingly.

Off-Page SEO
Off-page SEO is the process of getting other websites to link to your website. Those links are called back links. When search engines find back links to your website, it increases the relevancy of your website in the search engine index.

Do I Start with On-Page or Off-Page SEO?
Don't choose between on-page and off-page SEO. On-page and off-page SEO work together to improve your search engine rankings in complementary fashion

On-page SEO is typically quicker and easier to implement. The reason why is that you should have the ability to change any of the visible and hidden content on your own website. So, start with on-page SEO. Ways to build back links to your website for off-page SEO are:
  • Add your website link to your social media pages (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Blog, etc.).
  • Ask friends, business associates and vendors to add your website link to their websites. In exchange, offer to do the same for them.
  • Promote your website via social media and other digital marketing platforms to create interest. Encourage those content readers to add you link to your website.
  • Offer to write content, articles or blog posts for other website. In your provided content, put a link to your website.

Click here to contact me regarding this or any other blog post. Also, I welcome comments, which you can post below.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Draw More Clients to Your Website

Your website is very important to the success of your business. The primary reason why you need a website is that your customers expect you to have one, just like they expect you to have a business card. Once you build a website you must give your clients a reason to visit. While primarily a passive form of marketing, here are some suggestions for driving more traffic to your website...

Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of getting traffic to your website organically and for free in the search results on search engines (e.g. Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.). SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines. While this is a topic that is too large for a small section in a blog post, here is a summary of the 2 areas you need to focus on for SEO:
  1. On-Page SEO is the act of you optimizing different parts of your web site that affect your search engine rankings. It's stuff that you have control over and can change on your own website, such as page text, various HTML tags, and internal links.
  2. Off-Page SEO increases the relevancy of your website by getting links on other websites to your website. Essentially, it increases relevancy because if demonstrates how the "world" views your website..
While on-page and off-page SEO work together to improve your search engine rankings, On-page SEO is the one that you should initially spend time on. It's the one where you have the full control to make updates and improvements.

Add a Blog Page
Search engines love fresh content. There's no better way to provide fresh and frequent content than with blog posts. You will build trust and clout within your professional community by providing valuable, expert information via your blog posts. Over time, you will become a trusted resource for helpful, informative content, which can ultimately lead to a higher customer conversion rate. If you are already blogging, then post more frequently. This is a form of on-page SEO.

Join in a Blogging "Community"
Become a guest contributor on other related and relevant blog sites and online journals. Doing so, you can drive targeted traffic to your site by exposing you to a wider and established audience. In addition, you will demonstrate yourself as an expert in your field. Within your content, add a link to your website. That is a form of off-page SEO which you can easily drive and implement.

Get Social
It’s not enough to produce great content on your website and hope that people find it. You have to be proactive. One of the best ways to increase traffic to your website is to use social media channels to promote your content and drive traffic to your website. Twitter is ideal for short, snappy attention getters called "tweets". LinkedIn is the number 1 social media platform for B2B* (business-to-business). Also, YouTube is tops for promoting video content. If you are a B2C (business-to-consumer) organization, you will get the most traction with Facebook*. Also use YouTube and Instagram if your content is largely images. Don't forget to include your website link in your social media channels and activity.

Pay-Per-Click Marketing
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) marketing is a way of using search engine advertising to generate clicks to your website instead of “earning” those clicks organically via SEO. Every time your ad is clicked, sending a visitor to your website, you pay the search engine a small fee. You do not pay a fee when the search engine displays your ad, but the searcher does not click your ad. Google AdWords (https://adwords.google.com/) is the most popular PPC platform. Although other search engines and social media channels offer this service.

Your entire PPC campaign is built around keywords. These are the words/phrases that people use to search in the search engines. When someone searches using the keywords that are in your campaign, your website ad will display in the search results. The most successful AdWords advertisers continuously refine their PPC keyword list.

Email Marketing
In today’s dynamic digital marketing world, email marketing tends to take a backseat to most online promotion activities. If you haven’t considered email marketing for your business, now may be the time to do so. Email marketing is a targeted, shareable, credible, measurable, and cost-effective marketing tool. Using email marketing, you can create deeper and more personal relationships with a wider audience, and at a very low cost. With a targeted approach and a strong message, your business is sure to benefit from email marketing.


While wanting more customers is the primary desire for business owners, then next desired item is increased website traffic. Implementing any of the above strategies can help increase traffic to your website. While some of these strategies won’t be a quick fix, you may be surprised how quickly some of them start to generate results for you.


Click here to contact me regarding this or any other blog post. Also, I welcome comments, which you can post below.


* 2016 B2B Content Marketing Trends - North America: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs
   2016 B2C Content Marketing Trends - North America: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Are Telephone Landlines Obsolete?

Communications for Research, Inc.
CBS News recently published a story about a U.S. government study on May 4, 2017 which reported 50.8 percent of homes and apartments had only cell phone service in the latter half of 2016. It is the first time such households had the majority in the survey. And, more than 39 percent of U.S. households have both landline and cell phone service. So, what’s going to happen to yesterday’s telecommunications technology?

The main difference between a landline and cell phone is the way they complete calls. A landline has a wired connection that connects it to the telecommunications network and uses wire telephone lines to transmit calls. Cell phones use radio waves to transmit calls. You have unlimited mobility because you are not connected to a wire. However, you have to be able to connect to your provider’s network. If you are in an area where your provider has spotty or no coverage, you may be susceptible to dropped calls or no service.

One of the proponents of getting away from the copper wire landline network is actually AT&T. Their current landline infrastructure has served us all well for about 100 years. But, it is aging, becoming expensive to maintain and no longer meets the communication needs of their customers. For people and businesses that still have a need for a landline service, internet-based telephone (VOIP - Voice Over Internet Protocol) service provides a faster and higher-quality service than traditional landlines.

Young people have been the first to totally cut the landline because cell phones are so much more practical when moving frequently. They take their cell phone from home to a college dorm to an off-campus apartment to their first home away from their parents, all within a period of about four years. A smartphone is also the smart choice for frequent travelers who are rarely home long enough to answer a landline.

Think about the last time you answered a call from your landline phone. It might have been some time ago. And it was likely either a wrong number or a sales call. There might be the occasional reason when you require the landline. For example, you may need to use one to call and find your misplaced cell phone. Also, some calls can be more expensive if made on a cell phone. With the cell phone becoming the main tool for communication, we no longer have a strong need for the traditional landline.

While a landline is the best calling option when you have an emergency at home, emergencies can happen anywhere. If you experience an emergency when you are not at home, you can quickly and easily contact the authorities for help with a cell phone.

So, should you cut the cord and get rid of your landline? The answer is… it depends on you and your family’s needs. Do you have young children in the house that don’t have cell phones but need a way to communicate? Do you need to use a phone more when you are not near a landline? Are you confident that your mobile phone is enough in an emergency situation?

If your cell phone is going to be your only phone, make sure you have a device that’s reliable, has a long battery life and has excellent sound quality. Invest in an extra battery to make sure that your phone never goes dead. In addition, have a mobile charger for your car, which you can also use to charge and power your cell phone should your home power go out.


Click here to contact me regarding this or any other blog post. Also, I welcome comments, which you can post below.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Conference Call Security Tips

Those of us whose job involves a lot of travelling, work with remote clients or work in an organization with many remote staff, know that conference calling is very beneficial. One issue which doesn’t appear to have caught up with the growth of this practice is the establishment of its security to prevent unauthorized access to a conference, and the ability to host calls. So, here are a few things to keep in mind regarding the security of your conference calls.

Do not Share your Chairperson's Pass Code with Others
Only distribute the participant's pass code to the conference call participants. The chairperson's pass code is only for use by the chairperson. So, keep that secure.

If you are the Chairperson, Always use your Chairperson's Pass Code
Always use your chairperson pass code when dialing into a conference where you are the chairperson. It gives you access to some additional commands that enable you to control and manage your conference.

Take Attendance
The obvious need to take attendance is to ensure all required participants have joined the conference. From a security perspective, taking attendance ensures you are aware if there are any unwanted participants in the conference.

Monitor the Number of Lines
Some conference call services allow you to manage calls via the service's website. If there is a discrepancy between the number of lines in the conference and the roll call, you can remove unwanted callers via the service's website.

Lock Your Conference
Some conference call services allow you to lock the conference call once all participants enter.  This feature is valuable when you do not want additional participants to join your call after it has begun.

End the Conference
Use the "end the conference" feature to ensure that your conference ends when you hang up. That will prevent anyone lingering on the conference, and will prevent anyone from using the meeting for their own conference after yours has ended.

Change Your Participant Pass Code
If you do not regularly change the participant pass code, it is possible for someone who was invited to a prior conference to join future conferences. Changing your participant pass code will prevent unwanted participants from joining future conferences.

Limit Recurring Meetings
If you host recurring meetings, anyone with those meeting details and knowledge of the time of the meeting will be able to join even if they are no longer supposed to be involved.

Don't Schedule Back-to-Back Conferences
If you schedule two separate back-to-back conferences with two separate groups of people, and you use the same participant pass code for both, it would very easy for participants from the first call to stay on the line for the second call, or for participants from the second call to join in early. Keep your conference calls separated by about 30 minutes to limit unwanted conference attendees.

Don't set "Start Without Host"
Disabling this feature will prevent participants from talking to each other before the chairperson joins the conference. In the end, it will prevent people with the participant pass code from trying to use the conference service for their own conferences, and without the need of having a chairperson.

Change Your Chairperson's Pass Code
Check your call log on the service's website to make sure that no unplanned conferences have occurred. If you see any unplanned conferences, or feel that your chairperson's pass code has been compromised in any way, immediately change your chairperson's pass code.

Thank you to my long-time friend Andy Hladek, IT Director at Princeton Information, for suggesting this terrific topic and contributing to the creation of this post.


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Saturday, April 1, 2017

When to Not Use Social Media

Social media for your business or profession is no longer optional. When you have a presence on social media, you make it easier for your clients & prospects to find and connect with you. By connecting with your clients on social media, you’re more likely to increase customer retention and brand loyalty. However, there are some times when using social media to communicate is not appropriate. Let's discuss some of those occasions in this post...

Having Sites Where You are Not Active
Having social media sites where you are not active can be viewed more negatively than not having a social media presence. Without a social media presence, you may not easily be found online. Or, you may not effectively promote your products and services to your clients. However, clients finding inactive sites may decide that you are not effective at doing your job. Or, you do not complete what you have started.

If you are new to social media, start using social media slowly. Start with 1 social media site. Only add a new social media site when you are comfortable with your ability to effectively use that site. 

Only Use Sites That Add Value for You
Be active only on the social media sites where your clients and competitors have a presence. 

Developing a presence where your clients are is quite obvious. It gives you the opportunity to increase your social media marketing effectiveness, and maximize your return for the time you participate on social media to  promote your service offerings to clients.

Developing a presence where your competitors may seem less obvious. However, it is equally important. Your prospects are searching for the information and services they need. It's the same information and services that your competition offers. If you want clients and prospects to find you, you need to be where they are searching. Not convinced? Drive down any street to look for a fast-food restaurant. You'll find several within a few blocks. The fast-food restaurants already figured out that you will likely not make your dining selection until you see the available restaurants in front of you.

When it's Better to Engage with People 1-on-1
Online interactions do not replace personal interactions. Social media can thrust you into a wider audience. But interacting directly with your clients and prospects once a connection is made will create a stronger bond than with social media alone. Your clients will learn more about you, your service offerings and value proposition via direct conversations. They will begin to trust you which will increase the opportunity to convert that conversation into a sales transaction.

Use Social Media For Business or Personally, not Both
If your primary driver for using social media is for business, then don't (or at least minimally) use it personally. Social media is a very public platform. You may be posting comments or opinions just to friends and family. However, social media does not have such limits. It's likely your commentary will be found by your customers. It your posts and views do not align with your business or clients (e.g your political or social views), it will be perceived negatively by your clients.

When Going Through a Legal Issue (business or personal)
When you are going through any legal issue, either personally or in business, it's very likely that your opponent will gather all available information about you that can help them make their case. While we think that means negative information, positive information you post can be dangerous for your case as well:
  • Venting about the issue in progress can have a damaging effect during the negotiation. You may be using social media to vent frustration, complain about the progress of the case or negotiation, or you may be posting negative information about your opponent. When you opponent finds this negative information, they may likely use it against you.
  • Showing off your successes can have a negative impact as well. Posting pictures of your new expensive car, discussing the nice vacation from which you just returned, or informing your reader that you inherited money can impact a case where you want to limit an expenditure. As an example, if you are being sued for a large amount of money, you may make it harder to defend the amount in the suit if you boasted about the expensive car you just bought.

Social media is a wonderful tool for networking and marketing. However, even social media has a risky side, with its use or the information found sometimes having a negative impact. Therefore, use social media wisely.


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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Social Media for Authors

It used to be that authors would write their book, hand it to their agent, and let the publisher do the work of editing, publishing, distributing, and marketing it. Now, authors can use social media to perform the tasks of publishing, distributing, and marketing on their own more easily. This also enables new authors to self-publish when passed over by the traditional publishing companies.

Sadly, if you are not found online, you are functionally irrelevant. The same can be said about your work. Social media allows people to share and promote information by using the internet and other communications channels. Among those communications channels are your website, social media sites, email marketing and e-commerce. Searching the internet, you can find websites, social media sites and other content meant for any industry. Since I am presenting "Social Media for Authors" to the 2017 Winter Writers Weekend in New Hope, Pennsylvania on March 4, 2017, I chose to discuss this topic at this time.

Your Website
Writers (all professionals) must have a website. Today, more and more consumers use the internet to search for the products or services they need. Hence, your readers expect you to be there. A professional website gives you and your publications credibility. It's your platform to demonstrate your interests, knowledge and expertise to your readers. If you and your work are not yet known, this is where people begin to find out about you.

Social Media Sites for Authors
Amazon - Amazon started as an online bookseller in 1994 via Amazon.com. It has since grown to become the largest internet-based retailer in the world. Amazon offers 2 self-publishing services:
  • Kindle Direct Publishing is a free program that helps authors self-publish their book as eBooks.
  • CreateSpace is a fast and easy way to self-publish paperbacks. It also offers on-demand printing, eliminating the need for you to maintain inventory.
goodreads is a social media site that lets users track and rate books, and network with other readers. The site is free for readers. Authors can also promote their books via pay-per-click advertising.

Issuu is a digital publishing platform for magazines, newspapers, portfolios, catalogs, corporate literature, DIY guides, community programs and more. It's free to use with a publishing limit of 100MB, and paid subscriptions are available when you want to exceed the free limit.

Scribd is a digital documents library that allows users to publish, discover and discuss original writings and documents in various languages. The site is free to use and try for 30 days. Then, there is a moderate monthly subscription after the free period.

Email Marketing
Email Marketing is using email to send newsletters, offers, invitations, event notices and more to grow the visibility of your brand and business. If new to email marketing, start by using the email addresses of your friends, family and coworkers. Then add your networking contacts and people that ask to connect with you. Most people have email, and email is the most popular app on smart phones. Therfore, email marketing is less expensive and more effective than traditional mail campaigns. When using popular email marketing software such as MailChimp and Constant Contact (the two market leaders), you will have access to their analytical tools that will show you the performance of your email campaigns.

E-Commerce
E-commerce is the purchase and sale of products or services via electronic channels such as the internet. It’s also known as “online shopping”, and allows your customers to electronically buy goods and services from you with no barriers of time or distance. E-commerce can be implemented on your website, via your social media sites, or via one of the available e-commerce service providers such as ebay, Amazon.com, Shopify and many others.

To benefit from social media, you need to build a clear strategy that takes into account what you're trying to achieve, who your customers are and what your competition is doing. As an author, use any or all of the tools I identified in this post. Start with your website. Then, add one social media communications channel. As you become comfortable using that one communications channel over time, consider adding another. Before you know it, you with have a robust social media strategy and have significantly grown your online presence.


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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Email Marketing Best Practices

Email Marketing is when you use electronic mail as your means of communicating messages directly to an audience. It presents more opportunities for your business and drives a better return on investment than other forms of outbound marketing.

Here are some "best practices" to follow for you to create an effective email marketing campaign...

Know your Target Audience
Targeting a specific audience allows you to focus your campaigns on a specific group of people that is more likely to read your message and respond as intended. In addition, sending a message to the audience not within the target is likely to increase the number of recipients that mark your message as Spam or choose to unsubscribe. In that case, you will not be able to reach those recipients later when you send a message intended for them.

Communicate on all Devices
Email is the #1 app on mobile devices, and more than 50% of email opens are on mobile devices. So, your email messages and email marketing service must be able to deliver your messages in a mobile-friendly format. Some email service providers can accommodate presenting your message in the best format for the reader's device.

Write a Great Subject Line
Your email subject line is often the first piece of information about your message that the reader will see. A successful campaign starts with a subject line that grabs the attention of your reader. As per Convince & Convert, 35% of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone.

Use a From Name & Email Address They Will Know
In addition to the subject line, the from name and email address of the sender are among the first information from your message that the reader will see. As per Convince & Convert, 43% of email recipients click the Spam button based on the email from name or email address.

Include a "Call to Action"
A "Call to Action" is the part of the message that requests the reader to take an immediate action, such as to sign up for a demo, call you for specials or direct the reader to your website. If your call to action is not clear, you may not get a good result from your campaign.

Limit Photos and Images
Some email hosting companies will mark in-coming messages as Spam when there is a high ratio of images to text. That is because some senders mask their inappropriate content by including it the image since Spam filters cannot "read" the content in the image. Additionally, the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 requires that each commercial email message have at least 1 written sentence.

Track Campaign Performance
Using an email marketing software product (e.g. MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc.) provides one key advantage over using your own email service provider. That is, you can monitor the performance of your campaign. These software tools allow you to track how many people opened your email campaigns and see exactly what they clicked. Then, you can make decisions about how to proceed with contacting your readers who have or have not opened or clicked on your email campaign.

Be Careful when Buying a List of Email Addresses
You need to be very careful when buying or renting lists of email addresses. Sometimes they are of sufficient low quality that a large number of the unsolicited messages you send will be marked as Spam. When that happens, some email providers will close or lock your account to prevent you from continuing to send Spam messages.

Where to Get Email Addresses
The best list of email addresses will be from the people you know, or have already started a professional relationship. Go through your own email address list of friends, family and business associates. Include the contacts you have from LinkedIn and other social media sites. Also, use the names and email addresses from business cards you collected.


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Sunday, January 1, 2017

More Free (& Low Cost) Tech Tools for Business

Because of the positive feedback and follow-up questions I received from my last blog post titled, "Free (& Low Cost) Tech Tools for Business", I decided to start 2017 as I ended 2016 by providing you with additional free and low cost tools for your business.

Happy New Year!

Social Media Marketing
Social media websites and apps enable users to create and share content, promote their business and service offerings, and to participate in social networking. Social media marketing is the process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media sites. To effectively grow your business, you need to draw traffic to your website.

Facebook is the most popular website and app of all time. Facebook reported that as of the third quarter of 2016 it had 1.79 billion monthly active users. While Facebook has a large business presence, it has a larger consumer presence making it the number 1 website for use in Business to Consumer (B2C) marketing.

LinkedIn is the most popular business website and app. LinkedIn reported that as of the third quarter of 2016 it had 467 million active users. The Content Marketing Institute reported in 2016 that LinkedIn as the number 1 website for use in Business to Business (B2B) marketing.

Twitter, the very popular micro-blogging service, reported that as of the third quarter of 2016 it had 379 million monthly active users.

YouTube, Pinterest & Instagram are social media platforms used to host and promote video and images. This form of social media marketing is increasing. The Content Marketing Institute reported in 2016 that YouTube is the number 2 website for use in B2C marketing and the number 3 website for use in B2B marketing.

Are you not sure of the effectiveness of social media marketing? Look back at the 2016 US presidential election season. The candidates posted their content in social media more than ever before. That content was then picked up and reported by other organizations and people. Begin to use social media marketing to grow your business.

Business Email
Having a business email address (e.g. my-name@my-website-domain.com) is much more professional than using a free service for your business email (e.g. my-company@yahoo.com). Google, GoDaddy and other web hosting and internet service providers offer business branded email for about $5 per mailbox. The primary requirement is that you have already registered the website domain that you want to use for your email address. Google and GoDaddy also include up to 30 alias email addresses. With an alias you can create additional email addresses (e.g. support@my-website-domain.com, billing@my-website-domain.com, etc.), and all messages sent to the alias email address will go into your email box. If you want those email message to go into their own email boxes, that will cost an additional $5 each. Google also includes a 15 GB Google Drive, plus their suite of business apps with the one account.

Anitvirus Software
Antivirus software is a must-have for any PC. Without this, you risk losing your data and picture files, personal information, even money from your bank. As per PC World magazine, there are several free products that are well rated. For a Windows PC, consider Avast Free Antivirus, AVG AntiVirus and Panda Free Antivirus. For a Mac, consider these as recommended by c|net Avast Free Mac Security for Mac and Avira Free Antivirus for Mac.

Conference Calling
With FreeConferenceCall.com you get unlimited free domestic phone conferencing for up to 1,000 participants. Accounts also include free recording of calls and free video conferencing with up to 1,000 participants. The company makes money by selling other premium business features.

Website Analytics
You cannot truly measure the effectiveness of your website and related marketing campaigns without looking as the utilization and performance statistics associated with your website. Understanding those statistics will allow you to improve your website promotions and user engagement. Google Analytics is a free web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. Once you open your account, you place a small piece of web programming code in each web page. That code reports the user activity on each page.

Business Development
The Small Business Administration offers business education and advice without an agenda. On the US Small Business Administration’s website (www.sba.gov) you can find information about writing business plans, tips for starting a business, information about how to finance your business, and more. It’s a wonderful resource for beginning and veteran business owners.

Your local Small Business Development Center, which is sponsored by the SBA, helps small business professionals and entrepreneurs start their businesses through free business education, consulting, and mentoring services. Visit the SBDC website (www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/sbdc) to find your local center.

For over 50 years, the non-profit business association SCORE has provided education and mentorship opportunities to help small businesses start up and achieve their growth goals. The SCORE website (www.score.org) provides free online training as well as scheduling of confidential in person mentoring services throughout the country from volunteer entrepreneurs with years of business ownership experience.


Technology does not need to be costly to be effective. They key to using technology, or any tool, to grow your business is to define the challenge you wish to tackle. Then, you can search for and identify the tool, even a free or low cost one, to help you overcome that challenge.


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