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March 13th, 2013

SocialMedia_March12_BWhen it comes to social media, each user has their network of preference. Many chose to use more than one, and because of this, trends from one tend to transfer over to others. One such popular idea, first launched on Twitter is now being used on almost every network. Yes, we are talking about the hashtag (#). Love it or hate it, it could help your networking.

The hashtag (#), commonly referred to on telephone systems as the pound key, is a character first used by users of the popular social network Twitter. According to the help forum on Twitter, "It is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages."

Look at nearly any Twitter message and there will usually be hashtags attached. If you were to search for the term e.g., #Cloudbackup on Twitter, you would get a list of all tweets that have mentioned the above example. When Twitter talks about a 'trending topic' it means a subject that has become popular.

This way of categorization has become so popular amongst Twitter users that it's starting to spill over onto the other networks. Instagram for instance has given members the ability to add hashtags to pictures, so that they can be added to groups which can subsequently be searched for. Even Google has gotten in on the act, with Google+ and YouTube both supporting this system.

With Facebook, the hashtag has come to give context to a status. You've probably seen some status updates such as: I love Mondays #sarcasm #bored. This should be read with a sarcastic and slightly bored tone.

Because of the usefulness of the hashtag, some users have become overzealous in their use. Reading a Tweet that says '#Friday is #awesome, here comes a #fun #weekend.' just looks unprofessional and could put off followers.

While effective, there are some basic rules you should follow to help get the most out of your hashtags. Here's four.

  1. No long hashtags. Hashtags are meant to be short and associated with one word. Don't make the mistake of adding more than about two words together, as the likelihood of users finding the tag will decrease. e.g., #Cloudservicesareawesome should be avoided, use #cloudservices instead.
  2. Minimize their use. It can be tempting to hashtag every keyword in messages, however makes them look weird, while decreasing their readability. It is a good idea to limit use to one or two per message.
  3. The hashtag is special. Don't use it for everyday words. Instead use it for product names, or a special part of the announcement. Remember that you don't have to use hashtags in every message. Check out Samsung Mobile's Twitter feed to see a good example of proper use.
  4. Use a unique hashtag. If you can, try to use a unique hashtag, something that followers will be able to associate and relate to you. The key here is that when it's used, the user is referred to you, and only you. Do a quick search on Twitter for the hashtag you would like to use, to ensure it's not taken. Many companies will shorten their tag to initials or a shorter term, which is perfectly acceptable.
Hashtags, when used correctly, can be a great way to build brand identity and increase social media presence. If you are looking for a social media plan, please contact us today to see how we can #expandbrands.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 13th, 2013

SocialMedia_Feb12_BAs a species we are social, needing relationships to survive. That's likely why social media websites have taken off so successfully. They give us a way to interact, even when we are physically alone. Companies have found that these sites are great marketing tools that can build a brand better than almost any other method. One social media use, often overlooked, is learning more about a job applicant coming for an interview.

Here's three steps you can employ to learn a bit more about potential hires before they come in for an interview.

1. Google them Googling yourself can be seen as vain, however putting a potential hires name into Google Search is smart. You can enter their name along with specific queries that can help you narrow information down. One thing you can do is enter their name with double quotes around it and the city they are based in, this will help you find their presence on related social media sites. You can also put their area code, zip or postal code to narrow down the search.

The point of this is to help you find more information about the person without having to search on individual social media sites. This will also return results like photo albums, recent account activity and maybe even some hobbies and interest groups. Searching on Google, or other search engines is a good way to see if the prospective employee is legitimate.

2. Take a look on Facebook Almost everyone and their dog are on Facebook, so don't forget to search for them on this popular service. With the recently announced Graph Search, this should make searching a lot easier too. Enter their name, along with some specific interests or information from the resume and the chances of finding this person's profile go up.

While some would argue the ethics of doing this, you may see information or posts that counter information in the resume, or even paint a better picture of the applicant. For example, you can ask them about their family when they come in for an interview. It could prove to be a great ice breaker.

3. LinkedIn Most social media sites focus on the social aspect of people's lives, while LinkedIn focuses on the more career and professional oriented areas. Searching for the candidate on LinkedIn can often shed more light on their history, and may even showcase common links between you and them. If you notice that the candidate worked for a previous employee, you could contact that employee to see if they have any thoughts about the candidate.

Researching your future hires is a good idea because it can help you learn more about them than you might otherwise do from just an interview. It also gives you a bit of a deeper understanding of if they would be a good fit for the company. If you would like to learn more about how you can leverage social media in your company please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 8th, 2013

Social media has taken as one of the major change agents to modern society. Its popularity has found over a billion people on one service, Facebook. Here people can connect with one another in ways previously unheard of, and it's Messenger app allows users to chat with with one another through its Messenger app. It's not surprising this platform is so popular and a recent update leverages VoIP to add even more functionality to Facebook.

In early January Facebook announced that they had started testing free calling to contacts over Facebook Messenger. This feature was tested in Canada for all users with an iPhone, and turned out to work well. So, in late January Facebook rolled this out to iPhone users in the US as well.

This new service uses VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology, commonly found in many business's phone systems, to offer users in Canada and the US the ability to call other Facebookers using the Messenger app for free.

Calls can be made via your data connection or over Wi-Fi on your iPhone. No love for Android as of yet, but we are sure it's coming soon. If you use the Facebook Messenger app, you should be able to use it now. You can call other users by:

  1. Opening the app (or download, install and open it from here) and find the person you would like to call.
  2. Tapping on their name to start a conversation.
  3. Pressing the "i" button in the top right of the conversation windows and selecting Free Call.
The user you are calling will see a notification on their phone similar to the one when you get a phone call over your cell network.

Will businesses benefit? It's hard to say whether businesses will find this feature useful at this time. If your employees use iPhones, and are often in an area with poor cell service but a decent data connection, this is a free way to stay in touch.

This could also prove a good way to deal with public complaints on your Facebook page. You could encourage the person to take the complaint offline and talk to them, as long as you both have an iPhone.

In reality however, most businesses will likely not use this feature at this time. However, there is a good chance that Facebook will release more business oriented calling features in the future which could give you another way to contact clients.

What do you think? Will you or your employees use this feature? Let us know, and if you have any questions about VoIP, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
January 16th, 2013

New Year is always exciting. It's an opportunity to look back on the past year and reflect on what you did right and wrong. It's also perfect timing to look forward at what the year ahead brings. One thing businesses should look into is what 2013 will bring in terms of social media. One of the easier ways to do this is to think about which social media trends will be popular.

Social goes mobile The way people view information is changing thanks to increasing adoption of tablets and mobile devices. The adoption rate is forecasted to rise in 2013, with the number of users who view your content on mobile devices soon overtaking those using a more traditional browser.

Because of this, the use of web technology that resizes text, images and other content to any screen size, will become even more popular. What this means for social media managers is that you will need to keep mobile users in mind when developing content and ensure it can be easily viewed on tablets and smartphones.

Visual marketing Visual marketing is the use of video, images, infographics, etc. to get your message across to your target audience. The key to this type of marketing is that it enhances brand memory, recall and identity.

Social media sites like Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook, are perfect platforms that, with effective use, can create an awareness that resonates with target groups, creating increased engagement.

While this marketing concept isn't new, you can expect to see more companies focusing on developing more content that's visual in nature throughout the next year and beyond.

Content marketing (B2B) When it comes to B2B marketing on social platforms, companies have been using content as the main brand driver. This takes many forms, including: Papers, ebooks, infographics, webinars, etc. For example, infographics have proven to be valuable tools in increasing brand awareness. Most companies are well aware of this and it's hard to find a business that doesn't have some kind of content on their website.

In 2013, you can expect to see many enterprises turning to social media platforms like Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, etc. to develop and share content. Couple this with an increase in visual content and there will be an increased trend for smart marketers to develop engaging posts that are also visually appealing.

Google+ is a Google must Google is playing the long game with it's social media platform, Google+. While it currently isn't anywhere near as popular as Facebook, Google is making changes to the platform and turning the service into a central hub for managing your online presence - when it comes to Google that is.

Last year, Google rolled out a number of services, such as Local, into Google+. This forced businesses with a Google presence to use this service to manage it. This trend will likely continue over the next few years, with the slow release of valuable services that are exclusively for Google+ users and force users to switch to them.

In other words, for companies using Google's services: Google+ is a Google must.

Facebook remains king. For now! Despite a disappointing IPO last year, Facebook is still #1 when it comes to social media. This likely won't change in the near future. Facebook is well aware of this and will continue to take steps to keep users.

We can expect Facebook to introduce a premium version of Pages, along with increasingly powerful analytics tools. Alongside this, their mobile advertising service will likely mature into a viable business option. What this means for businesses is that they will need to keep on top of these offerings and figure out how to best leverage their content.

These are just five social media trends for the coming year. Have you identified any more? What do you think will be the biggest change to social media in 2013? We're interested to hear your thoughts.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
December 19th, 2012

There are always articles extolling the virtues and advantages of social media, and many of them have good ideas that can really help businesses. One thing many of the articles don't focus on is how employees feel about using social media in the office. A survey and report published earlier this summer did just that and came back with some interesting findings.

The report, published this past summer by Kelly Services reported on social media in the workplace, and highlighted findings and opinions from three major regions: The APAC (Asia Pacific), The Americas and the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). Below are some interesting results on the use of social media in the business environment.

Social media at work by region Social media and it's use in the organization is a hot-button topic. Many argue that by allowing employees to access it at the office, they will spend all day surfing their personal accounts and not doing any work. The study found that an average of 30% of employees across all regions feel that it's ok to access their personal accounts while at work. Interestingly enough, the APAC has the highest percentage (48%) of users who think social media access at the office is acceptable, while The Americas had the lowest (16%).

Social media use at work by generation Going a little deeper into the use of personal social media accounts at the office, the survey breaks down the numbers by generation. Not surprisingly, Gen-Y (36%) are the most inclined to think it's acceptable to access social media while at the office. What is interesting about this is that 30% of Gen-X also think it's fine to access these services while at work.

These statistics go to show what most people already know: Younger generations are more embracing of social media. This does run counter however to prevailing thought that all Gen-Y and X want to do, and think it's okay to do, is access social media in the workplace.

Impact of social media on productivity Experts are always saying that social media can help improve productivity in the office. While this may be true, the study found that over 40% of respondents find that social media hampers productivity in the office.

You might predict that Gen-Y, with their higher levels of embracing social media, would think drastically different from other generations. However, the findings say otherwise: 49% of Baby Boomers, 44% of Gen-X and 40% of Gen-Y believe social media hinders productivity.

Impact of social media on work/personal relationships Look a little deeper at the downsides of social media in the report and you find that slightly lower than half of all respondents, regardless of age or location, feel that mixing work and pleasure connections can cause problems in the workplace.

What do the numbers mean? By themselves, the numbers really confirm what we already know - social media is important but the way it's used and viewed differs enormously. Put the findings from the survey together and an interesting picture emerges. The acceptance of social media is growing, and will continue to do so younger more social media savvy generations join the workforce. Social media may be a main form of communication outside of the office, but when it comes to personal use in the office, the majority are not as comfortable with it.

While use and acceptance is growing, this report's findings highlight that many employees still feel that social media is more of a hindrance than an improvement to the working day. This is interesting, because a decent percentage think it's acceptable to log onto such sites in the office, while arguable knowing it causes a decrease in productivity. This is a conundrum all businesses are facing: Do we allow social media to blur the lines between work and life, or resist it? Look around, it's plain to see it's creeping into work and being met with mixed results.

The question this report raises, and doesn't answer, is whether social media and its use by employees at work for personal reasons is a good idea. The truth of the matter is social media isn't going away and reports and findings like these emphasize a need to understand how people embrace and use these platforms. From this understanding it's essential to develop policies that everyone feels comfortable with. Above all, it shows large differences of opinion which indicates a real need for flexibility.

We'd like to know what your thoughts are on social media and how it's currently used in your office. Do you embrace or resist? Let us know.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
November 21st, 2012

The world has changed. Thanks to companies like Amazon, many people no longer go to brick and mortar stores, they now shop online - commonly referred to as 'e-commerce'. While this has led to somewhat of a downfall for physical commerce - the main street is looking a little vacant these days isn't it? E-commerce has given mom-and-pop operations a chance to compete with big business. One way they can get noticed is through the use of social media services like Pinterest.

Pinterest is different from the other main social networking services because don't usually share written content, rather you pin photos to an online pinboard that other users can view and share. If a user shares, or 'pins' one of your pictures all their friends can then see it and can repin it on their boards, and so on. The potential result of this is that one picture can be seen by hundreds of thousands of users - commonly referred to as 'going viral'.

What this means for you is that there is potential for your business name/brand to gain massive exposure and an expansion of your existing customer base. Here's how to get your Pinterest marketing started.

  1. Take pictures. As Pinterest is all about images, you should take pictures of the products you sell, or interesting aspects that define your company.
  2. Create an account with your company's name. You should do this soon, as Pinterest is the quickest growing social network; many of the more popular usernames are being snapped up.
  3. Create a relevant description. If users have never heard of you but like the content you pin, they will usually check your description for more information. This means your description needs to pop. The most effective descriptions give a brief overview of what you do, specialities, interests and links, so users can find more information. Don't make the text too long, users won't read it (that's what your website is for).
  4. Identify and create boards. Based on the pictures you have taken, and your main business offerings, set up boards based on these images. Many companies take the product categories from their website and create a board for each, then add related pictures.
  5. Invite people to view your boards. Using other social networking services, email, newsletters or day-to-day conversation, invite your friends, employees, colleagues and customers to view your boards.
  6. Promote yourself. To get existing friends, customers or otherwise to view your boards, place a banner on your website and a Pinterest sharing button near content you already have on your boards. If people are browsing your website and find a picture or some content they like, and have a Pinterest account, they will be more inclined to share.
  7. Branch out. As this is a social network, you need to be social. Follow other users, companies and friends. Along with that, create boards that allow you to pin and share other content.
The seven tips above help you understand how to go about starting a Pinterest marketing campaign, but many businesses are still asking the question, "Should we be on Pinterest?" If you run a product based website e.g., restaurant, jewelry store, clothing store, etc. then it's an amazing site. Take a look at the infographic published last month by FastCompany: 12 of the top 15 categories are associated with commerce. If you run a shop that sells products that cater to a female audience, Pinterest is almost a must as nearly 80% of the users are female.

For other websites, Pinterest can help bring out the human side of marketing. By sharing your interests in products that are somewhat related to yours, or the values of your company, people can get a better glimpse of who you are, what you're about and what you do. For example, if you run a small restaurant that focuses on locally grown or sourced food, pictures and sharing interests in the local area can help emphasize this.

As with any social network, you do need to be active on a regular basis. Aside from that, don't use Pinterest to sell, instead look at it as a tool that helps users get a glimpse of what makes your company special. This then encourages them to visit your website, where the selling happens. If you're new to Pinterest or would like help with your social marketing, please contact us, we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
November 16th, 2012

Landline phone systems are quickly going the way of the dinosaur, with companies having to have either digitized or leave the traditional phone behind. This digitization is commonly referred to as Voice over Internet Protocol, or simply VoIP. One of the most popular VoIP platforms is Skype, which is currently owned by Microsoft. Skype has recently been updated, which makes it a little less Skype and a lot more Microsoft.

A few weeks ago, Skype Version 6 was introduced which allowed users with a Microsoft account to sign into Skype using their account name and password and have access to their Microsoft contacts. This move, of Microsoft backing a non Microsoft branded product, was seen by pundits as an interesting one, but it works well for those who use both Skype and Messenger. It means you don’t have to have two programs to do essentially the same thing; communicate.

Last week, Microsoft announced that Messenger will officially be merged into Skype. This means if you use Messenger, you will have to switch to Skype. This should automatically happen the next time you update Messenger. This may seem like a weird move, but there are some great benefits to this merger that will make both Messenger and Skype more competitive. Some of the benefits to the merger include:

  • Messaging on more platforms - Skype is available for nearly every platform, which means you can communicate on nearly any device.
  • Central hub for communication - With this update, you can call phones, conduct video chats and use Instant Messaging all from one place. There is no longer a need to have 3-4 different programs open.
  • Group communication - If you are looking for a free platform that enables you to communicate with a group, say your team or employees, Skype allows for this.
  • Screen sharing - You can share your screen on Skype, which is ideal for giving product demonstrations, or even showing a PowerPoint presentation during a chat.
After you update Messenger or Skype, you'll be taken to the sign in screen and will be asked if you are an existing Skype user or a new one. If you are an existing user, you can click I have a Skype account and you’ll be taken to a new screen where you can merge your Messenger and Skype accounts. If you are new to Skype, you can sign up for a new account by pressing I'm new to Skype. Follow the signup process during which, you will be given the option to merge your accounts.

When you sign in and merge your accounts, you will see all of your messenger contacts synced and available under Contacts in the left-hand panel. Messaging a contact is as simple as double clicking on their name. To call you press the green phone button icon when you hover over their name. Alternatively, you can right click on the name and select either Call, Instant Message, Send Files, etc.

Skype is an ideal VoIP solution for light call volumes and inter-office messaging in small businesses. However, if you handle a high volume of calls, or are in a larger office, you will need a more robust system. If you're interested in a VoIP system for the whole office, regardless of if it's Skype or some other setup, contact us, we can help with that.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
October 17th, 2012

Professional social networks like LinkedIn are a great way for professionals, experts, companies and job searchers to connect with one another. Like any social network, LinkedIn does take a bit of work in order to see benefits. If you have an account with LinkedIn there are some things you may be doing wrong.

Below are five common mistakes professionals make on LinkedIn.

  • Using it only for job searches. One of LinkedIn’s most powerful tools is the job search, as you can tap into the hidden market of jobs, or reach out to contacts for potential for potential openings, or to hire them. The only problem with this is: Many LinkedIn users only use the network when they are actively looking for a job. You should make an effort to keep your profile and connections up-to-date and be active even when you’re not looking for a job or to hire.
  • Having an incomplete profile. One of the key aspects of any social network is your profile. It’s the online representation of who you are, and an incomplete profile is like an incomplete picture of who you are. At the very least, you should have information about all the important companies/jobs you’ve had and your main achievements associated with them. Having industry recognized keywords sprinkled in helps as well; it makes you and your expertise easier to find.
  • Not belonging to groups. The groups we associate with make up a large part of who we are. LinkedIn is no different and has a ton of professional groups, including alumni and industry specific groups. Joining these groups is a good idea as you can connect with colleagues and other professionals, share your experience and keep your finger on what’s going on; maybe even find your next big business idea.
  • Not making connections. We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: LinkedIn is all about connections. If you only connect with people when you need something you will reduce the efficiency of the network. You should be actively looking for people that you know - personally or professionally - to connect with. At the same time, don’t connect with anybody and everybody, LinkedIn should be your online professional network - only connect with people you know or have met.
  • Not a team effort. With other social networks like Facebook, colleagues are usually against connecting with workmates. While this is probably a good idea for Facebook, after all, who wants their boss seeing pics from your weekend shenanigans? LinkedIn is different, it’s beneficial to connect with your current colleagues as the main idea of LinkedIn is to establish professional connections. The best place to start making connections is your current job, so encourage your team members to have profiles and connect with each other.
Through effective use of LinkedIn, you should be able to build a solid professional network that spans countries and could provide you with your next big opportunity. If you have questions about LinkedIn or social networking in general, please contact/connect with us.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 19th, 2012

One of the greatest mediums to simultaneously connect with customers while building brand is social media. Companies and their employees have taken to it in droves, and many with moderate to great success. One service that has been adopted by professionals, and in fewer numbers by businesses, is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a valuable social network that can really help boost your company.

Here’s four reasons why your business should have a presence on LinkedIn.

  1. You have more than 1 employee. With a company profile, you can pick how many people work in your organization, and many small businesses pick 1-10 or 11-50. In these two categories there are over 1.5 million businesses with accounts. Lots right? Add into this the ability to filter companies by industry, location and relationship and you have a powerful search tool that can help you stand out locally.
  2. You want to connect with your peers. Facebook is a great tool for connecting with nearly everybody, while LinkedIn is better for connecting to your colleagues and peers who are constantly sharing topical information and discussions that could be of great use when you’re stuck, or need advice.
  3. You are hiring. LinkedIn is also one of the best job boards for mid-level and higher professionals. If you have a job opening, you can post it on the site and people connected to you and your friends can be recommended for the job. You can also target the posting at professionals who you want to apply, no more having to wade through unqualified candidates.
  4. You don’t want to deal with games/links to cat videos/senseless sharing. LinkedIn is a professional network, as such, there aren’t many time wasting features. If you haven’t bought into, or are tired of notifications about games or other activities, LinkedIn is a great alternative. Just be warned, you won’t connect with your customers on a close basis like you can with other networks.
If you feel it’s time to get on to LinkedIn and would like to know more about the process, please contact us.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
September 14th, 2012

In this constantly changing world, where advances in technology are eagerly awaited and adopted by businesses of all sizes, one system has largely been ignored by small to medium enterprises. The telephone system, in many companies, is still largely the same system that’s been in use for the last 50 or more years. It’s time to digitize, and reap the benefits a system like VoIP - Voice over Internet Protocol - can bring.

VoIP, is a digital telephone solution that replaces traditional systems with a digital alternative that utilizes broadband Internet connections and transmission lines. Here are five reasons why your company should upgrade to a VoIP system.

  • Remote phones. Working remotely has become a viable alternative to a desk in the office. One of the major issues with remote workers however is that that they can be hard to get a hold of; often using their homeline for both work and personal calls. With a VoIP solution, employees connect to the office over the Internet and their computer becomes the phone. They can get an extension, or use their office direct dial number, thus reducing the need to pay for potentially costly phone bills.
  • Mobile office number. Mobile phones are a prominent part of business, most managers have their mobile number written down on their business card. While this is a good idea, customers are often hesitant to call mobile numbers because they feel they may be intruding. With VoIP, there’s no need to have a mobile number as there are apps that will route calls through the office’s phone system, meaning no missed messages and lower mobile bills.
  • Lower calling rates. Many small businesses now operate without borders and if you’re making a lot of long distance calls, you’ll notice that the bills using a traditional system can be outrageous. VoIP providers often offer substantially lower rates, or the same rate regardless of the location the call is placed to.
  • It grows with you. If you plan to expand your business in the near future and have a traditional phone system it will cost you to upgrade your system, lay new phone lines, and purchase new equipment and numbers. With VoIP systems, it can be as simple as assigning a new number, which often costs nothing, and that’s it. In short, VoIP is highly scalable, whereas traditional systems aren’t.
  • More useful features. Some features offered by telephone providers are essential for business, yet companies are charged for these additional benefits, often on a per number basis. Many VoIP providers bundle the features businesses use the most into the monthly costs, usually at no extra cost.
While it’s not a requirement, companies that don’t upgrade their phone systems to VoIP, or other similar systems, are missing out on some great benefits and may, in the near future, find themselves left behind by competitors who have upgraded. If your company uses a traditional phone system and you’d like to find out how to upgrade, please contact us.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General