Category: advice


When making out your Christmas shopping list, keep in mind what values your dollars support.  If you support processes that cripple the economy, you are creating an economy that will cripple your children.

That said, take a few minutes to research the items on your family’s gift lists.  For instance, much was made during the election of jobs being outsourced to China.  One of China’s biggest manufacturing firms is Foxconn who makes tablets for Apple.  Foxconn was criticized because they had an epidemic of employee suicides due to poor working conditions.  Now, they have chosen the oh so compassionate route of ending employee dissatisfaction by replacing them with robots.

Yes, they are going to replace the troublesome humans with robots.  Techsnoop finds this disturbing.  If Apple continues to use this company and allows this to go forward, US dollars will be used to outsource jobs to Chinese robots.

What a concept.  We will go from sending our dollars to support humans in another country, to supporting robots in another country.  This might be marginally acceptable if the price of an iPad dropped to $100.00, but these prices are not dropping, each edition is more pricey than the last.  Not to pick on Apple, their products are great, but this is just the most glaring example of a massive company using your consumer dollars to support human slavery.

As you seek to get the best value for your Christmas shopping dollars, remember that your money decisions create more than immediate happiness for the recipient.  Money and how it is spent reinforces how large companies treat their employees and customers.

Buying fewer gifts from local merchants and businesses keeps your neighborhood clean and safe and makes sure your children  remember the little store on the corner.  When businesses such as these disappear, the community suffers.  Who will hire and train your teenagers?  Robots?

iPad mini

(Credit: Apple)

If the only thing holding you back from buying an iPad was the price or size, the iPad Mini is for you.  All the features and sleekness of an iPad with less price and bulk (7.2mm thick and only .68lb), make this a must-have for you.  Hurry, go get one now.

But if you are budget conscious, know that there several 7 inch alternatives to the iPad Mini.  Google has the Nexus with great features and reviews, Samsung has the Galaxy Tab 7.0 and of course, Amazon has the Kindle Fire.  Of this group, only the Galaxy Tab approaches the price of the iPad Mini.

Specs and usage for these products are similar so the decision comes down to what is the most important feature to you.  Personally, Techsnoop loves many Apple products, but has an aversion to being held hostage to software.  When you purchase a product, it should be yours to use as you wish without restrictions on where and how you get your software.

The maximum amount of price, features and software flexibility comes from the Nexus.

social mediaSo, you have your own business and need to stop playing with social media and leverage it.

Good for you!  Small Business is the grease in the economic cog and social media can help.  What can social media do?  It dramatically expands the exposure of your business.  Managed properly, it can bring you revenue from customers you might otherwise have never met.  It can also cement your brand, establish your credentials and showcase your work.

Where to start?  Get a management tool such as Crowdbooster, TweetDeck or SocialSafe.  These tools allow you to check multiple accounts, messages and schedule tweets or Facebook posts in advance.  The benefit is that you don’t come across as a spammer, don’t forget important posts and can manage your social media presence effectively without it sucking up all your time.

SocialSafe is my new favorite toy because it stores your info from all the social media profiles and allows you to keep up with who unfollowed or unfriended you and review posts and tweets across the major outlets.

Why is it important to track this information?  To protect the integrity of your account and thus, your online reputation.  Status People is a great online app that checks your followers to find out how many may be “fakers”, spammers who follow you briefly to get more followers so they can send out spam messages.  Who needs that?

Next, focus on content.  Great, useful and uplifting content is what brings and keeps followers.  Engagement with followers through retweets and shout outs is also important.  Once you get over 500 followers, you will not be able to mention them all on a regular basis, so set up a core group and add a rotation of others as you can.  Thank them or mention something they have offered recently.

Finally, be polite.  Manners count when no one can see your expression or hear the tone of your voice.  Don’t use all caps except for emphasis of important points.  Be nice even to the negative comments you may get or, just ignore them.  Don’t unfriend or unfollow just because you don’t like a particular comment.  But Do unfriend or unfollow excessive profanity or unprofessional postings.  You don’t want your business to get a negative reputation by assocation.

The next part of this series will be next week and will talk about the pros and cons of Google+ and LinkedIn.  Let us know in the comments if this has been helpful to you.

 

 

So, your business is on a tight marketing budget and you want to leverage Social Media.  Know going in that it is comparable to entering the bear cave with a club and flashlight.  Neither will help, you need better tools.

Where to start?  Well, that actually depends on your goals and strategy.  Techsnoop is here to tell you where not to start.  Don’t buy Twitter followers or Facebook Likes.  These are bogus accounts set up by spammers with automated tools and they do not give you credibility.  The entire point of social media is to establish yourself as reliable and trustworthy in your field.  Having spammers on your accounts opens up your followers and fans to spammers as they now can access them.

Building a quality following is a task that takes time.  Humans have to monitor and track progress and interaction.  Quality content has to be shared both ways for it to be meaningful.  Otherwise, it’s not social media but tech media.

Once it is known that you host spammers, you will lose much of the traction provided by social media.  So what can you do?  If you are unable to hire a Social Media Strategist, do it yourself or get an intern.  If you get an intern, make sure you give them a specific list of guidelines on who to follow and who to block from your pages.  This prevents embarrassing mistakes caused by technology and generation gaps.

People with no profile picture need to be reviewed.  If they have no pic and no bio, they may be a spam account.  Look at the web addresses on the bios, if there are suspect terms like “getfollowers” it is probably a spam account.  Either report the account as spam, or if you are unsure, just block them.

To help you out, use tech tools like Fakers that will quickly let you know what percentage of your followers might be fake.  You can then go through your followers list and prune accordingly.

Who.Unfollowed.Me will help you keep up with those who follow then unfollow you in a short time span.  Another trick of spammers.  They have to keep dropping people to move on to the next target due to Twitter limits.

Let us know in the comments if these two tools have helped you to tame the social media beast.

socia mediaWhy blog?

Many small business owners and freelancers are confused by the multitude of social media options and how it can increase their reach.  Blogging is one way to increase the reach of any business provided the blog offers useful information presented in an engaging way.

Photos and video are one way of engaging readers, but sought after information consolidated in a non-confusing prose also can be useful to your readers.  Adding your social media contact buttons and website links can encourage readers to visit your sites and begin to recommend you.

In the loud, crowded Internet marketplace, recommendations as an expert in your field are like gold.  Recommendations separate you from fly-by-night shysters who only want to skim quick profits as opposed to building customer relationships that last.

How to get started?  Create a list of topics you are interested in and have experience with.  Write a bunch of random thoughts down.  They don’t need to be complete sentences or written nicely.  Just free form write whatever comes to mind.  Put it away for a day.  Come back and select a topic to expand on, then, do your research.  Look up information related to your topics that will be interesting to others.

Write two or three posts before beginning to publish and review them carefully for typos and grammar before publishing.  Choose free pics or graphics or make your own that relate to the topic.  Then link with social media to complete the circle.  All of the resources gather and increase traffic and traffic is the first step to online business success.

Stop by frequently for further blogging tips and let us know if this inspired you to start a blog.

Branding is a complex process that involves a number of people and trial and error.  However if you are a small business start up you likely do not have funds to hire professional branding firms or to undertake extensive market research.

So how do you establish an identity for your business that will stand out in the crowd?  First check out the competition.  See what is working for other companies similar to yours.  Do not copy them, but make notes on things they have in common.  Color is a great place to start, for instance, blue is a highly used color in many logos and websites.  Blue conveys trust and dependability and so is used to create a bond between customer and business.  Black equates with value and sophistication and thus the rise of black websites and business cards.

Use tools like Kuler from Adobe to create and select complimentary colors for logos, text and website graphics.  The site allows you to upload a photo you like and create a color palette as well as creating color mixes on the fly.  Having a firm color choice can make the web design process faster and cheaper.  Colors create the tone and can suggest a theme for your company communications.

Instead of using expensive market research, try out your brand with a small run of business cards, Facebook cover, Twitter background and mailers.  Enlist friends and family as test audience.  As you collect customers, ask for honest feedback on your marketing materials.  Ask what made them come to you or what caught their eye.  Also ask what they feel doesn’t work as this is the critical part that needs changing.

Choose a graphic designer who is comfortable creating a logo and graphics that will evolve over time and will include this in the pricing.  Don’t expect your designer to make changes for free.  Know that designers charge based on time, talent and creativity.  The combination is what causes variation between designers.  If your budget is really low, you need to consider using an intern with the expectation that the project will take longer and quality may be less.

Finally, look at your brand carefully to make sure it feels right for you and your business.  The whole point of your brand is to convey your uniqueness, if this doesn’t come through the brand fails.

This is a tale of hubris run amok.  Apple has lost some of their glamour.

Massive patent lawsuits, manufacturing woes, public image hits, actual customer dissatisfaction and loss of focus have left the giant stumbling.  And now, their advertising is lame.  These commercials are not bad per se, but they lack the focus that creates genuine desire for a product.  They fail on selling the service aspect by depicting the potential customer as idiots.  But you judge.  Let us know what you think in the comments.

Ever wonder why ads you see while browsing the web are for items you recently looked at?  Ever had an account hijacked by spammers?  Does fear of identity theft prevent you from using the web’s most powerful features or getting bargains online?  Techsnoop is here to help with a little education and ammunition.

Computers are tracked by IP (internet protocol) addresses which are generated by your computer or assigned by you internet provider (ISP).  This address can give general location information and more specific browsing history to those with access.  Who has access?  Your ISP, the government, marketers and even hackers.

Unless you take specific steps to block tracking, assume everything you do and say online is public.  Yes, Facebook, Twitter, Google and other sites have privacy policies but these policies do not protect you from marketing and tracking companies who profit from your browsing activity statistics or from hackers.

Using strong passwords, a great firewall and antivirus and regularly changing passwords is a great way to block hackers.  But what about marketing and tracking companies?  Blocking this activity will require additional steps to secure your privacy.

Turn off cookies in your computer to keep sites from tracking you.  This step also clears out any “keep me logged in” sites as they use cookies to do this.  Set your browser to clear your history on shutting down your computer.  Again, this has drawbacks if you visit the same sites daily.  Also turn off auto-complete for logging in on sites, especially if you are using a shared or public computer.  All settings are in your browser settings or options.

Use a proxy server service which routes your browsing through anonymous servers so activity cannot be traced to your computer.  Proxy.org has a list of good ones or use a VPN (virtual private network) like Hotspot Shield which comes in a free or paid version.  Or use a browser plugin like Do Not Track.  which is compatible with all major browsers and notifies you if a site is trying to track you.  The option to allow becomes yours, giving you more complete control.

If you frequently surf on computers that are shared or public or use public Wi-Fi, you may want to use a software that is kept on a USB drive.  This means it is portable and can be used anywhere.

SurfEasy is a tiny flash drive for your USB port that plugs into your computer and launches a browser.  It is password protected and already configured for privacy.  A great option for the tech-impaired.  It costs $59.99 and will mask your IP address and use a proxy network.

If you need a free solution, use Tails, a software you can download on your own flash drive and run on any computer anywhere.

Which ever solution you choose, know your privacy options online to keep your information secure.  Happy Surfing!

Twitter UnfollowEvery Social Media platform has its own rules and accepted practices.  Some of these are spelled out by the platform owners, but some norms are developed over time by the users.  Once developed, accepted behavior is rewarded by followers and unacceptable behavior gets you labeled annoying or a spammer.

Techsnoop has recently noted a disturbing trend on Twitter.  The practice of users following a large number of people, then unfollowing them after they follow back.  This seems to be especially true of some small businesses.

Techsnoop has no objection to people or companies not following back when they are followed.  Some followers may not fit into your niche or strategy.  Unfollowing as a means to clean up your feed is also acceptable.  If you don’t engage with some followers you may want to add others that you will engage with.  But following someone just for a follow, then unfollowing them after they follow you is just rude.  If you want new followers, either post interesting content that will get retweeted and gather followers, or be prepared to follow those you engage with a follow first through the long term.

There are several ways to grow your Twitter audience.

  • Have strong and engaging content or offer freebies that others will want to stay up to date with.
  • Buy followers from one of the many, many services on Twitter.  This can backfire as most of the “purchased” followers will not have engaging content and will not care about yours.  Anyone selling their follows is probably not the quality engagement you need.
  • Build steady growth of quality followers by offering engaging content, being interested in those who follow you and seeking out others on Twitter who have the same or compatible interests.

This last method will not gain you 10,000 followers in one week, but your followers will be better quality and engage with you on a higher level.  Slow and steady is also more time consuming, but like anything worth having, is worth the rewards.

Please, please don’t follow/unfollow to gather users.  Not only is it rude, if you gain a reputation for this behavior, it can ruin your Social Cred.

Surf Nicely.

Social Media can be a daunting maze for the new small business owner.  With all the details of starting a business and actually providing service to customers, who has time to learn how to connect on the myriad platforms?

To simplify things, Techsnoop has gathered some basic steps to go over when deciding when, how and how much to jump into the social media pool.

First, develop a social strategy by deciding where your target market will spend the most time.  You can find out general demographic information on the various platforms here

Next, decide what you are willing or able to offer your audience.  People need a compelling reason to follow you.  Great expert content is one reason, but you may not have the time to put this together.  Instead, maybe offer discount codes for newsletter signups or Facebook likes.  Be sure to put an expiration date or time limit on any coupons or discounts.  Also, have an online privacy policy in place with website security.  Whatever you offer, make sure your audience will want it.

Finally, remember that social media is about socializing.  If you don’t interact with followers, they won’t interact with you.  They may not drop you, but they may ignore your content.  Having 200,000 followers or friends is useless if only 3 of them actually read what you are offering.  Ask questions, request feedback and give shout outs to those who help you or provide great content.

It used to be enough to just have a Social Media presence, now you must engage your followers and offer them something they want.  If this post helps your small business, leave a comment.

Stay tuned to Techsnoop for great social media tools to keep you organized.

Now get social!