Networking

Understanding Your Digital Landscape Seminar 11/16/2010

From the flyer, regarding the Seminar I’ll be conducting to help business owners, who are not technically enabled, to better understand what makes their business function:

Understanding the Digital Landscape

What is it?
How do you find it?
How do you use it effectively?

Computers save us time in everything from information storage and retrieval, calculation, graphic design, and report preparation. E-commerce allows our websites to keep our businesses running 24/7.

A failure at any point, from our office records to our online presence, can quickly snowball into a technological disaster, especially for a small business that doesn’t have an IT (information technology) staff in-house.

Seminar leader Curt Middlebrook, The Computer Whisperer, provides insights into the equipment, computer programs, and office and internet support services out there, and the people who provide them. You’ll learn how to maximize your online efficiency, and how to track the success of your online marketing.
This is a Lunch & Learn program, part of the Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce Success in Business Series. Your registration includes detailed information for evaluating every aspect of your company’s digital landscape, as well as a light lunch.

When : Tuesday, November 16; 11:30 am to 1:30 pm
Where : Park Station, 5851 Park Blvd., Pinellas Park, Room 202

Cost : $19.95 Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber Members
$24.95 Non-members

Call Chamber Manager Larry Steinlauf at 544-4777 to register.
You must be registered to attend.

Isn’t it Ironic? Mac OS X Virus arrives

A sesimic shift in the PC word has just happened: A Mac OS X virus is here, coming in the form of a Java script off of social media.

The irony? as I was removing a virus off a “real” PC this morning, my client indicated they might buy a Mac, so they wouldn’t viruses. I began with a little business analogy: One day, it will happen. When? When the Macs in the market reach some magical %, the “bad guys” will then take the time to study the Mac OS in detail, to try and exploit it. I also went on to discuss how a business decision, when done right, always looks for the most impact, for the least expenditure of resources. And, as of that moment, it must haven’t arrived (little did I know)…yet. I potulated, that when it did, it would be like a very big tidal wave, particulalry accentuated by the fact that it’s “well known” Macs are invulnerable from attack. Yeah, right.

So any how, for you MacoPhiles…gird your loins, the attainment of 20% of the PC market by Macs announced by Steve Jobs a few days ago, has had an impact on your bulletproofness. Be on your toes, and hope the good guys have anti-virus software ready for you, really, really soon.

Here’s the warning from the articles at ARSTechnica:

A new trojan horse has cropped up that affects Mac OS X (and Windows as well), primarily disguised as a video flitting around social networking sites. When users click an infected link, a Java applet is launched that downloads multiple files, including an installer that runs automatically without users’ knowledge.

While between other appointments this after noon, I saw the article (linked above) and I knew the time has come.

Note, too, you Windows based PC users, you’re a casualty of this new attack, too.

Be on the look out for any video on the social media sites….all of you computer users.

I’ll bring this history, too, because there have been Mac based viruses before. In early 1988, I contracted the “Scores” virus on my Mac II from a download off of GEnie.

That was bad news. The good news is the PC market exploded on cheap Intel based PCs and the bad guys went after them. That has left the Mac world as the untouchables for all these years…until now.

Find a successful case study and…

Read it!

Blogging. Not “fast food” like Twitter, not all social like FaceBook, but, as I’ve said in my seminars and coaching: “The Long Form.”

Think through the IRS analogy: The 1040EZ gets the issue off your back, but you get more deductions on the 1040. More deductions, more money back, but you have to put more into it.

“MilBlogs” (Military Blogs) began to share stories, mostly because they didn’t get reported. Matt Burden of Black Five began what has become the biggest (be readership) MilBlog because the main stream media didn’t even report the passing of his friend in combat. He decided not only would the name of Army Maj. Mathew E. Schram wouldn’t be forgotten, but the regular fare of the early days of Black Five were the “Someone You Should Know” category of posts. Over the years, some living, some casualties of war, all placed on the web, so they would not be forgotten. Matt wasn’t alone, and about 6 years ago, there were about 200 MilBlogs.

As of just this moment, from MilBlogging.com’s header: “Milblogging.com currently has 2,829 military blogs in 45 countries… ”

These blogs are a model. Grass roots “passing the word” model. Get people’s attention on a topic model. Create large virtual communities of support models, quickly and at little monetary cost besides a few dollars. Buzz up a charity model. See a need and make a charity model. Connect people on the “backchannels model.

If you’re sitting around, wondering just what blogging can do for you, your cause, your passion, or your business: Study the MilBlog model.

The American Legion site has a well written article on the genesis of this unmanaged group of military, retired military. military family members and just plain old “I want to help support the military” people. “The MilBlogosphere” by Matt Seavey.

Local to the Tampa Bay area, a Marine’s wife became a widow this past March. Her blog about life took a new turn, as she shared her feelings of the news her husband had been killed in combat in Afghanistan and how it shook and affirmed her world. “A Little Bit of Pink in a Camo World” drew attention around the country and the world, and began a whole community of spouses and family members, and Rachael began a new venture: Participating in and setting up fund raising events for supporting the troops. She is but one of many.

I invite you to read and study the MilBlog world, it’s roots, it’s players, it’s content, and it’s powerful voice. If you have questions, and would like some personal input on the inner workings, I certainly can provide mine to you. I’ve met a few of the writers in person and have grown in my blogging as a result of their mentoring.

Is Your eMail Connecting you to Your Brand?

Question: What is the domain of your email you hand out for business?

Another: Is it the same as your website?

One more: If not, why not?

Don’t risk leaving your contacts out in the cold…actually, leaving you out of the loop if you need to switch your home internet service provider (ISP). If you’re not using an email that is part of the website for your business, you risk getting lost, or, at the least, not looking as professional as you might, when you show up to network with a Hotmail/GMail/Yahoo mail account.

The advantages of having your email associated with your own domain are many. The disadvantages of not doing this are also many. Which many do you choose, as having a domain based email wipes about about all the disadvantages or not having it that way.

In most all cases, you have at least a few, if not way too many email accounts you can set up as a function of the cost of your hosting service for your domain name and website package. You should check into that. If it’s not easy to figure it out, call the person who set up your website and ask them to configure an email for you.

You don’t have to even have Microsoft Outlook to get access to this type of service. Again, in all likelyhood, you have free email client software on your machine, or you can get something like ThunderBird to use.

So, avoid being disconnected from your suppliers, prospects and clients by merging your communications with your website!

What did you say is your eMail address is?

I travel among many networking groups in my area, and I collect lots of business cards.  Generally, by first visual search is to the email address listed, followed by the website.

What makes me look harder than a scan is when the email/email domain isn’t associated with the website.  Why?  In this day and age, there is almost no excuse to not have an email that is linked to your domain.  It’s inexpensive and….it protects you from the horrors of disconnection from the world.

Here’s the baseline issue:  Using your home’s ISP email is a particular sticking point with me.  While we’d all like to believe we’ll live there for a long time, maybe, particularly now, we won’t.  What happens when you move?  You may get the same ISP, but…you may not have that choice.  Now, you’re on an entirely new email address, and tell me:  How many people take the time to change their contact list when you send them the “I’ve changed my email address?”  Some, but I guarantee not all of them.  You just lost business.

Now, so you don’t move.  One day, you get so aggravated, or to think positive, some one comes down the street with a better service/price, so you switch.  Yep, same as before.  You’ll have a new email address and lose some of your contacts.

Add to this you’ll be intermingling your person email, most likely, with your business might get buried under the pile of well circulated jokes the Internet is famous for, let alone the “If you don’t forward this to 10 friends a fire will consume you in the night!” (my personal ‘favorites’) incoming mail.

The solution:  If you have a domain name and a website (surprisingly, many do, and they then use their home/free email), find out how to have an email, or maybe several related to your business, be set up.  Yes, you’ll get disconnected, but you will still be getting emails under the home one, and you can keep reminding them to change.  It’s the least painful and best probability to keep the information flowing method.

The other, lesser offense is the use of “free emails.”  Yes, they will follow you all over, unlike the change in residence scenario, but what’s the impression you provide to a customer, as you say your are the professional/expert?  If you market is single person businesses, then the impact isn’t much of an issue, but if you’re working to position yourself as a provider of goods and services to multi-person companies and corporations, you may want to rethink this.

Questions?  The comment section is certainly open below.

Remember, it’s all in the message you convey, and Bob Turel, the Presentation Coach,  says “its not the only thing, its everything!”

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10 Questions to Answer About Your Social Media Presence

Social Media Icons
Image by Ivan Walsh via Flickr

Social media is here for a while.  Just as email is now considered for most, don’t be alarmed by doomsayers who bemoan the “graying” of Facebook.  Of all the email transmitted, about 97% is SPAM, but…we’re still using it to communicate.

Below are some questions that may help gauge your current use of social media, and tune up your attention to this form of marketing for your business:

  • What’s the plan for your social media presence?
  • Is your plan integrated into your marketing plan?
  • What social media are you presently on?
  • Which ones get you contact with others, who may be viable, qualified prospects?
  • Which ones are you spending your social media input time on (and for how long)?
  • How many entries involve your business/product/services?
  • How many entries discuss your experience as a professional?
  • How many entries involves non-business related (humor, local events, charity support)?
  • How often are you posting?
  • Are your social media sites/names visible on your business materials (business cards, brochures, website)?

Take a few minutes and answer these questions to help see if you’re effectively using social media to your benefit.

Feel free to contact me to help tune things up if you find you’re not doing as well as you should be.

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Tuesday Tech Tips

Today: Firewalls…What’s up with that?

I had an interesting discussion the other day with a client who just wanted “error messages” to go away. I, using my experience, figured they were having hardware problems. I asked “what ones?” figuring there is a great possibility of doing just that. “Here…I wrote them down.” I was shown a list of “errors” that were obviously some attacks from web based sources. I then began to explain the good news was the firewall was stopping bad things from getting into the system. BAd news: Bad stuff is out there. Still insisting that the “error messages” go away, I explained the firewall and ended with this: “I noticed you keep your front door locked. Could that be in case someone tries to get in? The firewall is the same type of function, because that are things trying to get in.”

Firewall: A component used to manage the flow of traffic to and from your computer and also within your system. Some firewalls, the ones commonly used in home and small office systems are software based. Windows XP and above have a built in firewall, but it provides only very basic levels of protection. Otherwise, you most likely will have them on your system within the Internet security suite, if you have one installed. If you don’t have an internet security suite installed, you can still get standalone firewalls to help you keep your system safe from intrusion, which, is a necessity now.

There are also hardware based firewalls. They range from large multi-user capability for use in a large networked environment, but they also are around in the form of the commonly used routers in your home or small offices. The best part of these systems are the ability to perform the security checks of information flowing at the single point of entry/exit from the network, without having the specifically cover each and every machine in the home/office. In addition, they are less likely to be able to be hacked past than a purely software firewall.

What does this mean for the single/few computer user? You still need the protection on your home/small office network, no matter who you are. There are “bots” (short for “robots” and are actually software programs) seacrhing the net for active computers. When they find one, then they will begin running a series of small programs, looking for know bypasses of commonly installed hardware and software protections. If they fail…they “move along.” If not, they then imbed themselves in your system and go about their assigned tasks of stealing your data, using your machine to pump out thousands upon thousands of “Get Rich QUICK!” emails, or other nefarious acts.

The use of the firewall requires some self-education about what is happening in your computer world. Since the firewall is the watchdog on what is coming and going between your computer and the rest of the attached parts (to include the internet), it needs you to “train” it as to what you say is ok to let operate. Computer programs, from Word to spyware are all “executable” programs. The firewall will see one of them starting up, either as the computer boots up, or as you start the program and will then alert you and provide you with a “block” or “allow” option. In most cases you will see the “Allow XXXXX to run?” with the XXXX relating to what you just started and know it’s ok to say “allow.” While you’re on that warning window, look for a “remember this answer” check box. Check it if the program you are starting is one you commonly use, so the firewall will know this is allowed in all future events. Generally the “cause” (starting a program) and “effect” (the “Is this OK?” firewall question) are easy to relate.

The firewall will also manage “ports,” which is the term for connections between such things are other computers and printers in your networks, or standard data paths between computers, in the local network, as well as on the internet. You’re less likely to deal with that type of firewall setting, but this sometimes affects sharing files and printers in a networked environment.

That being said, if you are just reading your emails, surfing the web and watching a few YouTube videos and the firewall pops up to alert you to a program trying to run, that is cause for reading very closely what’s on the screen. In many of those (but not all) cases, the warning needs to be heeded and the “block” option used. Exception: You had to install a add on like Flash or Java to make some of the web page content run, but, even this can be dangerous. Note: If you block it and need it, you can dig about in the settings (or have someone help you) and then allow something. Conversely, if you allow something and it should have been blocked, it will run amok and damage your system until you stop it. The “fail safe” solution, if you’re not sure what the response should be to the Allow/Block question, choose “Block.” The net result of blocking something OK is inconvenient, but not a possible complete loss of your pictures, music and data files, when the entire hard drive has to be redone.

I know it’s asking you to do some more self-education, but, unless you enjoy leaving your home and business doors unlocked, this is necessary. Take the time to make sure you have a firewall installed. Take the time to “train” it (that usually takes a few days before you’ve probably used most of your programs at least once). Trust me, that’s easier frustration to deal with than losing your system for maybe a few days of time, while someone fixes the damage caused.

There are several free, and widely used software firewalls available, if your budget is a little short, so cost is not an excuse.

Let’s be safe computing out there!

Mark Your Calendars! Social Media in Marketing Seminar

August 27th, 2009 at the Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce, 5851 Park Blvd, Pinellas Park, FL 33781.

Walt Morey of Core Business Solutions will be presenting his seminar on the reasons you should get yourself into the digital world using social media tools (Twitter, Facebook, Plaxo, LinkedIn, blogs, etc) to market your business.

I attended his last presentation and it was an excellent discussion of why you need to become involved this way, or you’re market will leave you behind.

Details:

What kinds of Marketing methods are you currently using?
Are they effective?
Are you reaching your desired customers?

The Baby Boomer Generation is now retiring. This means fewer customers for your business unless you are trying to reach those who were born in 1964 or later (Generation X, Generation Y, the Nexters, or the Millennials.)

These younger consumers get their information about products and services from Blackberries, the Internet and TV rather than magazines, newspapers, direct mail, etc. If you want to reach them, you must learn how to use Social Media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, and Twitter, and others.

The Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce is pleased to invite you to attend an introductory workshop on “The Use of Social Media in Marketing” on August 27th.
This workshop will be conducted by Walt Morey, Business Advisor and Owner of Core Business Solutions.

In this introductory workshop, you will learn what each of these types of Social Media is and how they are used. A small fee of $20.00 per participant covers the cost of training materials and a light lunch snack.

Please Note: Demand for this information is high and seating is limited to the first 20 individuals for this workshop so those interested need to call Donna at 727-544-4777 to register and reserve their seat.

You must be registered to attend.

Call Now To Avoid Disappointment

20 seats are avaialble! I know at least 4 and a possible 5th are filled already. Make the call.

What are your customers saying about you?

What if they had a third party site to leave their testimonials for you?  Sounds like a great idea to me, but…once more, I’m behind the one who figured it out!  The person behind the concept is Darin Manis, and the foundational philosophy of it all is “Share the Good.”

Go and check this out:  eCompliments.  How about that?  A place to go and say nice things about people and businesses and institutions you interact with!  The best part?  Instead of pointing your prospective clients at your own set of posted testimonials, you could send them here, where a question of “is this biased in your favor?” goes away.  for that reason, this site is certainly one you should consider for integrating with your social media exposure plan, but….more importantly, use it to let others know the good experiences you had, and with who or where that occurred.

I was introduced to this site by Joy Fitzpatrick through the Free Networking International (FNI) meeting I attend weekly, during our “1 on 1” time.  She certainly is enthusiastic about bring this new concept to the West Coast area of Florida.

The site is free for basic use to take the time to compliment someone or something.  More information about the site is available at the blog, too.