Tuesday, 25 October 2016

What to do if your Facebook page is hacked

People frequently contact me when they find out their Facebook profile is sending out updates that they haven't written. An example of this where people unknowingly tag their friends into adverts for fake sunglasses.

This usually happens when you've allowed an app access to your Facebook profile without realising it. Many quizzes and interactive pages ask you to "log in with Facebook". It's worth taking the time to see what permissions the app is asking for. Nearly all will want to know who your friends are and where you live. They'll take this directly from the information you've provided on your profile. In order to post the results, from quizzes and similar content, the app will need to be able to publish stuff onto your wall - which means it can write things on your behalf. A lot of the time this isn't a problem, most apps you use are "only" after your data so they can sell it. It's when the odd rogue app starts posting advertising onto your wall that problems arise.

So if your page is suddenly trying to sell viagra or acai berries to your friends, what do you do?

The first, and most important thing to do is to change your password! Please don't recycle passwords that you use elsewhere. A shiny, new password is what is required. Try and include a number or some non letter characters to make it more secure. Oh, and just putting a number 1 on the end of your password (or an exclamation mark) is too easy to guess - get a bit more creative.

The second thing to do is to check what applications have access to your Facebook account. If you're a keen quiz taker you may be shocked at who can see all your information!

The second, and far less frequent, issue I see with Facebook pages is when they are "cloned". This means that someone has copied your profile picture and information onto a new account and then they start sending friend requests out to loads of other people - often including your own Facebook friends. These cloned accounts are most often used in "like farming", but they can occasionally be used maliciously. By pretending to be you, the person in control of the cloned account can make it seem as if you are posting offensive and upsetting content. This can be particularly problematic if they do things like using the cloned account to leave offensive comments on your employer's Facebook page....

What can you do if you find someone has cloned your account?

You need to report the rogue account to Facebook. This can be a long and drawn out process. You will often need to provide scanned copies of documents to prove your identity.  Perseverance is key here!

In conclusion:

  • Be careful where you click. 
  • Change your password regularly. 
  • Check what apps have access to your account.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Seven years in business

I passed another milestone recently - 7 years in business with Ariadne's Thread!

Everyone says that running your own business is a rollercoaster ride. I can only agree. There have been times when I've been ready to throw in the towel and crawl back into employment. (Easier said than done at my age!) At other times there's the heady combination of new contracts and great clients.

The flexibility and freedom I get from being self employed is something I would never want to lose. I frequently work long hours so that  I can fulfill a contract - or just because I'm enjoying the work. The key point here is that it's my choice when and where I work, which is what makes all the difference.

A few people have asked me what I've learned since my start-up days so here are my top 3 tips:

1. Be wary of working for free.
Many people will ask you to give your expertise for free. In return they'll offer "exposure" or that their event will help you "to establish your credibility". Weigh up what is being asked of you very carefully. I still talk on local radio and contribute quotes to newspapers for free because it really helps with my PR and search results online. The occasional talk at a networking group is often ok as well. I soon learned not to give away my core business (social media training, writing and marketing) for free. You'll soon learn the people that always want something for nothing and start to avoid doing business with them!

2. Watch your cashflow
It's said that cashflow problems kill more businesses than anything else. Even though  I don't need a premises or stock to run my business, I've not been immune to the effects of stifled cashflow. It really only takes one key client to default on their payments, or a contract to end before you planned for your finances to take a major hit. This is particularly true in the first couple of years. Keep an eye on your accounts, update them regularly and chase any late payments promptly. You can't always avoid a cashflow crisis but you can often see it coming and plan to survive.

3. Don't be afraid to say "no"
You will not suit every client and they will not always suit you. Sometimes you are better off saying "no" and moving on to people that actually value what you do. It's particularly difficult to do in the first few years as the aforementioned cashflow can be a problem. However, as soon as you can, be selective about who you work for and who you team up with. In the long run, it'll give you a more sustainable and productive business.

Here's to the next 7 years...!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

It's time to drop the distinction between online and offline

I read this piece by Clementine Ford and it got me thinking.

When I first started "going online" it was using a ZX Spectrum and accessing Prestel. It was a time when email was in its infancy and Bulletin Boards were all the rage. Because so few people were able to access the internet community, there was a clear distinction between what you did online and what you did IRL (In Real Life). That distinction should now be consigned to history - along with 300 baud modems!

Taking the UK as an example, 78% of adults access the internet every day. We use the internet as an integral part of our lives, both for business and for leisure. Whether we're shopping online, paying our bills or posting on social media, our "real life" is now inextricably linked to our virtual presence. There is no longer a clear line where one starts and the other finishes.

The sometimes caustic culture of the early digital communities is being rapidly diluted as more and more people discover the advantages of being connected online as well as offline. We are online both at work and at home. Our digital presence is an integral part of our lives. It's not about spending an hour on a Bulletin Board via dial up any more.

What happens online is no longer separate from our "real world" lives - it's intertwined to the point where the difference has all but disappeared. Convergence has already happened for most of us. Shrugging off bad behaviour online as "just the internet" is no longer acceptable. Sites such as Twitter, Facebook (and other social platforms) need to up their game when it comes to addressing anti-social behaviour.

Equally, we need to consider our own behaviour now that our digital selves are far more visible, What was acceptable, even expected, amongst some regular posters in the early days is no longer appropriate.

The internet has evolved. Our online behaviour needs to evolve too.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

5 key behaviours for social media

Whichever platform is your social media favourite there are 5 key behaviours to adopt to ensure that you and your business get the best results.

Broadcast (Sell)
Just not too much! As a business, we need to say what we do. We may have special offers available, or want to promote our next batch of courses. Whatever that broadcast content is, bear in mind that it's akin to advertising and that's not the content people want to consume all the time.

Engage (Listen)
Good quality engagement starts with the online equivalent of listening, which is reading what other people write. This means actually taking time to read/watch their content and not just retweeting or liking everything your business buddy puts out without critical thought. Nor is it about reposting everything that mentions you - especially if the post was automatically generated in the first place. Taking the time to read what other people write and responding to them thoughtfully and appropriately is a skill that you should cultivate. The dividends are worth the effort.

Again, this isn't about mindless retweets/likes/shares of insubstantial content. Be helpful. Solve someone's problem online and they'll know you can help them in their offline business too. Make an effort to raise someone else up, you'll reap the rewards too.

Question/be curious
Ask genuine questions, which means avoiding the faux market research style. Crowdsource information for your next business hire or purchase.

Add value
Find and share good quality information. Create compelling content. Be authentic. Think about who you want to talk to and then search for great articles that'll really help them. Research a catalogue of great content providers that are respected and publish regularly. By adding real value to the people reading your updates, you'll be building up your own reputation too.

Start to behave like a successful, thoughtful person online. Your business will benefit and so will you.

Monday, 20 April 2015

How to check who can send you Twitter DMs

A couple of years ago Twitter announced it was introducing a function that enabled accounts to receive Direct Messages from people that weren't following them. It was met with general apathy and seemed to be dropped. It's now back in action.

The initial worries I've seen expressed are that it would open the floodgates to being spammed by all and sundry. It's worth noting that you have have to opt in to the new service.

If you're concerned and want to check, then just go into your settings and select "security and privacy". At the bottom of the page there will be an option like this:

If you don't want to receive DMs from people you don't follow, just make sure the box is unchecked.

A few people have questioned why anyone would want to get DMs from complete strangers. If you run a busy customer service feed then I can see that it would be advantageous to be able to get DMs from people without having to ask them to follow you. Other than that, the uptake seems to be limited.

What do you think? Will you be opting in?

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Social media is mainstream - now what?

When I started Ariadne's Thread in 2009, social media was seen as new and untested by a lot of businesses. Now that its value and effectiveness is proven, it is an essential part of any marketing and PR plan. People have realised the value social media can bring to both promotion, sales and to customer service. It's critical not just in attracting new customers, but also in keeping your existing ones happy. I no longer have to sit with people for hours and "talk them into it", It's straight into the good stuff. Who should they target? How much time will it take them? What sort of content do they need? How will they create that content?

There are a couple of tactical issues that come as baggage alongside this broad acceptance of social media.

Firstly, there's a lot more "noise" to compete with. Some businesses are still under the impression that it's OK to treat the medium as paperless advertising, or as solely a mechanism to improve their Search Engine Optimisation. The rolling streams of automated updates can get overwhelming and the opportunities for meaningful engagement can be missed. Your content needs to be interesting, relevant and well targeted to rise above this inane cyberbabble.

Secondly, the range of social media platforms has greatly increased. Make sure you know the type of people you want to influence and research where they are likely to congregate online. Your decisions will be heavily influenced by your business sector and your ability to produce appropriate content.

So what can you do?

  • Select your social media platforms with care.
  • Create content that is useful to the people you want to reach and relevant to your business.
  • Take time to make a content plan, it really does help improve the results you'll get.
  • Evaluate the results you're getting and adjust your plan if you need to.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Getting started on social media as a business

It's been a while since I wrote about where to get started on social media. As you'd expect the technology has advanced and the platforms have developed so the advice has to change to keep up!

If you've not got any social media presence - at all - for your business there are 2 "must haves":

1. A personal profile on LinkedIn

  • Use it to build up your online network of business contacts to complement your offline activities.
  • Research which of your contacts knows the people you want to connect to. 
  • You can be found by name online and can be easily contacted

2. A Google+ business page and up to date "map" information

  • Critical if you have a premises. Important even if you don't!
  • Google+ is an integral part of your maps presence so make the most of it!
  • It's Google - of course you want your business information on there!

How much effort you put into maintaining these profiles will obviously have an effect on how well they work for you. Having said that, a little can go a long way on both LinkedIn and Google+. A few minutes a week can really make a difference.

Try looking at LinkedIn at least once a week (Yes, I know keen users will feel that's too little!) Here's a checklist of activities that'll take you no time to do:

  • Like a few updates
  • Find some new contacts
  • Accept the contact requests you feel are valuable to you
  • Put out an update that's business related

Ten minutes and you're done... Once you feel at home, look at who you can recommend and who can recommend you too.

With Google+ 5 minutes a week is all you need to get started

  • Find people to put into circles
  • Put out a business update - use a picture if you have one
  • +1 a few updates
  • Check your profile for reviews

Of course there is a lot more you can do with both these platforms. But you need to start somewhere, so what's stopping you?