• Act-On Software
    Act-On Software on January 22, 2015

    The Rules of Engagement on Facebook

    If you want to make your content sharable and searchable on Facebook, you need to have a thorough understanding of Facebook principles and the general rules that apply to content and behavior.
  • MCohen
    Marcy Cohen on January 21, 2015

    Could a Pair of Bedazzled Bowling Shoes Lead to Social Good?

    What if 2015 became the year when the collaborative model didn’t just make it easier to buy groceries but helped emerging economies on their path to inclusive growth? What if it could be a force for social good?
  • Let’s face it. The world of business is a big and sometimes scary place. Given all the risks, for some business owners staying in the comfort zone feels like a very smart choice. It’s not. The business climate is constantly changing, so staying put is really falling behind. If you want your business to keep growing, you must consistently seek new opportunities. How do you find them?

    Let’s face it. The world of business is a big and sometimes scary place. Given all the risks, for some business owners staying in the comfort zone feels like a very smart choice.

    It’s not.

    The business climate is constantly changing, so staying put is really falling behind. If you want your business to keep growing, you must consistently seek new opportunities.

    How do you find them?

    Get Out and Explore

    Hunting for new business opportunities can be fun or frightening, depending on your perspective. For many of the passionate leaders I work with, the treasure hunt for growth is so enticing that they sometimes get lost. They head down a trail that seductively beckons “come and see,” without a plan to return to home base.

    Are you the kind of person who gets a glimmer of a new idea and then chases it ruthlessly until you hold it in your hand? Then be careful or before you know it, your business could be heading off in a new direction without any strategic intent.

    Of course, being opportunistic is a good thing as long as it doesn’t divert you from your true purpose. To avoid the risk put methods in place to identify and evaluate which opportunities are worth your time and effort, and which are better left untapped.

    This approach ensures that you’re not missing out on the next big thing, or taking your business down a path to ruin.

    Explore New Markets

    I spent yesterday with a group of curious business owners. We were at an event hosted by Amex OPEN on the ins and outs of government contracting. 

    Those of you who know me understand that this is not my core expertise. However, it is something that’s of interest to some of my clients, and it’s important for me to know enough to point them in the right direction when they need help.

    With that in mind, I decided to invest a day learning about the process and talking with other business owners about their experiences. I wanted to see why they found government contracting enticing – or intimidating,

    The diverse group of attendees included freshly minted entrepreneurs like Danny, just 10 days into his new venture, along with people like Michael, a veteran small business owner with over 20 years under his belt. It was a broad-spectrum of business owners and it was interesting to hear their thoughts.

    After talking with several attendees, I would guess that only about 30% will actively pursue government contracting in the near future. Several more, say 50% will take time to explore further and decide if it’s right for them. The other 20% will probably never do anything more than attend the conference.

    And that’s totally okay.

    In my experience, it’s better to explore an opportunity and decide it’s not the right fit than to ignore it completely. That way you’re making informed decisions with current information about the industry and your competitors, instead of assuming your current track is the best.

    The people in the middle – those who haven’t made up their mind one way or another – are most likely to get lost in the process.

    Don’t Get Off Track

    When you can’t decide which way to take your business, the risk of getting hopelessly off track increases exponentially. I don’t want that to happen to you, so here are some tips to ensure you’re decisive and confident in the path you choose.

    1. Establish decision criteria upfront.

    Define what you’re looking for and the data you need to support your decision. Are there revenue or expense metrics that will make this a go or no go decision? What about resources and timing? Create a list of vital questions like,

    “Is this worth doing if it takes three months, but not if it takes six?”

    “Does this opportunity align with my corporate purpose?”

    What’s the payback period for my investment?”

    Once you have the answers, make the decision and move on.

    2. Set a time limit on your decision.

    Allocate a reasonable amount of time to gather the information you need, evaluate what’s at hand, and make a decision. Depending on the complexity of what you’re looking at, this might be a week or even several months.

    Set a time frame that’s allows enough time to make an educated decision without falling prey to “analysis paralysis.” Whatever feels right, set a date and stick to it. Remember, speed counts.

    3. Use an emissary.

    Do you love the process of research?  If you do, you might want to hand the project off to someone else. Why? Because you can spend way too much time savoring the process you enjoy and never make a decision.

    Remember, the goal is to move your business forward, not to analyze every single possible angle. Be more productive by asking a key staff member or even someone from your advisory board to gather and condense information for your review.

    4. Get outside help.

    If you don’t enjoy research or you’re concerned about it eating up precious time you need for running your business, get somebody to help you. Delegate pieces of the project to someone on your team or hire a consultant to run the entire project and provide recommendations at the end. Having an objective third-party involved also takes the emotion out of the process, leading to better business decisions in the end.

    5. Find a partner.

    At the contracting conference, they called it “teaming.” You might think of this as an alliance, subcontractor agreement or partnership. Whatever you call it, working with somebody who knows the landscape has big benefits.

    Being a sub on a government contract, for example, is an excellent way to see if you even like working with the government. If you want to test the waters, look for a partner who can help you get your feet wet without sinking.

    Apply these tips and you’ll be ready to discover new business opportunities, pick the best ones, and keep you business growing.


    Need some help? Maximize your growth and profitability by working with Joey Sargent as a business coach or consultant. Give her a call at 678.823.8228.

    The post New Business Opportunities: How to Explore without Getting Lost appeared first on Joey Sargent.

    Photo Credit: Lost With a Map/shutterstock

    Every successful sales relationship starts with a conversation. Sales reps must establish rapport with their prospects before advancing through the buying cycle, and commenting provides a unique opportunity to initiate and strengthen relationships. In fact, 39% of sales reps who regularly comment on their sales prospects’ LinkedIn activities exceed their quota.

    Every successful sales relationship starts with a conversation. Sales reps must establish rapport with their prospects before advancing through the buying cycle, and commenting provides a unique opportunity to initiate and strengthen relationships. In fact, 39% of sales reps who regularly comment on their sales prospects’ LinkedIn activities exceed their quota.

    Inside Sales expert Ken Krogue calls comments one of his six core skills of social media, and believes that they are powerful tactics to start conversations with prospects. “Comments are the basic element of interaction on social media,” says Krogue. “Comments start engagement.”

    While liking and resharing status updates can help achieve top-of-mind awareness, leaving insightful comments can command the attention of your sales prospects.

    Finding the right balance with comments

    To find commenting opportunities, visit your LinkedIn Home page and view the LinkedIn activity of your connections. You can choose to view either “Top” or “Recent” updates. You can also filter by content your connections have shared, LinkedIn Group contributions, or by updates your connections have made to their LinkedIn profile.

    Focusing on quality over quantity will help you attract the right kind of prospect attention. When overzealous sales reps see prospect posts on LinkedIn, they quickly respond and move on to other opportunities. Krogue calls these messages “drive-by comments” and notes that they rarely generate thoughtful responses. Instead, he recommends approaching each comment as the start of a back-and-forth conversation.

    3 steps to meaningful conversations

    Imagine that you’ve just received an email from a high value prospect looking for your expert opinion. Before putting fingers to your keyboard, work through these 3 steps:

    1. Sit back and take a deep breath. This counters the body’s natural tendency to lean forward when excited or nervous. Leaning back makes you feel more assertive and confident.
    2. Reassess what you know about the prospect. What challenges are they currently facing in their line of work? What new opportunities are on their mind? Are they just looking for answers, or do they want to explore a topic further?
    3. Compose a thoughtful response. Address the specific pain points or topics that the prospect covers, and provide additional insight from your own experiences in the industry. This is not the time to sell your solution, however. You must first position yourself as a trustworthy industry leader before pivoting to your company’s offers.Here are some common techniques that can spark further conversations from comments:
    • Posing a thought-provoking question about the topic
    • Discussing a recent article or research that provides additional insight to their questions
    • Sharing how you, or a company you worked with, handled a similar situation

    Anyone can write a quick response in the comment section. But to achieve social selling results, view each comment as the start of a conversation. An enlightened comment encourages your prospects to respond, and elevates your status as a problem-solving partner.

     

    It’s that #CMAD time of year again: Hooray for community managers! Let’s celebrate those digital leaders for their tireless, selfless, thoughtful work which creates, sustains and expands online communities around the world.

    It’s that #CMAD time of year again: Hooray for community managers! Let’s celebrate those digital leaders for their tireless, selfless, thoughtful work, which creates, sustains and expands online communities around the world.

    As anyone who has ever taken on the role can tell you, the online community manager’s job is one of the most demanding and most misunderstood in the knowledge work world. You can see for yourself by doing a job search on “online community manager.” The variety of tasks, responsibilities, requirements, skill sets and educational attainments enumerated in a community manager’s job description is astounding. Or you can just glance at the accompanying cartoon to get the same idea!

    I have to say — with over 20 years experience doing community management — I think the work is more demanding now than ever before. Technologies are more complex and vastly more numerous; expectations are much higher on the part of business owners and brands; data analytics are more readily available and thus far more in demand; and most important, community members — customers, partners, co-workers, professional peers and other constituents — are more engaged, more active, more involved and more aware of the powerful impact online communities provide. This is a lot to juggle.

    But the good news is that online community managers now have peer groups to which they can turn for support. We are no longer working in silent, solitary outposts within our organizations. Instead, through working groups, conferences, social sharing and even (gasp!) the telephone, we can now come together, collaborate and sometimes commiserate about the special concerns of supporting online communities.

    To help community managers find other like-minded professionals, we published “The Big List of B2B Online Communities,” a resource for B2B online community managers. Consider this a public gift to encourage collaboration and mutual support among B2B community managers. B2B online communities are our special interest, and the work involved is often very different from those of our consumer community counterparts. In fact, maybe next year we should celebrate and appreciate a special #B2BCMAD instead? Let me know what you think.

    Of course, tell your friends and professional online community colleagues #CMAD2015 to have a happy and communal Community Manager Appreciation Day this coming Monday, January 26, 2015 at #CMAD2015

    Here are a few of our favorite posts on the special role of the online community manager:

    Anyone who has ever managed an online community in a high-pressure environment — B2B or B2C — knows the stress is sometimes overwhelming. Here’s our post from last year on “How to Avoid Community Manager Burnout

    A few community managers arrive on the job with “a head for business and a personality for community-building,” to paraphrase Tess McGill in the 80s hit film Working Girl. But many more are unprepared for the complexities of turning online social interactions into real social business outcomes. So just in case, here’s our take on “What Every Community Manager Needs to Succeed in Business

    Online communities and social-oriented media have been around for a lot longer than many people realize. Among the earliest was The Well — The Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link — started in 1985 by Stewart Brand — of The Whole Earth Catalog fame — and Larry Brilliant. Among this group of pioneers was John Coate, probably the first online community manager, and author of “Cyberspace Innkeeping: Building Online Community, an essay about online community management. In our work, we are so often focused on what’s ahead that we fail to check the rearview mirror to see what’s coming up behind us. Here’s a quick refresher on how we got here, and why it’s still relevant today and tomorrow: “John Coate and the WELL: Looking ahead by looking back.”

    Encrypting the internet has been the topic of much discussion. You have people telling you about the need to encrypt to protect our way of life, as well as, those who talk about the untold marketing benefits promised to us by the Google gods.

    Encrypting the internet has been the topic of much discussion. You have people telling you about the need to encrypt to protect our way of life, as well as, those who talk about the untold marketing benefits promised to us by the Google gods. You also have the people who don’t know what’s going on, but who have started to see more locks in the address bar of their web browser or have seen that fully qualified URLs for many sites now read HTTPS and not HTTP.

     

    So, What Is HTTPS and How Does It Work?  

    If you’ve ever been on the internet, you know HTTP. You probably see it every time you try to make a hyperlink. HTTP means, “Hypertext Transfer Protocol.” It’s how data is communicated on the internet.

    HTTPS is simply (or not so simply) Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. This means that you’re not transferring plain text files by using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), a cryptographic system that encrypts data with two keys. The server's public key (that encrypts) and a private key (that decrypts). Note: This might be a good time to try that rapid eye blinking thing I mentioned earlier.

    In order to prove the website identity, you must have the server's public key, since you can’t store all the keys to every website in your browser. Instead, there are Certificate Authorities--a list of CA’s, which came installed with you browser and operating system with the stored public keys to verify certified secure servers.

    Your browser sends the server an encrypted message, using the public key from the CA and the server's private key is used to decrypt the message. If the server is able to tell you what the message originally was, the server has verified its identity to you without having to share the private key. Sinceyou have a pre-approved list of Certificate Authorities on your browser, this keeps you safe. Whew! Safety is a good thing.

     


    If HTTPS Is So Great, Why Haven’t We Always Used It?

    SSL used to slow page load times by 3-4 seconds per page, meaning that HTTPS everywhere wasn’t just a bad user experience--it was dial up. It was enough to make you long for the time when information was sent via carrier pigeons. Also, not long ago, Google wasn’t able to crawl sites that used the HTTPS protocol, meaning your site couldn’t be indexed. This led to only pages that collected private data, like credit cards, being secured.

    Why SSL Encrypt Now?

    Now SSL adds only a fraction of a second to page load times and encryption doesn’t just keep you and your data safe in commerce; it’s also about your conversations. You hear about mass data collection, which the NSA can neither confirm or deny… Oh they deny that, they never deny things…

    Google recommends using HTTPS everywhere, because encryption helps to keep your data and your users secure. Also, when you only encrypt the things that must be secure, it’s like holding a giant sign that says, “Hey! The sensitive and valuable data is over here!” As any good spy movie will tell you, that’s the sort of thing you want to avoid.

    If that isn’t  enough, there is a marketing and analytics benefit for site owners, too. In August 2014, Google announced that SSL encryption would be a ranking factor in search. But with 200+ ranking factors, it’s unlikely that simply moving to HTTPS will give you magical ranking benefits.

    Making the HTTPS jump should be about more than just ranking. Encryption is just how the internet is going. I personally don’t think going HTTPS will help you so much as failing to secure the internet and your users’ data is going to hurt you--not just in search, but overall.

    Search rankings and security aside... Not encrypting is already hurting your analytics. Many websites (mine included priory to moving https) have seen an increase in “(direct) / (none)” traffic, because of this. Even though I used Google Analytics as an example, it’s important to  note that this is not a Google problem.

    There is no way that 29.8% of my website traffic was direct or bookmark traffic. This is happening because, when traffic flows from a secure site to a non secure site, all that lovely referral data is lost. Referrals from both “normal” HTTP sites and HTTPS sites to an encrypted HTTPS site will send referral information, but the secure protocol drops any referral data when transferring to a non encrypted website.

    So adding an SSL cert give will you back your referral data. It will also give you back your full Bing keyword data, because Bing keyword data was lost after that search engine moved to HTTPS.  But, because Google is basally a willful and all knowing child, flipping the SSL switch won’t give you back the “not provided” keyword data at least from Google.

    The willful, all knowing child explained.  The loss of Keyword data on Google was from Google choosing to take it away. Look at Google Webmaster tools to get back some (not all) of your keyword data. You can get some of it because Google still has it. They have all of it. They share it with advertisers; they just aren't sharing with you.

    How Referral Search Engine Referral Data Works

    When you go from one link to another, (for example: masonpelt.com to siliconangle.com) the browser gives the site you’re going to a bit of info called, “the referer,” that has the URL of the previous page you were on. For SEPS (search result page’s), that url will hold a query string such as www.google.com/search?q=mason20%pelt.

    Since the entire URL has information, referer includes ?q=mason20%pelt. Analytics packages can sort that information by keeping a list of  search engines and parsing the information after the q variable. This allows me to see that someone came from Google by searching, “Mason Pelt.”

    All Google is doing is forcing you to redirect through another url. That way, you get referrer data saying the traffic came from Google, but none of the lovely referring keyword data.

    On the bright side, many SEOs, like my friend, Joe Youngblood, do think 2015 will be the year Google gives keyword data back to encrypted websites. Maybe that’s another reason to encrypt.  Or, maybe it’s just the hopes and dreams of search engine marketers.

    Why You Still Have Some Referral Data From HTTPS Sites

    In the above screenshot, you can clearly see Facebook is responsible for nearly 50% of web traffic and Facebook clearly uses SSL. Most social networks use HTTPS, at this time. The good new is the Google trick of redirecting urls to remove keyword data. The forcing of redirect URLs can also be used to send you from an HTTPS site to an HTTP site, thus leaving the referral data intact.

    When you click a link on Twitter, you can clearly watch the URL redirect from https://twitter.com to http://t.co/. Similar is true of Facebook, YouTube and most other social networks. Most simply hide it better than Twitter.

    So, why are these networks choosing to send out referral data? Most of these networks work hard not to share any of their user data that makes their advertising platforms better, or at least different, than the next guy’s. My theory is that the competitive marketing for online advertising is  why these platforms are going out of their way to give us referral data.

    If advertising platforms didn’t give us some data, I would wish them good luck on getting all but the least savvy media buyers to invest in marketing on that platform. Good luck selling the ROI of your platform on the social web, when you already have a hard time getting people to track you correctly. (See my rant here) Good luck keeping advertisers, or even business users, if you have to explain and get them to set up SSL in order to see if anyone clicked your links.

    But smaller sites have no reason to go to the time effort and server burden of forcing redirects just to give your website an analytics footnote saying three people clicked a link and went to your website.

    In my mind, anything that can add clarity to data without substantially hurting your site’s speed or your search rankings is worth doing. Also, as I say to myself every time I leave a grocery store with a canvas bag, “I’m saving the planet.”

    There Are Some Things To Consider Before Adding Encryption - It’s Not As Simple As Flipping a Switch.

    Oh, would that it were just a button to change your DNS! Moving to SSL completely means switching everything to HTTPS--internal links, images and website files like CSS, javascript and PHP or setting redirect at the server level from http to https. Your CDN (if you use one) have to also be SSL ready. Most content delivery networks are capable of SSL encryption. But I don't assume because... “U,” “Me,” “ Ass…” That’s why.

    Odd-Couple---My-Strife-in-Court

    You are technically making your website an entirely new domain in the eyes of Google. You will have to be ready and able to set up 301 redirects for every page and piece of content. I personally would recommend trying to get your most important backlinks updated from http: to https:

    Since you’re on a “different domain,” you may lose some social proof. If you have a social share counter like the one on this site, you will lose all of your social shares, Many of the most common social sites (Facebook, Google Plus and Linkedin) use APIs and will eventually update your share numbers, but this could take weeks or months. Since Twitter and Pinterest don’t use APIs of share counters, you will either lose those or be forced to make a small code change to display your actual social shares. Moz.com has an SEO checklist to consider before switching to HTTPS.

    You risk other compatibility problems besides social and CDN. Some older web apps may not support encryption. Additionally, a misconfiguration or an older browser like Internet Explorer 7 not recognizing your chosen SSL provider could mean that your visitors are shown a message like this.

    You will also want to consider speed, even though SSL won’t slow your site like it did in the past. It is, at the very least, an extra step to loading a page. As explained above, the browser pings the server to verify identity before content starts to load. This will affect speed, under most circumstances. While the effects are much less detrimental than they were 5 years ago, if a fraction of a second is added to an already slow page load, it can hurt both user experience and search rankings.

    The increase in page load time is negligible on optimized sites, without the code bloat that plagues many Wordpress themes, and if the site is on fast distributed servers. Basically, if everything runs as it should, there won’t be a huge problem.

    There is also an open networking protocol called SPDY, which was primarily developed by Google with goal of reducing page load latency for SSL traffic. Renowned marketing expert, Joost de Valk, explains in this article that it actually made his site faster (at least on modern browsers). But I wouldn’t upgrade with the expectation of a performance increase.

    If your site server and website code are ready and you set up 301 redirects correctly, there are many benefits to switching to SSL.

    You Can Now Encrypt for Free

    Encryption isn’t just a priority for Google; it’s good for the internet. That’s why StartSSL offers free basic certificates for individuals. To make it better, the Electronic Frontier Foundation uses StartSSL. That’s an endorsement that should let you sleep well at night.

    That said, I cannot talk about free SSL certificates without mentioning Heartblead, a bug found in the popular Open SSL cryptographic software library. This bug will allow anyone to read the memory of the servers protected by the vulnerable versions of Open SSL. It compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic.

    According to the StartSSL website and every security expert I’ve spoken with, StartSSL was never affected by the headblade bug. That said, all software is subject to flaws. Bash Bug is an example of that. It’s part of the world that we live in. All this to to say, SSL encryption is worth it. You get more complete data from analytics and better security for your website and it can be done for free. For a step by step guide to setting up StartSSL I’m referring you to the very detailed blog post by Mike Mill.

    (Header Image: Yuri Samoilov)

     

    The last few years have seen a whole host of social approaches and technologies enter the classroom. Whilst the likes of Khan Academy and the MOOC platforms have led the way, there have also been a wave of smaller, but no less innovative, projects. For instance, the likes of Smart Kapp and Socrative are offering up a couple of tools for making the mobiles that most students carry with them better learning tools.

    The last few years have seen a whole host of social approaches and technologies enter the classroom.  Whilst the likes of Khan Academy and the MOOC platforms have led the way, there have also been a wave of smaller, but no less innovative, projects.

    For instance, the likes of Smart Kapp and Socrative are offering up a couple of tools for making the mobiles that most students carry with them better learning tools.

    There has also been a growing use of games in the classroom, with a recent study highlighting just how potent they can be as a learning aid.

    Snapchat in the classroom

    A potentially unlikely platform to be used in a classroom setting is the latest social superstar, Snapchat.  The video messaging service that deletes messages after a short time would appear an unlikely candidate, but a recent study found otherwise.

    The study revolved around the delivery of feedback to students about the quality of their assignments.  It found that a video message delivered via Snapchat was preferred by students to the traditional method of annotating the assignment itself.

    “Almost everyone agrees student feedback is inseparable from the learning process – and some even say high quality feedback is the most powerful single influence on student achievement – yet the same literature points out that many students do not value the feedback comments but simply skip to the grade,” the researchers say.

    The researchers note how student expectations have evolved, with many not even bothering to collect their work physically, instead preferring to receive their grades remotely and automatically.

    “Even if students read the feedback, some researchers have argued that they do little with it, resulting in lecturers complaining that the many hours spent in providing feedback feels like wasted effort,” the authors say.

    “Basically, we wanted to find a something better than the established comments-in-the-margin with a red biro scenario.”

    The study provided clear evidence that students both found the Snapchat style video feedback more effective, but it also helped to create a closer connection with their teacher.

    “The students had already received detailed written feedback on their first assignment. The videos were generally recorded immediately after the assignment was read and while notes were made on the assignment as prompts no ‘script’ was written. The proximity of the recording to when the assignment was read, meant the comments were specific, the advice relevant and the language had a sense of immediacy.

    “This also meant that our time was not wasted making copious notes to recall the specific details of individual assignments. We rarely re-recorded and never edited videos as this would make the process too time consuming and ultimately unsustainable for larger or multiple classes. The recorded videos along with the grades were then uploaded to the grade book in the online student learning platform,” the researchers reveal.

    It probably goes without saying that this is a relatively untouched topic, so more research will be needed to see just how effective this could be across a much larger sample.  Nevertheless, it might be something for teachers to try out with their own class to see how pupils respond.

    Photo Credit: Snapchat in the Class/shutterstock