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Social Media Marketing

Security considerations for small businesses in 2017

Small businesses are not exempt from caring about security. They, too, need to be as invested in what occurs in keeping their data and other aspects of the organisation secure. Though so much of security is often focused on big businesses and major breaches, such as hacking and cyber invasion, there are many aspects to security worth considering. To that end, if you want to be able to protect your businesses from outside interference, in order to actually produce quality work and meet client expectations, it’s important to consider what is happening in terms of security in the future. Businesses must stay ahead of security concerns in order stay ahead of those who would do damage and participate in criminal activities.

Everything is cyber

These days every business understands that being connected is essential. No longer are modern businesses only local, but are branched out into the rest of world. They exist in various forms, communicating through social media, email, website and so on. Even internally, data is stored digitally, people are able to operate and conduct meetings regardless of location. But this internal idea is itself part of the problem. As the American National Cybersecurity Institute noted:

“One of the biggest threats a company has that puts it at risk for an attack or data breach is its internal users. Lack of cybersecurity awareness and training can put organizations at a significantly higher susceptibility to cybercriminals. As Tripwire’s security engineer pointed out, security doesn’t just mean taking measures to prevent the attacks, but providing training and guidance on how to handle incident response in the event that an incident occurs. And this should be done throughout all levels of the organization, especially considering ransomware schemes like spear phishing happen primarily through emailing employees.”

Training is important but so is monitoring. So often when people consider installing, say, CCTV camera or a video wall controller, the assumption that it is to prevent outside interference. But the threats come from inside, too. This can be intentional or negligence. As SC Magazine pointed out:

“[Workers] taking the necessary steps to ensure security in the workplace becomes less of a priority for them as they seek to perform their job functions efficiently. In fact, 40 percent of firms expect a data breach in the next 12 months as a result of employee behavior, and employees indicated a widespread lack of awareness of good cybersecurity practice. The consequence is that over the last year, 78 percent of breaches have originated from within the extended enterprise (including contractors and ex-employees), the report found.”

This is a shocking number. In terms of the future, more businesses must focus on creating policy and training programs to highlight the dangers posed by employees themselves.

Education

Learning new skills and acquiring knowledge is never a bad thing. This is particularly important if, as we noted, employees learn what to do and what not to do in order to minimise any cyber dangers to businesses. Businesses owners must take the necessary steps to help minimise this danger and this means supplying education and courses that can enable their employees to not make any mistakes. Of course, nothing is perfect, but training isn’t about perfection in this case – it’s about reducing the chances of invasion, manipulation and so on from occurring which could threaten the whole company.

For example, you could begin by putting in place policies that minimise or completely restrict mobile devices. As Forsythe notes:  “As smartphones and tablets become constant companions, cyber attackers are using every avenue available to break into them.”

Most of us expect these expensive pieces of tech to be secure. In reality, they are not. With simple equipment, hackers can get in and make use of other, more powerful equipment nearby. For example, says Forsythe, “hackers can gain access to a nearby mobile device in less than 30 seconds and either mirror the device and see everything on it, or install malware that will enable them to siphon data from it at their leisure.”

You can also encourage employers to change their passwords regularly, instituting Two Factor Authentication on all their important accounts. Google, for example, sends a message to your phone when you login to your email from another device or computer. After all, if you suddenly login from somewhere else, that’s a red flag of hacking – since it means someone else is invading your space. But sometimes, of course, it’s just using a new or another device. Sending a quick note to your phone lets you authenticate it. Since hackers don’t have your phone, this is a much more secure method and is recommended by many cybersecurity experts.

HR Trends for 2017

Business culture changes with the times, like so much of the world. One aspect that has dramatically shifted has been how people are viewed and treated within organisations. So often, the idea has been that employees are little more than cogs in the giant machine of production, resulting in a profitable output the benefits those at the top. While some critics of capitalism would claim little has changed, there are at least laws and social norms in place that were not there before. Within this has been a growing engagement with HR (human resource) management, allowing for greater insight into the nature of work and employment. This has led to better work conditions and understanding of what employment means. It’s therefore worth considering what the future of HR could mean and how that could influence business.

What is the point of HR?

There are many aspects required for a business to run. It’s hard to balance the many plates spinning that result in production and ideally profits. This allows employers to pay employees, so that people can continue to pay their bills, pay for education and so on. But this itself still requires management and this is where HR comes in.

As The Balance notes:

“Human Resource Management (HRM) is the function within an organization that focuses on the recruitment of, management of, and providing direction for the people who work in an organization. As you can imagine, all of the processes and programs that are touched by people are part of the HR kingdom.”

A lot of people, especially in smaller businesses think they can get rid of HR departments or managers. After all, they think, if it’s just a matter of hiring and firing, anyone can do it. But that’s not true. As Business 2 Community points out: “There’s a lot more to human resources than hiring and firing. There’s payroll, benefits, performance reviews and more. And you have to make sure you’re doing all of that in compliance with state and federal laws.”

To that end, businesses, regardless of size, would do well to consider HR managers – or, at the very least, send those in positions of power to HR management courses to help improve their knowledge and educate them about what it means to work in such a space. Businesses benefit from proper management – this is simply a statement of fact. Why wouldn’t you want that area, involving the hiring and management of people’s employment done professionally and well, too? Further, if you can alleviate pressure from

The future of HR

Cultural and technological progress will change how the workplace operates in future. To that end, it’s worth considering just how HR itself will change. It might seem strange to think that societal factors will influence how you manage employees, but once you see what does and continues to influence – for example – who does and doesn’t get hired, you will see how HR practice could change.

For example, what kind of culture creates a toxic work environment? Researchers at prestigious institutions have long wanted to know the answer to this question. Fast Company summarises one finding:

“A string of ugly scandals in recent years has hit companies like Zenefits, Wells Fargo, ANZ Bank, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Toshiba, and others. What they have in common is that all have been attributed, in one way or another, to a toxic work culture where unethical business practices were encouraged. In most cases, impossibly high standards set by executives and upper management led employees to cut corners (or worse) to reach them.”

In terms of what this means for the future, many HR leaders, executives and managers are talking openly about “culture” in the workplace – looking at what is expected from a top down perspective. As Fast Company put it: “businesses that care about [creating a non-toxic work environment] may look to their HR teams to find ways to have those conversations with all of their employees more meaningfully and more often.” This is due to how the entire company must work to create a better environment. While it is true that the power lies at the top, that still means you can participate even if you are merely an employee. But you need guidance and openness from the an HR department to allow this to happen in the first place.

Another trend will come from analysis. After all, in order to make the best decisions, you need to have the best data. As Forbes notes: “Not only is there a lot of employee data that is becoming available but HR teams also need to understand what to do with that data and how to make sense of it. This requires a deep understanding of analytics and data science. The smart HR teams around the world are staffing up with plenty data, science and analytics professionals to help make sense understand their people better.”

This data is what ties in to the research showing that toxic work environments are actually less productive. Using proper methodology and measurements, you can calculate what and when particular policies were put in place and then the results of that implementation. With the wide variety of ways to capture data about a company these days, HR will be incorporating this data into suggestions and policy it can recommend be implemented throughout a company.

What businesses must know about websites in 2017

The internet has changed the world dramatically in innumerable ways. People communicate instantly across the world, run businesses from their cellphones and make careers out of filming themselves for passionate fans. It’s changed how businesses market themselves, consider their products and interact with customers. Furthermore, everything has become faster. Businesses can face enormous PR disasters that dominate the news for days, before people move on to newer blunders. More than anything, businesses must know what it means to exist online. To that extent, businesses must know what it means to run a website. It’s both more complicated and less complicated than many might think, according to designers and website experts. Let’s examine what it means to have a website in the internet age.

Purpose

As with all projects, the first question any business leader must be able to answer concerns purpose: what will putting money, time and resources into this yield that’ll benefit the business? As Entrepreneur highlights, the point of a website is broaden the business’ reach.

“You should at the very least have a presence on the web so that customers, potential employees, business partners and perhaps even investors can quickly and easily find out more about your business and the products or services you have to offer.”

Naturally, people found and invested in businesses before the internet. But the point isn’t whether those interactions were possible, but rather how much the internet has changed the landscape. A business can, of course, opt to have no internet presence, but that only means being overshadowed by competitors who’ve chosen the broad, far-reaching and constant marketing an internet presence provides. If business leaders would opt for billboards to market their business, it makes no sense to refuse a platform that will reach more people and can provide more information, leading to higher chance of customer conversion.

Design

One of the most important aspects of a website is how well it’s designed. Summarising website research, Forbes’ Drew Hendricks noted visitors to a site will often point to bad design, not bad content, as a reason for being turned off a company.

“Design elements are exponentially more powerful than content, in terms of mistrust. When asked to describe why they mistrusted a website, 94 percent of comments were directly related to web design elements, while only 6 percent referenced specific content. While the study was directed towards health sites, it seems practical that the same basic principles would carry over to other industries.”

Ideally, a website should be simple enough for anyone to use, but complex enough to answer any question. It’s essential that our sites host a number of important features: search functions to help visitors navigate, contact details including email and phone numbers, Google Map locations and so on. Many businesses also recognise the importance of establishing themselves as thought leaders in the industry. As Risdall notes:

“Thought leaders … take content to the next level by serving as their industry spokespersons, taking a stand on issues or giving away a little of their intellectual property to establish their usefulness. Instead of just sharing content around products and services, thought leaders share expertise around the broader challenges they face in their industries.”

In terms of online content, this also provides individual business sites with original material, not merely static pages or adverts. This means it will “rank” better (i.e. land up as one of the earliest hits after a person uses a search engine) when people search for terms related to a business. As Skyword points out:

“If you aren’t constantly pinging search engines with new content, there’s nothing to entice the spiders to crawl your site and rank your webpages higher than those of your competitors. Publishing and updating content to your site frequently means that search engines will more readily find your pages, potentially resulting in higher rankings and increased viewership.”

Security

One of the most important aspects of using the internet is security. This is why it’s important to really consider who will be doing the business’ domain hosting. Naturally, there are a range of well known companies that offer domain hosting services – and even additional services, such as domain email hosting – but it is imperative to put security first. In terms of registering the domain, it’s also important that business leaders recognise the various laws and requirements involved, such as registering their name on a public database. Entrepreneur has a very useful guide for securing a domain name, which has proved helpful to countless people.

For example, they advise putting in geographical or keywords in the name. They also suggest focusing on obtaining a “.com” above everything else.

“When you register your domain name, you’ll be bombarded with offers to purchase other versions like .net and .co. For most small businesses, that’s not needed. Investing in other extensions becomes important when patenting something or protecting a trademark… If you think a competitor might want the .net version of your domain name, for example, consider taking it first.”

Using a website might differ slightly from other forms of marketing, but it is essential for the modern business. A business simply doesn’t really exist if they don’t have an online presence. And a website, which businesses themselves control, helps to establish their brand on the wild domain of the internet.  

Main secrets for businesses to exist online successfully

The modern business must exist online. Businesses that don’t do so are doomed to obscurity and invisibility. Even on the African continent, the widespread adoption of smart mobile devices means more people are using the internet on a daily basis. But existing online is one part of a major marketing move requiring its own focus. Let’s consider some important aspects to having a digital presence in today’s world.

Why existing online matters

As indicated, the idea of the internet only being accessible to rich countries is undermined by facts. HTXT summarised a recent report about African internet usage, which showed: “Global active internet usage grew 10% in 2016, adding 332 million more users, while Africa saw 42.7 million more active users being added.”

Mobile devices are, of course, the most frequently used. What this indicates is that if we run a business, even in Africa, we need to care about existing online – there are literally billions who will have access to our sites. They will be searching for information and the websites we control should be the first place they land (not our opposition or social media complaints).

How to make this happen

In order to drive people to our sites, we need to select a number of aspects. One of the first is to get the right domain. While people won’t check on the domain owner, usually, there are other aspects to consider.  

To choose the right domain, we should align it with our brand. Sometimes, our name will be so broad, it might already be taken. We can check the domain owner and attempt to purchase it from them, but we should rather opt to choose alternatives. Search engine optimisers who work to promote businesses online suggest choosing as close as possible to the brand itself.

Consistency is also key. We must maintain the same colours, themes, styles, logos and so on from the physical world into the digital. This continuity is important to convey to potential clients we are a serious business.

Another issue when it comes to maintaining a website is that we need new content, making it more visible to Google searches. Google is able to indicate how relevant content is as well as duplicates – so we need fresh, unique copy. This tells Google – and therefore its users – that the site is receiving attention, is worth seeing and remains relevant to what the business focuses on.

What startups must consider when starting their business in 2016

Startups must consider the world as it stands in 2016. Everything is integrated in ways no one could’ve foreseen. Creating a business no longer means standing by rules or ideas that worked decades ago. Instead, new ways have had to be created just as new businesses begun. What matters to people these days differs dramatically from before, meaning businesses have to had to readjust their priorities in extraordinary ways.

We should therefore consider just what startups should consider as essential in 2016.

The internet is everywhere

If we don’t have a website, we don’t exist. A digital presence is everything. Customers are searching with their phones, using them to find info on everything about shops to products being sold. People forget that the entire continent of Africa is renowned as being the mobile continent, with a large number of phones in use. As Time pointed out, “nearly 70% of Amazon’s customers shopped via mobile devices [the in 2015] holiday season.”

Existing does not just mean having a website – it means having a working, reliable and easy to use site. We need to also be on social media, since this conveys further reliability. Customers don’t like fewer ways to contact businesses and will see absence as a negative.

As part of considering how we’ll exist online, we must consider if we’re opting for Cloud or VPS hosting, the type of site we’ll build and so on.  

Mobile is everything

As we’ve noted, mobile is essential. We must create services in a way that welcomes mobile engagement. This could mean either making our site mobile friendly or developing a mobile app. From big to small, all businesses have developed apps that allow users an easy way to engage with the business. Amazon has its own app, as does the local Mr Delivery – making selections easy for the customer and encouraging follow through of sales benefitting the business. The convenience of mobile is the biggest benefit for a business – not catering to it could mean collapse.

Challenge and growth

These days, people from all walks of life are obtaining degrees and education. The barriers restricting people based on their identity have reduced (but aren’t completely gone, unfortunately). This means we’re operating in a world increasingly diverse. We should attempt to look beyond the confines of those we know and associate with, bringing in talent and skills from people we might not meet otherwise. Businesses consistently benefit from diversity, too, since this brings new ideas and considerations from perspectives we’d never consider. Often, values can be challenged but this should be seen as a reason to grow, as a person and business.