Hack Threat! Warning Signs and a Close ‘Call’

“If you spend more on coffee than on IT security, you will be hacked. What’s more, you deserve to be hacked” 
― Richard Clarke

No one wants to be hacked, but there are scums out there who enjoy creating internet or identity mayhem for all of us. Perhaps there is a special Hell for those that create these problems.

I am in hack-threat recovery. I was working on a client project and completing some online banking tasks when my computer locked up and a screen opened from ‘Microsoft’. It mentioned my computer had just been exposed to a serious virus and I needed to act fast (call their customer service number) before my identity, files, and related devices were affected.

At that moment, I wasn’t panicked. I was protected and I had an excellent computer consultant on my team (Kevin Scott of Visionary IT even sent an email updating the latest threats the previous week!) I called Kevin and left a message, but time was ticking. Fear was building. I couldn’t do anything with my computer and the wise choice would have been to shut down–which I should have done.

I can hear you gasping. I still shudder at my actions, too, but I was suddenly shoved into an unknown world without immediate support. Here’s what happened:

A friendly voice greeted me on the other side, asking me what the issue was. His name was ‘Simon’ and he had a charming thick accent. I could hear an unidentifiable foreign language in the background…not like the typical call centers many of us have experienced. WARNING 1.

WARNING 2: he repeatedly asked for screen-sharing access. He insisted it was necessary to identify the problem. When I started questioning him, he mentioned it was obvious my computer needed a ‘tune-up’ much like our vehicles. WARNING 3.

Simon then proceeded to tell me these things happen to good people and that I shouldn’t blame myself. He continued to babble, not allowing me to explain the situation further. WARNING 4.

As Simon continued to insist that this particular virus was highly dangerous, I asked him to wait while I called my IT specialist. He calmly assured me that my IT guy would agree, meanwhile trying to coax me into purchasing a new firewall. He then proceeded to tell me that they work with a very reputable company, called Agape (which he pronounced ah-gop-ay), meaning ‘Jesus loves you’ in Hindu. WARNING 5.

I ended the conversation by saying I won’t make a move without my computer consultant’s knowledge and advice. Simon continued to urge me to act now because this virus infects all devices quickly. I hung up. The entire conversation was just over 2 minutes long.

Moments later, Kevin called me and reassured me that all was well. Simon and his team were scammers who wanted access to my computer in order to hack and steal anything they could access. Kevin then listed several truths about these threats:

  • Microsoft does not respond in this manner regarding your computer. If there is an issue, they send MAILED LETTERS, not emails because of the likelihood of email spamming.
  • Your computer will alert you to threats, not Microsoft—that’s why you have antivirus, antispam, firewalls, and malware alerts installed. If you don’t have them, get them NOW!!
  • Scammers rely on fear, urgency, and ignorance to take advantage of us. You don’t have to be an IT expert to avoid these threats, but you do need to know what precautions to take, which includes the programs listed above.

Other warning signs:

  • questionable links
  • unusual requests
  • things you don’t recognize
  • strange requests or comments from your connections
  • an attempt on their behalf to acquire any type of passwords or access to your computer

While much of this may be basic know-how, I’ve learned a tough lesson to share with you. Please share with everyone but most importantly, protect yourself! Redundancy is better than ignorance.

Kristen

BloggyCon16: Lessons Learned from Sandusky, Ohio

20161005_104426-resizedOn the shores of Lake Erie, with the fabulous Cedar Point Amusement Park as our setting, I attended my first blogging conference September 17th & 18th. 30 hours later and after meeting as many attendees as possible (close to 150), my brain was full of ideas, motivation, and plentiful wisdom of which I share with you this week.

Keynote speaker, Rachel Brenke, spoke on how to Position yourself as an Influencer:
•    Cultivate your audience consistently.
•    Create an audience avatar—a representation of who your ideal reader is.
•    Keep your focus on what would most appeal to your avatar; what does he/she need or want?
•    Stick to your values—how far are you willing to go for your avatar?
*I came away with a better understanding of my audience and what their prime interests are.

Claudia Krusch of TrendyLatina and SocialCoerce spoke on Monetizing Social Media:
•    Lack of followers and lack of money does not equal a lack of blogging success!
•    Know yourself: your content reflects you and therefore, your brand.
•    Will you have a broad or a specific niche?
•    Set a schedule: reliability and predictability are vital to success.
•    Find blogger support groups and networks to learn, grow, and help.
•    Follow people within your niche on Twitter, including people and brands that are compatible with what your goals are and what your avatar needs.
•    Retweet content from others. Comment, share, and reach out.
•    Participate in Twitter parties and Twitter chats.
•    Instagram is growing fast. Get involved in a new platform.
*Social media isn’t as scary as it sometimes feels. There is debate over whether to go broad or specific in your niche. Talk to others and get their opinion!

Influencer Marketing from Tiffany Carroll of IZEA:
•    Brands are looking for creators—YOU!
•    Does your blog fit with their brand—product, service, or idea?
•    Are you authentic on your blog?
•    Brands seek blogs & creators with engagement: are your followers an actual audience or other bloggers?
•    Create interactive content that inspires readers to respond.
•    Share posts to expand your reach and the brand’s reach.
•    Try new social media platforms.
•    Quality content and blog length are what matters to readers and brands.
*I like that brands are in need of bloggers! While our numbers may be small, these brands won’t turn us away. There are ways around what we think are obstacles.

Digital Insights with Kristi Allen:
•    Know your online visitor.
•    Create a strategy based on your goals and their needs.
•    Write more content. Share more content.
•    Find new ways to share: social media, live streaming, podcasts, new media.
•    Implement Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager.
*I have a better understanding of analytics now. Her free download, Smarter Website Goal Worksheet, has several tips for ultimate website performance.

Creating a Culture that Connects with Brands by Tasha Branham:
•    She reiterated what Tiffany said: brands are looking for us!
•    What’s your MVP: Mission, Vision, Purpose?
•    Reach out to the brands that fit your audience.
•    Don’t wait for brands to reach out to you!
•    Write to be relatable; your audience wants to know YOU.
•    Build credibility by being honest.
*I came away with that both brands and our audience are in need of us. There is something for everyone and that we won’t gain (nor will our readers) if we always stay silent. Build your blog, share it out and reach everyone.

Other great insights came from the ‘Bloggy Squads’ in which we broke into small groups to discuss various topics: affiliates, monetization, digital products, parenting. I gained lots of new connections with homeschooling parents and will be implementing their wisdom as I prepare to homeschool my granddaughter.

The greatest wisdom came in a conversation with Claudia Krusch. She told me: Your website needs to be separate from your blog. They don’t mix and if you want either to succeed, you will need to create a separate blogging site. Not the news I wanted to hear, but necessary. Looks like that’s on my 4th quarter agenda.

One last lesson learned: this body is no longer built for rollercoasters!

What about you? Do you have blogging or content questions?

Kristen Edens

Headline Headaches and How to Avoid Them

David Castillo Dominici freedigitalphotos.net

Headlines are one of many stumbling blocks when it comes to writing for our business. How many of us have stared at the blank page just trying to come up with a potential headline that will spark an idea.

First of all, coming up with a headline for an unknown topic is tougher than coming up with an idea. If you’ve got a blogging project ahead of you and are stuck with ideas, start here. Then take those ideas and work through a few headlines. Thanks goes to Joanna Brown of The WordHen who found and shared this link on the Kris the Scribbler facebook page: 7 Ways to Write Headlines that Get Clicks.

In the article, the author, Whitney Cole, identifies 7 types of headlines:

  1. Ask a question
  2. Be honest
  3. Use shock and awe
  4. Show them how to do something
  5. Solve a problem
  6. Include the reader in a group
  7. Promise big benefits

She even provides excellent examples for each. What’s missing, however, is how to take one idea and spin it to fit all 7 headline categories. So I’m taking the topic of blogging for business and providing a headline for each headline type.

  1. Ask a question:

Will Blogging for Your Business Really Help?

  1. Be honest:

Lessons Learned from Not Blogging for My Business

  1. Use shock and awe:

How I went from Guest Blogger to Paid Blogger in Less Than 3 Months

  1. Show them how to do something:

How to Build a Relationship through your Blog

  1. Solve a problem:

Not sure what to do with the Blog You Just Wrote? Follow these Simple Steps.

  1. Include the reader in a group:

Blogging Tips for Boomers & the X-Gen

  1. Promise big benefits:

4 Blogging Habits that will Get You Noticed—FAST!

Notice how each headline type provides a different viewpoint for the same topic. Not only that, each one educates and helps your potential or existing client. Your product or service has several similar topics and headline ideas, as well, and with a little exploration into what you know and what your clients need to know, you’ll have many ideas and headlines fast!

Then, spread them out and intersperse with other blog ideas and you’ve filled your business blogging calendar for several weeks or months, depending on your blogging plan. An extra bonus: you can create a knock-out e-book, presentation or webinar from your topics.

And all this starts with a headline! Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

Got a headline question or comment? Share it below!

Happy writing!
Kris the Scribbler

photo credit goes to David Castillo Dominici at freedigitalphotos.net

Stuck On Blogging ideas? Your Latest Events Could Offer Inspiration

Ideas from Stuart Miles of freedigitalphotos.net

One of the most asked questions is, “Where do I get blog ideas?”

Everyone gets stuck on this aspect of business-ownership (even me) and for some, it could be as unpleasant as pulling your own teeth. Part of the mental obstacle comes when trying to come up with something that WE think our audience would like to read. Most of the time, what ideas come to mind interest you (because no one loves what you do like you), so they’ll probably bore others.

Not so. You are the expert in your industry. In your niche. The people you have collected through networking, LinkedIn, groups, associations and organizations know YOU and they are trusting you to have the answers they need. Even if your industry is swarming with competitors, you have a unique neighborhood of contacts that a competitor does not. So write for them. Solve a problem for them. Let them know you are an expert. They may not need you right now, but someday they will and that’s when magic happens!

If you’re overdue to write a blog because you can’t find a topic, take a look at your work activity last week. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What business-related tasks did you do last week? (list 3)
  • What client tasks did you accomplish last week? (list 3)
  • What client questions did you answer? (list 3 to 5)
  • What events did you attend? (list 3)
  • Did you have to explain your expertise to anyone? If yes, what did you say?
  • What problems did you solve—either for you, your business, or a client? (list 2 or 3)

To give you an example of potential answers, here are mine:

What business-related tasks did I do last week?

  1. Gathered all my tax stuff and sent it to the accountant.
  2. Scheduled my social media posts for the next week.
  3. Created an interview outline for 5 upcoming interviews.

What client tasks did I accomplish last week?

  1. Edited a white paper for a client.
  2. Created a March editorial calendar for a client.
  3. Wrote a bio and presentation summary for a client’s upcoming event.

What client questions did I answer?

  1. How much does this cost?
  2. How long will it take?
  3. What will you need to write my bio?

What events did I attend?

  1. Online webinar about LinkedIn.
  2. 1 Million Cups
  3. Venture Café

Did you have to explain your expertise to anyone?

  1. Yes; the word ‘copy writer’ gets confused with ‘copyright’. I explained the difference by saying the copy WRITER writes what a business needs to attract clients. The copyright deals with the distribution and use of the creator’s product, service or idea.

What problems did you solve?

  1. Problem for me: finding a quiet location to work when the family is home all day.
  2. Problem for client: refining a tagline that ‘just didn’t work for her’.

Next, review the answers and decide which ones would make a good blog post. Experiment with title ideas. Here are a few blog ideas from my events:

  • 5 Top Interviewing Tips for Any Business Owner
  • How an Editorial Calendar Prevents Blogging Headaches
  • The Best Info Needed for an Unbeatable Bio
  • Business Lessons Learned at 1 Million Cups
  • Copy write vs Copyright: Make Sure Your Prospects Understand Your Profession

Can you see how ideas generate from your everyday activity without seeming ‘every day’? Not only that, you’ve got enough blog topics for a week or a month.

Got questions? Comment below. Your question could end up as a great blog topic!

Happy writing!
Kris the Scribbler

photo courtesy of Stuart Miles of freedigitalphotos.net

Social Media vs. Email: Which Content Plan Works Best for You?

Online Mkg by Stuart Miles of freedigitalphotos.netThis topic comes to you courtesy of MediaPost.com and their recent article entitled, Hoping for Social: Depending on Email and based on the 2015 Marketing Trends infographic at Strongview.com. The article opens by saying “Social media is the second most popular marketing tactic…” Though the article is based on research of companies with at least 100 employees, my question is how do small businesses and entrepreneurs factor in social media and email into their marketing efforts?

According to the article, for the companies with all those great employees, their biggest obstacles related to social media success are:

  • employee skills
  • measuring effectiveness
  • creating a strategy

As small business owners, we’re often a one-man-band handling these same issues on our own.

The set-up: Most of us have the standard social media plan: LinkedIn, Facebook business page and Twitter. Those who are really savvy probably have a YouTube account, Google+ and Pinterest, but how effective are these for you? Which are you actively involved in? Which platform best reaches out to your target audience?

And how does this compare to your email marketing activities?

Of all the methods just mentioned, email is the oldest form of online communication—but not by much. We are all capable of sending and receiving emails that we now prefer email contact over cold calling or follow-up phone calls. Just as with the larger companies, email marketing is an easy way to keep up with customers and connections. Social media is quickly growing to be the top outreach method, but we just aren’t comfortable with it yet.

It’s all about comfort: For me, blogging and emailing are my two main activities for keeping in touch. It could be because I’m a writer and I’m very comfortable writing. The important thing to remember is to go where your ideal audience is and to do what makes you comfortable. Stepping out of your comfort zone takes time, but it will come if it’s important to you, your audience and your business.

And ease: My social media activities are focused on LinkedIn. Why? Because—for me—it’s an easy and immediate way to connect with people I meet through local networking groups and national organizations. From there, I extend those relationships by joining LinkedIn groups that complement my specific audiences. It takes time, but this activity has created business for me. The other platforms (and yes, I have accounts in all those mentioned above), are slowly working their way into my monthly agenda. However, it’s a matter of comfort, familiarity, and scheduling that keeps me focused on what works. But remember: what works for me, may not work for you—and that’s okay!

As small business owners, what are your social media and email preferences? Which marketing tactic is your strength? Why? What plans do you have for branching out in 2015? Please leave your comments and ideas in the section below. I’d like to write a follow-up to MediaPost’s article, but from the point of view of small, one-man-band business owners.

And if you’re considering LinkedIn for your 2015 marketing plan and would like to update or improve your profile, I’m offering $50 off profile writing services (regularly $325).

Happy writing—and reaching out!
Kris the Scribbler

photo credit: Stuart Miles of freedigitalphotos.net