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April 11th, 2014

Security_Apr11_BThe Internet is an amazing thing, but being so big and accessed by so many people, it is never really 100% secure. There are always security issues being uncovered that could put your business and systems at risk. One of the latest flaws is possibly one of the biggest to be uncovered in years and could affect nearly every person and company on the Internet. Codenamed Heartbleed, this bug makes stealing data and viewing secure communication incredibly easy.

Background info about secure transmission of information on the Web

Most sites on the Internet rely on Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology to ensure that information is transmitted securely from a computer to server. SSL and the slightly older Transport Layer Security (TLS) are the main technology used to essentially verify that the site you are trying to access is indeed that site, and not a fake one which could contain malware or any other form of security threat. They essentially ensure that the keys needed to confirm that a site is legitimate and communication can be securely exchanged.

You can tell sites are using SSL/TLS by looking at the URL bar of your browser. If there is a padlock or HTTPS:// before the Web address, the site is likely using SSL or TLS verifications to help ensure that the site is legitimate and communication will be secure. These technologies work well and are an essential part of the modern Internet. The problem is not actually with this technology but with a software library called OpenSSL. This breach is called Heartbleed, and has apparently been open for a number of years now.

About Heartbleed

OpenSSL is an open-source version of SSL and TSL. This means that anyone can use it to gain SSL/TSL encryption for their site, and indeed a rather large percentage of sites on the Internet use this software library. The problem is, there was a small software glitch that can be exploited. This glitch is heartbleed.

Heartbleed is a bug/glitch that allows anyone on the Internet to access and read the memory of systems that are using certain versions of OpenSSL software. People who choose to exploit the bugs in the specific versions of OpenSSL can actually access or 'grab' bits of data that should be secured. This data is often related to the 'handshake' or key that is used to encrypt data which can then be observed and copied, allowing others to see what should be secure information.

The problem with Heartbleed

There are two major problems with this bug. The first being that if an attacker can uncover the SSL handshake used by your computer and the server that hosts the site when you login or transmit data they will be able to see this information. This information usually is made up of your login name, password, text messages, content and even your credit card numbers. In other words, anything that gets transmitted to the site using that version of SSL can be viewed.

Scary right? Well, the second problem is much, much bigger. The hacker won't only be able to see the data you transmit, but how the site receiving it employs the SSL code. If a hacker sees this, they can copy it and use it to create spoof sites that use the same handshake code, tricking your browser into thinking the site is legitimate. These sites could be made to look exactly same as the legitimate site, but may contain malware or even data capture software. It's kind of like a criminal getting the key to your house instead of breaking the window.

But wait, it gets worse. This bug has been present in certain versions of OpenSSL for almost two years which means the sites that have been using the version of OpenSSL may have led to exposure of your data and communication. And any attacks that were carried out can't usually be traced.

Am I affected by this?

What makes this so different from other security glitches is that OpenSSL is used by a large percentage of websites. What this means is that you are likely affected. In fact, a report published by Netcraft cited that 66% of active sites on the Internet used OpenSSL. This software is also used to secure chat systems, Virtual Private Networks, and even some email servers.

We have to make it clear here however: Just because OpenSSL is used by a vast percentage of the Internet, it doesn't mean every site is affected by the glitch.

The latest versions of OpenSSL have already patched this issue and any website using these versions will still be secure. The version with Heartbleed came out in 2011. The issue is while sites may not be using the 2011 version now, they likely did in the past meaning your data could have been at risk. On the other hand, there are still a wide number of sites using this version of OpenSSL.

What should I do?

This is a big issue, regardless of whether a website uses this version of OpenSSL or not. The absolute first thing you should do is go and change your passwords for everything. When we say everything, we mean everything. Make the passwords as different as possible from the old ones and ensure that they are strong.

It can be hard to tell whether your data or communications were or are actually exposed or not, but it is safe to assume that at some time or another it was. Changing your passwords should be the first step to ensuring that you are secure and that the SSL/TSL transmissions are secure. Another thing you should be aware of is what sites are actually using this version of OpenSSL. According to articles on the Web some of the most popular sites have used the version with the bug, or are as of the writing of this article, using it. Here are some of the most popular:

  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Gmail
  • Yahoo
  • Yahoo Mail
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Amazon Web Services
  • GoDaddy
  • Intuit
It would be a good idea to visit the blogs of each service to see whether they have updated to a new version of OpenSSL. As of the writing of this article, most had actually done so but some were still looking into upgrading. For a full list of sites, check out this Mashable article.

If you have a website that uses SSL/TSL and OpenSSL you should update it to the latest version ASAP. This isn't a large update but it needs to be done properly, so it is best to contact an IT partner like us who can help ensure the upgrade goes smoothly and that all communication is infact secure.

Contact us today to see how we can help ensure that your company is secure.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
April 10th, 2014

BusinessValue_Apr07_BWhen it comes to Web design many business owners and managers work with a Web designer or developer. These Web experts often use terms that you may not be familiar with and which in essence sound like another language. This can make it difficult to communicate and to ultimately get your point across to achieve the website you want. To make dialogue easier, it might be helpful to learn some of the common Web design terms.

Here are 20 of the most used Web design terms that could help you communicate effectively with designers and developers about what you want from your website:

  • Alignment - The position of the various elements on your page. Alignment can be focused on the borders of the page, or positioning of elements based on other elements - e.g., aligning all images to the left side of the page, and making sure the text is aligned to the right of each image.
  • Banner - A form of advertising that is usually at the top of a page and goes from one side to the other. On many sites, the banner also contains links that can be clicked through to reach other pages.
  • Below the fold - The point on the page where viewers will begin to scroll after the page has loaded. Generally you put the most important information above the fold (what the visitor sees first) and supplement information below it.
  • Color wheel - A circle of colors that allows designers to easily pick out primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, as well as complimentary and contrasting colors - e.g., on most wheels red is opposite green because they complement one another.
  • CSS - Cascading Style Sheets allows designers to dictate the look and feel of a page. These are usually codes that dictate the font, color, and layout of a Web page.
  • DPI - Dots Per Inch is the resolution of an image or monitor. The higher the DPI, the higher the resolution or quality of the image.
  • Entry and Exit pages - This indicates where a viewer enters your page from an external source, and where a viewer will usually exit your site from. The vast majority of entry pages are the homepage, so these should be designed to capture and maintain interest. Exit pages can be the homepage, or perhaps a signup form.
  • GIF - Pronounced Jif, is an image format that is best suited for small images with few colors. These can also be animated.
  • Header - This is the absolute top of any page.
  • HTML - Hyper Text Markup Language, is the main language used to write webpages. For example, the bullet points in this article would be written as < ol><li>HTML - Hyper Text ...</li></ol>. Browsers read this code and translate the directions given.
  • JPEG - An image format best suited to pictures and images with a large number of colors. The vast majority of images on the Internet and websites are uploaded in the JPEG format.
  • Lorem Ipsum - Placeholder text is used by developers when creating mockups of pages or layout so they can see how the text will look when the page is finished. This can be any form of text and is usually nonsensical, like 'Lorem Ipsum Dolor'.
  • Orphan - A word or short sentence that appears by itself, below the text on a page. Generally these should be avoided, and can be easily 'adopted' by adjusting spacing between letters and words, or editing content.
  • Parent/Child elements - With HTML and other Web languages there is a relationship between elements (parts of code). Parents dictate elements that will be inherited by other codes (children) that are within the main parent group. For example, if you assign a headline a certain style this style becomes the parent. Any other elements like a bolded word within the headline will be a child. The child will take the same style as the headline and have the added bold format as well.
  • Pixel - The smallest element of any image and your monitor. It is essentially one dot of color. The resolution of images and monitors (how clear the image is) is often displayed in pixels. The higher the number of pixels, the higher the resolution and quality.
  • PNG - An image format that is most commonly used for images that have large amounts of uniform color or transparent backgrounds.
  • Script - A small bit of code that enables browsers to do more than just displaying text. If you've ever watched a video while on a website or downloaded something directly from a page, you have interacted with a script.
  • Watermark - A mark of ownership which is usually applied to the background of images or content. This is used to highlight ownership and deter theft of visual content. If you plan to post images on your site that you create, you might want to consider adding a watermark as protection.
  • White space - Space that surrounds text, images or other parts of the page. It is generally believed that the more white space there is, the easier it is to read content and draw attention to important aspects of a page.
  • Wireframe - A visual representation of a website's layout with directions for visuals, location of content, and style for each page. This is usually constructed before the site is built and is more or less a road map for developers.
Of course, these are just a few of the terms designers and developers use on a regular basis. If you want to understand how to get the best out of your website and technology then we're here to help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 9th, 2014

Windows_Apr07_BWindows 8.1 is the latest version of Microsoft's operating system from Microsoft, following Windows 8 which was released in 2012. Unlike the older Windows OS versions, the Windows 8 operating system set a new trend where users were not taken straight to the desktop. Instead, the Start screen was displayed with various application tiles which you clicked to launch. This style still stands and in early April, 2014 Microsoft released an update to Windows 8.1 - Windows 8.1.1 or Windows 8.1 Update 1.

Go directly to the desktop instead of the Start screen

The Start screen was introduced with the release of Windows 8 to make it more convenient for tablet users to navigate apps. However, this is something that many mouse users and those who are used to older versions of Windows have found difficult to use. With the first version of Windows 8, there was no way to change this setting before.

With the 8.1 update released last year, you were able to change your settings so that your computer booted directly to your desktop, instead of the Start screen. Now, with Windows 8.1.1 new computers that don't have a touch screen should automatically boot into the familiar desktop screen. Users who have the OS installed already can still set Windows to boot directly to the desktop.

Here’s how:

  1. Go to the Control Panel.
  2. Select Appearance and Personalization.
  3. Choose Taskbar and Navigation.
  4. Select the Navigation tab.
  5. Enable the option that says “When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start” by clicking the checkbox next to it.
  6. Click the OK button to save the change you've made.
You should now go directly to the desktop screen once Windows is started or when you close an application, instead of being taken to the Start screen.

Updated Start screen interface

Aside from the applications that you see on the Start screen, you can easily view all available apps by clicking on the down arrow on the lower left of the screen. You will also see a search button on the upper right side, as well as a power button next to it that you can click to shutdown, restart or put the computer into sleep mode. Moving your mouse to the bottom part of the screen will also show you the taskbar with the Start button and other apps appearing on it.

When you right click an app on the Start screen it will no longer launch the application bar. Instead, you will be given various options, which is what would usually be the case when you right click. These options include turn live tile off, resize, uninstall, pin to taskbar, and unpin from start.

Photos and other media no longer open with apps on the Start screen

With the first version of Windows 8, photos and other media were opened by default using the Metro apps on the Start screen. With Windows 8.1.1, images are now automatically opened using Photo Viewer, while other media is opened using Windows Media. This is the same experience that the older Windows operating systems provided, which most users are familiar with.

Pin Metro apps to the taskbar

The taskbar is a popular Windows desktop feature, allowing you to pin your most used or open desktop apps to. However, with Windows 8 and 8.1 you couldn't pin Metro apps to the desktop taskbar. With the new update you can post Metro apps to the taskbar and even interact or launch them from the desktop.

A dedicated Settings tile

For those that prefer to use the Start screen there is a new Settings tile that has been added. This can really help customizing your computer far easier.

If you have any queries about the latest Windows update which is free to download, get in touch. We have the answers!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 9th, 2014

SocialMedia_April07_BAre you searching for tools that can help you create striking visuals for your social media campaign? Let’s admit it, not everyone is a Photoshop expert, and for many of us, it can be really challenging and perhaps even intimidating to use. Furthermore, the cost of a program or designer may be out of your budget. Luckily, there are other options that could really help.

In this day and age where compelling visuals are possible online, it is extremely important to learn how to create attractive visuals to aid your social media marketing campaigns. You at least need a working knowledge of how to enhance your photos and make them more attention-grabbing. There are a number of free or highly affordable tools out there that can help you do just that.

PIXLR - This advanced photo editor works like Photoshop, only it is easier to use and therefore ideal for beginners. You can create images from scratch or perform advanced image editing. Using fairly simple tools can maximize the potential of images. For quick editing, there’s PIXLR EXPRESS or PIXLR O-MATIC, which are free to use. Visit the PIXLR website to learn more and start use these programs.

PicMonkey’s Online Photo Editor - This photo editor can transform ordinary images into fantastic photographs in just a few clicks. Select the image that you want to modify and add special effects such as fancy text, or simply crop and re-size. The photos edited using PicMonkey can be uploaded on Facebook and other social media platforms. PicMonkey is free to use so you can just go to the website and start editing away. For added frames and special effects there’s a premium version you can upgrade to for USD $33.33 per year.

LiveLuvCreate - This website can be used without any charge and offers a variety of design layouts and graphics. Using this platform you can edit your own images and there are also a ton of images created by users on its library that can help give you inspiration. Among the tools available are borders, filters, and photo effects, as well as fonts, colours, and styles. Visit the website to set up an account and start editing your images today.

Canva - If you want to create your Facebook cover photos from scratch, or if you want to design some blog images, this is a free application that might prove useful. This tool is very convenient and can be used to create business cards, invitations, posters, and presentations. Visit the website today to start creating your own visuals.

Quozio - If you are into quotes, Quozio lets you upload famous and favorite quotes, visualize them, and then share them on your social network. Simply enter an interesting quote and then select a background image. Instead of simply posting what’s on your mind, you can make a quote more attractive and appealing by transforming it into a visual using this free app. Visit the site today to visualize your next quote.

Whether you are posting on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network, your content cannot come alive without the use of quality graphics and images. If Photoshop does not work for you, these other tools are ideal substitutes for creating appealing graphics for a variety of social media platforms.

Make sure to share your own list of top photo tools for everyone to see! And, if you would like to learn more about leveraging social media in your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
April 8th, 2014

Office365_Apr07_BOneNote is a popular application developed by Microsoft as part of the Office suite. As a standalone version it is available for free on various platforms, including the iPad, Mac, Windows, Android, and iOS devices. It allows users to create notes and supports inserting images, photos, web clippings, audio files, and more into files. Accessing and sharing notes is more convenient with OneNote.

If you are looking for a powerful note program, OneNote has some great features.

Access and edit notes anywhere

Windows PC, Mac, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone all support OneNote. Install the appropriate version and you can access your notebooks from any of these devices. Previous versions require that you manually sync your notebooks to make them accessible on all devices. However, with the latest version this is no longer required as your notes are automatically synced on your OneDrive. This means you can view and edit them anywhere where you have an Internet connection.

You can access notes on your mobile device that you originally created on your computer. If you have access to a computer that does not have OneNote installed you can easily find the application on the Web. If you go to OneNote’s page on the Web you can log in to the account linked with your installed versions of OneNote and use as you normally would.

Organize data in notebooks

OneNote is a great tool for organizing different data and files. You can create various notebooks that contain information on specific subjects. For instance, you could create a notebook for personal use, a notebook containing client information, etc. Each of these notebooks can then contain various sections with color coded tabs, making it easy to organize files.

This feature is helpful, especially if you are working with a large volume of data. Searching for specific information or data is also straightforward with a convenient search function. You can simply type your keyword in the search field and wait for the result. Click on your chosen result and you will be taken to that particular note.

Third party integration

The latest version of OneNote also has a new cloud API that allows third party applications to be used. This allows users to enjoy more features, as they are not just confined to the features that are native to OneNote. One of the apps that you can use is OneNote Clipper. Install this on your browser and use it to automatically save clippings from the Web in just one click.

Work on important tables

Tables are often used for creating databases or for comparing and listing data. Creating tables in OneNote 2013 is more convenient as it now allows you sort data within a table, designate header rows, as well as change the color of the cells. You can also insert an Excel spreadsheet into your notes.

Write handwritten notes

If you are using a touch capable device you can write notes or draw using a stylus or your fingers. This is especially helpful for jotting down quick notes or reminders about what to insert on a page. Circling or underlining a word or group of words is quick and easy to do.

Organized data and files are easy to access, which is vital when you need this information at your fingertips. OneNote keeps data in order so you can easily find what you need when you need it.

Find out how OneNote and other tech innovations and updates can support your business productivity. Get in touch today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 4th, 2014

Security_March31_BA malware infection is an attack that you do not want invading your business systems. Malicious software can often make its way on computers without your knowledge, causing various disturbances. What’s even worse, is that vital information saved on your computer or data that you access online could be stolen. Computers must have proper protection. In the event that malware infection is detected an immediate response is required.

Signs of a malware infection

Before proceeding with the steps on how to respond to malware infections, we first need to learn about the signs and symptoms of a malware infection. These include:
  • Several pop-ups appear even when not browsing the Web.
  • Unusual slowness of the computer and Internet connection.
  • System hangs or freezes.
  • Corrupted programs.
  • Antivirus is disabled.
  • E-mails sent to or from your account which you did not send.
  • High network activity, even when not using large programs or accessing huge data.
  • Redirected access to some sites.

How to respond to a malware infection

In case you experience any of these symptoms, the first thing to do is to ensure that your antivirus and antispyware program is updated. This is to make sure that they detect the latest known threats on their database. You should then run scans to see if an infection is detected. If it is, the programs usually have a way to remove the infection. You then need to follow the steps the program recommends.

If this doesn't work, disconnect the infected computer from the network to prevent the spread of the malware. Furthermore, avoid accessing the Web and using vital information such as bank account and credit card information. Let the technical department or your IT partner handle the concern since they are trained in determining and eradicating system malware infections.

Once the problem has been pinpointed, a tech specialist will go through the process of eliminating the infection. This includes backing up data on the computer and restoring the system to its original state. Depending on the extent of the infection, the computer may need to be wiped clean, or reformatted before restoring backed-up files.

After the whole process, the computer must be tested to ensure that the infection has been totally removed. Moreover, further investigation and studies must also be done to determine where the problem started, as well as to create a strategy as to how to prevent this from happening in the future.

How to prevent a malware attack

Prevention is better than a cure and this definitely applies to malware infections. It’s best to arm yourself with knowledge on how to avoid malware attacks and prevent your systems from being infected.
  1. Ensure that security protection is always updated and that you run system scans on a regular basis.
  2. Avoid downloading attachments or clicking links from unknown sites or senders.
  3. Enable firewall protection.
Malware can hugely affect business operations and the security of private information. One of the best ways to prevent this is to work with an IT partner, like us, who can help recommend and install protection systems. You might want to think about getting help in managing these solutions too, to ensure that your systems are secure at all times.

If you have questions or concerns with regards to malware prevention and resolution, feel free to call us. Our support team is always ready to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
April 2nd, 2014

BusinessValue_Mar31_BHaving a website is one of the most important marketing and branding tools a business can utilize. This is largely because visitors will often judge whether they want to do business with you almost solely based off of your website. Therefore, your website needs to be designed properly and look professional. In order to achieve this you need to know about the common mistakes small businesses make when it comes to website designs.

The business value of a business website is that it creates a solid online presence and boosts your brand image and market reach. Even if your business is not Internet based, a website can be used to create a certain impression and ultimately contribute to your bottom line. The key is to make sure you create the best impression. Here are six of the most common mistakes businesses make with website design:

Mistake 1: Building for the sake of building

Websites are important and some businesses believe that they should have a website, so they go ahead and simply build one. You should first take steps to define your target market - who is it that you want and expect to visit your website.

Once you have a defined target market you can then take time to build your site for your market. For example, if the majority of your target market uses mobile devices to browse the Web you should take steps to design your site so that it is viewable on mobile devices.

You should also determine what you want visitors to do on your site. Some companies want them to click through to another site, while others want them to sign up. By defining how you want your visitors to interact you can then develop your content and design around this.

Mistake 2: Designing a website that is too busy

It can be tempting to put all of your information on one page or even have a ton of images and videos. The truth is, this can be distracting largely because once someone lands on your page, they won't know how to get around, find the information they want, or even to know what they should do next.

Busy or flashy websites with lots of animations or large amounts of text also usually don't scale all that well. So, when someone looks at your site on a mobile device they will likely find it too hard to navigate and leave, which is counter to what you are trying to achieve.

Instead, aim for a website that is simple and clean. Important information should be quick to find and read and it should be clear who you are, what you have to say, and what you want the visitor to do.

Mistake 3: Lacking call to actions

Most business related websites have a goal as to what they want visitors to do. Maybe it's download an app, call the company, or even sign make a purchase online. It is essential that you lead visitors toward what you want them to do in the most clear and concise way. The best way to do this is through a call to action. These are usually buttons at the bottom of sections or pages that motivate the user to click and follow the instructions on what to do next, be that sign up to something or get in touch.

The best calls to action stand out from the content, drawing the reader's eye and hopefully inspiring them to click. They should also be clearly written, simple, and direct. e.g., 'Call us today!' or 'Download now!'

Mistake 4: Misguided content

It may seem worthwhile to write in-depth content about your products or services but this isn't always the case. People skim read the basics on the Web and it's different than other mediums.

What you should do is condense down your content so that it only states the most important information. Tell the reader what your product or service does and provide a few of the most important benefits. What you are looking to do is develop enough interest so that visitors to your site will click on the call to action and connect with you.

If you have the time and profits, creating a more visual site where you showcase the products or show how you can help in a short video may lead to higher engagement and possibly higher customer conversions. Take a look at the popular software and service sites like Dropbox, Microsoft, and Google. The content is highly visible and simple, yet provides just enough information so the user knows what the service is and what they are expected to do.

Mistake 5: Static content

It can be tempting to invest the time to write a great website, get the content online then just leave it sitting there. The Internet changes and what might have been regarded as great website design and content a couple of years ago may not be seen in the same light today.

It is advisable to periodically update your site's design and content to reflect current trends; making it more modern. Another related aspect of your content is that you need to ensure that your content is up-to-date. If you are hosting a contest and put the information on your site, you should make sure to take it off of your site, or update it when the date passes. It looks a little unprofessional to have content that is still talking about 2012 or even 2013.

Mistake 6: Doing it yourself

The vast majority of small business owners and managers don't have in-depth Web design skills, yet are determined to build their company's website themselves. This can lead to unexpected problems or a website that doesn't meet your needs. We strongly recommend that you work with a qualified designer who can help ensure that your website is designed and built to high standards.

If you are looking to boost your website's design contact us today. We can help!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 2nd, 2014

HealthcareIT_Apr02_AChief Information Officer (CIO) Denis Tanguay’s workload has quadrupled over the past few years, and he has been struggling to stay on top ensuring that systems are secure and available when his employees need it. How did he overcome these struggles? He found a solution in outsourcing.

As the CIO for Central Maine Healthcare explained in a Health Care IT News article, getting ready for Stage 2 meaningful use attestation and transitioning to ICD-10 put tremendous pressure on him and his 70-person IT staff.

A few years ago, Tanguay began working with an IT provider, which took work off his staff’s plate. Central Maine Healthcare uses IT providers in a number of ways, from service requests for new PCs, keyboards, and software installations to help with user calls. They’re essentially an “insurance policy," says Tanguay. "They have already blazed those trails and made sure that whatever we're going to be using has already been tested, what versions of firmware and software work well."

Tanguay says the result of outsourcing some IT functionality has resulted in easier software upgrades, quicker response time, greater system stability, improved data security, and better disaster recovery procedures.

Moreover, outsourcing has allowed Tanguay to focus more on the things that are important. “My CEO has a line,” he says. “’We're not in the IT business; we're in the healthcare business.’”

When it comes to IT outsourcing, health-care providers have the option of doing a little or a lot,” says another recent article. They can turn over an entire IT function, or farm out small portions. If you are struggling with managing IT systems in your practice, or would like a little help ensuring compliance with the always changing regulations, contact us today to see how our managed services can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 1st, 2014

Facebook_March31_BIn order to be successful on the Internet a company must always be evolving and adapting. This is evident with companies like Facebook which is in a near constant state of change. One of the most common changes the social media giant makes is to the algorithm that determines what content is shown on a user's News Feed. While some of these changes may make it trickier for companies to get their content in front of users it doesn't have to be that way.

There are many ways you can improve your News Feed performance and the best is to improve the reach of your content. Before we get into how you can do this, we should first describe what your Facebook reach is. Basically, your reach on Facebook is the number of unique users who see the content you post and your updates. When it comes to reach there are four actions you can take to influence it:

  1. Posting content on your own Page - This is commonly referred to as organic reach by Facebook.
  2. Facebook users interacting with your content - When users interact with the content on your Page e.g., commenting or sharing, this is shown in their News Feed, an act which Facebook calls viral reach.
  3. Sending users to view your content - This could be as simple as putting a link to your content on an email, or even on your website asking people to visit your Page. This is a form of organic reach.
  4. Paying to get content in front of people - This is using Facebook's ad services and paying to target your content to specific audiences, thereby increasing the chance they see and interact with it. This is commonly referred to as paid reach.
By combining these four actions together, you can get a picture of your overall reach. By increasing the reach of each post through the above actions you stand a higher chance of getting your content in front of other people. The more people who see your updates the higher the chance of interaction with your company on Facebook or through other mediums, including avenues of sales.

The question is: How can a company do this? Here are seven of the most effective ways to improve your News Feed and its performance.

1. Develop a strategy

The key to posts being shared is that they need to be useful and interesting to your audience. Take a look at your Page's Insights (Open your Page's Admin panel and click on Insights) to see what content has been popular with your followers. From there develop a content strategy that covers what content to produce, when it should be produced, and when it should be shared.

Take a look at the most popular posts and see when they were interacted with most. This will give you a good idea of when your followers are most active and likely to interact with your content - thus increasing reach and overall effectiveness of your posts.

2. Know your audience

This will take time and research, but you should be able to paint a pretty solid picture as to who your audience is. If you can define a few personalities or even target individuals, you can better come up with content your audience will be more willing to interact with, or be more receptive to should you promote it.

3. Let people interact with your Page

Some companies have allowed users to post content on their News Feed or even tag companies, having the post show up on the company's News Feed, only for the content to be trolling or negative. This can potentially harm your company brand and reputation.

While there is a chance of this happening, the benefits of allowing your fans and followers to mention you in their posts far outweighs the potential negative outcomes of a few. This is because when a user mentions or tags you in a post on their News Feed, their friends are more likely to see it too. In other words, this can be a massive contributor to your overall viral reach.

4. Be active after you post your content

Don't just post content onto your Page and leave it. If people are interacting with it by commenting then you should make an effort to reply to the comments. This shows that you are interested and responsive, and willing to communicate and create a dialogue.

Mentioning the poster using @username when you comment will highlight the name and post your comment on their News Feed, thereby increasing the number of people who view your original content and encouraging the commenter to return to your Page.

5. Don't be afraid to repost

If you have had successful posts in the past, don't be afraid to reintroduce them. You could try updating the content a bit if need be and reposting it. This will increase the chance of other users seeing content they may have missed and interacting with it. Just be sure to comment somewhere that this content is a repost. You could comment that it was popular in the past and you think it is still relevant to today.

Be sure not to recycle too often however, as this can be viewed as lazy and turn users off. Aim for one to two posts every couple of months.

6. Integrate successful posts with other aspects of your online presence

While there is a good chance that your posts will be seen on Facebook, try boosting this by sharing your most popular content on other mediums. For example, paste the link into your email signature asking people to check it out, or add a list of your most popular posts to newsletters. This will encourage more people to visit the content and even interact with it.

In order to tell what is working, use the information on your Page's Insight panel.

7. Don't be afraid to be innovative

If you hit on a strategy that works, that's great! But, you should not be afraid to try new ideas. If, for example, you see that captions on photo posts are becoming popular with your audience give one a try to see how it works. The key here is to be resourceful and always on the lookout for new ideas.

Looking to get more out of Facebook? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 27th, 2014

BI_March24_BSeveral companies nowadays rely on Business Intelligence or BI tools to analyze information generated by their business. These tools are either installed on computers or cloud-based and accessible on the Web. These applications allow users to ensure that everyone is on the same path with regards to achieving their business goals. The question is, how are different departments using them?

There are various BI tools available nowadays that support small to large companies. You can find Business Intelligence tools that fit your company’s size, needs and budget. These applications can be used in different areas of the business:

Marketing Department

A marketing department is responsible for promoting a company’s products, services and brand to increase public awareness. With successful marketing, a business can attract potential clients that can be possibly turned into creating sales revenue. The company can use BI to determine which campaigns are successful or not, as the case may be. Through this, investments can be focused on those campaigns that work whilst avoiding those that have previously failed.

Sales Department

Sales managers and supervisors can also use BI to analyze successful deals, as well as those that they have lost, to see what strategies have worked. The system can also help determine which sales teams hit or exceed set goals in order to analyze what they are doing right. Moreover, this helps determine which products or services are most saleable so these can be pushed further to attain more goals.

Finance Department

BI software makes analyzing, reporting, and managing financial data more convenient. Those who are involved in the process can easily access the information they need through the system. Analysis is easier as the data is organized and accurate. Money in and money out can also be tracked with greater efficiency.

Moreover, these tools often come with features that allow users to create scenarios and determine the possible results from there. This is extremely helpful in deciding on the best action to take as the tool gives you a view of the probable outcome. The success rate is higher if forecasting using a BI tool.

Inventory

Business Intelligence also plays a vital role in inventory tracking of products, items or supplies. For instance, companies in the retail industry can track the movement of products or items from the suppliers to the warehouse and on to their delivery to clients. Any problems encountered in the process can be quickly identified so they can be fixed in time.

Items in demand can also be pinpointed, as well as low stock and overstocks. Items that are low in stock can be ordered immediately, especially if they are in demand, to ensure that the needs of clients are met. This also lets you avoid overstocking, which can be a waste of money when investment is better used for fast moving items.

These are just some of the ways businesses can use BI in their operations. If you have further questions about the topic, do not hesitate to give us a call. We’ll be more than happy to assist you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.