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2015

Cyber_Security_body.jpgBy Erin O’Donnell.


The most common mistake small businesses make when it comes to cyber security is believing they’re too small to be a target. In fact, cyber security experts say small businesses may be at greater risk than larger firms precisely because hackers count on them to have lax security.


Most digital criminals use a scattershot approach that exploits vulnerabilities anywhere they can be found. Malware is designed to operate in the background, stealing passwords and other data. Ransomware is even more aggressive: hackers cut off access to your own data and demand money to get it back.


So, how can you protect your company and your customers’ sensitive data? Here are the top five cyber security mistakes small businesses make and what the pros say you should correct now:


1. Not updating software

The first line of defense for any business network is a good firewall and current antivirus and malware software, says Steve Weisman, an attorney who writes about cyber security for USA Today and on his own blog. But a surprising number of companies don’t update their security software or hardware, which exposes them to hackers. Weisman also recommends that sensitive records be kept on a computer that is not connected to the company network or Internet. “If somebody does fall prey to malware, then they’ve segregated what the hacker is going to get,” he says.


2. Not training your staff

Email is the Achilles’ heel of cyber security, according to small business security consultant Jim Stickley. “When you look at every major security breach in the last two years, almost every one of them started with email,” Stickley says. One service of his firm, Stickley on Security, is to educate a company’s employees on security practices. They learn how to inspect every email to ensure it’s really from a trusted sender and to detect phishing attacks. Phishing emails are designed to look like they’re from a trusted party, but they contain attachments or links designed to steal passwords or unleash malware. Stickley even writes his own malware at his clients’ request to test the security of their network—and their employees’ training.


Cyber_Security_PQ.jpg3. Leaving mobile devices unprotected

A stolen laptop or smartphone can expose internal emails, account numbers, customer data and more. But many company devices aren’t even password-protected, says Frank Bradshaw, president and CEO of Ho’ike Technologies, which provides outsource security services to small businesses. Bradshaw says every company should use mobile device management, which encrypts all data and can track a lost or stolen device. He also recommends that firms limit the kind of data employees can access remotely.


4. Overlooking internal threats

As soon as an employee leaves the firm, his or her email account and logins should be deleted, Bradshaw says. His firm uses a cloud-based program to instantly revoke access on all devices connected to that person. And while it’s difficult to imagine, current employees’ activity should also be monitored if there’s reason to believe that sensitive customer information or documents are being accessed without sufficient reason. At a law office where Ho’ike provides data loss and leakage prevention, Bradshaw says, their software detected that one attorney downloaded dozens of files in just two minutes. When confronted, he admitted he was leaving the firm and attempting to take client files.


5. DIY security

If your business can’t afford a dedicated IT person, consider outsourcing the work of setting up and monitoring your security infrastructure. Bradshaw says it’s an insurance policy you can’t live without. And Weisman says there are many affordable options today for small business owners. “It’s doable at a good price, particularly when compared to the price of failure,” he says.


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

 

Social_Media_Communication_body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.


Today’s customers check their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites several times a day. Every time they do, they expect to see fresh content. That gives small business owners multiple opportunities to connect with current and potential customers. Read on to discover how these five key types of social media communication can boost customer engagement and interest.


1. Announcements and customer service

Think of social media as a hyper-local newspaper. People rely on social media to discover what’s new and exciting in the communities they’re interested in. Announce your special events, sales, milestone achievements, staffing changes, and more via social media to help your customers stay informed. Use it as a tool to notify followers of possible service issues, such as down phone lines or parking issues near your business. Use “save the date” posts in advance of big events so that followers are aware of what’s happening, and send out a reminder as you get closer.


2. Video

Over 80 percent of all online content will be video by 2019, according to a recent report issued by Cisco Systems. Present tutorials, behind-the-scenes sneak peeks, and funny videos for best results. The most shareable videos are short (under two minutes) and have a strong emotional hook. Remember to be authentic; a video that accurately reflects what your business stands for will provide real value.


Social_Media_Communication_PQ.jpg3. Infographics and imagery

Never forget that the vast majority of people are checking social media on their smartphones or other mobile devices. Images trump text in this environment. Infographics combine helpful or interesting information with eye-catching graphics. Use them as tutorials, to share surprising facts, or to compare different products.


4. Content shares

Linking to informative, educational, or entertaining content is a social media staple. Make sure to share your own content, such as blog entries or popular posts on other platforms, as well as content from industry leaders and influential news sites.

Sharing content is great, but by adding your own insights or commentary, it makes your posts even more valuable to your readers. For the small, local business, linking to information about community events and gatherings is a smart strategy.


5. Lead generation

Periodically, it’s a good idea to use social media to learn more about the people who follow your brand. Lead generation posts offer an incentive, such as a coupon or special report, in exchange for some information. This can be as simple as an e-mail address, or you could make use of the opportunity to conduct a mini-survey.


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

 

 

Twitter_Dashboard_body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.


Twitter provides its users with a powerful analytical dashboard. Small business owners can make use of this dashboard to ensure they’re connecting effectively with potential customers, and to double check that the content they’re posting is truly relevant to their audience.


Starting out

Once you’re on your Twitter dashboard, you may be prompted to sign in with your Twitter user name and password. The first thing you’ll see is a summary page that presents, on a monthly basis, your Top Tweet, Top Mention, and Top Follower, which is determined by the number of followers they themselves have. You’ll be able to learn the number of Tweets you’ve made, profile views, follower growth, impressions or views of your Tweets, and the number of engagements or interactions your Tweets have received. Engagements include retweets, as well as clicks on hashtags or Tweets linking to you.


This information is useful because it provides a quick, at-a-glance way to assess overall performance, popularity, and engagement. Numbers trending steadily upward indicate you’re on the right track. If any of these numbers aren’t in keeping with your expectations, you’ll want to delve deeper.


Twitter_Dashboard_PQ.jpg

Understanding the Tweet activity dashboard

Click on the View all Tweet activity links that appears beneath your top Tweet.  There, you will find the data for every Tweet you’ve made during the month, including numbers of impressions, engagements, and engagement rates.


This allows you to assess on an individual basis, which Tweets really resonate with your audience. Look at what makes your top performing Tweets special: do they have photos? Are they Tweeted at a particular time of day? Do you use a hashtag or comment on a particular topic? Once you know what works, focus on creating more of the same.


Using the Followers dashboard

The Followers dashboard can be accessed by clicking on the link under your Top Follower. You will find a demographic analysis of all of your followers, including where they live, their income level, purchasing habits, interests, and more. Compare this data to your defined customer profiles: are you attracting people on Twitter who are likely to be your customers? Or are you interacting with people who influence your customers? If everything is in alignment, great. If not, it may be time to alter your content mix. If your customer profile lines up, but engagement levels are low, look at the data that indicates your followers’ interests. You can use that as a guide to creating Tweets your audience may value more.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

 

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