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2019

Does your small business need to be concerned about cybercrime or, specifically, a ransomware attack?

 

Yes. 100% yes.

 

Ransomware is a growing menace, often targeting small business, and its effects can be devastating. Consider these sobering statistics:

 

  • Cybercrime cost the global economy almost a trilliondollars in 2018. Much of that came from losses due to ransomware
  • There has been a 300% increase in ransomware attacks in the last year alone
  • 60% of all cybercrime is now directed at small business

 

So yes, it is a problem of which you need to be aware. Here’s what you need to know:

 

What is ransomware? Ransomware is computer malware that infects systems by blocking access to the computer until you pay up. In other words, cybercrooks kidnap your computer until a ransom is paid.

 

Specifically, an unsuspecting computer user will be lured into either opening a corrupt email attachment or clicking on an infected website link, thereby installing malicious software. Once operational, the malware locks down the computer and a message like this appears on the screen:

 

 

What happens then? Once the encryption software has infected the host computer, a countdown clock starts ticking. Instructions state that the user has, say, 72 hours to pay a ransom or all of the encrypted files on the computer will be deleted.

 

In most cases, the amount of the ransom is not astronomical – something like $500 - $1,000 is typical. The idea is that the owner of the locked-down computer will often decide the easiest course of action is in fact to simply pay the ransom.

 

Cyber Crime: You’ve been hacked – do you know who to call?

 

What are your options? Once your computers have been infected with ransomware, you essentially have three options:

 

1. Pay the ransom: As indicated, this is often the path of least resistance. The way it hopefully works is that the computer user pays the ransom and the cybercriminals then send a “key” to unlock the computer/system.

 

In all likelihood the word “hopefully” just jumped out at you, and for good reason. These are bad guys after all. They may send the decryption key, or they may not.

 

2. Attempt to remove the malware: The idea here is to hire a cybersecurity expert to get rid of the infected software. (Typically, this is not something you can do without expert help.)

 

3. Do nothing and recover your files: If you have an online backup of your data as you should, then the final option would be to wait, have the creeps delete your hard drive, and then start over with your backup files.

 

No, not a pleasant thought.

 

How can you protect your business from ransomware?

 

There are several precautionary steps you can take to keep yourself and your small business safe:

 

First, be sure to install an Internet security software program on your computer system. The best these days are cloud-based systems that monitor your computer in real time.

 

Second, do a deeper dive into how ransomware is spread and teach your staff about safe computing processes and procedures.

 

Finally, as indicated, you must have an online backup system like Carbonite or McAfee so that your data is always safe.

 

Of course, neither losing your data nor paying a ransom is an attractive option and that is why taking ransomware seriously and instituting precautionary measures is your best course of action.

 

Do that.

 

Right now!

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. 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.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

LinkedIn used to be just for finding jobs and good job recruits but in the past few years it’s become a lot more. For any business, small and large – and especially for B2B firms, it’s now the most important place to share content and build connections.

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Here are five ways to do it:

 

1.    Make it Personal—for Everyone

 

LinkedIn lets you create two kinds of pages: personal and company pages. As a business owner, you should have both but expect to get more engagement on a personal page.

That means all a company’s executives should be building their personal brands on the site and talking to their networks. But don’t stop there. Every member of your staff also has a channel of their own and access to an audience that can benefit your company.

 

“I highly recommend launching an Employee Advocacy program and get all your employees—not just your Sales and Marketing team—(but that’s a good place to start) sharing your Company’s content on LinkedIn,” says Viveka von Rosen, founder of Linked into Business, a LinkedIn training company. “Gently remind people to… find and share your company content with their networks.”

 

2.    Use the Company Page as a Content Hub

 

While employees’ personal pages are where the connections are formed, the company page can act as a hub for the content employees will share. The firm’s content creator will publish content on the company’s LinkedIn page, and the firm’s employees then distribute it, broadcasting it to their friends. LinkedIn has its own tool at LinkedIn Elevate to make this strategy easier but you can also use third-party providers like EveryoneSocial.

 

The strategy should be: Upload corporate content to the company LinkedIn page and then ask your employees to help distribute the content across the platform.

 

3.    Use Hashtags, Emojis and Special Characters

 

LinkedIn is unusual in that it’s a professional platform that depends on personal relationships. So, while the content should always be professional and business-like, its style of delivery should be all you.

 

If you use emojis in your messages, throw some smileys into your LinkedIn posts (even if you have to create them in a different application and copy them over.) They win attention. Mention, with the @symbol, the name of any influencers, prospects or colleagues whose attention you want to win. And use hashtags to both make your posts easy to find and to track your own content. Von Rosen recommends three: two popular hashtags, and one unique hashtag of your own.

 

4.    Publish LinkedIn’s Favorite Kind of Content

 

You can publish a range of content on LinkedIn, and the company likes to prioritize different types at different times. In 2014, it tended to give a push to LinkedIn Publisher articles. Last year, native video was all the rage.

 

This year LinkedIn appears to be particularly keen up uploaded Powerpoints and PDF documents. “LinkedIn likes its toys,” says von Rosen.

 

Know what LinkedIn likes playing with and work those forms of content into your strategy but be cautious. It’s more important that you deliver content that suits you and that your network likes than try to produce content LinkedIn will like. In the end LinkedIn will like your results best of all.

 

Create or share content that builds awareness for new followers; that appeals to a buyer’s needs for followers on the edge of a purchase; and that’s useful for current and—possibly repeat—customers.

 

5.    Use Video and Live Video

 

Native video might be 2018 but it will never go completely out of fashion. A short video can quickly deliver a message that wins both engagement and resonance. Nor do you need a fancy studio to shoot video at your office. Mark Zuckerberg’s first live video on Facebook was a shaky bit of shooting from inside the Facebook offices. The content matters much more than the quality of the camera work.

 

Use video to interview partners, colleagues, or give product demos. And use live video to explain issues and to talk with your audience. (They can use the comments to ask questions that you can answer in real time.) It’s an easy—and fun—way to build a deep connection with people interested in your company.

 

Have you tried LinkedIn to grow your business opportunities? Please share your experiences – good and bad – in the comments below.

 

About Joel Comm

 

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As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

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

 

Next to real-life communication, video on social media is the best way to connect with prospects, clients and customers. Yet social channels need to make video adjustments if they hope to compete with YouTube.

 

Instagram launched Instagram Television in June 2018 with much fanfare. However, the IGTV app, built for longer videos, has yet to become the breakout hit Instagram intended. That may be changing.

 

In response to feedback from viewers and content creators, Instagram has made several critical changes to help increase IGTV’s usability and user-base, so it rivals other long-form video platforms. The most recent new feature is support for landscape video as well as vertical. Because so many other platforms, like YouTube, primarily use landscape video this could help encourage users to cross-post video content to IGTV vs. having to create a new piece of content for the platform.

 

If you have an Instagram account, you have an IGTV account, but will need to download the separate mobile app to use IGTV. Or, you can view and upload videos on desktop Instagram.com.

 

One of the primary benefits to IGTV videos is length. Where Instagram videos are capped at one minute, IGTV videos can run between 15 seconds and 10 minutes. Larger and verified accounts can upload videos up to 60 minutes in length from a computer. (Instagram doesn’t stipulate what ‘larger’ actually means.)

 

Another fairly new IGTV feature is ‘Previews’ in the main Instagram feed. So, whenever you upload a video to IGTV, you can also choose to showcase the beginning clip on your Instagram account. The preview will be up to one minute, depending on the length of your video. 

 

This longer run-time gives companies more flexibility to delve deeper with their video content, and create branded channels, along with valuable content (i.e. shows) that can inform, entertain and ultimately endear customers to their business.

 

So, what works best on IGTV? Here are three companies creating great IGTV content in very different ways.

 

REI: Produced Video Reminiscent of a TV Channel

 

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REI (aka Recreational Equipment, Inc.) is doing an excellent job of producing just-outside-their-box videos. They upload new content two to three times a week and have four different types of videos (or “shows”).

 

    • Camping Recipes:Quick food videos you can make in the great outdoors.
    • Why on Earth?:REI asks and answers questions about nature.
    • Breath of Fresh Air:The sounds and views of nature (the ocean, the forest) so viewers can “sit back and relax” for a few minutes.
    • Behind the Scenes:In their newest series, the team at REI Co-op’s onsite product testing facility (aka 'Mag Lab') answers common product questions. The first one is on Sleeping Bag Thermal Ratings.

 

Even though they have the luxury of time, REI keeps most of their videos around 1 minute. The result is quick, engaging, and informative on-brand videos targeting directly toward their audience.

 

Headspace: Animation 

 

Headspace, the meditation app, has a mixture of types of animated videos on their IGTV channel. The company’s branding has illustrations throughout, so it makes sense they create videos with that same imagery.

 

Some of Headspace’s IGTV videos are informative (How to Use the App, Training the Mind), while others contain an actual meditation (sounds or guided meditation).

 

Through simple videos on their IGTV channel, Headspace shows prospects and fans who they are and what they - and their app - has to offer.

 

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Solopreneur Sidekick: Solo Videos that Educate

 

Louise, the Solopreneur Sidekick, has an IGTV channel full of how-tos and tips for website success. Her channel works well for a few reasons.

 

    • Louise’s “talking head” videos have a literal frame around them, which has her branding and YouTube link (which leads to more videos).
    • Her on-screen persona is friendly and on-brand; she’s personable and knowledgeable, and it shows. 
    • In addition to specific calls to action in the description, Louise adds her same about me one-liner and free trial incentive link.

 

Solopreneur Sidekick’s short videos tell the viewer exactly what they are going to learn, and then follows through on that promise. A definite recipe for business - and video - success.

 

Each of these examples showcase ways small businesses could integrate IGTV in their marketing mix. Whether you go the full production, education, or animation route, there are different tools you can use to create videos.

 

The field is wide open on IGTV, too. Any small businesses moving quickly with video can become IGTV trailblazers.

 

          Related Links

 

About Mari Smith

 

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Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events.

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

 

Web: Mari Smith  or Twitter: @MariSmith

 

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

With all the recent privacy concerns surrounding Facebook , it’s no wonder Mark Zuckerberg is being so public about prioritizing privacy.

 

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“I understand that many people don't think Facebook can or would even want to build this kind of privacy-focused platform,” Zuckerberg wrote in an open letter on Facebook last March, “because frankly we don't currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services, and we've historically focused on tools for more open sharing.

 

“But we've repeatedly shown that we can evolve to build the services that people really want, including in private messaging and stories,” he added.

 

Since its inception, Facebook has focused on bringing people - and communities and businesses - together in a very public way. That “Town Hall” connection is invaluable for people’s personal and professional lives. However, people also value their privacy, which is what Facebook is addressing in full force.

 

Of late, private messaging, Stories and Facebook groups have garnered the most attention. They are, after all, the fastest growing areas of online communication. People prefer to converse one-on-one and in small groups in order to keep their communications and interactions secure.

 

How Small Business Owners Can Capitalize on Pivot to Privacy

 

With Messenger, the main area you can take full advantage of is to create a chatbot. Automating your FAQs and customer service queries can save an inordinate amount of time and money. People want quick replies. In fact, a study by Ogilvy found that 40 percent of people don’t care if customer service comes from a human or technology, as long as it’s the right answer!

 

Check out ManyChat or MobileMonkey for two of the most popular and affordable Messenger chatbot solutions.

 

The Future of Messenger

 

During the first day of this year’s Facebook’s F8 conference, Asha Sharma, Head of Facebook’s Messenger, announced several new products and features for businesses, individuals and developers expected to roll-out later this year.

 

    • App Changes. Facebook is rebuilding the architecture of Messenger to be faster and lighter.
    • Desktop App. Messenger will soon be upgraded for desktop use with improved functionality for group video calls, project collaboration, and multi-tasking while chatting in Messenger.
    • Group Viewing. Users will be able to invite/share Facebook videos directly from the app  and then watch together. While the entertainment value is obvious, this can also be used in business: watch videos together for training purposes, do customer service demos, and so on, all while being able to simultaneously chat.
    • Business Tools. Facebook is also adding terrific new features designed to support small businesses, starting with lead generation templates and booking appointments through bots.

 

Generate Leads in Messenger with Automated Chat Templates

 

The ability to generate leads using lead-generation templates (Q&A chatbot scripts to aid the customer journey inside Messenger) is a gamechanger!  When you run a Facebook or Instagram ad with a call-to-action button that clicks through to Messenger, you can connect this to your chatbot and collect information from customers and generate leads.

 

You can then continue the conversation directly in Messenger. Similar to a lead generation form, an automated chat is a more conversational approach to collecting customer information.

 

Book Appointments Using Bots in Messenger

 

Bots that make appointments can be reached directly in Messenger or in conversations that begin with a Facebook News Feed ad, Messenger home page ad, or via web chat plugin on an organization’s website.

 

The ability to book appointments directly in Messenger is great news for businesses, such as car dealerships, stylists or cleaning services. Regardless of your industry, if you set up appointments with customers, make it really easy with Facebook Messenger integration.

 

 

     Related Links:

 

About Mari Smith

 

mari_0362xFACE_preview.jpg

Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events.

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

 

Web: Mari Smith  or Twitter: @MariSmith

 

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

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