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Monthly Archives: January 2017

7 Powerful Tips for Using Facebook for Business

While the basics of setting up a page and posting to your business page are relatively straightforward, there are a lot of nuances to managing your page that could help you make the most of your Facebook presence. Here are 7 powerful ways to make your page more robust and engaging.

A key component of branding is consistency. As such, you should be sure you select a @ username that reflects your business. Of course, your ideal pick may not be available, so think of ways that you can get as close to your brand as possible. If you run the Acme Widget Company, maybe you could go with @acmewidgetco. Or even better, @acmewidget.

Remember that whatever you pick will be a part of your custom Facebook URL — shorter is better so it can fit on business cards or other promotional materials.

While Facebook keeps a pretty consistent look across the entire interface, you do have some freedom in how your page looks. You can choose from several templates that have certain tweaks to better match the type of page you have: professional services, business, shopping, standard, venues, politicians, and restaurants and cafes.

The differences are subtle, but they’re important. For example, the restaurants and cafes template places images higher so that you can show off the venue and feature menu items. The professional services option puts a prominent Call Now button at the top so potential clients can reach out to you right away. Spend some time experimenting here to see which is the best fit for your page.

You have quite a bit of control over how the layout of your page is created to fit the needs of your particular business. Make sure you’ve optimized all the right dials and settings that Facebook offers.

For example, you’ll find that the tabs on the side of the page can serve as quick stops for particular actions. Click “manage tabs” to put the photos, events or other items in a more prominent location. Also, if there are some tabs you don’t use, you’re able to get rid of those.

Facebook offers a range of call-to-action buttons that live at the top of your business’s page. You have a few different choices, so pick the one that makes the most sense for your business:

  • Book Now
  • Contact Us
  • Use App
  • Play Game
  • Shop Now
  • Sign Up
  • Watch Video

5. Go with native videos

According to Buffer, one of the top methods for getting the attention of your audience is native videos. The company found some slightly better metrics for uploading your own video instead of embedding it from YouTube or Vimeo.

The beauty of videos is they’re so easy to produce now — all you need is a smartphone and a few minutes of light editing. Even if you’re not a professional video creator, it’s worth trying your hand at it.

Your Facebook page can be a portal for potential customers to reach out to you. A very effective way is through Facebook Messenger. If you add a call-to-action button, you’ll get messages in the Messenger app just as if they were from one of your contacts. Visitors to your page will also notice how responsive you are, which will leave them with a good impression of how you treat customers.

Facebook has rolled out a number of new tools for directing your content to a specific audience. While it will take some time to dig into the dashboard, you may find success if you are willing to target your content at characteristics more attuned to your potential customer base. For example, think about geographic location, age groups and other interest targeting. Marketer Jon Loomer has some more detailed suggestions if you want to dive in.

7 Security Solutions for Small Business

Although the public typically only hears about cyberattacks against high-profile companies, banks and government websites, small businesses make prime targets for cybercriminals, competitors and disgruntled parties. Yet, due to their lack of resources, small businesses have the least-protected websites, accounts and network systems — making cyberattacks a relatively easy job.

To help you protect your business, here are 7 small-business-friendly cybersecurity solutions to get you started.

When it comes to low-cost security solutions, you usually get what you pay for. Comodo is a global, award-winning security provider that offers free and affordable security tools that don’t compromise on features and reliability. Solutions include: Comodo One, the company’s free IT management platform that features Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM), Patch Management and Service Desk all in one place; Comodo Securebox to shield apps from malware-infected devices; and Comodo Advanced Endpoint to automatically prevent malware from entering networks. Small businesses can also enjoy free antivirus, free and paid SSL certificates, free Internet security, mobile device management, firewall protection, security for POS systems and many other services.

Looking for a single solution to cover all your bases? ESET lets you choose from a wide range of security bundles to protect your computers, mobile devices, USB drives, networks and servers. For instance, the ESET Small Business Security Pack guards Windows and Mac computers, as well as iPhone and Android phones, file servers and email accounts. The company also offers custom solutions that allows you to build the perfect security tool for your business. You can choose by product type, company size and industry. Choices include endpoint security, mobile security, remote management, two-factor authentication, encryption, file security, email security, virtualization security and more.

Virtualization and cloud computing offer many gifts, including the ability to access your desktop, files and other data anytime, anywhere using any device. Security concerns, however, can complicate the convenience. Cradlepoint NetCloud Engine, formerly Pertino, offers one easy, affordable and super-secure way to virtualize your network and your business. You’ll enjoy a VPN decked with layers of security protection, such as multifactor authentication — a combination of users’ ID, token (i.e., their device) and PKI-certificate — fully cloaked private addresses, micro-segmentation, end-to-end encryption, access policies, industry-leading cloud security, data center protection and more.

It’s not just computers that are at risk for security breaches. Lookout Mobile Security is all about protecting your business from cyberattacks on phones and tablets. It works by predicting, anticipating and shielding businesses against all types of mobile threats, such as malware, data leakages and the risks associated with sideloaded apps and jailbroken devices. Lookout also gives you complete visibility over devices and offers advanced tools to manage risks, vet software and app vendors, investigate incidences and ensure compliance with security regulations and company policies.

According to one of the tenets of cybersecurity, you should create strong passwords for all your accounts and services. These days, even passwords based on your pet’s name or your spouse’s name and birthday come with risks. Random passwords are the way to go. Random.org features a random password generator that automatically creates strong, alphanumeric, case-sensitive passwords up to 24 characters long. Combine results or add your own touch for a super-secure password. You no longer have an excuse to use “password,” “fluffy123” or other ridiculously easy-to-guess passwords.

As a small business, it always helps to know someone has your back. StaySafeOnline.org, powered by National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), is full of tools and resources to help small business owners protect their businesses, employees and customers from cyberattacks, data loss and other online threats. Small business owners can learn how to assess their risks, monitor threats, implement a cybersecurity plan and train employees. They’ll also learn what to do after an attack, and how to report one to the proper authorities to recoup any losses and bring attackers to justice.

Cybersecurity can be overwhelming for small business owners. Want to cover all your bases, but don’t know where to start? The Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Small Biz Cyber Planner can guide you in the right direction. Just fill in your information, indicate your areas of concern, and the planner will automatically generate a custom cybersecurity plan with expert advice for your business. Areas covered include privacy and data security, scams and fraud, network security, website security, email, mobile devices, employees, and more.

5 A Small Business Guide

While breaches at big corporations such as Target and Home Depot make the headlines, small business are still very much targets for hackers. Stephen Cobb, a senior security researcher at antivirus software company ESET, said that small businesses fall into hackers’ cybersecurity “sweet spot:” They have more digital assets to target than an individual consumer has, but less security than a larger enterprise.

The other reason small businesses make such appealing targets is because hackers know these companies are less careful about security. An infographic by Towergate Insurance showed that small businesses often underestimate their risk level, with 82 percent of small business owners saying they’re not targets for attacks, because they don’t have anything worth stealing.

In almost every case, the end goal of a cyberattack is to steal and exploit sensitive data, whether it’s customer credit-card information or a person’s credentials, which would be used to misuse the individual’s identity online.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of potential cyberthreats, especially as hackers’ techniques continue to evolve, but businesses should at least be aware of the most frequently used attacks.

DDoS: An acronym for distributed denial of service, DDoS attacks occur when a server is intentionally overloaded with requests, with the goal of shutting down the target’s website or network system.

Inside attack: This is when someone with administrative privileges, usually from within the organization, purposely misuses his or her credentials to gain access to confidential company information. Former employees, in particular, present a threat if they left the company on bad terms, so your business should have a protocol in place to revoke all access to company data immediately upon an employee’s termination.

Malware: This umbrella term is short for “malicious software,” and covers any program introduced into the target’s computer with the intent to cause damage or gain unauthorized access. More about the different varieties of malware can be found on How to Geek. Business News Daily’s sister site Tom’s Guide also breaks down the myths and facts of malware.

Password attacks: There are three main types of password attacks: a brute-force attack, which involves guessing at passwords until the hacker gets in; a dictionary attack, which uses a program to try different combinations of dictionary words; and keylogging, which tracks all of a user’s keystrokes, including login IDs and passwords. More about each type of attack (and how to avoid them) can be found in this Scorpion Software blog post.

There are a few different basic types of security software on the market, offering varying levels of protection. Antivirus software is the most common, and will defend against most types of malware. For a side-by-side comparison of the best antivirus software programs for small businesses, visit our sister site Top Ten Reviews.

Firewalls, which can be implemented with hardware or software, provide an added layer of protection by preventing an unauthorized user from accessing a computer or network. In an eHow.com article, author Sam N. Austin noted that some computer operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows, come with built-in firewalls. These protections can also be added separately to routers and servers.

Cobb, of ESET, said businesses should also invest in a data backup solution, so any information compromised or lost during a breach can easily be recovered from an alternate location; encryption software to protect sensitive data such as employee records, client/customer information and financial statements; and two-step authentication or password-security software for their internal programs to reduce the likelihood of password cracking.

One important solution that doesnꞌt involve software and that many small businesses overlook is cybersecurity insurance. As mentioned above, your general liability policy will not help you recoup losses or legal fees associated with a data breach, so a separate policy covering these types of damages can be hugely helpful in case of an attack.

Tim Francis, enterprise cyber lead at Travelers, a provider of cyberinsurance, said that small businesses often assume cyberinsurance policies are designed only for large companies, because those businesses are the most frequent targets of hackers. But many insurance carriers are beginning to offer tailor-made coverage for smaller companies to meet their budgets and risk-exposure levels, he said.

Francis advised business owners to look for a combination of first- and third-party coverage. First-party liability coverage includes any general costs incurred as a result of a breach, such as legal expertise, public relations campaigns, customer notification and business interruption. Third-party coverage protects you if your company is at the center of a breach that exposed sensitive information. This type of protection covers defense costs if the affected parties sue your company.

Ready to protect your business and its data? These best practices will keep your company as safe as possible.

Keep your software up to date. As stated in this Tom’s Guide article, “an outdated computer is more prone to crashes, security holes and cyberattacks than one that’s been fully patched.” Hackers are constantly scanning for security vulnerabilities, ESET’s Cobb said, and if you let these weaknesses go for too long, you’re greatly increasing your chances of being targeted.

Educate your employees. Make your employees aware of the ways cybercriminals can infiltrate your systems, teach them to recognize signs of a breach, and educate them on how to stay safe while using the companyꞌs network.

Implement formal security policies. Bill Carey, vice president of marketing and business development at Siber Systems, noted that having companywide security policies in place can help reduce your likelihood of an attack. He advised requiring strong passwords — those with upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols — that should be changed every 60 to 90 days. Sixty-five percent of SMBs that have a password policy do not strictly enforce it, according to the Keeper Security and the Ponemon Institute report.

 

6 Factors That Keep You from Getting a Small Business Loan

For many entrepreneurs, a small business loan is an essential way to finance a new business or expand existing operations. However, obtaining funding for your business is no easy task. Here are six barriers that can prevent you from getting the small business loan you need and a few tips on how to avoid these roadblocks.

Credit reports are one tool lenders use to determine a borrower’s credibility. If your credit report shows a lack of past diligence in paying back debts, you might be rejected when applying for a loan.

Paul Steck, former president and CEO of the international franchise restaurant Saladworks, has worked with hundreds of small business franchisees, many of whom have bad personal credit as a result of illness, divorce or other extenuating circumstances.

“Sometimes, very good people, for reasons beyond their control, have credit issues,” Steck said. “And, unfortunately, that’s a real barrier to entry in the world of small business.”

Cash flow — a measure of how much cash you have on hand to pay back a loan — is usually the first thing lenders look at when gauging the health of your business. Insufficient cash flow is a flaw that most lenders can’t afford to overlook. Therefore, it’s the first thing business owners should consider when determining if they can afford a loan.

“Really thinking through that cash-flow equation is like preventative medicine for your business,” said Jay DesMarteau, head of regional commercial specialty segments for TD Bank. “You can either wait until [your business] gets sick, or you can do things to prevent it from getting sick.”

One of the preventative measures DesMarteau recommends is to calculate cash flow at least quarterly. If business owners take that step, they may be able to optimize their cash flow before approaching potential lenders.

Having a plan and sticking to it is much more attractive than spontaneity in the finance world.

“Banks require that business owners have an organized, detailed and quantitative business plan in order to move forward with the loan process,” said David Goldin, CEO, president and founder of Capify, an alternative small business lender.

However, Goldin noted that it’s common for very small businesses to not have a formal business plan or any plan at all, for that matter. In these situations, he recommends that business owners at least forecast their future earnings before applying for a loan, so lenders will have an idea of your profitability.

“Lenders’ … biggest single complaint is that small business owners aren’t able to articulate very well how they’re going to use the capital that they’re looking for, how they’re going to make repayment and what impact they think [the loan] is going to have,” said Ty Kiisel, who writes about small business for online lender OnDeck.

When it comes to approaching potential lenders, business owners should have their act together. That means having all the paperwork you’ll need for your loan application on hand.

“One of the things that can be a problem when applying for a loan is if [business owners] don’t have the documentation that the bank will require [such as] back tax returns,” Steck said.

There are plenty of resources that business owners can refer to when putting together their loan applications. The Small Business Administration, for example, provides a highly detailed loan application checklist for borrowers. Using these resources can decrease your likelihood of coming across as disorganized or unprepared.

When it comes to making financial decisions for your business, lenders want to see that you’ve sought guidance from knowledgeable advisers.

“Accountants can be an important source of advice for small business owners. That’s why Bizfi has partnered with theNational Directory of Certified Public Accountants,” says Stephen Sheinbaum, CEO of alternative lender Bizfi. “But there are many other places to find good people to talk to, such as the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), a free mentoring service that is supported by the Small Business Administration.”

He also recommends that business owners get financial advice from business networking groups and conduct research on the websites of the leading alternative funders, since many have detailed resource sections for small businesses about the many kinds of available capital and the best ways to prepare for funding.

Too many business owners approach lenders with an apathetic attitude, Steck said. In other words, they simply don’t demonstrate why they, rather than someone else, are a good candidate for a loan.

“You have to exude a passion,” said Steck. “I’m going to do this, and I’m going to be the best in the whole wide world. You have to go into it with that sort of mentality, and a lot of [potential borrowers] don’t do that.”