Are you prepared for electronic disaster?

It’s common to prepare for power outages and other disasters, but when you use electronics as part of your business, it can be just as important to prepare for the loss of a vital piece of equipment.

Do you know what to do if your laptop goes missing?

The password conundrum

I received a phone call a few weeks ago from a friend asking me how to track a laptop. My first question was, what software is on the laptop that allows for that. She wasn’t sure.

Next, I learned it wasn’t her laptop that went missing, but a mutual friend’s. I recalled a conversation I had with that other person where I persuaded her to let me put a few passwords on her computer just in case it was ever taken.

While she did let me set up the passwords, a few days later, she complained what a pain it was to enter the password every time she turned it on or when the screen timed out.

I reiterated the importance of securing her device, both for the safety of her own data and that of any client data that may be within the device as well. However, I told her the decision to use passwords or forgo them was completely up to her.

I feared the worst, not knowing how to help her find it, or whether her data was now in jeopardy. This got me thinking.

Would I know what to do if my laptop or phone disappeared? My first thought was, yes. I’ve got this. I have passwords protecting all of my devices and I have Prey installed on all of them as well. (More about Prey later.)

I grabbed my other phone (yes, I have two; I live and breathe social media and the Internet as a whole, so multiple gadgets are sometimes required). After texting my secret code word to my “lost” phone, nothing happened.

Puzzled, I looked at my online Prey account and everything seemed to be in order. I’d tried it before and it worked fine. Why wasn’t it working?

My “what if it went missing” plan had found yet another snag. (The last time I needed to use it, I had forgotten what the secret code word was!)

Then, I remembered. A few months back, I had to reset my phone back to factory settings. I looked at the apps in my phone and realized I hadn’t re-installed it. My phone was not protected at all!

Note to self: Any time you have to reset your phone, be sure to re-install your tracking app AND when it is updated in the App Store, make sure it’s still connected and running properly.

As I got my phone set up and linked to my Prey account, I tested out my “what if it went missing” plan on my laptop. It worked like a charm!

It was not long before I had a photo of myself staring at the screen, a screenshot of the website I was on and other important data about my use of the computer and internet connection. I also got an EXACT location of my house, right down to the Google street view of my front porch.

I had always wondered what would happen if my device went missing, and now I know. The information I received would be invaluable if it were a real life situation.

Fortunately, my friend ended up finding her laptop, and it was safe all along. But it doesn’t always end that way.

Consider the impact to your life if your device went missing… then act

Make sure you’re prepared BEFORE you need to be. Once you have tools in place, test your plan from time to time to be sure they are working, and, of course, ensure you know how to use them.

Consider the impact on your life and your customers, should your cellphone or laptop come up missing. Do you have it locked down, or can anyone open it?  Would you know how to track it?

PreyProject is the best I’ve seen for tracking devices. For personal use, you can track up to 3 items for free, with some limitations. For more peace of mind, choose the $5 or $15 option. There are even plans for businesses.

If you have Apple products, they do have some similar options through their Cloud, which I have heard good things about. Me, I have multiple devices from various manufacturers, and Prey allows me to use one system for everything. Unfortunately it’s a no-go for Kindle Fire users at this time, but the bottom line is, use SOMETHING!

In a pinch, you can also use the Latitude feature on Google Maps by connecting with a few people you’re most often with. This past summer, I lost my phone and I couldn’t get my secret code word on Prey to work (that was the time I had forgotten the code and was nowhere near my notes to figure it out). By using a phone I had previously connected with on Latitude, I was able to find my phone in the parking lot where it had fallen under our vehicle.

Note to self: Remember your code word!

Consider your own “what if it went missing” plan. Are you prepared?

If not, stop what you are doing and make sure you have passwords and at least one tracking system on each of your important devices AND make sure you know how to use it.

Test your “what if it went missing” plan regularly.

Have you lost any of your devices? Did you recover them? Any tips on how to keep them safe?

 

The original article, “Are you prepared for electronic disaster?” by Tessa Miller was originally published on the Business Examiner website
Photo: Public Domain courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Get the most out of Facebook by taking control of it

Undoubtedly the biggest complaint I hear about Facebook is that it is a waste of time. This baffles me. How can it be a waste of time to stay connected with family and friends, and to create important connections with associates and acquaintances?

OK, to be fair, I live and breathe social media. So my opinion on this subject is slightly skewed. Let me explain.

Facebook with a purpose

Facebook only takes as much time as you are willing to give it. Admittedly, it is easy to get lost in all the updates posted by your “friends.” But, if you are purposeful in how you use Facebook, you will see great things happen from those connections.

So, set some goals and let’s get started. What do you want to get out of the time you spend on Facebook? Once you figure that out, you can organize your updates to accomplish those goals in no time flat.

Something you should know: You need to purposefully engage with your favorite people and brands on Facebook or you will not see their updates in your news feed. You can “Like” their status updates, Post something on their wall, whatever you want. Just engage with them.

Why do you have to do this engagement stuff? Because, if Facebook doesn’t feel like you want to connect with your Friends, their updates are hidden from you. This makes it that much harder for you to use Facebook to stay connected.

Why does Facebook alter the news feed? It’s pretty simple, really. If Facebook did not alter the feed for you, you would get every post and update from every person and page to whom you are connected. This could be problematic and very overwhelming.

In an effort to give you the best user experience possible, Facebook sorts through all of those updates and shows you only what it thinks you want to see. The problem with that is, you are missing updates that you actually do want to see, so you would have to go to certain pages from time to time just to see if they’ve posted anything. Who has time for that?

You have more control than you think

So, how do you tidy up your news feed so that you will get the most out of your time spent on Facebook? Hide posts, people, and apps that clutter your newsfeed. Turn on subscribe. And, most importantly, organize all of your friends into lists (specifically: Restricted, Acquaintances, close friends and create a list that includes everyone.)

Let me clarify what that all means.

Hiding.  “Hiding” someone is not the same as “unfriending” them. Unfriending isn’t very nice, so you should do it sparingly. Hide the person instead. You can always go back to your settings and “unhide” them later on.

I hide people who post negative talk or spam my feed with sales pitches, but I very rarely un-friend someone. The person does not get notified that you have hidden them and when they go to your page, it will still show that you are “friends.” They will also still see your updates.

You can hide just about anything on Facebook. For example, I hide all game requests. Some of them look fun, I just don’t have the time.

You can hide whatever apps you don’t want in your newsfeed. You should also occasionally review which apps you’ve allowed access to your Facebook account.

Turn on Subscribe.  Why? Because, if you’re doing any networking at all, chances are there are people who want to connect with you without the “commitment” of becoming Facebook friends with you. It also gives you some automatic control over the content they can see on your profile.

When someone subscribes to your updates, they will only see the posts that you have marked public. Which means, if you post something limited to your friends, they will not see it.

So, to make sure your subscribers have a chance to connect with you, make a point to post publicly whenever possible. You should also let subscribers comment on your posts, or it’s just a one-way conversation and that is not very engaging.

Note: If you go out of town, you should probably not post that publicly, but that is another conversation entirely and completely your choice. Ditto on whether to post pictures of your kids publicly. There could be personal safety issues with both of these actions.

Embrace lists.  Finally, you need to embrace the “Lists” feature and organize all of your Facebook friends. This will make viewing all the posts from your connections easier and more purposeful and will also allow you to specify who sees the updates that you post.

There are some lists that Facebook has already set up for you, like Restricted, Acquaintances, and Close Friends. You just have to choose who you want to put on which list. There are also some automatically generated lists, such as places you have worked, schools you’ve attended, the city you live in, and family.

You can view the news feed for any list you would like, but you should pay close attention to these lists:

Restricted – Use this list when you “need” to be friends with someone on Facebook, but don’t want to show them your personal posts. They see what subscribers see.

Acquaintances – Put people who you personally know, but aren’t really “friends” with in this list. You will see less of their posts and you can choose to post to “friends, except acquaintances” anytime you don’t want them to see that particular content.

Close friends – Use this list sparingly, or turn off the notifications. With notifications turned on, it will notify you every time someone in that list posts anything and that gets annoying really quickly, even for someone like me who “lives” for this stuff. However, with the notifications turned off this list is a great tool. Even in the Facebook altered news feed, you will see more of the content from the people in this list.

Create your own lists. I have a list that I call “Everyone.” I literally put all of the people who are my Facebook friends here. I don’t usually post status updates to this list, but it is very helpful for when I want to browse my stream without missing any posts.

I also have one I call “people that don’t live here,” so I can avoid bombarding my out-of-state friends with local stuff that doesn’t pertain to them.

Now that you understand lists, feel free to create lists for each of the groups in your life. When you post updates to that particular list, only the people you have added in that list will see it.

Bonus: You can get SMS messages every time specific persons update their status. This can be helpful so you do not miss an update. But if they post a lot you will get a lot of text messages, so be sure you have an unlimited text-messaging plan! But I do find this less annoying than the notifications sent through the “Close Friends” list.

By keeping your friends close, and your network closer, you will get more out of Facebook and spend less time weeding through the clutter. It really can be a worthwhile business tool.

 

The original article “Get more out of Facebook, take control” by Tessa Miller was published by the Business Examiner.

Original Article

Two great tech tools to amp your customer service

I like to think that all small business owners want to provide great customer service to go along with their online presences. However, there are times when you need to be in front of your client to really help them.

Unfortunately that is not always possible.

So, until you can magically transport yourself to their locations, or have so much time on your hands that you can drop everything and drive over to physically visit them every time they need you, I say, “embrace technology!”

Now, as you might have figured out from my previous ramblings, I love technology. So, it’s easy for me to say but not always easy for non-tech types to implement. But I promise that what I am about to tell you is easy for anyone to do — well, as long as you know how to operate a computer. If not, then you might be out of luck on this one.

Do you know Jing?

I recently got a message from a business associate who was struggling with how to do something online. He messaged me and asked if I could help.

Ideally, when showing someone how to do something online, you want to be there in person to walk them through the process.  Otherwise, you end up spending 20 minutes trying to explain how to get where they need to be and what to do once they are there. In person, this process would take all of five minutes.  You never get those wasted 15 minutes back, and the time spent doesn’t even accomplish anything useful — unless you were trying to frustrate your valued client, who now thinks you would get lost inside a brown paper sack.

You would have been better off letting the phone go to voicemail and pretending that the message was never delivered. I am not recommending you do that, but it would have been far less frustrating for both of you.

In this instance, instead of trying to give a blind explanation, I opened an application called Jing that I had previously downloaded from techsmith.com. Their free plan allows me to not only record my computer screen, but also my voice for up to five minutes. Plenty of time to show my friend how to accomplish what he was trying to do.

It really is that easy.

Let’s review. Select the area of your screen that you want to share and click record. Use your mouse and voice to navigate through the Internet or whatever you are trying to showcase. When you are done, click stop.

The program will automatically upload the video to Jing’s server and give you a link to share. Send the link to your client and you’re done.

In some instances a full-on video screenshot would be overkill. With Jing, you also can take a simple screenshot and make notes using text and arrows to explain how to do something.

Either way, you look like a rock star — deserving of an award for exceptional customer service. Next time someone calls you and can’t figure out how to do something on your website, you know what to do.

Go to…. Join.me?

But, wait.  What if the situation needs more of a two-way conversation? Perhaps it’s a meeting or training session about how to use something on your website, or sharing a PowerPoint presentation.

As you might have guessed, I have a technology solution for that as well.
You’ve likely heard of Go To Meeting. It’s great, but costs $49 a month and makes your participants download the company’s software to log in.

As a participant of a “Go To Meeting,” I’ve found logging in a bit cumbersome. The last thing you want is for your client to get confused or frustrated when they try to connect to your meeting.

I also like free and easy. So, I prefer using Join.me.

It still requires me to download the software to share my screen, but only requires my participants to click on the URL I send them.  That makes “logging in” super easy.

Using a meeting/screen sharing tool like Join.me makes it feel like you’re right there with the person. Once they are viewing your screen, they can see everything you are doing real time — and ask questions.

Based on those questions, you can alter your presentation to make sure they get the most out of it. Doing this with just a recorded video or simple screen share would be difficult.

Think about implementing this type of tech as part of your company’s customer service process. I promise, it will take the fuss out of helping your clients.

Can’t think of how this would help your business? Consider how easy it would be to explain how to order from your online store or where to enter that discount code.

The possibilities are endless!

Or you could try unplugging your phone and hope that your customers figure out their questions on their own — because a blind explanation is rarely helpful when it comes to the online world.

The original article “Personal touch goes high-tech” by Tessa Miller was published by the Business Examiner.

Original Article

Photo Credit

How to claim your company’s online “turf”

Chances are you already have a website for your company. While this is a great start at managing what people see when they search for your business, if you haven’t added your information to the major search engines and social media sites you’re missing a big piece of what the internet can do for you business.

The price is right

You might be thinking that it is impossible to claim your company’s online turf without emptying your wallet, or it will simply take too much time. But there are some great shortcuts that make it pretty easy to do, and it’s even free!

Let’s get started

Start by reviewing what the major search engines know about your company.  Now you could do this by going to each site separately and locating your profile. I’m pretty sure that would take forever and you have better things to do, like running your business!

Getlisted.org

The easiest way I have found is using the search tool at www.getlisted.org. Simply type in your company name and zip code and it will give you an analysis about your company’s online search presence.

Getlisted

In no time at all you will see a snapshot of your company’s information on the most popular search sites: Google, Bing, Yelp, Foursquare, Yahoo!, Superpages.com, yp.com, and more. For each site you can choose to either view additional details, or add your listing.

Clicking on view additional details will direct you to the page that search engine has for your business, here you can update any details or add pictures and additional contact information. (Please note that you do not update your information directly on the GetListed.org site)

On the sites that don’t have your information you will want to click on add your listing and go through the search site’s process of adding your business.

There are no rules saying you have to add your information to all of the sites, but at the very least be sure the major sites have your website, address, contact info, hours, logo, and a few pictures.

NameChk.com

Next up, claim your name on the major social sites as well. There are varying opinions on this, some say only claim what you will use. I suggest claiming your name on any site your users may be looking for you. But at the very least claim your name on the more popular online sites.

Namechk

Google/YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram (Not listed on NameChk, but you will need this profile name to be the same as your twitter name for mentions to follow you to twitter when auto posted by you or other users.), etc.

Again, you could go to each site individually, but there’s all that work you should be doing to keep your business running smoothly. So, use this shortcut, www.NameChk.com.

Type in the username you want and it will check about 100 different sites to see if that name is taken. Once you find a name that is available on all the sites you want to sign up for, get to it! You can click directly on the site name and you will be directed to that site to finish the steps of signing up.

Now back to work

Now that your company is represented in all the right places, it’s time to get back to work and create a plan for what you’re going to do with all the new “turf” you have!

Did I miss anything?  Leave your thoughts in the comments!