Archive for May, 2010

Using LinkedIn to promote your business – 5 easy steps

May 30, 2010

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]The possibilities for using LinkedIn to promote your business are practically endless. If you don’t know where to begin or are having trouble finding the time, try our five easy steps for promoting your business with LinkedIn.

First, you need a personal LinkedIn page.  Make sure you have completed your profile and have a flattering position summary for the company to promote.  Additionally, your profile should be 100% complete.

Next decide how you will accept connections. LION (LinkedIn Open Network) members connect to almost anyone that requests whether they know them or not.  More conservative members only link to people they personally know.  This is your choice and you can adjust your settings to share or hide your connections. There are many security settings that control how much or how little of your information is shared.  If you are concerned about sharing information, start with very secure settings and you can adjust as needed.  Never share personal information like home address.

Now let’s get down to business promotion:

1) Create a company page with your logo, overview, specialties and statistics.  Make sure current employees link to the page and that you have included your website.

2) Look for groups to join that are of interest to your customers.  There are many groups on LinkedIn that you can easily reach the 50 limit set by LinkedIn.  Of course, you can join groups that are of personal interest, but if you are promoting your company the best groups will be those of interest to your customers.

3) Create a group based on your subject matter expertise. It is easy to create and promote a group. Create a group choosing a name that describes the group and promote to your contacts. It is best to approve new members rather than have an open access. 

4) Start group discussions and keep the conversation going.  Some groups will be very active and others will need prodding. Periodically promote your group to get new members.  Be sure to monitor messages for appropriate content and spam.  You can remove abusers from your group.

5) Look at the open Q&A discussions.  Even if you choose not to participate, take a glance at the types of questions and answers that are being posted.  You may want to experiment in this open forum before starting your own group. If you are (or want to be) a subject matter expert for your company, search this forum for questions to answer.

This will get you started.  Next time, we will add 5 steps to jazz up your LinkedIn experience.

For more technical topics, please visit our website: http://www.lansystems.com/resources.html

If you have comments or suggestions for topics, please leave a comment or email mary@lansystems.com.

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Add a Tweetmeme retweet button to your WordPress post

May 29, 2010

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]imagebuttonAdding a Tweetmeme retweet button is a smart idea.  It allows readers to easily retweet your blog post to their Twitter followers.  It is easy to add the button to your WordPress blog using the Shortcode API functions.

The button with 22 tweets / retweet is a static graphic example that shows a button ready to retweet. The button with 2 tweets / tweeted is a static graphic example that has been retweeted from that page.

To use the Tweetmeme retweet button, add the following to your post:

tweetmeme source=Your_Twitter_Account only_single=false

Be sure the statement is between square brackets [ ] so it will be read as a Shortcode.  Also insert the Twitter name that you want the retweet to reference.  It will show as @Your_Twitter_Account after the RT. Some instructions show as “Your_Twitter_Account” or ‘Your_Twitter_Account’ but the single or double quotes are redundant because the function expects a string. If that is confusing, just ignore because it’s not really important to getting your button displayed.

The expression “only_single=false” will make the retweet button show on your main blog page and each individual post.  If you leave this out, the retweet will only show on the individual post page.

You can add this statement on the Visual or HTML page.  Since it is a Shortcode API not HTML code, it will be visible on the Visual page but will not show on your post if the syntex is correct. Correct syntax is always important so make sure to cradle in the square brackets.

If you want to know more about Shortcode API, start with: http://codex.wordpress.org/Shortcode_API.  If you want to know more about functions http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subroutine is a good start.

If you have any questions, I’ll try to answer just leave a comment or email me at mary@lansystems.com.

For business email you need a domain name

May 26, 2010

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]Create a web presence and brand for your company by using your own domain name.  A domain can help establish credibility by showing you are a real company with real employees, products and services.  
[The domain name is the part of an email that comes after the @ and identifies a web location. The part before the @ is the user name. For mary@lansystems.com, the user is mary and lansystems.com is the domain. You can go to www.lansystems.com to check the domain to see the type of company, their location and other items that may be of importance to you.

Even if you have not built your website, you need a domain and getting one is easy.  There are many online services that allow you to register your name and even post your site. If your business does not already have a domain name that you are using for email, don’t delay.  Choose a service and find a name that suits your business. This is an important part of your branding so choose your name wisely.

For email, your domain gives you a presence in the virtual space.  Many people will look for your website when they receive an email from you by taking the part after the @ and putting in a browser.  When your website appears, it validates and authenticates you and your products or services.  Authentication is very important because of the amount of spam each of us receives. 

Your email may go directly to the spam box. With a gmail, yahoo, hotmail, free or even the default ISP email account, the recipient may block the whole domain and thus your user account. As an example, if someone blocks yahoo.com then all users using the domain @yahoo.com will go to their junk or spam folder.   Spam is such an irritation, that filters and individuals take drastic measures to reduce spam.  A unique domain name is no guarantee that you won’t go to the spam box, but it reduces that risk and is essential for business identity.

Use gmail, yahoo, hotmail or other free email for your personal account.  Even if you have a mailbox through your ISP or work, it is good to have a couple of free accounts to use in case you don’t want to give your work or personal email address.

For business email, use your company domain just as you use your company letterhead for business correspondence. It establishes you as a bona fide company and adds credibility to your message.

For more computer support, business strategy and technology tips, visit:  http://www.lansystems.com/resources.

Windows 7 features from our favorites list

May 24, 2010

[tweetmeme source=LANSystems only_single=false]If you’ve been holding on to that old computer because you didn’t want to give up Windows XP, we have good news.  Windows 7 is simpler to use, more responsive, and full of new possibilities. So take the plunge – we did.  At LAN Systems, we are using Windows 7 on our desktops and have some favorite features that we would like to share with you.

Backup and Restore 

Greatly improved for Windows 7, Backup and Restore gives you peace of mind that your critical files are preserved. You can easily select your important files or let Windows choose what to backup. Libraries are an easy way to collect files that may be scattered throughout your PC.  Choose a backup schedule and you can be confident that your data is preserved. 

Be sure that you backup to a drive other than the one that contains Windows.  So if you don’t have more than one hard drive installed, use a DVD or external hard drive.  If you have Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate, you can backup to a network drive so that the network backup will also duplicate a copy of your files.

Windows Search

Quick and efficient describes the new Windows 7 Search. No longer will you search in vain for where you saved that last document.  You’ll be able to find more things in more places—and do it faster. Libraries allow you to organize your documents into a single virtual location.

Start typing into the Start menu search box, and you’ll instantly see a list of documents, pictures, music, and e-mail that meet your criteria.  Narrow the search by date, file type and other categories you select. Highlighted keywords and text snippets show matches that you can easily scan.

Snipping Tool

If you like the Print Screen tools, you are going to love the Snipping Tools.  Use to make a training document, step-by-step instructions or show examples of what you are seeing.  After you capture a snip, you can write or draw on or around the snip image. This allows your own personal notes without bringing the capture into Paint or Word.

It’s easy to send the snip with your notes, just click on Send Snip and choose the email recipient or location to send.

Sticky Notes

These notes will never fall off the monitor and lodge behind the desk. Windows 7 Sticky Notes are one of the most useful and fun desktop enhancements.  Organize your to-do list, tasks, notes and phone messages.  You can always edit the text, change its color and speedily resize, collapse, and flip through notes.

If you use a Tablet PC or a touchscreen, Windows 7 Sticky Notes support pen and touch input, too—you can even switch between different input methods within the space of a single note. Sticky Notes is available in the Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate editions of Windows 7.

Desktop Themes

Windows 7 has eye-catching themes for every occasion. The graphics are vibrant and new.  You can choose beautiful landscapes and nature backgrounds or modern, surprising themes that every passerby will admire. No matter what taste, there is something for everyone.

Themes and screen savers can display slide shows.  Window border colors and sound schemes are part of your theme.  Choose the theme as it is or add your personal touch.  Need more choices, download free themes from the Personalization Gallery.

Let us know about your favorites and you could be featured in our Windows 7 series. Send your story to mary@lansystems.com.

For more computer support and technology topics visit LAN Systems at:http://www.lansystems.com/technotes.html

Getting the most from your IT budget

May 21, 2010

[tweetmeme source=lansystems only_single=false]Especially during tough times, we look to trim our operating budgets.  Efficient use of our valuable resources is just smart business and there are many ways to manage costs without sacrificing performance.  Below are a few ideas that you can use immediately with a minimum of time and investment. 

  1. Recycle software licenses – It’s worth the effort to record all software purchases so you can easily transfer and upgrade licenses.  Start with an inventory of all existing software and then be sure to update as you add and replace licenses.  Often software licenses can be harvested as hardware is retired.  When purchasing, compare the cost of transferable to non-transferable licenses.  Be sure to keep the necessary documentation with your master list in a file.  To save paper, use electronic files.
  2. Optimize printing – Start with evaluating what you print and eliminate unnecessary or duplicate hardcopy.  In today’s office, most paperwork can be saved electronically eliminating the need for a printed copy.  When using electronic records, be sure that your system includes a common repository for all records and a rigorous backup strategy. Additionally, share network printers in workgroups.  Save on paper costs by using lighter weight paper for internal documents.  You can use paper tray selection through Print Properties.  Multifunction printers that print, copy, scan and fax might be a good investment.  Always evaluate printers that meet your needs by using the total cost per page (TCPP).
  3. Server virtualization – Use existing server hardware and add a “virtual” server to improve performance or add features. Virtualization allows you to house two or more “virtual” servers on the same hardware.  You can also consolidate servers into a virtual configuration.
  4. Application virtualization – Separate the application configuration layer from the OS in a desktop environment, reduce application conflicts, bring patch and upgrade management to a central location and accelerate the deployment of new applications and updates.
  5. Desktop virtualization – Rather than using your desktop PC to run applications, use your server to host all applications and data for the desktops.  This client-server model is advantageous in many ways.  You can deploy desktops quickly on a basic machine and may double the useful life of PCs since they need minimum resources. On existing systems, you may be able upgrade your entire system by adding a server without changing any desktop PCs.

For more IT solutions and computer support tips, visit: http://www.lansystems.com

Net Neutrality – Who should control the Internet?

May 19, 2010

[tweetmeme source=lansystems only_single=false]In its most basic and simple form, network neutrality states that all Internet traffic is equal.  Streaming video, large downloads, online gaming, cloud computing applications and email would all be treated the same. There would be no differentiation between personal and commercial use of the Internet.  The idea of equality is wonderful in theory, but doesn’t survive in practice.  The Internet is a shared resource used for many purposes and like it or not, the Internet is a commercial enterprise and the providers have to be able to control their network.

That doesn’t mean that the providers can engage in unfair business practices.  Comcast’s throttling of BitTorrent users didn’t go unnoticed.  In fact, it sparked a firestorm that still rages.  The Court of Appeals gave Comcast a victory with its decision to vacate the FCC order, but this could be a Pyrrhic victory if it advances the net neutrality argument.

The experts, industry and politicians remain divided on the best way to manage the Internet.  Some lobby for no control at all, but be controlled it must because the Internet is integral to our modern way of life.  As any essential resource or infrastructure, the Internet must be preserved and defended.  Like oil, consumer prices are controlled by the market, availability is controlled by the petroleum companies albeit heavily regulated, and the government maintains large reserves for among other reasons national defense.  It seems the Internet will have a fate similar to oil.

What does the future hold?  The crystal ball is cloudy, but my prediction is that the Internet communications backbone will see increasing government regulation, the Internet service providers will see more government rules, but will still be able to use a price for access model, and consumer prices will increase.

Promoted Tweets: lead or gold?

May 16, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”LANSystems” only_single=false]Promoted tweets have been with us for such a short time, but already declared a success by Twitter and doomed by the blogosphere.  Virgin America claims its fifth highest sales day for special to Toronto launched by promoted tweets.  But they did have a 50% offer so that could have helped.

In truth, promoted tweets will most likely be a successful venture for Twitter and its business model.  Twitter’s COO tells that the company is under no pressure to make a profit from its investors and that they are focusing on the user experience. So we should see only a modest amount of targeted ads that are high value to the user.  The type and frequency of ads will be a barometer of Twitter’s intent. 

Currently, promoted tweets are on a cost-per-impression pricing model, but that could change if they realize quick success and acceptance by the user community.  Of course the advertisers like it, they are getting great exposure and that means name recognition.  But today’s online user is turned off by ads and has adapted by ignoring them. Persuasion is a powerful tool, but once we realize we are being persuaded – resistance is easier.

Ads that we consider spam are easily blocked, but what about subtleties.  With so much obvious fodder in cyberland, our natural defenses tune them out. But what happens when the laws of persuasion and selective perception marketing are newly applied.  It takes a while for our skills improve so we can ignore the new ad stimulus.  It’s not easy to resist because people desire new possessions.  Our buying impulses are quite predictable because product marketing is successful and profitable especially online.

Twitter can’t make everyone happy with promoted tweets no matter what formula they use. Purists want no advertising on the Internet and advertisers want to be highly visible on successful sites. There is no middle ground.  But Twitter can learn from the mistakes of others and if users don’t like the ads, they’ll tweet about it.

If the number of retweets is any measure of success, the launch of promoted tweets was embraced by the Twitter community.  But changes come quickly in cyberspace, so we’ll observe, analyze and redefine our expectations as Twitter learns the advertising ropes.  It makes for good blogging!

Using social media to promote your business

May 10, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”LANSystems” only_single=false]As the market determines how social media will ultimately impact businesses, you should be positioning your company to take advantage of this new wave of advertising.  Depending upon your marketing strategy, you may decide to just test the waters or jump in with both feet.  Either way, develop a marketing plan for your social media endeavors.  Be sure that you have a policy for anyone (even the owner) that participates in online conversation.  Remember, you want to promote a positive corporate image and attract high quality customers and employees.

At our seminars on social media, we present an overview of how to get started in social media.  We concentrate on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Blogging as these are popular, fast-growth platforms that look like they are here to stay.

Social media takes time.  Beginners spend approximately 2 hours a week.  After a few months, the amount of time spent jumps to about 10 hours a week. Those who actively practice social media marketing, commit 20 hours a week or more to keeping up with their social media activities. As with any initiative before you start, make sure you can devote the time and energy needed to have a consistent presence.  Starting small with steady growth is preferable to a big splash then fizzling out.

Many people are struggling with an effective social media strategy and evaluating the social media return-on-investment.  There are some who claim you can make money with social media, but quantifying the revenue has been difficult.  For most, social media is a model for positive promotion, reputation monitoring and networking.  Remember, social media is an extension of the more traditional forms of networking.  So approach your social media communications with the same integrity and etiquette that you would use in face-to-face exchanges.

LinkedIn – A business-oriented social media site used for networking.  You can create your personal profile and make a company page.  You approve people that want to link to you and send invitations to others to link.  Once linked, you get notification on posts, groups, updates and other details about your connections. LinkedIn is powerful for connecting to business professionals, researching companies and participating in industry and topical groups.  You can send your Facebook, Twitter, Blog and other posts directly to your LinkedIn page

Facebook – Originally used as a social networking site for college students, Facebook has gained acceptance and influence for all ages.  On Facebook, it is easy to post pictures, videos and personal information. Users connect by posting information on walls.  You have to accept invitations from friends and choose what information to share.  Facebook accounts are created by an individual, but you can make a company page linked to your personal account to promote your company.  Use Facebook ads to promote your company by designing an ad and choosing the demographics that will view the ads.  Ads can be pay-per-impression or pay-per-click.  The fasting growing Facebook demographic is women over 55 years of age.

Twitter – A social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers. Find followers that are interested in your industry, products or services.  Follow those who tweet information of interest or value. Use tweets to drive followers to your blog or other social media sites.  Send tweets on a variety of topics, but don’t just tweet advertisements or your followers will dwindle. 

YouTube –  A video-sharing website on which users can upload, share, and view videos. Most of the content on YouTube has been uploaded by individuals but some media corporations offer content.  Users can watch the videos and registered users are permitted to upload an unlimited number of videos.  Use YouTube to upload video blogs, interview, tutorials and presentation to name a few.  YouTube content can be used on your website or blog to provide information through video.  Some markets prefer video and recording demonstrations, instructions and interviews can be a powerful addition to the printed word.  Photos can be uploaded to YouTube, set to music and made into a video with captions. On your YouTube account you can monitor how many views each video has received and allow viewers to leave comments.

Blogging – Blog comes from the term web log.  A business blog is a website with regular entries of information, commentary, and events.  Blogs can be maintained by a single individual or group.  There are many group blogs on broad topics of interest Blogs are mainly text, but often add graphics, music or video for meaning and content.  Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order.  Most blogs allow readers to leave comments in an interactive format, but it is important that comments should be reviewed before being posted to your business blog.  Blogs should be professional and well written.  Your posts should be used to establish your expertise in an industry or on a topic.  Use other social media sites to drive users to your blog where you can explore topics more deeply.  Microblogging is another type of blogging, featuring very short posts.

Want to try social media, but don’t know where to start? 

  • Try LinkedIn first.  It’s easy to get started, find connections and add content. 
  • Then try Facebook.  It’s a bit more complicated, but worth the effort.  Once you get your personal page and some friends, make a company page and suggest it to your friends. 
  • Now you’re ready for Twitter.  Set up your account and tweet once or twice a day.  Remember to make your tweets interesting and minimize advertisement.
  • Now start blogging!  Use the other sites to drive traffic to your blog.  Create content that can also be used on your social media sites, web pages and newsletters. 

For more tips, visit:  http://www.lansystems.com

Using newsletters to reach customers

May 4, 2010

[tweetmeme source=lansystems only_single=false]Keeping in touch with customers is more than sending sales offers.  Good correspondence should include items that are of interest and benefit.  Be sure that the format is pleasing to your readers. Often less is more. Don’t clutter your newsletter with ads or marketing material.  Spend time to optimize your content and format so you get more readers that look forward to each issue.

Choose a format

Format is a personal choice, but be sure that you choose a format that is pleasing to your readers.  Depending on your industry and customer base, you may have long or short articles. There are many ways to test format, but be sure to test and modify.  You can test with a select group of customers or you could create several formats and see which one works the best.  Both of those strategies take time.  At a minimum, track the opens and clicks from each issue of your online newsletter. If you use a newsletter service, it is easy to get these metrics.

Layout – Carefully choose a layout that is attractive and suited to your readers. Putting your logo at the top and information about your company and offerings on the sidebar is a classic format.  You may want to experiment with some more daring themes, but once you choose a format stick with it so your readers will recognize each issue.  Newsletter format is branding.

Article length – The length of articles not only depends on the topic but your readers. If your readers are computer programmers and your article is about specifics of programming, you can write long informative articles that are well read.  If you write articles for business people, you have to quickly get to the point. For your online newsletter, use links so the reader can learn more about a topic. 

Testing length and content – Make sure that you are tracking clicks on the links.  This way you will know the link popularity by the number of clicks.  When a customer clicks on the link, you can track by email address and make a sales follow-up call.  But don’t tell the customer that you are calling because they clicked on a link.  That’s a sure way to turn off your prospect.

Use pictures and graphics – People like to look at pictures.  In each issue, be sure to include a couple of attractive pictures that match the content.  There are several royalty free sites where you can get pictures, illustrations and videos for a reasonable cost. 

Add Content

Use real news, tips and offers. Examples are: company and industry news, business tips and advice, money saving offers and announcement of new products. Don’t use filler, it will be obvious to your readers.  And once you start, you have to be consistent.  If you have a quarterly newsletter, be sure to publish it quarterly!

Company news – Give real information about what your company is doing for employees, customers and the community.  Press releases are valuable for promoting your company. Use the content created for press releases for your newsletters. Press releases are written in the third person, so be sure to change to first person narratives for newsletters.  First person articles are more personal and allow you to connect with customers. Be sure to include any events or activities that you are hosting. 

Industry news – Let your customers know about industry news that you find interesting.  This requires that you keep updated on what is going on in your industry.  Make sure the news is relevant. If it’s not informational, don’t use it.  

Business tips and advice – This is the most important content of your newsletter as it establishes you as the expert.  Use time-saving and money-saving tips that have step-by-step examples or specific case studies. For business advice, be clear and concise.  Give examples on how you have achieved benefits.  These types of articles can be used for your blog, technical notes or web page content.

Article reprint and guest contributors – These are easy ways to build content.  Be sure you have permission for reprints and that guest articles are relevant to your content.  Inviting guests to submit to your newsletter can be good for partnership building. 

Money saving offers – Use special offers in your newsletters that are really unique.  Offers should be a good value and relevant to your market.  Don’t use the same offer over and over. Make sure that the offer is targeted and special. You don’t have to include a special offer in each issue of your newsletter.

New products – Whether your own product or a partner product, add new products that help your customers be more efficient and productive.  In general, the case for products should have a value statement that shows how you can increase revenue or reduce costs.  Some products have a “cool” factor that you may want to include even if you can’t quantify the benefits.

Before you publish – proofread!

For more tips, visit:  http://www.lansystems.com

May Puzzle

May 3, 2010

The Ball

How can you throw a ball as hard as you can and have it come back to you? It isn’t caught and returned by anyone, it doesn’t hit anything and there is nothing attached to it.

Send your answer to puzzle@lansystems.com.  All correct answers will be entered in our monthly drawing.