The Password is PASSWORD

                     Highlights from the last few months in cyber-chaos

  • April, 2014 – The “Heartbleed Bug” strikes, affecting as many as 500,000 websites.
  • November, 2014 – Sony Pictures Entertainment hacked by person/persons unknown; leads to a complete and total meltdown in Hollywood,  forcing people in the “biz” to actually pick up a phone and talk to their cubicle mate and for the rest of us to stream a bro-stick comedy over Christmas that we all probably would have been better off waiting for on Netflix.
  • December, 2014 – North Korea’s Internet service undergoes a “DDOS attack” (distributed denial of-service) by person/persons unknown.
  • January, 2015 – US Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts hacked by Islamic State sympathizers
  • Retailers such as Target, Neimann Marcus, Michaels, Aaron Brothers, PF Changs, UPS, Home Depot, Chik-Fil-A – ALL HACKED!!

A recent study found that 13.1 million U.S. adults are victims of fraud, with a total somewhere in the $18 billion range of fraudulent activity accounted for annually.  Earlier this month, President Obama proposed legislation that would encourage companies and government agencies to share information about security threats and vulnerabilities with each other.

Remember when you got that email from your bank, your social media website, your email server to change your password in the wake of Heartbleed. Did you actually do it? A Pew research study last year found that only 61% of those who knew about Heartbleed changed their passwords.

Just how lazy are we?

 A survey from 2012 by Research Now for CSID on password habits among American consumers found:

  • 61% of us reuse passwords across multiple websites.
  • 54% of us have 5 or fewer passwords for all of our internet usage.
  • 44% of us change our passwords once a year or less.
  • 89% of us feel secure with our current passwords and security habits.
  • 21% of us have had at least one online account compromised.

Splashdata’s annual list of most commonly used passwords found that “password” had been supplanted by the surely uncrackable“ 123456” as the most popular password of 2013.

 So what kind of passwords should we be using? 

The latest and greatest recommendations from cyber experts, including Blizzard’s own Hosting Manager, Tish Lockard, agree on the following guidelines for creating strong passwords:

  • A strong password should contain AT THE VERY LEAST 8 characters, combining upper and lower case letters, numbers, punctuation marks and symbols; there should be no inclusion of words found in the dictionary or the names of your friends and family.
  • Never use easy to discover dates like birthdays or anniversaries; you’d be surprised what is clearly visible on our personal and business social media pages these days.
  • You should have a unique password for all of your important accounts.
  • You should change your passwords every 90 days and not reuse them for different sites.

There are password generating sites that will create strong passwords for you. Tish says, “Can’t think of a good password? There are tools out there, such strongpasswordgenerator.com that will cook up a good one for you.  You can even decide the length of your password and what type of characters to use.  I use this Every. Single. Day.” Hear that? Every single day! I am listening Tish!  Some others generators  are random.org and freepasswordgenerator.com.

  How the B!33P am I supposed to remember that gobbledygook?

cyber security, heartbleed, passwords

Keep your Hello Kitty in a secure location, NOT near your computer!

How are you supposed to remember these nonsensical passwords? I know I have  been  loath to use passwords like those described above because there is no way I  am ever  going to remember them. Most security experts recommend the use of a password manager such as Dashlane.com, LastPass.com or 1Password.com which have apps that can go with you from your computer, phone and tablet. YES, you will have to have a password  for these heavily  encrypted secure sites, but if you can’t remember ONE goofy  password, well, maybe this  World Wide Web thing just isn’t your bag.

DO NOT store your passwords in a public cloud, in a Google doc, in emails that  can be  hacked, on your phone’s notepad app or maybe not even in that little spiral  Hello Kitty  notebook that you carry around with you everywhere unless you have really bad  handwriting.

According to Tish, “If everyone could make these criteria a priority and truly commit to changing their passwords regularly, there would be a lot less chaos in  the world. Well, ok, chaos caused by hackers, anyway.” If we listen to Tish, at  least we all can do a little something about this cyber chaos. The hacker free-chaos, Tish and I will endeavor to deal with that another time.

Whatever method you decide upon to have truly secure passwords, remain ever vigilant as you cruise along the world-wide-web. There are hackers around every bend and it’s up to you to keep an eye on your online accounts. And don’t forget that old adage, if you don’t have something nice to say in an email about someone, maybe just jot it down in your Hello Kitty notebook.

Facebook Changes their Algorithm Again

You think Google changes their search algorithm all the time? Well, Facebook changes just as frequently. This week Facebook is rolling out an altered news feed algorithm once again. In previous updates, Facebook has tried to ensure that users see the posts that are most popular within their circle of friends, even if the post was few days ago and only if you had contact with that Facebook user recently. However, Facebook waFacebook Algorithm Updatesnts the news feed to show you the right content at the right time; not irrelevant content or something that happened a few days ago. Facebook is now taking all of this into consideration.

The current Facebook update will include ranking based on trending Facebook topics, along with the timing of each like and comment, to pair up with current post popularity. So if a friend posts about a trending topic, for instance, Emma Watson and her stance on Feminism, and the post goes viral because it is a fresh topic, but then dies slowly over the next day or so, it will tend to get moved lower and lower on your news feed while new trends and those popular with your friends start showing higher on the scale. This goes back to when the term Time Decay’ was being referred to more often than not.

This week we’re also seeing a possible update to the ‘Boost Post’ feature with the addition of more audience and demographic options. This will make it much easier for those marketers who don’t promote posts that often to include better targeting options for the boost. This update still lacks the control and sophistication of the Facebook Ads Manager, but for those not ready to cross over into full fledged Facebook Advertising, this should be a great advancement to the on-page posting promotions.

Twitter’s New Layout is Here!

We all heard it was coming but it’s finally here! Twitter’s new layout has finally arrived and is available for everyone. All you have to do is log in to your Twitter account,  and there it is, the option to update now or later, it’s your choice. I would advise updating now!

Within your account, the ‘Home’ option will give you much the same look as before, the same goes for the ‘Notifications’ and ‘Discover’ options. However, the ‘Me’ option will give you a whole new view, with a larger profile image and a header that stretches across the entire screen. The profile image size has grew a bit, now with a 400 x 400 pixel ratio, but don’t worry this should resize automatically. The header has also grew tremendously! It’s not hidden behind your profile image anymore, it’s an in-your-face statement now with a 1500 x 500 pixel ratio. As with Facebook this is a great place to add promotional material, last minute deals and seasonal images. This is one area that I would recommend updating as soon as you’re able, if this was an area ignored in the previous layout version, which from personal experience was.

The new layout gives a much clearer visual of all your tweets, with an option to ‘Pin a Tweet’, along with listing the number of followers and following set beside the number of favorites and photos you have posted throughout your time on Twitter.
Twitter-new-layout2014

Twitter’s new layout release runs aside its recent purchase of Gnip, a Boulder, CO based social data network, which will, I’m sure, lead to even more value based use and information to be released in the near future. Twitter may seem behind in the times compared to some other social networks, but it’s clearly taking time to plan and respond to user demand in a much more thought out way than any other social beast, and this is just the beginning.

 

 

Twitter’s New Layout: It’s Here!

This was just too good not to share!

You may have heard a little something back in February about Twitter’s upcoming layout overhaul…well those weren’t just rumors. Twitter is finally getting ready to launch its new layout to a small group of users and within a few weeks you might have it too. In this blog post from Hubspot.com they give us a little insight into what to expect from the new look. You’ll notice it looks a lot, and I mean a lot like Facebook. If you ask me it’s a much more user friendly and attractive structure than its predecessor. What do you think?

Photo Courtesy of Hubspot.com

Facebook Introduces – Website Custom Audiences

It seems every time I open my email in the morning I have a newsletter about more Facebook updates. Sometimes these types of news updates are mundane and practices which I have already integrated into my daily best practices, but today, however, today was different. If any of you follow Facebook updates or are super into Facebook Advertising then you know who Jon Loomer is. He is by far, in my opinion, one of the most knowledgeable people on Facebook Advertising and the Facebook Power Editor. If you don’t know who he is I would recommend checking him out, he provides training, weekly webinars and best of all, daily postings of all he knows and finds new with Facebook. As I mentioned above, today I opened up my email, noticed an email from him with the subject line, “Huge Facebook Ads Update [Read]”. Of course anything I see coming from him I immediately click into because I know it’s going to be interesting and with this title, it certainly promised to be.

Introducing - Facebook Website Custom AudiencesI wasn’t disappointed. Facebook is now in the midst of rolling out Website Custom Audiences. It’s a slow roll-out, some have it and some, not quite yet. What this is going to allow Facebook advertisers to do is target visitors to your website, those that have visited a specific page and for some reason or another left. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have been wanting this for quite some time. I always heard talk about how this is available within Google Adwords through the Display Network and wished Facebook had something like this. Now it does and I couldn’t be more excited! Sure it will take time to perfect the system, but this time is well spent if a reach to those visiting specific pages of your website can be targeted through your Facebook Ads strategy.

Thank you Facebook.

You can read Jon’s entire article, Facebook Website Custom Audiences online here. And with the almost daily Facebook updates, among the million other social platform updates, I would suggest getting registered as a subscriber to his newsletters and weekly webinars, that is, if you want to be on top of the Facebook ad game. Happy adveritising!

There’s a Place in Pinterest for everything

Back in November 2013 Pinterest introduced its ‘Place Pins‘ to give Pinterest users the ability to map their favorite destinations. Pinterest developers had noticed that users were pinning, re-pinning and favoriting over 1.5 million places every day. They wanted to help inspire people to go out and do more things, explore when on vacation. Many users began creating boards centered around their next vacation, adding pins of places they wanted to visit in that specific destination locale, basically creating a mobile-friendly itinerary for themselves and their friends and family.

Photo Credit: Travel ChannelWhile Place Pins is great for the average pinner to plan and brainstorm daily vacation activities, they are also a great marketing tactic for the travel and tourism industry. Many vacation rental and resort lodging websites have pages dedicated to local attractions, restaurants, fun family activities, etc. that visitors can use to plan their trip. Why not take these to the next level and expose an audience to your activities pages through social networking. Creating a Pinterest board dedicated to your local restaurants, including a place pin for each and linking the image to your activities landing page, will not only create more website traffic but also help your customer become more familiar with the area and ease the stress of planning activities when traveling.

With Pinterest and all other social networking sites, being mobile friendly and giving access to such activities easily via a mobile device is extremely helpful when the majority of travelers are bringing along their smart phone, tablets and iPads.

So, if you haven’t yet began using Place Pins for your company’s Pinterest Board, I suggest you start. Here are  few suggestions for Pinterest board creation that can include mapping and linking. This list could really go on and on so be creative!

  1. Vacation Homes
  2. Parks/Beaches
  3. Hiking Trails
  4. Attractions
  5. Restaurants
  6. Ski Resorts
  7. Music Venues
  8. Sports Stadiums
  9. Medical Facilities

One thing to keep in mind when adding Place Pins, the ability to map depends on FourSquare’s location API. So if a local business isn’t listed in FourSquare you may not be able to ‘map it’. That doesn’t mean you can’t link your image to your website landing page to bring someone there instead. After all, that is the purpose of most social media marketing. Happy mapping!

Facebook Contests – Are 3rd Party Applications Still Important?

Facebook announced last week, some major changes on how businesses can run contests and promotions. No longer requiring 3rd party apps to be used, Facebook wants to make it easier for those without the proper knowledge, budget or capabilities to be able to enter the FB promotions rat race.  Businesses are now allowed to run a contest through a simple timeline status update and use the ‘Like’ and ‘Comment’ options to acquire entrants and responses.Facebook Updates Contest Guidelines

Initially, I wasn’t too sure how this was going to work. Being a marketer, one of the biggest reasons to run a Facebook contest is to gather fan and consumer information, establishing a database for long term customer relations. Yes, Facebook contests are important to increase page engagement and potential website visits, but they are also there to create important relationships between you and your target market. The thought of how businesses were losing a way to gather consumer information was bothering me. It seems I spoke too soon.

Leave it to ShortStack.com to come up with an app that actually allows you to import the ‘Comments’ and ‘Likes’ from any post on your page. It’s absolutely brilliant and called the Comment/Like Importer. If I didn’t support the on page contest before I am all in now and am comfortable telling our clients about it.

Obviously third party apps can’t be cut out completely. The amount of time to create a contest has decreased drastically which makes my job much easier, however, with the ease of creating a contest established, there also needs to be an easy way to include the rules.  Rules? Oh yeah… As with all Facebook contests you need to include ALL rules and regulations that go along with your promotion. I could not imagine including all this information in a status update. That would be quite a lengthy post, so linking out to a 3rd party app is perfect to not exhaust hopeful entrants with boring, yet important, information. I would suggest researching online for custom facebook app builders that you can use to create your rules and regulations page. Most lend to any level user and are fairly simple to install on your Facebook page.

With your contest goals and ideas in place, don’t forget about advertising it! Promoting your post to those outside your current Facebook fan base will increase page engagement and if your fans aren’t the most active FB users, advertising is a great way to gain social interaction and brand recognition. Posting the information on your Blog, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest pages is also a huge factor in gaining cross channel engagement and branding. Find more information on how to advertise on Facebook by visiting their Facebook for Business center.

In the end, Facebook has simplified the contest creation process for those not so savvy business owners who know they need to be involved in this type of online marketing, who previously didn’t know where to start. Freeing up valuable time for us Social Media Marketers to put toward other areas of our client social media marketing plan is another great benefit of this recent update. Like I said before, if I didn’t support it at first, the Comment/Like Importer has changed my mind.

What do you think about the recent Facebook changes and continued use of 3rd party applications?

Why the Miley Thing Mattered

Miley during the VMA's

Miley Cyrus

I think Miley Cyrus taught us all a valuable lesson on Monday. Your eyes aren’t fooling you. You read that right.

Miley Cyrus lit up the social world with her antics on MTV’s Video Music Awards. When CNN.com led their news with the Miley story on Tuesday (a day when a new war is on the brink, fires are out of control and more) some questioned CNN’s judgment of newsworthiness. Meredith Artley, Managing Editor of CNN.com, explained the decision in simplistic fashion and her reasoning aligns perfectly with what we tell our clients about their posts, contents, and traffic drivers.

Simply put, Artley explained that we as media consumers don’t click on stories about fires and wars. We do click on stories about our celebrities though – especially when there is a picture of Hannah Montana in lingerie. In order to get the click on the web, you have to get the reader’s attention. It doesn’t have to be risqué like the Miley thing, but it should be valuable. For instance, if you want to get people to spend more time on your website, you need to provide content for them to navigate through.

In the news world, the main goal is just to get people – and it doesn’t matter who – to spend time on a website and get you to view a bunch of pages so they can sell advertising. To advertisers, each set of eyeballs is another cheeseburger, pair of shoes, car, etc. In general, any traffic is good traffic in the retail world. All this traffic is driven by:

Content, oh content! We’re not saying to post photos of scantily clad women all throughout your website. That’ll get you traffic, but it won’t be the kind you want. Those visitors aren’t interested in booking a room or a tour, they’re interested in skin. You need to have relevant content about things to do during a stay, tour information, neighborhood information, descriptions of the area, places to eat, where to rent a boat or skis, or a service you’re providing your guests that your competitors are not. Spend some time to make your content more interesting than your competitors. That content will get people to spend time on your website.

When people spend time on your site, people spend money on your site. That’s a proven fact and that’s why McDonald’s and Nike are what they are and why they don’t care if the content is about Miley (or Britney or Bieber or Boo Boo…). They care about getting eyes on their advertising – and you should too. Your job is much harder because you need to make sure those eyes are interested in your product, but the right content will get you the eyeballs.

See, now you can’t say Miley hasn’t taught you anything.

Facebook Updates Their Algorithm

Facebook Updates Their AlgorithmSo one of your Facebook friends just shared this awesome picture of their trip to Bali. They posted it at 4 Pm Bali time which means you were probably in REM sleep mode when they made the post. Though you don’t talk to this friend very often on Facebook, you knew they were going and wanted to see pictures! With the recent update to the Facebook ranking algorithm you just might see the pictures after all, even if they were posted 10 hours ago.

Facebook is aiming to improve the News Feed experience for all its users by giving them the information they want to see. Recent testing showed that there was an increase in sharing, commenting and liking organic stories in the news feed when coming from friends as well as an increase in engagement for organic stories coming from pages. Previously, Facebook users encountered an unranked information stream, ordered chronologically, that would place an abundance of less than interesting information into a users news feed. Users would have to scroll and scroll and scroll to see the high engagement  posts from friends.  With the average number of news feed stories from friends and pages being around 1,500, a user’s  ability to see all the posts they wanted to see decreased.

This update makes it easier for Facebook users to view the items that are important to them and their social circle. For marketers, this change does not influence how promoted posts or paid advertisements appear in the news feed, so keep that social strategy intact. As Facebook moves closer and closer to ranking high engagement and relevant posts organically, it makes us wonder if Facebook is testing the waters to bridge the gap between itself as a social network and itself as a search engine. What do you think?

More Data on the Power of Facebook and Travel Decisions

According to a 2011 poll featured on UK-based flight comparison site Skyscanner.com, 52% of Facebook users stated that seeing friends’ vacation pictures inspired them to book a trip to that particular place.

According to Friend2Friend, travelers are 80% more likely to book a trip from a friend liking a page than they are from responding to a traditional advertisement.

Consulting firm EyeforTravel released the 2012 report Social Media & Mobile Travel, which indicates that 7 out of 10 travel brands professed how social media has not only generated a remarkable amount of direct bookings from social media sites, but has also significantly improved engagement with customers.

The World Travel Market 2011 Industry Report states that more than one fifth, or 22%, of travel companies generate revenue from social media efforts and 27% are planning to make strides in social over the next 5 years.  The report further indicates that by 2016, social media will be in the forefront as a primary way to generate travel bookings and revenue for half of the travel industry.

Source: Forbes: How Facebook is Shaping your 2012 Travel Decisions