Online Scams Can Happen to Anyone

I was at lunch yesterday when I heard the distinctive “pop” that meant someone had messaged me on Facebook.  So I flipped screens to check in with whoever wanted to chat.  Hmmm… a Manatee Chamber member with whom I never really speak.

Member:  “carey, how are you doing?”

Me:  “Peachy, thanks!  Yourself?”

Member:  “i am not fine  i need an urgent help from you”

Me:  “What can I can help with?”

Member:  “i need you to loan me some cash  i promise to refund it back to you  i am stuck in London  i was mugged last night at gunpoint”

Me:  “Sure you were.”

And suddenly they were no longer interested in speaking with me.  They knew I was on to them and were moving to the next person in an attempt to get some money.

I called the member and sent her an email so she’d know about the problem.  She’s working on the issue from her end, but it’s not going to be easy.  The moment the scammer got hold of her account, he / she changed the password and locked the actual person out.  This gives him free reign until Facebook responds to her request and helps fix the situation.  I’m not sure if they change the password and give access back to her OR if they simply cancel that account and she has to start a new one.

Either way, it always pays to be vigilant when it comes to online dealings.  Never be tricked into providing your information or into giving someone money from an online post.

I’ll take it a step further.  Never click on a shortened URL from a site.   I know, I said never.  But what if it’s someone you trust?  Well, what if their account has been hacked as the member above was?  There’s a great new service out that will reveal the real destination for shortened URLs (bit.ly, tiny.cc, is.gd, ow.ly, etc.)  You can download it or go directly to http://www.untiny.me and copy / paste the URL in the box.

Safety first, I say!  If you have any questions about the above post, please don’t hesitate to ask.  I would be happy to help you to the best of my ability.

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Are You on Google Local?

I’m addicted to the Internet.  I bet any of the Manatee Chamber members and staff could tell you that.  But because I’m always online, I can talk with some intelligence about the opportunities to market yourself that are available.  So, let’s talk Google Local!

From Google Maps, you can click a link to “put your business on Google Maps.”  So that if anybody searches for your keywords – words in your company name, your type of business, etc. – poof!  Up it comes.   Better yet, with their new Place Pages, you can click on the map icon and get more information – hours they’re open, photos, etc.

Of course, we know that when you’re looking for a business you’re going to head straight to the Manatee Chamber of Commerce Preferred Business Directory.  Because doing so ensures you’re buying local and from an organization that supports our community.  But I wanted to make sure you knew that Google Local / Place Pages are available and that you need to register your business!  Free marketing doesn’t come along every day, so go take advantage of the opportunity.

URL Shorteners… and Malware!

I saw an article online the other day, although I can’t remember where, and it started my wheels turning.  Then, today I saw back-to-back posts on Mashable (an online social media guide) that Google and Facebook have come out with their own URL Shorteners or are about to do so.

First, you may be asking me what a URL Shortener is.  Basically, it’s a web tool that really caught on due to social media.  It takes a long website link – say http://www.manateechamber.com/rfp-tool.aspx – that would take up 35 of your 140 Twitter characters – and makes it teeny tiny.  For instance, that web link might become http://bit.ly/8FMNZ4.

But it poses an interesting issue.  It makes it much easier for you to click through to a site you normally would not visit.  You don’t know for sure where that bit.ly link is taking you.  And since Malware developers are among the trickiest individuals around, you can bet they’re taking advantage of this opportunity.

So please be careful clicking on links… especially shortened links like the above.  Keep your computers and your personal information safe!

The Wows Have It!

I just read online that there are more than 900,000 blog posts made every 24 hours. And I swear that my jaw dropped when I read that, too! I’m so glad that the blogging software has statistics so that I know how many people are reading our blog. Otherwise I’d start to wonder if you’re all off reading the other 899,999 posts.

Facebook has more than 300 million active users and 8 billion minutes are spent on Facebook worldwide each day. I don’t even have it in me to figure out how many hours that is! OK, yes I do. I think it’s 13.3 million hours. I’m literally in awe of that number.

Twitter had over 23 million unique visitors in the month of October. And that’s down 2%! I Tweet for the Chamber and I enjoy reading what other people are up to at any given time. I’ve found some great sites through Twitter, too.

Businesses that think they can ignore all this “social media stupidity” tend to get rude awakenings. The conversation will happen with or without you. You definitely don’t need to respond to every person with a Facebook account, but you need to keep your ear to the ground, and you need to know what’s happening with your customers and potential customers. Plus what they may be saying – or could be saying about your company!

I continue to be completely “wow’d” by social media and its growth. The Manatee Chamber sites continue to expand and it fascinates me to watch the numbers change each time I log in. Will members continue to be engaged in social media? I hope so… because it’s networking, entertainment, and information all in one!

How to be a Star Employee on Social Media

I came across this article via Twitter and, of course, it prompted a blog post!  The news is full of stories about people who were fired from or lost the opportunity for a job because of their behavior on social media sites.  Super cautious never hurt anybody, though.  I think it was Kevin McNulty with Netweave Social Networking (during his seminar for Chamber members earlier this year) who said, “If you wouldn’t feel comfortable putting it on a billboard while your mother was filming it for the news, don’t post it online.”

Post Work Stuff During Work Hours, Family and Friends After Work
Ever since email became prevalent, people have used it for personal needs during work hours. And it’s pretty hard to get caught.  The same is not true of social networking because of the time stamp.  It’s so easy to get engaged in conversations, photo viewing, and the like.  It’s a struggle to keep a strong work ethic with so much temptation at your fingertips, but it’s worth it in the long run.

Always be Positive About Your Work / Never Criticize Your Manager or Management
I was on Facebook the other night and saw a post from an old high school friend who lives in another state.  His status update was something to the effect of, “I’m so tired of working for the devil.  It may be time to decide if I should stay at this job of eight years just to draw a paycheck or if I should get out of this horrible place and be happy.”  I was shocked!  I’d read about such happenings but had never actually seen one so blatantly stated.  I peeked at his employer (couldn’t help myself, really) and then did a facebook search.  Not only does his company have a fan page, but at least a half dozen people who work there are on his friends list!  Any one of them could pass that on.

So consider this your friendly reminder.  Whatever is put on the Internet stays there for life!  And you may think privacy settings are protecting you, but there are definitely ways around them.

What I Learned from Facebook

Manatee Chamber TeamworkI’m on Facebook a lot… too much, no doubt. But as vices go, it’s pretty innocuous so I’m inclined to indulge myself.  And it’s such a great way to keep in touch and see what your friends are doing.  Plus I get more of a view into the lives of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce members, what their businesses are doing, and what issues are at the forefront.  And I love to look at photos of events, families, etc.

If we’re not already connected through the Manatee Chamber fan page, I hope you’ll go join us so I can learn more about you as well.

  1. Polo Grill and Bar has an amazing number of fundraisers to help out community organizations.  They benefit the American Cancer Society, Junior Achievement, Honor Sanctuary and more!
  2. South Florida Museum just started a fan page in mid-October and already has 563 fans.  Proof that the Museum is incredibly popular and well thought of. Also that they have a new exhibit titled, “For Everglades.”
  3. Bonnie Gray Productions is gearing up for Veteran’s Day shows… loved the photos of the USO tribute.
  4. Air & Energy has a new website… it’s very nice.  I’m going to see if they’ll link the Manatee Chamber logo to our site, though!
  5. United Way of Manatee County held its Day of Caring recently and the photos are fantastic.  So great to see companies and individuals give back to the community.
  6. When a fan page hits 1,000 fans, the organization can choose a “vanity url”.  So when we get there, you’ll be able to go directly to our facebook more easily.  I find it just as important to “own” the appropriate URLs for our social media sites as I do to own ManateeChamber.com.

What did you learn today?

Social Media Doesn’t Work Unless You Have Something Valuable to Say!

Social Media

At seminars, guest luncheons, and networking events I hear people talking about social media.  And I say, “Great!”  I’m a fan of the system, no doubt about it.  Particularly Facebook, but blogging is definitely growing on me.

Plenty of businesses are jumping in with both feet and finding the waters to be cold and unwelcoming.  Why is that?  Because they don’t have a plan.  Where else do you see so many people with so little idea of what their plan is and what goal they hope to accomplish?

Social media works!  If it didn’t, it would be dying already.  Instead it’s growing.  Quickly.  Really quickly.

So how best to start a social media campaign and ensure it’s a success, adding to your bottom line?

  1. Listen. Check out the sites in which you’re most interested and see how your clients and your competitors are using them.  Get accustomed to the types of interactions that inspire the most conversation.
  2. Leave the Sales Pitch at the Office.  Subtlety is the key to making connections.  Just as you wouldn’t walk up to somebody at an event and begin your marketing pitch without making conversation first, don’t do it online either.  Position yourself as a leader in your field by answering questions and posting information about your topic but not always (or even usually) about your company.
  3. Track Your Performance.  Most social media sites… blogs, facebook, etc. have site statistics built into their programming.  For others, you can add complimentary applications that will track this data for you.  Keep an eye on what works and what doesn’t.

Social media is constantly expanding and changing.  You’ll find new customers while connecting with current or past individuals.  But as with anything, you need a map of where you’re going and how you’ll get there.  There are plenty of seminars on the topic and free information online.

Hope to see you out there!