Blog

June 23rd, 2015

164_browsers_AIf you’re like most internet users, you probably use Google Chrome, Firefox or Opera as your web browser of choice. But later this year, there will be a new player in the game. It’s called Edge, and Microsoft’s technologically advanced wonder child may just be the browser of choice for the next generation.

With Windows 10 launching later this year, Microsoft has a new browser packaged with it. Formerly known as Project Spartan, you can test out a beta version of this browser as part of the Windows Insider Program. But if you’re not ready to jump on the bandwagon and try it just yet, here are three reasons why the world is getting excited about Edge.

1. Speedy browsing

A major reason Internet Explorer made surfing the web as slow as a tortoise was the support of legacy technologies such as ActiveX, Browser Helper Objects and others. Now, without the excess baggage, Edge is operating at a speed eons better than its predecessor. What may come as even more of a surprise is the fact that in recent tests it also outperformed both Chrome and Firefox in terms of speed.

2. Features, features, and more features

There are tons of cool features Edge offers that are sure to get anyone excited. From the Reading View function that allows you to view content without any ads, to the Annotation feature that enables you to write notes on a web page and share them with friends or colleagues, Microsoft appears to be set on pushing boundaries and wow-ing users with their focus on the future of internet browsing.

3. There will be extensions

If you love the extensions that Google and Firefox have on offer, you can let out a long sigh of relief. Microsoft Edge will have extension capabilities as well. And even better, you can “steal” extensions from Chrome and Firefox and use them on Edge too. Bear in mind, however, that extensions will not be available right away.

Is Edge the real deal?

While it may have felt like the creators of Internet Explorer were spending more time napping than updating their browser for the 21st century, this appears not to be the case with Edge. In a recent post on the Windows blog, the Microsoft Edge team wrote that “improving performance is a never ending theme” when referring to Windows 10. It seems Microsoft is now committed to staying current, which didn’t really feel true with Internet Explorer.

Want to learn more about Microsoft Edge and other browsers? Curious to discover the best browser for your business? Let’s talk. Call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Browsers
June 8th, 2015

SocialMedia_Jun8_AWith social media being such a big part of everyday life, it likewise plays a huge role in online marketing. There are many social platforms a business can use to reach out to audiences, but the one that stands out from the crowd is Facebook. Over the past few years, Facebook advertising has seen steady growth in revenue, thanks to its specific audience targeting methods that allow business owners to lower their new customer acquisition cost significantly. If you haven’t tried Facebook ads, you’re truly missing out on one of the most powerful marketing tools out there. To that end, here’s a step-by-step guide to implement Facebook ads in your business.

1. Create a Facebook Business Page

First things first: before you can advertise on Facebook, you must have a Facebook Business Page. Log in to your Facebook account and, on the news feed page, click on Create a Page from the left column. Choose the category of your Page that best describes the nature of your business. Then fill out all your business information, including your website, hours of operation, phone number, address, and email. Finally, add creative profile and cover images to attract potential visitors.

2. Define your Facebook ads goals

Facebook offers a variety of advertisement options to choose from, depending on your business’s needs. That’s why it’s important to create goals for your ads, to make sure you’re spending your money wisely while achieving your business goals. Start by asking yourself why you’re utilizing Facebook ads in the first place; defining advertising goals and strategies will help you choose the right type of Facebook ad.

3. Choose an objective for your campaign

Now that you have a Facebook ad goal in mind, it’s time to translate those goals into objectives for your campaign. For instance, if you want to drive more visitors to your business website, your Facebook ad objective is to Send people to your website, but if you want to increase your number of social media followers you would choose the objective Promote your Page. From your Page, click on Create ads and choose an objective to get started.

4. Target your audience

This is the step where most businesses fail at Facebook advertising. You can target your ads based on location, age, gender, language, interests, and behavior. By defining the right audience group, your Facebook ads will be shown to the right people and will give a high conversion rate. After you’ve chosen your target audience, you can decide how much money you want to spend, and choose the time to run your ad.

5. Customize your ad

This process is equally as important as audience targeting. In this step you have the option to choose how your ad will look, by adding up to five images and text that will accompany them. The text is only 90 characters long, so make sure your copy portrays what the content is about, so it will encourage people to click on your ad. Then choose where you want your Facebook ad to show from four options - the news feed, mobile news feed, right column, or audience network.

6. Place your order

The last step is to click on the Place Order button to submit your ad to Facebook for review. You’ll receive an email from Facebook once your ad has been reviewed and approved and is ready to launch.

Facebook advertising requires effective planning, testing, and measuring. You need to experiment in order to find the campaign that works best for your business. If you’re interested in advertising on Facebook or through other social media platforms, drop us a line and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
June 2nd, 2015

BusinessValue_June2_ATechnology has completely changed the way we do business. Gone are the days when customers had to drop by your company to purchase your products and services. Now they can simply visit your website, see what you have to offer, and make an online payment - all in a matter of minutes. But if you want to expand your customer base, your website needs to rank high in search engines, so that it’s easy for potential customers to find you. That means implementing search engine optimization (SEO) strategies; here’s all you need to know about SEO to increase your online presence.

SEO defined

The practice of SEO has been around just about as long as search engines themselves. SEO is basically a methodology of techniques and tactics used to increase the number of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in search engine results. There are a lot of crackpot theories about SEO out there, and you’ll have to sift through them to find the techniques that really work for your business.

There’s a saying in the world of SEO that if you’re not first, you’re last. When it comes to SEO there’s no short cut, and the idea of getting your business website ranked on the first page of Google search results in one day is ludicrous. To make things clearer, we’ve compiled a list of the basic SEO practices business owners tend to overlook.

1. Research keywords Keywords are key to your online presence. Add the right keywords to your website and your chances of being found are much higher. First, invest time in keyword research. Find out which keywords your customers are using in search engines, and gather all crucial data for SEO purposes, whether it’s search volume, trends, or competition. Make a list of keywords related to your niche. Don’t be tempted to only go after phrases with the highest search volume - they will be very hard to rank for and might be too broad.

2. Create quality content Based on the researched keywords, generate high quality content with the focus on your readers. Make sure this content reads naturally for human visitors - don’t overdo it by stuffing keywords into your text in the hope of getting high rankings, as most search engines will penalize your website for using this underhand tactic. Good content has relevant keywords in it, but a great one has the keywords while also providing real value to visitors.

3. Place call-to-action buttons A business website should always have a call-to-action to convert visitors into customers. Make sure you add a call-to-action button to each of your most important pages, whether that means the About Us page, service pages, FAQs, or case studies. Call-to-action buttons may vary. They don’t always have to lead to a contact form; they can be links to other content, incentive offers, free downloads - the list goes on.

4. Create an internal link structure After you have quality content, you must show the search engines that your site has a page hierarchy. The general rule of thumb is, all your articles should link back to the home page, service pages, and even other articles. Linking internally allows for easier navigation for your visitors, and there’s a good chance they will spend more time on your website, which is good for SEO purposes.

5. Install analytics tools Tracking your visitors’ behavior on your website is important. Connect your website to analytics tools like Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools to gain valuable insight into your website’s statistics. By closely monitoring performance, you can eliminate keywords that aren’t generating you leads, and tweak content that visitors ignore.

SEO is an ongoing process that requires patience and time. These suggestions are meant to set a stronger foundation for your business to expand. If you’re looking for other ways to increase business value, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 25th, 2015

164_Biz V_AAs a small or medium sized business owner, you likely have your hands full. Between managing your staff, looking for growth opportunities and keeping clients happy, you probably have little time to dedicate to new technology purchases. Being so busy, it can be easy to make a mistake when choosing an IT solution. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of common IT investment missteps that every business owner needs to avoid.

Investing in the newest technology instead of the best fit

It’s the job of every marketer to make you believe the newest technology on the market will resolve all your problems. And while the latest cloud or virtualization offering is likely to make things better for many individuals and organizations, it isn’t going to work for everyone.

Don’t let the flash and hype of a new product deceive you. Take the time to think about the results you’re trying to achieve with technology. Make a list of them, and when you’re done match those criteria with the product that fits. Any good IT provider will be happy to serve as your consultant to ensure you make the best choice.

Believing everything will magically work together

As technology evolves, it is inevitably becoming simpler to use. Consumers want user friendly products and solutions that are easy to implement, and nowadays that’s what they’re getting - at least most of the time. Because of this belief that all products are going to be plug-and-play, many business owners hold the misguided assumption that any new technology they implement is automatically going to synchronize with their other IT. It is simply not true.

Though many technologies are compatible with one another, your business is taking a big risk - that could result in massive downtime and wasted money - if you implement a new tool that doesn’t integrate well into your current system and workflow. Be smart, do some research or consult with an IT professional before making a purchase.

Assuming your team doesn’t need support and training

Now that you’ve found the perfect fit technology and you’re sure it will integrate into your current IT setup, you go ahead and purchase it. You let out a sigh of relief as you kick back and let your sparkly new IT solution power your company to new levels of success and profits in a SMB “happily ever after” fantasy. Sound too good to be true? That’s probably because it usually is.

Don’t forget that not all of your employees are going to instinctively know how to use the new technology. Consult with your IT provider to see if they offer support and training. If not, you may want to look elsewhere or find an alternative solution before you buy.

Forgetting to create a budget

More and more IT solutions are packaged with pay-as-you-go monthly pricing. While this is a great way to help you avoid large upfront capital investment, if you implement too many different technologies too fast - and without thinking about the recurring costs - you could quickly run out of money before having properly created a complete technology platform.

Think about what you’re comfortable spending on IT before you open your wallet. Do some research, and either draft a budget on your own or acquire the assistance of a consultant to help you along.

Failing to get staff input

It’s wise to consult with the employees who will be using the new technology you implement, on a daily basis. It’s even wiser to do it before you purchase it.

The truth is that not all of your employees may be on board with the new product. They may actually even know some downsides to it you weren’t aware of. Regardless, it’s smart to consult with them beforehand, or you may find yourself in a constant fight getting them to adopt it.

Need to consult with an IT professional to create a complete technology solution for your business? We’re happy to serve you in any way possible.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 25th, 2015

SocialMedia_May25_AMuch of a business owner’s attention in social media marketing is directed towards Facebook. But Twitter is also a great platform to focus your marketing efforts on - and, when implemented properly, could give you a high return on investment in the long run. So how are you to leverage the power of Twitter to improve your business’s bottom line? We have compiled a list of top Twitter tips to get you started.

Tweet regularly

Consistent tweeting indicates an active, healthy profile. If you only tweet only once a week, or worse still once a month, most of your followers will forget about you. You’ve worked hard to get them to follow you, so make an effort to keep them engaged by interacting with them on a regular basis. Make sure you tweet relevant or useful information, content your followers will read, retweet, and favorite. Come up with a tweet schedule and refer to it when you’re running out of ideas.

Follow trends

It pays to stay on top of the latest happenings in your industry. Try to put your business in the light by following relevant hashtags and trending topics. This way you’ll always have something new to share with your followers. Add trending hashtags to your tweets, in order to reach new users that have similar interests.

Use visuals

People tend to understand visual content more than text. You should try to create a dynamic experience for your Twitter audience by adding different types of media to your tweets, such as images and videos, which are proven to receive more views, clicks, and shares than plain-text tweets.

Retweet great content

Don’t be afraid to retweet when you see something worth sharing with your followers. Retweeting somebody else’s Twitter content has its own benefits - you create a good relationship with other influencers on Twitter, and it shows your followers that you’re an active member of your online community.

Track mentions

Know what’s being said about you by tracking brand mentions and keywords. This is a great method to provide distinctive customer service or to reach out to new customers. For instance, when someone is tweeting feedback on your products or services, take the opportunity to respond politely. And when you see someone tweet about their needs for a specific service you can provide, jump in to the conversation and introduce your company.

Integrate with other marketing efforts

Twitter is much more effective when integrated with your other marketing activities, such as email subscriptions. For example, if you’re running a promotion or contest via Twitter, let your email subscribers know about it, since they are another customer base who want to receive messages from you - that’s why they signed up in the first place.

If you want to implement Twitter to your business’s social media marketing campaigns, get in touch with us today and we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
May 21st, 2015

164_Office_AIts release is still months away, but there’s reason to get excited about Office 2016. The latest version of Microsoft’s classic application package is adding new features designed specifically for today’s modern workforce, who are more mobile and collaborative than any generation before. Here are four of these head-turning features that are changing the way we use Office applications.

Cloud focus for Outlook attachments

Microsoft knows that sharing attachments amongst co-workers and teams can be a hassle. With many collaborators still sharing documents and files the old fashioned way - attaching it to an email and then sending to others - it’s easy for users to get confused and send an incorrect or outdated version.

To solve this problem, Microsoft is gently nudging us to use the cloud. Now when you add an attachment to an email, you’re now asked if you’d also like to share a link to a file on your OneDrive, OneDrive for Business or SharePoint account.

Showcasing easy ways to use Office better

If you’re like most people, you probably aren’t using Office to its full potential. And who can blame you? Between Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more, there are literally hundreds of features and tools you can use - if only you had the time to discover them all.

To help you get the most out of Office, Microsoft has now added a Tell Me box in the top center of your program title bar. This tool gives you an easy way to get questions answered. For example, if you want to project your desktop screen to a second monitor or create a graph in Excel, simply type your question into the Tell Me box and Microsoft will find the answers that most closely fit your search criteria.

Sway

Look out PowerPoint, here comes Sway - the new, hipper Office application that makes creating fluid, stylish presentations easy. With Sway, you can now gather content from various sources across the web, and then easily organize it into a presentation that can be viewed on a smartphone, laptop, iPad or other device.

What makes Sway more exciting than PowerPoint is in the process of gathering content: simply drag files, photos or video from YouTube, OneDrive and various social networks into the app. Once you have your content, you can easily organize it and adjust your design to create a unique look and feel for your presentation.

Better Data Protection

With Office 2016, Microsoft has raised the bar for data security. Now administrators can set and enable Data Loss Protection policies for Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Unlike in older versions of Office, administrators now have a range of security options at their disposal. For example, they can prevent data from being copied and pasted outside of Office 2016 applications, restrict files from being sent to certain individuals, and implement file-level encryption for Word, Excel and Outlook.

Want to learn more about Microsoft Office 2016? Have questions about other Office products? Give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 15th, 2015

164_Fbook_AIf your business has been in the social media game for what seems like ages, you probably know by now that finding more customers by marketing your brand on Facebook is a daunting task. So what can small business owners do to gain traction on Facebook? Here are a few tips that are sure to add a spike to your traffic. But first, a simple question.

Do you really have a Facebook audience?

It’s time to face the cold hard facts. Does your business actually have a Facebook audience? In today’s over-saturated social media market, a customer base on Facebook is not a given.

Think about it. Why do people go on Facebook? It's usually to interact with friends and family, or for other social purposes. If your business is a software company that targets a B2B audience of technical engineers, your company will likely not benefit from a Facebook presence. On the other hand, if you sell posters of Justin Bieber or cute and cuddly teddy bears, then a customer base likely eagerly awaits.

Learn which content performs best in your niche

Want to know how to discover the content that has been performing best in your niche over the past year? Of course you do! And there’s actually an easy way to do it with a tool called BuzzSumo. Here you can type in a keyword and see what articles and content are getting the most shares on Facebook, as well as other social networks. Once you have this information, you can then start posting content covering similar topics. This will help your business stand out and gain traffic.

Write short, eye-catching headlines

Headlines are just as important on Facebook as they are on other platforms and media outlets. For your best shot at one of your posts going viral, keep your headlines to between 5 and 15 words.

As for headline content, remember it’s not about selling you and your business but about the value you provide for your customer. Remove the words “I” and “we”, and replace them with “you” as much as possible.

Use Visuals

It’s easy to forget about this obvious truth, but posts with visuals almost always outperform non-visual content. A picture not only speaks a thousand words; it also has the potential to get you a thousand shares.

If you’re getting lots of traffic on Facebook, pay for ads

Ads on Facebook work in essentially the same way as Google AdWords. So if you see that a keyword is performing well for you on the platform, it’s worth investing some money to test the ad service out. Because Facebook ads are much less targeted, they don’t typically convert into sales as well as their Google counterparts. However, they are certainly a lot less expensive - chiming in at as little as $1 a day. With a small investment, you’re likely to gain some visitors to and conversions on your business website.

Want to learn more about Facebook marketing or other ways to use technology to grow your business? Send us a message today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Facebook
May 11th, 2015

SocialMedia_May11_AIt has surely been a long time coming, and now it is official - the days of advertising-free conversations on Facebook Messenger are numbered. The social networking giant has confirmed that its private messaging service, a recent addition to its suite as a standalone app, is to become supported by advertising. While the move is unlikely to prove popular with ordinary users, it marks an interesting development for social media observers and presents new marketing opportunities to businesses. Here’s what you need to know.

As well as Facebook Messenger, which the company has definitively announced will feature advertisements, it looks likely that WhatsApp will also become ad-supported. Facebook acquired WhatsApp in February 2014 for $22 billion, despite the company only generating 2013 revenues of $10.2 million and overall making a net annual loss of $138.1 million. At the time, Mark Zuckerberg indicated that the company would not seek to monetize either service until they had reached a billion users, while WhatsApp founder and CEO said that the plan remained for the app to focus for several years on growth rather than monetization.

The latest announcements appear to signal a change in those tactics. While there has so far been no concrete decision on the form that advertising in either app would take, the intention appears to be for Facebook Messenger to test the water, with WhatsApp following its lead once a successful formula has been found. Executives have suggested that they wish to explore alternatives to conventional banner ads. They have also reinforced the message that the two apps, which seek to serve different purposes and audiences, will remain independent of one another.

The sheer number of users now communicating on the WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger platforms each month is testament to the value that Facebook could drive from placing advertisements on the services. Unlike its main site, which serves advertisements, the Facebook Messenger app currently makes no profit. Until now, WhatsApp’s only revenue stream has been the nominal $0.99 annual subscription fee it collects from users after a year’s free trial - and the service remains completely free in developing countries outside of Europe and North America. But for businesses, too, the potential of advertising on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp provides exciting new marketing opportunities and the chance to interact more closely with both potential and existing customers.

Learn more about using Facebook and other networks - both for advertising and wider social media marketing - to grow your business; give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
May 5th, 2015

164_BizV_AFor many businesses, social media is the the wild frontier of marketing. More and more companies are jumping on the bandwagon but it can seem a lawless place. This is why many newcomers tend to waffle around with no clear strategy and call it quits if they're not making fast progress. But while it's true that social media can seem challenging when you’re first getting started, it pays dividends if you're willing to put in a little time and effort. This is why we’ve put together some practical tips that will help you measure your social media ROI more easily.

Why it’s difficult to track social media ROI

The reason many business owners find it difficult to track social media ROI is because they don’t understand the purpose of the platforms from the perspective of traditional marketing. It's all too easy to expect immediate payoffs and profits, not to mention increased business. But while social media itself moves and changes fast, businesses should remember it still takes time to increase brand recognition, build relationships and enhance a company's reputation, whatever the platform. It is brand recognition that produces more sales in the long run. So don't lose heart if you are not making progress in the first couple of months. If you play the longer game, you'll enjoy more success.

So how do you measure ROI?

It comes down to tracking everything you can, including:
  • Online purchases
  • Online contact forms
  • Video views
  • E-book Downloads
  • Social interactions (this includes Facebook likes, Twitter follows and more)

To track these, you can use any or all of the three methods below.

Tagging Urls

Tagging a URL is basically adding a “tag” or more characters/words to the end of the original URL. Below are two examples of a normal URL and tagged URL:

Normal URL: www.AllstarIT.com/harddrive.html.

Tagged version of the same URL: www.AllstartIT.com/harddrive.htm?utmcampaign=BannerAdharddriveAd&utm_small=BannerAd

Adding this tag allows you to easily track which of your social media campaigns are producing the desired results. Without doing this, you run the risk of of all your social media visitors being recognized as organic, rather than ones that have come from a specific campaign or strategy you’re implementing. An excellent tool to build your unique URL is Google’s URL builder.

Google Analytics

This is the most obvious strategy for tracking your social media campaigns, and Google has long been the market leader in tracking the success of online marketing. A Google Analytics account can be set up in a matter of minutes, and then makes it easy to track your campaigns. Go to Acquisition and then check All Referrals. Here you’ll see where people are discovering your site - be it a Google organic search or social media network.

Call Tracking

Call tracking is often used to track the ROI from Facebook ad campaigns, though it can also be used on other social media platforms. This tactic allows you to measure how many phone calls you are getting from your customers on social media sites.

To do this you list a different phone number on a particular social media page than on your business website. For example, if the number listed on your business website is 763-984-6577, you instead list 763-984-6555 for the social media page you’re tracking. By seeing how many people call the number listed on the social media page, you’ll gain a better understanding of how effective that particular page or ad is. If it’s effective, you’ll know to use whatever methods are working from this page or ad in your other social media efforts.

Want more ideas on how to measure social media ROI or to get more value out of your IT investments? Get in touch today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 1st, 2015

WindowsPhone_May1_AMicrosoft’s Windows Phone products have been on the market for years, offering easy-to-use smartphone experience at affordable prices to millions of users worldwide. When it comes to usability, however, there are several issues reported by users, but Microsoft has taken measures to address most of them, making the Windows platform even more pleasurable to use on smartphones. And if you’re a Windows Phone owner, you might as well try out these shortcuts for even smoother operation.

Projecting screen to other devices

You can show off your videos and photos on a much larger screen by activating the Project My Screen function located in the Settings>System menu. Your phone will automatically start searching for any nearby devices that support wireless screen projection. In addition, you can install Project My Screen on your PC and connect it to your phone using a USB cable for a portable projector.

Find My Phone

Afraid of losing and being unable to find your phone? Don’t worry - Windows Phone has a Find My Phone application that allows you to ring, lock, locate and wipe clean your phone from the official Windows Phone website. Check first in case you’ve lost your phone at home, as Find My Phone will make it ring even if the volume is off or set to vibrate mode.

Word Flow

Word Flow is a built-in application on devices with Windows Phone 8.1 installed, allowing for fast and accurate typing. Instead of typing each letter individually, you can slide your finger across the letters on the screen, and Word Flow’s intelligent system will automatically input the exact word that comprises the letters your finger came across. It will even display an emoticon relevant to the word you typed.

Data Sense

If you’re using a monthly plan for your Windows Phone, sometimes it can be difficult to keep up with your current data usage. Data Sense displays your mobile’s data usage, and allows you to set very specific data limits. If you want to save some bandwidth, you can also restrict background applications from using data and command your phone to compress images while browsing the Internet.

Storage Sense

The way Storage Sense works is very similar to Data Sense. Storage Sense gives you an overview of the applications installed on your Windows device. You can see a quick breakdown of the apps that are taking up the most space and delete any bloated apps, videos, or audio files that you no longer need. It’s a very handy tool for giving your phone a spring clean!

Volume Control

The Windows Phone has two different volume channels: volume levels for ringer and notifications, and media and app volume. You can take control of these two individual volume levels. In other words, you can listen to music or play games at a higher or lower volume than your ringer and notifications, and vice versa. To access this feature, tap the small arrow on the top right screen when you adjust your phone’s volume, and a new settings window will open for you to customize volume levels.

You’re not yet using your Windows Phone to its greatest potential if you’re missing out on these features. Want to learn how to implement the Windows Phone into your business? Contact us today and we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.