WordPress Security

A downside of WordPress’ popularity is that it can be a target for malicious software and hackers. wordpress-security“Who’d want to hack into my little company’s website”, I hear you ask. Well, for the most part no human entity is directly interested in you or your website. However, “bots” are! Bots are applications that run automated tasks. Many of these are maliciously designed to trawl the web, searching for weakened website defences. Did you know that, as of September 2016, 56% of web traffic is that of bot’s! There are thousands of forgotten WordPress websites that are default installations, which makes them easy to get into. These are the sites the bots are looking for. There are however simple measures you can take to make it much more difficult for anyone or anything to get into or affect your WordPress website and make sure you don’t get caught in the crossfire.

Core updates

Core updates are updates to the WordPress software itself. These are key, not least because it maintains security. A big plus to WordPress is that it is regularly being reviewed and updated. If there are issues, they will be fixed with a core update, hence it’s importance. WordPress is also worth updating to make sure it keeps functioning as you want it to when using your website on a day to day basis.

Plugin Updates

A common route into your website is through the plugins you install. Plugins provide functions to your website. Things like your social media feeds, e-commerce systems and image galleries all usually require plugins to function. If these plugins are not kept up to date, it can create a route in for any malicious software. As part of our day to day website managing process, we ensure that all plugins are kept up to date.

Passwords

The obvious advice… have secure passwords. However, whilst it may seem obvious to most, some people choose passwords that are easy to remember rather than secure. We recommend that you select 3 random words (ie not names of children or pets!) that mean something to you, but won’t to anyone else, and string them together. The longer the password, the better. Make sure your WordPress “back-end” passwords are secure and not easy to guess. You can use software such as LastPass, to manage your passwords. It allows you to set more secure passwords without having to remember them all.

Logins

To access the back end login section, the standard address is /wp-admin. You should change this from the first moment you set the site up. If it is something different and less obvious, it is an added layer of security. Changing the back end address plus many other security features are available through easy to use plugins. We use iThemes, which we have found easy to use with great functionality.

In Conclusion

It’s easy to not do anything about your security. However, it’s not at all difficult to manage it, and keep things up to date. There’s no excuse not to maintain your website security, so don’t get caught out!

The Danger of Summer

I’m writing this article as snow is falling! This may seem a little after the event… but important all the same!

Summer

Over the summer months, focus changes as people are on holiday and resources become stretched. This can sometimes mean lose some focus where marketing is concerned. Things (such as marketing!) can slow down or completely grind to a halt, and if nothing is planned, there is often a danger they don’t start up again. It’s the same every year. This is normal! The important thing is to plan and to use it to your advantage.

Planning

Planning for the summer is important. Accept that you may not have enough resources to do your usual “full” content marketing. Formally acknowledging summer is a good thing to do. For example, at BSA, we slow down our content marketing throughout August. This is often much better than worrying that you’re not publishing enough content. Consider how you can go about firstly planning for summer and then how to role our your plans throughout summer. Plan your content in advance. For all those heavy pieces of content, try to create some alternatives for people to read. It will give your company a different dimension when it comes to content marketing.

Action

I know it’s winter and soon to be the new year but all the hard work put in throughout these months can soon be undone without due care, attention and focus in the summer. Summer can also be used as an opportunity to do something a bit different. It’s the perfect time to push lighter topics. For example:

  • Anecdotal/lighthearted news articles
  • Quizzes
  • Videos & Cartoons
  • Info-graphics

The lighter content will give readers a break from the usual, corporate stuff. Start thinking about Summer in advance!

Google Images Beware – Tips to avoid copyright issues

We all do it, it’s just so easy! You need an image for your presentation or Twitter post, you go to Google Images and type in your subject. Within half a second, thousands of photos are at your fingertips. What’s the worst that could happen! Most of us will have heard the stories of people being sued for copyright infringement after using an image they found on Google. But in reality, just how often does this happen and will it happen to you? Realistically, not likely. However it is not beyond the realms of possibility. Reuters and other image powerhouses have beefed up their internet dredging in recent times, making it easier for them to find the use of their copyrighted images without purchase or permission

Best practice

For starters, always assume the image is copyrighted! That way, you will always seek permission. Unless the image is listed under Copyright free of course. Find out how to do that here. If you see an image you like, you can find the original source by reverse searching it. Here’s how:

  • Save a copy of the image in question
  • Go to images.google.com
  • Drag the copy of the image into the search bar.
  • This will give you a list of websites the original image is likely to be found.

If wish to use an image, see if you can speak to the photographer and get their permission to use it. You should always link back to their website or give their details out too.

Free images

There are countless places to find free images. Here’s just a few: Pixabay Stock Free Images Photo Pin Flickr creative commons tagged images *Disclaimer – This article is for informational purposes only and is in no way considered to be legal advice*

New Balance – A marketing success story

For a long time, New Balance were viewed as the pre-1990 Skoda of the trainers & fashion world. Nowadays, they’re a very strong brand, with sports apparel and equipment being purchased the world over. Personally, I find it amazing just how a company can go from a “dad’s trainers” brand to one that grossed $3.3 billion dollars in revenue during 2014. It’s fair to say that in recent years, they have gone from strength to strength. But just how have they done this?…

A brief history

Formed in Boston (US) during 1906 as a shoe arch support company, which remained steady until 1960, when 2nd generation family manufactured the world’s first running shoe with a ripple sole, which proved to be very popular with university’s and colleges. From a marketing point of view, there was little effort made to sell further shoes or products. Instead, most sales came from word of mouth. During the 1970’s, under new ownership, New Balance experienced a rapid increase in sales, due in part to the USA’s obsession with running.

Modern era

I think this scene from the 2011 film “Crazy, Stupid, Love” says everything you need to know about how New Balance’s image used to look from a fashion point of view. Whilst their supportive and practical assets were never doubted, the fashion world didn’t see it the same way. This narrowed their target market greatly. Since then, New Balance have grown at a very fast pace. With their growth has come new product ranges. For most of their life, they have focused on “Lifestyle” products. It is these products (such as the 574’s) that were once viewed as a no-go but now looked upon as retro. Much of New Balance’s marketing has been centred around the quality of their products and the “Made in the US” (or UK) promises. They have benefited from changes to fashion, that is for sure, but they have also used these changes to grow.

Growth

The growth has come from New Balance’s perseverance and staying power. They remained despite ridicule and have profited from fashion changes and some astute marketing campaigns. They have harnessed their growth in recent years, becoming more than just a trainers company. Now they offer apparel and equipment across a whole range of sports, as well as growing their “lifestyle” offering. The quality of their products has delivered consistent sales results.

Practical action

So, how did they achieve their growth? Perhaps an example of their successful marketing would be some of their recent Facebook Campaigns. New Balance have been noted for their successful Facebook campaigns in recent years. Perhaps most notably was one they ran over a Winter to Chicago Facebook accounts. Their targeting was simple yet well honed. The advert criteria was:

  • Users had to live near New Balance stores in Chicagoland (AKA the greater Chicago area).
  • Listed sport based Facebook interests, such as “fitness” and “Chicago marathon”.

This perhaps limited the adverts reach but meant those that it did reach were more than interested in it’s content. In total, the adverts reached 136,000 people and resulted in 600 sales, totalling $5000. The advert was quirky too. It stated that people could save 15% on purchases in store and 20% on purchases in store, if the temperature was below freezing.

To sum up…

In essence, New Balance is a great story about businesses with staying power and those who stick around. New Balance have ridden through tougher times, and pounced on some slight successes, turning them into big wins, making them they fashion & sportswear giant they are in 2016.

Pssssst…. Some useful articles:

New Balance Runs Away From The Pack Using Social Media Brand communication & strategy for New Balance

The best social media gaffes

When running to social media accounts as or for a business, it is of course important to do so professionally and carefully. A company’s social media profiles are portfolios to the business as a whole. I personally check a company’s Facebook or Twitter feed to see what they’re like and how busy they are, etc. From misspelt text to inappropriate messages, once it’s out there, someone will see it (even with a swift deletion!), especially when is comes from a large company with a big following. Here are 3 social media gaffes from years gone by!

HMV – Leaving former employees with Twitter access!

The music and entertainment giant was famously in the news for the wrong reasons when a bunch of former employees posted messages to the company Twitter account after being made redundant.

HMVTWEETSFor starters having too many people with access to the main company account is a bad idea, as messages can become mixed with people towing different lines.

You can see in the photo, that messages sent on the official feed can be quite damaging. Sure enough HMV came under fire from other Twitter users.

Lesson: Change passwords when someone with social media access departs the company. Keep users to a minimum of trusted, sensible individuals.

Transport for London customer service deliver some unwelcome advice

TFL-Social-Media-FailUsing social media for customer service is a great trick, so long as the staff are trained, polite and courteous! Unlike one individual at TFL (Transport for London).

No matter how disgruntled the customer is, customer service should always be helpful. Here you can see the London Overground account’s reply to a message, which whilst is not that rude, is not very helpful!

Lesson: Be polite on social media, especially if you’re a big company! Train staff to deal with a whole range of messages and complaints.

LG’s feel the backlash after mocking iPhones

lg-france-tweet-on-bendgateDuring the period when Apple were under fire for their latest iPhones suffering from unplanned bending, LG attempted to poke some fun at them. However, it soon backfired when users noticed a tweet sent by LG was uploaded using “Twitter for iPhone”. This created a trend across Twitter of people poking fun back at LG. Lesson: Don’t criticise other people’s products if they’re actually quite good!

To conclude…

However you use social media and whatever your company size, it is important to remember the basics and be pleasant. By thinking about things before you post you can avoid any gaffes like the ones above.

How to make your events more engaging

Most of you will have attended one or more business events at some point. Be it a generic networking event, a trade show or even a business dinner, events can be used to create lots of engagement.

Picture the scene, a room full of people, all with a smartphone in their pockets and wanting to get involved.

Here are 4 ways to create engagement at business events, from an organisational viewpoint.

1. Social Media

Perhaps an obvious one, but social media is key to creating engagement around events. Social media posts can be sent out before, during and after the event. This means there can be a build up to drum up interest. Simple things such as asking who will be attending or sending out invites to the specific event raise awareness. An official event #hashtag is a must! During the event, live posting key updates will often create a buzz for people to interact with, even if they are not at the venue. Imagery of a busy room or a popular stand at an expo will also spike engagement. After the event, social media can be used to to garner feedback of how it went, usually by posting a link to a quick survey or simply asking for comments.

2. Presentations

Most events have one or more speakers talking about a variety of different subjects. Sadly many pof these are less than inspiring and often simply a straight sales pitch,. few create real engagement with the audience. A good presentation aims to tell a story. It’s fine to big yourself up. Naturally this is likely to happen when demonstrating how you can help your target audience. However, a presentation should captivate the audience and give them something to either relate to or engage with, rather than simply be a sales pitch. I can thoroughl;y recommend TED Talks for good, engaging presentation ideas.

3. Visual Media

Coming more to the fore recently is visual media. At an event, being able to show people who aren’t there what they are missing is a great thing to do. They may be persuaded to come to a similar event in the future. Periscope (more info here), is a tool that allows anyone with a smartphone to live stream what’s going on. For example, a key part of the event could be streamed so that anyone can view it, raising exposure. On top of this, the original live stream can be saved and re used afterwards as a resource.

4. Direct Audience Participation

Using techniques that make the audience do something, are often a useful way of getting them involved and interested. Things such as voting on a question with a show of hands, carrying out a rough survey with yes or no cards or any other use of props, all get the audience to give their opinion and will in turn lead to a discussion. Prize draws are also a good way to get attendees involved, as free things always gain attention!

The long and short of it…

Whatever your choose to do at an event, make it interesting and utilise the tools at your disposal. You don’t have to over complicate things. Instead, by making the audience feel involved and making noise on all appropriate platforms, you will end up with a better event and significantly more engagement with your market place.      

The importance of consistency across social media

As with many things, the first few seconds and first impressions count. It is no different with social media. These days, businesses are judged on their social media channels. If they’re not well kept and up to date, it’s highly likely your visitor will soon navigate away without exploring in any depth, let alone following or liking your posts! There are a number of things to bear in mind in order to remain consistent across social media platforms. Here are my top 3:

Clear company branding

Whilst it may seem obvious to add the company logo and other relevant imagery, it is important that they are clear and of the correct resolution. Don’t, whatever you do, add a background picture, see that it is blurry and think “that’ll do“. FIND A GOOD PICTURE! When making changes to social media accounts, do so from a desktop as opposed to a phone or tablet. Whilst an image may look good on a phone, it won’t when blown up on a desktop social media site.

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Standard practice is for the company logo as the “profile picture” and anything business orientated, such as your building or work, as the “background picture
You should try to replicate this across all the platforms you use. However, don’t feel you have to be on every social media site going.

A consistent message

As with your logo’s and branding, you should aim to get your message out to as many people as possible. For example, if you have a presence on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, you should always post your content out to all of them where possible and not let any platform drift. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to social media platforms. By posting your message out onto more than one, you engage with more people – but make sure you focus on platforms that are relevant to your target audience If you are posting a text-only message on social media, it is unlikely to be appropriate for image-based sites such as Pinterest and Instagram. Try to add an image to go with your text and link. This way you don’t neglect the image based social media.

Tone

You will be judged on what you say and do, so it is important that your message comes across in the right way. A little light humour or fun posts mixed with your content and other industry content is often a good thing. If it is appropriate for your business, then it can be a great way of increasing engagement. Whatever posts you make, it is important that they are interesting and consistent. Conflicting messages will only serve to confuse your readers, which harms your overall brand. Regular, fresh content goes a long way to successful social media feeds.

The power of social media

In 2016, most people and businesses now recognise the power that social media can have and most are embracing it. The motivation for getting social media right for your business shouldn’t simply come from a short term desire to deliver leads and business. Whilst generating new business opportunities are always important, Social media should primarily be about developing you brand, demonstrating your expertise and engaging with your market.

Joined-up LinkedIn

Those of you who read our blog posts regularly will know we talk about “joined-up marketing” a lot. Joined-up marketing is, in essence, making sure that each facet of your marketing (and general activities) are working in tandem with each other. It is no different with social media, LinkedIn in particular. LinkedIn is viewed as the network for business professionals and so there is much focus on it. If used well, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for a business professional. Joining it up with the rest of your marketing and what you do is important, so it is a good idea to make the most of the platform. Here are 3 steps to make sure your LinkedIn activity is joined-up!

Posting your news/blogs to LinkedIn as well as your website!

You go to the trouble of writing your latest news articles (usually for your email newsletter?) then don’t push them through your LinkedIn page? If you’re not posting your news onto LinkedIn, you should be! Having a blog and sending e-newsletters raises awareness of what’s going on in your business. Increase your reach by telling those business people you have met over the years, your LinkedIn connections. If you have one, you can post an article to your company LinkedIn page and share it out to your connections. Alternatively, you can reach all of your connections directly by posting to LinkedIn Pulse, which is like your own blog on LinkedIn.

Keeping engaged with your connections

Call me old fashioned, but you will never replace a good old face to face conversation, be it in the pub, business meeting or networking event. Networking events still have an important place in business. You’re doing the rounds at a local networking event that you haven’t attended before, you talk to a selection of people and collect a number of business cards. By the time you’re back in the office, it can be challenging to  remember who is who! No matter, you can connect with those that you spoke to on LinkedIn. Joining up those who you meet professionally with LinkedIn is a valuable habit to get into. If you’re new to LinkedIn, you will need to build up your connections, much like growing followers on Twitter. LinkedIn then works as a management system for all of your contacts, giving you reminders of their progress and vice versa for you. All opportunities to keep in touch.

Monitor industry relevant groups & pages

That industry magazine that gets sent to your office every month has been delivered again. You don’t read it but think it will look good on the coffee table in the waiting room. You put it next to last month’s edition. As good a publication as that magazine is, you never have time to read it in any depth. Instead, join up that specific sector news with your LinkedIn feed. You can do this by following relevant groups and pages. This means you can see industry updates from various places at your leisure, be it in a small snippet in passing or reading a whole article when you get 5 minutes. From these updates and articles, you may see current news and have an opinion on it. You have the start of your next article!

Joining the small things results in a powerful marketing platform

None of the above are particularly time intensive. You can post an article to pulse and share it with all of your connections in a couple of minutes. Likewise, both adding a few connections and following some pages are nice and simple. If you have a joined up LinkedIn and utilise it, then it can be a very useful platform for spreading your word.

Why WordPress?

Anyone who has had a conversation about websites with us at BSA will know we are big advocates of WordPress. Of course, there are many other platforms and approaches to building websites, such as raw coding or point and click web-based applications (e.g. Wix). Over the years, we have explored a whole host of them, so why all the fuss about WordPress? In a word:

Functionality.

For both the developer and the end user, the functionality when using WordPress is great. Websites are designed from the ground up and also allow them to be updated, added to and evolved (a very important factor- which you can read about here.) Further to this is the extensive developer base, which is regularly updating the platform and often extending flexible functionality. This results in a tool that is more than just a website builder. It gives you something that can really add value to your business.

The attractions:

  • A website that flexible and easy to add to.
  • Full control over the layout and design
  • Effective Search Engine Optimisation (Google & WordPress work well together)
  • Easy to add new content.
  • WordPress is constantly being updated & developed to keep up with the latest web technologies
  • A website that is dynamic which can change & develop with your business

Whether you want a brand new website or simply wish to improve an existing website, WordPress can help. Over the last few years, BSA have delivered some great WordPress websites for our clients. To view a showcase of websites we have helped bring to the internet, click here. For more information on how BSA can help you build a WordPress website or develop an existing website, click here. Finally, here are some rather impressive WordPress statistics.