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7 Reasons Why You Need to Update Your Reputation Management Strategy in 2020

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The reputation management industry has come a long way since the BIA Kelsey Group predicted that it would become a $5 billion industry sector by 2016. Indeed, there are more review management solutions, sentiment analysis monitoring services, and agencies engaged in ORM than ever before!

However, I am not certain that I would call online reputation management a “mature” industry, yet. Search algorithms have become more sophisticated, making search engine optimization of positive content more challenging to supplant negative items in search. Social media platforms, responsive to criticisms for enabling astroturfing in politics, have tightened security such that it is more challenging for agencies to manage accounts on behalf of reputation clientele. Laws protecting major online companies from liabilities for assisting defamation victims continue to be entrenched. And, personal and private data has become more and more exposed despite some efforts to reduce the public’s exposure.

All of this has made reputations more vulnerable to serious damage and has made reputation management more difficult in terms of clean-up of issues or even proactive development.

But, there are some positive things happening, too, so things are not all doom-and-gloom. Consciousness about online harassment, bullying, extortion and sextortion are on the upswing. The FBI and the Department of Justice have taken more of an interest in helping victims in such situations, and local law enforcement agencies have been increasing their capabilities for assisting in such situations. (See the California Attorney General’s Cyber Exploitation resource, for example.)

So, I have a few predictions for what may be in store for online reputations in 2020 — prepare yourself and prepare your company for what is one of the most important aspects of personal and corporate identity.

2020 predictions for online reputation management

1. SEO will continue to become more difficult for improving and controlling online reputations. My prediction 14 years ago that the practice of SEO might become eclipsed by user-centered design has largely come true. Most respectable SEO consultants now incorporate usability factors and user experience into large portions of their analysis and recommendations, in addition to search-oriented technical elements. Simple methods and tricks for manipulating search engines to rank webpages higher have largely been replaced by solid, mainstream marketing practices combined with a user-centered design focus and solid technical website construction. Further, the advent of search engines’ machine learning processing has made website ranking determinations far more holistic in nature — making it hard to tell what factors are ones that tip the decision as to whether one page outranks another or not. Ironically, aspects of reputation are now search ranking factors, so SEO practitioners need to pay attention to reputational elements as part of holistic optimization efforts.

2. Social media profiles will continue to grow in importance for one’s online identity. Not only do well-developed and actively-maintained social media profiles tend to rank advantageously in search engine results, but users seek them out for individuals and companies when exploring online identities that are new to them. For individuals, simply hiding one’s social media profiles does not really cut it anymore when potential employers and business partners are seeking information. And, consumers deeply desire access via social media profiles to communicate directly to companies — neglecting a company’s social media presence can result in increased consumer frustration, and result in more negative online reviews and ratings.

3. Laws will continue to favor large internet companies, protecting them from liability for content produced by third parties that may appear on their platforms. Silicon Valley lobbyists continue to hold sway in Washington and in state legislatures, keeping laws very friendly towards the large internet companies, resulting in keeping them largely non-liable for helping individuals and organizations remove false and defamatory information online. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was enacted in 1996 specifically to save internet companies on costs, while the U.S. legislature knew it would result in collateral damage for small companies and individuals. Arguably, it is time for Section 230 immunity to be changed, but there has been little movement to do anything that would substantially help people. While you might believe that our European counterparts have it better due to their “right to be forgotten” laws, this online “wild west” free-for-all that is maintained in the U.S. negatively impacts anyone in the EU that does business with America because their right to be forgotten is limited to searches conducted within their countries — people in the U.S. can still see contents in search that is no longer relevant or false about them.

4. Business review monitoring will become easier and less costly for companies. There are now multiple companies that provide some degree of review monitoring services across multiple review sites and for multiple business locations. What was once a difficult and costly effort for major chain store companies is now far easier to do from a central office. The increasing number of providers of these services is also starting to enable lower costs as competition in the marketplace produces more options.

5. Public relations and crisis communications will rise as even more important strategic components for online reputation, as opposed to strategies of only ignoring-or-displacing of negative items online. Public relations has been a solid discipline since before the internet, of course, but companies and individuals are again recognizing its value now after many modern companies attempted to skate by without professional staff or external support for public communications. Many have tried a do-it-yourself approach to this, and most fail miserably when trying to position themselves and to respond to public relations crises. Responding with integrity and conveying genuine concern can make all the difference between rapid or eventual reputation recovery in the public’s consciousness, or continuing with a damaged and tarnished reputation that hampers one’s performance in nearly any arena.

6. Professional online reputation management costs will drop within reach of more individuals and small companies. Let’s face it: professional online reputation management has largely been only a service available to individuals and organizations with larger amounts of resources. But, the increasing number of companies operating in the reputation industry is increasing competition, which will result in lower prices for consumers, and the flexibility and functionality available through internet technologies continue to develop, simplifying and making more efficient various aspects of online reputation management services. These factors will drive costs downward. Lawsuits remain one useful and effective option for some types of defamation, trademark infringement and online harassment, but that option remains costly and will be slower to change without further reforms of laws related to online reputation and less costly access to legal relief. Still, while litigation continues to have some major cost barriers, a lot of relief can be obtained more rapidly and cheaper through a combination of SEO, social media management, public relations, crisis communications and strategic internet content development.

7. Proactive online reputation management becomes more important than ever. As the internet became the go-to source for information about everything, one’s internet reputation became more important than ever. That trend has only increased over time, and one can declare 2020 as truly the moment when one’s internet reputation now outweighs nearly every other information source. As such, proactive online reputation management is now vital, and a core piece of best practices for marketing — with a weak and vulnerable online reputation, one is a sitting duck for any crisis, any bad review, and any crank with an axe to grind. Financial analysts are paying more attention to online reputation, and will increasingly check out whether companies are making efforts to manage their identities online in order to proactively protect themselves from any negative event. Do we even need to mention that HR departments check one’s reputation online before making hiring decisions, and people look up individuals for social reasons as well — including for dating, as well as for other social interactions?

As a sort of “bonus” prediction, the #MeToo Movement blew up in a massive way in 2019 — one can easily predict that this trend will continue to grow, and there seems little to stifle it. In the sense that bad behavior deserves to be called out, and that people should feel empowered to speak out against harassment and abuse, the #MeToo movement is a good thing. In this information age and time of growing, ubiquitous surveillance, it is harder to hide bad behavior, and people’s own actions will out them, more and more. So, expect the awareness created through the #MeToo movement to empower many people to speak out and publicize moments when they are mistreated, and these reports will affect individuals and institutions that are called-out. As people are aware of this societal shift, also expect organizations to become increasingly diligent about improving their policies for dealing with such claims, and responding to the reputational damage fallout. We already see this when companies rapidly suspend those accused, pending investigations, and fire those found to be in noncompliance with corporate policies.

Following reputation management best practices, one can build a robust online reputation and recover from past reputation damage. Focus on making 2020 your best reputation year, ever.

 

Source: Search Engine Land

How to Protect Your Organization Against Targeted Phishing Attacks

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Phishing emails are one of the most devious and deceptive means of cyberattack. Often sneaking past automated filters, such emails use social engineering to look real and legitimate enough to trick unsuspecting users into revealing sensitive information.

Beyond automated security tools, there are more people-centric strategies that businesses should adopt to protect themselves against phishing attacks, as described in the 2020 State of the Phish report released Wednesday by the security firm Proofpoint.

Based on a survey of working adults and IT professionals as well as other factors, Proofpoint’s report defines phishing as any type of socially engineered emails. The intent could be to deploy malware, direct users to dangerous websites, or collect sensitive credentials.

About 60% of the respondents said their organization faced fewer or about the same number of phishing attacks last year compared with 2018. That may seem like positive news. However, the trend is one that Proofpoint said it’s seen for a while.

Specifically, it means that cybercriminals are focusing on quality over quantity by launching more targeted, personalized attacks instead of just bulk campaigns.

Some 55% of the respondents dealt with at least one successful phishing attack in 2019. Around 54% of those hit by an attack suffered data loss, 49% saw credentials or accounts compromised, 49% were infected by ransomware, 35% were victims of some type of malware infection, and 34% suffered some type of financial loss or wire transfer fraud.

impacts-of-successful-phishing-attacks-proofpoint.jpg
Proofpoint

Organizations measure the costs of phishing attacks in a number of ways. The most common side effect was downtime hours for users, cited by more than half of the respondents. Other costs included remediation time for security teams, damage to reputation, business impacts due to loss of intellectual property, direct monetary losses, and compliance issues or fines.

how-organizations-measure-the-cost-of-phishing-proofpoint.jpg
Proofpoint

The ultimate goal of many phishing emails is ransomware. Some 33% of the organizations surveyed for the report were infected with ransomware in 2019 and opted to pay the ransom. Another 32% were infected but did not pay.

Among those that did pay the ransom, 22% never regained access to their data, 2% acquiesced to follow-up ransom demands and got back their data, but 7% were hit with additional ransom demands and never recovered their data.

Looking at attacks by a specific method of social engineering, 88% of organizations faced spear phishing attacks, 86% faced business email compromise (BEC), 86% social media-based attacks, 84% smishing (SMS/text phishing), 83% vishing (voice phishing), and 81% malicious USB drops.

To help your organization better defend itself against targeted phishing attacks, Proofpoint offers the following tips:

Commit to building a culture of security

If you want to truly make a change—meaning a mindset and behavior shift that has a positive, day-to-day impact on your organization—you must commit to bringing cybersecurity to the forefront.

Remember that anyone in your organization can be a target of a phishing scam and that anyone in your organization can help or hurt your security posture.

Everyone in your organization should know how they can be more cyber-secure. A broad, companywide security awareness training program will help you do that.

Some 78% of the organizations surveyed for the report said they found a reduction in their phishing susceptibility due to their security awareness training.

Answer the three Ws

You may be familiar with the “five Ws and H” that guide journalists, researchers, and investigators: who, what, where, when, why and how.

At a minimum, answer these three first: 1) Who in my organization is being targeted by attackers? The answer is not as simple as looking at the top tiers of your org chart; 2) What types of attacks are they facing? Knowing the lures and traps attackers are using can help you better position your defenses; and 3) How can I minimize risk if these attacks get through? The answer is to use the information you’ve gathered to deliver the right training to the right people at the right time.

This exercise helps you defend against your most pressing and timely threats. Assessing vulnerabilities at a more granular level and matching those up against your threat intelligence will let you pinpoint where perfect storms are brewing.

Make time for agility

When we get busy, we may want to take a “set it and forget it” approach to cybersecurity. That’s understandable. But it doesn’t work in an era of constantly shifting attack techniques and evolving threats.

Building a security culture takes continued effort and attention. Plan for regular training and reinforcement but be responsive to changes in the threat landscape (and your organization).

Attackers’ targets change over time so the firm recommends identifying the employees most actively targeted by cyberattacks on a monthly, if not weekly, basis.

By pairing granular analysis with organization-wide training, the people being targeted will have a cybersecurity foundation you can build on with additional, targeted training.

Understanding general phishing trends is important. Having benchmarks to measure your users against them is valuable. But other organizations’ data isn’t as important as your organization’s data. You must understand your own threat climate in order to change things in your environment.

“Effective security awareness training must focus on the issues and behaviors that matter most to an organization’s mission,” Joe Ferrara, senior vice president and general manager of Security Awareness Training for Proofpoint, said in a statement.

“We recommend taking a people-centric approach to cybersecurity by blending organization-wide awareness training initiatives with targeted, threat-driven education. The goal is to empower users to recognize and report attacks.”

Proofpoint’s data was based on survey results from 3,500 working adults and 600 IT security professionals from the US, UK, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and Spain. Information also was derived from 50 million simulated phishing attacks sent by Proofpoint customers over 12 months and nine million suspicious emails reported by the end users of the company’s customers.

 

Source: Tech Republic

Shopify Offering Startup Loans to Merchants – No Sales or Credit Checks Required

Business Advice, E-Commerce, What's New No Comment

Shopify is looking to spur entrepreneurship and boost its merchant count by removing a fundamental barrier to launching a business: startup capital.

The Ottawa-based e-commerce giant announced an expansion of its Shopify Capital program Tuesday that will see the company provide initial loans of $200 to qualifying applicants looking to test out entrepreneurship.

In its most recent earnings report last fall, Shopify highlighted how its existing Shopify Capital program issued $141 million in merchant cash advances and loans in the third quarter of 2019, an increase of 85 per cent year-over-year. Until now, the program’s financing terms have typically been tied to a business’s sales history on the platform.

These early-stage loans, on the other hand, can be approved without any sales or a credit check. In a release, the company positioned the idea as an alternative to dipping into savings, borrowing from friends and family or racking up credit card debt.

Kaz Nejatian, vice-president of Shopify’s financial solutions division, wrote on Twitter that the new program was aimed at entrepreneurs struggling to get started with a business idea, such as recently landed immigrants who haven’t built up a financial foundation yet or a founder targeting non-traditional industries.

The move to ease the on-boarding of new users comes amid a broader push to continue growing the number of merchants using Shopify’s platform.

Though the company passed a sizeable milestone with its one-millionth user in 2019, the company’s year-to-year growth in merchant base has showed signs of slowing in recent years. This has pushed Shopify to increase expansion efforts outside its core North American market; CFO Amy Shapero said during the company’s most recent quarterly earnings call that it was seeing its most rapid growth in international markets.

Shopify itself has been having a strong start to 2020 with its shares hitting new highs on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges. The firm’s shares on the TSX were trading at $576.25 on Tuesday, an increase of nearly nine per cent since the start of the year.

Source: Ottawa Business Journal

Elegant Themes Divi Theme Code Injection Vulnerability

Wordpress No Comment

Elegant Themes Divi Theme Code Injection VulnerabilityIf you are someone who is using the WordPress Divi Themes, you might want to update it right away. Just last week, Elegant Themes announced that several of their products contained a code injection vulnerability, their team discovered this during a routine code audit.

What is the vulnerability?

Code Injection, also called Remote Code Execution (RCE), is a general term for attacks that exploit poor handling of untrusted data. The code injection vulnerability can allow an attacker to install malware on a website. The Divi vulnerability allows users who are logged in to execute a small set of PHP functions. 

Who is affected?

WordPress Websites who are using Divi version 3.23 and above, Extra 2.23 and above or Divi Builder version 2.23 and above, are affected.

What is the fix?

Updating your themes and plugins will fix this problem. You can update your themes and plugins from within your WordPress dashboard, or you can download the latest versions from the members area and update them manually. 

The Most Important Web Development Trends in 2020

Developers, Web Design Tips No Comment

Web development is in the middle of a transformational period. Customers are finally beginning to perform the majority of their online browsing on mobile devices and are quickly shifting from traditional written searches to voice searches.

These trends have major consequences and companies that rely on websites and search engine results, such as retail businesses, professional services, and JavaScript software development firms, will need to focus on more than just SEO as these changes are implemented.

This article will help executives and project managers in the web development industry prepare for upcoming changes in web development and SEO over the next several years.

Artificial Intelligence

AI is no longer a science fiction trope. The revolutionary technology is finally beginning to come into its own. It is impacting the quality of care that medical patients receive, transforming data analysis and business analytics, and making futuristic technologies like self-driving cars a reality.

In addition, AI is also transforming the internet search and web development industry. Google, along with other search engines, is using AI to improve the quality of their search results.

The company launched its AI initiative in 2015 with RankBrain. Google uses a combination of traditional machine learning and deep neural networks to create an AI search bot that can learn from past search results and click-through rates to improve its capabilities.

Marketers and web developers that rely on SEO to drive traffic to their website will need to turn their attention from keyword-heavy websites to producing high-quality, long-form content that provides useful information and resonates with readers. This will only become more important as Google’s AI makes keywords less important over the next several years, opening the door for the rest of the search engines to follow.

Featured Snippets

Another major trend impacting the entire web development industry is Google’s new focus on producing featured snippets in their search results. In the past, Google simply took a search term and returned the top 10 website results on the first search result page.

Today, Google often takes key bits of information, or snippets, from the most popular websites and includes this information in the search results above the most popular websites. This means that customers do not have to click links to gather basic information.

While this change has been very useful for customers, it has reduced internet traffic for websites since customers no longer need to load a webpage to get that basic data.

Businesses can improve their chances of landing a spot as a featured snippet by producing high-quality content that is clearly organized. However, there is little that companies can do to replace those click-throughs so overall website traffic will likely continue to fall.

Mobile Traffic

Over the past decade, customers have started using mobile devices to access the internet at increasingly high levels–with research finding that an estimated 58% of website visits are completed on a mobile device today.

In addition, a total of 56% of search engine queries are completed on a smartphone.

For web development and JavaScript outsourcing firms, this means that every website they work on must be optimized for mobile devices. They can accomplish this by removing interstitials, or content such as full-page popups, a faulty layout, or other features which negatively impact the mobile user experience.

In addition, Google now penalizes companies that include email-list popups on their homepage, an annoying feature that customers have long complained about.

Businesses should pay special attention to their mobile layout and should consider using progressive web apps (PWAs) to automatically optimize their mobile sites for Google.

Voice Search Results

Since the release of Siri in 2011, mobile search has become more and more important. Today, that voice recognition market is worth an incredible $600 million. Experts also predict that more than 50% of all searches will be performed by voice by 2020.

Businesses can optimize their websites for voice search and prepare for this new reality by changing the way they look at keywords. Traditionally, customers who search Google using their keyboard will create stilted, computer-like phrases as their search terms.

However, customers who use voice search tend to speak in the type of regular, everyday language that they use to communicate with friends. Companies can improve their voice search results by transitioning to more casual keywords and speech on their websites.

Cybersecurity

Data privacy continues to be one of the most important priorities for businesses of all sizes and in all industries. Research has found that cybersecurity is the number one “external concern” for American CEOs.

Its importance will only increase over the next several years as recent cybersecurity trends continue to develop. The number of these data breaches is increasing every year and the cost to global businesses will only increase as well. In fact, the total cost of cyberattacks is expected to exceed $6 trillion by 2021.

Internal investments in cybersecurity have risen by 141% from 2010 to 2018 and this trend will likely accelerate over the next decade. This is a major reason why global investments in information security are expected to top $124 billion in 2019.

The rise of 5G wireless networks and the associated internet of things will also increase the risk of cybersecurity attacks because of the massive number of devices expected to come online over the next decade.

Web development teams and offshore JavaScript firms should pay special attention to data privacy during upcoming web development projects. Malicious actors will continue to use more and more sophisticated attacks to breach websites and steal invaluable consumer information, like social security numbers, banking information, and more.

Looking Forward

In the future, technical experts may look at 2020 as a banner year. Google’s use of featured snippets and PWAs are already changing change the format and style of websites. On the other hand, mobile traffic and voice search results are finally overtaking their predecessors as the two main ways that people access information.

Cutting-edge AI is also being used to improve the quality of search results, produce faster results, and better connect customers with the services they need. Finally, data privacy will continue to be one of the most important concerns for business leaders and web development managers alike.

Source: TechBullion

Looking for Shopify Alternatives? Try These Ecommerce Solutions

E-Commerce No Comment

With over 800,000 businesses using the platform as 2020 begins, Shopify has become the go-to solution for many e-commerce store owners. The platform has grown considerably in recent years, with a vibrant app store helping to take stores to a new level. Yet, there are many excellent Shopify alternatives that may be a better fit for many online entrepreneurs.

Shopify won’t be for everyone and it can be wise to look at the competition before you make a commitment.

The following e-commerce solutions all have their merits, helping to make them viable Shopify Alternatives:

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a plugin that turns a WordPress site into an e-commerce store.

The plugin is both free and open source, so was quickly able to grow in popularity.

To get the absolute best functionality, though, you will need some additional paid add-ons.

There are numerous add-ons that can be used to simplify tasks, including email marketing, payment integration, and dropshipping.

Users who like WordPress will often choose WooCommerce to continue with a familiar platform.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce is a hosted solution used by many different stores from smaller businesses through to large brands.

Along with the attractive store themes you would expect, BigCommerce includes many more advanced features.

You can integrate with payment processors like Braintree, Square, and Stripe, while advanced shipping features ensure you get up-to-date shipping costs.

Additionally, the reports and metrics help you make the right decisions about your business based on analytics.

Zoey

Zoey is accessible to beginners, but comes with enough functionality to satisfy more experienced users.

The included templates are attractive and professional, with the ability to adapt them to your needs.

While it may appeal to beginners, the pricing may be prohibitive to newbies without a sales track record.

Similar to the previous options, there is an app marketplace featuring a variety of quality extensions.

Volusion

Volusion aims to make building and operating a store as easy as possible.

Site design can be performed without any knowledge of code, while the sites are all hosted on Volusion servers.

The tool also includes features for SEO and social media management.

Volusion integrates with the major payment processors, allows for easy inventory management, and has an optimized checkout experience.

SquareSpace

SquareSpace is an adaptable product that lets you develop an entire sales process.

This includes making comprehensive design changes and building a custom checkout process.

You can make much more than a simple store, adding options for digital products, recurring subscriptions, and blogging.

Similar to previous products, you can choose to integrate many extensions for payment processing, email marketing, and more.

Big Cartel

Big Cartel is one of the simpler e-commerce solutions, suited for smaller sellers who won’t need to scale up.

The tool is often used by artists and musicians to sell their products, with a free option to get started.

When you intend to grow a large store with complex inventory, payment, and data requirements, Big Cartel won’t be the solution for you.

However, smaller sellers can get started immediately using the simple design and store management tools.

Conclusion

While Shopify will be the perfect solution for many businesses, others may prefer to choose a different path.

All of the solutions mentioned can work for the majority of e-commerce stores, allowing them to grow as their sales increase.

Choosing the right platform is important as it can be frustrating making a change to an established business.

Finding the platform that offers the appearance, functionality, and features you require will ensure you are set up for maximum success.

Source: Business2Community

These 14 Apps Will Make 2020 Your Most Productive Year Ever

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Thanks to leap year, you get an extra day in 2020. But even 366 days can go by quickly—and get nibbled away by the time you waste on repetitive tasks, distractions, daydreaming, or just the lack of a clear plan to get things done. There’s no shortage of apps promising to save your time or manage it better. But beware: Some are so involved that they may end up being time killers themselves.

These apps and services can help you avoid the perils of under- or over-managing your time—and many of them are free. Some automate tasks, saving you from chores like sorting emails or filing in forms. Others provide smart to-do lists that keep you on track for work or life goals. Yet others encourage healthy habits, from reining in unbridled smartphone checking to making sure you exercise and drink enough water. But enough chit-chat: on with the list.

 

 

Planning: Microsoft To Do
List-making will be your easiest to-do item on this free, streamlined app that synchronizes through the cloud across your devices. Just click to make lists of tasks, under categories like “Work” or “Personal,” set due dates and reminders, and break large items into smaller steps. You can also collaborate in online groups, assigning tasks to different members. Fans of soon-to-be-discontinued app Wunderlist, which Microsoft bought, will find this all familiar—and can easily migrate from their Wunderlist setup. (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, web)

Planning: Any.Do
Resembling Microsoft To Do, this freemiuim app adds some nifty power features. Chief among them: it integrates with your phone’s calendar to create a single interface showing both appointments and to do items. Any.Do offers subscription plans, beginning at $60 per year, with capabilities such as recurring reminders, location-based reminders (like “pick up milk” when you go by the store), productivity reports, and integration with business apps. (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, web, smart watches, Alexa, Google Home, Slack)

 

 

Habit tracking: Productive
This app for Apple devices is a to-do list for the good things in life. It helps you get started with preconfigured to-do items such as “Eat fruits and veggies,” “Write in my journal,” and the elusive “Inbox zero.” You can configure any other good habits you like and set timeframes for each of them: daily, weekly, monthly, etc. A paid subscription (staring at $30 per year) adds nice-to-have bonuses, such as an unlimited number of habits and location-based reminders. (iOS, iPadOS, WatchOS)

Time tracking: Rescue time
Use Rescue Time, and you’ll get a good overview of how well you’re managing your waking hours. The free app tracks both the programs you use and the sites you visit on your computer or smartphone—assigning them to categories such as Design & Composition (for instance, time spent in Microsoft Word and Photoshop) or Social Networking (time spent on Twitter or Facebook). The mobile app also tracks how many times you pick up your phone. A paid version ($72 per year) offers a few extras, such as alerts after you’ve spent a set amount of time in one app. (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome, Firefox)

 

 

Focusing: Forest
This $2 app makes avoiding distraction into a game. Activate the timer, and a virtual tree starts growing onscreen. If you make it through the time period you set without fiddling with your phone (the default is 10 minutes), a full tree emerges. Give into temptation, and dead wood appears instead. Use Forest to set aside focused work slots or phone-free time when with friends. A free Chrome extension provides the same benefits on your computer and can be set to block certain web sites like Facebook while the timer is running. (Android, iOS, Chrome)

Project managing: Trello
Track multiphase projects—for yourself or a small team—with this freemium service. You can create boards with columns for different stages of projects, such as “Brainstorm,” “Consolidate Input,” and “Signoff,” then create cards for individual projects or parts of projects, such as “Develop marketing plan.” As work progresses, you can drag items from column to column and assign team members to various parts of the projects. Trello’s free tier offers plenty for individuals and small teams. Paid plans start at $10 per user per month. (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, web)

 

 

Scheduling: Doodle
Spare the long email chains when setting up a meeting. This freemium service lets you post an online calendar with possible meeting times and allow everyone who receives the link to check off what works for them. Upgrading to a paid account (starting at $48 per year) adds handy features such as syncing doodles to your online calendar and automatically emailing calendar invites to participants. Paying also eliminates the onslaught of advertising on the site. (Android, iOS, web)

Email sorting: Edison Mail
This free app (formerly called EasilyDo Mail) sorts your inbox into categories such as Travel, Bills & Receipts, Entertainment, and Subscriptions. Each box extracts relevant information—displaying upcoming and past flight and hotel reservations, for instance, or providing unsubscribe buttons for newsletters. Edison supports webmail like Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo, as well as Exchange and IMAP email from your business domain. Note: Edison collects anonymized data to support its online trends data service, and formerly allowed human staffers to read user emails in order to train its machine learning. (Android, iOS, MacOS)

Researching: Pocket
It’s easy to find information on the web. And Mozilla’s free bookmarking service, which is integrated into the Firefox browser and available as an extension for Chrome, makes it easy to keep track of it until you have time to give it your full attention. Just click the icon to save a copy of any page to your online account. You can also add tags to organize the saved pages by topics. The mobile app allows you to browse from your phone and save pages from your mobile browser. (Android, iOS, web, Firefox, Chrome)

Researching: Google Alerts
Rather than skimming through the news or running manual searches, let Google compile research and automatically send an email digest. Just visit the search engine’s Alerts page, sign in with your free Google account, and enter search terms for the topics you want to follow. You can include multiple terms (such as names of companies) for each alert, configure as many alerts as you want, and refine alerts based on features such as regions or languages to include. (Web)

Networking: LinkedIn QR codes
Forget business cards (which you probably have already done anyway), and make connections instead through the QR code scanner in LinkedIn’s mobile app. Just tap the icon on the right end of the search bar to display your personal code for people to scan and to capture the code displayed on their screen. Invites to connect go out automatically from there. (Android, iOS)

Accessing Google: Google Assistant
The font of all knowledge is a constant companion for many of us. This voice-activated app provides the quickest way to access many of Google’s services, especially if you are on your phone or your hands are full (or you’re driving). Beyond web searches, you can ask Assistant to do things like check the weather, find movie times, provide driving directions, set reminders, and translate text or audio. You can also access utilities like timers or alarms, a calculator, or smart home controls. (Android, iOS, Google Home speakers, Wear OS)

Form filling: LastPass
Password managers are an essential tool to create, store, and auto-fill strong passwords for website logins. They also save time with lots of other online form filling, such as entering your address for deliveries or your credit card information for payments. The free LastPass app allows you to create profiles for this and other categories of information that you can enter with one click of its browser plugin button. The app itself is locked down with a main password, and all data you store in it is encrypted. Paid upgrade features for LastPass ($36 per year) are minimal, such as ability to share access with other people. (Android, iOS, MacOS, web, browser plug-ins)

Scanning: TurboScan
Sometimes the best way to file papers is to convert them into files. This $6 Android and iOS app uses your phone’s camera to create color or black-and-white PDF files of any documents you photograph, even something like a white board. It stores searchable copies on your phone and also allows easy sharing via email, AirDrop, or cloud services like Dropbox and Evernote. (Android, iOS)

 

Source: www.fastcompany.com

Small Business Technology Trends for 2020

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As the owner of a small business, you are always looking for ways to improve your company. Here we’ve highlighted some of the key tech trends in 2020 for exactly that. Whether you’ve just launched your startup or are trying to keep your business at the forefront of innovation, new technology is constantly being created for you to take advantage of. Below we’ve highlighted some of the new ways you can grow your market, improve efficiency and protect your company.

Influencer marketing

Scrolling through your social media, it’s expected to find promotional and branded content. Today the highest-paid athletes in the world, such as Christiano Ronaldo, make more on Instagram than on the field. The technique of using a big name to sell something is not new however, social media platforms allow ads to appear on your screen with far more ease and subtly than traditional advertising. Instead of your company hiring a celebrity to appear in a commercial, that celebrity only needs to post online about the benefits of your product or service. This new age of advertising presents enormous benefits for your company if utilized well.

So why is having influencer outreach important? It’s simple; the experience is personalized. You have no choice when you’re watching TV regarding what pops up during a commercial break. But on social media, consumers have chosen who they follow. Maybe they follow someone because they appreciate their taste, their lifestyle or because they know them personally. All of these attributes cultivate a deeper trust towards a brand when a promotion comes from someone the consumer has actively elected to see in their day to day social media goings.

If you’re a small business, it’s most likely you can’t afford the assistance of celebrities or high profile influencers to grow your product, but that’s okay. Micro-influencers or influencers with smaller followings (think under 100,000 followers) often have a more loyal fan base and higher levels of engagement. Furthermore, those who follow micro-influencers are more likely to share a niche interest, and with proper market research you can reach an audience interested in checking out your brand.

Finally, keeping your brand active on social media is also important for those who might discover or further explore your business on such platforms. Just like when you meet someone new and search them up on social media, consumers are constantly checking out new businesses first through social media.

Digital healthcare

There are several benefits of the rise of digital healthcare that all small business owners should be aware of. Not only can it save time and money, but digital healthcare solutions are enabling fundamental changes to the job market that directly benefit small businesses.

There’s never a moment to waste when you’re running a small business. Digital healthcare is increasingly becoming an affordable way for employees to stay healthy while maintaining efficiency. In the past, if an employee of yours fell sick or experienced any number of conditions, they would have to take time off work to drive to the doctor’s office, sit around as they wait for their appointment, see the nurse, and sit around some more before finally being treated. This is all changing as new telehealth companies like PlushCare offer remote services for your employees.

This means an employee can see the doctor from their office. Online doctor appointments typically last 15 minutes with patients receiving a diagnosis and treatment plan, including any necessary prescriptions, in this time frame. By seeing a doctor from work employees save incredible amounts of time that can be spent working. Furthermore, remote appointments are not limited to a single doctor’s hours, and your employees will find it easy to book with a remote doctor before or after their workday. These appointments are cheaper for your business and your employees while also providing instant access to care. But there’s another aspect to telehealth and it’s a relationship with small businesses.

Digital healthcare solutions make healthcare more affordable for the growing workforce of contractors and freelancers who forgo employer-based insurance. More people feel comfortable giving up the comforts of traditional employment, such as health insurance because they have an affordable alternative in digital healthcare. This is highly beneficial to small businesses that cannot afford to give their workers’ health insurance. Having access to a network of contractors and freelancers saves your company money but also allows you to hire the people necessary to get the job done at a reduced cost. If you are hiring via the gig economy be sure to talk to your contractors about digital healthcare as an affordable healthcare solution, especially if you are not offering health insurance to these workers.

Cybersecurity

The importance of cybersecurity can not be understated. As 2020 rolls around, the functioning of big and small businesses alike will continue to move online. New software solutions are being developed to unify the functions of companies, allowing smoother communication across integrated platforms. While this process is great for your business overall, such centralization also demonstrates the need for increased cybersecurity measures. According to a poll from Insureon, only 16% of small business owners think they are risk of a cyberattack. Unfortunately, 61% of cyberattacks are actually launched against small businesses, and the average cost of a small hack is $86,500, according to internet security firm Kaspersky Labs. While such a cost might not hurt a major corporation, it could be a devastating amount for your small business.

There are several steps you can take to protect your business from cyberattacks,

  • Regularly update your software. Installing new software as it becomes available is critical to protecting your data. Delaying even the most routine updates can have catastrophic effects.
  • Ensuring point-of-sale systems is safe. Businesses that perform transactions online should invest in the end to end encryption software. Not only does this safeguard your business, but it also protects your consumers and their trust in your services.
  • Teaching employees how to spot malware and phishers. Small business owners have to be proactive in the protection of their company, including looking inwards at potential risks for human error. Hold a seminar with your employees to discuss what dangerous malware might disguise itself as.
  • Hiring an IT expert. If your company can afford to do so, hiring an IT expert is a must as the word continually shifts into the digital age. As a business owner, you don’t have the time or knowledge to do everything on your own, and no one can help keep your tech safer than an IT expert.

Being in the know about the different technological channels you can utilize in 2020 sets your business apart. Promoting and growing your brand via influencer marketing grants you access to a concentrated market of potential consumers and clients. Knowing how to maintain efficiency and affordability while keeping your employees healthy and factoring in the wellbeing of contractors in the gig economy, sets you up to have highly satisfied workers at a lower price point. A cybersecurity approach that protects your company against data breaches and hacks from the ground up ensures all aspects of your business are high functioning. Small businesses with a comprehensive approach and knowledge of the latest tech trends as they apply to a range of aspects of the business are better positioned to outperform those that take a narrow approach.

 

Source: www.business.com

Why Your Company’s Online Reputation Matters

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As a discipline, reputation management is still nascent in the Asia Pacific region. Caught up in the rallying cry to go digital, many brands are eager to appear in search results, but they are comparatively less focused on the realities of what exactly consumers see.

To the extent that some brands in the region do practice reputation management, most relegate it to a single person or department, such as customer service, digital marketing, or human resources. While engaging in any form of reputation management is a good start, it should not be compartmentalized into a specific box on the organizational chart.

Reputation management should be a companywide responsibility that affects several, if not all, external-facing departments. Many founders or C-level executives balk at the idea of committing significant resources to what they might assume is merely a cosmetic benefit. But this stereotype could not be farther from the truth.

satisfaction surveyFirst Impressions Go Digital 

When a stakeholder hears about your brand for the first time—be they a potential customer, employee, partner, or investor—they will almost always Google your company to learn more. What they see in the search results is essentially their first impression, except it’s even weightier than the first impressions we make as businesspeople at meetings, events, or conferences.

Unlike in-person meetings, where you can offset an initially bad first impression as you share more about yourself over the course of a conversation, there are no such opportunities online. Stakeholders who are put off by a negative employee review or a critical feature from a journalist when searching your brand will not give you a chance to explain yourself. They’ll simply click away from your site. Our attention spans online last a couple seconds at most, and you just wasted the few that someone gave you.

A negative or erroneous perception on the internet can stagnate growth and immediately compromise sales and marketing efforts. It can also scare away an investor or cause the perfect candidate to apply to a competitor. Despite the importance of reputation management, the only way for employees to understand its significance is to get it from the top down. Company leaders must communicate the importance of reputation management and operationalize it into a key performance indicator.

Each department should be assigned relevant channels for reputation management. For example, human resources can monitor Glassdoor and LinkedIn; digital marketing can keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter, and Google; and public relations can watch media outlets. The responsible departments must report on their assigned channels. The sharing of such vital information is a constant reminder that everyone must work together to build, improve and protect their brand’s online reputation. A key point to note here is that companies often fail because they don’t consult experts. Imagine a company engaging their HR team to do financial audits without having them trained or monitored by a finance expert. Similarly, it is important to engage digital reputation experts in your strategy development process.

In galvanizing the entire organization to practice reputation management, leaders must emphasize a proactive rather than reactive approach. The latter is all too common, especially in Asia. Brands will only take action around their reputation crisis or when a dissenting view appears online. Only then will they spring to action, summoning whatever resources they can to respond to the critical opinion, bury it amid more positive content, or work to delete the negativity if libelous or otherwise erroneous.

Rather than just responding to online issues as they arise, brands must be proactive, beginning with developing an overall online branding: What is it that they want to be known for? Determining a company’s messaging is just as important for reputation management as it is for public relations or any other communications function. Skipping this step—as many companies do in their rush to respond to dissenting online voices—also leads to poor branding and subsequent performance. Your company will come across as just another entity in a business world eager to uphold appearances rather than an organization responding` from a place of genuine authenticity.

The messaging that you devise for your reputation management should be treated as a living document. Your company should evaluate how its mission, vision, and values are reflected on the internet every quarter, or even more frequently if your company is experiencing rapid growth. Done correctly, proactive reputation management will create an online brand that all of your team members will be proud of. It will also mobilize your community of employees, clients, partners, and other stakeholders to further support the success of your company.

 

Source: www.enterpreneur.com

Millions of Sites Exposed by Flaw in Jetpack WordPress Plugin

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Admins and owners of WordPress websites are urged to immediately apply the Jetpack 7.9.1 critical security update to prevent potential attacks that could abuse a vulnerability that has existed since Jetpack 5.1.

You can update your installation to the 7.9.1 version through your dashboard, or manually download the Jetpack 7.9.1 release here.

Jetpack is an extremely popular WordPress plugin that provides free security, performance, and site management features including site backups, secure logins, malware scanning, and brute-force attack protection.

The plugin has over 5 million active installations, and it was developed and it is currently maintained by Automattic, the company behind WordPress.

Not yet exploited in the wild

The vulnerability was found in the way Jetpack processed embed code and Adham Sadaqah was the one credited for responsibly disclosing the security issue.

While not a lot of details were disclosed regarding the security flaw to protect the sites that haven’t yet updated, the announcement made by Jetpack says that the bug impacts all versions starting with the 5.1 release and going back as far as July 2017.

The Jetpack developers state that no evidence was discovered until the release of the critical Jetpack 7.9.1 security update that the vulnerability has been exploited in the wild.

Active Jetpack versions
Active Jetpack versions

“However, now that the update has been released, it is only a matter of time before someone tries to take advantage of this vulnerability,” the developers warn.

The development team also says that they worked with the WordPress.org Security Team to release patches for every version of Jetpack since 5.1 and that “most websites have been or will soon be automatically updated to a secured version.”

Millions already patched

At the moment over four million out of the more than five million WordPress websites that use Jetpack have already been updated according to its entry on the WordPress Plugins site.

“Versions released today include 5.1.1, 5.2.2, 5.3.1, 5.4.1, 5.5.2, 5.6.2, 5.7.2, 5.8.1, 5.9.1, 6.0.1, 6.1.2, 6.2.2, 6.3.4, 6.4.3, 6.5.1, 6.6.2, 6.7.1, 6.8.2, 6.9.1, 7.0.2, 7.1.2, 7.2.2, 7.3.2, 7.4.2, 7.5.4, 7.6.1, 7.7.3, 7.8.1, 7.9.1,” the Jetpack dev team says.
Jetpack downloads history
Jetpack downloads history

Jetpack received another security update to address an issue found during an internal audit of the Contact Form block in December 2018, and a critical security update patching a vulnerability in the way some Jetpack shortcodes were processed in May 2016.

Last year, hackers also found a method of installing backdoored plugins on WordPress websites using weakly protected WordPress.com accounts and the Jetpack plugin’s remote management feature.

 

Source: www.bleepingcomputer.com