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October 15th, 2014

BusinessValue_Oct13_AMobile technology like phones and tablets has become essential for businesses of all sizes. If you have a smartphone or tablet, you are not only more mobile, but can also be more productive. While these devices are being integrated in higher numbers, it really is the apps that enable users to do more. The question many business owners ask however is what apps should they invest in if they want to be able to attend to business on their device. Here are five types of apps you should have on your device.

1. File creation, management, and collaboration

Many small to medium businesses are implementing cloud-based document systems. These systems enable easy file creation, storage, and collaboration between users in the office, coincidentally they also have mobile apps.

If you have cloud-based document systems like Google Apps or Office 365 in your office, it would be beneficial to install the mobile apps for the system that you use. The reason for this is because the mobile apps have the same functionality as their Web-based versions. From your device you can access files, create new ones, share them, and even edit files which means you can be productive on the go.

2. Lists

A good lists app can go a long way in helping to keep you organized. From creating a daily to-do-list to creating a list of long-term tasks or goals, you can create lists when you think of them and easily sync them with other devices and even colleagues.

Lists apps also help because we often come up with things we need to do while away from the office. Because our mobile device is always with us, we can simply add it to an existing list, or create a new one. No having to track down paper that may be lost, or trying to remember things.

While there are many list apps out there, one of the most useful is any.do which allows users to create both work and personal lists and share them with other users. Wunderlist is also great, as it allows users to create lists with sublists and even assign tasks to other people.

3. Notes

Like a list app, a good note app is essential. If you come up with an idea outside of the office, you can jot it down and have the note sync with other devices for action when you are back in the office. Apps of this type are also useful in meetings outside of the office because many of them allow users to record conversations and even add notes quickly. So, if an important idea comes up or is talked about it is recorded and not missed.

Some of the best Notes apps include Google Keep which syncs with your Google account and allows you to quickly create notes. If your office uses Microsoft Office, or Office 365, the best choice would be OneNote which can sync with your Microsoft account, bringing notes to any system. For those who want a powerful notes suite, the best option is Evernote, which works on almost every system and Web browser.

4. CRM

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools have become one of the most essential ways for business owners and managers to manage their relationships with their customers. Companies that have integrated a CRM solution have found that overall satisfaction and customer retention has improved.

Because these solutions allow you to quickly view customer data (e.g., contact information, sales history, etc.) it makes sense for mobile apps to be created for anyone working out in the field. In fact, most CRM solutions now have mobile apps that allow you to access customer databases from any mobile device. If you have a CRM solution, especially a cloud-based one, it is worthwhile checking with your provider if there is a mobile app too.

5. Communication

When out of the office, you need a way of keeping in touch with those back at base, or other employees who may also be out of the office. While email is usually enough to cover most communication needs, there are times when you need something more immediate. That's where apps like Google Hangouts, iOS Messages, Microsoft Lync, and even Facebook Messages can help. These chat-oriented apps enable communication wherever you have a data, or Internet, connection.

Beyond this, there are a wide number of VoIP solutions that offer mobile apps. When you install these on your device, you can turn your mobile into your office phone which will function exactly like your desk-based phone. This makes it easier to keep in touch with the office, so be sure to ask your VoIP provider if there is a mobile app you can install on your device.

If you have a favorite business app, let us know. And, if you are looking for a way to increase the value your business can provide customers, contact us to learn how a mobile solution can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 10th, 2014

BusinessValue_Oct08_AFor every business there are multiple keys to success. One of the most important is your staff. If you manage your employees in the right way, and offer them the information and systems they need to do their jobs, you could see business running smoothly and profits on the rise. This is often easier said than done though, as it can be a real challenge to effectively manage employees. That's where Enterprise Resource Planning, or more specifically Human Resource modules, can help.

What are Human Resource modules?

ERP, or Enterprise Resource Planning, is a suite of integrated business software applications (often called modules) that allow companies to track and manage data and even automate some business functions, including Human Resources.

Human Resource modules in particular are used to track different people-related functions, such as planning, payroll, administration, development, hiring, and more. Business services, like Standard Operating Procedures, job postings, news, forums, tracking of work hours, and benefits, etc., can all be unified into one module, which makes overall management and decision-making easier.

Benefits of using HR modules

Businesses that have integrated ERP and more specifically HR modules, have been able to benefit in a number of ways. Here are 5:

1. Automated processes that free up management

A large function of HR, as with many other business processes, is data entry and reporting. If you are trying to develop reports without an integrated ERP system, you probably need to pull data from numerous sources which takes time. This is time that can probably be better spent on more relevant tasks.

An ERP module data, once set up, will be more accessible. This simultaneously makes it easier to enter and pull data together into reports. And because large parts of daily tasks can be automated, you can ensure that what you need to complete is actually achieved.

2. Enhanced sharing of information and collaboration

Because HR is a central function of any business, data related to HR needs to eventually be shared with other teams or departments. Without ERP this likely means you will need to ask different people to share their data and then compile it into a useable format.

With ERP for HR, data is stored in a central location, or brought together to a central location, which means that data from different sources can be shared faster and easier. This also ensures that the right data is shared, thus enhancing overall outcomes and making it simpler for other teams to work together.

3. Management gains a clearer picture of HR

It can be tough to gain a short-term picture of your employee resources, especially when it comes to identifying potential resource shortfalls (e.g., double-booked holidays, employees who are constantly late, etc.) and where improvements can be made. For example, in most modules you can track overtime hours of employees, and receive alerts when overtime is past a certain threshold.

If you spot that one department is consistently banking extended overtime hours, you can move quickly to address this.

4. Data is kept up-to-date

As we've stated above, HR systems usually involve data from various locations. This means that there is always a chance of duplicate or incorrect information. A healthcare ERP module can help ensure that the data is not only correct, but also not duplicated, which can in turn speed up decision-making and enable better decisions to be made.

5. Reduced licensing expenses

Without ERP, your HR team could need five or more systems in order to keep track of everything. Each of these systems will need to be licensed, which can often be a serious investment on your behalf, not to mention the costs of setting up and maintaining these systems.

Because HR ERP modules offer an integrated solution, you pay for one license to cover all of your needs. This reduces overall expenses while also making it easier to budget and maintain.

If you are looking to integrate an ERP solution in your business, contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

October 9th, 2014

BusinessValue_Oct07_A.It seems like September was a big month for mobile payments. From Apple launching a new service to announcements from both Amazon and Ebay, there will soon be a number of new ways businesses can allow their customers to pay via mobile solutions, and an increasing number of businesses are considering switching over.

What exactly is mobile payment?

Most people would define mobile payment as either using your mobile device as a wallet, or using mobile devices to accept payment. Many services allow users to link credit cards to their mobile device and simply scan it over a pay terminal to have their account charged.

Companies on the other hand usually pay a set per-transaction fee in order to use the system; something along the lines of, or slightly cheaper than, most credit or debit-based payment terminals.

If you are considering switching over, here is a brief overview of the most common payment solutions.

PayPal

In late September Internet auction giant eBay announced that they will be spinning off their popular Internet payment system PayPal sometime in 2015. While many users will utilize PayPal to pay online, there is actually a mobile payment solution called PayPal Here, which is expected to grow immensely.

With Here, you get a payment solution app with a card reader that plugs into most smartphones (Android, iPhone, iPad, Android tablets) and allows you to accept multiple types of payment from anywhere you have an Internet connection. You can even track cash payments and record checks.

Vendors can use this app free of charge, however they are charged a 2.7% per swipe fee, based on the amount of the transaction.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay is Apple's recently announced mobile payment system that utilizes NFC (Near Field Communication) on the iPhone 6. Users with an iPhone 6 will be able to link their credit cards to their phone and then will hover their device near a terminal and press their thumb on the device's fingerprint reader to pay.

Your payment information (an account number linked to your card. Apple has noted that actual card numbers are not stored) is stored in the Passbook, and will be accepted at an initial 220,000 stores in the US when it launches sometime in October. There is a good chance that small to medium businesses will be able to integrate this solution into their business in the near future, so it would be a good idea to keep an eye on this.

What is interesting is that many banks have announced that they are considering accepting, or will accept Apple Pay as a method of payment. This means that businesses with an existing NFC payment terminal - which is often provided by a bank - should be able to accept payment (if the bank does of course).

Rumors have it that merchants will not be charged a transaction fee to use this service; details will be solidified when the system goes live.

Square

Square is arguably the most popular, or at least the most well known, mobile payment system. With a card reader that is compatible with most popular mobile devices (Android, iPad, iPhone) users can set up a whole Point of Sale system via the Square Stand and accept a wide variety of payments.

To use this solution, you need either the card reader (which is free) or the Square Stand (which costs around USD $99). For each transaction there is a fee that starts at 2.75% for credit and debit cards.

Amazon's Local Register

Introduced in mid August, this new card reader is aimed at both PayPal and Square solutions. As with these, there is a card reader that can be plugged into most devices (Android, iPad, iPhone) and an app that goes along with it. Businesses with the reader can then use the device to accept payment.

Where this solution differs is that the reader costs USD $10 to purchase. That being said, the USD $10 is refunded towards your first transaction fees upon signing up. The transaction fees are also quite a bit lower. For businesses that sign up before October 31, 2014, there is a flat rate of 1.75% per swipe until January 1, 2016. Any business that signs up after this date will pay a flat rate of 2.5% per transaction (based on the total transaction amount).

Google Wallet

Google Wallet is a hybrid mobile and online payment solution that allows users to add credit cards to their wallet and pay for things either online, or at stores with NFC payment terminals (also called contactless terminals).

While most users who have made a purchase on Google Play, or have used their Google Account to make a payment have used Wallet, this hasn't been the most popular of solutions when it comes to customers using it to pay in-store. The reason for this is because there are only a limited number of devices with the required NFC radio (two to be exact). This system is also currently limited to the US only. Customers around the world can use Google Wallet to pay online however.

There is a good chance that with the recent new announcements and upcoming mobile payment products, Google will be pushing this out to more devices in the near future.

There are other mobile payment system options available, so it is a good idea to contact us before you implement one. We can help you not only find a solution that works for your business, but ensure that it can be integrated into your existing systems.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 17th, 2014

BusinessValue_Sep15_AOne way to really expand your online presence is through content marketing. Many business owners and managers are aware of this, but may be unsure as to how they can ensure that any content marketing is successful. There are many ways in which you can achieve a good result and here are four tips to help you achieve a great content marketing strategy.

What are the benefits of content marketing?

Before looking into ways you can implement content marketing that works, it is a good idea to look at the benefits of this type of marketing for businesses. One of the biggest pluses is that it boosts online engagement between you and your customers. If a customer sees that you are producing quality content that appeals to them, they will be more likely to interact and consider you when they need your products or services.

The other major advantage of a good content marketing strategy is that it helps show search engines like Google that your website and online presence are active. Because of the way search engines work, more active sites are usually ranked higher in results. If your website and overall Internet presence is seen to be active on a regular basis, you could possibly reach the first page of search results, which can lead to a boost in site visits, inquiries, and even sales.

If you have been considering implementing a content marketing campaign, or are looking to improve your existing efforts, the following four tips could help.

1. Always have a goal

The main thrust of many successful content marketing initiatives is that they tell a story. As with any narrative there needs to be an ending and in the case of content marketing this endpoint is a goal - something you want the reader to do. What do you want to achieve? Do you want customers to call? Do you want them to learn how to use your product?

By working backwards, you can then determine the right voice to use and best way to reach those customers who are most likely to react positively to the content. This also makes it easier for you to separate your campaigns and even launch multiple strategies at the same time.

Beyond this, having a goal can really help you narrow down the type of content you need to create. If for example, you know what customers you want to attract and how you want them to ultimately act, you can create content that is more appealing to them.

2. ABT

One of the most popular sayings amongst content marketers is to, "Always Be Testing (ABT)". When developing content you should be striving to test your content. Consider if certain images work better than others, as well as headlines, layouts, and content types, etc.

This could be as simple as developing three different social media posts and testing them with different market segments, or locations. You can then take what you have learnt from the tests and apply this to future posts.

The same can be said for more advanced content like blog posts or white papers. If you create different versions and layouts, and track the general downloads and interaction with the content, you can usually figure out how various people are reacting in different ways to a variety of content.

It is important to note here that content marketing is not a quick payoff style of marketing. You need to invest time, money, and effort into this and be willing to always be tweaking content. It takes time to pay off, but the time invested in testing what works and what doesn't work will help you develop better, more useful content.

3. Share and share alike

Creating content and just putting it on existing sites or sharing it with existing clients is not the most efficient way of making your content marketing show returns. Combine this with the fact that you will likely be using platforms like social media which are constantly changing and adding new content, and there is a good chance your content won't even be seen.

What you should aim to do is to share the content as much as possible. Share it on all of your social media platforms, link to it on your site, add it to emails, use the various social media content promotion features, and most of all: Share it again.

If you truly believe content is useful to your target market, you should aim to post it at least three to four times on social media. One of the most effective strategies is to share it on different days at different times, usually with a space of at least a week or two between posts. This can help maximize the numbers who see it.

4. Be prepared to fail

Failure is a part of business, and coincidently, it is also a part of content marketing. Face it, you might create content that just simply won't click as you intended. If this happens, your first reaction might be to pull the content and try something different. This may not be a good idea.

Sure, if the content is stirring up trouble, or has offended people, then it is likely best to remove it. But even if you aren't seeing the results you had hoped for, stick with the content for a bit. Try reposting it, and promoting more vigorously. It could very well be that users just didn't see the content.

As we stated above, successful content marketing takes time and effort. Once you realize this, and combine it with the fact that not everything will work, you should see a viable strategy surface over time.

If you are looking to learn more about content marketing and how our systems can help support it then get in touch and we can share our thoughts on how to be proactive and get results.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 21st, 2014

BValue_Aug18_AIn many countries around the world, businesses are required to meet the needs of all employees. For able-bodied employees, one system will usually be able to meet needs, but disabled employees may have different requirements. Therefore, businesses should ensure that they develop an accessible technology plan.

What is accessible technology?

Accessible technology, also commonly referred to as assistive technology, is the idea of creating or implementing technology and systems that cater to employees with disabilities. While not every company will have or require accessible technology, it is required by many countries that businesses meet the needs of disabled employees.

To that end, it is a good idea to develop a plan on how to implement accessible technology. To help, here are five steps you could take:

1. Defining your strategy

The accessible technology strategy should be the first thing you develop as it will be the foundation of the overall plan. When looking at your strategy you should define how accessible technology fits into your overall organization plan and how it will fit with your existing strategies.

What you are looking to do is to figure out how this form of technology will fit with existing systems and increase overall operating effectiveness. From here, you can define the overall objectives, budget, and vision for the plan.

2. Identifying requirements

In this step, you should look closely at existing technology in the organization and the needs of your employees. Because each company is different and the needs of employees are different you should be careful to also identify the technology needs of your employees.

When looking at both the needs and existing systems you can work to come up with an overall set of requirements, along with a general priority. For example, will you need to modify existing computers or purchase new ones?

The key idea here is that you need to figure out exactly what you need.

3. Picking the new technology

Once you have identified what changes you need to implement, what new technology you will need, and your budget, you can then begin looking for the best solutions. The most effective way to do this is to work with it experts like us who can help you find and integrate the best technology and changes that will meet your adaptive technology needs.

4. Implementing and training

Once you have defined the changes, and new technology to integrate, you need to implement it. This may include altering physical devices and machines where necessary, and then testing the systems to make sure they are working properly.

It is also be a good idea to train your employees who will be using the systems, and the team who will be managing the systems.

5. Maintaining

As with all tech systems, it is important to realize that the solution you implement will not work forever, and will eventually require maintenance, updating, or even replacing. You should take steps to audit systems on a regular basis to ensure they are still meet the needs of your company and employees.

This can be a time consuming and potentially costly step, especially if you neglect it. We strongly recommend working with a company like ours, who can help manage your solution and ensure that updates and any necessary changes are implemented when they are needed, and that should needs change, systems are subsequently updated to meet the new requirements.

If you are looking to implement accessible technology in your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 24th, 2014

BusinessValue_July21_AWhen it comes to the technology in your business, it can often be a challenge to keep it running smoothly and working effectively. Frankly, many small business owners simply can’t keep up and their business can suffer as a result. To avoid this, one of the smartest things you can do is outsource your IT to a Managed Service Provider (MSP).

What is an MSP?

When small to medium businesses look to outsource the management of their technology, many turn to a Managed Services Provider. These service providers function as partners in the management of a business’s technology and often assume responsibility for managing, installing, and monitoring all, or at least a large part, of your tech on your behalf.

Because many of these IT partners are focused on technology services, they can often provide technology services equal to, or better than, hiring an in-house IT team. Beyond that, most IT partners offer services at a fixed monthly rate, thus allowing your business to effectively budget for IT expenditures.

5 Ways an IT partner can help

Aside from stabilizing costs and offering powerful IT solutions, there are many ways an IT partner can help your business. Here are 5:

1. Provide stability and direction

Technology is always changing, and the number of services and solutions available is simply staggering. Do you go with Windows, OS X, or Linux for your operating system? What about servers? Do you want cloud services? If so, which? Simply picking the right solution for your business requires an IT expert.

IT partners know technology and take the time to get to know your business needs and goals. From there, they can help pick and implement the best solutions that will support your current demands and provide the necessary IT platform on which you can stably expand your business.

2. Allow you to focus on your core business function

Anyone who is not an IT expert but has been thrust into the role of managing technology quickly comes to realize that technology management and implementation is a full time job. What this means in many small businesses is that someone has to give up time focusing on their main role to focus on technology. This inevitably results in a loss of overall productivity.

By outsourcing your IT, you and your employees can focus on core business functions, without having to worry about pressing technology issues and staying up-to-date with tech developments. This results in an overall increase in productivity.

3. Help you learn how to leverage technology to meet your business goals

To many, new technology like the cloud, advanced databases, and web languages like HTML and CSS are simply too confusing. They may even be downright scary! When people feel overwhelmed by technology, they will often not be able to use it in the best possible way or they will shy away from it. This can lead to decreased productivity, unused technology, and a wasted investment.

Many IT partners don’t just install and manage systems, they also take the time to ensure that employees are comfortable with them and understand how to use them. This increases overall tech buy-in and can in turn reduce wasted investments, saving you money in the long run.

4. Enable you to use the latest technology

A common complaint of many who work in small to medium businesses is that the technology systems in the company are old or slow. This is largely due to the fact that many businesses operate on thin margins and simply cannot afford to update systems or integrate new ones.

IT partners offer their services to many different companies and therefore need to ensure that they are using the latest technology. Because most of these services are offered over the Web, they can pass along the features and updates to your business without you having to invest in new technology.

Beyond this, many MSPs offer full-service solutions that include picking the best technology for your business. They can install systems based on your budget and also manage them, ensuring that systems remain up-to-date and fully support your business needs.

5. Ensure compliance

Many industries like healthcare, education, finance, and real estate, require that businesses comply with strict regulations regarding technology and its use. Some governments even require that all businesses meet privacy regulations, making it difficult for businesses to know what the requirements are and if they are actually compliant.

IT partners also operate in these industries and are compliant. This means that they can often ensure that your business and systems are also meeting regulations.

If you are looking for an IT partner who can help your business get the most out of your technology, contact us today to learn more about our managed services.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
July 4th, 2014

BusinessValue_June30_ALast month, in the first part of our article about how to successfully share content on social media we covered five tips to follow. From writing longer content, to using images, and playing on specific emotions we highlighted some great information that can really help get your content shared. This month, we take a look at the next five tips.

6. Lists of 10 items are great

One of the most popular forms of blog article written these days is the list article. These articles usually cover three to more than 20 items or tips related to one central topic. Articles of this type are popular because they are not only quick to write, but are also quick to digest as they can be broken up into easy-to-read sections – perfect for those who scan articles on their mobile devices.

With so many lists out there, it can be tricky to nail just how long your list of tips, ideas, etc. should be. From social data pulled by social media experts over at BuzzSumo, it appears that articles with 10 list items get the most shares. It is therefore a good idea to strive to reach 10 points when creating this style of list article.

Some articles however can get quite lengthy, even with 10 items. One strategy might be to separate the list, like we have with this article. Of course, shorter lists can work well too, especially if these include powerful tips. We suggest trying to aim for 5-10 items when you are writing your list articles.

7. People share what they trust

This has been an age-old truth: people go with companies they trust. It has been proven time and again that users will often follow what their friends and people they trust recommend. What this translates to when it comes to the shareability of your articles is that the source of the content needs to be trustworthy.

This can be difficult to establish, especially if you are a new business or new to social media, One of the best ways to achieve this is to include bylines and author bios on your articles. Putting the name of the author (byline) at the top of an article and a brief bio at the bottom will help increase the legitimacy of the article in the eyes of the reader, increasing their trust levels over time,

Another quick way to increase legitimacy is to share an article on specific social networks. Your first thought is likely to be to share away on Facebook, but think about how Facebook is used – people generally share everything, even if it’s not trustworthy. Instead, look to the more professional networks like LinkedIn and Google+. Generally, people on these platforms build more professionally oriented networks, often built on trust.

By sharing an article with a byline and bio with your groups in LinkedIn you can quickly build trust, especially if you are active within your network. Once people start to trust your content, there is a higher chance they will read it and consequently share it too.

8. What’s old can be new

Have you ever followed a post on Facebook, or any other social media? If you have, you likely know how short of a lifespan content has – when it comes to shares at least. Almost all content posted on social media sites has a lifespan of about three days to a week at most. What do we mean by this? Well, normally after three days you will see the number of interactions – shares, likes, etc – drop by as much as 98%. Go beyond three days and you will usually see another huge drop in the number of shares from the three day mark.

Essentially after three days to a week, your content will likely not be shared or even seen. Most of us know this, and are often quick enough to produce more content and posts in order to keep followers engaged. However, some content can actually be re-shared to keep up or to further interest.

Not all content – articles included – can, or should, be reposted, such as time relevant content like an announcement. Reposting these three weeks after the fact likely does not provide any value to the reader. Content that is written to be always viable however e.g., tip articles, how-tos, etc. are great potential content for resharing.

Some information never really gets old and can be useful to a new audience. Resharing previously posted content like this ensures more people will see and interact with it. For best results, try promoting an article you think was useful about one week after you first posted. Also, be sure to look at season or holiday relevant content – there is a good chance this can be reposted at the relevant time.

9. Know when to share your content

Often, the most important key to increasing the shareability of your content is actually posting it when your desired audience is online. By posting at, or just before, these key times, you increase the chance of the content being seen and interacted with. While there is no set timeframe, you can figure out when best to post through trial and error.

Before you start however, look at your previous content and see when it was interacted with most. Take a look at the days and times, and track this for a few weeks. You should start to see a trend emerge, with the most interactions happening at a certain time and date. Also, apply a little common knowledge. For example, if your target audience is other business owners or managers, posting midday will likely mean content will be missed. However, posting after normal business hours could improve your chances.

From here, try posting content at different times to see what works, and adjust your schedule accordingly.

10. Realize this will all take time

When looking to improve the reach of your content, you need to realize this will take time. Even if you follow these tips, you won’t see immediate results. Chances are high this will take months to pay dividends. The key here is to stick with it and to experiment. Try a few different strategies at a time to see what works and doesn’t, then go back to the drawing board and improve your plans.

If you are looking to learn more about leveraging social media in your business, we may be able to help. Contact us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
May 29th, 2014

BusinessValue_May26_ASince the wide adoption of social media, and even before, companies with an online presence have been taking steps to develop their own content that ‘fans’, customers and even friends can interact with. By creating content that users share, you can increase the reach of your company, which could ultimately increase sales, turnover and profits. The question is, how exactly you get your content, especially articles, shared.

The key to getting your content shared

There are countless blog posts on how to create content that is shareable. And to create content that will be shared by users on social media and other platforms you need to know why content gets shared in the first place.

In order to help, we scoured the Internet and found a great article over at OK Dork, which was written by the content masters at BuzzSumo. This article listed things you can do to increase the shareability of the content you produce. While it is quite a long article, we found there were some great tips worth talking about here. In order to make things a little easier, we have split this article into two parts. Here are the first five tips you can leverage to increase the reach of your content, and more specifically the blog articles you create:

Create longer content

Take a look at what people share on their social media profiles and there is little doubt that the vast majority of content is short, and can range from often photos and videos of funny cats to memes. But look at the articles that are shared and you will often find that the most popular ones are actually longer, or long-form as they are referred to by content experts.

The main reason for this is because there are fewer long-form article creators out there, and there is a demand for higher quality, well researched and well-written articles. Sharing this type of content generally adds some depth to a posting which can create a more involved and sustained dialogue.

You might want to mix it up to increase shareability by creating some articles which follow this longer style approach. You could try writing shorter articles on a regular basis, for example, with a 2000 word article say once a month.

People like images

Think about the last time you read an article in the newspaper without an image, or even saw a link on social media without an image. Did you remember the content, or did you even click on the link? Many people wouldn’t. So, if you want your content to be shared on social media add some visuals.

With longer content visuals not only serve to draw the eyes of the reader and break up content to keep the reader engaged. For shorter pieces, an image can attract initial attention and give the reader some an idea about what the subject of the content is.

The key here is to include visuals with every piece of content. Make sure that the image relates to the content and is interesting enough to capture attention, enough that users will want to share what they see and read.

Even Twitter users like images

Although Twitter is largely based on text posts visual content tends to be shared more by users of this platform.

As per the point above, try to have a visual with every piece of content. If you are an avid Twitter user, try coming up with titles or overviews that are 100 characters or less. This will leave room for a link on Twitter to the content. If social media users likes the content, and there is an image too, chances are higher that they will share it via Twitter.

Using certain emotions really helps

If you want people to share your content, you need to write articles that evoke emotion. The three most successful, when it comes to sharing, are:

  • Awe
  • Laughter
  • Amusement

If your article inspires one of these three emotions, you have a drastically higher chance of the content being shared. Generally speaking, if content makes someone laugh or think about an issue then are more likely to share what resonates with them.

The other emotion to capitalize on is selfishness. Take a look at your Facebook News Feed and we guarantee that you will see a ton of quizzes shared by people. These quizzes are usually something like “What TV character would you be?, or “What’s your dream job?”, etc. While entertaining, these quizzes appeal to our more narcissistic sides. They provide little to no value to your followers, but they can be fun and help social media users establish an identity which they can compare with others trying out the same ‘test’.

You can also try to create articles that challenge normal assumptions or are opinion pieces on relevant hot-button issues. The spark of debate that the content ignites is sure to attract interaction with comments and sharing, and you can also keep interest going via social media.

Users love infographics and lists

When writing your articles, you have a wide variety of ways you can format your content. Most people will agree that your articles, regardless of length, need to be broken down into easy to read sections, especially if you want to keep mobile users reading. There are a number of ways you can do this, but the two most popular are through infographics and lists.

What this tells us is that readers generally prefer content that can:

  • Display a large amount of information in a clean, easy to read, and visual format i.e., infographics.
  • Are scannable.Take for example list articles. You can format these to be highly scannable, yet still include all the essential information.
  • Tell us what to expect. We like to know what an article is about before we read it.

If you are writing longer articles that contain a large amount of information try creating an infographic, and summarizing the most important parts in a list.

Next month we will reveal five more tips to enhance content sharing. In the mean time, if you have any questions about creating effective content or on social media, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
April 30th, 2014

BusinessValue_Apr28_AIn today’s business environment, technology is an integral part of business operations. The problem many business owners and managers face is that technology can be difficult to manage; often requiring a significant investment and specialized team to maintain and run it. This can be prohibitively expensive too for many small businesses, but it doesn’t have to be, especially if you work with an IT Partner or Managed Service Provider (MSP).

What is a Managed Service Provider?

In the IT industry, a Managed Service Provider is a company that offers small to medium businesses the ability to outsource the management of their day-to-day technology and IT needs.

In other words, an MSP is essentially your IT department. If something technology-related breaks, they help fix it. If you need an app devised or want to upgrade hardware and software, or take a look into virtualization, they can often help in these complex areas too. Many of these organizations act as your business partner to help increase the effectiveness of your business operations, and achieve your overall goals.

Do I need an MSP?

While there are a wide variety of IT partners out there, you might be unsure as to whether you actually want or need to work with one. To help make the decision easier, we have come up with a list of five signs that your business could benefit from outsourcing your IT management to an MSP.

1. You don’t have a dedicated IT department or staff

A commonality many small businesses have is that employees often wear more than one hat. The problem with this is that those who are not necessarily IT experts, but are perhaps more tech savvy than others, are tapped to look after the company’s IT needs. Businesses can suffer from gaps in knowledge of the latest IT developments. It is also a challenge to balance IT needs while also running a business and remaining productive.

While for some small businesses having a knowledgeable tech person look after the IT on top of their main job works, the chances are high that they aren’t planning for a future in IT and may not be able to carry out complicated upgrades or even ensure that your systems are secure beyond the current environment. This can undoubtedly lead to increased problems in the future, which are likely not going to be fixed.

Instead of hiring a full-time IT staff member, you could look into using an MSP who can offer the same services, but at a fraction of the cost. This allows your employees to focus on their main roles, while also allowing you to rest easy knowing that your IT demands are being adequately taken care of.

2. You have continuous tech problems

At first glance, many of the systems we use on a daily basis are relatively simple. That is, they are simple when they are working. But, when systems breakdown business owners quickly come to realize that the technology utilized in their businesses and the systems that support it are not only complex, but are becomingly increasingly so.

Complexity aside, all technology will eventually break. When it does, you need to factor into your budget resources to make replacements and repairs. If the technology incorporated into your business is constantly experiencing problems there is a good chance this is having a negative impact on profits and productivity.

By partnering with a quality MSP that looks after your technology, you can be assured that a team of experts are running your technology and systems efficiently and that you are able to meet IT demands and scale to meet future needs. Decreased maintenance and replacement costs can help improve your overall productivity and even profits.

3. The people looking after IT are overwhelmed

Any growing business needs technology to be able to scale to meet and support growth. This often overwhelms even the most seasoned IT professionals. Even if your business has a dedicated IT role or team there is a chance that they can become overwhelmed.

When the pressure is on important issues may not be addressed and corners may be cut in order to meet current demands. This can lead to increased costs and problem issues down the road, resulting in an even more overwhelmed Technology department.

The great thing about quality IT partners is that you often don’t have to outsource all of your IT needs to them. If, for example, you have an employee who is a whizz with building computers but does not have the time to oversee the whole of your technology needs, then outsourcing some functions can free up their skills or allow them to work more effectively in their main roles.

4. Your IT budget is unpredictable

The cost of technology is ever changing. Some months you may have to replace a computer while others may see a new server needed or a security issue that needs to be dealt with immediately. Because of this, actually budgeting for technology is incredibly hard, especially for small businesses.

Most IT partners offer their services on a flat-fee, monthly basis. This makes it easy for companies to budget for technology. The upside to this is that while your budget is predictable, overall costs and overheads are often reduced because your systems are kept in better working order and will last longer.

5. You have trouble prioritizing your IT needs

It can sometimes seem like a new system is needed on a near monthly basis. From servers to email systems; computers to mobile devices; your business will almost always require ongoing technology. The problem many businesses face is that they simply are not equipped with the skills and the knowhow to recognize what their IT priorities should be.

Do you update a server, or look for a new email solution first? And in what order do you need to implement updates? It is not always obvious what the answers to these questions are, especially when everything seems urgent. If you outsource the management of your technology, the companies you partner with can take the time to get to know your company’s needs and demands and prioritize. This will make your organization more efficient and better able to reach business goals.

If you are struggling with technology in your business, contact us today to see how as your IT partner, we can work with you to ensure that your technology is working for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
April 10th, 2014

BusinessValue_Apr07_ABusiness owners often have more than one role, overseeing many different aspects of the day-to-day operations at once. A possible problem that can arise though is that they may not be experts in every area which can cause confusion or issues. Take for example Web design - business owners might know what they want their pages to look like, but lack the ability to effectively communicate their ideas to Web designers. The best way to get what you want is to speak the same lingo and learn some popular Web designer terms.

Here are 20 of the most used Web design terms that could help you communicate effectively with designers and developers about what you want from your website:

  • Alignment - The position of the various elements on your page. Alignment can be focused on the borders of the page, or positioning of elements based on other elements - e.g., aligning all images to the left side of the page, and making sure the text is aligned to the right of each image.
  • Banner - A form of advertising that is usually at the top of a page and goes from one side to the other. On many sites, the banner also contains links that can be clicked through to reach other pages.
  • Below the fold - The point on the page where viewers will begin to scroll after the page has loaded. Generally you put the most important information above the fold (what the visitor sees first) and supplement information below it.
  • Color wheel - A circle of colors that allows designers to easily pick out primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, as well as complimentary and contrasting colors - e.g., on most wheels red is opposite green because they complement one another.
  • CSS - Cascading Style Sheets allows designers to dictate the look and feel of a page. These are usually codes that dictate the font, color, and layout of a Web page.
  • DPI - Dots Per Inch is the resolution of an image or monitor. The higher the DPI, the higher the resolution or quality of the image.
  • Entry and Exit pages - This indicates where a viewer enters your page from an external source, and where a viewer will usually exit your site from. The vast majority of entry pages are the homepage, so these should be designed to capture and maintain interest. Exit pages can be the homepage, or perhaps a signup form.
  • GIF - Pronounced Jif, is an image format that is best suited for small images with few colors. These can also be animated.
  • Header - This is the absolute top of any page.
  • HTML - Hyper Text Markup Language, is the main language used to write webpages. For example, the bullet points in this article would be written as < ol><li>HTML - Hyper Text ...</li></ol>. Browsers read this code and translate the directions given.
  • JPEG - An image format best suited to pictures and images with a large number of colors. The vast majority of images on the Internet and websites are uploaded in the JPEG format.
  • Lorem Ipsum - Placeholder text is used by developers when creating mockups of pages or layout so they can see how the text will look when the page is finished. This can be any form of text and is usually nonsensical, like 'Lorem Ipsum Dolor'.
  • Orphan - A word or short sentence that appears by itself, below the text on a page. Generally these should be avoided, and can be easily 'adopted' by adjusting spacing between letters and words, or editing content.
  • Parent/Child elements - With HTML and other Web languages there is a relationship between elements (parts of code). Parents dictate elements that will be inherited by other codes (children) that are within the main parent group. For example, if you assign a headline a certain style this style becomes the parent. Any other elements like a bolded word within the headline will be a child. The child will take the same style as the headline and have the added bold format as well.
  • Pixel - The smallest element of any image and your monitor. It is essentially one dot of color. The resolution of images and monitors (how clear the image is) is often displayed in pixels. The higher the number of pixels, the higher the resolution and quality.
  • PNG - An image format that is most commonly used for images that have large amounts of uniform color or transparent backgrounds.
  • Script - A small bit of code that enables browsers to do more than just displaying text. If you've ever watched a video while on a website or downloaded something directly from a page, you have interacted with a script.
  • Watermark - A mark of ownership which is usually applied to the background of images or content. This is used to highlight ownership and deter theft of visual content. If you plan to post images on your site that you create, you might want to consider adding a watermark as protection.
  • White space - Space that surrounds text, images or other parts of the page. It is generally believed that the more white space there is, the easier it is to read content and draw attention to important aspects of a page.
  • Wireframe - A visual representation of a website's layout with directions for visuals, location of content, and style for each page. This is usually constructed before the site is built and is more or less a road map for developers.
Of course, these are just a few of the terms designers and developers use on a regular basis. If you want to understand how to get the best out of your website and technology then we're here to help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.