There is no doubt that social media has become an integral part of our society and an important part of any business’ marketing plan.  Some sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have become ubiquitous and part of our mainstream culture. But while it is important to have a presence on many social media sites, it would be wise to consider which social media presence will benefit your business the most. When it comes to choosing a social media site, select ones that are best aligned with your communication goals and where your target market is likely to be found.

Here is a look at some of the major players in social media and some considerations to think about in terms of what’s right for your business:

  • Facebook – is the king of all social media.  With over 900 million users having a Facebook page for any kind of business is a must today.   All businesses should create a “fan page” and consider pages for brands and their products.  It is important to leverage this platform by actively engaging your customers with questions, comments and images.  ‘Sharing’ and ‘Liking’ can increase a company’s visibility and thus ultimately translate into profit.
  • Twitter is useful for many businesses as well.  The 140 character messages are perfect for sending out announcements and promotions, getting a message out quickly and creating buzz about you or the brand you are selling. Easily connecting with potential customers through the use of hashtags. Offering discounts to existing and new customers. Hashtags can help spread the word about your discounts to new audiences.
  • Instagram, the increasingly popular social network for sharing mobile photos treated with quirky filters, helps you connect with customers in a visual way.  It is good for showing off your products or expertise.
  • LinkedIn is a social network for professionals. It is best for B2B and ideal for marketing and sales.  It is also great for connecting with others within a given industry and reaching out to prospective employers and employees.
  • Google’s + Local , this business directory is starting to replace Google Places. If you want your business to be found through local search and you want to highlight customer reviews and ratings, Google+ Local is worth a look. Content in your Google+ posts may turn into highly ranked search results on Google (again, inside or outside the Google+ environment) – providing keyword and topic-relevant search engine visibility that improves based on your  content-specific engagement levels and author rank.

There are other popular sites such as Tumblr (an online bulletin board that’s heavy on the visuals and backed by a community big on sharing)  Pinterest and YouTube.  Take time to investigate and learn about these platforms so you can make the most of your social media engagement and do what is best for your business.

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Twitter chats are a good way to set yourself apart in your industry. Hosting a chat allows you to showcase your expertise as well as develop and expand your community. There are chats for education, health care, finance and many other subject matters. Twitter chats offer a captive audience discussing your topic or industry.

Before starting a chat, it’s important to develop a Twitter following. Fill out your Twitter profile completely, including profile and header photo. Follow those in your industry, and tweet and re-tweet relevant content, and they will follow you back.

In order to get the most out of your twitter chat you should research other twitter chats out there and your industry. Attending Twitter chats will allow you to see how chats work from an attendee standpoint. To get experience you might consider volunteering to be a guest – or co-host – on a peer’s Twitter chat.

To get the most out of a Twitter chat you should schedule them on a regular basis at a predetermined time. Make sure they are not in conflict with any other chats in your industry. Then decide on the format. Define a topic and plan discussion points beforehand.  Use all channels available, i.e. newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to promote your Twitter chat. You can also consider using promoted posts and tweets. Be sure to manage the chat. During the chat, use the hashtag with all tweets. Keep an eye on it, and respond to your audience as best you can.

Once you start your chat. Follow the rules. For example, some chats do not allow sharing links or self-promoting until the last 5 minutes. Others ask that you retweet questions. Try to stay on topic. Always be polite and never attack or insult anyone. If you are using another person’s content, be sure to cite the author. It is a crucial element of Twitter chat etiquette to identify the original source and to never steal someone else’s intellectual property.  It is proper to acknowledge when someone has made an interesting or relevant observation. Lastly, if another user starts following your account because of your involvement in the chat, be sure to follow them back.

While some chats are held on platforms, such as Tweet Chat and TW Chat you can really just search the chat hashtag on your Twitter feed or use Tweet Deck to view the posts during the chat.

Getting the hang of a Twitter chat is a simple way to promote any business.

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Almost everyone at one time or another has signed on to a website and viewed a “Captcha”. The term CAPTCHA (for Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart) was coined in 2000 by Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum, Nicholas Hopper and John Langford of Carnegie Mellon University.  At the time, they developed the first CAPTCHA to be used by Yahoo.

A CAPTCHA is a program that can generate and grade tests that humans can pass but current computer programs cannot. For example, humans can read distorted text, but current computer programs can’t.

CAPTCHAs have several applications for practical security.  First they help prevent comment spam in blogs.  Comment spam, the bogus comments submitting by programs usually for the purpose of raising search engine ranks of some website. Using CAPTCHA controls who can submit comments.  It makes sure that only real humans can post so that there is no need to make users sign up before they enter a comment.

CAPTCHAs can also help with protecting sites that offer registration for free services.  Often times “bots” will sign up thousands of times for free accounts.  Using a CAPTCHA can prevent sign up abuse by automated programs.

CAPTCHAS can help safeguard password systems.  Many hackers and purveyors of identity theft will use dictionary attacks to gain unauthorized access to an account.  You can prevent a computer from being able to iterate through the entire space of passwords by using a CAPTCHA after several unsuccessful logins.

CAPTCHAS are good for online polls and businesses like ticket brokers. Using a CAPTCHA application can help prevent ticket scalpers from bombarding the service with massive ticket purchases for big events and poll respondents from flooding the system with votes for a specific selection. Without some sort of filter a bot could place hundreds or thousands of ticket orders or votes in a matter of seconds.

The most common form of CAPTCHA requires visitors to type in a word or series of letters and numbers that the application has distorted in some way. If your website needs protection from abuse, you might want to consider using a CAPTCHA.

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