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Five tips for protecting your brand on social media

This summer, online payment service giant Paypal learned that bad guys had set up a fake Paypal Support page on Twitter, and then monitored the real Paypal Support page for remarks from customers. The bad guys responded to those inquiries and pointed users to the fake site where they would ask for, and sometimes receive, personal and account information – an attack called angler phishing.

Paypal’s Information Security Director Trent Adams likens the ongoing battle to protect its brand to a game of whack-a–mole, and with new social media threats popping up daily, it’s becoming more like “whack-an-ant-hill” because while one account may be shut down, others are probably still at work.

“We would like to get into a position of prevention – but prevention is really hard,” Adams says. “Early detection is where we are right now.”

As social media platforms become the predominate form of customer communication, so too do the threats to companies and brands. Nearly 600 new fraudulent brand accounts were created each month between April and June 2016 on social media sites Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, according to a study by Proofpoint. Of nearly 5,000 social media accounts connected with 10 top global brand names, nearly one in five was fraudulent.

Even though the incidents of phishing on those fake accounts is relatively small (about 4 percent), they’re still a huge target for bad actors and a danger to customers and brand reputation. “They can reach almost 33 million people across those top 10 brands,” says Devin Redmond, vice president and general manager of digital security and compliance at Proofpoint, which offers brand fraud detection and mitigation services.

It’s not just the largest brands that have been targeted. Food service and retail companies have seen bad actors create what looks like a promotional site for coupons, access to special content or previews for online games, Redmond says. Unknowing users will surrender credit card information and other personal information on the sites.

The rise in brand fraud has even prompted companies that don’t even have a social media presence to monitor popular platforms. “Companies are starting to understand that even if they’re not active on social media, they need to be monitoring it because other people could be active on their behalf,” says Shanna Gordon, client services director at BrandProtect.
Protecting your brand

Some 79 percent of information security leaders surveyed by Ponemon institute believe that their security processes for Internet and social media monitoring are nonexistent, partially deployed or inconsistently deployed. Brand fraud experts offer five tips for protecting your company’s name and reputation.

1. Create your own social media presence before someone else does

Companies should have an official presence on major social media sites, even if they don’t use them often, says John LaCour, CEO of PhishLabs. “If customers go looking for [your page] and can’t find one, they may find the bad guys instead,” he says. Many social media sites offer icons or flags that identify legitimate sites, he adds. Companies should also communicate with customers that their official sites will only be used for announcing new products and services, for example, so customers will look more suspiciously at alleged brand sites that offer free perks or customer service action.

2. Establish governance

Companies need to have a governance program in place and staff responsible for social media accounts and communication as part of the company’s main infrastructure, Redmond says.

Business units often create their own legitimate domains, but the security team might not know about them. “They don’t do it through the right channels,” Gordon says. “That needs to be monitored with processes in place.”

3. Conduct a social media brand inventory

A simple search of a company’s name on popular social media sites can begin to uncover any nefarious social media accounts or at least reveal how the company is being represented, fraud experts say. During a recent audit of its social media presence, a major consulting firm was shocked to discover that hundreds of accounts were impersonating its brand or were using its name in some unwanted way on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Instagram, Gordon says.

Some accounts might be legitimate while others may reference a company’s name simply to draw traffic to their site. But a few could be truly criminal and are attempting to use fake accounts for phishing scams or to sell knock-off merchandise, she adds.

4. Identify fraudulent accounts and act quickly

At Paypal, security teams focus on identifying fraudulent sites and then reacting quickly, usually with the help of its worldwide customer base.

“The fastest way we identify [fraud] is being notified by our customer base,” including merchants and consumers, Adams says. “We are often notified much more quickly by customers than we are by the industry organizations that identify potential fraud and kick out threat alerts.”

Paypal’s investigative team reviews the fraud tips as they are received and identifies whether they are malicious or benign. Next they reach out to social media platform operators and their security departments to alert them.

5. Know where and how to report brand fraud

When customers suspect a fake company account on social media, they need to know who to report the fraud to, Redmond says. Develop a response plan that includes the documentation that should be collected and who should be contacted at the company and the social media site.

“Companies need to report brand fraud in a way that responders can consume it quickly because minutes count in these situations,” Adams says. To that end, Paypal is testing a specialized fraud reporting queue it has set up with a half dozen social media sites.

Fraud tipsters provide documentation about the suspected fraud in a standard format, and it is submitted by Paypal to the social media platforms. “We’ve been able to see a significant decrease in the amount of time it takes from the time we identify the problem to the time we report it, to the time action is taken,” Adams says. In one recent month, the expedited channel was 75 percent faster than reporting through the standard channel, he adds.

Adams says the reporting queue project is in the in the early prototype phase, and once it is proven successful Paypal plans to share the process or technical specifications with the world as open source.

Preventing social media brand fraud will remain a challenge because of the generative nature of social media platforms and the proliferation of new and more creative scams, Adams says. While these measures won’t stop this kind of abuse completely, he says, “it will raise the barrier.”

Source: CSO, article by Stacy Collett (http://www.csoonline.com/article/3126077/social-networking/five-tips-for-protecting-your-brand-on-social-media.html)

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Why Small Businesses Need Online Marketing

Small businesses with limited marketing budgets are competing with national brands when it comes to advertising. Due to the online nature of commerce in this era, local businesses have no other option but to compete with corporations that have marketing budgets much larger than merely a couple of years of revenue. The online attribute required of companies demands that small businesses compete on a larger scale, but how do entities do remain competitive?

Small businesses can best stay relevant through online marketing. Thanks to the rapid growth of the internet, small businesses are better positioned than ever to compete alongside big companies through the utilization of an online marketing strategy. However, many small business owners believe that online marketing is ineffective and useless. Many owners will say things like “My customers aren’t online,” or “Online marketing is a fad.” Some go as far to say that, “Online marketing doesn’t work for me.”

The truth is, a company will never gain new online customers— and even in-person consumers— if the business does not have a strong online presence. There are close to five billion Google searches a day and over one billion active Facebook users. It’s hard to argue that at least some of those users won’t be interested in searching for a local products or services. With online advertising alone, small businesses can target specific demographics and geographic regions; reaching hundreds of potential customers online.

The rapid growth of online marketing can be most evidently seen in the retail sector. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, online retailers were found to be the overall drivers for retail sales for more than a year, while traditional department store sales declined.

Online marketing is, in fact, a necessity. Here’s why:

1. Consumer expectations have changed
When most consumers hear of a new business, they immediately look up the website and social media accounts to learn more. To find you, they plug your address into their smartphone and use Google maps to get there. People expect you to have a website. If you cannot be verified digitally, individuals searching out information doubt your existence and legitimacy. Also, more consumers are increasingly searching for products and services on the web and these trends are expected increase exponentially.

2. Your competitors are online
You might not have launched an online marketing campaign yet, but your competitors mostly likely have. Michael Priyev, manager of new york web design agency, Toggle Web Media, explains that, “The reason why online advertising doesn’t work for so many small businesses is that their websites do not engage or connect with potential customers online. It’s not a question of how pretty the website is designed, but rather, how effective it is in converting online visitors into customers.” Priyev adds, “Providing a unique brand value proposition, user experience (UX) design, and click-to-action (CTA’s) buttons on a site are key to a successful digital marketing strategy.”

Online marketing is essential for small businesses today and is a cost-effective way to increase revenue, customers, and brand presence. Consumers are now online, and online marketing is only growing more important.

Source: The Huffington Post, article by Kara Mulder (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kara-mulder/why-small-businesses-need_b_11869800.html)

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Sponsored Content vs. Branded Content: What’s the Difference?

In this article, we’re going to try and shed some light on the difference between branded and sponsored content.

The two terms are often (mistakenly) used interchangeably, so today our goal is to draw a clear distinction between the two.

1. Branded Content
As more brands embrace content marketing as a valuable channel to reach their customers, a new trend is emerging: brands are becoming publishers. What this means is that many progressive brands are beginning to create their own content hubs and micro-sites to publish relevant, educational content that’s produced in-house. The overall effect: brands are able to build and engage with their target audience by providing them with content that they find useful or interesting.

Here’s an example of branded content from American Express’s digital content hub, OPEN Forum:

OPEN_Forum

American Express treats their content hub as a true publisher. It refrains from sales pitches and instead, focuses on offering value-adding information to its visitors. This is a great example of branded content.

2. Sponsored Content
Sponsored content differs from branded content in two important ways: who the content is produced by and where the content is published.

While branded content tends to be produced in-house by the brand, sponsored content is usually a collaborative effort between the publisher’s editorial staff and the brand. Similarly, while branded content lives on brand-owned properties such as micro-sites or content hubs (like the one you’re on right now!), sponsored content is hosted on the publisher’s site, and therefore reaches the publisher’s audience. Think of it this way: When a brand wants to build sponsored content, they commission a publisher to both produce the content and to publish it on their website.

Since content strategy is often focused on building brand awareness, brands and publishers typically avoid a ‘salesy’ tone. Rather, they focus on delivering educational or entertaining content to readers. Brands value this because associations with a publication and exposure to its audience can drive awareness, traffic, conversions, and leads.

Here’s a great example of sponsored content that comes from a collaboration between fashion label Cole Haan and The New York Times:

Grit__Grace

In the above example, Cole Hann partnered with The New York Times’s advertising unit, T Brand Studio, to produce an impressive piece of sponsored content called ‘Grit and Grace’. Cole Haan commissioned T Brand Studio to promote its new collection of ballet flats. The result: a multimedia feature on three dancers from the New York City Ballet.

To summarize:

  • Branded content ‘lives’ on brand-owned properties, while sponsored content is integrated into the publisher’s site.
  • Branded content is produced in-house. Sponsored content is produced together with the publisher’s editorial team.
  • Branded content reaches the brand’s audience. Sponsored content reaches the publisher’s audience.

Source: Stack Adapt (http://blog.stackadapt.com/sponsored-content-vs-branded-content-whats-the-difference)

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How can businesses capitalize on the Pokémon Go craze?

As Pokémon Go continues to ensnare users with its nostalgia-soaked augmented reality play, business owners are recognizing ways to capitalize on the mania.

The game has amassed more than 65 million users since its nationwide launch in early July. Created by San Francisco-based Niantic, Pokémon Go encourages players to go outside and “hunt” for digital Pokémon creatures in the real world.

“It’s good for businesses that use and need foot traffic to their locations, like restaurants, retail, even food trucks,” said Jolie Balido, president of Coral Gables-based digital PR consultancy Roar Media.

“Pokestops” are where the creatures roam, ripe for the taking, and they’re scattered throughout the physical world at major attractions such as public parks and museums. Businesses within Pokestops’ range have attracted potential customers through in-app purchases of “lure modules.” Available for about $1, lures attract virtual Pokémon to real-life locales, thereby attracting foot traffic.

Mizner Park is a case study in the efficacy of lures. The Boca Raton-based cluster of restaurants and retailers is home to more than 10 Pokestops and has seen a large influx of both young and adult guests since the launch of Pokémon, according to Kelsey Johnson, who handles PR and social media for the Boca Raton Museum of Art.

The game, based on a 1990s cartoon series, “has been a tremendous boon” to both the Boca Raton Museum of Art and the Art School on Palmetto Park Road, she said.

The museum has experimented with placing lures at three nearby Pokestops between 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. The effort yielded a 164 percent increase in guests during the typically idle hours.

“We only announced on social media that we’d be setting the lures up about an hour beforehand, so we were impressed that we saw so much impact so quickly!” Johnson said.

It raises the question of how location-based digital platforms could impact future business strategies and digital marketing tools.

Location platform Foursquare, which launched in March 2009, first popularized the idea of digital interaction with physical spaces. Pokémon’s roaring popularity later demonstrated the extent to which such platforms can benefit not just users but surrounding places of business. The game’s popularity may have peaked, with daily active users plateauing at about 20 million in the U.S. But the question stands: What effect will location-based online platforms have on how brick-and-mortar establishments work to increase visibility?

Source: South Florida Business Journal. Article by Debora Lima (http://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/news/2016/07/25/how-can-businesses-capitalize-on-the-pok-mon-go.html)

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5 Clever Retail Offers That Won’t Eat Your Profits

Discounts and deals. These words bring up different reactions depending on who you ask. If you’re a consumer, these terms will likely generate excitement. You’ll perk up, and you’ll want to check out what the store has to offer.

But if you’re a retailer, you probably won’t get too excited. Sure, putting products on sale could generate traffic and customers, but it also lowers profit margins. And running sales too often may diminish your brand and attract shoppers who never want to pay full price for anything.

To avoid this, retailers must be smart about their discount strategies. Contrary to what some might think, it’s possible to run sales while maintaining a healthy profit margin and brand image. Take a look at the ideas below, and see if you can apply them to your business.

1. Reward profitable customers instead of deal-hunters.

Rather than sending offers to deal-hunters, determine who your best customers are — like your top spenders and frequent shoppers — and send them targeted offers. Doing so not only maximizes profitability but also helps increase loyalty among the shoppers who matter most.

If you’re planning to run a sale, go through your customer database first, and offer discounts to those who are likely to spend more. It’s also a good idea to analyze the types of customers who come through different marketing channels. From there, you could determine what offers to craft and how to promote them.

“Understanding customer lifetime value per marketing vehicle helps retailers craft the right offers while ensuring that they’re catering to customers who will keep purchasing and hopefully spend incremental dollars, says Antonella Pisani, founder of OfficialCouponCode.com

“In other words, it’s best for merchants to offer deals using marketing channels that attract customers who come back through free or cheap channels such as organic search, email, or brand keywords.”

2. Don’t put your flagship products on sale.

Avoid discounting your flagship or most desired products. Being selective with the items you put on sale protects margins for your best merchandise. It also elevates your top products so shoppers won’t see you as a deal-centric brand.

Thom O’Leary, President at Fixer Group Consulting, says that keeping specific items at full price enables retailers to continue driving revenue through sales without diminishing brand value. “Some online stores will run tons of sales, but never on their flagship items. They’ll even make it clear that those items are never on sale, or only on sale once per year. This is typically done on their most desirable or best-known items.”

He continues, “My client, SCOTTeVEST, does this. Their flagship vests almost never go on sale, and the strategy has worked out well for them.”

3. Avoid falling into a discount pattern.

Being predictable with when and how you run sales trains customers to wait for deals. One retailer that learned this the hard way is Bed Bath & Beyond. The home furnishings retailer got a little aggressive with their coupon strategy, mailing out tons of “20% off” coupons on a regular basis.

And while the effort did drive sales, it also lowered profits for the retailer. Last year, Bed Bath & Beyond made retail news when it announced on its Q3 earnings call that despite revenues increasing 1.7 percent, profits were down 10 percent, mostly due to its coupon-happy strategy.

Don’t let your company suffer the same fate. If you’re going to run sales, keep shoppers guessing via sporadic and short-term promotions. Or better yet, be more targeted with the promotions you’re putting out there. Segment your top customers then send them an unexpected offer such as exclusive access to a flash sale or a generous coupon. You’ll reap the rewards of an uptick in sales without training shoppers to wait around for a deal.

4. Offer conditional free shipping.

Have you considered offering free shipping? You should. A ComScore study found that 58 percent of shoppers purchased more items to qualify for free shipping, and 83 percent don’t mind waiting for a couple of days for delivery if shipping is free.

Clearly, free shipping can drive ecommerce purchases. Shipping incentives can increase average order value and — if implemented correctly — could protect your margins at the same time. That said, you have to be smart with how you structure the offer. Rather than offering the deal to everyone who buys from you, implement specific conditions for deal redemption.

For example, you could set a minimum order value before shoppers could redeem the deal. Another approach would be to offer free shipping for qualifying items. Some retailers offer free shipping for just a limited time. The right free shipping approach depends on your business. If you’re selling small items that are easy to pack, then you can probably offer free shipping at a lower spending threshold than a retailer that sells heavier products.

Be sure to study your shipping costs when crafting your deal. Remember, the key is to create an enticing offer without killing your profit margins.

5. Implement promotions that add value.

Deals aren’t only about discounts. Consider running promotions in which you add value to the sale instead of slashing product prices. For instance, you could offer a free product with every purchase. This is an excellent way to move inventory that you’re unable to sell. You could also add value through personalization. If you’re selling jewelry, for instance, why not throw in a free inscription?

Think about why your customers are buying a particular product. What do they want to do with it? Is there anything you could offer that would complement the item or would help customers get the most out of it? Find the answers to these questions, and use them to craft your value-added offer.

Your brand image and profit margins don’t have to take a hit every time you run a sale. By offering data-backed and well-thought out deals, you can effectively attract customers, drive sales and maintain decent profits at the same time.

Source: Entrepreneur. Article by Francisca Nicasio (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/278404)

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